It was in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday when I got a text from Skylar. "I'm sooooo hungryyyyyy" it said.
He's been working long shifts at the VA that start mid-morning and go late into the evening. This is a new schedule for him, and one which he hadn't quite figured out vis-à-vis his meal schedule. It's a delicate ecosystem for someone as skinny as this man. I have reserves stocked all over my body. If I get busy enough, I can go a day without realizing I should eat something.
But Skylar? He simply must be fed. On a schedule. Without interruption.
What happens when the schedule is interrupted you probably just asked? Well, I'll tell you.
Have you ever seen videos of nuclear bomb testing? Imagine that, but gay.
So when I got a text that included an unnecessary number of vowels (hashtag and sometimes y), I knew I only had minutes before his colleagues and the good patients of such and such hospital might see something they could never unsee.
We've stopped for snacks on the way to dinner parties before. I direct him to protein bars while I'm actively cooking him a meal. This part of him was revealed to me before we ever got married. I knew what he was when I picked him up, and I picked him up nevertheless. I'm not a victim.
So I responded. A short concise message—brevity is key in these delicate situations. "How can I help you?"
His response came almost instantly—like he was typing it out before I even asked the question. It included even more unnecessary letters. That's how I knew we were advancing to stage 4 (there are only 5 total).
"Can you bring me fooooooooooooddddddd"
There was no punctuation. He couldn't be bothered with such formalities at a dire time like this.
Mind you, this was a work day for me, too. But I am a free man—a work-from-home dog parent with some flexibility. It's only fair that I raid the commissary on behalf of my younger imprisoned medically trained spouse who will one day change my diapers (that last part is really important).
The hospital is only 8 minutes away, and it took me only another 8 minutes to secure a burrito. He'd have preferred a sandwich, but that would have taken at least twice as long and I felt empowered to make some tactical decisions on his behalf considering his capacity for decision-making was slipping away like sand through an hourglass.
I did not speed, but I drove with determined momentum, which is the legal, and purely symbolic, way of showing urgency. He'd never know this, but I would, and I'd reward myself additional points to be cashed in later for it.
He was already walking out of the hospital as I pulled up, limping, really. He was clothed in black tight scrubs—funeral attire appropriate for the occasion. He was wearing a mask, but the desperation in his eyes told me everything I needed to know. We were down to seconds—these could be the final moments of his life if I didn't pass off the sustenance right away.
My passenger window was rolled down, and he leaned into the car, resting both of his forearms on the base of the opening. It was a miracle he was still standing.
"Thank you," he gasped, taking several breaths between those two words.
"Anything for you, honey. I hope I made it in time."
He nodded, too incapacitated to recognize the not-so-subtle mockery in my tone, and then turned to limp back into the hospital, unwrapping the burrito with shaky hands in his journey. I gave a firm salute to his back as I rolled up the window, and then I drove the eight minutes back home.
When I arrived, I was greeted by another text message. It was from Skylar again.
"Thanks for the burrito!!!! It was perfect!!! I'm having the funniest afternoon! Can't wait to see you tonight!!!!"
The medication had kicked in. I saved the day, and probably lives.
Not all heroes wear scrubs.
~It Just Gets Stranger