Shmuli could feel his heart stop, then go again. He put the oxmeter on his finger and stared at it, watching the numbers appear and the bar with the heartbeat bounce up and down, stop, then rise again. He could feel his lungs stop, become heavy, then light again. The red light of the oxmeter is all that illuminated the blackness of the night. Next to him, slept his wife. He couldnt see or hear her, but she was there, he could feel her any time he slept on his back. She would jab him awake as his snoring roused her from her slumber. Even the kingsize extra plush mattress couldn’t keep his snoring from waking her.
“It’s a heart attack. I felt pain earlier in my neck. Heart attacks come with pain in the neck. My grandfather died of it. He just pumped the tire to a bike and keeled over and died. He was 48 but I’m only 40. I have eight more years. There it is again, my heart stopped.”
He pressed the button and watched the numbers appear again. 97% oxygen, 70 heartbeat. It’s fine for normal people but Shmuli is usually around 60, its high for Shmuli. There’s nothing funny about this to him. This is all he can think about. He will find it ridiculous tomorrow but right now, he is dying and he will die and leave his wife and daughter without a husband and daughter. His wife is sick of it. He is sick of it. But right now, it is either nothing again, or he’s dying. And what if he’s dying? What if he dies because he did nothing. “Should I go to ER? Let me check WebMD. Pain in the chest, check. Speeding up heartbeat then arrhythmia, check, pain in the neck, jaw or arm, check.”
He lies motionless. He can’t go. He was just in the ER last week. He needs to get a new doctor because he is sure his doctor is sick of him. “It could be long COVID. Palpitations is a sign of it. Or anxiety. Why am I anxious? Oh right, freon, there’s freon in the AC and my daughter sleeps with it. What if she gets poisoned. I should check on her.” He gets up and quietly tries to get to the baby room without stepping on the dog or the toys, illuminating the way with the phone. She sleeps silently, he can barely make out her arms slightly rising. He puts his hand on her chest, she starts to wake. She sleeps like her mother. He bolts out hoping he didn’t wake her or there will be hell to pay. It took an hour to get her to sleep and his wife will not be happy if he wakes the baby. He closes the door and listens in the dark motionless. There’s no sound, he breathes out relief. Maybe a hit of adrenaline is all he needed.
It’s a strange thing to be a hypochondriac depressant. It is the definition of irony. He will be thinking that it is time to kill himself, to end the rate race one day and within an hour scrambling to stay decide whether to go to the hospital or not because WebMD says he will die in three days unless he sees a doctor RIGHT NOW. He’s a walking contradiction. Unable to complete the simplest task while also a PhD in Cognitive Science. Personable and yet fired from every job he ever had.
“I should kill myself.” He notices a slight film on the counter. It’s 2 am and he begins to clean. Almost done and then an idea for a blog post occurs, hot to prevent wrestling injuries. He goes to write it. “I should check the number of injuries in wrestling, while page loads I’ll check facebook. Oh wow, she looks good. Shit that’s a crap story about Climate Change, I should probably share it in case someone hasn’t heard about it. Wait, how did Pakistan come about? I can check it on Wikipedia.” He goes to make a tea as the page loads. Comes back and reads about Pakistan. Tea is cold now, another time he forgot about it. He forgot about heart palpitations too as well as the fact that he lost his job again and the savings are dwindling. He didn’t forget to kill himself, he was too distract to even think about how.
The dog pokes its black nose into his leg. It’s three am and he was supposed to walk it at 8. He grabs the leash, he walks down the hill to the bar. The bar is closed, streets are silent. The podcast is warming up and he is cold and tired. An idea pops in, he writes a note about it, a note that will be forgotten. He comes home and tries not to wake his wife again. He fails. “Did you brush your teeth?” “Shit” He brushes them, lies down. “Did you open her door?” “Shit” He closes the door.
It’s four am, the heart is fine, he remembers nothing, he lies there watching videos under the covers, or reading. “Will I wake up tomorrow?” He thinks as eyes shut. He wakes up, without a trip to ER. It’s a successful day, but he doesn’t really remember it. Today is another day, and another way to die.