This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or events, is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
After working several hours at home, I finally wrapped up a new article and then called it quits for the day. Mel cooked a simple dinner of scrambled eggs, veggie sausages and English muffins. Being tired, we both headed off to bed around 10:45pm. As always, I kissed the cats goodnight before double checking the lock on the front door. Lastly, the window near the foot of the bed was opened just enough to allow fresh air to circulate. With all the hatches battened down for the night, I eagerly crawled under the covers. Next to me, within arm’s reach on a small table, an old gray and black transistor radio was tuned to a local talk station. As Mel finished her Sudoku game, she shut the reading lamp and we both went to sleep. Ironically, that was just the beginning of things to come.
A few hours later, sleeplessness overtook me, just like the night before. This time it was 3:58 am. As Mel snoozed next to me comfortably under the blanket, I noticed my shirt and hair were soaked to the skin again. I stiffened each elbow against the mattress while raising my head into the air. Everything in the room was tranquil, yet something did not seem right. Though Mel was quite snug under the covers, I started feeling feverish. Of course, things seemed muddled by the weariness of the night; even so, I felt hot. I was tempted to yell, “All right, what the hell is going on here, what is this crap.” But I didn’t.
Out of the blue, that same pain from the night before, in the lower right abdomen, came back. I knew about the McBurney’s point, so appendicitis became a concern. But I’d been checked for appendicitis in the past, when my stomach was acting up. The blood tests always came back negative. But this was in a different spot. Then again, add the sweat soaked shirt and the feverish feeling and the makings for another distressing night of anguish were in place. That’s when my heart started racing out of control as the sweating and nausea increased. All of this and I was still in bed.
With symptoms raging, I had to get to the new thermometer Mel brought home earlier in the day. I quickly snuck out from underneath the sheets and made a silent beeline for the bathroom. As I sat on the toilet lid with the thermometer under my tongue, it seemed like the fever rose. But astonishingly, after a few minutes, the temperature was only 98. 4°F. I questioned how that reading could have been correct, considering the amount of sweat on my forehead. That number had to have been wrong. Just to be safe, I shook the thermometer down hard and rubbed it with alcohol again before placing the silvery white tip directly under my tongue a second time. In a moment of obsessive compulsive overkill, I left it in my mouth for a full seven minutes. Still, the temperature was slightly less than 98.6°F. In my mind it was clear the thermometer was broken and had not registered accurately. That had to have been the explanation. I repeated the procedure again and again, but with the same results. I was dumbfounded.
With the thermometer thoroughly rinsed and placed on the back of the sink, I made my way to the livingroom. While staring out the terrace door, I decided there had to be an explanation why I kept waking up in the middle of the night completely soaked and feeling feverish. The new thermometer had to have been wrong. Besides, a doctor once told me that a low grade fever could be the sign of an infection, appendicitis, or something worse. But my temperature didn’t even qualify as a low grade fever.
I paced around on the rug searching for answers. It felt like I walked for miles. One thought after another kept coming up. But I soon realized I was the common link in the equation. Then it came to me. Suppose the fever and abdominal pain were not real. Maybe the physical ailments were being controlled by my inner emotions that only revealed themselves at night during deep sleep. Maybe everything was psychosomatic. But how could that have been right. The insomnia and the wet shirts were very real. Then again, I did not want to frantically run to the local emergency room as a matter of default. I remembered the time the gastroenterologist mistakenly sent me to the hospital when he thought I had appendicitis. That diagnosis proved to be wrong. Besides, nobody enjoys sitting in the emergency room in the middle of the night, or anytime for that matter. But it seemed complicated. Plus, the confusion only added fuel to the fire. Several minutes later I flicked the light on in the bedroom.
“Mel, Mel, get up, Mel, I think I’m sick. Mel, get up.”
“What, who, what is it,” she mumbled.
“It’s me. I think I’m sick. I might have to go to the emergency room, but I’m not sure.”
“What, why, again, what’s wrong, what is it?”
“It’s my stomach and my heart is racing. Are you sure I don’t have appendicitis? I’m not kidding you.”
“Again, you think it could be appendicitis? Why do you think that?” Mel asked while slightly raising her head off the pillow.
“I have pain in the lower right quadrant…And I don’t feel so good… My stomach has that nauseous feeling and it’s all on the right side. How do you know something serious isn’t going on,” I questioned with a panicked look.
“First of all, I don’t know anything for sure. I’m not a doctor. But Jeff, you did go to the doctor less than three months ago. Your tests came back fine. You didn’t have appendicitis. Do you remember?”
“Yes Mel, I know. But I’m sweaty and nauseous and I really feel bloated. Remember that time we didn’t know what it was and I had to go to the emergent room? I hope it’s not like that again. I was really sick that time.”
Mel and I had been married for three years. We met at a deli when she forgot her credit cards and didn’t have any cash to pay for lunch. Standing next to her in line, I saw what happened and offered to pick up the tab. She was tall and thin with long brown hair and an adorable little space between her two front teeth. We hit it off right away. A year or so later, we were married. Things had been great ever since. But for the last two nights, I had been driving Mel crazy with an array of medical complaints. As the emotional energy intensified she tried to talk me down with a dose of tough love. She knew I didn’t have appendicitis.
“Now you hold on, Jeff Davison. This is your wife speaking. Chances are you do not have appendicitis. You know I would never want anything to happen to you…hey, what time is it anyway?”
“What! You got me up again at four o’clock in the morning for this? Look, I know I’m only 33 years old, but we thirtysomethings need our sleep too you know. Please, get back into bed. I’m begging you. We need our sleep; you don’t have appendicitis,” she pleaded.
“Okay, but I’m three years older than you. Mel, I don’t wanna have a burst appendix or something else like that. Remember that actress on television, Patty Duke? You see what happened to her. If I have to, I’ll call a taxi to go to the hospital, I don’t give a damn. Or else I’ll drive myself, I don’t care.”
“Now you’re really talking crazy. Just slow down and take deep breaths. If you’re going anywhere, I’m taking you. But in my opinion, you don’t have appendicitis. Trust me. Yes, I do remember the actress Patty Duke,” Mel said with an aggravated tone.
“But Mel, it’s true. What about Patty Duke? I read the news stories about her. Suppose I got something hidden going on? I could get with a burst appendix. It’ll get into my blood.”
For emphasis, I stood up and lifted my shirt.
“Will you please pull your shirt down and get back into bed, please? If we need to go to the emergency room just let me know and I’ll gladly take you there. You have to decide if we need to go to the ER. But until then, let me get some sleep. You said yourself that you don’t have a fever. Please, I can’t function in the morning without some kind of sleep. I’m begging you. Please come to bed, please. I don’t want you to be sick either, but I can’t keep doing this every night. We both need some sleep,” she implored.
“Okay, fine, but I hope this works out. Remember, even the doctor made a mistake with my stomach.”
“You’re going to be okay, trust me. Last night it turned out to be anxiety. You’d know it if you had appendicitis. But if we need to go to the ER, you just tell me. In the meantime, let’s get some sleep, please.”
Kat Clock, clock and video photos – own work.