Fight to the Core

Happy First Anniversary, my Love 

Think you can walk sir,” the tech asks. I am surprised by the question and even more so by Jim’s answer. “Ok.”


As they help Jim up I see his shorts are soaked. Did he pee his pants? No it’s all perspiration. “Wow it feels good to walk. I’m feeling better,” he says weakly. Naturally I assume it’s an act. He does not want to go to the hospital.


He steps up in the ambulance and I follow after. It’s freezing inside so I wrap the blanket around me while they check him out again. I tell the whole story for a fifth or sixth time while Jim’s color begins to return. So do his smart ass remarks, showing everyone he is feeling a ton better.


His vitals are good,” says the EMT. “It’s most likely heat exhaustion. Do you want us to take you to the hospital where they can check you out and plug in an IV?”


Jim looks hesitantly at me.


If you don’t go to hospital tonight, we are not staying here.” I am not sure Jim understands I mean what I am saying.


I’ll be alright,” he says.

Drink lots of water tonight. You should be ok. But watch him, ok,” he adds looking up at me. They hand me paperwork to sign saying we declined the trip to the hospital. The paper shakes in my hand, as my gut tells me I’m not doing the right thing. I’m listening to my husband when I shouldn’t be, and I sign the paper.


We’re leaving tonight and getting a room in town,” I assure the EMT and I thank the others who have been aiding us.


Jim is walking by my side slowly. I pull the flashlight we brought out of his pocket and light the way back to camp. I am now confused. A surreal feeling takes over. I can’t comprehend that everything is just OK. What has the last hour been about if everything is suddenly ok? I am not sure why we are even walking to camp? I suddenly hits me. I am the only one who can make decisions right now, and I’ve made the wrong one. Everything is not necessarily suddenly ok. He could still be very sick, he could get sick again. I just wanted to believe he was better. Now I really must get us out of here.


By now we are back at our very dark camp. Jim lights the smudge pot and sits down in a camp chair. The air is heavy with moisture, everything is wet and damp. The only light we have is the flame from the pot, and the shadows it throws on Jim’s face scare me somehow. I am still trying to reconcile the man in the chair with the man on the ground. Everything is unreal, mystical and the panic still lurks in my chest.


I drill him with my eyes. What is the next step? We have to leave, but the car is out in the lot. Don’t leave him alone again. Not to walk all the way out there, it will take at least 20 minutes to do that.


Jim grabs for the cigarettes on the table in front of him. I saw them there and wondered if he would but doubted it. Now I see he actually thinks he is about to smoke a cigarette.


Don’t” I growl at him and he looks offended. I am suddenly angry. He does not have a clue as to what he has just been through. What we have just been through. We argue about the smoke, and he puts them down.


You know we aren’t staying here,” if he thinks he can smoke, I’m sure he wants to stay.


I’m fine really. I’ll be fine. I’ll drink water.” Jim grabs the blanket from the chair. “Aren’t you cold? It’s so cold out here?”


I bring him a dry shirt. It’s not cold at all, and now I am dead certain. I have made a serious mistake. We have to leave as soon as possible.


No Jim, damn you were on the edge back there. Don’t you get that? We can’t stay here.”


Come on, it’s over. Relax, I’m ok now.”


Now he is standing up, and I am standing up in front of him and I am about to lose it.


I grab him by the shoulders and beg. “Honey seriously. I should have let them take you. If we stay out here and something happens. You get sick again? I can’t bear it. I can’t monitor you in that tent. Everything is wet. If you start sweating I’ll never know. Do you realize…it took forever to get help out here? No more decisions I could regret.”


How can we pack it all up in the dark? I’m in no shape to pack.”


And you’re in no shape to camp either. Just leave everything. Ok? And we’ll come back tomorrow to get it.”

He reluctantly agrees. I am feeling the clock in my head ticking again. And I’m rushing back to the edge of panic. This time it’s probably uncalled for, but it seems my judgment is horrible right now.


Jim tells me to calm down and focus. I find the car keys, tell him to stay put and start to run hoping to make the distance to the parking meadow as fast as possible. Fuck, I hate leaving him sitting there in a blanket with that horrid fire on his pale face.


Not far up the road I realize my energy is gone. I start to walk, my breath is heavy and my thoughts start to settle down. I see a security guard and stop him.


I explain my husband is the guy they called the ambulance for, that we need to get him into town. The boy nods and gets on the radio. Moments later another young man shows with the cart and we return back to camp. Jim has gathered what we will need to take with us, including the journal. Jims sits in the front and I climb onto the back of the cart, angry he’s been up walking around but relieved he feels well enough to do so.


By 11 pm we are in bed in a cheap motel. We stopped on the way to eat at Denny’s where Jim had more water and I had a better chance to look him over to make sure we did not need to head to the hospital. Jim ordered a chicken salad. I would not let him order anything fried or salty, which pretty much left salad. I however abandoned my diet and ate chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and apple pie. I ate and cried and cried and ate some more. From the booth it seemed impossible that Jim was back, it was almost beyond belief. The shift was as swift as waking from a nightmare to find your self safe in your lover’s arms. I still could not keep my eyes off him as I tried to understand the lack of understanding he was exhibiting about what just happened.


We lay next to each other watching crappy TV. I stir beside him trying to get the horror movie that seems to be on a loop to stop running in my head. Jim thinks he just got a little dizzy and passed out. No biggie he’s better now. Let’s move on. Now on the edge of sleep it comes to me. The fog in my head shifts like the gears of a motorcycle and suddenly it clicks. When it comes to health and the human body I am the classical thinker, Jim the romantic. I see the human organs, I understand the vascular, pulmonary and nervous systems, I respect how they work together to serve the whole, why they work, what happens if you don’t take care of them. Jim regards his body romantically. He can only see the whole form – it either works or it doesn’t. It works? Ok let’s go have a smoke and celebrate. Ok its not that he is not able to understand it. He would just rather not think about it. Just like how I feel about Jeff and his abstract art shaped guts.


Wow. I really love that book.


I think about explaining my little epiphany and feel Jim’s breath has settled down into the deep rhythm of sleep. At some point the TV is turned off and I am up through the night feeling his head and his chest and curling up tighter. I awake surprised that I had pleasant dreams. Jim rolls over and the first words out of his mouth are, “Happy First Anniversary, my love.”


In the next week we will visit doctors. They will tell him he should have left in that ambulance. Next time, God forbid, I will know better and make him go. This morning I celebrate our full first year and think hard about making some important health changes.


We joke that this anniversary is one we will never forget. For me it was a spectacular gift, I was thrown into the depths of my love for my husband, I swam in the pain of losing him, and I ran like the wind to save him – in the end I walked away holding my husband’s hand having journeyed to the core of love.


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