I was an aggravated bride. It was a little after one in the
morning, I guess. We were supposed to be on our way to the Hampton Inn in
Columbus for our wedding night. I was aggravated a lot with Chris, but never
this aggravated before. I was walking back toward Lancaster on Rt. 33, glad
that for the reception I had changed into a pair of white canvas sneakers with
sequins that my cousin Linda had decorated for the wedding. I knew that I
wouldn’t want to wear heels all night. I’m a big girl and I wasn’t going to
miss dancing at my own reception because my feet hurt too bad. But I was still
wearing my wedding dress and my veil.
Chris was in his F-150 pick-up, driving slow so he could
keep asking me to get in the truck. You wouldn’t think there were that many
cars on Rt. 33 at that time of the morning, but there were, and they kept
slowing down and carefully passing. Some guy called out the window, “I’ll give
you a ride, honey!”
I gave him the finger.
“Please, please get in the truck, Kayla,” Chris said.
I wasn’t talking to him. Usually when I got angry, I started
crying, which always loses you any sort of chance you have of making a point.
But I was so mad that night, I never even shed a tear.
“I’m sorry. Baby, I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you,” Chris
I couldn’t stand that. “Just how are you going to make it up
to me?” I said. “How are you going to give me back my wedding night?”
He looked at me with big puppy eyes and said, “Don’t be like
It had been a really nice wedding. I saved the money. My
dad’s on disability so I wasn’t going to ask him for it. I’m an assistant
manager at McDonalds, and I’d taken a second job working for Allwood Florists.
All last fall I had made Christmas ornaments—wooden soldiers and Santas and
reindeer. I sold them at craft shows. The biggest sellers were dog bone
ornaments that I would personalize with the dog’s name. I worked my butt off.
Marty at Allwood gave me an employee rate for my wedding flowers; red roses and
lilies. I got my dress in Pennsylvania because if you’re from out of state you
don’t have to pay sales tax. I spent a hundred forty dollars on my hair, having
it highlighted. I went to the tanning salon—my dress showed off my shoulders
which are one of my best features. I really did look the best I have ever
looked. And the reception went pretty good. A lot of people didn’t stay, but a
few people stayed until midnight.
I was really proud of the job I did. Chris had gotten a
roofing job for his neighbor in June and said he would put the seven hundred
dollars he earned toward our honeymoon. He wanted to take care of it. I gave
him the money I had and he said it was all set. We were going to Cancun even
though everyone said it was too hot in August. But I’d never been to another
country. So we were supposed to go to Columbus, spend the night and then catch
our flight in the morning.
Except that while we were on our way to Columbus, Chris told
me that he hadn’t actually taken care of it.
“Don’t be mad, Kayla,” he said. “Listen to me first.”
He and Felter and Carnegie had gone up to Windsor in June,
right after the roofing job. I knew that. I figured that after we got married
he wouldn’t be able to hang out with his friends as much and besides, I was
working all the time anyway, paying for the wedding. They were playing
blackjack and he won a bunch a money. “Almost six hundred dollars!” he said. “I
was gonna use it on our honeymoon. I thought I was on a roll, you know?”
Chris was looking at me. He has really cute blue eyes.
Usually I can’t believe that a heavy girl like me got someone like Chris.
“So what happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, I know, but you know, I
can’t explain it. I wanted to win big. I wanted to get the honeymoon suite, you
know? You worked so hard—”
“What happened?” I said.
“I lost the money,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
No honeymoon. He was hoping to put the Hampton Inn on his
credit card, but he didn’t know if he’d be able to because it was kind of close
to maxed out. He’d meant to get it paid down, maybe put the whole honeymoon on
it, but the alternator went on the truck and he needed it to get to work.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I said. I didn’t know what else to
say. I didn’t really believe him. I just couldn’t think about it. It kept
squirming around in my head like I understood it but I didn’t at the same time.
“I didn’t want to ruin the wedding,” he said.
I had worked really hard on the wedding but I guess I hadn’t
thought a whole lot about Chris. I was looking at him and it occurred to me
that the reason Chris was with a girl like me was because he was a fuck up. I
just never admitted it to myself.
