Kristine was seated to my right in the pedi-cab, searching her purse for lipstick. While unscrewing the lipstick cap and turning to me, she calmly said, “Your blood pressure reading can vary depending on the time of day you measure it. You were also in pretty severe back pain at the time, which can cause your blood pressure to spike.” It’s hard not to find it patronizing when she dispenses simple bits of medical knowledge to me like that. It’s something that she probably learned the first week of medical school, and I’m just now learning it as she tells it to me. It’d be like dating an MIT mathematician and having him or her help you balance your checkbook.
After beers at The Belmont, we decided to pedi-cab to La Zona Rosa on the other side of downtown Austin. The wind was blowing the smell of Kristine’s shampoo right at me. It was a smell that reminded me of our first date, which made me realize that I was establishing memories with this girl.
A month before, what ended up being a muscle pull in my lower back, had me bed-ridden for three days followed by a week of painful unannounced spasms. It was a month before I was pain-free and didn’t have to stretch for five minutes every morning. The trip to the strip mall urgent care also informed me that my blood pressure was slightly elevated. Every prior trip to a doctor resulted in the doctors or nurses being impressed with my healthy blood pressure numbers. Not this time.
I rifled my mind for answers, like using your index finger to flip through the used CD bins at Cheapo in the 90’s. I stopped running, I had introduced eggs into my normally oatmeal-only breakfast, moving across the country, getting used to a new city – all possible reasons for raised blood pressure, maybe.
I was certain that the doctor’s blood pressure cuff was wrong, but a trip to HEB the next day proved it was right. The do-it-yourself blood pressure reading confirmed that I am “pre-hyper tension.” I was half-convinced it said “pre-death.”
I was uncertain about disclosing this…this thought…the worry…this confrontation with my mortality to Kristine. It was because I was uncertain of our status. Over the past several months, she was beginning to have a larger role in my life, but I didn’t have a name for that role. We never talked about it or discussed boundaries. Ever since Dawson’s Creek and My-So-Called-Life, I’ve had the dangerous tendency to talk and overanalyze anything good in my life out of existence instead of just letting it happen and rush over me.
She smacked her lips together twice while throwing the lipstick back into her tote, which I saw also contained a stethoscope. I heard the Bobbi Brown hit what sounded like an Altoid tin. She grabbed her sunglasses and put them atop her head to keep the hair from her face. She said, while staring directly into the headwind turning off 4th Street, “I’ll bring my blood pressure sleeve from work and take your reading tomorrow. I’ll measure it every day for a week right when you wake up.”
“No!” I shot back. Kristine looked surprised at my quick and flat response. I wasn’t sure if I was yet her boyfriend, but I knew for certain that I didn’t want to become her patient. And of the various labels I could attach to her, being my doctor was definitely not one of them. I don’t want to hear my doctor saying, “Cum in me baby,” on a nightly basis. My girlfriend can say that all she wants. The more my girlfriend says it, the better, but not my doctor.
“Ok, let me know if you want me to do that for you, though. I’d be more than happy to.” I thought she grabbed my hand just for a moment of assurance, but she didn’t let go. She held my hand for the remainder of the pedi-cab ride.