To be honest, you don’t know if you really thought he’d hate you for it or not. You’re not really sure
what you thought at all at that point. You and Gregg were—are—both cerebral people when it came down to it, but
this was different. You were in the moment, in an entirely more disturbing way than any guru imagined. You just knew Gregg
was lying there in front of you sweating and looking sicker than anyone you’d ever seen, at least. And the pain was
not getting any better. Gregg was never one to let anyone know if he was really hurting. Of course he complained about the
minor stuff. He was practically insufferable during allergy season, but when it was bad he never said a word, for instance
there was the time when he tried to “walk off” a broken foot for a month before he gave in and had it looked at.
Even then, he probably would have tried to X-ray and treat it himself if he could have gotten away with it. So, the fact that
he woke up from the first surgery screaming, even if it was only until he realized what he was doing, and that he even asked
for help at all in asking you to talk to Dr. Cuddy, was a sign that Gregg was pretty bad off. Even with the barriers in place
you knew he had to be hurting pretty badly; you can’t live and be intimate with someone for so long without getting
to know their body, their subtle cues. You can tell from the way he’s holding himself, the near constant squirming,
the heavy exhales and the breath Gregg doesn’t think you notice him holding that things are far from okay. You, without
Gregg’s encyclopedic medical knowledge, didn’t know if anyone had ever died from the stress of being in pain—you
still don’t--, but he was looking like a good candidate for the first case of death by pain.
You could have tried
to argue him around to your point of view, sometimes you wonder if you shouldn’t have. The thing is, while you have
never been any slouch in the argument department yourself, no one has won an argument with Gregg House that wasn’t a
pyrrhic victory. The most anyone can hope for on a good day is a stalemate. And you felt so powerless. That’s not something
you’re used to, then or now. You wanted to help him, to do something, but if the doctors and even Gregg himself, at
the same time the craziest and most brilliant person you’d ever met, couldn’t do anything, you certainly couldn’t
be any help. You couldn’t even try to comfort him. You weren’t sure there was anywhere you could even touch him
without hurting him more. Anyway, when you don’t have the power in a situation you do what you always do, find a way
to get the power back. And in that pain, genius or not, there was no way Gregg was thinking clearly.
To be honest,
you weren’t thinking clearly either. Later you would start thinking like a lawyer again, seeing the gross negligence,
and thinking back to document everything. Then you just saw the person you loved most in the world, or at least you thought
you did, lying there dying. You would have gladly sacrificed your own body just to take some of his pain. If something didn’t
change fast, he would be gone forever, you knew it instinctively, like you knew the sun would rise in the East and gravity
would continue to be in effect the next day. As you stroked the cross around your neck—you wore it because you mother
gave it to you and because it was a beautiful piece of art not because you believed-- you were almost ready to reconsider
your agnosticism. It would be a comfort to think that you might see him again somehow if he died, but just because it was
comforting didn’t mean that you could give in.
The truth is, listening to Gregg is what had gotten you both to that
point to begin with. When he came home limping again, you figured it was the usual. He wouldn’t tell you what he did
this time, but that was par for the course; it just meant he’d attempted to pull off yet another bone-headed stunt,
with or without the help of his buddies, or a ridiculous feat of athletic prowess and failed but he was too cool to admit
After Gregg gimped around for a while and didn’t seem to be getting better, mindful of the broken foot incident,
you goaded him into having the leg looked at—he didn’t tell you about his first disastrous visit to the clinic
until later. You were surprised when it was easier than usual, and looking back that should have been an indication that this
was indeed not the same old routine.
Then he came back, mumbling about the incompetence of other doctors and wasted
time. Gregg reported the verdict: muscle strain and an infection, then tossed the pills they gave him on the kitchen table
and headed off to watch television. Back to the status quo, except instead of his usual academy award caliber performance
for sympathy, he wanted to be left alone. At first you put it down to just feeling really bad; you were well acquainted with
the miseries of bladder infections. Now you’re pretty sure Gregg knew something else was up, but didn’t know what
and true to form, he wasn’t going to reveal anything until he had a relatively solid hunch.
Time passed and
he wasn’t looking, or apparently feeling, any better. You confronted him about it when he dragged himself into the kitchen
“Are you feeling any better this morning?” you had asked him, hoping your eyes were deceiving
you because he looked like death warmed over, as your mother would say, and he had only grunted in your general direction
in response as he limped over to the counter for his coffee mug. You tried again, “Maybe you’d better go back
in and see someone else”.
“No, I’m fine”, Gregg growled.
“You don’t look
fine. I’ve seen you sick before Gregg, and I’ve seen you injured, but not like this, not this sick and for so
long. This is different you aren’t getting better, it has to be something major”.
Gregg had now made his
way to the coffee maker and was pouring himself a cup. “I’m getting old, “he said and added exactly two
drops of creamer, “it happens to the best of us”. Then he headed toward the table and the door to the kitchen.