“Stop the truck,” I said.
I knew I couldn’t walk all the way back to Lancaster, so I
finally called Sarah, my best friend and my maid of honor. Then I sat down on
the berm and waited. Chris pulled the truck off the road and stood, looking
awkward. He started to sit down next to me but I said, “Don’t sit down. That
tux is rented and I’m not paying extra if you get it dirty.”
While I was waiting for her, I told Chris I was going to get
the marriage annulled.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“It’s like a divorce, only it’s like the wedding never
happened,” I said.
“But it did happen,” he said.
“It was never consummated,” I said. I don’t even know where
I had heard about that.
He didn’t understand what I meant by that, either.
“We didn’t have sex on our wedding night,” I said.
“We’ve been having sex for two years,” he said.
We had, ever since I was seventeen and in my junior year at
high school and he was thinking he would go into the army when he graduated. I
figured if I had sex with him, he’d stay. “But we didn’t do it tonight,” I
said. “So it doesn’t count.”
I moved to Cleveland because my cousin Donna lives there.
Donna is the opposite of me, physically. She’s short and skinny and has dark
brown hair. She has the family boobs though. She weighs one hundred five pounds
and the joke is that fifty pounds of it is in her chest. She’s in nursing
school and she said I could get a job at the hospital. I never wanted to be a
nurse but she said there were lots of jobs in a hospital and I could stay with
her. I got a job in the kitchen which was fine. The hospital is the Cleveland
Clinic which is probably the world’s biggest hospital. It’s a lot bigger than
Lancaster. Not in square miles, but I’d bet more people work at Cleveland
Clinic than live in Lancaster, Ohio. It’s really modern. Lots of buildings with
green glass. Rich foreigners like sheiks come there when they’re sick. The
kitchens have to make all sorts of food. Diabetic food, low-protein food,
low-fat food, Muslim food, Jewish food. It was a lot more interesting than McDonalds.
I’d never worked with so many black people before. There are
black people in Lancaster, but not so many of them. The black people at the
Cleveland Clinic, a lot of them were real ghetto. Sometimes if they were
talking to each other I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I’d always
liked country, for one thing. I didn’t like hip-hop.
Donna was great about me living there, but it was a pain. I
thought about going back to Lancaster. In a lot of ways, living in Cleveland
wasn’t a whole lot different than living in Lancaster, except it took a lot
longer to get to work. My marriage had been annulled. It turned out sex didn’t
have anything to do with it.
Chris kept calling me and asking me to come home. I asked if
he could take me out on a date. He showed up at Donna’s with a dozen roses and
got down on one knee. Then he called collect when he was drunk and cried.
I was talking to my dad one night—I called him every
Tuesday—and complaining about Chris and my dad said, “Well, Kayla, what did you
“I expect him to act like a man,” I said.
My dad chuckled and I knew he was thinking that was too much
to expect of Chris. It occurred to me that maybe my dad had figured out what
Chris was like a long time ago. “Do you like Chris?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter now, does it?” my dad said. I could just
picture him, sitting in the recliner. My dad lives in Chauncy. He used to work
for Diamond, before they closed the mill, then he worked at Lancaster
Correctional. So I grew up in Lancaster. But when he had to stop working on
account of his back, he moved back to Chauncy with my grandmother. Chauncy is
about the size of one floor of one building of the Cleveland Clinic. When he
said that, I knew he hadn’t ever really thought much of Chris. Although he was
always nice enough to him and they joked around.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.
He sighed. I thought he was going to say that he didn’t want
to interfere. “I thought you wanted to wear the pants,” he said.
I’ve always wanted a strong man. Or I thought I did. Maybe I
thought a pick-up truck and talking about the army meant Chris was a strong
guy. Or maybe my dad was right. Maybe I wanted to wear the pants.
Maybe I hadn’t been really fair to Chris. But when he
called, I would say to myself, be fair, Kayla. And the sound of his voice would
make this feeling rise up in me, like the feeling of teeth scraping together,
or like the weird rubbing noise that my car was making. Kind of a clicking
noise. It was kind of hard to hear and so I found myself listening to it and
getting more and more tense as I drove to work. That was what talking to Chris
was like. I got tenser and tenser while he talked.
