There you were on top of the world.

The job was going great. You were running five miles a day and spending three nights a week in the gym. The marriage was rock solid and the love life? You don’t have to tell us, Champ. We all know you had game.

Look at you now. You’ve been reduced to a vague heap beneath a mountain of blankets and between the sneezing and coughing and hacking, we can hear you sobbing down there in the germ-boiling darkness of your bed.

You were knocked off that mountain so fast, you never even had time for a denial phase – it was more of a “what the …” moment. You went to bed with the “Rocky” theme ringing in your head and awoke to nothing but sad trombones up there in the sick, clogged space where your brain used to reside.

You’ve been laid low, my wheezing, red-nosed friend, and the saddest part is that all it took to take you down was an enemy so tiny, it’s virtually invisible. All those tai chi lessons you took last year? Useless against the gangsta microbe that sent you to the mat.

Your head feels as though some cruel sadist has stuffed a hose in each of your ears and pumped it full of pea soup. Every time you try to breathe you find that no air whatsoever will pass in or out of either nostril – yet you keep trying anyway, ramming over and over into that blockade of whatever gross stuff is stored inside the nose. Sooner or later, you’ll figure out that in order to get oxygen to your lungs, you’ll have to spend the next few days wandering about with your mouth wide open, no matter how much you drool on yourself. That’s just straight survival, son.

Every time you cough, it’s like some freak with a nail gun is firing steel into your lungs. The sneezing comes like machine gun fire and you grow a little weaker with each ah-choo. When you sneeze – once, thrice, five times … who can keep count anymore? – it feels like there’s some alien creature inside your head smashing furniture against the walls.

Your loved ones look at you with great sympathy and they say all the right things: “Poor fella. Such a nasty cold. Can I make you some soup?” But you know they’re plotting to escape as soon as you drift off for a second or two. Can you blame them? Who wants to sit on the couch with a snorting, sneezing, shivering blob of a man who hasn’t even showered in who knows how long?

You’ve been taken down by invisible invaders, bro. It’s just like the chilling end to “War of the Worlds,” only this time it’s your near-dead carcass tumbling out of that downed spaceship.

Or something. I might be a little drunk on Robitussin.

Oh, and the self-pity that comes on you in those ick-soaked hours. Why, Lord? Why have you afflicted me with this vile condition that’s supposed to be exclusive to grime-smeared school children and filthy sinners?

And the anger tinged with paranoia. You start thinking about all of the ways those wretched microbes might have breached the once-impenetrable fortress of your immune system.

Did it happen when I ran my hand up the banister at the public library? Is it because I forgot to spray down my office keyboard with Lysol the day Peggy from accounts receivable brought in Snickerdoodles? Was I not quick enough with the hand sanitizer after using the public restroom at Chitlin’ Charlie’s Chicken Shack?

Maybe some wretch coughed on you while you were standing in line at the grocery store. Or sneezed in your general direction while you were walking on the street. Everywhere you look are potential assassins who use droplets of spittle (great name for your garage band, by the way) instead of bullets.

And bargaining. “Make it go away, Lord, and I promise I will eat right, exercise and buy hand sanitizer by the keg.”

If there’s anyone left who’s still willing to spend time in your general vicinity, they will burden your already-overstuffed brain with surefire methods for defeating the common cold. Fire cider, that’s the ticket! Eat yourself a horseradish and wash it down with whiskey. Have yourself a chicken soup enema while sitting in a sauna for six drippy hours.

In the end, there will be acceptance. It’s not REALLY acceptance, mind you, it’s actually just defeat with a fancy name. You will resign yourself to the couch, mouth wide open and drooling everywhere, and vow never to leave it again. You will sit there in your swamp of sickness, surrounded by wads of spent tissues and that tear-soaked farewell letter from your wife and family. You will chug tumblers of Nyquil mixed with scotch and you will watch all five seasons of “Friday Night Lights” until delirium takes over and carries you off to someplace great – a place where microbes don’t exist and both nostrils always work.

And then, little by little, you will get well again, and when you do, look out world!

Also, look out, Peggy from accounts receivable, because I’m pretty sure it was her germ-drenched Snickerdoodles that got me and there will be hell to pay!

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