i didnt wait long. who knows how long the others had been waiting, but after maybe four minutes, a nurse came into the waiting room and wheeled me to a private exam room inside the ER.
she asked all the usual questions. insurance, age, allergies, address. i asked her for ice. she replied i was not allowed ice until the doctor ordered it. she handed me a gown and i got in.
i was thinking when a limb is struck and bruised you ice it. but i let it go.
then came a much harder question: “how would you rate your pain, on a scale of one-to-ten?”
well, my mind was out of the blocks. as a many-years sufferer of daily migraines, i knew what ten on the scale meant. this pain was different to rate.
i was struggling to not get too analytical. i mean, ten to a healthy person might be different than a ten is for a sick one. my five may just have been somebodys nine.
“you mean when i try walking, or when im just sitting here, like this?” i asked, buying time.
“just sitting here, right now,” she answered.
“okay, its like a 6 or 7,” i threw in my hand.
“its a 10! dont be like that Bree,” and to the nurse, “she downplays everything,” Brian waved his hand.
“well sit tight, honey,” the nurse begged, and left the exam room.
Brian and i sat wordless. every so often one of us would say, ‘this is terrible,’ ‘i cant believe this,’ or something to that effect.
he was antsy. amped up enough from a busy night at the bar, and now this. i was resigned to a comfy cage of half sleep and starchy hospital cotton.
but Brian would go out and wander the halls, come back. outside to smoke, maybe reassess the magazine rack. probably an hour and forty passed when the nurse came in a with a large white pain pill and a small cup of warm water.
i swallowed it.
at one point i leaned back and closed my eyes awake for a long while.
an hour i guess, because i heard Brian say much later on, “now weve been here three hours. how much longer is this shit going to take?”
i opened one eye and trained it on a clock across the hall from my exam room. indeed it was nearing 5 a.m. wed checked in at five till 2. again i closed my eyes.
at one point when i opened them, Brian was standing stock-still with half of his body in and the other half out of the exam room. he stood quietly in this way for a long time. then he crept over to my bed with big eyes.
he whispered, “Bree i just saw somebody DIE.”
“what do you mean!”
“this guy had a heart attack. i guess. he was right there in a gurney in the hallway. you could see from here, the flat line. i mean, i heard it! a woman, his wife or whatever just started sobbing, i mean it was so sad. she climbed on top of him. they just let her. oh my god.”
“man, that is sooo sad,” i agreed.
not surprisingly, Brian had never seen someone die.
i was selfishly glad that i still hadnt.
Brian sat down next to me. we just sat together, sober and unsettled by such a sad thing.
finally the doctor himself arrived. he was an older man, maybe ten years older than Robin Williams. like the famous comedian, the doctor had extremely hairy arms and chest. he wore a short sleeved shirt, a shirt you might see a server in at Bahama Breeze. buttoned way too low. he shook my hand, his hand was soft—too soft. like silk, or like he had no fingerprints.