The International Writers Magazine: Surviving A Passion Attack
call - if not last
Lionel Darmendrail on a matter
of the heart
The afternoon was gloomy, cold and wet and I had been mostly reeling
across the day. The previous evening, preceded by afternoon funeral
in Mauléon, had been rather long and heavy as I had gone
to bed pretty late (4 a.m.) after some orgiastic dinner at tough
partners' in Cambo (the two guys who fish with me on my boat).
'apéritif ' had lasted too damn long (2 or 3 hours of greasy
tapas washed down by double scotches).
of mountains of red and high meats emerging from seas of Rioja and Navarra
wine. Run aground after desert, I vaguely remember trying to tell the
difference between some 1948 Armagnac and a 1949 Cognac and acknowledging
that I was too loaded to make any sense. I didn't like me at that point.
Catherine, my wife,had been pretty upset of late with that type of wild
socialising and was angry with me for not being able to escape that
sort of traps. Plus, my workload was hectic in between and my cigar
intake way up above normal.
I had celebrated my 55th birthday on Dec. 7th, and she had told me she
wanted us to lead a quieter and better organized life. Then, the following
day, Dec. 8th, we had been invited in Biarritz and left the premises
at 3.30 in the morning. Driving home, Catherine had noticed I could
hardly articulate my sentences because of the abuse.
So this Friday, to make myself forgiven, I decided to start a nice fire
in the fireplace so Catherine would certainly be pleased when returning
from school at 5 p.m.. When she arrived and came near 'la cheminée',
I started undressing her for what the French call a 'cinq-à-sept'
(afternoon meeting between lovers).
I must confess that I did my best to rise to the occasion. On such circumstances,
one means to surpass himself. The metaphor of a steam engine leaving
the station is quite appropriate: slow start, first strokes, gears being
set in motion and speed progressively building up.
After a while the tempo increases as procedure gets hotter and faster...
and soon, crouching, puffing and panting, I was out of wind and winded
alright! I had to stop my effort and wait for my second wind before
resuming action (in retrospect, I was foolishly trying to fuck like
a twenty-year-old. But that's the way it had always been with me since
the "I'll fuck you like a superman!" Beatles' days, plus I
had read somewhere that rock'n'roll love-making was good for the heart;
maybe I had rocked the boat beyond its specs).
My breath soon came back but the pain--some annoying sensation at the
top of my lungs--persisted. So, to our regret, I decided to withdraw
entirely and made for the door to breathe some fresh air outside. Our
family doctor--whom Catherine had called--was on the scene in a matter
of minutes. He checked my pulse and my blood pressure. Everything seemed
normal he said. But the pain still lurking, he advised me to go to the
nearest cardiologist in Cambo. So, I got dressed, brushed my teeth and
sat in the car next to Catherine who drove me to Cambo.
Dr Birkmaker did an electrocardiogram on me that appeared to be inconclusive.
Still, he refered me to the Clinique Paulmy in Bayonne (that specialises
in cardiology) and called an ambulance that rushed me to emergency with
flashing lights on. During the time it took to drive the 20 kilometers
the male nurse next to me kept making sure I was still alive by
asking little questions in the dark.
Soon afterwards, in the middle of the night (?), I was taken from intensive
care onto the operating table. Totally conscious, I could follow on
a screen the operation done on me. It is called an angioplasty. A catheter
is introduced in one of your arteries. This catheter has a balloon at
its end. A iodine dye is sent through the artery and it will indicate
where the artery is narrowed or clogged (preventing the circulation
of blood and thus causing the heart attack--i.e. the Myocardial Infarction).
Then the balloon is inflated to widen/dilate the passage or break up
the plaque or the clot clogging the way. Also, a 'stent' (a stainless
steel mesh tube) is placed that will keep the coronary open...
*According to a 1998 Canadian study, out of 30 deadly coronaries (heart
attacks) happening during sexual intercourse, 27 were extramarital.
The same study also showed that the younger the female partner was,
the higher the fatal outcome was and the deadlier the illicit relationship.
The following Monday, I was transported from intensive care to the cardiology
ward above and given a room with bathroom all for myself. That was a
relief. I was permitted to stand up for the first time and go to the
toilets with the drip in my right arm. I was constipated and couldn't
shit for a whole week. On Wednesday, Catherine came to spend the night
Being in her arms again was being brought back to the world--resuscitation.
Between the night nurse's rounds (every other hour) we made love very
quietly, intensely and satisfyingly.
Throughout analyses performed on the following days showed that my coronary
was a small one that had left minimal traces and I was advised to drive
my mountain bike uphill in a very near future-thank God! Now, after
a week in bed, here I am, peaceful and quiet at home, happy to be alive
and under control, so to speak. I haven't felt any better in ages. I
sleep well and eat well, walk 40 minutes every day, do not get overworked...and
I can appreciate good wine more than ever.
I thought very often about Bob Fosse's film "All that jazz",
one of my all time favourites. I've always loved that film for the mark
it left on me when I first watched it in Marrakesh back in the late
seventies, thinking that was the type of thing that could well happen
to me. It did. I've always suspected that we were living on reprieve.
And I just got a personal message of confirmation.
There's no unsinkable ship. We'll all hear the last call when our time
is up. So it goes.
The funny thing was that my brother Jean-Pierre (he's a year older) had
had the same adventure (he was shopping) just two weeks before mine.
He was back to business after 6 days at hospital, not wanting employees
to know (for fear it affects their performance--'sick leave' being a
taboo word to any employer in France) Our younger brother, Xavier, has
also made an appointment with his cardiologist for a physical test.
I am very glad after all to be here writing this.
© Lionel Darmendrail Feb 2005
2012 Lionel is now retired from teaching English
and Documentary Film at the Lycee in Biarritz, France. He is the life
and soul of any party, a handy sailor and much travelled father of three.
We are very happy he lives on! Ed
See also Jerez
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