Migraine by Sofia Leone

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She doesn't understand, my wife. When I have a migraine I don't want chicken broth or cold towels or a neck massage. Nor do I want conversation. All I want is to be left alone in a dark room and wait for sleep and medication to deliver me from the blows to my brain.

Light does the most damage, slicing into my eyes like shards of glass, but it's her talk, her endless sunshiny talk about remedies and cure-alls, that really sends me over the edge. Even after three years of marriage, Millie still doesn't know what a migraine is. She thinks it's a simple headache, a polite, tolerable throbbing caused by tension. And how could she know? She's blessed with a healthy equilibrium--she's never had a headache, let alone a migraine--while all of my adult life I've had to endure these battles of blood and nerve flaring up in the recesses of my brain. So last night as she was putting dishes in the dishwasher and singing the praises of chamomile tea, I squinted against the pulsating kitchen lights and said with all the control I could muster: Just leave me the hell alone. Then I marched into the bedroom, shut the door against the barrage of brightness and the clank of dishes, yanked off my work shirt, and collapsed into bed. My only thought, my only wish, was that the medication I had just taken--three times the recommended dose--would soon do its job and let sleep descend.

And for several moments I held out hope. It was quiet now and dark. All I had to do was lie in bed, clutch the pillow around my head, and remember as always that "this too shall pass"...but not, I suddenly realized, before I puke. Nausea had struck. How could I have forgotten about the nausea? I jumped out of bed and rushed into the bathroom. I dropped to my knees, thrust my head into the toilet and thus began my puking jag. I puked as if my whole reason for being was to puke. I puked until there was nothing left but slimy yellow bile, and yet still my body made an effort. It's never easy to cut short this animalistic need to purge. You find yourself at the mercy of this need, and it was only after I felt more dizzy than nauseated that I was finally able to stop. To keep from falling over I sat back against the tub. Ah, the coolness of that surface against my skin--it felt like a balm. For a several long moments I floated in a limbo of comfort, the pain barely within reach. I was sure I would be able to sleep now, sleep before the regiments of pain came charging back. Eventually I managed to stand. I splashed cold water on my face, rinsed the foulness from my mouth, and crawled back into bed. Strange to say, during all this time my wife hadn't said a thing. Usually, she rushes into the bathroom at the first sign of sickness, offering words of condolence. Or, at least, to clean up the mess. But as I lay in bed it occurred to me that perhaps she had simply decided to just leave me alone and let time run its course.

For, in truth, I was at the mercy of time--only time--for after that one small reprieve I was in agony again.

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