23 – Candlelight

In times of darkness, even the smallest light burns the brightest, and the simplest act of tenderness can soothe the soul.

Post episode 706, “Burn Out,” circa  November 2006



Emily Dickenson once wrote about migraines as a funeral in the brain where all the mourners kept treading to and fro and a service like a drum kept beating, beating till I thought my mind was going numb.

Today, it doesn’t seem quite so funereal, even if you take into account the deep rumbling dirges that used to accompany mourning. No, it is more like being trapped inside the loud speakers at a rock concert of one of those bands purporting to play music that Greg insists on blaring upon occasion, mostly when he doesn’t think I’m listening.

Even with the door to Jim’s office closed and the blinds shut, the hustle and bustle of the outside booms and blares. Voices seem preternaturally louder, higher, shriller. And while there is but the single bulb illuminating the room, it seems blinding bright. But I find I simply do not have the strength to reach up and shut it off.

Instead, I lie here on a couch more built for function than comfort, vaguely inhabiting that strange state that exists between wakefulness and dreaming.

I have no idea how long I have been lying here, trying to be still, trying to keep still, trying to still the thumping that has expanded from behind my eyes and across my temples to now sit heavily at the base of my skull almost like a dead weight pulling me further under.

When the door clicks open, the rush of sound and light hits almost like a blow and part of me wants to bellow and roar at whomever is at the door to go away in language probably not suitable for the workplace. I cannot though bring myself to stir, to even pry apart my eyes enough to see who this unwelcome interloper might be.

Then as quick as it comes, the noise and light and agony fade back to merely pain and there is but the faint footfalls on the floor of a tread I cannot at this moment place.

The gentle hand on my forehead though I do recognize. The light above me clicks off and I cannot help but sigh with relief. The warmth moves to my cheek before you softly say, When I told you to be a little nicer to Greg, maybe I should have told you to be a little nicer to yourself, too, which comes out more concerned than reproachful, and for that I am grateful. And that you don’t seem to need to ask what’s wrong.

Rather, you only brush a thumb along my cheek and whisper that I should have called so that you could have picked up my medicine and brought it a lot sooner.

Though I take the proffered pills without protest, I want to say that it was nothing and I knew all of us were busy with more important things and it just would have been a bother.

The truth is though, it isn’t just the migraine that is haunting me now, but the day. You seem to sense this as you simply say, Come on, let’s get you home before helping me to my feet.

Sometimes, it takes a remarkable amount of will just to keep the contents of your stomach where they belong, to get your leaded limbs that do not seem to want to move, to go, especially with weight of utter bone-deep exhaustion pressing down upon you.

So I am not sure how we even make it to the parking lot and right now I don’t care. I merely want to sit back in the seat with my eyes closed and try to breathe my way past the bright lights of night.

We are quiet you and I. The radio is thankfully off and there is but the muted sounds of the outside world: the hum of the engine and the whirr of the tires, the rush of the road beneath us.

I feel your hand every now and again settle on mine as if to reassure me that you are here and everything is going to be okay.

But we are not long in your car, when that irrepressible urge to be sick returns in earnest and I can barely mumble out what I need you to do before I am on my hands and knees on the side of the road heaving the remains of mostly coffee onto the pavement.

It isn’t until the dry heaves have begun that I realize that you are beside me, your hand resting gently on my back. When the bout has seemed to have run its course, you place a bottle of water in my hand, the contents of which are mostly warm, but a welcome reprieve from the bitter bile.

Until recently, I would get a migraine once, maybe twice a year. Now it seems like they come once or twice a month; but even then, they are never like this.

Somehow, at some point, we are back in your car and this time thankfully, the nausea holds off until we come to a stop. Where, I am not so sure. When I hazard to peek out from beneath my eyelids, I find that we are in the parking lot of your place and not mine, but right now I don’t care, I just want to get indoors.

Your hand is under my elbow, helping me up the short flight of stairs and I am despite the pain of it all, struck by the memory of a moment a lot like this one, but with our roles reversed.

Once inside, you carefully deposit me into a chair before you quickly pull the curtains and the blissful blackness bathes the room and I can breathe again.

Better? you ask. I nod and you tell me that you will be right back.

I merely lean back and rub my hands over my face.

Then my name is on your lips and this time you press a warm mug into my hands. You tell me not to turn my nose up at it and just drink it when I balk at the pungent scent of ginger.

You are insistent and I know better than to fight you. Just as I know that ginger is one of the best means of calming an upset stomach even if not perhaps the most palatable, despite the fact that you have been generous with the honey.

So I drink it, sip by sip. And listen to your footsteps come and go a few times and you softly mutter something that sounds a lot like stupid male pigheadedness under your breath.

The tea gone, you tug first at the zipper of my jacket and then at the buttons of my shirt. A warm sort of wetness replaces my collar. The soothing heat of a washcloth descends into my skin.

My eyes flutter open at the sudden presence of the piquant fragrance of lavender and peppermint in the air. In the dimness, only broken by the faint light of a single candle, I find you kneeling on the carpet in front of me diligently applying oil to your hands.

Peppermint? I ask slightly perplexed.

You smile and reply, Peppermint extract, good for flavoring tea, hot chocolate and helping with headaches.

I cannot resist asking as you rub the cool, tingling liquid into my temples, And you know this how?

You laugh and tell me that I am not the only one who counters insomnia with hours spent in front of the computer.

The lavender, the scent I know and love so well from the shampoo you use when not at work, you tell me as you apply it now as well, is supposed to help me relax and sleep.

And while I might as you say, smell like a cross between a medicine chest and an English garden for a while, you do tell me that it does all wash off and should at least help.

And under your gentle ministrations, I feel a little of that heaviness begin to fade, the stiffness in my neck relax and sleep does not seem that much of an impossibility.

But before you lead me off to bed, you take my face in your hands and say, Next time, you’ll call?

Yes, dear, I drowsily reply.

You know, you continue, there is nothing wrong with having someone take care of you for a change and I nod at this as together we rise and make our way to the bedroom.

You pull back the sheets and we both slide between them. You draw me towards you until my head rests against your chest and I close my eyes as your fingers softly smooth my hair.

After a while, you whisper that when I didn’t show back up at the lab nor answer my phone, that you were really starting to worry about me.

For some reason, I cannot help but slightly smile at this, at the realization that despite the hell and pain of the day, there is yet comfort to be found here and now with you and in the simple thought that it is nice to merely be cared for and worried over every now and then.


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