Symptoms

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Last week I was in the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris, and I was in pain. But I ignored it, explained it away, rationalized it, acted normal, as I had for the past three days. This lasted until that night in Orsay, during their evening hours. I had ignored my symptoms so long, and the infection developed to such an extent that I found myself limping through the galleries and needing to sit down and catch my breath every five minutes. Even though this was the museum I had most been looking forward to, and this was my last chance to see it before leaving, I had to face the fact: there was something wrong. I slouched out of the museum and to the hospital.

A couple of days later, I returned to Istanbul. My friends and I went to a neighborhood diner for pizza. As we sat down, we could hear sound bombs and explosive projectiles on the main street one block over. Protesters were demonstrating against an Internet law. The majority were demonstrating peacefully while a radical flank were skirmishing, throwing rocks, bottles, and fireworks at the police. From time to time, we could see protesters sprinting past, fleeing or busily hauling bits of furniture to add to the burning barricades up the street by the German hospital. The warlike sounds suffused the neighborhood and stray dog, spooked by the loud cacophony, slipped into the restaurant with his tail between his legs. Predictably, we heard the police fire off a round of tear gas canisters nearby and in short order our pizza was being flavored with the pungent spice of tear gas.

At this moment, too, I was blasé. Ignored it, explained it away, rationalized it, erected a barrier between myself and what I was perceiving. I just wanted to enjoy my buffalo-mozzarella pizza and get on with my life in this city. Never mind the aches and pains.

But when you ignore the symptoms, doesn’t that exacerbate the illness?

Photo: Backside of the clock in the Musée d’Orsay.

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