This is a really bad headache. The pain was unbelievable in CAD class at the start of the day, and it’s only gotten worse since then. Sometimes I try to tough it out and endure the day when I get these things, but this one is overwhelming. The school is too loud and too bright. I have to get out of here.
This means going to the nurse’s office. I do the math: She will make me lay around for twenty minutes to see if my migraine will magically go away for no reason. She will also take my temperature for no reason, because that’s what she always does. After that she’ll cave and call somebody to come get me. This might take some time, depending on how many of my relatives she needs to call. They probably won’t dash out of the house the moment they hang up the phone. It will probably take them forty-five minutes to get here. Then half an hour to get home. That part of the process will be rough. I’ll be in a moving car in stop-and-go traffic, with the sun beating me in the face. That will bring me to one of those moments where I wish I could just throw up instead of enduring the nausea. Once I get home, it will take me a couple of minutes to down some ineffectual painkillers, get an ice pack, and tumble into my bed with the lights off and the ice on my face.
So, if I go to the nurse right now, it will be two more hours of noise and pain before I can escape the unwanted sensory input and simply enjoy the headache at the baseline level of agony. Dark, quiet, ice on face, excruciating pain. That’s the goal.
I wish I’d gone earlier in the day. This is worst headache I’ve ever had, and I’m actually getting scared at how bad it is. I didn’t know it was possible for a headache to hurt at this magnitude. Can a headache get so bad it hurts you? Can you die from a headache?
The nurse greets me with a heavy sigh, clearly annoyed that I’m interrupting her busy day of caring for a room of empty cots. She’s a barrel-shaped woman in her early fifties, with a face that seems to default to a disapproving scowl. She takes my temperature. She does not let me lay down for twenty minutes. She ignores everything I tell her, and boots me back out as soon as possible. She scolds me for wasting her time, and sends me back to class. I can’t argue because I can barely communicate. I can’t think. I can’t speak. Usually my headaches appear behind one eye or the other, but this headache is mercilessly ambidextrous.
I’m having some sort of strange auditory hallucination where everything sounds like a third-generation echo. I can’t understand things people are saying to me. This is the worst headache of my life.
I stagger through the final hours of the day. I walk with my head down, eyes peeking at the floor directly in front of me. I try putting my hands over my ears, but that doesn’t really help with the auditory distortion. Whatever is going on, it’s happening inside my brain. I put my head down in every class and people seem to understand not to mess with me. Lots of people can tell I’m suffering just by the look on my face. I endure a couple of classes, a study hall, and the long bus ride home. I curse the newly-installed speed bumps in the parking lot, which are so steep they cause the entire bus to a experience a tooth-loosening shudder, even at crawling speed. (Interestingly, the speed bumps have a gap around either side so that speeding teens can drive their nimble little cars around the bump. The speed bumps are apparently only here to shake the joints of the bus riders and destroy the suspensions of the school district’s own busses.)
The bus is naturally a rougher, louder, and less direct means home. I don’t have a watch, but I think the trip lasts somewhere in the ballpark of ten thousand years.
The bus drops me off and I stagger to the front door, only to discover that I forgot my key this morning. Mom isn’t home. Pat is visiting friends. I lean into the door, face-first, if only to get the sun out of my eyes for a few seconds. Inside, just on the other side of the door, is the comfort I’ve been working towards for the last four or five hours.
I drag myself around the house and climb up onto the deck. I can only hope the door from the kitchen to the deck is unlocked, or I’m doomed. The climb involves doing a chin-up, then stepping up using a window sill, then pulling myself up over the railing. It’s only a mild challenge under normal circumstances, but it turns out to be kind of dicey when I’m dizzy, muddle-brained, and half-blind. The door is unlocked.
I get my ice and collapse into bed.
The next day the headache is gone, and I am enraged. I see my ordeal as a long expanse of completely needless suffering. I’m eighteen. Even if I had been playing sick as she suspected, I am old enough to be making decisions for myself at this point. If I had some means of getting home, I’d have simply cut school for the rest of the day and accepted whatever pointless punishment they cared to throw at me. She’s a nurse, not a babysitter, and there was no reason to refuse to send me home.
Mom drives me to school and has a meeting with the nurse. Her goal is to let this woman know that if I show up with any more headaches, I should be sent home immediately.
“Oh!”, the nurse says as soon as Mom brings up the day of the headache, “You know, he was the last thing I needed that day.”
I’m standing right here, so this is a pretty rude thing to say. Also: Is she somehow trying to make us feel sorry for her?
“Yes, but Shamus gets very serious headaches…” Mom tries to explain.
“Oh I know, I get headaches too,” she says in a dismissive voice.
Mom continues to try, but I can tell this conversation is over. This nurse is too stupid to handle the various intricacies of interpersonal communication, human behavior, or nursing, and so she has secured a job where she does no nursing, administers no medicine, and cares for no patients. Her only concerns are using the thermometer and the telephone, when she can be bothered.
I have been terrified of graduation for a long time, but my fear of the future is slowly being eroded by my absolute white-hot hatred for the incompetence, foolishness, ignorance, stupidity, and mindless bureaucracy of this system which has now devoured thirteen years of my life.
This is a shame, since I seem to have inadvertently failed a course required for graduation. I’m going to be here for a little while longer.
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