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After the Inventory

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David rolled over and grumbled as the alarm sounded from his phone near the bed. How could it be nine already? He tapped the offending sound to silent it and immediately covered his head with the comforter and curled into a ball beneath it, protesting the beginning of a new day.

Several deliveries had arrived at the store yesterday. Reluctantly, he aided Patrick moving way too many boxes into the storage room while providing assistance in re-organizing the overflow of product on the floor. Why didn’t he convince Stevie to come help for a case of that wine they had been trying to push unsuccessfully? Apparently radish-infused peach fruit wine from the Herb Ertlinger Winery was a taste acquired by only a few.

David stretched and felt every muscle he had spent years objecting to employ, twinge in disgust at his sudden movement. A small wave of nausea came over him with this unsettling ache. He laid still for a moment, letting it subside. After it passed, he decided to ultimately relent and rise from his cocoon to begin the impending duties of his day. A hot shower, and a favorite knit was enough to get him out the door and arrive just after ten to greet Partick at the store. “Good morning sweetie,” Patrick greeted.

“Morning,” David replied. Patrick stood clipboard in hand, eyes focused between the items on the shelves and the intricate spreadsheet printed before him. As much as Patrick loved spreadsheets, there was a feeling of nostalgia taking inventory by hand. He carefully marked the columns and rows looking forward to inputting the data and running the formulae.

David meandered over to give his husband a quick peck on the cheek before ducking into the storage room to drop his bag. He found a muffin and a latte on the desk in the back with a note. ‘Thanks for being my strong brave man. -P’ David smiled as his heart expanded knowing that he really had won. He had won it all and it didn’t matter who knew it or didn’t. He knew and that was all that mattered.

As he reached down to retrieve his breakfast, the pain from earlier resurfaced along the right side of his torso. Pausing for a moment, he realized he must have done more moving than he had thought. Waiting for the pain to subside, he took a deep breath as he leaned on the back of the chair. He made a mental note to ask Patrick for a massage tonight. Maybe he would get lucky and get a happy ending.

The pain having passed, he took his breakfast to the counter where he could watch his husband work. Patrick hated when David ate while on the floor. Something about being unprofessional but David didn’t want to sit in the poorly lit storage room alone, eating like a caged animal. This tiger needed to be free and available for all to admire. He pulled a stool to the counter and precariously placed himself where he was sure to be seen.

He began to peel the paper away from the oversized banana nut muffin as he gazed out the window observing the town. So much had changed for David over the last few years. He had arrived a pretentious, hyper-critical, closed-off emotional mess. Now, he was just pretentious enough. He was still critical of everyone he encountered, in his head at least. He now ran everything through his filter, Patrick, with a side-eye glance that expressed every thought with one well-placed eye roll. As for emotions, he was still a mess, but now he was an open book with footnotes, endnotes, tabbed chapters, a table of contents and an index.

David pinched a piece of the muffin from its top and brought it to his lips, only to be overcome with a sour feeling. The normally light, sweet aroma of a muffin just made his stomach turn. He put the muffin down on the counter and took a deep breath, slowly inhaling and exhaling. Patrick had rounded the far corner and saw David go white. “You ok?” Patrick asked, a look of concern replacing his normally calm exterior.

“Hmm.” David breathed out. “I think I’m going to vomit.” At that instant, he leaned down and did in fact vomit into the wastebasket. Patrick ran to his side instantly supporting David as he emptied his stomach. Fortunately, not much was in there and it was quickly over. David promptly became hysterical believing he was going to die. Patrick gently stroked his back as he stood him up and helped him make his way to the bathroom.

“Come on, I won’t let you die,” Patrick placated his overly dramatic husband. Patricked managed to get David to the bathroom and sat him on the toilet seat while he wet a washcloth and handed David a cup of water. “Here, take a sip and spit it out. It will make the taste go away.” In between wildly gesticulating hand gestures and facial expressions of histrionics, David managed to down half the dixie cup of water, swish it around and spit into the sink. Patrick placed the cool cloth across the back of his neck and held it in place with one hand while cradling David’s forehead with the other.

“Babe, you're burning up. Does anything else hurt?” Patrick looked over David’s body hoping to see something that would give him a clue as to what could be causing his love to be in pain.

“My side.” David creaked out, still breathing way too fast into the bowl of the sink.

“Which side? Right or left?” Patrick’s mind raced over his memory trying to recollect what side related to what illness.

