please don't stop the music
The A-Side and B-Side of their love story
Two sides, one song
prompts that I needed to include: a romance, a DJ and a study
by Lucie Dickenson
I know he was holding me while I slept. He always does. He doesn’t know what else to do. I know it frustrates him to not be able to fix me, but it’s time for him to accept the fact that I am sick. He loves me more than I deserve. His words, although few, are like symphonies filled with emotion and goodness. But even love cannot change my fate. The medication has taken its toll. Who knew what the long-term effects were? It was always a gamble, even from the beginning, from that first trial study thirty years earlier…
I had just graduated college. Optimism was in the air and I felt I could conquer the world or at least my first job interview. It was in this meeting that I suffered my first panic attack. I truly believed I was dying, but being the ever-pleasing perfectionist, I continued on with my answers to questions that seemed so irrelevant in my current state. I got the job, but I also got what was then called a nervous condition. The symptoms grew to unmanageable feelings that left me in tears most nights and walking in terror every day. I had to do something, but had no idea how to conquer this beast that followed me like a shadow and plagued my very existence.
Back then I believed in coincidence, but today I know it to be destiny. It was April 22, 1990 when my life changed. For the better? That is a loaded question, but overall, definitely yes. I was on assignment to interview a doctor about breakthroughs in medication. It was from him that I learned about a study for a new drug to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. I never knew anxiety was a diagnosis, I just thought it was a word used for when you were scared to publicly speak. No matter the name, the description of what this drug could do not only pleased me, but excited me to the point I would do almost anything to be a part of this study. The doctor was more than happy to oblige, in fact, timing impeccable, I was able to come back that afternoon to get blood tests and begin immediately. It was that afternoon I met him.
My radio station was holding a fundraiser at Colgate Hospital. I was scheduled as the guest DJ and because no one could do the second shift and I am low man on the totem-pole, I had to work the entire day’s event. I know I should be happy to have such a great job, but honestly, these appearances are somewhat embarrassing. No one really enjoys them, except a few overly enthusiastic hospital employees that seem to hang around for the sugary treats we provide.
Being a DJ is old hat, it was how I made extra money in college and now that I have graduated, it is my career. I could do this event sleep walking, and to be honest, it was kind of how it played out. The good news was that we raised an ungodly amount of money from call in donations. It is what makes it all worth it.
As I was packing up my equipment, I saw her. “Don’t Stop Believin” started to play in my head. It’s a weird but comical result of the trade. She walked by me. Without even a glance my way the volume turned up as the words “strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard” poured in my noggin. Who was she? And why does this stranger have a hold on me already? I quickly stuffed everything in my trunk and began my quest to find out about this adorable young lady that just bounced past me with incredible energy.
I cautiously opened the door to room 201. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but to my relief there was only one other person, about my age, waiting in the small antiseptic smelling room. I went to the window, stated my name and was handed a couple cards to fill out. I sat down and got to work. My heart was pounding with the familiar feelings, and a bonus today, I also was experiencing a new symptom. Brain fog. As I tried to quietly fight my way out of the anxiety, he opened the door. The tall stranger was sweaty and out of breath. Jeez, he must have some really bad anxiety I thought. I continued my process in filling out the paperwork, trying to ignore my internal struggle, when I felt his presence over me. It was a bit creepy, but it did create a diversion to the feelings.
I saw her through the slim window cut out in the door, so I sucked in my breath and walked in. I think I may have freaked her out. I mean I found her, but I had no idea what to do, so I stood over her. I was so sweaty from running through the hospital trying to find her, I hoped I did not stink and offend the beauty before me. I felt weird hovering over her, but I needed to see what she was filling out and noted the words ANXIETY DRUG STUDY. I went to the window and explained I was here for the study. I was handed cards and mimicked her by completing the questionnaire. Cue the music, Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” began. I let out a chuckle and wanted to give myself a high-five for the amazing appropriateness of this song.
“Anxiety sucks” I said with more a question than a statement. I don’t have a lick of anxiety. Except for heights, but that is not a need for drugs. I think.
“It’s fine” she answered. Her confident answer had hidden meaning that seemed more guarded than true.
