Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday Morning.

The plastic alarm next my warm, pillow-topped bed clicks on and The Rolling Stones serenade me out of my slumber, telling me "I can't get no satisfaction." With the blink of an eye the night has escaped me like Houdini handcuffed in a watertight box. I roll to my side, sigh, and fumble for the snooze button. Half asleep, my eyes still soggy from sleep and my mind full of fresh memories from the dreams before, I quickly do an algebraic equation in my head to determine how many more times I can hit the snooze button.

The metal tags on my dog's collar rattle and I hear him stir from his embroidered nest on the floor. The sun casts its shadow on the window at the head of my head and the neighbor's dog barks at the white, plastic security door, pleading to be let back in the house.

I can delay the inevitable no longer and throw the down filled comforter off my warm, well rested body. The shock of the cold air stings and I am forced to quickly jump out of bed and start my day. I swing my feet off to the side, bend down to pet my dog "good morning", and stand. My day has begun.

The bathroom is still warm from my wife, the condensation dripping from the ceiling and the floor damp with fresh water. The mirror is fogged and the chrome on the sink glistens like morning dew of my front yard after a fresh May rain shower.

I slide myself into the shower and the warm water blankets my dry skin and begins to rejuvenate my soul. I wash away all the worries from the night and cleanse myself, preparing for the week ahead. I am awake now and, unfortunately, I can disdain reality no more.

The rest of the morning passes in a blur. My workweek has begun and the carefreeness of the weekend past is now just a distant memory.

My hands grip the leather steering wheel as I weave in and out of Sunday morning traffic. Like a hidden voyeur on an Italian beach, I admiringly gaze into the vehicles of passer-byers. "Where are they going? What are they doing? Why can't that be me”? All fleeting thoughts in my clear mind as I drive down the highway.

With the light morning Sunday traffic I arrive to work much earlier than expected. I slowly ease my SUV down the street like a suspicious solicitor looking for a house to rob. I find a meter across from the garage and ease my truck backwards in between a large Land Rover and a silver Honda hybrid. I don't have to pay today because it is Sunday. The classical music from my stereo softy plays from the large black speakers in the door. Tchaikovsky's symbolic serenade about conquering the New World is abruptly, and symbolically, ended with a slam of my door.

I swipe my white badge reader on the dulled, black reader outside the nondescript metal door. It beeps and a light flashes from red to green. Entrance, once again, has been allowed.

I step forward, cross the metal threshold of the entrance and my eyes dilate. The steam from the carwash and the dimly lit fluorescent bulbs coldly slap me in the face as I enter. An ambulance is backed into the wash bay directly in front of me by someone wearing all blue who seems to be practicing graffiti in the streaking wet, dirt on the side of the boxed vehicle.

In the not-so-far distance music is playing loudly from another ambulance being stocked in the next ambulance bay. All its doors are open and, even though it is early in the morning on a Sunday, it sounds like a Saturday night at a downtown club. The ambulance vibrates and the papered cones of the speakers split, as they are unable to sustain the vibration from the Hip-Hop music being transmitted from the FM radio.

The concrete ceiling, the concrete walls, the concrete floor are all cold and damp. Warmth does not exist here and each step has to be carefully placed, as to avoid the wads of spit sprinkled on the floor like landmines.

I make myy way to my ambulance and find my partner in the back. Personal belongings are sitting in the driver's seat, insinuating to me that they would prefer to drive -again. I unload my pack like a Sherpa on the base camp of Everest, find my computer, slide my radio in its holster, and close my eyes.

Here we go again.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Saturday Night.

Saturday night and the sun slowly sets behind my water stained wooden fence. The orange hue of the fading sun floats lazily from north to south like stagnant smoke from a cigarette. The Rocky Mountains hold the remaining minutes of daylight hostage and its glowing warmth radiating from the white snowcaps prolongs my day a few more minutes.

The brown eyes of my golden dog casually look up from the white, hollow bone between his long legs as he licks out the peanut butter filling. One quick glance as he lays in the brown, brittle grass of the backyard and a conversation of one thousands words is exchanged. He sees right through me, can see into my soul, and is sympathetic towards how I feel.

My wife’s warm hands hug a labeled pint glass of fresh raspberry iced tea. Her legs propped comfortably on the bench seat of our deck –shoes off, her head rocking back and forth as she illustrates a story of words with her body to her mother on the other end of the telephone line. I glance at her, she smiles.

