Thursday, June 26, 2014


It was three o'clock in the morning. I had been lying on my side my pillows scrunched tightly between my right arm and my face. A vision of a dessert dune had been blowing through my dreams, Lawrence of Arabia galloping through on a camel. It was the sand from the dessert that woke me. I couldn't get it out of my eyes and nose. It was choking me and my eyes felt as if they were being sliced by Nomadic sabers. As my dream dissolved in a storm of grains of sand I awoke with my nose running and my eyes weeping in searing pain. I willed the dream to come back and Lawrence to rescue me from the sand storm in my head. I held on for maybe fifteen minutes too groggy to rise, my fist now smashing into my forehead trying to physically force the pain away. A kaleidoscope of bruising blue lights had replaced the mirage of the dessert and Lawrence and his camel had galloped away. Sleep was now the allusion. I was awake and in excruciating pain. I threw the covers off and raised myself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. Even in the dark of three o'clock in the morning I could tell my vision was compromised and blurred. I'm not one to go easily to a doctor but I could tell this was more than a minor broken bone or a brain tumor, the things that would normally have to occur to make me feel it necessary to consult a physician. My lacerated vision seemed serious enough that I had to find a way to get myself to a place where I could find some help. My immediate problem: I was my only source of getting there. I'd have to be my own chauffer. Rick was in New York, Emmy was sleeping and anyway she was a novice driver without a license as of yet. I was thankful it was 3:30, the roads would be relatively carless and the nearby Clinic's urgent care unit was only a mile and a half away. I got dressed and pulled the car out of the garage, very slowly. My vision was so clouded it felt as if a layer of Vaseline had been smeared over my retinas. I knew I was a danger to the roads but I thought that if I crept along as if I was in a school zone I could get to urgent care without rolling off the road or smashing into an oncoming car.
I turned into the clinic parking lot without having committed a major traffic violation. The lights in the clinic parking lot illuminated a lonely police cruiser parked in the middle of the open lot his lights on. Other than the police car the clinic appeared eerily quiet. The clinic lights had been extinguished; only a buzzing florescent flickered like an evening insect on a late spring night. Not knowing what else to do I drove up to the clinic's front door. I tried to read the printed hours on the glass door from the vantage point of my drivers seat. Even at the width of a sidewalk I couldn't make out the numbers. I put the care in park, got out and with my face inches from the rub-on letters I made out the seven thirty opening hour information. It also said the nearest 24 hour emergency room was going to be a good distance away. I was half hoping the police officer might see my predicament and come to my assistance until I realized he was sneaking a nap and completely unaware of my existence. My hope of  a police escort to the ER went unrequited. I had to weave my way past the cruiser and back out onto the road. The streets were still pretty bare but now I had to get onto a major roadway. Going thirty-five in a sixty-five mile per hour zone probably wasn't the best idea but it got me there without the aid of the escort.
I parked the car in the hospital parking lot and walked across the street to the emergency room. I startled the security guard who had fallen asleep just inside the entry when the automatic door automatically opened. He let me pass with only the slightest of once-overs. There was only one other person in the waiting room sprawled over two chairs and wrapped in blankets only his Adidas hanging out beyond the blanket and resting on the arm of a third chair.
There was no one immediately behind the admitting desk. Pretty quickly I figured out why. All the non-patients were racing to deal with a non-cooperative new patient who sounded to be about 250 -300 lbs and not willing to lie down and take his medicine. It was a coven of about six nurses dressed in pink and pale blue polyester pajamas stamped with smiley faces, teddy bears and tweetie birds that raced by to tackle and subdue the blitzed out Samson.
Once the giant was tied and shackled one of the pert hundred pound tough as nails nurses came back to the front desk to check me in. I went through my symptoms: razor blades running up and down my eyes, a hatchet wedged right above my left eye and a sticky film the consistency of aspic coating my vision.  She handed me over to another nurse who lead me down another hallway to a vision chart. She let me keep my glasses on and then with both eyes asked which level of the chart I could read. I said, "What chart?" She just took me back to an examining room and told me to take a seat, "The doctor will be right with you".
It took about fifteen minutes before the doctor pulled back the curtain to my examining room. I had to do a double take, the first words out of his mouth were, "Hi, I'm Doctor Quinn".  I had to squeeze my butt checks together to prevent the words, "Oh, Dr. Quinn Medicine Man?" from tumbling out of my mouth. I thought it was a joke, a doctor's idea of alleviating the tension but with a quick glance I could see it said, "Dr. Quinn" on the name tag on the chest of his scrubs. He was a little on the small side but if there ever was a male equivalent of Jane Seymour this one was it. He was thin but taught. He had a full head of dark hair with a surprising patch of snow white right on the back of his head. It was his imperfection that made him tantalizingly unique and close to perfect. He was also one of those touchy feely kind of doctors. His first move was to pat my leg just slightly above the knee as I lay on the examining table where the privacy curtain had been flung back to a closed position. After a quick run down of my symptoms it was time for the pain test. Out popped the question, "How would you evaluate the pain on a scale from one to ten." I was still focusing on his hand resting on my thigh and these questions always flummoxed me anyway. I didn't want to say a number too high, I wasn't in a near death situation yet I didn't want to guess too low and have him wonder why I would come to the emergency room in the middle of the night with a pain I should be able to manage on my own at least until the urgent care facility opened in the morning. I settled on "8".
I could hear him draw in his breath and then release an "Oooooh" as if I had overshot the mark. I felt my sissy side exposed. I must have over-exaggerated the pain level for my yet undisclosed affliction. This was, of course, all in my head. After the "Oooooh" he went right back into friendly chatter and to be safe had them bring in an eye examining contraption that looked more like a sophisticated torture devise. After he had applied an eye drop to both my eyes he had me sit in a chair placing my chin on a padded rest. My head was held in place by a vice like grip that tightened on both sides of my crania. This was supposed to hold my head steady. His next words were, "Focus on a specific point on the wall behind me while I look into your eyes."
I picked out a point but it was too close to his face so the minute he started examining my eyes I ended up looking directly into his. I was feeling more and more embarrassed by the minute. He was probably less than half my age but he was making a very strong impression on my foolish heart.
With the eye exam behind me and my palpitations subsided I seriously started looking for a wedding ring on Dr. Quinn's fourth left hand finger. I couldn't decide if it was exceptional bedside manners or unexpected flirting I was experiencing.
He then started babbling something about what he tells his wife in situations like this. I fell back to earth and realized my palpitations were only the dreams of an old man. The numbing drops he put in my eyes earlier had taken hold. I felt like a cuckold fool as he handed me a prescription for an antibiotic I could purchase from a 24-hour dispensing machine in the emergency room lobby. The pronouncement that all I had was conjunctivitis, pink eye, a viral infection normally relegated to the pre-school age bracket or Bob Costas during the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia seemed so minor. With that he flung the curtain open and he was gone, only the white spot on the back of his head as a parting memory.

Dissection Room, Medical School, Bordeax, France, 1890
Photographer Unknown

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