So, like everybody else, I am sick. But unlike everybody else, I am SICK. I use the capital letters to denote a level of sickness which has thus far required a trip to the emergency room and a brush with death due to an overdose of pain medication coupled with my inherent stupidity.
Here is the story.
As last Thursday progressed from morning to afternoon to early evening, as I watched the sun dance across the tiny patch of sky I can see from my cubicle, I could feel it. My right ear went from perfectly healthy and somewhat hairy to completely blocked and filled with gunk. I noticed a tickle around 8:00am, and by 10:00 or 10:30 that tickle had progressed into a light weight; enough to make my head lean a bit to the right, giving me a skewed perspective on the world around me. At this point, I was still able to deny the impending doom, thinking that perhaps a large and unsightly ball of wax had settled into my ear. This happens from time to time, and the strange, itchy sensations therein usually disburse by mid-afternoon. They did not disburse, however. They intensified.
When I got home from work there was little doubt. I had a nasty ear infection. IT worsened all day Friday to the point that I needed to take four aspirins every other hour just to take the edge off the pain. That evening, as I sat in the movie theater watching “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” (which was very, very good), my ear began talking to me. It spoke mostly in profanity and it sounded a lot like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
“Hey, b*tch,” it said. “What’s going on out there?” Not wanting to appear insane in front of the throngs of movie goers, I didn’t respond. My ear was persistent. It continued, this time in a much louder voice. “Hey! I’m talking to you, g*d d*mmit! Answer my m***er f**king question!”
“Shut up,” I said in a hushed voice. “They can hear you.”
“I don’t give a d*am if they do. I want them to hear me. I want them all to think you’re COMPLETELY F**KING INSANE!!!”
“Alright. Alright. What do you want?”
”I wanna know what the hell you’re doin’ out there.”
“I’m watching a movie,” I said in a pissed off voice. “Can you see that? “
“NO I can’t see it,” it said. “And do you know why I can’t see it?
“BECAUSE I’M A F**KING EAR,I CAN’T SEEEEE SH*T!”
“When then how the hell are you talking to me?”
“Nevermind that now. Not now. Not now. Just give me some aspirin and I’ll shut up.”
“Uhh..” I said, stammering. “That’s gonna be a bit of a problem.”
“What! “ my ear said, screaming at me.
“I don’t have any at the moment. You’re going to have to wait.”
“You want me to what, b*tch?”
“Wait. Just a little while. The movie’s almost over. See. Aslan just came back to life.”
“I don’t give a sh*t about no m**her f**kin lion, b*tch! I got some bacteria back here chewin on my m**her f**kin a*s, and you’re telling me to wait so you can see some dumba*s lion?”
”Boy, GIT up out yo seat and get me some drugs!”
The conversation went on like that the rest of the evening. Everyone in attendance fell in love with the movie almost immediately, and I was the only one who held reticent praise. This was due entirely to the fact that I had an incensed Samuel L. Jackson eardrum screaming obscenities at me throughout the entire movie**.
On Saturday, I awoke to a vague dizziness. I imagine that Mr. Jackson had tried to make an escape in the middle of the night, leaving the passageway to my inner ear swollen shut and a trail of blood which pooled near the entrance. I could hear his screams as whatever monster that now inhabited my inner ear ate him alive.
My dizziness deepened and multiplied into a various assortment of aches and pains, and a red hot fever descended from my scalp, making its way past my head to the shoulders and the middle of my back. Samuel L. Jackson expired shortly after noon and the monster continued his hungry path from the inner canals of my ear towards what I believed to be my brain. I believed that by the next morning no grey matter would remain, and I would become a brainless, overheating machine of pain, bent on world destruction.
That evening the friends who had so recently joined me in viewing “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” had planned a fancy dinner, along with Secret Santa presents and haughty discussion on a plethora of relevant social topics. Originally it sounded like fun, but now it sounded like hell. Having looked forward to it for well over a month, however, I decided to attend.
