Somehow, the universe knows. It knows when you have on a fresh coat of MAC lipgloss, some cute heels you got on sale at Charles David and clean hair that's looking halfway decent. It knows. That's the night you won't meet anyone.
If a principle is true, then so is its opposite, which I proved by meeting the future Mr. Strasser in a Utah emergency room, between bouts of moaning in a fetal position and dry heaving. To be honest, the future Mr. Strasser probably has no memory of me other than in his notes: "Patient presents with fever and severe stomach pain. Possible pancreatitis. Please refrain from asking her out because that would be unprofessional even though you're obviously unbearably attracted to her." OK, I added that last part.
It's hard to imagine that I could have been less delectable. In Salt Lake City for work, I woke up one morning with searing stomach pain. I called my mom, tried every remedy in the hotel gift shop and wept for about six hours before giving in and finding the nearest hospital.
A co-worker drove me there, and as we pulled up to the ER, we passed a landing pad for trauma choppers. Kind of put my tummyache in perspective, but man did I feel bad; I couldn't eat, couldn't walk upright and I had the green-hued sheen of an extra on "Six Feet Under."
After checking in, I was given a room next to another woman named Teresa, a psych patient who couldn't stop shouting "Who took my shoes?" I don't know, Teresa. The Crazy Fairy? When the nurse told her to lower her voice, she said, "I can't hear myself until I talk loud."
Oh, really? Well, I can't stop heaving and the sound of your voice is about as settling to my stomach as last week's sashimi.
Just when Crazy Teresa (and I call her that so you don't get confused) got sedated, a 19-year-old named Amber came in screaming, "It's my birthday. You don't know what it's like to be a junkie! I haven't eaten in two days." Whatever happened to broken bones and slingshot wounds? I wished Amber happy birthday, gave her all $7 in my wallet and shuffled back to my room, holding my gown together in back.
Moments later, my doctor appeared. Cue the violins and gauzy light because no way an intern in the ER could be that gorgeous. He adjusted his wire-rim glasses and tucked a loose tangle of long blond hair behind his ear.
He introduced himself and I thought, "Mr. Strasser, what are you doing in Salt Lake City? Do you realize we're getting married? I think I love you." (I should mention here that I had a high fever and may or may not have been delirious.)
Now, there are many conversational topics that are nice for that first meeting with one's soulmate: the weather, favorite movies, work, religious beliefs, politics. One topic that doesn't make that list is bowel movements.
"Have you had any bowel movements today? Are you having diarrhea? Are your bowels discolored?" Dr. Soulmate asked.
On the one hand, decent medical care required that I be honest, on the other, human dignity required that the color of my stool be between my maker and me.
My health won out. "To tell you the truth, doctor, it's sort of puce."
"Puce? I'm not sure what color that is," he said.
"It's kind of brownish-purple." Great, now I'm trying to explain to the doctor that puce is the new brown. This was not going well.
"Married or single?" he later asked.
Did he really need to know, I wondered? Or was he secretly saying that he too felt our union was destined?
"I'm not sure what's wrong with you," he said. "I'm passing you along to my attending." That must be doctor speak for "It's not you, it's me."
Of course, if he had made advances toward me, I would have thought he was sleazy and unprofessional and quite possibly had a puce fetish I could never accept or understand. It was a lose-lose-lose my lunch situation. We were star-crossed lovers, doomed. Still, if he had actually noticed me, he might have overstepped the rules of propriety and I might have overlooked his overlooking and it would all be a cute story -- except the part about the puce.
He left with me with an IV of nausea medication and the attending physician, a very nice, very butch-looking woman who shut Amber up with one stare. She sent me home with a prescription, a diagnosis of heat stroke, directions to eat only food I could see through and the fantasy that somewhere in Utah, a young intern is pining for me, wishing we could have met under circumstances that were easier to stomach.