He’s been feeling very tired recently. When we went to the Ren Faire, he kept lagging behind, unable to keep up with me, even from the first minute we got out of the car. I had been impatient with him, kept stopping and exasperatingly saying ‘Would you COME ON!’ He stopped drinking caffeine and then stopped smoking completely, but he still couldn’t catch his breath. He kept thinking that he was out of shape, secretly cursing himself out for being, as he put it, ‘such a fat bastard’.
I demanded that he visit Dr. Perky when we noticed last weekend that he was completely exhausted by simple activities such as getting dressed and for the first time in my memory, he was a lighter shade of pale than even my non-tanned bits. I went to the doctor with him on Monday, (which is when I got weighed and learned that the carb-free life was not for me.) and after I sat in the waiting room for more than an hour, going down the waiting room material hierarchy from Self (July ’03) to Better Home & Gardens (October ’02) to Reader’s Digest (September ’03) to Time (June ’03). Esteban finally emerged from the bowels of the clinic while I was reading the ancient Time, otherwise I would have resorted to either Dog Fancy or some magazine with an enormous baby face on the cover, making me wonder if they have to airbrush out the drool.
We took the elevator down from the second floor to the first floor because Esteban was having a hard time with steps. During the five second ride down, he told me the verdict. He is anemic. The normal person has a blood score of 14 (although 14 what I don’t know). A score of 12 means that you are anemic.
Esteban has a score of 7.5. This means that almost half of his red blood cells are missing.
We don’t know why they are missing or where they have gone. And if we don’t know why, we don’t know how to stop it, which means that if it goes unchecked, he will need a blood transfusion. Or he will just keep getting weaker and eventually’ I don’t know what happens then. Turn more and more white? Go into a coma?
They did some further tests on his blood. He’s low on iron, so he started taking supplements. On Wednesday, they scheduled him for a gastrointestinal scope, to determine if he had some big moon crater in his stomach through which he was possibly bleeding all of those little necessary globules of red. They were going to go in through the mouth and also from the other direction, which made me giggle at him every time he talked about it. Or as I kept calling it ‘The Up The Butt One’.
‘Don’t call it The Butt One’, Esteban grumped.
‘Why? It’s better than Anal Probe.’ I giggled.
Esteban preferred to reduce the act to a gesture of a rigid finger making a violent poking and somewhat upward movement.
Then on Tuesday night, he got the quintessential reprieve from the governor, fifteen minutes before he was about to take the necessary laxatives. The surgeon had taken a look at his chart and decided that a relatively healthy 32 year old didn’t need a colonoscopy.
‘So yay, you don’t need The Butt One!’ I exclaimed.
‘What did I tell you about calling it that!’ He said, poking the air violently with his index finger. Perhaps it would be like Prince and be a gesture rather than a symbol. The Uncomfortable Medical Procedure Formerly Known As The Butt One. Finally, we agreed upon ‘the Lower GI’ which sounded like a military term, or perhaps a yoga position. However, with The Butt One behind us (heeee!), we only had to think about the fact that they would be ramming a super small camera unit down Esteban’s throat. Thankfully, he would be asleep during the process.
Esteban does not like needles. He considers Pulp Fiction a horror movie because of the scene where they show John Travolta shooting up and they show a needle piercing the skin. Instead, we constructed an elaborate fantasy wherein they definitely gave him gas, perhaps ether, to knock him out, exclaiming ‘Needles!? We don’t need no steenking NEEDLES!’ and in which the tube they would shove down his throat would be made of cherry licorice whips.
They used a needle. In his right hand, or as he exclaimed ‘My mouse hand!’ He did very well, shaking a little, but I was very proud of him. Then I left to a waiting room to read Why Girls Are Weird and try not to think about him not waking up from the procedure.
Hospital waiting rooms are like elevators. No one talks to one another. Erica Kane was on the television that no one was watching, overacting and trembling and then it would flip to another girl talking about her attempted rape, all set to the cheery jazzy muzak over the hospital’s sound system. At one point, an exiled former boss of mine walked in with his wife. For a moment, we both forgot where we were, our eyebrows perked in the recognition arc, and exclaimed ‘HI!’ to each other, but just as quickly, we both realized that the next question was going to be ‘What are you doing here?’ and that we’d have to explain it and it was clear that we both really didn’t want to discuss it, so in a split second, our faces moved from cheerful surprise to awkwardness and my eyes moved back to the story of Anna K and he walked stiffly through the room, followed by his wife.
Half an hour later, the tiny nurse Amanda, younger than us and adorable in such a way that Esteban had let her go at him with a needle, retrieved me and said ‘He’s all finished. He’s talking right now. I don’t think he ever was asleep.’
He wasn’t. He hadn’t actually been under, which made me angry. Apparently, they had given him the most anesthesia they could, but he didn’t go under. He’s unusual that way. Certain medicines do not affect him. Vicodin does nothing for him whatsoever. However, the drug cocktail of the day also included a wallop of Demerol, so he was pretty loopy. He was so happy to see me, explaining that he never fell asleep. ‘I know’ I whispered through gritted teeth. He slurred something about flaming volcanoes, which is an inside joke between us. The drunkest I have ever been in my entire life was when I was 20 and consumed two entire flaming volcanoes (which is a fruity multiple person drink containing fourteen different shots’ and yes, I drank two of them by myself) on an empty stomach. Esteban picked me up and brought me home but not before I encouraged him to take advantage of my drunken state. Later that night, I threw up six times and was hung over for four days and Esteban had to explain why there were foot prints on the ceiling of his dad’s pickup truck.
I asked him if he wanted to watch the television. He looked up at me and said, ‘No, I just want to watch you.’ I almost burst into tears, thinking about how mean I had been when he was trying to catch up with me at the Ren Faire and how worried I was and how something was trying to take away the stuff that made him able to walk around and be active and strong and breathing and healthy. Some vampire thing is hiding inside him and there is nothing I can do about it.
The scope of his stomach was inconclusive, although we were given some lovely snapshots of the inside of Esteban as a parting gift. There is no moon crater, no Old Faithful gushing forth that we can stop with a cork and say ‘There you are, good as new.’
Esteban didn’t want to talk about how sick he is with his friends, but then Scotty Boom Boom called while he was loopy on Demerol in the afternoon and Esteban explained that he had been anesthetized for some tests. ‘What did you have done?’ Scotty inquired, and Esteban could not remember through the cotton batting his mind had been filled with. But now people know. So now I can tell you.
He was in lovely spirits and slept most of the night. There was an enormous storm that evening. He woke up to the sounds of water in the bedroom. Water had come through the screen, filling the basin and then leaked through the closed window onto the carpet. He called me at work, disoriented, asking ‘What the heck is going on, with the tornado or what?’ It was black as midnight at 5:30 and I suppose it might have seemed like 5:30 am after his little magical mystery tour of Demerol. He asked if I would pick up some throat lozenges for him when I came home from work, so I did, as well as a giant chocolate shake and some chicken McNuggets, which are bland and seem to be partially chewed before they are battered and deep-fried by the corporate machine.
We ate dinner in bed, the light coming back a half hour before sundown, a confused evening dawn in the rainspeckled air. The heat of the day had washed away, leaving a lucid coolness, life as seen through the bottom of a glass of Bombay Sapphire gin. Everything was washed through and through, leaving only the muted Banana Republic color wheel, and I wondered if I were already seeing life through the eyes of my future self, looking back to when we were innocent, when we were both healthy and stupid and held within our hands the world of infinite possibility. Perhaps this is what nostalgia looks like from the back end. Perhaps.