“The right, up high.” David groaned as he moved to ease the discomfort. Patrick continued to support him, but was weary of touching the area that David mentioned.

“Ok, I’m making an executive decision. We’re going to the hospital.” Patrick pulled his cell phone out of his back pocket and quickly dialed Jocelyn while simultaneously hefting David to his feet and shuffled them both towards the door.

“Hey, Joc. Can you come keep an eye on the store? I’ve got a little medical emergency on my hands. No, I don’t need Roland’s suppository kit. Yes, the key will be in the usual place. I’ll call when I know more. Thanks.”
Patrick got David in the car and broke every speed limit “suggestion” on his way to Elmdale General. Finally, in the ER and David settled in a chair he approached the desk. “Hi. My husband is having some pain in his side and he vomited. He’s also running a fever,” he told the nurse at the desk.

“Fill these out and have a seat,” she replied, handing Patrick a clipboard without even looking up.

Patrick, usually calm and level headed, would normally follow the rules and do what is easiest to make the least amount of people uncomfortable even if it meant he was in pain. But, when it came to David he could not control himself for the safety and well-being of his husband. “NO!” he shouted. “My husband is sick and in pain and I want him seen now! Do you want me to invoke Shirley McClaine? I’ll do it! Now, get us some help!”

The nurse, full of shame, came around the desk with a wheelchair and followed Patrick over to David’s side. “Honey?” Patrick’s voice now several decibels lower,”We’re going to get you some help, ok? Let’s get in the chair.” David must have been in quite a lot of pain, because he didn’t even protest the sight of the maroon pleather chair and instead climbed in with Patrick’s aid.

Making their way through the double-swinging doors, the nurse wheeled David to a triage bed and drew the thin curtain around. Helping David into the bed, the nurse began taking vitals and asking questions, all the while, Patrick held his husband’s hand and stroked his head.

“102.5,” the nurse said as she entered information into the tablet on her arm. Patrick’s heart sank. How much pain was David actually in? He looked to David’s face, still tense and then down his body, which he had curled into a ball on the bed. Finished with vitals, the nurse tapped a few more entries on her tablet and let Patrick know the doctor would be with them shortly.
Patrick couldn’t imagine what David was feeling as he pretty much stopped talking after he got him into the car, save for a few moans and groans here and there when moving was required. Luckily, he had not thrown up again, so Patrick was slightly relieved.

The doctor came in through the slight opening of the curtain and brought a new nurse with him. Too many questions later, mostly addressed by Patrick, the new nurse started an IV and took blood for the tests the doctor ordered. “What do you think it is?” Patrick asked the doctor.

“Well, I’m not a betting man, but I’d put my money on gallstones. Sounds like this one doesn’t have the best diet in the world. The localization of the pain, the fever and vomiting seem to align. We’ll run the blood tests and get an ultrasound to be sure. Gallstones are pretty common and we can provide your husband with some relief and steps on how to avoid them in the future.” The nurse gave David a pain reliever through his IV and apparently it was quite strong, because by the time the doctor had left and the nurse had finished cleaning the station, David slowly uncurled from his ball and squeezed Patrick’s hand.

“Hey baby. How you feeling?” Patrick asked David softly and sweetly.
“It hurts.” David whimpered back.

“I know. But the doctor thinks it’s just gallstones and he’s going to run some tests. We’ll be home this evening and you can cuddle up and watch whatever movie you want.”

“Even Sixteen Candles?”

“Even Sixteen Candles.” Patrick knew he loved those 80's movies with the happy endings, even if they were a little unbelievable for his own taste. He would have preferred Field of Dreams.

Waiting for an orderlie to take David back for testing, Patrick held onto David, stroking wherever would cause him least pain and bring him the most comfort. David went from moaning slightly to mostly quiet, the pain medication easing his discomfort. He stayed with David for as much of the testing as possible.

Several hours later and lots of ups and downs trying to console David about his gallstones, which he swore only old ladies got, David was being released with some at-home care instructions, the most pressing being a more sensible diet.

“Guess no more ‘pizza for one’, honey.” Patrick chided as he supported David getting into the car. David frowned and huffed out a sigh. How would he live without his ooey, gooey pepperoni pizza stacked slice upon slice on the regular? “It’s ok. Maybe we’ll make homemade pizza with low-fat goat cheese and lots of veggies.”

“I’d rather die of gallstones.” David quipped back. Patrick knew he was feeling better, when his smirk spread across his face while buckling his seat belt.