Years Without Sleep — Part 5

(This is part 5 of a 6-part story. From my short story anthology, Naked Ladies: Seasons of the Heart.

The phone clicked in my ear. I was stunned. Everything she had said was true. How had it gotten this bad? I looked into the kitchen, hoping to see Dan waiting in the doorway to talk to me, but he wasn’t there. I wasn’t ready to talk to that calm, cool, collected Dan who had just insinuated that something was wrong with our marriage. It wasn’t our marriage, it was me. Maybe it was time to see a doctor.

A few days later, I waited in my family doctor’s waiting room for fifteen minutes, and then another fifteen in the exam room before the doctor finally came in. Dr. Mayes stepped into the room, and then stood near where I sat on the end of the exam table. She made a few notes on her clipboard.

“So, Marjorie. What’s up? Can’t sleep?” The doctor set down the clipboard and then began the examination, pressing the stethoscope to my chest and back, looking into my ears, my mouth and my eyes. “Weight’s okay, could lose ten pounds and feel better, but compared to most people I see in here, you’re doing great! In general, how do you feel?”

As I went through my litany of complaints, tears began to well up in my eyes. She reached over and patted my hand. “Got a short test you need to take. I’ll have Nancy give it to you. Sounds like depression to me, maybe some anxiety. Your age, plus everything you got going on. Let’s see if some new meds help.”

I nodded and sniffed, reaching for a tissue on the table. When I left her office, fifteen minutes later, the primary diagnosis was depression. I had a couple of sample cards of pills to try and two prescriptions to fill. When I got home that evening, I found a note from Dan on the kitchen counter.

“Unexpected business trip. I’ll be in Boston at the Embassy Suites. Be back Friday.”

That night, I had the best night of sleep I had had in years. I woke, feeling like a different person. A different groggy person. The doctor had said to give my system two weeks to get used to the medication, and that effects like grogginess would even out. Several days passed. I continued to sleep well at night. Trouble was, I also slept well at my desk during the afternoon, on the dinner table during meals and on the sofa watching television. I hoped that the meds would straighten out by Friday, when Dan returned.

Then, Thursday afternoon, in an attempt to make up with Jan, I offered to pick up her daughter Lyndsey from a rehearsal, while Jan worked late. One minute I was driving down the street, trying to keep my eyelids open, feeling like I needed a good nap. The next second I was off the road, rammed into a tree, with my radiator spewing antifreeze and my airbag deployed. My ribs, head, back and neck all hurt. Thank God that no one had been in the path of the car, and that I had gone off the road instead of into another vehicle or even the sidewalk. And thank God that I had not yet picked up Lyndsey.

I sat in my car, stunned. I could have been killed. I could have killed any number of people, including Lyndsey. The citation from the police officer wasn’t punishment enough. I called Jan, then watched the wrecker drive off with my car and waited for her to come and pick me up.

She didn’t speak as I got into the car. She was no doubt thinking the same thing I’d just been thinking: thank goodness Lyndsey hadn’t been in the car. A few blocks down the road, she finally looked over at me. “So, you need to go to the body shop now, or home?”

“I told the shop that I’d check with them tomorrow. The insurance guy has set up the estimate. I guess I go home, and figure out how I’m going to get to work tomorrow.”

“I think you’ve got to figure out more than that. We’ve been friends a long time, Margie. I hope you get this worked out. Meanwhile, I won’t ask you to pick up my daughter or drive me anywhere. I don’t even think we should see each other. It’s all just a little too un-nerving.”

I nodded. I didn’t blame her. I chewed on one fingernail.

“And I hate to be the bearer of more bad news.” Jan continued. “Dan called. He couldn’t get you at the office or on your cell phone. He’s decided to stay in Boston for the weekend, do some sightseeing. Said something about needing a break.”

A break?! We’d been sleeping in separate bedrooms and rarely eating together. If we exchanged twenty words with each other at one time it seemed like a long conversation.

My hands began to shake, and so did my body. Then a sob burst from my throat and I was suddenly crying really hard. I couldn’t make myself stop. What had happened to my life?

The next morning, my entire body ached. Although I’d taken a long hot shower the night before, my muscles were knotted and tense from the jolt of the accident. Nothing short of a visit to my massage therapist would make it any better. I stared at my haggard face in the mirror. Puffy circles under my eyes, baggy lids, deepened wrinkles. I looked as bad as I felt.

I called the office to let them know I would be late. Mr. Perkins’ secretary, Natalie, put Mr. Perkins on the line when I told her I would be late.

“Marjorie? What’s the problem?”

“I’m going to try to get into my massage therapist first thing today,” I explained. “I wrecked my car last night and my back is all messed up. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Don’t hurry, Marjorie. In fact, don’t bother to come in at all. Take the day off, your sick leave will cover it. And when you get back on Monday, we need to have a talk. I’m not sure we can continue as your employer. But we’ll talk about that Monday. At 8 a.m., please.”

“But Mr. Perkins . . .” I sputtered. He hung up. I sank down into the chair at the kitchen table and put my head in my hands.

(Watch for the conclusion to this story, Part 6, next Friday, July 3.)

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