Chains of Iniquity
By Coto T. King
Inspired by a true story.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Forgiving never means forgetting.
It means letting go so that you can move on.
– Tony Evans
Disclaimer: Chains of Iniquity (Copyright 2020 by Coto T. King) is a Work of Fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events or conversations is purely coincidental.
I was standing in my dining room, Seven and Coke in hand, and looking out my sliding glass door to my backyard, watching the beautiful July sunset go down. It had been another hot and humid evening in Texas. Summertime was just starting and the steamy temperatures were already hitting 99 degrees during the daytime. Roland and I had just enjoyed a super spicy dinner of beer bratwurst with candy jalapenos on toasted butter bread, and a side of seasoned spicy corn on the cob that was roasted on the barbecue pit. As I watched a red cardinal land on the back fence, I felt a small pain in my chest, just below my heart and above my stomach, where the two sides of my rib cage meet.
It had to be heartburn, I thought to myself, but in the tiny corner of my mind came the thought “I never get heartburn”. I was getting older, and my insides were probably rebelling against the candy jalapenos, or maybe even the spicy corn. It was just a mild pain, I thought to myself as I went to the bathroom medicine cabinet looking for Roland’s antacids.
Roland and I had been living together for eight years. He was a handyman by trade, and a brilliant musician. His whole family was musically talented, from his sister being a Jazz singer in the Army, to his father being Maestro for the New York Symphony. Roland starred in his own band called Pitchfork, which he played lead guitar to his original music in small clubs around Houston. I was attracted to his musicianship, his very long hair, and his lightning fast funny responses to everything and everyone around him. He had the silver tongue that made everyone listen to him. Everyone wanted to be around him, and I saw him through complete rose colored glasses.
I stood there looking into the bathroom mirror thinking, “Maybe it wasn’t just heartburn. Maybe the dry heaves I keep getting, are a sign of something terrible.”
Just last month we went to one of Roland’s friend’s house for a dinner party. Sam had made stuffed BBQ shrimp and steaks on the grill. The meal was wonderful, and of course, there was a never ending flow of drinks. We had stayed way into the night partying and drinking. Both Roland and I were highly intoxicated, so Sam was gracious enough to allow us to spend the night.
Sometime in the wee hours of the night, I was overtaken with the dry heaves. I had gotten up to find my way into the bathroom. Bent over the sink, I turned on the cold water full blast and stuck my right wrist face up under it. I felt like my throat was closing and I started to gag. My stomach started to convulse. I couldn’t stop retching, and the cold water wasn’t working to calm anything. I used to think the retching was due to anxiety but now I wasn’t so sure. My stomach and my throat started to hurt from hacking up nothing for hours on end, and still the retching wouldn’t stop.
It was getting light outside, and the people in Sam’s house were starting to stir. My hacking had subsided enough for me to finish getting dressed and grab my keys. I had to get out of the house before someone heard me getting sick. I made my way out to the driveway, and slid into the drivers seat of my car. I put the keys into the ignition and turned on the AC full blast. The ice cold air usually helped to get my mind off of heaving. As I sat there trying not to think, I was unaware that all the people had left Sam’s house. I heard a knock on the car window. Roland had come to check on me.”Are you ok? Can we go home now?” I’m so glad he cares so much.
When we got home I grabbed a blanket, and settle into the recliner to watch TV. I was shivering because I was exhausted. “That’s all it is,” I thought. I was convinced at the time, that there was nothing else wrong with me. Life went on, and the party’s never stopped.
Still feeling the after effects of Roland’s hot and spicy dinner, I walked to my bathroom and stood looking in the mirror perhaps it’s not heartburn, perhaps its something more horrible. As quickly as that thought entered my mind, I pushed it to the back of my brain.
I dug around in the medicine chest, looking for the antacid pills. “There are no dry heaves associated with this pain,” I reasoned that in had to be the spicy food, and the extra stress I had been under lately. It had been a rough couple of months. My father had died in a Galveston hospital bed in November 2004. Rosco, my dog of 14 years, had died on my back patio in February 2005, then Roland’s father, a man that treated me as his own, had died in his small New York apartment in March 2005, just a few short months ago. So many deaths so near to me, the stress of it all was sometimes unbearable. It left me very sad.
Grabbing the antacid tablets, and another Seven and Coke, Roland and I settled down to watch a movie on TV. About an hour into the movie, the pain in my chest was getting stronger. The antacid tablets were not working. I knew there had to be something stronger that I could take for this pain, after all, “antacid tablets where for upset stomachs, not heartburn, weren’t they?” I reasoned with myself. Maybe I could find a home remedy, or something stronger that the corner drug store would carry. Under Roland’s protests for stopping the movie, I threw on some clothes to at least look presentable to a drug store attendant, I grabbed my purse, hopped into the car, and off I went.
As I was searching for the medicine at the store, the pain was getting worse, and my stomach was getting a little bloated. “I just ate too much! I’ll be fine!” I kept reminding myself.
Paying for what I thought might work on my heartburn, I got in the car and read the directions on the package. “Take one pill every 4 hours for heartburn pain.” Thinking one would be good, two had to be better – right? Grabbing the bottle of water I kept in the car, I downed two pills and headed back home.
As I walked into my house, the TV was off, and I found Roland on his computer in the back room, no longer interested in watching the rest of the movie since I had interrupted the flow of it all with my leaving to the drug store. No big deal, I can finish watching the movie in our bedroom. As I poured another Seven and Coke, I noticed the pain was getting worse, and my breathing was getting a little labored. “I just ate to much!” I kept reminding myself. Lying down in bed should help the medicine to work, and I would be feeling better real soon. I was sure of it.
