Wies is 22 and still lives with his mum and dad. It may seem strange at first, but when you see how he actually lives, you understand. What he calls his home is a massive complex of houses, with a beach just at the back of his living room. Squatted in the early 80's by a group of hippies among whom his parents, the lodgings have been constructed in the 1920's as a hospital complex immediately opposite the international harbour Rotterdam. The idea was that sailors staggering onto land with their heads in the clutches of fevers brought about by vicious tropical diseases could be stacked away immediately from society at large. The street is up to this day called Quarantaineweg and neighbours are few and far in between.
What a luck that the day I made it there, I just happened to come down with swine flu. Perfect place to cough and sneeze and feel miserable.
The symptoms could be excrutiating: At every breath my aching lungs rattled like a beat-up toy car sent to lumber round the model race track one last time. The air wheezed in and out of my respiratory tract, crackling and going through my clotted windpipes like sludge moves through a sieve crusted with dried mud at the end of a long day of sifting for nuggets of precious metal in a silty river. And indeed the search would yield: From time to time my dried lips would part and spit out an half-liquid and amorphous marble of gold.
Whenever I decided I could get up now and drag my body two steps across the room, the plan was foiled at once: I'd have to turn round, plunge back into bed from instant exhaustion, and sleep would crash back over me in cold waves of fever and fatigue. Again I'd be paralysed in horizontal position, stapled to the bedsheets.