An old blues song hovers from inside the house. The light, fluorescent from the lamps, blankets the two kittens cuddling in the sill of the wooden window. Their gray, spotted coats lean against the black mesh screen and they wish with all their lives that they, too, could be outside.

A single engine plane tugs in the distance, its engine churning furiously to keep the plane above ground and its occupants safe from the world below. The shadow precedes the noise and the silhouette dances across the suburban rooftops like a rabbit running from a vicious canine.

The clouds hover gracefully above my head, teasing my imagination into creating images remembered from the warm summer days of my childhood. Floating between the still, naked branches of the dormant winter trees in my backyard the vastness of the sky, the birds, the clouds, and the squirrel that lives in my Aspen, all taunt me into seriously re-examining my faith. They look at me and ask me to ask the questions that everyone should examine in their own lives. They remind that there is more to life than an occupation. That it is the journey itself that life is about.

But, with the inevitability of a Death Row conviction, the second hand of time marches forward regardless of my emotion. The sun sets, the moon rises, the day ends and my mood changes. Sullen. Sad. A little stressed. It is my Sunday night on this Saturday eve and tomorrow I will return to work. Tomorrow my shield goes up and I will try and protect what little inner salvation I have left from this draining job.

The wild things are out there -waiting ominously. Managers, coworkers, passer-byers, and patients all feverishly rubbing their hands together like a villain in a silent film, all waiting and hoping to stain my soul with their very own sadness, anger, and immaturity. My shield will be ready and my strength renewed.

I sigh, stand and open my flimsy screen door into the family room. Where did the weekend go?

And why can't I do this for a living?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Trying it again.

I'm gonna try it again.

1 a week. 4 a month. 48 a year.

This time, a whole lot more honest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coffee Shop.

My dirty green SUV, with dog toenail scratches on the passenger side door and greasy, light-brown grime from the previous blizzard of more than five months ago, eases slowly into the most appropriate, almost-closest parking space in the cramped lot. Nestled between an SUV and another SUV, the reflections of a yellow building on a developing hill blind my eyes. I squint and fall out of my trusty steel, grabbing my Mountainsmith Man Purse before I clod my way up the newly laid pavement to my new local coffee shop. The eager-for-business Veterinarian inside the new building, made of glass windows and doors, waves as he relaxes in his office chair with the very cup of cold java that I intend to sip on while I write this narrative. I love the suburbs.

You see, I'm back from a month’s vacation and have some writing to do. And what better place to pen a story than from the hip, beatnik inspired, soulful coffee cafe. The sad thing is, I don't like coffee.

That yellow building, soon to be a fitness center or organic grocery store or locally owned incense store, ricochets the reflection of that fiery yellow ball in the sky, deflecting the heated rays directly into the large windowpanes of the coffee shop. Giving the cafe the effect of, which really uneases me, a large two-way mirror. The suburbanite hipsters can all see out and assumingly all gather round to "once-over" the new guy approaching from the parking lot.

"He looks like Oscar on that old show, you know the messy guy."

"God, what's he doing here? Doesn't he know this is a cafe, not an outdoor store?"

"Ohh isn't that cute. He brought his laptop. Maybe he wants to be a writer."

I grab the aluminum handle of the glass door and swing it open. Time stands still.

Left foot in, then the right. The door swings closed violently quick and bumps me in the rear. My olive Old Navy cargo pants swat my posterior as the pressure in the cafe, like on a jet plane, is re-established. All eyes on me.

I scan, like the Terminator, to find a reasonable seat. It needs to be small and surrounded by at least two walls. Near an electrical outlet, preferably. No large cushy chairs and no bar tables, I'm here to write and need to be comfortable. My attention need be one hundred and ten percent, for I have written nothing in a month.

In the corner, near an outlet and next to one of those uncomfortably large den chairs is my table. Every other seat in the house is taken, so it has to be my table. The guy ahead of me, probably a poetry major or one of those people that rap text from old school literature books, also sees the one and only remaining table. I cut like A.I. (Allen Iverson) between the green wood chairs and the group of aging women discussing what happened today at their Botox seminar.

I step over a red Mountainsmith bag identical to mine. "Nice bag," I say to myself as I see the owner is a woman, and she is using it as a purse. Three large steps, a wiggle of the waist, and a slow saunter, I put my bag on the table. VICTORY! I may be new here, but I'm a paramedic damn-it! I deal with emergencies.

