This here is the place I will be staying.
There isn't a number. You
can call the pay phone.
Let it ring a long, long, long, long time.
If I don't pick up, hang up, call back, let it ring
If I don't pick up, pick up...
The sidewinder sleeps, sleeps, sleeps in a coil
Call me when you
try to wake her up.
Call me when you try to wake her.
...There are scratches all around the coin slot
heartbeat, baby trying to wake up,
But this machine can only swallow money.
You can't lay a patch by computer design.
just a lot of stupid, stupid signs.
Tell her she can kiss my ass, then laugh and say that you were only
That way she'll know that it's really, really, really, really me.
Call me when you try to wake her up.
Call me when you try to wake her.
- R.E.M., The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
On a slow, chafing
Saturday evening, the night slipping like molasses over the hot, sticky, tedious day, she receives a telephone call.
one of those frustrating days for both of them, and they’re sitting in front of some late-night movie on television,
waiting for the credits to roll, each waiting for the other to go to bed, waiting for something to happen.
phone jangles discordantly, and the hot, nervous feeling drops suddenly from the bottom of her abdomen. Even John looks up,
drums his fingers stiffly on the armrest of the chair, a concession to the quiet calm and economy that usually consumes his
She picks up the receiver, and she will briefly wonder later why exactly it was that she wasn’t
puzzled that they were getting a phone-call so late, why she wasn’t prodding John at that moment to pad out of bed in
his bare feet and answer the phone, grumbling, blinking.
The house is still warm, the heat hanging, but as she
picks up the phone, says hello calmly, perfectly calmly, and hears the soft, apologetic voice on the other end, something
harsh and cold constricts her abdomen, completely replacing the almost-indigestion irritability of the whole day with a cold
lump of fear.
“Mrs- uh, House? It’s James Wilson here-“
He sounds panicked. Worried. She suddenly
thinks of his hands, the same practical hands that have graciously dug at her potatoes, politely handled her silver service
over his pleasant, friendly, smiling face, and wonders if the fingernails have been bitten to the quick. She almost smiles,
thinking that James’ mother obviously never struggled with painting bitter No-Bite on his nails.
She knows it’s
about Greg, from the hesitant cast to his voice, because she's missed a call, just because, and all of a sudden there’s
a ringing in her ears. She looks at John over the living room. He sits up straight and looks at her, mouthing what,
looking at her, concerned, listening to what she says, knowing not to say anything until she's finished. She looks away because
she wants to listen, staring absently at the calendar , and later she will wonder about what she has to do this month and
know the date of John's appointment at the doctor and her own rostered day for the flowers at church off the top of her head.
She wrinkles her brow. She has to hear this. That's all she thinks in that second. I need to listen.
herself say: It’s OK James, I know it’s you, and she wonders at the motherly tone in her voice.
stammers and trips over the words, and she realizes that he sounds tired, shocked.
“It’s, It’s H-
Greg, he’s in hospital here in Princeton, there’s uh, a problem with his leg, but it could be worse than that,
he’s in a lot of pain. If it was just a sprain we would have seen some improvement by now-“
She asks where
he is, what he’s doing, where Stacy is. James says that he’s uh-sleeping, that Stacy is with him, that he’s
just down the hall. In the last couple of hours it has become clear to – them that this could be worse than they thought.
She hardly picks up half of what he says, and she thinks that perhaps it’s
because he’s babbling. Doctor’s must make calls like this all the time, she thinks, it must be because it's Greg.
They’ve got him on something and it’s not working. The pain is very bad and they’ve admitted him. They
have some concerns about something to do with his heartbeat- he’s in a lot of pain. It could be bad. He’s in a
lot of pain.
It’s all very confusing.
James pauses for a second, perhaps to not-say something, and
she asks him if they should come down.
“Look, Mrs House-“
in a lot of pain. It could just be a bad sprain, but the pain would have diminished by now. We’re at a bit of a loss,
but a very good doctor has taken over his case- It’s very touch-and-go.”
He waffles on.
James. Do we need to come down?
“I wouldn’t- make any plans for anything else…”
asks her if she needs anything. No.
He says goodbye, and so does she, but the click and the sudden tone are shocking.
he look up in a couple of days and say that they needn’t have bothered? Will he be annoyed because they fussed over
nothing, because they bothered to pay for a ticket? Will it get worse?
The cold, tense, sick feeling is still in her
stomach, and she turns to John, and ten minutes later they’re packing bags. Just in case.
The next morning he calls
up his partner and cancels his golf game. Just in case.
Wilson is expecting to wake them up, but the phone is answered
after two rings.
He has an odd, nervous, edgy feeling, worse than that due to any of the other phone calls that he has
to make. Far more personal. This is like the nightmare version of calling someone up to tell them I need you to come into
the office, we have some results to discuss....