“I guess we are the guinea pigs, my name is Jonah, guinea pig #33” Looking at the number on my card and then raising my eyes to meet hers.
“Hi, Calle” she said, flashing her smile that fit every part of her, perfectly imperfect.
He was really cute. It was blatantly obvious he was flirting with me. I actually liked it. I am not used to such a nice guy. My boyfriend is not that nice, in fact, sitting here I wonder why the hell I stay with him. A quick electric shock went through my arms. Normal. Ignore it.
“Kind of weird being part of a drug study, right?” Wanting to move my attention from the impending doom my body creates.
“Yeah. I hope I get the placebo” he said laughing. I didn’t even think of the placebo. I need the real deal, not the fake stuff. I have to get better. Heart flutters begin. Again, ignore.
We talked more. Honestly, I actually did most of the talking. It was new and refreshing. I actually felt he listened to what I was saying. Respected. Calm. It was remarkable how peaceful I felt around this guy. I wanted more, but I knew it was not possible. He was perfect and that is exactly why I could not have him. Once he knew how broken I was, he would not be interested.
“Hey, since we are in this thing together for the next 12 weeks, want to have dinner to kick off our anxiety experiment?” He looked at me with such beauty and love in his eyes that it seemed to reflect back at me and somehow make me feel I was more than I ever imagined.
“I’m sorry, my boyfriend is picking me up and we have plans tonight.” I really was sorry. Sorry for where I was in life. Sorry I had a boyfriend. Sorry I was broken. Sorry I would never be the person such a good guy like Jonah deserves.
It was then I felt the attack rising and understood the need to run. I excused myself and bolted into the restroom. I locked myself in the stall as the tears fell into my hands that were covering my face. I was dizzy and I couldn’t catch my breath. I knew the feelings would subside soon, but this time I really didn’t care. I was done with this. With it all. With the direction I was heading in life. I needed more than medicine; I needed a change.
It hit me like a bullet when she said boyfriend. Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” began swirling around my brain and I wanted to beg her to just go out once with me. This is new territory. I have never had to chase a girl. I am so crazy about her and I cannot let it go. She came back from the restroom and I knew this may be my only chance.
“Calle, I know you have a boyfriend, but are you happy?” This seemed rude and forward, but this was my one and only opportunity. If she said yes, I was done. Probably.
“Truthfully? I don’t know. I am not sure if I have ever been happy.” She whispered in a voice that was full of honesty.
We were interrupted by the nurse. It was time to complete tests and give blood. We were then handed our 12-week dose of drugs. We each took one pill and they observed us for thirty minutes. Once there were no reactions, we were told we could leave.
We proceeded out the hospital doors and funny enough her boyfriend was parked right by my car. I hated him immediately. She waved good-bye to me as she entered his passenger seat, closing the door. The slam of that door felt like finality.
Joe began immediately yelling at me. I tuned him out, like always. But when he went to hit me for waving good-bye to Jonah, I knew it was time. We were still in the parking lot. I just opened the door, said nothing, and shut it. The anxiety was intolerable at this point, but not as painful as my relationship with Joe.
Jonah was still in his car, not far behind me. I ran over and saw his smile. I knew. I just knew this was it. Can you fall in love in one day? As I got into his car, I began to laugh. And then to cry. And Jonah just let me be me. Crazy, confused, fragile me.
“So where are we going to dinner? “ I asked with tears hitting my smile.
“Doesn’t matter.” He said grinning
“Because I’m with you. No matter where we are, it is the right place, because we will be together.”
Calle giggled and my radio seemed to sync up with my head, because Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton began playing. It was not just music in my head, but she also heard the music with me, and sang along. This was my destiny. My soulmate.
While she sleeps, I love to hold her. She is as beautiful today as the day I met her. It hurts me still, even after all this time, to know I got the placebo and she did not. How could I have known? If I could go back in time and switch our pills I would, but I can’t. I fell in love with her on April 22, 1990. It was also the day that she was given a drug that was never approved because it caused too many side effects, including what we now know to be a terminal condition. I don’t allow that to get to me, because I am blessed to be beside the woman I love. She is my everything.
Love at first sight is possible. DJ play our song. “My Endless Love” starts and I look upon the most beautiful sight I have even seen. She returns a smile. This is my music.