The anxious vigil I hold over Kristine is an attempt to repay past lapses. Paying them off all at once is ambitious, but I’ve never liked debts. I’m bedside-ridden for two long days, flying high for the purposes of alertness. I read medical books that encourage flights of fancy and imagined symptoms when Kristine coughs or shows pain.
She wakes at irregular intervals to readily available medications, toilet trip assistance, food, an insistence to shower and the reapplication of creams and lotions. Scrapes and scratches heal well; bloody urine clears; though coughing hurts broken ribs enough to bring tears.
I usher my compliant patient around using the small window of time I get between the drugs taking her pain, and zonking her out completely. Moving her gently, like an expensive doll, I prop her in a chair for a tea party and put her to bed afterward. Then I stand watch again.
My own health suffers. Eventually, without warning, everything shuts down to protect me from myself.
I black out, missing Kristine next dose. I sleep deeply. The body, if not the mind, grateful to be left to heal.
* * *
Frying meat, a smell of pure bliss, invades my dreams before raising my consciousness. I am at a BBQ, eating a dry and tough steak before open eyes show the corner of a blanket between my teeth. I am lying beside Kristine’s bed. A lifted arm feels across a bare mattress.
My body won’t obey a similar command. I’m so incredibly tired. Add to that, sore and sweaty. Someone has covered me with a sheet.
I haven’t showered for two days; my stink wrinkles a nose striving to pull in the more pleasant aroma of frying. The thought of eating helps lever me into a standing position. I plod towards the kitchen.
Kristine cooks energetically, banging pans and bustling about. She wears a light dress, which strikes me as abnormal after seeing so much nakedness. More importantly it looks like breakfast is almost ready.
She greets me brightly as I slouch in.
“Bout time you got up.”
“I can barely move.”
“You managed to get this far. Maybe you’ll live. Hungry? I found sausages under a pile of those yucky frozen meat patties.”
My grunt is correctly interpreted as a yes. I fumble amongst pill bottles for something to keep me going. The capsules I shove towards Kristine are rejected.
“I don’t want those.”
I hesitate, and then put them back in their respective bottles. All the more for me.
“Phew, you stink. All the toxins are coming out of you. You’re having a shower before I feed you. I’ll keep your breakfast warm.”
My hangdog expression is not enough to excuse me from this unpleasant task. I shower quickly and change before eating like a good boy. My offer to wash up results in being pushed away from the sink and into a better place. The lounge room.
“Veg out in here. I don't want you in my way while I clean up.”
“But I kept everything spotless while you were sleeping.”
“I can see you tried, Sam. No offence, but my clean is cleaner than your clean. Now sit while I do something with your face. Nasty scratches.”
“Yours aint much better.”
Her motherly side is welcome, though my instantaneous change from nurse to patient is disorientating. Or maybe it’s the Vicodin.
“You sure you’re OK? I can do more.”
“No thanks Sam. You need a rest too. Everything’s still pretty sore but I’m going to get better faster without those drugs. Besides they’re too addictive.”
I feel her meaningful gaze while she swabs my ragged ear. I don’t wait for her to ask me to give them away too.
“Leave it to those who can handle them, Babe.”
She sighs and I change the subject to throw her off.
“How’s your guts. You having your period?”
She pulls a face in distaste.
“Why do you want to know something like that for?”
“You were pissing blood for a few days. I was worried.”
She blushes acutely.
“I’m not due for two weeks but my stomach is alright. A bit tender but no major problems.”
“Looks like it cleared up then. You copped quite a few hits to the kidneys.”
“Don’t I know it? There’ll be some bad dreams to get out of the way. I’ll have to deal with that whole episode with Gaia’s help.”
“The Earth Mother.”
I hold in my snort of disbelief just in time.
In truth I’m amazed at her attitude. People like Kristine who face their problems with no crutches or excuses absolutely astound me. Natural sleep, spiritual beliefs, healthy body, healthy mind.
Sounds too much like hard work to me.