Gregg, listen. . .”
“Remind me again, which of us has the MD? Oh, yeah, that’s right: me”.
it exactly. Even I can tell there’s something wrong”.
“I said I was fine. Just leave it will you”,
he said, pushed himself off from the table where he had been learning, and slouched his way back to the bedroom. The conversation
was effectively over.
The next day you had a hard time waking Gregg up. It wasn’t just cutting through the usual
avoidance tactics, complaining, and hitting the snooze alarm repeatedly, you honestly couldn’t get him to wake up. That
was when you finally pushed. You just announced you were taking him in to Emergency, at Princeton-Plainsboro, where you worked
at the time and could thus verify to be a good hospital, and started handing him clothes. Between the grogginess and stubbornness,
you practically had to dress him yourself—and it was almost comical the way Gregg claimed he had to shave before he
left; clearly a stalling tactic, so you didn’t let him—but you finally prodded him out of the house, down to the
car, and into the hospital.
The wait was longer than you would have liked, but between the concern the staff showed
once they got a good look at the shape Gregg was really in, and his near lack of sarcastic comments or complaints, you figured
that you were right in what you did. They didn’t figure out what the problem was that day, but they agreed whatever
it was had to be serious and admitted him.
Of course Gregg was the one to figure it out and of course he had definite
ideas about how to treat it. You hadn’t expected anything less. Gregg still had looked horrible, but at least you had
a diagnosis. Now someone could do something. You were all for the cautious option: taking the leg. Sure it would have been
hard. It would have disrupted both your lives, but you’d cope. You were due some days off and sure you might never have
the joy of seeing him come off the lacrosse field, hug you, much to your protest, and manage to get you all sweaty in the
process—the truth was you didn’t mind that much for all your protest—and he would never be active in quite
the same way, but you believed Lisa when she told you both how far the science of prosthetics had come. The two of you would
cope and you would still have Gregg with you, maybe even to grow old with. But Gregg was insistent that it be done his way.
You were mindful of the impossibility of arguing with him, and you couldn’t bear to do it anyway. Not mention, maybe
he wasn’t as handicapped by pain and fear as you thought, so you took his word for it. You agreed to let them try it
But after the next few days it became obvious, Gregg’s way was not working. He used all his considerable
skill and been found wanting, now it was your turn. So, when Lisa told you about the middle ground, you went for it. The amount
of muscle the surgeons had to take astounded even them; you were adamant that they save the leg, no matter what. You knew
that would taking too much advantage of Gregg’s trust in you.
You sat in the waiting room, ostensibly going over
some briefs, but you didn’t read a thing, or at least you didn’t remember reading them. You didn’t know
how long you sat there other than it was too long. Finally the surgeon came out and told you: they’d taken a lot of
muscle, things had been touchy, but he’d made it through and was in recovery. You thought you’d made the right
That night you had the dream for the first time.
You are lying in bed back in the apartment, it seems
normal on the surface, but something is subtly wrong. For one thing it’s freezing, nearly so cold that you can see your
breath. You become aware, without really looking, of the fact that the bed next to you is empty. You decide to go find Gregg.
You get out of bed and call his name, but he doesn’t answer. As you walk across the bedroom to check the bathroom you
step in something wet and slippery. You look down and see a trail of bare footprints in blood. They lead to the bathroom.
The bathroom door is mostly closed and on the door frame there is a bloody palm print. You push the door open and the room
appears empty, but you see the floor is covered with the same bloody footprints and the expanse of walls is interrupted with
the occasional palm prints. You notice that there is something dripping and the shower curtain is closed. You are drawn toward
it. When you pull back the curtain you are somehow both in and out of your body. You feel yourself reach out and grasp the
curtain, but at the same time you see yourself doing it. The wall of the shower contains the same pattern of frenzied bloody
handprints and you notice the shower is running. Then you finally look down and see Gregg lying there covered in blood. You
realize that he must have been in there for a long time because the blood around him has washed pinkish. You can’t tell
if he’s breathing or not and are just about to reach down to check when you realize that the front of your nightgown
is wet. You look down and somehow you haven’t noticed until now that you too are covered in blood, as are your hands.
Suddenly, you are profusely and violently sick. All that pours from your mouth is blood.
Then you wake up.
first night you had to rush for the bathroom to be sick for real. The dream comes less often now although there has been a
resurgence since you’ve started seeing and thinking about Gregg again on a regular basis. To this day though you wake
up, trembling sometimes, and have to get out of bed to walk around for a little while before you can calm yourself again enough
to sleep, and sometimes you can’t. If it’s only a few hours before you’d have to be up anyway, you just
forget about it and have an early morning.
Ultimately you realize that you were right, where Gregg is concerned any
victory is pyrrhic.