Never Mess with a Woman with a Migraine


A new movie star moved into the walkstreet one summer, a baby movie star with an undergraduate degree from Harvard, two or three roles under his belt (one of which earned him a rave review from a popular newsmagazine), an East Coast banker father who invested in films, a “Hollywood royalty” girlfriend, and an ego the size of Lake Superior.

He never spoke to anyone, odd in such a small neighborhood where the lack of air conditioning and close proximity of the houses put everyone on intimate terms with each other almost before the moving vans had driven away. Besides that, people were just laidback and friendly; we found it a much easier way to live.

Children shrieked as they raced up and down the rise of the sidewalk. Cats and dogs wandered into neighbor’s homes to visit. The drummer from a rock band practiced his craft in the house nearest Third Street, as did the guitarist next door. Debbie and I sat in the sun in the middle of the sidewalk, chatting, and everyone plucked Meyer lemons from the single lush tree.  It was the friendliest neighborhood I had ever known. New neighbors adapted quickly. Why not? Who wouldn’t want instant friendship?

The baby movie star didn’t. Although he was uninterested in cultivating friendship with his neighbors – including the Oscar winner who lived next door to him – he invited his fraternity brothers to his rented house constantly, howling at shared Hasty Pudding memories and blasting music late into the night. (He obviously had no early calls while Jamie, the Art Director next door, and the Production Designer two houses down certainly did; they all drove away before 7 am.)

One afternoon I had a terrible migraine and went to bed before Jamie had even come home. When he climbed up the curved staircase after seven p.m. he found me lying in the golden-grey dusk on the bathroom floor, shivering under the comforter.

I could hear swiffing noises as his hand sought the wall light switch.

“Don’t!” I pleaded. “I can’t bear the light.”

“Are you hungry?” he asked, crouching near me.

“Yes, but I have been dry-heaving all afternoon so I am afraid to eat anything.”

“Well, I am going to go get a couple of tacos. Do you want anything?”

“Ginger ale,” I mumbled from under the comforter.

Eventually, the nausea wore off, probably because I fell asleep. At some point, I awoke and moved my head gently to check the migraine’s progress. My head was banging slightly less than it had been before, so I thought perhaps I could move without vertigo. I raised myself gently and, hands running along the wall for balance made my way into the bedroom and crawled under the covers. I had no idea how much time had passed but the house was in deep shadow and Jamie and Spencer were both sprawled on their backs asleep. The walkstreet was silent, save for Jamie’s and Spencer’s snoring.

I sipped from the glass of ginger ale Jamie had left at my side of the bed. Squinting in the dim moonlight at the Imitrex blister pack I tried to remember when I had taken the last migraine relief pill and wondered how soon I could take another one. “Fuck it,” I thought, poking a tiny white tablet through the plastic bubble. I only wanted to fall asleep again and wake up tomorrow feeling better.

I had just dozed off when I was awakened by loud voices talking and laughing. I squinted at my watch on the wicker nightstand. Three-fifteen. I sighed and closed my eyes, willing myself to sleep. The minutes ticked away. The laughter grew into hysterical shouts. The wrought iron gate banged. Whoever was outside was standing in the walkstreet bidding goodbye to guests. Good; it should be quiet now. I waited. The noise grew louder; apparently the guests had decided not to leave, after all. Moving as gently as I could I slid my head under the pillow. I couldn’t hear under there but neither could I breathe; realizing that I had to choose one or the other. I slid the pillow back onto the mattress and gasped for air.

The laughter was reaching a crescendo. I peered at my watch again. Three forty-five. This had been going on for a half hour. I wanted to bellow out the window, as people often did in New York City, telling my inconsiderate neighbors to shut the hell up but I wasn’t sure my migraine had gone. Gently I bent my neck from side to side; a little nausea but no banging. That was good enough.

I threw back the covers and as my bare feet touched the sea grass carpet, I reconsidered. Yelling out the window might be satisfying but it would also disturb everyone who wasn’t already awakened by the commotion taking place by the gate.

Gingerly I felt my way down the carpeted stairs. I crept to the heavy oak door and opened it. Stepping on the cold hardwood of the porch, I reached for the banister. My headache had only just subsided; no point in falling down the front steps and reactivating it.

I turned right and padded up the walkstreet past Debbie’s house and under Jean Pierre’s Washingtonian palms. Stopping about ten feet from the cluster of chattering men and women, I roared, “Hey!”

Six heads – including the photogenic one attached to the baby movie star’s slender neck – snapped in unison to stare at the crazy lady in purple paisley Liberty of London pajamas. I have no idea what I looked like at that moment, but neither did I care. I was loaded with Sumatriptan in an attempt to recover from a migraine and I needed my sleep. Besides, these people were inconsiderate, and I was sick of it.

“Do you know it’s nearly four in the morning?” I bellowed. “Everybody on this street needs to go to work in the morning, except you, apparently. Besides that, I have a fucking migraine and I do not need this tonight!” I turned to face the guests. “Either go back in his house” – I pointed at the baby star – “or go home, but for Christ’s sake, stop banging that goddamned gate. I have a migraine!” As soon as I was finished, I realized that my head had begun pounding again and I burst into tears. Wiping my streaming eyes on my right sleeve, I spun around and stalked home, each heel strike feeling as though my spine were bursting through the top of my skull. The walkstreet was silent, though.

I practically crawled back into bed – where neither Jamie nor Spencer had awakened in my absence – and popped still another Imitrex from the blister pack and shoved my head under the covers.

I spent the entire next day in bed, finally getting out at about four that afternoon to shower. Jamie came home early with a pizza. I heard him moving around in the kitchen and walked to the top of the stairs.

“I’ll be right down,” I called.

“Don’t bother. Stay in bed. I’ll bring it up.”

In a few minutes he entered the bedroom carrying a wicker bed tray holding two plates and a couple of bottles of ice cold Coca Cola. Tucked into a corner of the tray was a box of Godiva chocolates.

I smiled. “Oh, you didn’t have to do that for me,” I said, gesturing toward the gold box.

“I didn’t,” he answered, placing the tray on the bed. They were on the mat. There’s a note. See who they’re from.”

I tore open the envelope. “They are from the baby movie star.”

Jamie popped open the soda bottles. “I wonder why.”

I told Jamie the story of my temper tantrum the night before, the one he had slept through.

He opened his mouth to take a bite of pizza. “Never mess with a woman with a migraine,” he said.

I learned later from Debbie that the little movie star had left chocolates and handwritten notes of apology at every neighbor’s door that day. Apparently three other neighbors, including Debbie, had telephoned his landlord and reported the incident. The landlord threatened to evict him immediately unless he solved the problem.

Eventually I ate the chocolate but instead of throwing away the smarmy, rather insincere “apology” I saved it; maybe if he ever becomes really famous I can sell it on eBay.

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