Not long after my Chinese-American fiancé proposed, I caught a nasty cold. I am sure it had nothing to do with an engagement made stressful by stubborn Chinese parents.
This virus was horribly phlegmy. The sort of cold where I was scared to sleep, lest I drown in my own mucus. I didn’t have a fever, but I was miserable enough to call in sick. That was futile — the other assistants called me every five minutes because Boss B was a dinosaur who couldn’t even make calls on his own, nor coffee, nor could he open his own email. He constantly badgered the other assistants. They badgered me. I gave up trying to rest at home and went into work. I vengefully set about infecting the entire office.
After a week, I still felt lousy, but there was a dance competition approaching. I hadn’t practiced with Andy or even seen him. I popped my thirtieth Sudafed and agreed to meet up for a night out dancing.
I still felt like the Mucus Monster from Hell, but I smiled when I saw my fiancé waiting anxiously by the dance floor. He held a thermos and a little teacup.
“I made you some tea,” Andy said. “It’s a special Chinese recipe, called foo cha, with amazing healing properties.”
My heart melted. The snot dripping down my nose was – for the first time in a week – NOT from the vicious virus, but because Andy was so sweet and thoughtful that it made me all teary.
I blew my nose and took a sip. The nastiest substance I had ever tasted filled my mouth. Worse — by far — than the chocolate-coated cat poop Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister tricked me into eating when I was three. I gagged.
All I wanted to do was spit the foul drink as far away as possible, but I was right next to a dance floor. A crowded dance floor. The nearest sink was at least 45 seconds away and there was no way in hell I wanted the mother of all putridness in my mouth that long. I choked down that mouthful, and gasped, “Oh my God are you trying to kill me?” I handed Andy the teacup and ran across three dance floors to the bar, frantically signaling the bartender.
Andy packed away his thermos and teacup and followed. “I know it’s a little bitter, but—”
“A LITTLE bitter?” I ordered a cranberry and club soda, then dove into a bowl of nuts.
“My mom sent me the tea –”
“I knew it! Poison is always the woman’s weapon!”
“–when I got the flu last year,” Andy finished. “She used to make it when I was sick, and I was better in no time.”
“Of course you were! Self-defense to avoid drinking from the little teacup of horror!” The peanuts had minimal effect on the gross taste still in my mouth. I twitched. “Any sane person would rise from their death-bed to avoid ever tasting that concoction again. It’s like Monty Python — your plague-blistered skin might be sloughing off, and your life might be slipping away, but you’d be telling the bearer of that god awful tea, ‘I feel happy! No, no need for that little cuppa. I say, why don’t you give a sip to this Bursting Bubonic Pustule chap next to me!’”
My cranberry and club soda arrived. I gulped down half of it. Ate some more peanuts. The taste faded from my physical mouth, but the memory made me shudder. “What did you call that, that…I can’t even call it tea… that devil’s brew you just fed me?”
“It’s foo cha. ‘Bitter tea.’”
“Understatement of the century. Ugh. How do you spell that?”
“Are you sure it’s not F-U? Because that’s what it feels like it was saying to every single taste bud I have!” I twitched once more and finished my drink.
Andy bought me another, waited for me to finish shuddering, and eventually led me onto the dance floor. After a few songs, he gave me a smug little smile and said, “So, it looks like you feel better.”
I shuddered again. “Strictly the adrenaline from a near-fatal poisoning attempt.”
The next day, I awoke mostly phlegm-free. My cold had run its course.
Or maybe that terrified virus just ran, wailing, from the disgusting onslaught of foo cha tea.