An evil leer meets my eye as I pass the looser as he seats himself in one of those ginormous leather chairs, not conducive to a laptop. Even though they are laptops.

I'm greeted at the counter with a smile. "Welcome, what can I get you to drink?" The young girl smocked in a large black apron asks.

"Uhm, well I don't reaqlly like coffee," I say out loud. "I'm really here to use the atmosphere to ignite my renewed fury for writing." I say to myself.

I grab my twenty ounce, venti, iced, chai, latte, no frills, no whip, no coffee drink and take my winner's lap slowly back to my table. The spoils have gone to the victor! And those spoils are one cold, non-coffee drink and a nice, little, wooden table in the corner. Next to an outlet.

I pull out from my man purse my white laptop -actually it is my wife's. But, regardless of the true owner, the white color of this laptop alone billboards the fact that regardless of how I dress, that I have fashion. The transparent apple on the lid illuminates as it "wakes up."

With my chai to my left, my Blackberry to my right (in case my wife calls), and my computer center-stage I prepare to write. Dave Matthews sings about some American Baby and my mental groove is set. Let the stories begin.

My eyes wander to my left. The looser of the chase sits sullen in that large, leather chair. His 20-pound Dell bobs up and down rhythmically on his Polo'd shirt belly. He can't focus. He can't type. He has no place to sit his drink and his knees are aching to scratch his chin, they're so close. His hair is reminiscent of that old poster from the '60's, the one with John, George, Paul, and the other guy all wearing black suits and standing in an English street. Bowl cuts must have been the fad back then. I look at the looser of my recent, non-televised Amazing Race and begin to feel sorry for him. "He should have been faster, smarter, stronger." I say to myself.

My laptop screen in white, as white as the plastic cover advertising it's sought after brand.

My eyes are caught once again. It's the commuting community college kid wearing a black tee with silver writing on his chest stating, "zero." At first glance, his white ear buds tucked into his large, round ears lead all to believe that what is being pumped into his head are downloaded tunes from his iPod. This is not the case. He, the man sitting in front of me, is a complex riddle of assumptions. I can see his screen and notice little boxes scattered throughout his desktop. As confusing as he is to me, he is very popular with others. And in each little box he types feverishly, conversations with possibly people from around the world, or just across the cafe.

Back to my screen. Nothing. I don't even have any friends to fill my screen up with little chat boxes. I sip from my disappearing Chai and Sheryl Crow strums her acoustic as she wails about every time she hears the rolling thunder.

Again, mine eyes are distracted. This time it's the red-capped lesbian sitting in the adjacent corner looking at all the girls as they pass. Mr. Zero and Ms. Red Cap scan the room simultaneously, both locking onto the same targets -the girl with the red bandana on her head, the girl crouched over a table with her bosom hanging out, and the black-smocked apron girls gallivanting about the cafe. Another Amazing Race is about to begin.

Back to the screen. Nothing. Miles Davis croons on his horn as Herbie Hancock tickles the ivories. Impromptu jazz at its best. My mind wanders up and down as the walking bass line hypnotizes me into another lull. I shake it off like a punch from George Foreman and steady my mind. It is time to write.

The sun is now setting behind the blue and white mountain tops to the west. The air is clean and my chai is gone. I came her to relax and have been distracted at every attempt to tap on my keyboard. Ray Charles is now singing the blues. I have lost all motivation to write. I want to be an old, blind, bluesman.

I close the lid to my laptop and shake the beads of water off the bottom of my clear plastic cup. My Blackberry is tucked back into the front right pocket of my cargo pants, the wife never called. I grab my man purse, slyly looking about for other women misusing the same bag for its unintended purposes -a purse. I stand, turn, and slowly walk out from my corner of this passing, frenetic world.

As I exit I turn to make sure I retrieved all my items, it's the OCD in me. And already sitting in my seat, laptop open and drink on the table is the bowl-cut Beatle wanna-be. I nod to him as I exit.

Maybe it wasn't he who lost the race. He is a professional cafe-goer and can confidently sit in that same seat and accomplish his goals. His fingers dance on the keyboard as I exit, my rear once again being slapped uncomfortably as I exit the building.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is only a job.

I slide my new black shoes onto my warm, damp feet. The cotton from my socks stick to my sweaty feet and makes it even more difficult to easily slide them into the steel-toed shoes. I'm already wearing my blue cargo pants and a blue, cotton tee. My black belt already interlaced between the small loops encircling my waistband and supporting two leather items; a holster for my flashlight and a mechanical metal and leather contraption created to hold my portable radio. That is all that is on my waist. I am no superhero with a hidden identity setting out to save the world from deranged villains. I am just a paramedic.

