I get these headaches sometimes.
They often start out as a faint, far-away kind of pain, beginning on just one side of my head. The left or right temple. Before I know it though, the pain has traveled, like water flooding a basement, across my entire forehead, now an ambidextrous pain. This is when I am my most debilitated. Basically bed-ridden.
But he always knows how to care for me when my head aches at its absolute worst. We came back from Italy yesterday, a 10-hour flight home. Neither of us slept at all, but as usual, his body handled it much better than mine. My headache began with 3 hours remaining in the flight, and as always, grew worse and worse, until it induced a terrible nausea that I could hardly stifle on the ride home from the airport. We came home, and I collapsed into bed, my luggage untouched. Almost as if something inside me didn’t want to accept the fact that our amazing vacation had come to an end. I’m always looking for more innocuous, romanticized catalysts to my headaches, but at the end of the day, it can probably just be chalked up to shitty genetics.
Lingering in that purgatory between asleep and awake, I vaguely hear him enter the room, softly telling me he’s brought me Advil, hot tea, and a bottle of water. He brings me these things without any actual request to do so — he just does it because he wants to.
Am I really this lucky? I thought to myself. He wants to take care of me, even though he cannot necessarily understand the kind of pain I’m in. He never gets headaches. I always do. It’s only fitting – we’ve always been polar opposites.
At some point, I actually do fall asleep. Just slip into it, miraculously.
6:30 in the morning. Jet lag. My headache is back now, and stronger than it was the night before. I fight back the familiar tears of frustration. I always feel so helpless when it comes to these headaches. All I can really do is pop the Advil and try to think of other things.
One thing I’ve made a habit of doing when the pain comes is to apply pressure to my head. In any way I can. Laying on my own hand in bed, pressing my face into it as hard as I can. A MacGyver’ed numbing agent.
When he’s next to me, though, I tend to use him as a kind of prop for this pressure exercise. In a way that I pray he finds cute or endearing, I press my head hard into his shoulder, his side, whichever crevice suits me in that moment. And, always to my surprise, he wraps his arms tightly around me and kisses my knotted hair. I guess he does think I’m cute. He’s crazy. But he makes me so happy.
His comfort is the silver lining to my affliction. Whenever the pain comes, he seizes the opportunity to console me, to play with my hair and loosen the knots, to make me feel human again. His patience knows no bounds, nor does my love for him.
And we all have our own afflictions, don’t we? Afflictions that, oftentimes people cannot see, but you feel it, and you know it’s there. Those are the most difficult: you’re put into this position where people must simply take what you say at face value. Not all of our plights and our sufferings we feel in our lives are subjected to others at the surface of our beings. It is so easy to present one kind of face to those around you, and to feel something totally different on the inside.
And that is exactly why we need that one person, that one silver lining. We’d go crazy without that one person in our lives who really knew what was brimming beneath our selective surfaces. The person to untangle your knots. The person to alleviate you, in whatever way that may be.
Someone who loves you despite your afflictions and your flaws. No, someone who loves you because of your afflictions and your flaws. Because at the end of the day, we are all human, and flaws are the very stuff that make us human, and it is the point at which we connect with and relate to one another. And isn’t that all we really crave in life? To connect with those around us, on some level or another?
Yeah, I’d say so.