It starts like this, the fourth drink, the fifth drink, the minor fall and the major lift drink, and then, somehow, minus gravity or sense of place, the spinning top of too many ideas allowed too much realization at the expense of any tangible discipline takes on a horror spin all its own. Centrifugal forces throw decorum out the shattered windows while the centripetal nightmare of self-realization pulls that slap-slap-slap of a finished home movie reel closer and closer to the middle, into the eye of life's needle. The euphoric din of mischief's midlife gives way to the screech of brakes, the stab of now and then the brick-wall crash. My face sinks, my abdomen breaks, and the cries of "wolf" are left there to echo against themselves in a manner that suggests that this is how it was meant to be. You wrote this book. Now end it. Halle-fuckin'-lujah.
"I'm not kidding this time," I wince into my panic line. "I'm dying and I need to go to the hospital."
"Give me five minutes," Tony lowers his foot onto his nearby accelerator pedal. "And you're not dying."
I should have seen this coming. Just two days ago, I was all fetal-position Farrah on a cut-short vacation foray into the oversized nothingness of Austin, Texas. It was all so big and drunk and away and The Facts of Life Goes to the Alamo, as my gaggle of traveling peers and I attempted the odd displacement of our caricatured selves on a foreign stage. While everybody else grew more and more catalyzed by the heady whimsy of the same routine in a different place, my narrative head just throbbed deeper and deeper inward and my body soon followed suit. Something had broken and that something was me.
"I need you to go to your happy place," the check-in nurse watches my heart rate soar above 90.
"I don't think I have one anymore," I vibrate. And if I did, I doubt it would be anywhere near the Jesus needle of Florida Hospital. Is this how happiness dies? Was I ever happy?
For the next hour and a half, Tony and I find few answers to this or any other existential questions as we segue from Wife Swap to the The Golden Girls in one of the hospital's triage rooms. Everybody's faking everything, we surmise, which brings little comfort. Eventually, a doctor pops in, Tony pops out, and a gloved finger pops up my asshole.
"No real sign of stool," the doctor's mouth betrays the otherwise unspeakable.
"Well, I am gay," I really shouldn't wink.
A quick survey of my vices and devices follows — do I drink? Yes. Do I do drugs? Not so much anymore. Can you rate your pain on a level from 1-10? Thirty-seven! — and the shame spiral is set into motion. I'm passed from room to room for blood-taking and intravenous pain-dripping and CT-scanning, while the weary staff talks around me like just another failed abdomen on an assembly line of drunken denouements.
"God, not another pelvic!"
After about two hours of contrast fluids and wheelchairs and morphine, it's decided that, yes, my pancreas is broken, and yes, I will be admitted for an unknown amount of time to be dripped dry of my sins and booze and doubts, and also, just so you know, forevermore I'll be a veritable plague on fun. Turn in your party card; hope you enjoyed the ride. Actually, I guess I didn't.
"Tony," I pull my reluctant caretaker aside for a moment of drugged-up clarity. "Just how exactly is this different than any other Monday night spent wheeling around Orlando? I mean, I'm fucked up, I just got fingered, and I won't be eating anytime soon."
"That's the spirit."
The following three days are about as blurry as you would expect from a calendar marinated in morphine and dusted with Ativan. My first attendant nurse looks just like my mother, eerily enough, and, in between fits of mom gossip, assures me that I will be getting re-upped on my pain drip as often as I like, because what are hospitals about if not keeping you out of pain, right? I think I love her; that is, until her slightly meek promise that I won't be joined in the middle of the night by an unwanted roommate is broken by the arrival of the oldest, ugliest, most senile hospice case of I-just-peed-myself ever. At 2 a.m., it's just me, him and his senility, as he fumbles around at every "help me" button in his midst — including a late-night hair-product infomercial at full volume — before finally screaming at me. "Heeeeeelllllp!"
"Do you need something?"
This is my future.
A steady stream of visitors will pour in to see me as I pretend to be holding it all together beneath my dime-sized pupils and grinding jaw, but I'll barely notice them for the sounds of pom-pom parties in my narcotic head. At some point, I'll decide to turn the whole thing into a Facebook extravaganza replete with updates and photos of my feet, although I won't remember doing so later. And Alan, my devoted husband, will fly in and lie next to me in bed intermittently, proving that even though this old dog has lost most of his illicit tricks, there are some things that I may never be able to spin away from.
Some things just are.
Like God? Well, no. Mr. Senility's incoherence has attracted a crowd of family and biker Christians who have coalesced into a never-ending prayer circle around him, praising the heavens for whatever it is that makes their miserable tattooed lives bearable. And just before my head can turn around on its neck axis and convert "cunt" into a verb, the tailspin ends with a soft-spoken intrusion from a gay nurse.
"It's time for you to be released," he lisps.