With those three words, my world came crashing down.
My life would never be the same again.
The day started off in the typical fashion. It was a lazy Sunday and my wife and I repeated our standard ritual that hadn’t deviated much over the last ten years of our marriage.
Like clockwork she woke up before me, an early riser her whole life. She started the French press in the kitchen of our cozy apartment and once the pungent odour of coffee had wafted its way to my nostrils, I’d risen. I completed my morning ablutions and then joined her at our breakfast nook to enjoy a mug or two.
Our Sundays always felt right to me – like the soft embrace one would get from slipping on a pair of old, comfy college sweatpants, hugging the hips and leaving enough room to grow. Sure, it wasn’t the most exciting day for us, but we realized long ago that this was exactly what we wanted.
I padded over to where she was sitting on one of the two rustic wooden stools we’d managed to score, a lucky antiquing find refurbished over a decade ago on a past Sunday excursion, when we used to be more adventurous.
As I leaned down to kiss her, I could tell something was off. She seemed agitated. Unsettled.
“Everything OK, honey?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine.”
I felt a sudden, sharp stabbing behind my right eye. My eyelids pressed together in a feeble attempt to force down the searing pain, to blink it away, creases and folds rising up, puckering my face as I winced. The intensity stealing my breath, a quiet gasp escaping.
Stumbling and reeling, as though I’d downed half a bottle of cheap tequila, I reached out to steady myself on the counter. In that moment, I was drunk with pain. My wife didn’t move. She didn’t even notice. As soon as it had come, it had gone. No hangover.
I shook my head. Had it even happened? Was it imagined? Surely she would have seen my reaction?
“Are you sure?” I asked her as I put my hand on her shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. As my words and actions unfolded, my mind still considered what I had just experienced.
Another searing blast of lighting coursed through my face. My hand left her shoulder and the heel of my palm pressed forcefully into my right orbit, bracing against the unrelenting onslaught. I’ve never had migraines before, but could this be it? As soon as the thought entered my mind, the pain was gone. Vanished. She hadn’t moved. She hadn’t noticed.
What the hell was going on?
She looked up at me and smiled, the soft corners of her mouth teasing upward, stretching her full lips. I would recognize her smile anywhere, the way it would light up her face, but this time her eyes looked different. They were full of something I couldn’t quite place. Confusion? Anger? Sadness? Resignation?
Taking the cue that she didn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering her, I figured I’d give her some space. I was sure she’d tell me when she was ready.
I made my way, coffee in hand, to the living room and plunked myself down on the plush couch to start the other half of my Sunday ritual. As I fired up the gaming console and prepared to do battle online for the next few hours, she came by and said she was going to step out.
As she turned to step out the door, another blistering spasm of pain shot through my face, worse than before. Infinitely worse. As with the others, she didn’t notice, and it was gone as though it was a figment of my imagination, the dredges of a dissipating nightmare, present but invisible, only the feeling remaining.
After playing for a couple hours, my bladder, in its supreme power, forced me to take a break. We had not scotch-guarded the sofa, so risking incontinence was not an option.
While washing my hands, I noticed something that I hadn’t noticed earlier – my medication was misplaced. I had taken my pill that morning, I was sure of it. It was part of my routine. Pee. Wash hands. Brush teeth. Pop the little blue pill. My bottle was shifted over one spot. Had I taken the wrong medication? I had been pretty groggy this morning, having been up late playing video games again.
I reached out and picked up the doppelgänger container. It was similar in size, shape, and heft but was empty. I spun it around in my hands to read the label.
I didn’t recognize it. It definitely wasn’t my stuff. And it wasn’t my wife’s as far as I knew. Where did this come from?
I remember taking the last pill. I had turned the container upside down to coax the remaining solitary pill into my palm. I’d told myself that I’d call the pharmacy to get the refill. I hadn’t been paying attention as I popped the little red pill into my mouth, it was such an automatic action.
I’d taken the wrong medication. Fuck me, why didn’t I pay more attention?
My facial pain…of course…it was my body reacting to the unknown drugs. I did a quick self-scan but didn’t feel anything was out of place, at least I didn’t feel like I was going to drop dead.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the label was one of those peel-back types, the ones that had instructions in the tiniest font printed on the inside. Using the edge of my nail I managed to separate the layers.
Warning: The powerful medication contained in this special pill should only be used under the direction of a trained professional. The effects are permanent and irreversible. Always knowing the truth, and discerning lies, can have devastating consequences for those not prepared to have that knowledge.
I now realized that every time my wife had lied to me that morning I had felt pain. That was the power of that pill. It let me know if she was telling the truth or not. My eyes opened wide in awe.
“This is going to be AMAZING.”
The realization of my power finally hit me, I looked up at myself in the bathroom mirror, still clutching that empty pill bottle, a huge grin had spread across my face.
And then the second realization hit me harder, my smile crumbled.
As she’d left, I’d told her I loved her.
She’d automatically replied…
“I love you.”
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
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