It was two a.m. when she rolled over in bed and discovered her husband wasn’t there, again. She sighed and slowly dragged herself from her warm covers, put on her bathrobe, and walked to the study. She knew he’d be there in the dark.
He was sitting in the big red leather chair staring at the clock on the wall with that look on his face she’d seen so many times. “What is it this time, Greg?” she asked with an air of exasperation.
“I think I’ve contracted Hansen’s Disease, Marjorie,” he answered in a hollow, defeated voice. “I have all the symptoms.”
“Really, Greg, leprosy? We live in New Hampshire, for God’s sake! Come back to bed, take your meds, and everything will look different in the morning,” she responded imploringly.
“I think I got it when we traveled to Argentina back in 2005. Remember that little side trip to the rain forest we took? That’s when I got it. I’m just beginning to show symptoms now.”
“Greg, dear,” she said, getting a bit testy, “You don’t have leprosy or anything else. You’re fit as a fiddle except that you’re a hypochondriac. So please, face facts, take your meds and come back to bed. You’ve got a big day coming up and you need your rest.”
This was the third time this month this had happened. And each time he had come up with another obscure or difficult to diagnose illness and each time she was able to talk sense to him. But it was getting harder and they were both nearing exhaustion because of it.
He looked at her, shook his head and insisted, “No, this time it’s real. I’m not imagining this and I’m terrified. I’m going to a specialist and if I’m correct, it will mean the end of my medical career. Who wants to be treated by a leper?”
“Greg, the headache you had last Friday night turned into a brain tumor by Sunday, right? And two weeks ago, that little upset stomach of yours suddenly became cancer. And did you have either of those things? No! So please, let’s go back to bed knowing that this will pass, too!” she begged.
He pointed to the laptop on the nearby desk. “Look for yourself! I’ve got the Leprosy website there and I’ve got all the symptoms. And you should get checked, too. I mean, we went to all the same places, met all the same people, and ate the same food, right?”
She was really worked up now as she paced the floor of the study. “Oh, now you’re trying to suck me into your delusions, doctor! I don’t think so. And surfing the web for symptoms, my God, they even have a name for that, Greg? ‘Cyberchondria,’ for Christ’s sake!”
“You’re not being very supportive, Marjorie!”
“What you mean is that I’m not being codependent, Greg! The distinction is critical.”
He paused, thought for a moment and then said, “Okay, you’re right. Bring me my meds and a glass of water and I’ll see you back in bed in a few minutes. Feel better now?”
She smiled, made sure he took his meds and padded back to bed. It was almost three a.m. but she was wide awake with her energy restored and strangely aroused as her husband slipped into bed beside her.
“Greg,” she purred, “I feel very close to you right now. Want to fool around?”
Greg was quiet as she waited for his response. After a few moments, he apologetically responded, “I think I have E.D., dear.”
She smiled in the dark, moved her hand a bit and whispered, “No, I don’t think so. I think the doctor is just fine.”