The moment expectation slams into reality knocks us off our feet. We spin and drift for hours on the tears that rip a body apart from within. We know that he is gone, but it doesn’t seem real when you can’t know where. Confusion. We drift like leaves. Bed, floor, chair, bed, kitchen.
The swirling sensation of low blood sugar is mimicked by a new sad-mad-dizzy cocktail until the two are indistinguishable. I can’t tell the difference between low blood sugar, and this sad feeling that is always around. The world has a fuzz to it like the layer left on your teeth after eating an underripe banana or piece of old cheese.
Something feels weird. The numbness, that dull slow spread, creeps into my mind until I feel like I am looking through a cloud or a frosted window. Then I realize what I’ve done—the metabolic tomfoolery I’ve beckoned in. Make a monumental deposit in the swear jar.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Oh holy fuck.
Instead of five units of insulin for a gentle correction of my high blood sugar, I’ve just given myself twenty-five units. This is more than I would take for a dinner buffet or a bender at the sundae bar. Basically, I have a small window of time to shovel as much sugary junk into my mouth as possible before I become the incumbent mayor of Seizuretown.
Fuck. Fuck. Good golly miss Molly holy fuck. Fuck.
Blood sugar drops fast. 22. 18. 14. 8. 5 . . . I rifle through the cupboards in search of Mum’s secret chocolate stash she doesn’t think I know about. Fix a massive bowl of ice cream and chocolate syrup, scrunch my face at the brainfreeze which sweeps through my head in gale-force. This should be a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style orgy of sugar, but I try to be quiet so Mum and Jaret won’t be worried. I want a refund on my golden ticket.
“What the hell are you doing?” says Mum.
Jaret staggers sleepily up the stairs behind her, running a hand through his lop-sided curls. “Sounds like rats scurrying around up here.” He examines my chocolate-covered face. Never one to miss an opportunity to eat, he swiftly fixes himself a gigantic bowl of ice cream. No matter how much he eats, his praying-mantis physique never changes.
Mum raises an eyebrow and parts her lips to lecture. “Megan got to,” he whines.
I tell Mum what I’ve done. “Oh you great twit,” she says, examining my twitching chocolate-covered limbs.
She grabs a dish rag and rubs my face raw until the sticky sugar is gone. She makes me some toast with peanut butter and pours a glass of orange juice. I dry-heave—an ER nurse once gave me a glass of orange juice mixed with milk, her “secret formula” for rebalancing electrolytes. It barely passed my lips before it became a not-so-secret mess on the floor. Mum sees me heave and passes the juice to Jaret, who will give it a good home.
“Where’s your gel?” asks Mum. “Just in case.”
“In my kit.”
“Nice to have handy. Just in case.” When she is worried, Mum repeats things without noticing.
Jaret mashes his ice cream into a semi-liquid paste. We sit in silence, crunching and slurping and watching the numerals on my glucometer count down as we try to boost my blood sugar.
“Your dad—” begins Mum, weaving a story to distract from the emergency at hand. I love the stories that start like this. “He was smart. He was the first student in the history of his university to get 100% on his organic chemistry final exam. People holding out for a bell curve were quite miffed. Such a nerd—I never could wrestle away that pocket protector.” She curses as my glucometer beeps at us. Error: insufficient blood.
“Bor-ing,” says Jaret. A trail of ice cream winds down his chin and spots the tablecloth.
“Jaret William!” Mum is torn between reprimanding for the rudeness or the flagrant disregard for the tablecloth. She rubs at his mucky face with the dishrag, moves to the table and swiftly removes the tablecloth before continuing the story.
“He was always fishing. They were out in Active Pass one day where they usually fished.” Active Pass is a narrow channel between Gulf Islands traversed by whales, fishing boats, pleasure boats and ferries my dad would fish all summer day. “Your dad was fishing in the pass and he had a salmon on the line. The ferry gave a number of blasts on its horn and most of the boats scattered to the fringe to give right-of-way to the bigger boat. Not your dad. He had a fish. The deckhands on the main cardeck blasted their firehoses on the boat and soaked him but your dad, when he had an idea in his head . . . He had a fish on the line after all.”
Mum pauses for dramatic effect. She licks the tip of her finger and picks up crumbs that I’ve scattered in my haste to stoke my cells.
“The captain must have radioed harbour patrol because the two boats were at a standstill and within ten minutes the police were there. I remember the officer tossed me the boat keys and said, ‘You drive this thing home. He’s going to be awhile,’ and they took him off in their boat. God, your dad could be a jackass.” She shakes her head and grins. “What’s your reading?”
I prick my finger again with the lancette, and the glucometer winds out a reading. “9.8.”
“Can I have another bowl of ice cream?” says Jaret.
“Time to stop, then,” Mum says. “Your blood sugar’s okay now, stable and hasn’t changed for some time.”
“Hello?! Can I have some more ice cream?” says Jaret.
“Make sure you take some juiceboxes and put them beside your bed,” says Mum.
My eye looks back at me from the bead of insulin perched on the hollow tube of the needle shaft. Like staring into the barrel of a gun. There’s a rampant narcissism of the sick. A necessary convergence of modern medical science, technology, attention and care. Mum and Jaret, the doctors and nurses and lab technicians, they are all here to keep me alive. Their job is my survival, whether as a protagonist or an antagonist is secondary. That is how we function; that is how we get through.
Mum watches me walk off to bed. She will wake every two hours to test my blood, stand an extra minute in the doorway and watch me sleep.
“So was that a no for more ice cream?” whines Jaret as the room empties. He drinks down the tepid glass of orange juice, letting the cat lick the ice cream residue from between his fingers.