Picture this: laughter, gaiety, pleasant company, delicious dinner on the floor, Nerf darts flying through the air, giant piles of bean bag-esque dealies to sit on—a generally lovely night all around. Queue temporary anoxic nightmare. Queue emergency room. Queue nothing. Somewhere a doctor at Edwards Hospital retreats to his/her office and admires his/her own face in a solid gold plate before delicately eating a decadent truffle off it. At least that’s how I picture it.

Alright, so you tell me where the money went.

I am having an evening with my darling male escort at the home of a few of his friends about two months back. His friend is cooking us a superb dinner (which we will then eat, charmingly, on the floor. Having grown up in a home that was additionally a daycare in the basement during my formative years, I have an affinity for floor-eating, so I am in my element). The food being prepared far outweighs my abilities in the kitchen, and so I volunteer triumphantly to take the little Pillsbury crescent rolls out of the tube and arrange them on the pan. The ones I do look like multi-layered and variously sized sticks. Huh. Not sure how I pulled that off, but at least it does not affect the taste. We eat, all is right with the world.

After about an hour and a half eyeing their cat, whose name is Tribute (as I’m told, he’s not the greatest cat in the world), my cat allergies begin to overtake my fragile little body. Massive asthma attack (oh yes—I am asthmatic, too. My mother did not breed genetically superior progeny?). No uses of my inhaler (17 puffs in about a half hour will give you the shakes, child) will take it down. I inform Darling Male Escort, who since dinner has been engaged in a lovely Nerf dart gun fight with others, that I’m just a touch out of stuff like oxygen and seem to be getting worse by even the minute. I am trying not to panic; I feel like possibly Pavarotti has popped a squat on my chest. Knowing that Pavarotti died recently, I can be reasonably certain that it’s an asthma issue and I need to go home. I pop a Benadryl that the lady of the house is wonderful to provide me with, and we are off.

Alright, strike that “home” business. We have now left the house 5 minutes ago, and I cannot catch a breath. I am panicked and coughing, and I’m concerned I’m going to lose oxygen and pass out. To the ER, Jeeves! Step lively, step lively.

So, Darling Male Escort quickly gets me to an ER, where they promptly put the Swine Flu prevention mask over my mouth—my mouth which already cannot get a breath. Thanks, guys. One of those cruel to be kind things, I wager. Hack, hack, hack, cough, cough, wheeeeeze, as a mask sucks itself to my face like gauzy kidnapping gag tape.

I am then wheeled to an ER room and given a gown and a bed. I am already feeling a little better, breathing better, certain I won’t be passing out at least. Darling Male Escort and I wait for a doctor or a nurse or something. Someone to get my information. Someone to give me a nebulizer treatment, or even just half-assedly pretend to read my blood pressure. We wait for an hour.

An hour when you are unable to breathe due to environmental causes will accomplish one of two things—1.) you will die, or 2.) you will entirely recover. I’ll break the tension here: I did not die.

No, in an hour, I got entirely better. Apparently the Benadryl kicked in, and that was enough to stave off the allergy attack, which effectively released the stranglehold on my asthma issues. Let me tell you, gentle reader, one begins to feel a little silly lying pitifully on an ER table in a gown when the doctor comes in to find you a rather lovely shade of flesh-colored, no longer wheezing or coughing, and you tell him “Hey, um, so about that breathing. All better. Uh, thanks for all your negligence; how did you know it would be just the ticket? Amazing.” You feel silly because it’s actually the truth.

Ah, well. I collect my humiliation up to use at a later date, reconstruct my previous outfit onto my newly oxygen-occupied body, returning my hour-long hospital gown to the bed, and Darling Male Escort and I ease on down, ease on down the road back to his place so’s I can sleep it off. And as I drift off to sleep in a happy haze of Benedryl, Tylenol PM, and Xanax, a cynical thought occurs to me—I sat in an ER for an hour with no treatment whatsoever. I bet this is going to cost lots of money.

I had no idea. I received the bill this week in the mail. I got charged $22. I do not think I received $22 of service. I mean, I rented a gown that doesn’t close in back and a bed without a blanket from the hospital for an hour, but I’d probably only consider that to be worth about $10. And no tip! Bastards never checked up on me. Hey MD, you got other tables to serve here, guy.

But $22 was nothing compared to what my insurance company got billed. $850! Let me repeat that—they had to cover $850!! How do you people sleep at night? Aside from, clearly, on 1200 thread count Vera Wang Egyptian cotton sheets. With people fanning you and feeding you grapes. Goodness. $850 (plus $22). For a bed, for an hour. Whores charge less, and they at least make sure you leave the bed smiling.

Jesus. I hope that ER bed is rent-to-own, or someone might have been screwed here…