In time for Valentine’s day I have a story about my heart, specifically the sac around it.
A couple of weeks ago my heart was hurting. It felt bloated and saggy and whenever I laughed there was a sharp, shooting pain in it. The problem was that I was mostly laughing at the inane and inaccurate things my students at a language college say all day. So they would say something asinine, I would laugh at them, and then I would immediately be struck with a stabbing pain in the heart. That led to an odd moment where I would look out for sympathy from them right after I laughed at them. “I’m dying. I think I’m dying. God, I’m serious,” I called out and the majority of the students just let my words drop. But then at the end of the class in the second week of stabbing heart pain, one of them finally said, “Teacher,” they call me teacher sometimes when they can’t remember my name–it’s so cute–so one of them said, “Teacher, go to the doctor.” Spoken like a student with health insurance.
So I got me some health insurance at city hall, but then I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the doctor yet. First I thought it would be a good idea to consult my most trusted friend, the Internet. And my most trusted friend the Internet, after giving me a little quiz, told me I had Pericarditis.
My friend, the Internet, also mentioned at the end there that chronic Pericarditis is usually associated with chronic inflammation and may (I skipped over the may part) result in fluid around the heart (Pericardial Effusion). So that’s what I had. That’s totally what it felt like too, like my life force, my blood was seeping out of my heart into a baggy around it, drowning my heart and giving me a dull achy dank pressure along with those stabs every time I laughed (at students) but in my defense I was just laughing at the very dim ones who are huge participators.
I walked to the Red Cross. They registered me and asked if I spoke Japanese, I said, “kind of, but if there’s an English speaking doctor…,” and I thought Japan is so “high context” that I just trailed off and hoped that they would understand that pericardital effusion is not something one wants to look up in an electronic dictionary and then try out the pronunciation of when it’s something they pretty much are obviously dying from. Thing is I don’t like to look up anything in a dictionary, and I hadn’t even bothered to bring one. That’s how lazy I am, my life was on the line, and I still couldn’t be bothered to go too far out of my way. Kind of shocking, really. If impending death won’t motivate you to language learn, what will? So then I waited around for a long time. And say what you want about Japanese old people, and I know you want to say some thing, but they look great. Shirts tucked in, hair professionaly done, lean, great posture, not at all fidgity or prone to yelling at staff when they’ve waited around for too long. I was by far the youngest person in the waiting room for internal medicine, but in between thoughts like, “what am I going to do if there’s a whole in my heart and I’m dying?” I thought, “Good god, that one over there is wearing heels, and that one over there looks almost datable. They’re absolutely odorless.” So while I was thinking, “I’m not sure I can endure a hospital death,” I was at the same time thinking “Man, someone must have taught those old people how to groom themselves at a young age and they just stuck with it, they look so good. What troopers.”
When I saw the doctor I used the only word I know for heart which it turns out is the word for heart like heart shaped, like a valentine’s day heart, not the word for the physical artery. And for sack, I just used the word like they use at the grocery store for a plastic baggy. The doctor let the misuse of sac and a complete ignorance of the human body go, but she kept trying to insert the right word for heart into my description of what I thought I surely had. I said my heart (as in valentine’s day heart) felt like, “hughhhh”, and I put my hands up for sudden pain. This is not onomonapiea in English or Japanese or the accepted gesture for sudden pain in any language, but she let it slide. She asked, “So you have a quick, strong pain in your correct word for heart, emphasis on correct word for heart?” And I was all, “Yes my heart (as in the word you would use to describe stationary or a sugar cookie) feels big, too.” She countered, “Your correct word for heart feels swollen?” I said” yeah, And when I laugh-” I fake laughed, and then I grabbed my real heart and looked out to her because it really hurt, and maybe I was dying from a hole in my heart, but she just looked severely at me, she didn’t seem like the kind of person who found ignorance and just getting by to be all that funny. She ordered tests.
Tests that indicated that my heart, the organ, the artery, was fine. She pointed out that I had a cold and that all the coughing could be the cause of the pain. I hadn’t thought of that.
I was elated. I could have done a dance number with all those classically good looking old people in the waiting room.