Sweating the idea of being stuck with naked catfish

I’ve written before about lingering effects after having had Covid-19, something I tested positive for and supposedly survived back in August. Yet, certain symptoms don’t go away and some new ones surface.The main problem is shortness of breath, but I’ve also got weird nerve pains, a diminished sense of smell and, now, sweat.

I’ve always been hot-natured, so a little sweat is nothing new. That’s why I’ve always been the guy to stretch the limits of the office (and school) dress code to wear shorts or something close to them as long as possible. The assistant principal at my high school often came at my legs with a ruler to make sure my “pants” came down far enough past my knee — which they did when I pulled my shorts down a few inches while he wasn’t looking. (That’s right, kids, I invented “sagging.”) And the editor at my first full-time newspaper job liked to post memos on the bulletin board that began, “Apparently, some of you have forgotten our dress code …” I found that offensive because those were directed at me and accused me of having memory issues when I was clearly just insubordinate. I mean, get it right, man!

In my defense, if you make me dress in long pants and strangle myself with a useless tie when it’s 100 degrees outside, I’m going to sweat, and those drops are going to land on the floor, creating a slipping hazard. I’m merely trying to protect my colleagues and my company from a lawsuit.

It’s not just the Georgia heat that makes me sweat, though. Spicy foods do it, too. And I love a little spice in my food. Unfortunately, for some reason, foods that used to be just a little spicy now seem super-spicy. Hot wings went from delicious to deadly. Heck, ketchup has become dangerous. Vanilla ice cream has a bit of a kick. It’s crazy. And, yet, I can’t get it through my thick skull that spicy may not be my thing anymore.

That was never more clear than last week on a quick getaway to Saint Simons Island. My wife and I have really missed going to restaurants during this pandemic, but there was a seafood and chicken joint there that had outdoor and porch seating. So, we gave it a shot. I wanted some catfish, which came four different ways — Naked (with no heat) or with Novice, Nashville or Napalm levels of heat.

Certainly, even in my compromised state, I ought to be able to handle Novice.

I took a small bite, and it was absolutely delicious. A little bead of sweat formed on my forehead. Sure enough, I took a few more bites and began to sweat.

My wife came up with the ridiculous suggestion that I should stop eating it if it was going to cause so much pain. Um, I paid for every piece on that plate, and there was no way I was letting it go to waste. I suspected they might have actually screwed up and given me Napalm instead of Novice, but those fish were going down regardless.

As the sweat began to pour, she just kind of looked down beyond the usual embarrassment of being seen with me in public. As I began to dab more forehead and then my hair and face and neck with paper towels, she began to excuse herself from the table to go to the bathroom, refill a drink or solve Mideast peace — you know, typical stuff. Each time she came back to the table, I was getting further and further buried by a mountain of damp paper towels. Every now and then, I’d get choked by the spice in my throat and begin hacking — something that gets you a lot of dirty looks in the coronavirus age. Between bites and hacks and sweat dabs, I’d let loose the occasional “Whew, boy!” By the time we left, I looked like Michael Phelps after his third swimming event of the day.

But I had to save face — my red, sweaty face. As we were leaving, we passed a group coming in and I told a guy, “Do NOT get the Napalm!”

While crossing the street away from the restaurant I heard a guy say, “Dang! I’m glad I didn’t get the Napalm!”

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