Paul saunters into the hospital room, glances at me lying in the bed and throws the back of his hand to his forehead saying, “Pull the plug! I can’t stand to see him suffering.” I shoot him a look. I am babysitting my pain, which is an alien living inside of my gut, clawing at my intestines, consuming all of my faculties. After four hours of suffering at home and an alarming text message from my friend Sam, Not to scare u but u have to act on abdominal pain bec the lining of ur intestines can rip and cause all types of poisoning in ur body! I decided to make my inaugural visit to the Emergency Room.
“Let’s go before my stomach explodes,” I said wide-eyed, as Paul grabbed the car keys.
He bent his head down like he was looking at a baby and attempted to rub my belly, but I swatted at him as if he was a gnat.
“The equipment is aging,” my physician told me during my last physical. He is a thin man with hair on his face, to make up for the lack of it on his head and prone to making unvarnished and ill-timed statements. “How was your Valentine’s day?” he asked me once, while inspecting my prostate.
It is this aging equipment that concerns me now as I look at Paul, who is inspecting the tube taped to my arm. I mutter “Sweetie, get used to it. This is your future.”
I am a languishing Mimi to his Rodolfo. I am dramatized.
“Maybe we can fill this thing with a Cosmo,” Paul says, squeezing the IV bag.
“Don’t touch that!” I shout.
It is a given that one of us will go first. When Paul travels for work, I take a vacation to his side of the bed. Not because it is closer to the bathroom or because long ago, it used to be mine, but because I want to experience the world from his point of view. When you love someone, really love him, you want to become him. I think that if my head falls asleep on his pillow, I will be able to peek into his dreams and wake up in the morning to see the world through his eyes. I want to understand what he sees in the man with the aging face he chose to wake up to for the rest of his life. And now, I wonder what he will feel when my side of the bed is empty.
I open one eye and examine the equipment in the room.
“Is one of these things a lipo machine? Maybe my pain is coming from a thin layer of fat,” I say.
“You made a little joke,” Paul says cocking his head and smiling.
It is then, that I realize my pain has vanished.
When the resident, a young stoic, Indian woman enters, I am taking a selfie in my hospital gown. I apologize profusely for the lack of pain as she presses down on my abdomen.
“It was an eight or nine on the pain scale,” I promise.
She nods her head.
“Heart burn,” she says as she hands me my discharge papers.
“Lack of attention,” Paul will later change the diagnosis, when I recount the harrowing experience, ad nauseum, to friends.
Paul reminds me that I came into this world with a slap and a wail and I’ll leave it with a slap and a tickle if he has anything to do with it. If that’s my future, I can accept the prognosis.