Zero-to-One-Hundred-and-Fifty (Part 2)

Posted: December 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


My parents show up a half-an-hour-later at the parking lot in their white Jeep Grand Cherokee.  In the throes of my chest attack, I can offer them only curtailed, pithy answers to their very big questions.  “Hash brownie.”  “Pain.”  “Drive.”  I trade the car keys with my Mom who takes my car back to Bellevue across the 1-5 Bridge.  Writhing in the backseat of their Cherokee, I begin to hallucinate my parents telling me things like to “STOP TAKING DRUGS FROM IRRELEVANT SLOPSUCKING EX-BOYFRIENDS!” and “PORK LEADS TO MURDER!”  Y’know, all kinds of comforting, scolding things like that.

In fact, if you were to playback the entire car ride home on a tape recorder, what you would hear is something between Linda Blair’s Exorcism and The Birth of an Alien.

So I have absolutely no reference for what a heart attack feels like.  But I tried to convince myself that whatever was happening to me was hardly interior or local enough to be considered one.  Nevertheless, it grew relentlessly in its stampeding momentum by the second.  The expanse of it became so broad, at one point, that I could only breathe in frantic inches.  I conjured up relief in the song Leadbelly’s “Good Night, Irene” from a voice that I was hoping was not God.

We walked up the stairs to my parents house, where I sat on their sofa with a blanket.  The hyperventilating dissipated laboringly to elliptic whispers.  Every so often, there would come another volcanic laceration, and I would wonder if I would ever get to sleep.  Two-and-a-half hours later I did.  I took myself downstairs to the guestroom.

That afternoon, around 3 PM, my mother opened the door.  With some sniveling contention from my end, we talked about going to Swedish Medical Hospital.  After the night I had had, I wanted nothing more than just rest like a corpse.  But my neocortextual Virgoan logic knew that what I had experienced was not normal.  When my parents kept asking what I wanted to do, my reply was “Please don’t leave me in charge of my own decisions right now.”  This was, in retrospect, was a decision.  And the smartest that I could have made.

I don’t have health insurance in New York City.  So anytime a medical issue arises, I take myself to Bellevue Hospital on E 26th street and prepare for a long, arduous day of waiting for a minimum of four hours with the dregs of downtown, not to mention the intense bureaucracy involved with fighting to get the right doctor to identify the problem.  Swedish Hospital, by comparison, is The Waldorf Astoria.  The waiting room is bright and pristine, the administrators as polite as JetBlue attendants, with no brow of scrutiny to make you feel guilty about coming to them with a problem.  The only complaint I had was maybe with these fucking morons in the waiting room who thought it was a good idea to order a pizza from Domino’s, only to leave it there on the magazine table in front of me and not eat it.

My bubbily but somehow reasonably convincing, Conan O’Brien-resembling ER doctor thought that what I was experiencing was a combination of physical anxiety and a prolonged allergic reaction to something exposed to back in Brooklyn.  The equivocations of this “diagnosis” were frustrating, but I could tell he was trying his best.  He prescribed some drugs for inflammation and pain.  And then, as a sort of bonus proposal, he said: “Let’s just take a chest X-Ray just to make sure that it isn’t anything else…”

When he returned, gone was his peppy aggression, replaced with a more operatic minor key of D.

He closed the door.

“The lymph nodes in your chest are constricting the arteries to your head which is why you have this facial swelling.  Also why you had the reaction last night to the hash brownies.  It looks like some form of lymphoma with superior vena cava, and we don’t know if it’s Hodgkin’s or Non-Hodgkins.  But whatever it is, it’s fast spreading.  So what we need to do is keep you here overnight and review these symptoms with our oncology department…

The air in the room went apopletic.  The doctor exited with well-wishes — he may have even taken a fancy bow.  (If he didn’t, then maybe he should have.)

After a pendulous pause, I searched my Mother’s face in horror.

At the risk of echoing the stage directions from some curtain melodrama, I wept spectacularly in her arms…

  1. […] 4. Zero-to-One Hundred-and-Fifty, Part 2 […]

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