My car was sounding like my relationship with Chris, so of
course, one day it stopped working altogether. It was the timing belt. It cost
me seventy-four dollars to get it towed. Then they told me that it would cost
more than six hundred to get it fixed, and that I was lucky I was on Euclid and
not the highway because if it had been on the highway it might have thrown a
rod and then I might as well just get a new car.
I don’t even know what “throwing a rod” is but I sort of
picture pieces of metal flying through the hood or something. The next time
Chris called I told him about it and for the first time in a long time he
perked up. “Yeah, yeah, you could have been in big trouble.”
“I am in big trouble,” I said. “I’m taking the bus to work.
The bus is creepy and it takes forever. It’s going to cost six hundred dollars
to get it fixed.” I was trying to save money to get a place of my own and let
poor Donna have her apartment back. But I didn’t have six hundred dollars and I
was going to have to put it on my credit card. My credit card still had stuff
on it from the wedding. Donna was paying for nursing school and only working
two days a week at the hospital.
“So are you going to come home?” he asked.
“I’d rather die,” I said.
Donna’s dad, my Uncle Jim, loaned me the money to get my car
fixed and I promised to pay him back, a hundred dollars a month.
One of the girls in the kitchen told me about medical
studies. How she got paid a hundred dollars to take cough medicine every day
for two weeks. She told me where to check out the list of studies and during my
dinner break I went about six blocks to the building where she told me. I got
lost once—I know how to get to where I park and then to where I work, but the
rest of the place is still a maze.
There was a list of stuff, but nothing like the cough
medicine study. It was all weird stuff—studies on depression, on taking estrogen.
I looked over the whole list and couldn’t find a thing I could qualify for.
While I was looking, a guy came up to look, too. He looked healthy. He was a
couple of years older than me. Short. Built like he wrestled, if you know what
He wrote down the info on the psoriasis study.
“What is that?” I asked.
“It’s a skin problem,” he said. “Your skin gets dry and
That sounded vaguely possible, although mostly my skin is
too oily. “My feet get that way,” I said. “Would that be enough?”
“To be psoriasis?” he said. “Probably not. But you don’t
have to have psoriasis to be in the study. They need healthy people for
comparison. Tell Lisa you want on the list.”
I did. She asked me about my psoriasis and I told her I
didn’t have it. She nodded and put me down. Two weeks later I got called to be
in the control group.
And that was my first medical study.
Psoriasis studies are pretty good. I got a hundred fifty
dollars to put cream on and be examined once a week for twelve weeks. Fifty
dollars a month toward what I owed Uncle Jim helped a lot.
I got a job in a catering hall as a cook and left the
Clinic, but I kept doing medical studies. A study on asthma got me enough to
cover the deposit on an apartment. Which was good because Donna had met Ted and
they were talking marriage and they sure didn’t need me around the apartment.
She graduated from nursing school and one November day, as I walked from the
parking garage at the Clinic, I realized that I had lived in Cleveland for
three years. The wind cut between the buildings the way it always does. The
streets were a mess of slush. I was looking for a study so I could save money
for a trip to Cancun in February.
The idea for the trip had started in the fall, when I called
Sarah, who had been my maid of honor, and she told me Chris was getting married
again. I knew I shouldn’t care, but I wasn’t even seeing a guy. Not that I
wanted Chris. And I had a great life. Good friends. Four of us were going—two
girls I worked with and another friend I had met at Weight Watchers. Weight
Watchers hadn’t been much of a success for me or for Melinda, but we started
going out to movies and hanging out. We call ourselves the Fat Fab Four. Mel
started it and she really is Fab. She wears jeans and skirts and I can remember
her taking off like four hundred silver bracelets to get weighed. I love her
style. Everybody had heard the story of how I didn’t get to go to Cancun on my
honeymoon. Mel had a friend who was a travel agent and she got us a great
deal—seven days, all inclusive, for fourteen hundred dollars a piece. So it was
the Fat Fab Four Not-A-Honeymoon Vacation.
