I'm eating oranges in bed, covered in a turquoise blanket, laptop balanced on my thighs, dogs spread out around the me in puddles of spotted loveliness. I'm in my knickers and a t-shirt and it's been an 'orrible day. There is a pile of pills by my bed: two kinds of antibiotics, some prednisone, three advil, one vicodin, also a glass of water and a jar of hyacinths to remind me it's spring.
What a fucked up day.
I spent it at the offices of three different doctors, also a lab where they do chest x-rays. I cheered myself up with a Cubano sandwich - thick cut ham and pork and yellow mustard and pickles on lovely egg bread -- from Rockenwagner.
I made a rash decision about a rheumatologist who seemed out of it on the phone and turned out to be an 80 year old, Norwegian, red-lipsticked version of Dr House himself, turning over ever possible thing that had ever happened to me (horses, dogs, ticks, vertigo, broken fingers and toes, aversion to runny egg yolk) to try to diagnose this AWFUL thing which I will refer to as TURNIP NOSE.
My nose which felt like someone karate chopped it at the bridge last week, and which healed after a massive dose of steroids and antibiotics, has swollen up again and hurts like a MOFO.
"There is nothing else for it," said my boyfriend, gravely. "You will have to have an entire nose-al transplant. You have your choice: Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz." I read of the list of blood panels they're asking for and he says, "Don't forget SNSOBCO (Sore Nose Syndrome Of (Probable) Canine Origin)." He is obsessed with the idea that my sleeping with dogs has led to my possible lupus diagnosis. He reads paragraphs out of Web MD on Wegener's Disease and adds line like "and sharing sleeping quarters with (furry) pets." Okay, I'm not going to alarm you. It's polychondritis and they're trying to rule out vasculitis, lupus, lyme disease, hence the barrage of blood work (8 vials but I did get a granola bar and some apple juice) and the CT scan and the chest x-ray. Hence the meeting with two new specialists tomorrow, and the new antibiotic and the doubling up on prednisone.
You can become a professional patient. I learned how to nap on the doctor's comfortable table, with the nice butcher paper on it, how to prop my head up against the wall and daydream at the imaging center while CNN buzzed faintly in the background. I learned that you can buy a phone charger at 7/11 and even drunk guys will hold open the door for you if you smile (it was nice, not anti-feminist, it was a nice thing on a shitty day).
My doctor is patient and kind and smells faintly of gum disease, which I don't dislike because it reminds me of my father. He stands quite close to my face and says, smiling kindly, "We'd like to rule everything out." I find myself loving him for being thorough and good and not swish. "They're a bit swish these Beverly Hills doctors" I say to the male nurse, who is probably a medical student. He's handsome, Asian, from San Diego, dressed in scrubs, no sense of humor, but kind. "I don't understand swish" he says. "It's sort of onomatopoeic," I say, "you know, those glam doctors that take themselves too seriously." He stops in his tracks, and turns around, with my urine sample in its plastic bag, in his hands, and he says, "I've learned so much from this doctor. He is patient with me. He spends time explaining." He dwells on the word 'patient' and I think I know what he means.
After the chest x-ray I drive home and think of my friends who spend time only in doctor's appointments and I wonder how they manage. A woman in Westwood stops me at a light to ask about my new Mini. Her daughter, who is driving cringes in embarrassment. I tell her it's my first day out in it and that I love it. Things the English never do, I think, talking to people in the next lane in traffic. Would I? Am I English? Or am I an Angeleno? I don't know anymore. I'm driving down Wilshire Boulevard in that corridoor in Westwood where the retirees live, under cloudy skies, looking at the 50 Shades of Grey poster that's plastered on the side of the OXY petroleum building, eating my Cubano sandwich, because I'm starving and it's nearly 3 and I haven't had breakfast and I'm wondering what's going on. I make a left on Beverly Glen and wing it up to Sunset, and climb up Coldwater, marvelling on Mulholland at the sun on the horizon, a thin line of melon in the grey. And there's a bandage on my arm where they took the blood and my nose hurts and I want to sleep. And I've been told my blood pressure is elevated because of the advil and the prednisone and that I should buy a home blood pressure machine but I should make sure that the cuff is adult size (because God knows, those kids like to play around with blood pressure cuffs) and I think, is this worth it? Here I am, and I'm 51 and is this, actually, the beginning of the end?
Maybe I was just tired. I went home and I slept.
The text I woke up to was that a friend had died. Not a close friend, but someone whose children I know well -- she had 5. And she was a good woman, fit, a tennis player, smiley. And she dropped dead of a heart attack at 56. It makes no sense. There is nothing to make sense of.
And then there's love. The thing we chase and hope for and all of us, some secretly, want it. It's why we're here. And what are these other things? Are they there to make life more poignant? Are they there to teach us a lesson? To stop us eating butter? Red meat?
In the ER with Bean last night (two puncture wounds from a coyote) I made friends with three different people and their dogs. We were there a long time, gathered around The Waking Dead, a show I'd never seen before, involving The Zombie Apocalypse, cute guys with beards and guns, some trucks. We shared stories, mostly of our dogs, and laughed and commiserated with each other and we'll probably never see each other again. But it felt pretty nice. And I met Mara and Mr Dog and Hank, who had spotted paws, and I know a little bit about their lives. People talk to each other in those situations. There's no pretense. Dogs are coming and going. Sometimes they come in and you know they won't leave. There are tears. It's a sort of strange microcosm of life. We're all dorks. We're all in it together. We're all fragile and human. Perhaps that's what we embrace. Perhaps that what we love.