206. Behind the Wall of Sleep

PART SEVEN:April 1989

* * * *

When we got home I slept for a week.

I’m not exaggerating… much. The last show was in Seattle and we were on a red eye back to Boston, so it was around 8:30 in the morning after being up all night when I actually dragged myself into bed. I didn’t even take my clothes off. I didn’t even realize I laid a guitar case down right next to me in bed until I woke up when I kicked it onto the floor some hours later. No damage was done–the futon I slept on was on the floor anyway. I made a mental note to buy some furniture. Then I went back to sleep.

Somewhere in there I got up, had take-out pizza with Chris, and then I went back to sleep. I slept straight through until the next afternoon. Had a shower, made a phone call, ate a little something, went back to bed.

So it went for a while–I wasn’t keeping track.

I have no idea which day it was, then, when Carynne burst into my room in hysterics.

“Daron! Get dressed!”

My head was under a pillow at the time and it took me a few moments to unbury myself and sit up. “What happened?”

“You tell me! This isn’t normal.”

“What isn’t normal?” I was thinking she was trying to tell me about some problem of hers that she needed help with, or maybe I was half in a dream where she was trying to fix a car or something…?

“I’m taking you directly to a doctor. Holy crap.”

I rubbed my eyes and yawned. “Why?”

She began throwing clothes at me and cursing. Okay, I got the message: the message that she was not going to leave me alone until I did what she said. I pulled on a pair of jeans and changed my shirt and then went into the bathroom.

She harangued me from outside the door. “I am going to kill you if you’re really sick.”

“That’s very touching,” I said, but I doubt she could hear me over the water running.

She dragged me to a health center I hadn’t been to before, just outside Kenmore Square. “This place must be hell to get to when the Red Sox are playing.”

“Shut up,” she said, as she pulled the car, a cute red hatchback I also hadn’t seen before, into the parking garage.

Apparently when I hadn’t been paying attention, she and Digger had gone out and gotten us health insurance. She had my insurance card and everything. It said “Daron Marks” on it. I decided not to care. We settled in the waiting room at Internal Medicine, which I kept reading as “Infernal Medicine.”

“Are you going to come into the exam room with me?” I asked as I leafed through a dog-eared copy of People without actually reading any of it.

“Do you think I should, or do you think you can handle at least that much?” She really looked stressed out.

“This whole thing was your idea,” I pointed out. “What am I supposed to say? Hey, doc, I’ve been sleeping a lot? It’s only been a week and I feel fine.”

“Just let him check you out, all right?”

A nurse came to the door just then and called my first name.

She led me to a small room, took my temperature (normal), my blood pressure (“low, that’s good”), and then told me to get undressed and put a gown on and wait.

Okay, fine. I tried not to be nervous. But Carynne being a stress ball kind of got to me, plus, you know, there on the wall within arm’s reach of the exam table was an entire rack of brochures about STD Prevention, in English, Spanish, and Creole.

I read the one in English and then put it back hurriedly like I didn’t want to get caught reading it.

Just in time, too. A knock on the door, and then the doctor came in. He was a big guy, with thinning hair and a thick mustache, and a friendly face. He introduced himself and we had some chit chat.

“I didn’t realize I hadn’t seen you before,” he said, looking at the folder in his hands, “or normally I would chat with my new patients in the office first.”

“It’s all right,” I said, trying not to swing my feet and failing.

“I just try to get to know people a little. You’re younger than most of the people I see, too. When was the last time you had a physical?”

I tried to remember. “I had one before I went to school. It was required.”

“And when was that?”

“Er, about five years ago?”

“And you’re out of school now, I take it.”

“Oh, yeah. Dropped out a couple of years ago to move to Boston.”

“Did you? What do you do for work, Daron?” He said my name like he wasn’t sure how to say it, more like “Dare Awn.”

“I’m a guitarist.”

“In a band?”

“Yeah. Just came home from a tour, actually, and we’re leaving on another one in like six weeks, I think? Two months? Something like that.”

“Oh? A successful band?”

“Yeah.” I shrugged.

“Well, your girlfriend out there seems very concerned…”

I was very proud of myself for interrupting him. “She’s not my girlfriend. She’s my manager.”

“Ahhh.” He smiled. “Sorry, I should know better than to make assumptions. She was very concerned though.”

