You fell ill

(short story)

You’re Jacques, 25. You are in charge of customer relationships in a small, fifteen people company. That’s the same job since you graduated. The same low wage, just enough to allow you to live without any excess. The same shared apartment, under a leaky roof, but also the same low rent, that doesn’t totally squeeze dry your monthly budget. The same small room, the same hard mattress that makes you wake up every morning and feel like your butt has been anesthetized. The same outside noise that pains your ears every night. And always the same life horizon.

Except that something has changed a few days ago. You’ve fallen ill. Nothing too bad… at least, you hope so. Even so, you’ve been forced to take a sick leave for a few days, unpaid of course. And it makes you anxious. But for the moment, you try not to think too much about it, stuck as you are on your smelly bed, made smelly by your feverish sweating. You changed your pajamas thrice after waking up soaking, your torso covered with beads of sweat. The first time, you showered, but not the following times: water is expensive and you already have too little money left. Better to smell than be ruined.

You just threw out. Weird, isn’t it? How violently shaking and throwing out all that the stomach holds can make one feel better. You take advantage of this short respite to connect to the Internet and start the application First Aid. A menu asks you to select your symptoms. Tap. Nausea. Tap. Vomiting. Tap. Intense fatigue. Tap-tap. Diarrhea? No, not for the moment, fortunately. The application displays a preliminary diagnostic and suggests you to start a video consultation with a doctor. It will be a short, per-minute billed call. You don’t have any health insurance subscription that could reimburse your expenses, so the call had better be quick. You check your account’s balance. You should be able to consult a doctor for about ten minutes. After that, you’ll have interrupt it. Fortunately, the app lets you input a duration limit for the doctor call.

You start searching for an available doctor. After a few seconds, you get a reply from one. His face appears on the small screen. He looks weary. Actually, he doesn’t look in better shape than you. His eyes have dark circles, his forehead is wrinkled. He seems like he hasn’t got enough sleep for a while. But you don’t care, you are here to get help, in the shortest time possible. You skip the greetings and start the conversation. You describe your pain as concisely as can be done. The doctor asks questions, to which you answer in the same quick fashion, keeping an eye on the timer at the same time. Is it you being paranoid, or does he intentionally tries to speak slowly, to make the call last longer? You don’t know, but you decide that once the call ends, you won’t give him a score higher than 5/10 stars.

The doctor sends you a prescription and advises you to go to the hospital if nothing improves. You say yes, you think no way. Going to the hospital? In other words, getting into debt for several years, just to be allowed to wait hours in a corridor full with patients before being handled by understaffed and pressured professionals? You hope things won’t get as far as that. The call is finished, your bank account has been debited. You skim through the drug prescription. Most of the items are very expensive. You lie down back in the bed, feeling like you just wasted you money for nothing. What did you expect, instantaneous remote healing?

You wake up again. You’re not feeling any better. You keep your eyes closed, trying to forget how your body feels. You try to escape it, imagining that you are floating on a small cloud, far away in the sky. It’s like you are a young child again, weak and at the mercy of everything. You remember the first time you got fever in your life. You remember that your dad came to tuck you in, followed by your mum who came to touch your forehead to take your temperature, and then gave you a tender kiss. But today, nobody is here to take care of you. You are like a street child, left to his sickness. There is nothing you can do, you are powerless. You can only hope, hope that tomorrow will be a better day. You plunge into a state that is half sleep, half coma.

The next day has come, and you’re not getting better. It’s even getting uglier, at least that’s what the sickness-meter of your drowsy mind seems to be telling you. You should go to the hospital. But you don’t have enough money. So you just wait, you stay on your couch without moving. You switch on the TV to take your mind off the pain, but the TV sounds make your head hurt, so you switch it off.

Two days later, you have a stroke, and then you die.

26th July 2018