I recently watched the classic 90s movie True Romance, a film about killing people, unconditional love and killing more people. The moral of the story: Love is a war that kills a lot of people. Love when you are sick is not quite as gruesome, but things still get a little messy. Indeed romance seems best left to the healthy people, so you get your kicks in other ways.
The latest treatment protocol involved a vitamin IV drip. Like everything else, it was experimental, and although it showed some promise in some people, there was no guarantee that it was going to help anything. Still, on that first morning, I couldn’t help feeling like a celebrity, ready for my weekly treatment with something deemed the Perfect Fit or Forever Young by those in the know.
I walked into a back room and sat on a cushion embroidered and fairly-traded by endangered indigenous Indians in some jungle or another, and flipped through a health-earth-love conscious magazine featuring Bono while I waited for the doctor. She entered, hair flowing, a look in her eyes that told me she was (mostly) just naturally high on life. “Are you ready to feel better?” she asked, putting her face a little too close to mine. Given that I was horribly sick for a second time and that I had been unwell for almost eight months, I disregarded the question as unbearably futile, like cheerfully asking a bunch of WWIII survivors, “Are you ready for this nuclear winter to be over?”
“Now, I have to warn you,” she began as she wheeled over the metal coat rack that served as an IV stand, “You may experience some unusual side effects from this treatment.” She took out a long clear bag from a drawer marked “Biohazard.” It was filled with a fluorescent orange liquid. Sparkling green jewels floated in this thick syrup, appearing and disappearing as they caught the light, reflecting and scattering the dream-of-better-days-ahead across the walls.
“You may feel an odd sensation…a sort of warmth…” she said hesitantly, sweet maté breath wafting seductively towards me, “…some stimulation…and not just of the immune system!” She cracked a smile. And then I think she may have even winked. Nothing like intravenous infusions of high concentrations of essential nutrients to really Get The Job Done.
I lay down, rolled up my sleeve and held out my arm. She threaded the IV needle into my vein. As the liquid began to sink into my body, she turned at the door, pausing for one last knowing look. Then she winked again and was gone.
At first, I didn’t feel anything. The bag slowly drained, and I slowly became more and more bored. Then, quite abruptly, there was this taste in my mouth—metallic and sweet, like I was sucking on a coin-flavored lollipop. I began to feel warm, the heat spreading from my belly toward my outer extremities. It was pleasant, and I settled into it. But the fire kept going, stoked by the hazardous waste material sliding around my arteries, aggravating my plasma as it tried to assimilate. Everything felt hot. I began to sweat. I began to breathe faster. And then my body broke out in red splotchy hives, arms and legs and torso and face covered with the dermal expression of this internal roasting.
Apparently, this was not a normal reaction. This was an allergic reaction. And this was the end of my experimental IV treatment.
A week later, and I was back at the doctor’s office. We decided to switch to pure B-12 vitamin shots instead of the IV drip, although this would not prove to be any less titillating.
I sat on the exam table, staring absently out the window and at the medical instruments lining the shelves. The door opened and suddenly there was this wind that smelled like animals mating and summer bike rides. And there, in blue scrubs and a million dollar smile, was my male-nurse-in-shining-armor. “Hello,” he said in an impossibly deep and sexy voice. “Do you mind if I take some vitals?” At this point, I began to believe that I had somehow been transported from my life as a sick person into a romance novel about life as a sick person. “Your heart rate…your blood pressure…mysteriously higher today,” he told me, breathlessly, eyes sparkling like a mythical creature. He held up a long thin syringe. “This will need to be administered in your gluteus maximus,” he said, seating himself on a stool while subtly flexing every muscle in his body. “You must be kidding?” I blushed.
He was not kidding.
I unbuttoned the top of my pants, pulled down my jeans slightly, turned and bent over. A mix of emotions overwhelmed me—shock, panic, giddiness, love—as he unexpectedly began violently rubbing an alcohol swab back and forth over my exposed skin. Every part of my rear end jiggled at his eye level. “A trick I picked up in the ER to numb the nerve endings,” he said, looking mischievous. Before I could comment, he slowly and carefully injected me with vitamin fluids and tenderly placed a round Snoopy band-aid on the needle prick. I sighed and he sighed.
A week later and I was eagerly awaiting my date—I mean, appointment. But a different (older, fatter, uglier) lady nurse walked in. She stabbed me with the needle and sent me on my way, not even a bandage to distract me from the pain of a shot in the ass.
It was therefore with a moan of relief (and a turn of the butterflies in the stomach) that I greeted Mr. Sex Nurse as he walked into the exam room the following week. My over-rehearsed opening line: "It’s been a while. I’ve missed your approach to giving shots. It’s…different than the other nurse.”
"Oh. Am I gentler?” he asked, and I could see my future children in his eyes. “Well, I don't have to be if you don't want me to."
In the days and months of ill health that followed, this weekly medical flirtation would be the extent of my love life. Well, at least it didn’t kill me.