More Than A Headache Published – Kind of

Back in November I submitted a blog post to my school’s literary magazine. I got an email today saying that they decided to include it into the 2015 edition. I was invited to read it as well. This is what was published. I’ll take pictures as soon as I get my hands on a copy!



Unsympathetic Nurses (Memories of High School)

Eighth period was French class. My visit to the nurse was not restricted to French class but two o’clock seemed to be when my headache would make its presence very known and I couldn’t take it anymore. I only would ask to go if we were doing busy work, something I could easily make up. If my teacher was in the middle of a lesson, I’d suffer through it. My teacher would sign my pass book, allowing me to leave. She was fairly sympathetic, giving me a “feel better dear” but it lacked any real emotion. It did at first, it was true sympathy but she saw it as a bad habit, trying to get out of class. If only. I would make the short journey to the nurse’s office. The hallways were empty, the white walls bare. The visit to the nurse and the discussion was rehearsed. It would take the same number of steps. On the bad days, I would lean against the wall, dragging my shoulder along to the nurse’s office.

I would stand in the door way before being waved in. “Do you have a pass?” would be the first thing she ever asked me. I probably could have walked in there bleeding everywhere or vomiting and still be asked for a pass.

“Yeah. I have, um, a headache,” I would manage, a little distracted from the ache in my head, the brain fog rolling in. ‘Migraine’ wasn’t part of my vocabulary yet.

“Sit down.”  There was an old brown couch in the front of the nurse’s office. When you sat down, a dust cloud would spray around your thighs. I coughed. The musty smell wafted up into my nose, my head throbbed. Usually, another kid or two, looking either sicker than me or completely fine would be sitting on the couch too. The kid who looked completely fine would give me a knowing smile, thinking that I too was faking it. Was there some sort of comradery of skipping out of classes and wasting the nurse’s time? Was I missing it? The kid who looked sick, did not look at me or anyone, he would keep eye contact with the trash bin. One by one, we would be called back. The kid who is a little green would go first. He’d be sent to lie down after describing what he was feeling through clenched teeth. The next kid would go back, completely fine. I could hear them in the back.

“I have a really bad headache,” he would lie.

Liar. I would hiss in my mind. Liar.

“Do you want Tylenol?” the nurse would ask, monotone and void of all emotion, her eyes never leaving the screen as she entered the information onto the computer.

“Can I just lay down for a bit?” he would ask. I somehow doubted the math exam or English paper due was worth lying down next to the kid about to vomit the “chicken” he ate for lunch really was worth it.

I was called back. I stood on uneasy feet.  “I have a headache.” I would say after sitting down. The bell rang. I could hear the rumble of the other kids in the hall. The nurse looked me over, giving me a knowing look, pursed lips and cocked eyebrows, a not too subtle eye roll. It said, ‘What class are you trying to get out of? You’re wasting my time.”

I’m sure the other boy got the same look but I’m sure it didn’t affect him as much. I was in pain, my head throbbed in time with my heart, my eyes hurt – the lights too bright and fuzzy. The look was cutting. Liar, my mind echoed but the pain was real. I knew it all too well at this point.

Without looking up from her computer as she typed in my complaints, she asked, “Do you want Tylenol?” I asked for Aleve. I wasn’t offered the cot to lie down. She unlocked the cabinet, fished out a small packet of generic Aleve, gave me a small cup of tap water and handed me both.

I ripped open the pack, two pills tumbled out. Panic filled me. At this point, I was taking four Aleve at a time to find the littlest bit of relief. Two wouldn’t cut it. “Can I have four?” I asked. Two too many, it was stupid but I didn’t know any better.

“No,” was the short answer. I swallowed the two she gave me with a sip of water. She sent me back on my way to class. I had to pick my things up from French before heading to English, my shoulder digging into the wall as I walked, the hallways empty.


Not Sorry

Throughout our little meeting, I know I’m not myself. My head just grates, every sound, every bit of light, every smell. Of course I’m in a restaurant where my senses are being assaulted from every corner, the slamming of the plates in the bus boy’s plastic bin, the audible clink of the plates hitting the counters, the smells from the foods, everyone’s talking, all the swinging lights above the tables, all the glints from the passing cars outside, the glare from the sun off the snow, all the sun pouring in through the window. All of it is barely too much. It’s not bad, I’m not curled up in a ball crying – not yet. I’m bobbing at the surface, coming up for air before sinking back down into the absent bliss. I’m not on autopilots yet. We eat our entire lunch this way. She talks a lot, we’re catching up. It’s good because I have nothing to say. My brain is empty.

It’s after the grating headache passes – five days later that I remember it and I’m embarrassed. I feel guilty.


But why should I? I can’t help it. If I could I would and we’re close enough that she knows that. So, I send her a message.

Don’t apologize – don’t apologize! I think to myself. You have nothing to be sorry for – it’s not your fault it’s not anyone’s fault.

I type out sorry before erasing it. I just explain that I wasn’t feeling well but it happens. I tell her I was happy to see her and everything.

She replies that I don’t need to be sorry, that she was happy to see me too.

It wasn’t an apology.

Conversations 33

My friend is talking, I block out her inane chatter. She’s going on about herself again, whatever. We’re both standing in the door way to my favorite professor. I rest my temple on the cool doorway, rubbing my face on it. Letting the coolness seep into my hot skin, dulling the ache.

“All right Em?” she asks.

“I’m working on something,” I gesture around my head.

She grimaces. She knows.

“I don’t think it’s going to turn into a migraine,” I get out and move my head to a new cool spot on the door frame. Ah, relief again, “If it does, I have imitrex,” I say.

She laughs and apologizes.

It’s the same bitter laugh I’ve perfected, mocking the fake safety net. It doesn’t work for her, it’s like throwing a cup of water on a house fire. It works for me though but I won’t take it as long as I have to be functioning.