Another hour passed and it was getting harder and harder to breathe easy. Panic started to creep into every nerve ending in my body. I slowly got out of bed. Slumped over, I painfully walked to the computer room where Roland was doing whatever Roland does on his computer.
“I need an ambulance,” I told him trying not to sound scared.
“Are you sure Sans?” Sans was his nickname for me. “Ambulance rides are very expensive even with insurance” he said still facing his computer screen.
I was so glad he was finally thinking about my expenses. “I think I need a doctor, my chest hurts bad,” I said taking a shallow breath, “It’s hard to breathe.”.
With reluctance, he got up, “I need to take a shower first. I don’t want to go out in public looking like this.”
So I laid back in bed and waited until he was ready to drive me to the emergency room. It didn’t bother me that he chose to take a shower, and that it took priority over my life and well being. Somewhere in the tiny corner of my head said that it just didn’t matter anymore.
After primping his hair, brushing his teeth, picking out the perfect clothes, and putting on his best smelling cologne, he was finally ready. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less what I looked like. I had on the oldest torn t-shirt I had, and shorts. My hair was a mess, and I didn’t care to brush it. As I grabbed my pillow off the bed to hold over my stomach to help ease the pain, we got into the car and started the 15-minute journey to the nearest emergency room. I felt every rock we drove over, as the shock waves from it rattled thru my entire body, which was now racked with excruciating pain.
Finally, we arrived at the hospital. All the parking spaces were filled near the emergency room door, so we had to park about 100 feet away. That was about 99 feet to far for me. I got out of the car and could not straighten up because my insides hurt so much. I had to walk bent over, and even doing that took great effort.
As the doors slid open to the emergency room I looked around and the place was packed. I walked over to one of the only chairs still available and sat down. I couldn’t sit straight up, and the pain was getting worse by the minute. I was clutching my stomach, as my breath became more labored and shallow.
Richard headed to the nurses station to check me in. As he approached, that charm of his was on full blast.
“Can I help you?” the pretty nurse said.
“My girlfriend is sick and needs to see a doctor. Her stomach hurts.”
I watched him as he flirted with the nurse that was writing down my information.
“So what do you do for a living?” she asked bating her nine pounds of eyelashes at him.
“I’m the lead guitarist for a band called Pitchfork.” He flipped his waist long hair over his chest. “You should come see us play at the Rock On Club tomorrow night. It’s over on Weistheimer”.
He was such a pretty boy, with dreamy blue eyes.
“Ask for me, and you won’t have to pay a cover charge.”
I couldn’t watch him flirt anymore. I had to think of something else. I had to re direct my mind off the increasing pain in my body and the pain that was now growing in my heart. Time was dragging by as I sat there watching everyone get admitted before me. Ambulances kept arriving, and the EMT’s took their wards straight in to see the doctors. I knew I should have called for an ambulance. I said to no one in particular. I would have already gotten help by now.
Another hour went by, and a nurse finally called me into a small room. But to my dismay, it was only a triage room where she took my vitals and promptly made me go back and sit in the waiting room. Time was starting to stand still. I was getting very tired. It was hard to think straight.
“Sandy Ryan?” I heard a nurse say, and I almost passed out, not from the shock of finally being called, but from the physical pain that I was in. An orderly helped me into a wheel chair. Finally, I got to see beyond the double doors that had barred me from help for so long.
He wheeled me into the first exam room that was empty, and helped me into the bed as the nurse prepared to hooked me up to an IV. My only thoughts were “Someone is finally going to help me.”
As the IV tried to replace the fluids that I had lost, I waited again for a doctor to come. The pain was getting so bad that my mind was shutting down. I shut my eyes and tried to think of something that didn’t resemble pain.
She injected the morphine into the IV. It was only moments before I felt the effects. My eyes closed as the darkness enveloped me. I drifted off into the nether.
I was there for what felt like seconds when I felt hands on me. The morphine was wearing off. The pain had returned in force. Roland was standing next to me.
“Where am I? What is going on?” I was frightened beyond belief.
“It’s OK Sans,” he hesitated, “It’s going to be OK. They are just moving you into your own room.”
That didn’t help, I was still very frightened. My mind was trying to come out of the dark fog. I tried to concentrate as best I could. I tried to remember what had happened. Why do I hurt so much? Why was I here? Why couldn’t I think straight?
I told Roland to call my sister Isabella, because in the only part of my mind that could still think, told me that I was dying.
“Call here, tell her to come.” I said between the shortened breaths, “tell her I don’t think I’m going to make it.” I pleaded.
The nurse injected me with another shot of morphine and I went back to the sweet darkness where there was no pain, except this nothingness was powerful. It was a total eclipse of my mind that went from light to dark in an instant. I fell without objection, into the giant black hole of the universe. That huge void that living minds struggle to comprehend.
The black hole that was completely filled with absolute nothingness.
I couldn’t think.
I couldn’t speak.
I couldn’t hear.
I couldn’t move.
I couldn’t feel.
I wasn’t there.
I didn’t exist.
There was nothing, and for how long there was nothing, I had no idea. Time was not a concept. It was the absence of everything known. There was no pain. There were no memories. My being was simply not there anymore.
There was nothing to fight, nothing to call out to, nothing to feel, nothing to understand.