The hot sun is already unbearable this morning. It shines through the tinted window of my elevated rear lift gate, canopied open so as to protect me from the elements as I finish putting my uniform on. In the back, in a bag, are the tools needed to successfully manage my ten-hour shift. Tools only. Enhancers allowing me to more easily do my job. A stethoscope, tangled in a knot from my previous shift. A pager, allowing me to recall where we need to go and giving me pertinent billing information. And a little green book. My diary of drugs and drug names.

Finally, before putting on my white work uniform shirt, I secure over my thorax a bulletproof vest. Again, not because I am there to heroically protect a damsel in distress as a speeding bullet courses it's way towards it's objective, but because I am scared. Scared I may be the one who gets hurt. Scared that someone more powerful, much meaner, and with a lot less to loose might take out his life frustrations on me. I am just a paramedic. This is only a job.

I shut the gate and push the green button on my remote to lock the doors. The yellow lights flash and I turn to cross the street.

I walk into the moderately climate-controlled garage and swipe my badge. I clock-in. It's a blue-collar job guised by white shirts and bright lights. I am going to sweat, lift, poke, carry, and physically work my way through this ten hour, hourly-waged day. There is nothing intoxicating or mysterious about that.

Orange handles of trauma sheers are tucked in the waistbands of others. Trauma sheers not placed there for their physical purpose to later cut and expose, but for their mental support and reassurance. Their tactical belts securing their tactical BDU's full of tactical toys. Hundred dollar flashlights, the size of an index finger, originally created for gun-yielding SWAT members, are showcased around the waists next to the little black pouches, multiple pagers, cell phones and other trinkets not to be used for the remainder of the day.

I exit into the bright light of the sun's heat and quickly begin my day.

I'm sent to my destiny at the discretion of the dispatchers. I am just a bleep on the computer screen, a hypothetical tool on their arsenal around their waist.

Thoughout the day I encounter multiple paramedics with multiple agencies. Some wearing only T-shirts with stenciled white lettering, some in blue, button-up polyester shirts, and some more formally dressed with a badge on their breast.

All of them, though, tell misguided stories of mishap that float suffocatingly in the air. The feelings of the true hero that recently lay on their bed ignored. Memories of familial and patient respect are quickly treaded upon as the ego-stroking stories are swapped between staggering paramedics. One story always better, and one more unbelievable than the next. Like roosters in a pen, tail feathers plume wildly.

And all the while, the elderly one who called, and is slowly loosing his battle, sits quietly on the bed. Another notch on their belts and another story to exaggerate, he sits respectfully and honorably.

He has stories to tell, but doesn't. He remembers storming a beach, or jumping from a plane, or being shot, or working two jobs twelve hours a day, or standing in line for food, or having to walk -not ride. He, the quiet one before them, to me, is the truly better man, for he doesn't reminisce or tell tall fables, he just lives his life, honestly.

So, I am no hero. Don't call me a hero or even think that I may be. I am not better than you and my job does not elevate my standing in this world. I am no superhero and have no intention of being one. Just because I wear a uniform and drive around the city with flashing lights does not make me better, or truer, or more deserved than you. I whine and cry and am scared of things to come.

And although I may wear that white collared uniform that others stain with grandeur, I realize that it’s only a blue collared world we live in. And all the tall tales, large egos, and staggered gait doesn't change that fact.

I am better than no one.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thank You's are in order.

I've been nominated for a blog award.

And in this blog world, this is actually very suprising to me. I feel like the geeky kid in the corner of gym that was, suprisingly, asked to dance with the hottest cheerleader in the school. No one saw it coming, especially me.

So, thank you.

OH, by the way, I was asked to dance by Monkey Girl, at Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey Read it. It's good!

Here is what she said:

Rocky Mountain Medic. This is one of the best written blogs out there. He is an incredible writer, and I can literally picture whatever he's writing about. I wish he had time to write more, because I could read it all day. Some of the things that he writes give you goosebumps, some just make you think, some make you laugh. He's multi-purpose.

Below, is an explaination of the award.

"This award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy… of knowing them and being blessed by them.”
Here are the rules for this one:

1. Copy this post (meaning the rules).
2. Reflect on five bloggers and write a least a paragraph about each one.
3. Make sure you link this post so others can read it and the rules.
4. Go leave your chosen bloggers a comment and let them know they’ve been given the award.
5. Put the award icon on your site.

