Monday, March 12, 2007


I spent the night in the Kaiser Sleep Lab, getting tested for apnea. I didn't get much sleep, and am in a bit of a daze this morning. They woke me at 5 am, and I had to stumble on the bus without coffee, food, or adequate sleep. The trip to work felt like the continuation of a dream. The bus was full of women, and I had to wonder ... as I always do, and never with a good answer ... why there are never many men on these busses out of East O`ahu. Do the men not work? Do they hoard the cars? Are there even any men left out there?

I got off the bus in Chinatown, and though I've never seen sunrise in downtown it was all so familiar. Skinny Chinese men were unloading produce from trucks, while women arranged everything on pallets in front of their stores. Everyone moving was Asian, but there was a rainbow coalition of the homeless still asleep on Maunakea, laid out on newspapers and cardboard sheets still damp from last night's rain.

I felt brave, and wandered into Maunakea Marketplace looking for food. If you don't know Honolulu's Chinatown it might be hard to grasp how very, very brave that was at 6 am. You wander past the cases full of pig innards and the piles of shellfish and the trays of black slimy tilapias thrashing about until you come to a underground food court lit only by pale yellow fluorescent lights. There's no air, and it's hot and humid and smells of grease and soy. And though the stalls look like a tour of Asia - Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hawai`i, Japan, and the Philippines are all theoretically represented - everything tastes more or less the same. Breakfast at all of them was some variation of soggy noodles, spam, and hard black coffee. It has all the charm of a train station in Shanghai.

I was in a bit of a daze the whole weekend, actually. I joined a group at Chiko's on Thursday for Jake's birthday (left). I figured, Friday I'd catch up on sleep. But Merlin called, and I said come over. We started seeing each other again, and though I don't know where it's going - or even where I want it to go - it's been nice. But we stayed up almost 'til 4 am drinking good tequila and red wine [Fujioks's recommended a Mark Edwards Pinot Noir that was full flavored, fruity, and smooth, and I picked up a bottle of my favorite (and the cheapest) Valpolicella].

Which meant that Saturday - a cold, overcast, and wet Saturday - I was a mess, and more than happy to stay home. For all we drank, though, I didn't have the slightest trace of a hangover. I was, however, in a daze most of the day. I simply could not wake up. I had big plans that night - Jimmy was having a barbecue, and I was planning to meet Rogelio later on - but I ended up sleeping on the couch from 8 pm on.

Sunday it was: beach, gym, and then off to the Sleep Lab. I've had enough people tell me I have apnea that I figured, it was time to check despite my doctor's doubts. I packed a book (Irène Némirovsky’s amazing Suite Française - more on that later) and hopped on the bus.

By 8:30 I was marked up and wired head to toe. I wish I had a camera - it was a frightful sight, something only James Whale could love. I watched a video showing fat and happy older couples talking about how nice their life was once the got apnea treatment. Gag. I switched the tv to South Park. It was the nigger episode. I announced I hated tv and flicked it off. The attendant, Sharon, somehow put up with me.

They would be watching me on videotape, and recording every movement and flutter. I was more or less restrained by the wires. If I needed to get up I could call - they'd be listening in also. I asked for a code if I needed to hit the head. But there was none - I should just yell Sharon I need to use the bathroom into the night. I was hoping for something more dignified. I knew I wasn't going to be calling for Sharon.

By ten I tried to go to sleep. The thing about restraints is, they're not so sexy when they're not put on with lust. Otherwise, they're just irritating. I tossed and turned for a couple hours, but I must have slept some. At 1am the attendant came in. Yeah, I had stopped breathing, so she wanted to see what effect the mask (below) would have on me.

And that was when things got rough. I did not like having that thing on my face. It didn't feel natural, and I went somewhere primeval - my body tensed, my breathing became rough, and it took all my self-control not to rip it off. I don't like this. Sharon told me it took some people some time to get used to it, and there was a bit of a hard edge there on some people. I might rip it off, I told her. Try it, she told me, with a distinct lack of empathy. Please do not rip it off. And though she said please, it was an order more than a request.

I miss my real doctor.

I was like some child raised by wolves, counting down the appropriate length of time before I could rip my clothes off and flee back into the woods. The machine was awful. It forces air into your lungs under the assumption that the pressure will keep your bronchial tubes open. Or keep whatever open. It wasn't working. My mouth was dry, my throat was dry, it was pumping gas into my stomach, and there were times when I felt like I was choking on air. I tried to relax, but couldn't. I couldn't breathe normally on the thing. I thought back to the video, to the happy fat old men with their happy fat old wives, and knew that I couldn't do this.

I must have dozed off finally, but I kept waking up in violent starts. Finally, around 3 am, I yelled out that it needed to come off now! Sharon must have been right by the door, because it opened right away. What was the problem? she asked. I don't like it. What don't you like about it? she asked, as if me not liking it was somehow irrational and a bit childish. What don't I like? I started to escalate. What is there to like? My mouth is dry (I can add a humidifier, she tried to interject, but I kept going) I keep waking up (you're still having episodes and we need to adjust the pressure still) and ... just no. I hate it. I hate it. If it's life or death I'll think about it but otherwise I will not wear that thing!

My irrationality beat her rationality, and she sighed and took away the machine. And though I was still wired I slept like a baby the next couple hours.

And promptly started dreaming about sex. In the post-study questionnaire they asked if I remembered my dreams last night. I circled no. I lied. I remember them, in vivid detail. Sharon did seem a bit gentler in the morning. I wonder what they saw on their cameras. I need to get that videotape.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I've got apnea.

I've been a CPAP user for almost three years now.

You'll get used to it.

Call me when you get back from your trip. Let's talk about it.

Kevin from up the hill