There must be people who think of hospitals as wonderful places full of healing and Florence Nightengales, right? Not me. But you knew that.
They kept me overnight at the hospital and released me in the morning, feeling weak but human, with a diagnosis of “food poisoning.”
I didn’t really believe it, though. I was pretty convinced that some perfect combination of bad substances and bad choices (like lack of sleep and not enough water) caused my brain to seize up like an engine without oil and my body to try to expel all poisons.
Flip didn’t challenge what the doctors said, just grilled them on it so he could relay it to Reem or nursemaid me properly or whatever.
We stood outside the hospital waiting for our ride. Well, he stood and they had me sitting in a wheelchair. It was some kind of a rule that even though I could walk out of there under my own power by then, I wasn’t allowed to. I felt ridiculous.
A stretch limo pulled up. That seemed a bit excessive to me. I was again aware of how it looked, me in yesterday’s clothes, hair unwashed, and how rock star it was to then climb into a blissfully dark and air-conditioned limo in front of this Tennessee hospital.
Flip was carrying a white plastic shopping bag. He set it at his feet in the back of the limo and then set his watch. It beeped to confirm an alarm was set. “To remind me to remind you to drink one of these.”
“One of these what?” I had a sudden vision that the bag had a dozen beer bottles in it.
He showed me a bottle of hospital electrolyte solution.
“Oh.” Okay, fine. He must have gotten some for later, too, because the bag was quite full. Maybe it was going to be the new ingredient in hangover cures. Except it wasn’t because I convinced myself I wasn’t going to have any more hangovers. Well, maybe the other guys might need it.
After we’d been in the car for about twenty minutes I said to Flip, “Where the hell are we, anyway?”
“It’s taking forever to get from this hospital back to town, though.”
“We’re going straight to Memphis,” Flip explained. “The whole entourage is there already.”
“Oh. How far is that?”
“Three hours. Drink this and then see if you can get some sleep. And maybe you can get through the show tonight.”
I drank what he handed me and then curled up on the seat and passed out.
About an hour later I had to piss pretty desperately, so we stopped for that, and then I drank another thing, and passed back out again. By the time we got to Memphis, three hours or so later, I was starting to feel almost normal.
That made the whole trip to the hospital seem embarrassing and silly. Then I remembered praying because I thought I might die. And then THAT seemed embarrassing and silly.
Thus I felt I would be deserving of some ribbing from the guys. In fact, maybe that would be better than drippy sympathy which would just make me feel worse about all the trouble I just put everyone through.
We went by the hotel first and I got properly showered. Flip was nowhere to be seen when I came out of the shower so I got dressed in clean clothes (or, you know, the next cleanest pair of jeans I had and a clean shirt) and then searched the room for the day sheet. It seemed odd to me that there was no guitar in the room, but there was my clothing bag. Weird. Meanwhile I found the day sheet partway under the minifridge. Okay. Lobby call 2:30 pm. I checked the time. Noon.
Right. Now would be the time I would normally be waking up and looking for food. The fact that I was not hungry was a sign I was not actually back to normal. But you know my relationship to “normal” is all messed up anyway.
I called Remo’s room and he answered with a gruff, “Yeah.”
“Just letting you know I’m back from the dead.”
“Don’t you joke about that,” he said sharply.
“Flip told me.”
I assumed he meant that Flip told him we were back and so why the fuck was I calling him. “Okay, fine. See you at the bus.”
I hung up feeling anxious and unjustly scolded. Maybe I needed food after all? My brain needed food but my stomach was not accepting incoming deliveries just then. I called room service anyway.
“Room service, may I help you?” A perky female voice.
A strong deja vu hit me then. Had I done this before? Called up a poor room service person and asked them what I should eat? I wasn’t sure. Seemed like I got the idea from somewhere and it was probably from my own foggy memory. I plowed ahead. “Yeah, hi. I, um…” How to put this? Mentioning my bodily functions seemed the wrong approach. “Had food poisoning–”
“From us? Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry about that, sir.”
Sir? I was weirded out by being called sir, but maybe I sounded like a “sir” when I’d been in the hospital. “No no no, not from you. In Nashville. Anyway. Um. I haven’t eaten anything yet and I’m trying to figure out what I should try first.”
