Fight to the Core

Happy First Anniversary, my Love 

Yea, man, I’m tired,” he gasps and then lays back with his hands over his head.


I begin to laugh, “Hon, you’re laying in the dirt. Are you drunk?”


He rises up and I see something different about him, it’s the first time I’ve looked at him, really looked at him since we left camp.


I don..feelssa..gud.”


Did I just hear him slur? I think he just slurred.


He reaches toward me and I see his body tilting and swaying. I jump up and grab his face. “Jim, you okay?”


I raise his chin to look him in the eyes. His pupils are dark and dilated and don’t connect with mine. Then I see it, a river of sweat running fast down his face. It’s running as though a faucet was leaking above his head. My god how could I not have noticed!


Honey, “You’re sweating bad!” and then I know this is not good. He doesn’t respond, and his eyes are black glass marbles – shiny and rolling around loosely. Does he hear me?


I hear the woman’s words, “She was 56. Died in her tent at the festival this summer.” And bam the adrenaline slams my body. It comes as fast as thought and brings with it a sudden intense knowing that this is fight or flight, a life or death moment. That what I do next can save him, save us, or destroy everything we know and love.


I let go telling him I have to get help, and he begins to fall. I must lay him back and doing so I kiss his lips, “I love you Jim, I’ll be right back!” I think he heard me? I think he looked at me? I think he understands? “Stay here!” I shout. Be still! I’m getting help!”


And then I am off. Like a bullet, I have never run so fast. Yet time seems to stand still, thoughts are so slow and clear, everything is slow motion. Tomorrow is our first anniversary, we are standing in front the TV watching our wedding video this morning, no, I see Jim’s sweaty face and empty eyes and I run even faster.


I am now midway down the other side of the hill, just below is the Kerrtree Store. Help should be here. This is where I have seen Security. Year after year they stand around down here bandaging kids scraped knees, dragging away druggies on bad trips. Are they here? Please, please be here! I only see a group of kids. No red shirts anywhere? Where are they?


I shout down at them and gasp for words, “I need security, I need a paramedic. My husband. He’s ill. He’s about to collapse.”


The group scatters out a bit and someone responds, “I’m security. Where is he?”


Up at Threadgill,” I point behind me, not willing to come too far down the hill, too far away from my husband.


One young man rushes up, and we begin to run back to Jim. I’ve only looked away for a moment to get help, but when I turn my eyes back up the hill I am shocked, Jim is walking. Oh no, my god, he’s stumbling around, he’s oblivious. He’s looking for me. My heart plunges and I feel a wrench in my gut like a knife. I scream to him. “Jim sit down! Help is coming! Sit …” and then his knees buckle from beneath him and for a moment nothing seems real.


I watch him fall and it’s like I am watching the end of a tragic movie – the kind where the hero has gone as far as he can go, where he drops to the ground and the starlet screams and the camera closes in and her dreams fade away into a black screen and then the credits begin to roll.


But I know this is real, and I am terrified. The sky is cradling a vibrant red and orange sunset casting shadows across the theatre and there is the love my life – a black outline, a dark ghost of a man staggering against the sunset - the very backdrop of life. He falls as I cry out to him. I am sure his heart has stopped. And I’m suddenly at his side.




The boy from security is maybe 19, is of small stature, about my height. He is shouldering Jim’s weight and walking him back a few steps to sit down on the stone seating. But I am not sure how we got to this moment. When did Jim get up? What happened when he fell? I don’t recall. My psyche didn’t allow me to process that moment, when I might have found my husband face down in the dirt, shaking or not breathing. I’ll never know. I do know I am still terrified. This is not over yet.


The boy is standing with one leg raised up onto the bench, he’s propping Jim up against his knee. Jim sways forward then backward and side to side, the sweat still pouring off him.


My son’s name is Sam,” Jim says weakly. I get that he is saying this in response to learning the security boy’s name. I missed that somehow. A tiny drop of relief hits my veins like morphine. Jim knows what’s going on. But my god, he is so pale. His lips are blue. Drops of sweat simultaneously fall from his nose and chin and ear lobes. This may not be getting better, at any moment this could get worse.


He has high blood pressure,” I tell the boy. I put my face close to Jim’s and hope he understands. “I’m getting your medicine,” and I don’t wait for a response. Help is coming and they may need it. I don’t want to leave, but I am off again.


I feel my feet hit the ground three times, and I am down the hill. I am suddenly aware of my full-length skirt and I feel my hands holding my breasts so they don’t fly out of my swimsuit. Still, I have never run so fast. I am aware of and surprised at my speed. I know exactly where to find the bottle I packed this morning and grab it in a flash.


In an instant I am headed back. I sense my desperate flight breaking the peace in the lower meadow. I feel the alarmed eyes of campers following my mad dash. I can’t hear the jubilant music and high singing voices that linger in the air. My ears are filled with the boom of my pulse hammering against the eerie silence of the world around me.


I am running the race of my life. Any moment could be my last moment with my husband. Each step closer is a chance to get our years back. Half way up the hill, I realize that I don’t know what to do with this medicine. I don’t understand how this medicine works. If it drops his blood pressure, that could kill him. This won’t work. Did he take it this morning?


A voice rings out, “Where is he?” A woman standing at the top of the hill can’t find him. How did she miss him? I shout back pointing a few yards behind her. When I get there she is with him, and he is still sitting up. But he is much the same. Breathing hard shallow breaths, wet with sweat, shaking.

I open the bottle and pills spill onto the ground. “Did you take your blood pressure medicine this morning?” I ask him, once again bending down close at eye level. Jim nods yes.


I am obviously panicking. This could kill him, don’t give this to him. The woman who seems to know something about first aid is by his side now. The woman asks Jim what day it is. He says “Sunday.” Is that right? Next his birthday and Jim answers 3/3/64. “Is that right?” she asks me. “Uh yes, I think, I mean, yes it is.” Next she asks today’s date and Jim says “September 2, the day before our first anniversary” and he smiles at me. I realize he needs me, they all need me, to calm down. She sends Sam to bring us both water. “It’s probably dehydration” she explains calmly.


How long have you been here?”


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