The heart attack came first. Then I took the bus.
There was a lot of smoking, a lot of dancing. I was trying to catch my breath in between songs and cigarettes. People say cigarette smoking is really bad bad bad for the heart. I think it was the pole dancing that did me in. I woke up that next morning feeling exhausted and soaked in sweat. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. My arms were feeling murderous.
I took a shower. I was thinking three days travel back to the States, not looking forward to it. It was going to be a slog.
I got as far as the table and it came on me like a plate of bad shell fish. My body was in revolt. My arms were aching down to my fingertips. Sharp pains were radiating up and down my body. I couldn't catch a breath. At this point, I think I started making bargains with the All Mighty. All sorts of ideas and compromises started racing around my brain like an atom bouncing around in one of those colliders. Breathe, Relax, laugh... what? Call Bai Ling and get to a hospital. It's anxiety not a heart attack. No way, I am not dying in China. Jeez this hurts!
There is a stubborn streak that runs in my family. I really don't subscribe to the notion that if you pour thousands of dollars into a rigged heath care system my chances of survival on this planet increase. My mother kept warning me about these things though. She'd say you know your fathers family has a history and then she would go down the list of all the cousins aunts and uncles that have succumbed to bad hearts. She would say remember Joey? Who could forget Joey? He was the eldest male of all the first cousins on my fathers side. Cousin Joey, rest his soul, overweight with a large appetite for wild women, fatty foods, and expensive cigars, had a massive heart attack on the road outside of Gallup one day and drove himself one hundred and ninety miles back to Albuquerque to the emergency room only to collapse at the door, his heart like a sponge. Done deal. DOA. Joey was forty two at the time. He left behind several wives and many kids.This guy had a lot of determination to live. My fathers brother and sisters all died in their 80s of heart failure. My aunt Betty at ninety! Stubborn people.
So I am doing my best not to die, breathing like a zen master and people would pass by me offering their worldly advice. World travelers posing as psychiatrists and gurus pontificating. about my condition well.... The flood gates had opened. Let the fear go! It's only in your mind. Anxiety, Yea that's the ticket! The problem I see with the world of the 20 something world traveler is that sometimes they really believe what they are saying and feel wizened beyond their years. What they forget is there is real life out there. They love to talk talk talk. I was not in the mood for existential advice.
I was getting cranky. The pain was getting worse.
Bai Ling shows up. "Why you call to me? You know I was the sleep! You look terrible!"
She calls a taxi and we cruise through the back streets to the hospital, Bai and the taxi driver arguing the whole time about the best way to get there.
At the Hospital the real doctor is off in Kunming and not his day to be in Dali, but, there is a guy who can look at me. Waiting for the "guy" we slip past the nurses and find a bed in one of the exam rooms. Lying down on the bed, people outside the room start whispering and pointing. It's always a carnival atmosphere whenever a foreigner steps into the Chinese world. A guy walks in, wrinkled, weatherbeaten, a middle aged man in a white coat, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He sticks the oxygen tube in my nose, looks at Bailing, shrugs his shoulders, and leaves. That was it. That was my exam.
I couldn't be bothered. All this running around made me tired. Closing my eyes. I see white. Nothing but white. Funny that. I am thinking, ooooo white light! cool... All the pain was gone too and it felt very peaceful. I thought just let me hang here for a while. Then, from somewhere, I hear Bailing yelling "Steve!" I wake up. "Bailing what's up?"
"Why the problem with you! I yell to you 5 times! Why you no answer!" "I become worrying for you!"
It was only much later, talking to my auntie Sharon, that I realized, wow I saw the light! Wowzers, I died?
My aunt Sharon thinks "someone" is walking with me.
During all this I missed my bus to Dali City and now I had to wait to catch the evening bus that will take me to the night train to Kunming.