One Year Ago, To The Moment, I Was Having A Heart Attack

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I was in the emergency room, nurses hooking wires up to me, regretting the decision.  They were making such a big deal of this.  I was only doing this for safety’s sake.  I had a date planned that night dancing, and I wanted to be rested, and oh Lord the bills.
Why had they whisked me past the glum room full of people waiting?  People clutching hands with actual wounds?
They gave me nitroglycerin, which didn’t reduce the pain in my chest but instead gave me a piercing headache.  Proof that this was just indigestion.  My Dad had been to the ER twice with indigestion.  I had a date.  Gini was away on a date with her boyfriend, and I didn’t want to text her because she’d panic.  The EKG-stickers tug on my chest hair, I’m in that ass-exposing gown, people are rushing in and out and I didn’t even charge my cell phone all the way.  I hope I get out before the charge fades.
I wonder when Gini will wake up.  She sleeps late, at her boyfriend’s house.  I’ll tell her this afternoon, once I’m back at the house.
And this morning, a year later, I’m cuddled up with Gini.  I asked her to make an extra-nice day of it, and so there was much laughter in our too-big bed.  The day feels weird, because it’s not just a history I shouldn’t have lived to see – I was 99% blocked in three of the main arteries in my heart – but I also had flashbacks all last night.
Not heart flashbacks.  Relationship flashbacks.  Someone had emailed me, asking if I had the link for the essay I wrote on what it was like when Gini fell out of love with me.  When I’d clung to her too close, needing reassurance for goddamned everything, and damn near splintered our marriage.  When I’d learned, haltingly, to self-soothe so I didn’t have to bug her every five minutes, but I’d done irreparable damage and she returned from an eight-hour trip to Philadelphia to realize that…
…she didn’t love me.  Hadn’t for several months now.
No, she didn’t want me to move out, not yet.  She’d been planning a divorce, she’d realized.  Not explicitly, but I’d been intolerable and the arc of our relationship was headed for splitsville – which was fine when I’d acted like an ass, but I’d actually turned myself around and she’d started to remember why she’d liked me, but love?  No.  That was gone.
So we spent several long months where occasionally I told Gini, “I love you,” and she responded with a still silence.
That love grew back, of course.  Like my heart.  But in Googling that essay I found all the other LJ hits from the early days of our marriage, seeing all the dysfunctional things that we did, the horrible ways we treated each other, the steps we had to make to somehow luckily stumble towards what we are.  And we’re so happy these days that those essays seem like nightmares, letters written from the deepest circle of Hell – the times when we never forgave for old wounds, when we didn’t trust each other enough to marry our money or our possessions because on some level we wanted to keep ’em separated to make it easier for when we departed, all the lies and bad habits and awfulness that have been worn away over the years.
If it had ended on the operating table – and that would be five days from now – I would have been blessed, so blessed that I had literally forgotten all the hard work to lead to what is an idyllic marriage.  (An idyllic marriage filled with an occasional blowout fight, but if you don’t have those every once in a while I’m of the opinion that you’re probably not discussing anything of worth.  Our fights belie the idyll – which, as my Firefox spellchecker tells me, is an actual word.)
Last night was the clips episode of any long-running show, where you see all the drama brought back in snippets of memory.  A lot of them were bad.  But those memories inform who I am now.  All the sacrifice and pain, both in terms of the gaping scar on my chest and the furrows in my metaphorical heart, remind me how terribly sweet things are now.
There are alternate histories littered behind me.  Ones where the doctors stitched my spatchcocked dead body up so I’d be presentable at the morgue.  Ones where I exist alone now, one bitter divorce in my past, living in an apartment, maybe with someone in an even more dysfunctional relationship – because without Gini to have blunted some of my sharper edges, I’d probably still be tumbling from awfulness to awfulness.
There are worse places to be.  One of the points of divergence starts now, with me on that table in the ER – or me shuffling around the house, taking Advil to quell the pain, ignoring the pressure because I’m too young to be having an actual heart attack.
I only wrote the words “heart attack” at the end of 2013, in a text to a friend.  Before that, it was a “heart incident,” much like I used to say that Gini and I were “having issues,” not “almost divorced.”
The terminologies change.  I can acknowledge how bad it was only in light of that danger being past now.
I’m in love with a beautiful wife, and I had another year to spend with her, and I had a sharp reminder of how I might not have even had that in a parallel universe.  My world is filled with goodness, so much I barely have to reach out to feel her hand in mind.
This is the good path.  It is not guaranteed.  But I will appreciate where my footsteps land now.


  1. Carolyn
    Jan 12, 2014

    That’s powerful.
    Yes, time is the most precious commodity we have to accept and give..
    It’s great when shared bidirectionally., with love.
    Happy to hear you are here and now happy.
    In the future, if you are suffering in a medical place, let go of the denial and the excuses not to call Gini. I hope you never have to make that phone call! Truly.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Andrei Freeman
    Jan 12, 2014

    This was a very difficult post to read. I can only imagine that the difficulty in reading pales in comparison to writing it which pales to living through it. While I consider myself lucky not to have gone through this; I have enough memories of similar divergent points in my life that were so close to death for me or loved ones that this post served to remind me of each of those and to treasure everything that I have learned and gained as a result.
    Thank you for you continued honesty and candor in your writing.

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