Lisa was still working the desk. She said, “Hi Kayla, I
haven’t seen you for awhile.” I hadn’t done a study for ages. I could still use
the money, but I’d been busy with the FF4.
I studied the list, but nothing looked good. Some things I
just won’t do. Anything that looks like it will hurt. I did a burn cream study
once where they actually gave me a little burn on my butt. Hurt like hell. So
now I’m more careful.
I was frowning.
Lisa said, “What about the pulmonary study?”
I shook my head. “I’m going out of town.” The pulmonary
study required that I be available for four months. The whole point of doing a
study was to help pay for Cancun, not cancel it.
“This just came in,” Lisa said. “Have you ever done a Phase
1 drug trial?”
I had done some drug trials, but they were all for stuff
like psoriasis and the burn study. This paid two thousand dollars. It was for a
leukemia drug. I’d never done something where you had to take a serious drug.
But two thousand dollars was a lot. The whole trip and spending money. They
only wanted twelve people.
She handed me the fact sheet. It had all the usual warnings.
This drug is untested on humans … risk …
Normally I wouldn’t have done anything like this. But the
chance to make two thousand dollars seemed too good to pass up. Like it was
almost fate, you know? I don’t know that I believe in fate, especially now, but
it seemed that way at the time. So I signed up.
The trial was on a Thursday afternoon. To get the day off I
had to swap with someone else which meant working a double on Saturday—wedding
in the morning and another wedding in the evening. At least in the evening I’d
be doing bar, which wasn’t so bad. Handing out glasses of wine and beer to
happy drunken wedding guests.
Thursday I went to a medical lab out on Cedar Rd.
The Cleveland Clinic has three zones and it’s all about
patients. The front zone where the patients first see the hospital—the lobbies
and the doctor’s offices—is really nice. Nice carpeting, nice wood, nice chairs
and tables. Plants. Art work. Then there’s the middle zone, places like the
surgical staging areas and the hospital rooms. The hospital rooms try to be
nice but they have to have all this equipment and its not like television. It’s
kind of cluttered and busy and there will be stacks of blankets, boxes of latex
gloves. Everything feels a little crowded. There’s no art on the walls of the
ER or the outpatient staging and recovery areas.
Then there’s the back zone. Maintenance and the kitchen,
offices and the places where the actual technicians do the lab work. Basements
and closets. Hard light or not enough light. Notices and memos stuck on the
wall. Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work. * Mandatory Meeting
on Health Coverage Changes * Waste Stock tracking sheets. That was the kind of
place where the drug trial took place.
It was a pretty large room with no windows and a linoleum
floor. It had one of those long folding tables like you see in a school
cafeteria. On the table were vials and cotton swabs, syringes and gloves. A
nurse was sitting in a folding chair reading a paperback.
There were ten of us, all guys except for me and one other
woman. A lab tech checked us off a clipboard and we all had a packet sitting on
a plastic chair. “Please sit in the chair with your packet,” the guy with the
clipboard said. “The dosages have been calculated based on your weight and if
you sit in someone else’s chair that could compromise the study.” Then he came
to each of us and asked us our name and our birthdate and gave us each a
hospital bracelet with all that and an ID number on it. He explained how we
would be asked the same thing again before receiving the injection and that was
just to make sure that there were no slip-ups.
Then he explained about double-blind trials. No one in this
room, he explained, knew which of us were getting the drug for testing and
which were getting the placebo which was just an injection of saline. He
explained Phase 1 testing. The point of this test, he explained, was not to
determine if the drug worked, but just to confirm that it was safe for people.
This drug, the one we were getting, had been extensively tested on rabbits and
monkeys. Rabbits and monkeys, of course, could not report adverse effects, so
we were to report any adverse effects we experienced. We would be getting a
much smaller dose than the rabbits and monkeys.
I was the second person in the line of chairs. The guy
sitting next to me was wearing a plaid shirt and thermal undershirt and work
boots. He looked like he did construction. “Have you ever done this before?” I
He nodded. “I’ve done two others, but they didn’t pay as
good as this.”