“Have you looked at the menu?”
“No,” I confessed. “I was afraid the idea of some of the things on it might be too much for me.”
“Oh, I see.”
We sat there in silence for a few moments while I tried to figure out what to ask and she was probably equally at a loss how to deal with me. Finally she said, “Well, when ever I had a stomach bug my momma would give me saltine crackers and ginger ale.”
“Did it work?”
“Well, I always got better eventually, didn’t I?”
“Do you have saltine crackers and ginger ale?”
“We do. I’m just trying to figure out how to charge you for crackers.” She muffled the phone for a second while she talked to someone else. Then she came back. “Normally we only have ’em to send up with the soup.”
Soup. “You mean like chicken noodle?”
“I mean exactly chicken noodle.”
“Could you send me a chicken noodle soup with extra crackers?”
“I can do that.”
“Yes, sir. That order will be right up in under twenty minutes.”
I spent the twenty minutes lying very still as if that might recharge my batteries some. But I was slow to get up to answer the door.
Flip came in while I was cautiously eating. I decided to drink all the broth from the soup and carefully eat the noodles along with two or three packets of crackers. Normally you know I just inhale food like some kind of vacuum cleaner but this was a concerted effort to take it slow, and it had taken me probably fifteen minutes to get that far.
“Well, that answers that,” Flip said.
“Whether you could take care of yourself if left to your own devices for an hour.”
I threw a packet of crackers at him. “I take care of myself just fine when you’re not around.”
He caught it. “Sure you do.”
In the lobby there was a surprisingly small group. Me, Remo, Flip, a promoter, maybe two or three others. I’d been feeling like I woke up in the wrong universe ever since waking up in the hospital. I had to ask. “Where’s everyone else?”
Remo seemed distant. “Going straight to the venue. They’re staging out of Nashville. We’ll head back there tonight, too.”
Ah. And spend most of a day off there, before heading to the Carolinas. A day off sounded good, so I knew I must be tired.
He focused on me while the van pulled up. “You okay to play tonight?”
“I think so. I’m as weak as water but if I take it easy until then I think I can get through it.”
He shared a significant glance with Flip, which I took to mean Remo was deputizing Flip to keep me from accidentally drinking or taking any drugs. Which annoyed me since I had already deputized Flip to do that.
It only got weirder from there. Instead of giving me shit for being a lightweight or being sympathetic about me having to be hospitalized, the guys generally seemed to be almost giving me the cold shoulder. Not exactly that but curious looks, surreptitious whispers, that kind of thing just wasn’t what I expected.
Cray explained it after soundcheck. “They’re just being pussies about it,” he said.
Flip had marked the bottles of Pedialyte with a Sharpie, indicating what time I was to drink each one. They were serious about me staying hydrated. I had one in my hand while we sat backstage. “What are they being pussies about?”
“About your drinking problem. None of them wants to admit their own drinking problem and it’s like any man who can’t hold his liquor is not only less of a man, he’s a sign of trouble.”
I shook my head, but not because I disagreed with this analysis. “The thing they’re missing is I’m pretty sure it was drugs, not drinking.”
“They might not be cutting it that fine.” He shrugged. “Or they’re misinformed. It’s not like you went around telling people what you took before you were carted off.”
“I thought my stomach was touchy from how much we drank at your place the night before,” I said. “So I smoked some weed to settle my nausea and took a nap. And then I woke up ready to shit myself and unable to move my arms properly. With a super high fever.”
“That doesn’t sound like any drug I know,” Cray said. “Though admittedly I haven’t tried them all, and I’m not in a hurry to.”
By the time the show arrived I was at maybe fifty percent capacity, but that was enough to get me through if I didn’t run around too much and I made sure to suck down some Pedialyte every so often. I kept my solos to their normal length and Cray played more songs than originally planned in order to take up the slack. This went over very well with the crowd who were passingly familiar with him. So all that was fine.
So I made it through the show, but I was still beating myself up inside about my vices being the cause of my misery, hence I felt I deserved the pariah status I seemed to have been given.
That didn’t last long, though. Not even one more night.