Hypochondriac

The television was to blame.

At the end of the day, it was a daytime soap opera that gave Rosemary the Crohn’s Disease.

That hospital show. Actors playing well-groomed doctors and patients with sharp facial features and perfect teeth.

On one such episode, a doctor with a salt-and-pepper mullet is standing at the bedside of a Pollyanna with slightly disheveled salon hair. His hand on top of her hand, he is telling her, “I’m sorry. It’s Crohn’s disease.”

She presses her hand flat against the bosom beneath her hospital gown. The camera pushes in for a slow close-up of her face, her mouth slightly parted. There is a pause before she inhales and says, “I just thought it was a touch of the indigestion.”

The camera still pushing in slowly, her face and big hair fill the entire screen. She says, “This must be why I’m so fatigued lately.”

The screen fades to black and goes to commercial, and Rosemary hops from the couch and hurries to the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later she’s on the phone with her sister saying, “Crohn’s, Stella. Now I have the Crohn’s.”

Curled on the couch again, her feet tucked under her now ailing ass, she’s running her hand through her hair and saying, “I can’t stop shitting.”

On the television, the hospital show is playing without any volume. The word “MUTE” is cast in yellow over the teal scrubs of the ailing heroine.

On the phone, Stella is telling Rosemary how what’s-her-name down the street from her had the same thing and eventually had a bowel resection.

Rosemary, she gasps and puts a hand over her mouth, saying, “You’re kidding.”

No. This really happened.

“Oh my God.”

On the television, the female model-turned-soap-actress is wiping a tear from her eye.

On the phone, Stella is just now remembering how what’s-her-name was always saying how fatigued she felt.

“I’m fatigued too. It’s the Crohn’s.”

On the phone, Stella is  telling her how what’s-her-name eventually had to have an ileostomy.

“A what?”

On the phone, Stella is explaining an ileostomy.

“I’ve gotta go, Stella,” Rosemary says. “I’ve gotta shit again.”

 

The next morning, she is sitting at the kitchen table and dialing her boss’s number. Opposite her at the table her eleven-year-old son is looking at her over a short glass one-quarter full of cola.

Over the phone, she is telling her boss, “I have a stomach disorder.”

Telling him, “I’ve been in and out of the bathroom all morning.”

For added reassurance of the seriousness of the situation, she informs him of obligatory details, which include: symptoms, frequency of her bowel movements, firmness of her stool, what she had for dinner the previous night that may have caused this morning’s episode, results of her last colonoscopy.

In order to complete her prognosis to her boss, she assures him that today she will be seeing her doctor, who will refer her to a specialist, who will refer her to a technician for testing.

Over the phone, she is telling her boss that if he has to get a hold of her for any reason, he can leave a message on her voicemail. She will be unable to take any calls for the rest of the day, as she will either be at the doctor’s office or in the bathroom.

“Most likely, I’ll be in the bathroom,” she says.

She hangs up, and her son asks, “What are chromes?”

“Crohn’s,” she says. “It’s the Crohn’s disease.”

“Oh.”

“It’s like you’re constipated one minute, and the next minute you can’t stop going. And you feel fatigued all the time.”

“What’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “They might remove my bowel.”

“Oh.”

Her son slowly looks back down at his glass.

 

Two days later she’s at Applebee’s, waiting for her test results and ordering the chicken and broccoli fettuccine Alfredo—hold the Alfredo.

She tells the waitress, “I cannot have the Alfredo sauce.” She tells her, “I’ve been in the hospital for the past two days.”

The waitress looks at her, holding her pen over her little notepad.

Rosemary explains, “It’s my stomach disorder.”

The waitress blinks her eyes and asks, “So…just chicken and broccoli and fettuccine?”

“If I have the Alfredo sauce I’ll end up in the bathroom for hours.”

The waitress raises her eyebrows.

She looks down at her pad and scribbles.

Waiting for her food, she’s on the phone with her son while he’s at the convenient store, telling him, “And don’t forget to get me Diet Coke. Not Tab,”

Telling him, “Do…not…buy…Tab.”

Saying, “Last time you bought Tab, and I drank it, I was constipated for three days.”

 

Later that day she’s curled up on the couch and on the phone with Stella, saying, “They stuck a tube up my ass and pumped me full of barium.”

On the television, the evening news is playing without any volume.  The word “MUTE” is cast in yellow over the anchorman’s suite.

Rosemary, she is saying over the phone, “They couldn’t find a thing.”

Saying, “Not…a…goddamn…thing.”

At some point sooner than Rosemary expected, Stella had to get off the phone. Tired.

Fatigued.

Rosemary, she turns up the television volume with the remote control.

On the television, the anchorman is saying, “That headache just might be a brain tumor.”

Advising her, “Stay tuned.”

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Author: Joe Stallone

Fiction Writer

2 thoughts on “Hypochondriac”

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