“Yeah, she gets like that. I’ve been sleeping a lot. But, you know, I just went two weeks on the road expending a shitload of energy and sleeping in a different bed every night and I think she’s overreacting. But if it’ll make her feel better, that’s why I’m here.”

“Well, we’ll do a full physical since you haven’t had one in a while, and you know, some tests and things.”

Be proud of me, please. For speaking up at that point. It was harder than it sounds. “Um, could I ask for some tests?”

“Of course. You shouldn’t hesitate to let me know about any concerns.”

That was a party line and I knew it, but he did look sincere. And I knew there were all kinds of patient confidentiality. The brochure had said so. So did signs on the wall.

“I should get STD tested,” I said.

“For everything,” I added hurriedly.

Just in case,” I added to that.

And I probably would have fainted or exploded or something if he’d made any kind of remark or seemed even the tiniest bit judgmental. But he didn’t. He just nodded and jotted something down on the folder. “Not a problem. That’ll be some blood work,” he said dryly. “Once we’re done here, I’ll send you down to the lab for the draw. We’ll test you for mono, too.”

Wow, “mono,” I hadn’t heard that talked about since I was in high school. “Do you think that’s what it is?”

“Well, you tell me: do you feel all right, or are you so tired you can barely stay awake?”

“I’m okay. I just really really like sleeping when I have nothing better to do. God, it’s the best thing in the world.”

He chuckled. “Okay, then. We’ll test you, but I’m pretty sure it’s not mono. I’m pretty sure you’re just recovering from traveling.”

I pumped my fist. “Can’t wait to tell her that.”

Then came various poking and prodding and the cold stethoscope, you know the drill. Then he told me to get dressed while he went to get the slips for the lab.

When he came back I was dressed and drumming my heels against the supply drawers under the exam table.

“Okay,” he said, putting down a bunch of papers. “There is one thing I should tell you, though, if you think there’s any chance your HIV test could come back positive.”

“Oh?” I tried to sound unconcerned about it all.

“Here’s the thing. You can go down to the Fenway Community Health Center and get tested anonymously. If you get it done here, it goes into your record.”

“Um, why wouldn’t it?”

He was silent a moment. “Well, things are getting better. But some insurance companies are dropping people who test positive, that sort of thing. You and I will both have to sign a waiver saying I informed you of this and that you understand this test is not anonymous and goes into your record.”

I swallowed. “Um. Is our insurance company one of those?”

“It isn’t currently,” he said. “But… it’s a tough time. They’re very good at the Fenway. It’s just a few blocks from here. It’s your choice.”

My hand was shaking as I picked up the pen. “No. Let’s get it over with.”

“All right.” He pointed to where I should sign, then signed himself, and then handed me the yellow copy. I shoved it into my pocket and took the rest of the papers and went the direction he pointed to go to the lab.

I picked up Carynne at the waiting room and we moved to the lab waiting room. She didn’t say anything as we sat down there, but I did hand her all the papers. She looked them over without saying anything, just nodded and handed them back to me.

“Are you going to drag Ziggy through this, too, when he gets back?” I asked. “Or am I special?”

She fixed me with a look. “Well, it might depend, honestly. But he’s in LA for a month and you’re here. And it’d depend on whether he slept so much he stopped answering his phone, like you did.”

“I turned the ringer off, that’s all. It’s not like I was so dead I was sleeping through it…”

She put a hand on my arm. “Daron, you’re special, okay?”

I wasn’t really sure what she meant by it, now, but I decided to leave it at that.

A few minutes later she said, “If you have your choice of phlegbotomist, pick the oldest one you can.”

“Huh? Why?”

“The ones who have been doing it the longest are the best at finding a vein.”

As it turned out, though, I didn’t have a choice. A youngish hispanic woman took me in the back and failed to get a vein on the first try, though she did comment on the nice muscles in my arms. (Playing guitar will do that.) She had to try the other arm after that, which worked better, and filled several little vials with different colored caps, and labeled them each differently. I felt like I should get a lollipop at the end.

Instead Carynne took me to Pho Pasteur where I basically devoured everything they put in front of us.

I had almost forgotten to be nervous when she asked, “How long does it take to get the tests back?”

“Two weeks.”

Two weeks of pure hell. Well, in the moments when I remembered about it, which was a couple of times a day.

In the end, though, I did not have mono. Or anything else. Because I may be an idiot about a lot of things, but as it turned out, so far I hadn’t been an idiot about that.


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