There was a call.
“Your blood panel came back. We need you to come in for more testing.”
I had just gotten off from work. I was tired. I was hungry. I didn’t recognize the number of my doctor’s office at first, because I was a new patient.
“Can you come in tomorrow?”
“I work tomorrow, and I cycle everywhere. It’s kinda hard to get there. I know I have another appointment Tuesday. Can it be done then?”
“We need to see you as soon as possible.”
“Can you tell me anything more? I mean, what’s gone wrong?”
Blood panel results. This wasn’t anything related to a specific disease, then, a yes/no proposition, tested-for and known. This was some other kind of indicator, something off or odd, something like a clue to a bigger thing looming in the dark.
There was a shuffling, a moment’s hold, and one of the doctors was on the line.
“Is there anything you can tell me over the phone?”
“We found some dangerous abnormalities and need you to come in for more testing.”
“Okay,” I said. I knew saying that was a mistake— that word, “dangerous.” One doesn’t say things like that without a resolution, more information. Dissolve the narrative tension. But this was a new doctor there, a likable guy, obviously learning.
I am a creature prone to infections of the nighttime whatifs. Shel Silverstein observed them well: “Whatif I flunk that test?/ Whatif green hair grows on my chest?/ Whatif nobody likes me?/ Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?” My ears crawled with them. Night was not friendly.
I woke one final time at 8:15am, and took a shower. A very long shower, and my stomach lay at the bottom of the tub, the hot water unable to ease its knots. So I sat next to my stomach on the floor, letting the water run over me, long after I had finished washing.
“Okay,” I toweled off and said to my cat. “Okay, I should go.” She looked up at me with her green eyes and petted my leg with her paw while I pulled pants on. And I went.
The road shoulder along my southbound path was littered with debris. The first pop made me worry for my tires. The next pop made me look harder, and then there was a third, a seventh, a tenth.
They were snails. Hundreds and hundreds of snails, covering the bike lane, the white lines, trails glimmering their mucous glitter.
Pop. Pop pop pop.
My passing was a massacre, my bike wheels heavier than my worry. If there had been anything in my stomach, I’d have been sick.
By the time I arrived at the doctor’s, my tires were with slick with the corpses of snails, and there was no more weight of guilt or fear.
“How are you feeling today?” asked the receptionist.
“I’ll live,” I said. “Until I don’t.”
Narrative tension should be dissolved. High potassium was the test result. Everything else was normal, including my heart. Retesting was ordered.
Something to be monitored. Something that could be bad. Something that might be explainable by my water consumption habits (or lack thereof). Maybe. Maybe.
But maybe is enough of a flashlight, and I’m used to a number of uncertainties.