The trip to NYC was great. There was the usual family stress and insanity, but I worked hard to keep it's affects on me to a minimum.
Dexter was amazing and had an astonishingly great time. The last day there he really missed Rudy, home and Nell. I think in that order, but all of them a lot. He had grown wearing of being the big brother to his cousin Willa, who is two and a half. Initially he loved that he got to decide so many things, but by the end he was looking forward to Rudy's benign dictatorship.
I was my usual air-head self and got us to the airport three hours early. Considering I like to be an hour and a half early and my parents tend to screw me up and get me there just half an hour early it was the direction I prefer the error to happen. Dexter got to spend a lot of time climbing on the play structure (hurrah, JetBlue) and playing Pokemon (run around, jabber, run around) by himself. This is important time for him and he wasn't getting to do it at the Loft.
So we climb on the airplane. I have a cold that I've picked up from Willa or the general NYC population. The flight home is longer, but I'm actually a little better prepared because the laptop is fully charged, Dexter has had a real lunch, and we have more food.
I am a little wiped out from the drive down the night before (returning to the city at midnight) so I tell Dexter I need to nap for a little bit, but that he can watch Boomerang. He is thrilled. We board, settle in and he zones out. He doesn't get television at home so the idea of a bunch of shows in a row is just too much. I fade in and out and twenty minutes after we are in the air he is out cold.
He sleeps for two hours.
When he wakes up he is sick of television (welcome to the club) and plays with his Bioncle, Transformer and Starbursts (which are now robots, not candies, apparently). We talk about the trip, about the day, the plane, the world, and returning home. I am starting to get a little bit of a headache, which I figure is the cold trying to make me more miserable.
When the headache gets a little worse I figure it is not eating enough and I have a granola bar. It is surprisingly tasteless. Then I get a bad feeling. After twenty years of migraines I finally figured out that one sure-fire way to tell the difference between a migraine and a regular headache is that when I am getting, or have a migraine, my tongue trembles. So I put the tip of my tongue on the roof of my mouth and get nothing but tremors.
Bad, but not insurmountable. I got my first migraine in nearly seven years last February so I once again started carrying Extra Strength Excedrin. It's not a sure thing, but if I take it and go to sleep it's like ducking under a breaking wave. There's no monster pain. If I have to stay awake, which I probably do for Dexter, it will dim it to a bad-headache level, which I can tolerate.
I look through my backpack. The little green bottle isn't there. I do a comprehensive search and fail to turn it up. Dexter is watching Iron Giant on my laptop. I go back to the restroom, pee and splash my face with water. I check my watch. It is three hours until the plane will land. Knowing my headaches intimately, I know that I won't make it. There have been times that I've been unable to walk, shivering and stuttering waiting the twenty minutes in a dark room for the Excedrin.
I come out and ask the stewardess for pain killers. She says they can no longer give anything out. I return to my seat. (I spent some time wondering if the passengers around me had anything, but at this point nothing short of three excedrin or an opiate is going to help. When the plane lands and people are in the aisle a woman from across the way says, "You look terrible, are you all right?" I explain that I have a migraine and she says, "Oh, I wish I carried something but I don't any more.")
So I sit with Dexter. Sometimes he holds my hand.
There are these little toys or sculptures that were popular a while back. They had a ton of little pins and you press something into one side and it made the shape on the other. People seemed to do their hands a lot. When I open my eyes it is as if the image I am seeing is pressed into one of those contraptions and dragged across my brain. At first that is pretty interesting, a visual experience turned into a physical sensation, and it's also not that bad. But it starts turning to lancing, white pain and the novelty wears off.
I explain to Dexter that my head hurts ("Why?") and I will need to sleep more of the trip. I say he can do anything he wants (I help him stand in his seat and stretch) and I check my watch. It's three hours until we land. Still. In the next three hours I keep my eyes closed and pillow on them as much as I can. I open them for little glimpses and get out his grilled chicken for his dinner, help him with his animal crackers, get his water opened. He listens to his two bedtime CDs on the iPod. He looks through two of his books and plays a lot with his "guys." I let him eat three starbursts after his dinner.
