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I Was Supposed to Work

I felt chilled on an eighty degree day. When the dull ache began on top of my head I tossed back two blue pills and chased it down with Tropical Punch Emergen-C before heading out for the after school activities. I turned the radio to fade in the front and asked the children to use quiet voices while the clamminess settled into the driver’s seat with me. This was not a coffee shop afternoon. I would log over one and a half hours behind the wheel before pulling up to the front of the house three hours later. I’m supposed to work tomorrow.

I tried the peppermints in the office of the waiting room, hoping they would quell the infantile nausea growing from somewhere inside me. The air-conditioned office allowed me to breathe easier, yet brought on repeated chills. I counted the minutes until it was time to leave.

At home I lay on the sofa, trying to read, feeling the ache returning. The blue pills only lasted so long. The children seemed to know they needed to read quietly and keep the noise to a minimum. If only I could bottle this cooperation and sense of community that comes to visit when I am not feeling well.

I dozed, then startled awake to the ten-year old asking to get his inhaler because he had a cough. I praised him for taking responsibility for his own health. He acted like it was no big deal, like my praise was the lentil soup he didn’t care for. We both knew it was more like me announcing we were having his favorite enchiladas for dinner.

I brushed my teeth, hoping the minty taste would send the nausea into a dark cave far away. I took two more Advil, climbed into bed and waited. I’m supposed to work tomorrow. Should I send an email to my coworker and give them a heads up? I sat up and heard the sounds of a bright aura far away. I remained seated until the music drifted away. I tried the Tums and lay down again, trying to steal the warmth from the comforter. Two minutes later, all covers were  flung  off as I lay perspiring. I wondered if this was pre-menopause or something else horrible like that.

At 10:09, the music returned and I bolted to the bathroom. I flipped open the lid to the toilet and sat on the rug and closed my eyes. It was too bright. I felt small bits of  dirt and debris under my fingers as they rested lightly on the brown rug. I wondered how clean the toilet was.  Queasiness gripped me like a toddler who acts petrified around dogs. I contemplated sticking my finger down my throat, but instead I crawled back to bed with my eyes closed. I think I forgot to close the lid.

At five something I woke up. I began a slow crawl to the kitchen. I’m supposed to work. My husband called after me, “Are you okay?” I thought I was being quiet. “Yes,” I answered, although I barely heard my voice. I groped around on the counter, expecting to send the phone crashing to the floor. I turned it on and nearly blinded myself with the bright light. I found her number and began typing out a text. I said I had vomited. The truth was I was afraid of placing myself  in a situation where I could pass out at any given moment while driving or conversing during our meetings. I didn’t know if feeling nauseous and dizzy, not to mention hearing strange high-pitched noises was a.) enough of a reason not to work, b.) any of her business or c.) a sign that I had an unexplained and perhaps contagious illness.

After a slow crawl back to bed, where I’m certain I lost a pound through sweating, my husband asked, “What were you doing?”

“I’m supposed to work, but I don’t feel well. I needed to tell my coworker,” I said.

I stayed in bed. I had  strange dreams about a friend who  seemed to be living in a house with partitions instead of walls and appliances  designed for the 4 foot and under crowd. I spent a lot of time drooling on my pillow. The nurse (my husband) was very sweet. He brought me tea and a banana. I protested when he suggested he open the curtains and window for fresh air. “Ackk! It’s too bright,” I hollered when he jerked the cord of the dust-covered blinds. It sounded like a bird being strangled.

The birds were talking about something and their conversation went on and on. The pillow made creaking noises at every inhale and exhale of breath. I tried to vary my breathing, hoping to make the sound go away and wondered if my pillow (or was it the pillowcase?) was always this noisy. Water made me nauseous. I requested Gatorade and the nurse was nice enough to make a special trip to the store. I tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable after so many hours in bed. I thought about hospital patients who were there for long-term care and wondered how they managed to keep themselves from going crazy. Especially on a nice Spring day with the sun shining, the air warm and the birds bantering, all the while trying to get a hold of the  nurse who I could hear talking on the phone, yet wasn’t answering my text to bring me my meds.

I’m supposed to be at work, but that didn’t work out very well.

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