From Chapter 12 (“Devil’s Grip”) of Everywhere She’s Not:
David started maneuvering his way off the bed. He’d be a monkey’s uncle, he thought, if he was going to let Kate see him looking like an actual monkey’s uncle.
With more wobbling than he would have preferred, he made it into the bathroom. With his hands on the sink counter for support, he stared at himself in the mirror.
“Yep,” he said. “That’s my face.”
Then he had to pull in a quick and deep breath, because another hurricane of coughing was upon him.
When the latest tsunami finally receded, David, through blurry eyes, saw so much dark phlegm in the sink it looked like the Incredible Blob had given birth in there.
Still bent at the waist, he used hot water to help all the repulsive mess make it down the drain.
Remaining in the general shape of a boomerang, he thoroughly washed his hands. The very last thing in the world he wanted to do was make Kate sick.
And then, when he went to straighten himself up, he found that he couldn’t.
He waited a puzzled beat, staring helplessly at the white floor.
Next he found that he could, in fact, straighten himself up, but only if he moved as slowly as he’d ever moved in his life. So that is what he did.
And when he had achieved a vertical position, he discovered a new thing that he could not do.
He couldn’t breathe.
His lungs weren’t allowing for the intake of any air.
Instantly David calmed himself, and rather than trying to gulp in air, he attempted, as slowly and evenly as possible, to take in whatever air he could.
He found that what felt like a micro-thin strip along the very top of his lungs was still operational, and would still allow him to take in tiny, shallow breaths—which, if he did it rapidly enough, seemed to be staving off his suffocation.
Slowly putting out his hand until it came onto the counter for support, David, while being careful to remain perfectly still, breathed in and out as rapidly as he could. He could feel how pale he’d become, and how much he was sweating. He wanted to sit down, on the toilet or the side of the bathtub, but was terrified of moving.
At some point he heard Kate call his name from the other room.
He managed to wrap his fingers around an empty drinking glass near him on the counter. He lightly tapped the glass up and down on the tile.
Kate came around the corner toward the bathroom, saw him, and stopped.
Very precisely coordinating his breathing with his speaking, David whispered, “Having. Trouble. Breathing.”
Kate ran to him. “C’mon,” she said, carefully taking his arm.
At a snail’s pace, they walked out of the bathroom, through and out of his room, and then across the parking lot to Lillian’s car.
As Kate drove them to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, exactly two things were in David’s mind: by what a very slight margin his quickened panting was keeping him alive, and how completely, utterly, and eternally he loved Kate.
* * * * *
When they reached the hospital admittance desk, everything started happening so fast that to David it was literally a blur. Kate didn’t seem to get out anything more than, “Hello, I—” before a white-coated doctor was standing beside him, and then supporting him as he almost collapsed onto the floor.
Next he was on a gurney that was slightly inclined at the back and was speeding through a hallway until, after a sharp left turn, it stopped inside a curtained cubicle.
The doctor who’d caught him at the front desk was standing beside his gurney.
He bent to bring his face close to David’s. He looked friendly.
“David,” he said, “I need you to listen to me.”
Still shallowly panting as fast as he could, David nodded that he was.
“You have what’s called Devil’s Grip. That means that your right lung has collapsed. That means that you are going to have to do something, and do it now. Are you listening to me?”
David nodded again. He definitely was.