A nurse came and asked him his name, date of birth, and ID
number. She took a blood sample from him and then wrote his ID number on a
label and stuck it on. Then she did the same thing to me.
As she moved down the chairs, I looked in my packet. The
drug we were taking didn’t have a real name. It was just called GNT1146. It was
for leukemia, lupus and MS. Which, I will tell you, made me feel a little glad.
It’s hard to think you’re doing much for humanity when you’re getting paid to
not have psoriasis in a psoriasis study. But what if this drug really cured
people with MS? I said that to the guy in the flannel shirt.
He kind of looked at me. He made me think a little of Chris,
I don’t know why. Maybe because he was wearing a Ford cap.
“Is that why you’re doing this?” he asked me.
“Hell no,” I said. “I need the money to go to Cancun.”
That made him grin. “Yeah, that sounds good,” he said. He
didn’t know what he was going to do with the money. He’s heard about it from
his cousin’s girlfriend who worked somewhere doing some kind of paperwork for
medical stuff. He figured he should pay down his credit card but he was also
thinking of saving it toward a down payment on a motorcycle.
The guy with the clipboard started talking so we shut up,
although all he did was tell us the same thing that was in the packet and make
us all sign that we understood the risks. It was just like school. I underlined
Phase 1 Drug Trial: Ten to Twenty healthy adults. Phase 2 is something
like fifty sick people. If the stuff doesn’t seem to be as good as what people
get anyway, then they stop. Otherwise they go to Phase 3. (I wondered what it
would be like to have leukemia and find out that the experimental drug you are
taking didn’t do as good as what normal people get. I decided I was probably
not brave enough for Phase 2, if I ever got leukemia.) Phase 3 has a couple of
thousand sick people in it. Most drugs never get beyond phase 2, the guy with
the clipboard explained.
About that time, I admit, I zoned out. One of the
fluorescents was in the flicker-before-dying stage and it was annoying me. We
had been there over an hour before the nurse finally started giving us
The guy in the flannel shirt took off his shirt and rolled
up his thermal undershirt. Then the nurse wrote down the time and his ID
number. She asked me my name and birthdate and ID number but didn’t give me the
shot. I asked why.
“We wait two minutes between injections,” she said.
“Watching for green and purple spots?” said the guy putting
back on his flannel shirt.
“Purple and pink,” she said.
We all three grinned.
Finally I got my shot.
Then I had to sit there while they gave the next eight
people the shot wondering if my growing headache was a drug effect or the
result of the bad fluorescent light. After the last person had gotten the shot,
I thought we would maybe fill out some more paperwork and be told when to come
back for follow-up. But we still sat there. I figured we’d been told how long
we would sit there some time after I stopped paying attention. I was
embarrassed to admit I had so I sat there, thinking about where I was going to
eat when I left.
I finally decided I could ask Mr. Green and Purple Spots. I
started to say something just as he said, “I don’t feel so good.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I feel sick,” he said. “Like I’ve got a fever.” He was
“Hey,” I said, to get the nurse’s attention. “This guy
doesn’t feel good.”
He took off his flannel shirt. “I’m burning up,” he said,
and rubbed his head, hard.
She came over and asked him to describe how he felt.
“Is this an adverse effect?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Just our luck, I thought. We get a nurse who doesn’t know
what she’s doing. But now I wonder if they weren’t allowed to say anything. Or
probably she really didn’t know if he just happened to be sick or not.
“Can I have an aspirin or something?” he asked.
“Let’s wait a bit,” she said.
I didn’t know what to do. Everyone else was leaning forward,
looking at us. Looking at the sick guy.
“What’s wrong with him?” someone asked the clipboard guy.
“I don’t know,” the clipboard guy said.
After a few minutes, the guy on the other side of me said,
“I feel sick.”
The nurse came over and laid her hand against his forehead.
I was surprised she didn’t have one of those temperature thingies that they
stick in your ear. This guy was shaking, too. “I’m gonna be sick,” he said. The
nurse ran and grabbed the trash can and he vomited into it.
