In the morning my body is awake before my brain.
Sometimes my mouth acts first, shouting out language from nightmares I will not recall in five minutes time.
It is a side effect from prednisone, one of the many that haunt me.
I step out of bed and look in the mirror, at the bloat in my face. I wish it away. I am modest but my face is prettier without the bloat. Sometimes, I perversely imagine a man looking back at me in a car and thinking "What a pretty face she'd have without all that fat."
I fantasize banging balled-up fists onto the back of his leather seats, screaming that it is not my fault. That I hardly eat, I hardly eat at all. I've lost my appetite so many times that Glucose Control Boost shakes are my treat of choice these days. (Shudder.)
I'm beginning to wonder if the man in the rearview mirror may be the nightmare I so rarely remember. Perhaps there is a reason we are meant to forget our terrors.
Since I was discharged Sunday, I haven’t been able to walk down the steps unaided. I have slept on the couch with the dog and the central air conditioning.
I eat sourdough pretzels to coat the morphine swirling in my stomach. The crumbs catch and fall downward into my open shirt.
I swipe them away, angrily. I've showered but I am still a mess, with a puffy face and a crumb-filled shirt.
Summer is barreling forward, without a thought to my own affection for the season.
I've decided I won't cry out today, no matter the pain. I'll plant my feet firmly on the hardwood floors. I'll take a bicycle ride. I'll jump in the ocean. I'll hold Allie in my arms as we walk on the hot sand.
In time, the facial swelling will go down and in a year, I may be back here on this very couch. But it's entirely possible that I may be in a house I do not recognize. It is possible that this home--that this illness!-- will have disappeared.
In a year, my eyes may be brighter and my bones stronger. The prednisone may have left no damage.
But as I struggle for sleep, I think of what fears me. I realize that they are immeasurable, as thick as the love I have for my family, my dog, my friends, you.
I'll speak out loud before I drift off, after this episode of Arthur. When I am alone, I need to hear my voice before the unrecognizable screams, escaping from my diaphragm, wake me.
Hold my hand, my love. That is what I'll say, before I go. Hold it, dear, all the way from here.