Every Two Hours

Hysterical sobbing from your wife is not the best way to greet the morning. She’d been walking the dog when she slipped on a patch of snow-covered ice and banged her head.

Marta is the kind of woman who, when she bangs her head against the open cupboard door, slams it shut and yells “Puta mierda!” at the door. If this happens before she’s had breakfast, her tone can leave scorch marks. I’ve seen butter melt.

For her to be sobbing after an injury was one of those personality aberrations they tell you to worry about in cases of blunt head trauma. So I took her to the emergency room. Two hours and most of this year’s income later, they sent her home with a clean bill of health: nothing worse than a goose egg on her head, a sprained thumb, and a killer headache.

Then the nurse took me aside and said, “There’s something we need to ask you to do.” She showed me the section on the discharge form labeled, “Activities for Spouses.” Large sections were crossed out — I assume they contained all the fun items, like “Tantric Sex.” I’m not really sure, because I got stuck on the item they had NOT crossed out. It said, “Wake patient every two hours for the next twenty-four hours; if patient exhibits unusual behavior, return to the emergency room.”

I had problems with this. First, I’ve never wakened my wife more than once in a night, and I wasn’t enthusiastic about dealing with her normal behavior, much less any kind of unusual behavior. Second, I had no idea what behavior should be considered normal after the third time I woke her up. Finally, I wondered who was going to wake me up every two hours, and what my normal behavior would be.

I decided to minimize my pain by staying up all night playing video games — it wouldn’t be the first time — and call in sick and sleep the next day.

The midnight waking went well. She screamed when I woke her up, and yelled “Who died?” She quickly got over her fright and shouted, “It’s midnight, this headache is killing me, and I had just gotten to sleep!” She pounded her pillow into submission and closed her eyes. I felt relieved, and went back to assassinating fifteenth-century Venetian nobles.

At the next waking, she growled. “Puta mierda, mal parido, culo feo on a Saltine cracker, what the Hell do you want? LET ME SLEEP!” I slipped back out of the room. Two a.m. and all’s well.

At four a.m., I shook her awake, and she smiled up at me. “I love you, sweetheart!” she said in a dreamy voice.

I grabbed the phone.

“What’s wrong, honey?” she said.

I dialed 9-1-1. “This is dispatch, what is your emergency?”

“My wife just called me sweetheart.” My voice sounded small and frightened.

“I beg your pardon?”

“My wife called me sweetheart. Something is wrong. I just woke her up at four a.m. for the third time tonight, AND SHE CALLED ME SWEETHEART! Don’t you understand? We need an ambulance!”

“Sir, please give me an address and I will dispatch a unit immediately.”

“Yes, 123 Elm Street. Please hurry.”

I held my wife’s hand anxiously as I waited. I saw the flashing lights of the ambulance through the bedroom window. Suddenly, she started.

“What? What? What?” she said. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry, honey. I came up to check on you, and you called me ‘sweetheart’.”

“I always call you sweetheart!”

“Yes, but not at four a.m. after I’ve just woken you up for the third time.”

“You called the ambulance because I called you SWEETHEART?” Her voice was rising. “Madre de Dios! I was having this fantastic dream about you and you called the ambulance!?”

“A dream?” My voice was very small. I heard heavy steps on the porch.

In the end, we got it all sorted out. We had to pay for the ambulance, but the city dropped charges against me for making a prank 9-1-1 call. And Marta is fine. That’s the important part.

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