Mrs House answers the phone quickly, and he feels a shock of remorse
and dismay stand the hairs up along his spine. He trips over the words and immediately thinks he’s doing it wrong, wishes
he could hang up and forget it, start again, but he can’t.
He tells her that House is sick, that it’s
something to do with his leg. He doesn’t give much in the way of details, knowing that she probably won’t understand
most of it and what she will she’ll forget in the rush, in the sudden panic. He’s as clear as he can be, but he
thinks afterwards that he has repeated himself a bit. He says that House is in pain, and they don’t know what it is.
He says that House is in pain again, but just that, without something to compare it to or a rating.
mention that he is just down the hall screaming his head off. Nor does he mention that he is by no means coherent enough to
hold together a telephone conversation.
“James”, She says. “Do we need to come down?”
suddenly realises that this is far, far worse than he realized. He says goodbye to Mrs House and immediately worries that
he has forgotten to say something, that he has said the wrong thing. He wonders how his voice sounded, thinking that Blythe
might not have noticed the shake that it had, the way he constantly thought that he might cough or not be able to get the
She sounded like she needed to sit down but didn’t want to leave the phone to get a chair.
puts down the payphone and hurries back around the corner. After two or three steps he hears a dull clunk and turns back to
re-hang the phone, his fingers hurting. He can feel sweat cooling against his undershirt. He’s been wearing these clothes
for too long.
He’s screaming. Really screaming. Stacy looks at him, her eyes wide, her work-clothes still
fresh from the office, her case-files still scattered innocuously on the little table in the room, and with a confused, this-isn’t-meant-to-happen
look on her face. Jeez, Wilson thinks. This is happening way too fast.
House’s face is red and his eyes roll insanely
in his head. He arches his back and screams I. NEED. AN. MRI NOW!!! His voice is high-pitched, and when he makes a
little juh grunting noise sweat and tears and water drip down his face. Wilson’s neck feels like it’s gonna
seize up real soon. He needs to drink something. He crosses to the cupboard in House’s room, grabs a plastic cup, drinks,
and the headache he didn’t realize he has tones down a little bit. He offers a cup to House, but he shakes his head
and groans. Wilson sits by the bed but he doesn’t know what to say.
House is on a spiral. His breathing slows
but then he grunts again, moans, says Stacy, Wilson, please. He feels Stacy's hand tighten on his shoulder. The room
is full of their worry and House's uneven breathing, the occasional tap as his hands bang on the side of the bed.
leaves and runs down the corridor to find Cuddy darting towards his room. He says, You haven’t done the MRI yet?
In a bizarrely calm tone of voice, like he’s just saying The guests are already here and you haven’t decanted
the wine yet, have you darling?
House is semi-delirious. He’s curled up and shivering and moaning, past
the angry phase. Wilson thinks that it must be hell.
He’s in so much pain that he can barely speak, and Wilson has
to prompt him twice to get him to open his eyes. This far surpasses the most pain that Wilson has ever seen House suffer.
House is in so much pain it hurts to look at him.
He says, House, We’re sedating you, and House just barely unclenches
his jaw to say something like it’s… before he starts to get that wasted look to his eyes. Now he looks
like a confused kid, but the pain is still very present on his face and in his eyes.
Wilson takes off his tie
and goes and sits outside the room, but he doesn’t know what to do there either. Stacy comes out. They sit. He goes
in. He comes out. Nurses come and go. He cries out occasionally, and they flinch.
He drinks a lot of water from the cooler
down the hall and urinates twice. Once he goes outside, and the heat is so oppressive everything goes twice as slow as he
feels the sweat still roll down his back.
Cuddy comes and looks in the window. She’s still here, working late, but
she’s changed her clothes and Wilson can’t look at her somehow. He blushes, then there’s nothing he can
do, so he goes and changes his clothes and bends down under the shower on cold. The time goes so slow.
next afternoon James Wilson calls again.
They book a ticket on a domestic flight the next afternoon.
Six hours later
later he calls a third time, and John jumps on the phone with someone he knows and pays through the nose to get them on a
Southwest flight early the next morning, at an airport a three-hour drive away.
James says that they should hurry. He
tells them that he’ll cover the flight if they have to pay extra because of the short notice. He tells them that he
will drive to the airport and pick them up if they want. They hurry.
Wilson doesn’t keep his word.
thinks that House will understand that he called and freaked out his parents when everyone finally realised that his leg was
He thinks that House will understand the haste when he was the one to call his best friend’s parents and
tell them that their son’s heart stopped because of the poison rushing through his system.
He makes the call,
and leans against the wall beside the phone.