The following is what occurs when you have my brain. Or something similar in nature.
It is the morning of my first day home from the hospital, which I did not enjoy due to its deprivation of personal independence and because it’s a hospital, a place you are not confined to if you are healthy, and I am not crazy about the the term “confined to.”
Before beginning my breakfast of cold flax cereal and almond milk, whose appeal was enhanced by the fact that I had selected it myself, I had taken one of my last remaining doses of antibiotics helping to send the residual Legionnaires’ Disease microbes packing, plus some Motrin for assorted bodily aches and pains.
Delighted to be in familiar surroundings, I sit down with the paper, and dig into my flax.
Disclaimer: The following interval is missing from my memory. At that juncture, I was far from a hundred percent. Plus, I had no idea I’d be writing this.
It happens a lot. You decide to write something, discovering subsequently there is an absence of salient details. Consider this “gap in the action” a “missing scene” from one of those reconstructed silent movies where the intervening footage has turned to dust and the surviving segment before it and after it are awkwardly spliced together.
My mind is Swiss cheese sometimes.
And not just when I’m sick.
I am sitting at breakfast.
I am standing in our downstairs bathroom – with apologies for the following grossness – expectorating into the sink.
I look down at what came out – because who doesn’t do that? – and, to my immediate horror and agitation, I see…
A tiny trickle
Scarleting the porcelain below
Which my freaked-out imagination interprets immediately as…
An inner outburst I keep to myself, because I was recently discharged from the hospital and I am not eager to go back.
My addled brain mechanism now hurtles to “Warp Speed”, making associations a relaxed and deliberative brain mechanism would not.
Check out how this works:
Legionnaires Disease is a form of pneumonia.
Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs.
What else is a disease of the lungs?
When you think of tuberculosis, what immediately flashes to mind?
Doc Holliday coughing blood into a handkerchief.
Doc Holliday coughed blood into a handkerchief. I spit blood into the sink.
I have tuberculosis.
Or at least an unbanished portion of pneumonia symptomized by blood in your lungs that is detectable in your spit – I now remember the “Sputum Test” they performed at the hospital.
Oh yeah, I’m going to be back there in no time, lying in a bed it is impossible to get comfortable in, picking glutinous menu choices I do not want!
I see images of Doc Holliday in a Denver sanitarium in Denver, playing poker with the custodian and drinking rotgut hidden from the nurses.
As I recall, Doc never got out of that place.
Now, in my mind at least…
I’m Doc Holliday.
I return to the table, saying nothing to my wife, my illusory fantasy being:
“If you don’t mention it, it didn’t happen.”
I, however, know that it did.
What is the next thing to do, even if you’re terrified?
You have to confirm the experience.
Even if that’s the last thing you want to do.
My mind goes to the catchphrase from The Life of Riley.
“What a revoltin’ development this is.”
Not exactly surreptitiously but making little “to-do” about it, I get up from the table, and I return to the bathroom. I stand over the sink, count to three, recalling that I’ve had a pretty good life…
And I spit.
I trepidatiously look down…
And it’s just spit.
Okay! Now it’s a tie!
One “Blood” – One “Spit”.
Two out of three?
You have to. Otherwise, you don’t know which one was the anomaly.
I spit anxiously a third time.
And there it is:
Clear and comforting spit.
Am I relieved? Of course. But almost equally, confused.
How come there was blood that first time?
Then I remember… my mind now calm enough to be helpful, rather than making me want to jump out a window…
The Motrin pills I’d taken had had a scarlety shell.
The Motrin’s red residue, mixed with saliva – that could easily – to a crazy person – be mistaken for blood.
Which is apparently what happened.
Since I never “Doc Holliday-ed” again.
At the time, however,
I really thought it was blood.
And I was headed directly to Boot Hill.
“What is the message of that anecdote?
If I have to explain it, then I did a terrible job writing it. Given the possibility that I might have, the message is, “Don’t panic. It might simply be Motrin coloration.”
“Thank you. I was hoping there was more.”
You’re welcome. And no.