Disease of the Jobless

At lunch time I call Tano. I talk quickly because each time I call him at work emphasizes that I have no work. "Are you sick?" I say. "Just wondering because I have a fever."

He says, "No. I hope you feel better."

We hang up. I garden until I get so sweaty that I start dripping on my Brazilian poppy which is too fuzzy to cope with wet leaves. I take my temperature and stare at walls. I get out the down comforter which I don't think Andy realizes I still have.

I sleep until midnight. I drink two glasses of water, change out of my sweaty clothes and go back to bed.

Wake up. Two glasses of water. Add a sweater.

Too cold to sleep. Relieved to know that I'm too sick to expect myself to be productive with my time.

Sleep. Wake up. Water.

Sleep. Wake up. Water.

Sleep. Faint. Wake up on the floor.

Stand up. Faint. Wake up on the floor.

Crawl to the phone. Call 911. Start to talk. Faint.

Call Tano. "It's me. I keep fainting. Come here." Faint.

Wake up to banging on the door. Remain on the floor. Do not get up. Do not get up. You will faint, I tell myself. Do not get up.

More banging. "It's the police. Are you OK?"

I stand up. Unlock the door. Sit on the floor. "I keep fainting," I say.

I cry.

The police ask if I'm using any drugs while they search my medicine cabinet.

Tano comes in. He asks why there's a fire truck.

The paramedic says, "Lots of people faint from psychological trauma. Is there something traumatic in your life right now?"

"I lost my job four months ago."

"That's probably it," says the paramedic. She looks at my books. "Shel Silverstein," she says. "I dated him."

The emergency room doctor comes back with tests. He says I have a kidney infection and if it had gone untreated I'd have died in two days. He says I have a case of malnourishment seen only in third-world countries and long sea voyages.

I lie in a bed where time does not pass. Nurses change my IV. I add and subtract blankets from my bed. Tano brings flowers from his parents.

When my fever breaks, a hospital administrator calls. I feel a pain in my stomach. I know I haven't paid for insurance in months. The administrator says my COBRA policy will expire if I don't pay for three months by the day after tomorrow. I sit up in bed. I assure him I'll pay. He says if I can't pay I'll have to go to the county hospital.

I call Tano. He says I'd be better off dying than going to LA County.

I call Andy. I tell him I'm in the hospital. I need six hundred dollars.

He says, "When can you pay it back to me?" He says, "I'm sorry you're sick."

I say, "I'm sorry I have to call you."

Once the insurance is paid, the doctors keep me two extra days because they know I have no money to eat once I leave.

They even do a Pap smear.

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