Warning: The following post describes some gross and  decidedly un-ladylike behavior. Read at your own discretion.

Throughout our relationship, I’ve frequently teased Him for possessing a weak immune system. If someone — anyone — at his office had a cold, he would invariably catch it. Somehow, I managed to escape unscathed almost every time, and despite my hypochondriac tendencies, I can’t recall the last time I nursed the flu. So when Him started coughing just a few days into this World Trip, I wasn’t initially concerned about my own health.  By the time I requested he drink without touching our shared water bottle, it was too late — much too late. I began feeling ill our first day in Sydney. By the second day, I was coughing with such force to wake the entire second floor of our hotel. If someone could have discovered a way to harness the air escaping my chest, I think I could have supplied enough wind generation to singlehandedly power Sydney’s Central Business District.

It’s one thing to nurse a cold when you’re at home in your own bed with no one but the people who love you to hear the range of disgusting noises you make while sick, but it’s quite another when you’re constantly on the move, attempting to make scheduled flights and often sleeping (or trying to sleep) in a shared dorm.  In the course of two weeks, I’ve managed to gross out two British in Tasmania, two Japanese travelers in the Outback, a good chunk of the Sydney Opera House mezzanine and an entire 50-person train car.

The problem is that I can’t stop coughing. At first, it was one of those deep wet coughs that produces a seemingly endless supply of green phlegm.  Gross but satisfying in a productive sense. I spent the duration of our guided tour of downtown Sydney dragging my feet behind Him and all the other tourists. As their eyes appreciatively scanned over views of the opera house or Harbour Bridge, mine were frantically searching for an empty alley so I could discreetly spit into a tissue.

The nights are the worst. I think being horizontal is causing fluid to tickle the back of my throat. I awake in a panic, my cheeks puffed out as I attempt to hold in the cough until I can Kung fu climb over Him’s sleeping form, find my flip flops and get far away before waking Him or, if we’re in a dorm, several annoyed strangers. Once clear, I explode and hack all the way to the shared bathroom facilities, stairwell, or, in one case, the empty passageway between two train cars (that last one did the trick rather nicely, actually: No echo).

I found hiking in the Tasmanian wilderness incredibly freeing because the isolation meant I could discharge with complete impunity. Him even offered encouragement, cheering me on as I battled and expelled the evil green goo.  Throwing caution to the wind, I summoned a deep, guttural bark and spewed just off the trail — and at the feet of two hikers striding toward us.

“Sorry!” I yelped, ducking my head in mortification and plowing past them. “I thought —  We were alone — I didn’t see you. Sorry! Sorry!”

My cough evolved into a violent dry hack the day before we flew from Sydney to the Outback. Him was seriously concerned. He worried I might begin to cough up blood — and continue to keep us both awake all night every night. By that time, his own cough had subsided.

We debated canceling our flight to see Uluru, the massive monolith sacred to the Aboriginal people, but that would mean also missing the train trip we had booked from Alice Springs to Adelaide and potentially placing our flight from Melbourne to Christchurch in jeopardy. Him secured us both with travel health insurance, but late at night in Sydney, our only option would have been to check myself into a hospital and almost certainly miss our flight. So we flew to Uluru. Ironically, when we did we visit a medical facility, it was not for the reason we had anticipated.

The lack of budget accommodation at Yulara, the resort area outside Uluru, meant we would share a four-person dorm with two Japanese guys in their early 20’s. It wasn’t an ideal situation considering my propensity to cough throughout the night, but we had rented a Toyota RAV 4, and I resolved to sleep in the back seat if things got bad. Plus, by then I had accumulated an assortment of over-the-counter pills and syrups to experiment with. Perhaps some combination would prove fruitful.

Determined not to wake the two strangers on the bottom bunks, I made a Herculean effort to swallow my coughs, my cheeks filling with air as I sputtered and spit into my pillow. The length of my body quivered and shook as I struggled to douse the persistent tickle in my throat. I tested various positions — left side, right side, flat on my back. Propped up seemed to be the best option, but I couldn’t get much leverage with a single, flat pillow.  The hacking continued. I despaired.

What is the acceptable number of coughs before common courtesy demands I give up and leave the room? I pondered.

I swigged raspberry cream-flavored cough suppressant and managed to sleep for an hour or two before Him informed me I had started moaning as if in agony.  I was admittedly annoyed at being roused after finally falling asleep, but it was at this point — probably 2 a.m. — that I realized the trickle of green pus I had noticed in the corner of my right eye the previous day had grown into a pool.  I scrambled down the bunk ladder, flew out the dorm’s external door and raced across the lawn to the bathroom, pausing only to gasp when a ferocious dingo crossed my path. (At least that’s what it looked like through my one good eye, my depth perception completely shot. Admittedly, it was probably a feral cat).

I clambered over the “Cleaning in progress” barrier and past a stunned male janitor to a mirror. My reflection revealed a hideous sight: My right eye was completely crusted over, the socket red and swollen. I attempted to pry open my eyelids but my lashes were glued together so tightly that I feared I would only rip them out. I rinsed the area as best as I could, bowed my head so as not to frighten the janitor and then retreated to the SUV to cough and leak eye goo until daybreak. Him, when he found me, was horrified. It was time to see a doctor.

It turns out that in addition to my nasty cough, I had somehow developed an extremely bad — and contagious — case of conjunctivitis. The nurse assumed that it was caused by a piece of dust or debris from the very windy, dry air and assured us it was unrelated to the cold. She cleaned my eye with saline solution and instructed me to keep my eye clean and apply antibiotic drops every two hours for five days.  To my extreme disappointment, she failed to offer me a black eye patch.

Only two days have passed, but my eye seems mostly cleared. Now if I could only get rid of this cough — and the earache I developed after our last flight.

*The title of this post is courtesy of a quote from Him. (Thanks.)