Everything is bad for you. The food you eat, the water you drink, the medicine you take, the sun that warms you, the air that you breathe. Even the thoughts in your head could give you cancer. Some take these threats a little farther than others, though.
I met Fred Grimes when we both were doing an English Degree together in school. As a pessimistic, socially awkward, anxiety-mysophobe, Fred was a man that lived his life in utmost fear of his surroundings. The man wouldn’t even sit in his chair. He’d have to cover it with a clean towel to avoid contamination. Ever since I met him, I knew Fred was one weird guy.
From what I understood, Fred was diagnosed with mysophobia while a sophomore. In whole, he is terrified of contamination and any possible contact with germs. Even as a child he would avoid grass and dirt paths, opting for the cleaner paved sidewalks. But this “bad habit” hasn’t managed to get any better with age however, if anything—worse.
His late father always used to complain about how running away from his fear would lead to his downfall. For him to stop acting like a child and break his little disorder for good. Instead, Fred used to just run off, scolding his father with curse words and go to his ever-so-clean room.
When his father passed, I pretty much carried the torch, trying to help free him from his bubble, but to no avail. I got more involved when I moved in with Fred after university. He had a long list of rules, what I can do, what I can’t do, and specific cleaning rules. Everything needed to be perfect with Fred. When I thought about moving on to the next step in life, I didn’t think it’d turn out like this. But living in the big city isn’t cheap and Fred didn’t ask for much to cover the rent and necessities, so I stayed.
The first couple of months were rough. It took me a while to get used to Fred’s germ-free rulings. I once sneezed in front of him, and he ordered me out of the house for the weekend. To put it bluntly, the guy was nuts.
Eventually, I got used to him and his wacky ways. I had been living with him for about two years when things started to get weirder. Fred himself was weird, but I’ve never heard of anything like this.
Fred awoke one morning and was sick. Sick! Out of all people, Fred—sick? He was freaking out. The man’s face was red as an apple and his eyes were swollen like you wouldn’t believe. He woke me up in the early morning, demanding I take him to the Doctor. Me being the normal, cocky arrogant man that I am, told him to go back to bed. I kind of realized he was serious when he started screaming at the top of his lungs. So, I got ready, got in my car and we drove downtown to the hospital.
Once arriving, Fred had a long heated argument with the nurse about how he needed to see the doctors’ immediately. I don’t know if you could tell he was a mysophobe or just insane. It took the combined forces of me and two nurses to hold him down. Once he got calm down and stopped his bickering, the Doctor finally came to see him.
As he went to go into the room, he asked me to go in it with him. He was “scared of doctors” and begged me to go in with him; “just in case.” We entered, and the Doctor did a full check of him. Blood pressure, temperature, throat swab, blood cultures, even a chest x-ray, but there was nothing wrong with him.
After beginning to shout and blame me for his little bit of sickness, the Doctor told him that if anything, Fred was “too healthy”. Unbelievable! Apparently his immune system lacked anything to defend against, so out of all things, attacked itself. His body was killing himself.
The doctor prescribed some easy medication for him to take and a way to fix his disease, but Fred was stubborn. He refused to have anything to do with it and a fear of the doctor’s didn’t help his fear of germs.
As the months passed, Fred got weaker and weaker. He went from a decent weight to scrawny and boney. I tried to convince him to eat more fatty-foods and exercise more, but he’d have no part of it. He became paler with each passing day, and even began to lose his hair. He didn’t bother to go to the doctor after either. Convinced that the Doctor was in on whatever was wrong, Fred eventually became overwhelmed with weakness. Some days he wouldn’t leave his bed.
Fred died a few weeks later, his immune system finally destroying his entire body. My years as his friend seemed like a weird dream, but if anything it’s made for a great excuse when people tell me I’m being disgusting. I’m saving myself from myself.