It started as a bruise, and before anyone tells me to go a hospital, my reply is: no. I’ve already done that. They’re not going to help.
Eric Morgan was the one who gave it to me; the little white pill. That isn’t his real name.
I don’t even do drugs. All I told him was that I had a headache. He asked did I want an aspirin?
Eric and I work together. He has–a problem–it’s apparent if you know the signs. The first indicator is how emaciated he is. It’s not a nice way to describe a friend, to be sure, but it’s the truth. He made himself that way; a wiry frame with wrapping paper for skin. His face is gaunt, all boxy angles of skull. Sometimes there’s visible places, sores, where he’s picked away too much; Band-Aids for tape hold the package together. His behavior is strange sometimes and even in the times when he is not high, his eyes are wild and dark.
He knows that I don’t take drugs. He knows that my father died from an overdose of opiates. I don’t even take aspirin normally; but this headache was just so bad.
We do have a lot in common. Enough for me to be able to overlook his drug abuse. We’re both vegan, we both like the same MMORPGs, and we are both transplants here from the same small town. He doesn’t come to work high all the time and I try not to judge him for it. Watching my father taught me a little perspective. People don’t become addicted to drugs because it’s fun.
When he asked me what was wrong I told him: “My head is killing me today. I wish I was dead.”
Eric said he had something in his car that he would run out and get for me. I even reminded him that I don’t take any kind of pills normally and I didn’t know if I wanted it.
“It’s just an aspirin. Don’t be a baby.”
So I took it.
Yet, the headache continued through the day. My boss visited my cubicle around noon. Her style sense may be lacking–given her penchant for wool suits–but her business sense is very forward-thinking. As soon as she realized I wasn’t feeling well, she sent me home.
“I can probably make it to the end of the day,” I suggested.
She sighed and crossed her arms, drumming her fingers across the sleeve of that itchy-looking brown suit.
“Now, Scott, you know the rules: Happy employees are productive employees. The ill employees go home and rest because they are not as productive. Come back when you’re feeling better.”
So I thanked her and headed out the door.
The pain sharpened as I rode down to the parking level, doubling me over. I fell into the handrail that circumferenced the elevator, but managed to right myself and get into my car.
It was when I got home that I realized that Eric had not given me an aspirin.
It started as a bruise. I saw it in the mirror as I was getting into the shower.
Was that a trick of the steam on the glass? No. No it’s not. That’s odd.
On my side was a dark purple green line about seven inches across; evidence left by the elevator handrail.
As I showered, the sharp pains returned.
I awoke with more bruises of dark violet and vermilion. I had pulled the towel rack and shower curtain down over me. The water was still running hot so I knew I hadn’t been out long enough for these types of contusions to have left any mark.
The strangest thing was that I didn’t feel anything. No pain at all. None of the bruises were tender to my touch, and there was no residual throb that I should have felt from the fall after I’d collapsed. Even the headache was gone.
Was it the asprin?
I’d never suffered fainting spells before, maybe this was the result of that.
Maybe Eric had switched what he given me with something stronger? On purpose? No. He wouldn’t have done that. Addicts don’t intentionally dole out their stash.
Maybe the switch was a mistake. Maybe, just maybe, he was high and grabbed the wrong thing. Maybe this was something he didn’t intend to give me….
But it didn’t make me feel high.
It made me feel nothing. Not even numbness. Just nothing.
After cleaning up the mess, I headed out of the steamy bathroom and into the kitchen. The house was freezing so I checked the thermostat. I had not turned the air on when I arrived home. The current readout on the digital thermometer was either broken or I was getting sick. It read:
Chills, I could explain. A fever was something I could deal with. I felt fine, but my curiosity prompted me to grab my thermometer. It’s older and takes about two minutes to give a reading. Deciding to multitask, I allowed it to hang out from beneath my tongue, as I chopped onions to begin making dinner.
The onions did not have their usual pungent aroma, so I chopped with ease until the thermometer beeped with a read-out.
Maybe it’s time for a new one.
I decided to try it again. It was probably foolish to split my attention the way I was. I think that’s how I ended up cutting off my left index finger at the second knuckle. I didn’t even feel it.
Wrapping my hand in a kitchen towel, and putting the finger in a bag of ice, I headed to the emergency room.
All eyes were on me as I entered through the ER doors. I must have been a sight with that bag of ice and multiple bruises. One woman even gasped. I sauntered up to the admittance desk and they took me and my severed finger to a room immediately.
The doctor seemed confused examining my hand and the bruises.
“Can you wait just a moment,” he said excusing himself from the room, “I’m going to go grab a nurse.”
It was something I overheard in his conversation with the nurse in the hall that prompted me to leave the room and the hospital entirely.
I don’t know what is wrong with me, and he didn’t seem to know either.
I did know that I didn’t want to be prodded and punctured and opened up so that they could figure it out.
I did know that I overheard something about the skin peeling from my face. About no bleeding from my hand. About the CDC and quarantine…but the most jarring words from his mouth I heard with unsettling clarity, prompting my abrupt departure:
“He has no blood pressure–no pulse.”
I don’t think it was aspirin.
Many times, we find ourselves at a place where we question the things we know to be true. Is the expectation the reality? Or are we changing the shape of our reality to conform with our expectations? Are we alive or are we dead? This story by author Tobias Wade may not seem related, but indeed it is. If you enjoyed this, please check out his story, Trapped Between Life And Death, and I assure you that you will enjoy that as well.