The pendulum swings thirty-six hundred times every hour, more than two billion times in a seventy year lifespan. The pendulum swings from night to day, from day to night. Tick. From birth to death, from death to birth. Tock. From marriage to divorce, from divorce to marriage. Tick. From success to failure, from failure to success. Tock. From tick to tock, from tock to tick. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Hickory dickory dock, here comes the doc. He smiles, unconvincingly. “Hi, how do you feel,” he asks.
“You tell me,” I answer.
He smiles again. It’s a joke he’s heard from me many times. Tick. But this time it comes out, “oo lel mah.” Tock.
He flips through the lab reports and his notes as though something might have changed since the last time he looked. Tick. He flips them back the other way. Tock.
“Well, Jack,” he begins. “You’ve had a stroke.” Tick. That’s what I told them when the paramedics picked me up. Tock. That’s what I told him when we met at the hospital. Tick. Of course, it came out, “eves appt uh tok.” Tock.
Time’s running out. Tock. I’ve read the reports. Tick. Chances are good for recovery from an ischemic stroke if you receive a clot-dissolving medication within three hours of onset. Tock. “So, get on with it already!” I scream. Tick. It comes out, “Siige nith uledy!” Tock.
The doctor smiles patiently then frowns a little as he launches into his explanation of the risks. Tick. “This will thin your blood and you could bleed out if you have anything like a bleeding ulcer or an aneurism.” Tock.
I’ve been lying here for the past two hours sending unanswered commands to my left leg and arm. Tick. Who gives a damn if I die. Tock. “Do you think I want to live this way?” I ask. Tick. It comes out, “Dizu tink iwat ivdisay?” Tock.
The doctor begins to explain the form I need to sign to authorize the treatment. Tick. I grab it from him. Tock. Nothing wrong with the right side of my body. Tick. I gurgle and wave frantically for the pen. Tock. He turns and reaches for a cup to give me some water. Tick. I throw it to the side and continue waving frantically. Tock.
The doctor turns to the nurse and they share a shrug. Tick. I fall our of the bed diving for the pen in the doctors’s pocket. Tock. Now there’s another delay as they help me back into bed. Tick. But my focus is clear and I take advantage of the nurses proximity to grab a pen from her pocket. Tock. She thinks I’m trying to grope her. Tick. She scowls at me. Tock. Tough. Tick. Where was that damn form? Tock. It fell to the floor. Tick. I roll off of the bed shoving the nurse aside in my descent. Tock. I pull the clipboard with the form out from under me. Tick. I sign it. Tock.
They help me back into the bed. Tick. The doctor tries to settle me down. Tock. “Panicking won’t help,” he says in a soothing voice. Tick. “You must remain calm or we’ll have to administer a sedative.” Tock.
“Give me the medicine to break up the clot,” I say as evenly as possible. Tick. It comes out, “ivmehmmmmm mekin t’eck ploss.” Tock.
The doctor nods to the nurse who leaves to get a syringe full of sedative. Tick. “No!” I shout. “Grro!” Tock.
The doctor holds my wrist. Tick. I shove him away and fall to the floor again. Tock. He curses.
An orderly rushes into the room but I beat him back with the clipboard. Tick. I wave it in the doctor’s face but he’s too busy ducking for cover to see my signature. Tock.
“Sluppid chit!” I scream.
I’m strapped in bed. Tick. The sedative is beginning to make the world slip into a foggy soup of soft edges and sibilant sounds. Tock. The doctor is asking the nurse if anyone had my emergency contact information. Tick. We’re nearing the three hour mark and they need someone to sign the form for permission to give me the clot-busting medication. Tock.
I wake up and rub my head with my left hand. Tick. Thank God. Tock.
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