With my eyes closed it merely an eight inch steel wedge driven into the top of my skull with a sledgehammer. After my eyes have been open for am instant the cold of the steel and the definite dimensions of the intrusion are actually a comfort. After another ten minutes my whole head is throbbing and vibrating, my tongue is jumping around in my mouth and I am hallucinating that they are landing the plane for me. It's not so bad. They help Dexter off, carry my bag, let me plug in my cell phone (the battery is dead, otherwise I would have tried Nell from the restroom) and I get our Blue Cross information... then I wake up.
It's a very, very, very long three hours. Horribly long. Dexter is better than just a good kid. I tell him he can do anything he wants when he gets home and anything he wants the following morning. He said he wants to see Rudy and play with him.
Half an hour before we land I can no longer feel my feet and my hands are cold and numb. Dexter narrates the nature channel on the DirecTV while listening to Kramer sing "Nine Minus Seven." I hang on his words and mumble little replies and questions to keep him going. I am sure that they are going to have to carry me off the plane, so I just hang in there, planning what to tell Dexter as the flight attendants carry him and guide me down the stairs.
(Incidentally, the congestion from the cold and the descent make my ears hurt. I give Dexter a piece of gum and listen to him tell me about Willa's voice hurting his ears. The ache of the ears is a pleasant, warm distraction from the ice-cold ice pick that has plowed it's way to the center of my brain.)
Miraculously, when the plane lands I seem to have a window of opportunity. I assume adrenaline from the terror of being carried off. On landing I have my face pressed in a pillow. After the aisle starts to clear Dexter hops up, I gather things with my eyes closed, do I quick check with them open (rescuing my glasses) and I grab my bag. I head up the aisle to the front door and the roll-away steps they use in Long Beach. I go ahead of Dexter, so that if he falls he lands on me rather than tumbling to the bottom. I am glad it is dark in Long Beach already. It is 7:30pm.
I get to the bottom and the instant my foot hits the tarmac things are worse again. The landing lights are stabs of pain. I start keeping my eyes closed. I hold Dexter's hand and tell him he's leading the way, my head hurts so my eyes are closed. He trundles along, talking to himself and to me. He stops twice to hug me and says he's happy to be home. I do snapshots to see the signs to Ground Transportation. If Bob is not there I plan on spending $100 on cab fare to get us home as fast as possible. As we come out the door I see Bob. Dexter pulls us along. Bob says I look bad and something must have gone wrong. I tell him about the headache and we head to the car. He takes my bag.
Dexter leads me, following Bob to the parking garage and to the MINI. Bob asks if I want to drive, so we laugh. I tip the seat and strap Dexter in the back. A couple times I have to ask him to be quieter. I call Nell, but I can barely talk, it's just as my window closes and things are quite bad, so I just tell her I need to house dark and I need to go right to bed.
The ride is extremely disorienting. I'm popping in and out. I can talk with Bob and Dexter a bit, but then I know I am quiet for a while. I snapshot some road signs and we are in Manhattan Beach, but then we are going by LAX and it seems no time has passed. We are getting off the highway and I am worried something is wrong with the car or Bob is lost. "Why are we exiting?" "This is 26th street. It's our exit off the 10." I don't know we've made it onto the ten, let alone finished it. Pop. Pop. Flash. We are at the house. Bob carries my bag all the way to the bedroom and says he'll see me tomorrow.
I say hi to Rudy, who is hugging Dexter and find my way from the car to the steps. I go up the grass because the walk seems hard and sends shivers into my neck. I don't remember getting to the bedroom. Later that night I walk around the house a little when Dexter has woken after midnight to poop. I enjoy seeing the house in the moonlight because I didn't really get to see it when I got home.
Nell gives me a Vicodin. My friend, the opiate. I lie down. The boys play loudly in Dexter's room until they come barreling, falling, squealing into the room and I ask them to be in Rudy's room. They zoom out, laughing and close the door.
In twenty minutes the pain recedes to a gray, grapefruit skin around my brain, and a dead spot above and behind my eyes. I realize my jaw aches from clenching. All my three syllable words are missing, and I have no depth perception, but I really don't care. I understand junkies. My gratitude towards the opiate borders on love. I take a shower in the dark and shave in the dark. I climb back into bed, no film of the airplane sweats on me, and fall deeply asleep.
Now I am recovering. I can't remember movies Nell and I saw, which I know only because she just asked me. Not all my words are back. I lose track of things, but this is just a slightly worse version of what I usually have the day after a headache.
It's nice to be home.