They say that London is the city that never sleeps, and viewed through a haze of flu medication it does take on an electrifying tinge. Rob and I reserved room 333 at the Langham Hotel because it has a reputation for being haunted. The check-in clerk asked if we were ghost hunters. Was it the crystal balls and floor-length cloaks that gave us away?
Soon after arriving, I tried to take a nap but was startled to full consciousness when the bed shook. There was a thump and a simultaneous jarring of the mattress; I was able to recreate both of these sensations afterward by kicking the side of the mattress sharply with my heel, but of course, there were no visible heels that might have caused the first incident. Rob was taking a bath. I knocked on the bathroom door and said, “The bed shook.”
Later, we met Campbell for tea at the Wolseley. Although we had a truly delightful time, he must have snuck poison into my cup. By the time we got back to the room, I was fighting off chills and severe body aches. Rob had arranged for us to meet another blogger, Sherry, that evening, but as the time approached, it became clear that I could barely function. Rob advised me to take a bath, while he met Sherry alone at the hotel bar. I could join them later if I felt better, he said. But I never did feel better. As my fever rose, I first tried to cure myself with a tiny can of Pringles and a tiny bottle of orange juice from the mini-bar (cost for both: fourteen dollars) then sank into a trance under the duvet. My heart was racing; so, too, were my thoughts. I tried to clear my mind and take deep breaths to relax, but that was when I started hearing voices. The rose up around me like a tide, quite audible but largely unintelligible, and obviously coming from within my own delusional head rather than the hotel corridor. It was like listening into several different conversations at once but only being able to hear isolated phrases clearly. The one that stuck with me (it repeated several times) was someone intoning, “The plan for the seventh,” to which someone else responded with a phrase in French I couldn’t understand.
My body temperature was so high, I couldn’t move, barely even blink. Rob came back and I remember feeling it was very important to tell him what was happening, but I could barely croak out a complete sentence. Luckily, he realized right away that I was burning up and fed me some ibuprofen and started putting cool rags on my head. My fever rose and fell throughout the night and into the next morning, when we were supposed to meet a new business contact, Nick, in the lobby. We had a whole day planned—discussions, negotiations, and going to an expo to see some of his products in person before dashing to Heathrow to catch our flight—but I could barely make it to the lobby. Nick was very understanding and we sat in the hotel café for a little while instead. Then I went back upstairs to take a nap before we checked out.
The journey home was the biggest nightmare: rushing to the right Underground station, standing for an hour in a packed car, waiting in line at the Heathrow security checkpoint, and finally being crammed for seven hours into the airplane seat with my head about to burst from the changes in pressure. That night, finally home in New York, my fever spiked up again, and the next morning, I had to consume a boxful of flu medicine to remain upright long enough to catch the Amtrak to Baltimore, but it wasn’t until I started coughing up blood that I thought about going to a doctor.
And that was how I spent my Last Vacation Ever.