October 26, 2007
He went to the hospital one day to see if there was a cure for an ailment he did not now how to describe. Sometimes in the night he would lie awake, a feeling of doom thick in his throat–what has been left undone–what do I need to do. He would walk into a room filled with people and his upper back would tense and release in perfect rhythm to his breath. Eating dinner his arm would hesitate in mid-movement, a bite of food dangling in the air. He would catch his reflection in the mirror and jump–then stop, meet his own eyes and lose the time.
He knew something was wrong and went to the doctor for a solution. The receptionist asked him his reason for coming in and he replied, “I think I’m sick”. He was handed a clipboard and instructed to answer all of the questions to the best of his ability. Most of the lines were easy to fill out, his name and phone number, date of birth and address. Some puzzled him–histories of genetic disease–known allergens–what did these have to do with his problem? His name was called and he was led into a small room, shut in for privacy, posters of the ear canal displayed on the wall, alien-like diseases of the skin identified. He sits on the crinkly paper of the exam table/bed wondering what prior mucuses and infections had inhabited the very spots he touched. Were they screaming or was the life slowly draining away?
The doctor comes in, rather the nurse practitioner from the name tag–what is the difference–closes the door and puts out a hand.
“I’m Dr. Tyler, what seems to be troubling you today?”
“I feel like there is something wrong with me but I don’t know what.”
“Are you in any pain?”
He details the clenching of his back, the doom in his throat, the loss of time when he looks into his own eyes. The doctor explains that she is going to look into his eyes and throat, listen to his heart and breathing. He responds to the doctor’s instructions, breathing, opening the mouth, moving the eyes. When the doctor listens to the heart she pauses and steps back, “Is there a history of heart disease in your family?”
“I don’t know, my father I never met and my mother has never said anything to me about it. Why?”
“Your heartbeat is quite irregular, a pattern of beats I have not heard before in all my years of practice.”
“What does it sound like?”
“Well most heartbeats follow the same pattern a kind of two-beat cadence that signals the pumping of the heart and opening and closing of the ventricles between the chambers. This may sound strange but your heartbeat comes in a pattern of three–a thump-da-thump, thump-da-thump, thump-da-thump…kind of like a waltz.”
“That’s strange, I love a good waltz, in fact I feel most alive when dancing the waltz. I haven’t danced it in so long, would you mind?”
“This is very improper but yes I would like that very much.”
They opened the door and danced down the hallway, into other rooms and the office of the hospital. They danced to the cadence of his heart and he could feel his symptoms diminish considerably.