"High." He paused to write in my file, then continued, "I see youíve been having headaches. Can you tell me more about them?"
"Well," I began, "My last doctor said they were migraines. He prescribed something called Midrin, which sometimes I vomit right back up."
He scribbled again in the file before speaking. "How often do you get the headaches, and how long do they last?"
"Most every day, lately. I come home from work with a splitting, throbbing headache. Canít think straight, and my eyes hurt. I remember one that lasted four days. The pills donít stop the pain much, even when they stay down, and I really donít like the way they make me feelósluggish, and hard to breathe, like something heavy is sitting on my chest."
"Uh-huh," he acknowledged. "Show me where the pain comes."
"Mostly here . . ." I raised my hand to the back my head, forming an imaginary band width between my thumb and forefinger, and ran it around the base of my skull, from ear to ear. Then, cupping both hands over my eyes, I added, "And here, behind my eyes, inside my eyes, all around my eyes. Occasionally Iíll press on both sides of the bridge of my nose and get a hint of relief. Sometimes it aches down to my eye teeth!" I offered a wary smile.
The doctor glanced up from his note-taking and paused briefly before saying, "Iíd like you to throw out all the medicines youíve been taking . . . prescription and otherwise. Weíre going to find out the cause of your headaches instead of treating the symptoms. Stop at the front desk on your way out and the nurse will schedule a blood test and complete physical exam for you next month." He picked up my file and walked out of the room, leaving the door open.
I mumbled a meager thank you after him, too anxious about whether or not Mike was in need of food to think of anything better to say. Hurriedly I jumped down from the table, grabbed my coat and purse and sped to the front desk.
Mike sat hunched over in the waiting room, elbows on knees, attention fixed on the pages of a magazine lying open on the coffee table before him. He glanced up long enough to wink at me. Then it was his turn.
When he was done, I made our future appointments and we headed down the hall to the elevator. "So, how did you like the doctor? What did he say to you?" I asked.
"He was okay, pleased that I wasnít overweight."
"What about your insulin reactions?"
"He changed the dosage a little. And, he said that taking it in the evening pretty much insures a reaction in the middle of the night. So, Iíll take it in the mornings again from now on."
"And remember to eat when you should?"
"Iíll try, honey."
The elevator door opened and we entered. I pressed the first floor button, and turned to face Mike. "Youíd better do more than try. We donít need another accident."
"No. We sure donít. What did you think of him? Did you tell him about those headaches?"
"I thought he was okay too. Yes, we talked about my headaches. I have an appointment for a physical and blood tests next month. He said to throw out all my medicines. He wants to find the cause instead of treating the symptoms."
"Sounds good to me."
"I guess." The elevator slowed to a stop, and opened its doors. We stepped out onto the polished gray and white marble floor of the hospital lobby. "Itís five-thirty already?" I gestured toward the clock on the wall across from us. "Want to stop for some dinner before we go home?"
We strolled from the hospital foyer to the restaurant a few doors away, where the hostess gave us a smile and a fresh newspaper. She seated us in the coffee-shop area outside the dining room. We each ordered a hamburger and coffee. Mike removed the sports section from the paper and handed the rest to me, which I set aside except for the classifiedsóa section of the Seattle Times Iíd favored and read nearly every day since I was eighteen years old. I found it interesting how the volume of help wanted ads swelled and shrank with the seasons. It seemed to me that every year, right after April 15th, the ads for jobs in the automobile industry increased; first for the sales department, then office help. In September another surge in the ads for clerical help appeared, no doubt due to college girls quitting their jobs to return to school.
As I scanned the columns from A, Automotive, to B, Bookkeeper, to C, Clerical, my focus stopped abruptly on an oversized ad under D. Todd Shipyards was offering employment to draftsmen, with training through Seattle Community College. I remembered Mike saying once that he took drafting in high school, and liked it, and did well. My spirit soared. I folded the newspaper ad-out and handed it to Mike, my finger on the ad. "Read this!"
He did, then turned to me with a smile across his face and expectation in his voice. "I could do that. Think they pay for the schooling?"
"Sounds to me like they do. Maybe you should call them in the morning?" O please, dear God, let this work out for him. For us.
"I will." He moved the paper aside so the waitress could set down two hamburger baskets and a condiments caddy.
We devoured our burgers, paid the cashier, and jumped into the old Merc wagon, rushing home as if it would make the morning arrive sooner.
The sun rose at the usual time. I made sure that Mike was wide awake and his breakfast waiting before I left on the bus for work. He planned to call Todd Shipyards, find out the details of the program, and ask for an application. I had to trust that our old station wagon would provide adequate transportation if he should get hired. Hoping to hear some good news, I phoned home at the beginning of my lunch hour, but got no answer. I worried through lunch and returned to my desk, half-heartedly digging into the pile of work waiting to be done. Where could he be? By now he should have made the phone call to Toddís and had an answer.
I used my afternoon break time to call home againeleven rings, with no answer. I could picture him there, writhing on the bed in an insulin reaction and nobody to help. Or storming out of the house in a reaction frenzy, wandering the neighborhood streets like a crazy man. The images were daunting.
The possibilities of trouble-at-home quickly fed my fears. With each minute I did not hear from Mike, the foreboding within me grew larger, my hands colder, my attention to work less decisive. Finally, around four oíclock, my desk phone rang. Please, God, let it be Mike, let him be okay.
I picked up the receiver with a chilly hand. "Title Desk."
"Oh good, itís you." Thank you, God. My heart thumped an extra beat. "You okay? Are you home?"
"Iím okay, Iím home. I got onto the program at Toddís. I start the drafting class next Tuesday at the college."
"They hired you over the phone?"
"Nope. I drove down there."
"Clear down to the Duwamish?"
"Yep. Iíll tell you all about it when you get home, okay?"
"Okay. See you when I get there!" I cradled the receiver back onto the phone, pausing a moment to inhale an enormous lungful of air, enough to encircle the orb of anxiety within my soul, then slowly let it go. I was exhausted.