After showering, eating some more and superficially cleaning up, I check on Kristine. Then again. And again. A Death Metal CD fails to wake my sleeping beauty. I get edgy and kick her mattress gently. Frustrated, I take her hand and slap it once. Then again, harder, with urgency.
“Wassamatter, Sam? Why you hitting me? Is the stereo broken?”
Her sense of humour is intact even if her husky voice is strained. I switch the music off with the remote. I continue to hold her hand tight and she doesn’t pull away.
“Not really. Throat hurts. And everything else.”
She grimaces and collapses at an attempt to rise.
“You’ll be okay. I got you some more pain killers.”
“Yeah. Gimme. Hurts too much. Don’t knock me out again. I want to be awake. But I don’t want to hurt.”
“Don't take that one then, its Hydromorphone. Use this Actiq stick. It’s the best lollypop you’ve ever had, guaranteed.”
She smiles and reverts to childhood as the drug works its magic. I take it away when she starts to hum to herself.
“That’s enough for now.”
“You can have more later. You need to use the toilet?”
She carefully considers the question through the drugged fog.
“OK. You be right to take care of that yourself?”
Once again I wait patiently. There’s a long gap and studious thought as she reorders my words to work out their meaning. I’m sympathetic. I’d been there plenty of times.
“Right, off you go. I’ll make you some din-dins.”
The baby talk is accepted by a slippery mind. Oblivious to her nakedness she stands and heads for the bathroom. I wince more than she does when the sheet peels from her back. She neglects to shut the bathroom door so I leave the room to busy myself preparing food.
She’s back in bed when I return. The toilet hadn’t been flushed. She must be pretty out of it to forget her pet hate. I see the water’s clouded pink when I push the button. Kidney damage? Maybe she’s menstruating. Either diagnosis won’t change my treatment. I’ll sort the outside bits and her body will have to take care of its internal mechanisms as best it can.
The anxious, mostly sober vigil I hold over Kristine for the next few days is an attempt to repay past lapses. Paying them off all at once is ambitious, but I’ve never liked debts. I remain at her bedside for two long days, staying high only to stay alert for her needs. I read a few medical books but they only encourage flights of fancy and imagined symptoms when Kristine coughs or shows pain.
She wakes at irregular intervals to swallow medications made readily available. Toilet trip assistance, food, and another demand that she showers so I can reapply creams and bandages are accepted mutely. I carefully judge the narrow window I have between feeding her the drugs and her zonking out completely. I move her about gently, like an expensive doll, propping her in a chair for a nightly tea party before putting her to bed afterward. Then I stand watch again.
Her scrapes and scratches are healing well; bloody urine clears; though coughing hurts broken ribs enough to bring tears. My own health suffers until eventually, without warning, everything shuts down to protect me from myself.
Blacked out, I guess I miss Kristine’s next dose. I sleep so deeply I miss my own too and my body, grateful to be left to heal, gets on with the job.