The dinner started off well enough, and I made halfway through the salad (which I had purchased earlier that morning while stumbling through Giant Eagle, pretending not to be an alcoholic or a zombie), but when the smell of the main course hit my nose, I knew it was time to leave. The monster in my ear had given birth to a host of new creatures which now lived in various strategic locations throughout my body. There was the three headed beast of Hedramicus which took residence in my head, ramming its large, spike-laden shoulders against the inside of my cranium. There was the enormous mountain creature, Nob’Reetha-ng, which had wrapped its fibrous tentacles around my lungs, constricting my ability to inhale oxygen. And there was the vicious Pas de Stomache, which had set up a small fiefdom in my stomach and intestinal tract and was threatening to evict the residents through each of the primary exit points. Each of these dastardly creatures was governed, of course, by the dark entity which still sought to engorge itself on my ear on its way to my brain.
Before the beasts took over, however, I made my move. I left the party and headed straight for the local hospital, where the attending nurses quickly catalogued me, wrapped three bracelets around my left arm, charged me their exorbitant fees, and left me sitting in a room with the promise that, “the doctor will be along any moment.”
Four hours later, after having fallen asleep and woken up on the floor, the doctor returned. She took one quick look at me, called upon the vastness of medical knowledge she had gained through years of painstaking study and experience, and said, “You, sir, have a cold and an ear infection.”
“Thanks,” I said, not trying to hide the sarcasm.
“Here is a prescription for Vicodin!” she said.
“THANKS!” I said, not trying to hide my excitement.
I made my way out to my car in the blistering wind. The team of monsters within me groaned their disapproval.
”We will fight,” they said. “We will never give up!”
“Go ahead and try,” I said. “I’m willing to eat this whole bottle, including the plastic” The ydid not respond and, when I got home, I quickly took a pain pill and popped the extended edition of “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” in the DVD player, thinking I would be fast asleep on the couch before the movie ended.
But there was a fatal flaw to my plan. After an hour and a half, or just about the time the battle of Minas Tirith was hitting its stride, nothing was different. My ear still screamed, My stomach still churned, and my head threatened to topple under its own weight.
I read the bottle again. “Take 1 or 2 pills every four to six hours as needed,” the instructions said. Oh, I thought to myself. One or TWO pills. I’m a big guy; therefore I need to take two pills. So I took a second pill and settled in again at the start of the movie, this time assured in my belief that I would awake on the couch the next morning, happy and comfortable.
Darkness washed over me. Strange dreams and foul thoughts toyed with my fancy, and very real manifestations of the demons inside chased me through long, dark tunnels in an unknown city on an unknown world. Loud, fast music blared all around, as though it was part of the environment; like air; like water; like existence. In one part of the time that lapsed between that moment when I last remembered the comfortable movie and when I again regain this plane of existence, I remember being chased by a creature that was half Gollum, half Orangutan, and half Cthulu (yes, there were three halves) which chased me through the watery depths of the unknown city, screaming its incessant music and shining a deep, penetrating spotlight, which prickled my skin and cast strange shadows on the waters around me.
I awoke sometime later in cold water. It was cold. I was naked. I was shivering. It was very very bright. I felt like I was swimming, even though I knew I was not under water.
My senses returned and I realized where I was. I had passed out in the bathtub after having turned on every light in the house and increased the television to full volume. The last moments of “Return of the King” blared at a million decibels throughout the house, shaking the walls and causing ripples in the water. The second vicodin had done the trick with a much greater intensity than I had intended. I was still woozy, but my mind was with me.
I got dressed, turned off each of the lights and the television, and went to bed.
I have wondered about that night for quite a while. Was it merely a drug-induced haze coupled with a weakened state that left me senseless, or had I taken part in some strange battle against the forces of evil which had fought valiantly for control of my being? I may never know. All I know is that the monsters have subsided for now.
Well, that and taking two pills, even if the instructions tell you do so, is never a good idea.
**I saw the movie again this week, once the earache had abated, and it was wonderful.