Or, Melion Discovers She’s a Hypochondriac
So, today I begin my quest to make everybody’s day a little happier. How? Well, mostly by laughing at my own follies and foibles. Because, hey, if you’ve got to have been voted “Most Likely to Lead an Alien Race” in high school, you ought to do something with that twisted sense of humor. Right? And what is funnier than laying bare my own weird little soul on the internet? Exactly.
So let us begin on a little trip down my rather twisted and perilous memory lane, shall we?
I suppose I should preface this by saying I was always a, er, precocious child (and by “precocious” I mean “obnoxious”) who could take a little piece of information and turn it into a grand melodramatic event. This is why I probably should not have been allowed to read medical literature that my dad brought home from the doctor’s office when I was in junior high.
But what else was I supposed to do with a pile of brochures I found laying about on the counter? Verily, it was a glorious treasure trove of medical maladies ranging from hypertension to glaucoma to strokes. I digested all the afflictions with my usual morbid fascination.
I figured that as a dutiful daughter, I should know all of the signs and symptoms of these terrible ailments so that when my father, in his stoicism, decided to brush them aside, I could be there to helpfully say, “But Dad, eye pressure could be a sign of glaucoma which means you should also get checked for diabetes so that your toes don’t become infected and drop off.” All of this was done in the interest of my parents’ health, of course.
What I had not anticipated was that my passing acquaintance with the medical trivia would prove invaluable in saving my own life. Or at least in causing my mother to grow another strand of gray hair. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It happened during Literature class on a wonderful sunny fall day. At first, I was just vaguely staring out the window, wondering if I had remembered to complete my entire math assignment this time, or if I would again be coming up with awkward excuses about why I thought the teacher had assigned only the odd questions in the chapter. Then things started getting unusual. The sunlight I had been so recently enjoying began to grow intensely bright. In fact, it started to become so bright that it seemed as though my retinas might be exploding. The world before me began to blink and flash with blazing pinpricks of light.
As the eye-burning glare of light quickly coalesced into stabbing haze around the edges of my vision, a new development occurred: I couldn’t feel the left side of my face.
Into my mind flashed those pamphlets from the doctor’s office, and I had a moment of great pride that I understood what this meant. Lesser people would have ignored those brochures, but I felt a sense of superiority in knowing I had been smart enough to read them and commit the information to my memory. I would like to point out that even as I thought I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, my first response was not panic, not fear. Oh no, it was sheer arrogance. Remember what I said above about me being obnoxious? Yeah . . . moving on.
As my left hand began to tingle, I realized that I was having a stroke. But knowledge is power, and I knew exactly what to do.
First, a person must stay calm and correctly conclude that it is, in fact, a stroke. Remembering a picture in the pamphlet of the smiling man with his arms raised to head height, I tried to lift my hands and smile. I succeeded at the raising my hands test, but I wasn’t sure about the smile. I mean, how could I tell if I were smiling if I couldn’t feel half of my face? So I tried again, this time poking at my lips with my fingers and feeling about to determine if they were curving into a smile.
By this point, my arm waving and random smiling-grimaces had drawn the attention of my teacher. Now, I had previously over the last few months already demonstrated that I was a, uh, unusual child, so she at first settled on giving me sideways glances while trying to ignore my silent outburst of weird motions. But I’m not entirely sure she knew what to do with an eighth grader who is sitting in class poking at her own face and smiling like a drugged dog. However, heroically, she managed to ignore me.
Until I moved on to phase two of the “Are You Having A Stroke Test?”. Phase two involved raising my hands over my head and trying to smile while saying my name. Until then, I had been ignorable, but when I sat in my seat trying to discretely raise my arms while repeating my name in a whispered chant, it was time to admit that either there was something wrong with me, or I was trying to summon demons from the Abyss.
“Uh, Melion?” she began, and I still hear the hesitant concern and trepidation in her voice to this day. “Is everything all right?”
Well, of course everything was not all right. I mean, I was about to die. I was going to keel over in a seizing fit right in the middle of Literature class and die right in front of my traumatized classmates.
“Um, I, uh, well,” I stammered before remembering these might be my last words and, slurred though they were, I wanted them to be heroic. I wanted my friends and family to know that I had faced death at a young age with courage and resolve. So I got control of myself and somehow managed, “I forgot my lunch at home. Can I go and call my mom?”
I am sure that normally the answer would have been, “No,” but considering how I was starting to cause something of a distraction, my teacher probably concluded that it would be easier to pass me off to somebody else in the school’s chain of command, thus relieving her of responsibility for any of my weird outbursts. So, to my sheer relief, she relented.
Mustering my resolve, I walked from the classroom. For a moment, I thought I should call 911, but then I realized it may be too late and I would not get another chance to speak to my mother. So, I bravely decided that it would be more important for me to tell my mother that there was something the matter than summon the paramedics. Um, what do you mean, “Did I read a lot of Victorian literature in my youth?” Of course I did. What a silly question.
So, I stumbled into the office and garbled at the secretary something about needing to call my mother.
“Why?” she asked.
I stayed calm. Of course I wanted to yell, “Because I’m obviously dying!” But I knew that 1) I must stay calm in order to maintain my blood pressure and 2) I did not want it known that in my last moments I lost my composure. Also, I’d lost the ability to enunciate, so yelling anything would’ve been more embarrassing than constructive.
I settled with, “I’m not feeling well.” Such an understatement considering that by then my vision had tunneled out to little blurry lines of color so that the face of the secretary looked vaguely like a flesh-toned mosaic. I did, however, recognize that she was pushing the phone towards me. By counting the buttons on the phone and then mashing my numb fingertip against the numbers, I managed to dial my house.
“Hi, Mom,” I tried, although, by then, it was more, “Hi Mofth.”
“Melion? Is that you? Why on earth are you calling? Aren’t you in class?”
I hated to do it, but I had to admit that something was terribly wrong with me.
Taking a deep breath, I said, “Mom, I don’t want you to panic, but I’m having a stroke.”
Silence. Oh no, I thought. The shock was too much! She’s passed out!
Then, in tone oddly devoid of panic, she asked, “You’re having a what, Melion?”
“A stroke. I can’t feel my face and my vision has tunneled out and my left arm is all tingly.”
More silence. I knew I’d killed her. Although, in retrospect, she was probably trying to interpret the verbal cuneiform I was lisping out over the phone.
“Melion,” she said at last, but with a lot less concern than the moment warranted, “you are thirteen. Thirteen-year-olds do not have strokes.”
Oh no, she was in denial. “But mom,” I continued, pressing the urgency of the issue before I collapsed dead in the school office amid embarrassing public spectacle, “in the brochure from the doctor’s office, that was all of the symptoms.”
“Yes, well, it’s also all the symptoms of a migraine, too. Ask the secretary for some Tylenol and go back to class. And for the love of God, stay out of your father’s medical information.”
Not to miss an opportunity, I added, “Oh, well, can you come pick me up early?”
“No. You have to learn to deal with migraines just like everybody else in this family. Now go back to class and don’t scare me like that again.”
She hung up. I stared at the phone for a moment. The secretary sat there with a pile of paperwork in her hand and asked in a tight voice, “A stroke?”
“Stroke?” I answered. “That’s silly. I’m just having a migraine. By the way, do you have any Tylenol?”
*This first appeared on my DeviantArt journal. And no, I won’t tell you my DA username–I’m here to torture you with my writing, not my crappy artwork.