My stomach rose and I looked away. I thought maybe we
weren’t supposed to leave our seats, but when the flannel shirt guy threw up I
got up and walked over to the wall.
“Are you all right?” the clipboard guy asked me.
“I think so,” I said, although I didn’t know.
Then the fourth person started throwing up.
“God,” said the first guy. “My head feels like it’s
Everybody who wasn’t throwing up was looking at me, or
looking at the fifth person, who was the other woman. She was a black woman,
maybe in her thirties? She looked scared.
“Can I have something for the pain, please!” said the first
The third guy was lying on the floor now and the nurse was
kneeling next to him. “He’s dizzy,” she said. “I think from spiking a fever.”
She pointed to the table where the cotton swabs and stuff was and said to the
guy with the clipboard, “There’s packets of Tylenol over there, give him one.”
Clipboard guy said to her, “Should I call EMTs?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “This is your protocol.”
“She’s not sick,” he pointed to the black woman.
“She might be a placebo,” the nurse said. “How many placebos
“I don’t know,” he said.
“God!” said the first guy. “Oh, God, please! My head!”
The nurse got him a Tylenol which by this time seemed a
little like pouring a glass of water on a house fire.
“I want to go home,” the first guy said. “Call my
girlfriend. I don’t care about the money, I just want to go home.”
“You stay here,” the nurse said. “You’re better here than
The clipboard guy was on his cell phone to someone. “I think
you better send a doctor,” I heard him say and then he saw me watching him and turned
his back to us so he was facing the wall.
The black woman didn’t get sick. The guy next to her didn’t
get sick, either. And then the guy next to him seemed okay, although I hadn’t
been watching the time so I didn’t know how long it had been. Time was going so
Then that next guy said, “Oh man, I feel it.”
It was like that story in the Bible, where the Israelites
want to leave Egypt and they smear blood on their doors and God sends the angel
of death to slay all the firstborn but passes over the houses marked with
lamb’s blood. Except we didn’t know who had been marked and who had been saved.
A doctor showed up in about half an hour, but by that time
they had called EMTs. Six people had gotten the drug and four were placebos and
we placebos were all standing around not looking at each other or looking at
the sick guys. They loaded the sick ones into ambulances. The nurse was
standing there in the hallway, holding her fist to her mouth like she was
trying not to cry. I wanted to ask her if anything had ever happened like this
before, but it was pretty clear no one had a clue.
I drove home.
I stopped on the way home and got a hamburger, but it seemed
strange to eat it. I felt like I should be so upset I couldn’t eat. Like that
ever happened. When I got home I thought to check my cell phone—I had turned it
off when I got to the medical trial because at Cleveland Clinic we weren’t
supposed to have our cell phones on inside the building. There was a message
from a representative of the company that was doing the study asking me to
call. I called my friend Mel instead and told her what had happened and she
said she’d come over as soon as she got off work.
The phone rang as soon as I hung up and it was NewsChannel5.
I told them I didn’t know if I was allowed to talk, but when they asked me if I
could confirm that six people had gotten sick I said that was true. Then the
newspaper called. My cell kept ringing and ringing, until finally I shut it off
and turned on the TV.
Mel got there just about the time that it came on the news,
so I almost missed the first part. Not that it was very exciting. This news
woman with really stiff, unmoving newscaster hair said that six people went to
the hospital in a drug trial that went horribly wrong. The six men were hospitalized
in critical condition with multiple organ failure. Then they showed the outside
of a hospital—not Cleveland Clinic, maybe University Hospital?
“Fuck,” Mel said, “that’s so stupid.”
I didn’t know what she meant.
“Showing the outside of the hospital. It’s just a building.”
I said, “It’s where they are.”
“So?” she said. “What does showing you the hospital tell
you? It’s like when they are talking about a car accident and they show you
this perfectly normal stretch of road with cars whizzing by.”
Mel was really mad. It seemed a weird thing to be mad about.
“It’s wrong,” she said. When she lifted her hands, her
bangles jingled. “It makes everything seem normal.”
“They have to show something,” I said, although that sounded
“No they don’t,” she said. “We could go back to
Miss My-Hair-Wouldn’t-Move-in-a-Hurricane.” She shook her head. “I don’t know.
Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Nothing happened to me.”
“I don’t know why it pisses me off so much,” she said. “It’s
just the news.”
The next day they had an interview with the girlfriend of
one of the guys who got sick. She said that her boyfriend was in a coma and his
head had swelled up to three times its normal size and he looked like the
Elephant Man. I didn’t think she should have said that. She should have given
him his dignity. All day at work I told people what had happened. People wanted
to know if I was going to sue. For what? They had told us that there was a
risk. They’ve got to test drugs or people would still be dying of plague and
polio. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. It was just something that happened. I
explained it over and over again. But people kept saying to me, “Are you going
On Saturday I was so tired of the whole thing, I didn’t want
to talk about it anymore.
I wished I could find out what happened to the construction
guy, the guy in the flannel shirt. Four of the guys were out of the ICU in a
couple of days and I hoped he was one of them. I hoped he wasn’t the guy whose
girlfriend had said his head swelled up.
Then the news stopped talking about it.
It was almost like it had never happened. I got a check from
the company that did the drug trial and I put it in my bank account. It was
weird because in some ways it was a bigger deal when Chris and I got our marriage
annulled. People talked about that for a long time, and not just in Lancaster.
But even Mel didn’t talk to me about the drug trial thing unless I brought it
It didn’t bother me, not really. I think about it sometimes.
I’m not doing any more medical trials. I figure I gave my all for science
already. But other than that, it’s just something that happened.
We went to Cancun, my Not-A-Honeymoon-Trip to Cancun. We
stayed in a resort hotel with a pool that went halfway around the hotel and had
two swim up bars. Being in Mexico, I thought everything would be more foreign,
but in Cancun things felt a lot the same. There was McDonalds and KFC, Pizza Hut, even Wal-Mart. Mel
said it looked just like Florida only more people speak Spanish in Florida.
Still, it was incredibly fun. You walk out of the hotel and
down to the road and this bus comes along. There’s no schedule because they
just take you from the zona hotelera to the downtown. It costs fifty cents. We partied a lot
because even if we got trashed it didn’t matter.
There was this one club that sold drinks that were two feet
tall. We’d been to Coco Bongo the night before which was great but too crowded
to dance, so we just picked this place at random because it had a dance floor.
They had these long skinny glasses, red and blue plastic. I was sick of
margaritas but all you could get were margaritas and daiquiris so I was on my
third daiquiri. Usually I could drink pretty much. I started to feel kind of
sick—Cancun catching up to me, I figured. I found the bathroom. I rinsed my
face off, careful to keep my mouth tightly closed. I didn’t want to get
I overheard these two girls talking. They were thin and
blond and it was clear they had never worked in McDonalds in their lives. The
one was saying to the other, “I don’t know if I want to come back here
The other one asked where she wanted to go instead and they
talked about Hawaii or Miami something.
I hated them. I don’t know why; they were probably nice
enough. But I just hated them. I thought, I almost died to get here. I still
felt a little sick and dizzy and I went in one of the stalls and sat on the
edge of the toilet. Usually I don’t want to touch anything in a public
Maybe it just hit me, I don’t know.
I had heard that all the guys lived, although I suspected
none of them was exactly ready to come to Cancun. I had specks dancing in front
of my eyes. I put my head down on my knees and took deep breaths and I tried
not to think about my head swelling up so that I couldn’t open my eyes.
I’m okay, I thought. I’m okay.
Someone called, “Are you all right?” It was Mel, jingling
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sick?”
I was actually feeling better. I stood up and flushed the
toilet and came out. “It’s okay,” I said. “I think I’ve just been drinking too
The music was disco. The beat was thumping. I went out and I
started dancing, too. My head was still kind of light and as I was dancing I
felt lighter and lighter. Not in a bad way, but in a good way. I thought about
those girls in the bathroom. And what it would be like to be able to decide to
go to Hawaii. About what it would be like to be them, or to have gotten the
other kind of injection.
I thought about luck.
I could think about that or I could dance. Right now I
wanted to dance. It didn’t seem like a bad choice.