Sometimes, for no apparent reason, I get the hiccups. Does this happen to anyone else? They pretty well refuse the go away, too. Drinking water or any of the supposed cures doesn’t work–the only thin that does (sometimes) is holding my breath.
* * * *
On the crowded subway platform, with ten minutes until the train arrived, a middle-aged woman began to hiccup.
“Hic!” She clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes wide and horrified over the top of her weathered fingers. Only the single sound had escaped unmuffled, but the people nearest her had heard.
The crowd pulled away from her, a man turning his back to her, wrapping his four-year-old boy in his arms as he quickly shuffled away. A teenager stumbled when rushing to safety, falling, and holding a hand out to her friends, who turned their faces from her as they streamed up the steps.
The girl pushed herself to her feet, and took a few haltering steps. “Hic! Hic!”
A man who’d been standing nearest the woman, almost having reached the steps, hiccuped too.
These fresh outbreaks caused new ripples in the crowd, people trying to get away before the hiccups spread to them, too. Some got away, but a few began to hiccup too, halting their rush for freedom with slumped shoulders and dropped chins.
Slowly, the teenager brushed herself off, and limped away. She kept her teeth clenched, pressing a hand over her mouth, so no infectious hiccups could reach the ears of anyone near her. People retreated from her anyway, even though doctors had proved that hiccups were only communicable by sound. Her progress slowed by the crowd and a worsening limp, she hesitated at the bottom of the stairs.
She tipped her head up, hand still clamped over her mouth, studying the stretch of concrete steps. After a few moments, she squared her shoulders and started up.
A teenage boy approached her, offering his arm.
Shaking her head, she waved him away, pointing at her mouth.
He nodded, signed something, and pointed at his ears.
The girl brightened, and nodded, taking his arm with her free hand, and leaning on him as they ascended the steps. In a few hours, maybe a day or two, her hiccups would fade, and she wouldn’t be infectious anymore.
Unless she was one of the unlucky ones, whose infection lasted for weeks or months… She pushed the thought out of her mind, focusing on each step, one foot in front of the other.