So here are my 5!

1) Random Acts of Reality.

It was this site that got me started. I had never been a big blog reader, but when I read about the life and times of this London-based EMS service, I was hooked. It's amazing that across that large pond of ours that the same type of experiences are occurring with someone else in my same profession. Differenct accent, same ole crap! Check him out here!

2) Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey.

Of course, even though she nominated me, this site is on my list of favorites. She is ABSOLUTELY hillarious. I love the wit and sarcasm and am jealous my tongue is not as sharp. I promise you, once you start reading, you won't stop. Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey

3) A day in the Life on an Ambulance Driver.

This guy is a great writer. It was the Englishman that got me started, it was the Ambulance Driver that kept me going. In the beginning, he supported me and the majority of my links and readers came from him. He tells wonderful stories and is sure to impress. Ambulance Driver

4) Mr. Hassle's Long Underpants.

A doc with his ear to the gorund. Great stories. I love going to his site. Plus, he's from the Rockies. Mr. Hassle's

5) Street Watch: Notes of a Paramedic.

Wanna learn something? And enjoy it? Go to this site. A great mix of personal essays with CE quality lessons. I enjoy reading his posts. He is a very informed and intelligent paramedic. Street Watch

Monday, July 9, 2007


The stained, dust-ridden, electrical glass doors whish open, inviting the new out-of-towners into a world they never knew existed. A world they won't be able to wait to leave.

The wheelchair pushing the initiate, graffitied with white paint on the back and advertising the name of the hospital, is cautiously wheeled over the metal door frames into the foyer of this altered world by the close friend of the unfortunate one seated.

A silver, rectangular-boxed wall fan circulates the stale, urine-soaked air in this suffocating entryway. It's the doormat of this amazing underworld that passerbyers wipe their feet on. And, like the blessed holy water in that marbled pedestal, all that enter are baptized into this new, dream-like, chaotic world.

The tracks of the electronic door scratch as the glass doors close behind them. Like a book falling from a shelf and slamming onto the aged, wooden floor, a loud thud advertises those who have passed through have now come forth.

The two women jump uneasily as their arrival is announced.

"Lighters? Matches? Knives? Guns? Do you have any of those?" The security guard, gloved in sea-blue gloves fondles the pockets, waistband, and ankles of these new initiates. A glance at one another and a furrow of their brows initiates a quick, justifying quip by the security guard, "You can never be to safe, ladies."

Another whish, scratch, and thud.

Longhaired and greasy, with his hands cuffed behind his back stands a mediocre man in jean shorts and a striped, Izod crew. No socks and untied shoes. No belt. Stains of tears chalk his red cheeks. Two men, badged in green short-sleeved polyester shirts flank his sides. Pressed and tucked, official and important, these two chaperones of justice are but transient visitors in this chaotic world.

An oversized wheelchair strolls backwards from the triage desk. Backwards, and with disregard, it forges its way into the ever-tightening lobby of the women's altered world. Its grey handle pokes the pleats of the cotton skirt of the friend with the friend. Her eyes bulge and her body stiffens. She steps closer to the resemblance of the world she once knew and squeezes her hand.

"Say my brother, what happened to your feet?" His IV tubing filling with blood as he holds the bag shoulder level like a tray of hors d'ourves. He is strolling the linoleumed floor crammed with beds. His eyes are on the exit.

A grunt and a miff. The bloody-faced transient with matted hair stares emptily into the inquisitors face. His amputated feet are gift wrapped in the full-length red sweats, knotted at the cuffs. He turns and rolls onto his side, pressing his face into the stains of blood on the sheet.

The two women from out of town clutch one another as though walking down a dark alley in Gotham. One, confused as to exactly what is happening in this world, quietly exclaims justifications as to why she doesn't feel she belongs here.

"We're from out of town. Our friends are shopping."

Whish. Scratch. Thud.

"Excuse me, sir. EXCUSE ME, SIR! Have you been discharged?" Security amasses the fleeing, IV'd patron and corals him back into the world that he obviously belongs. His IV tubing now full of blood. The bag, resting on his shoulder like a wool scarf in fall, pinkens with the mixture of blood and saline.

"Ladies," he says with a tip of his imaginary hat.

They clutch one another. And with the obvious bond like those on a sinking ship, or a crashing plane, or a burning building, they move sure-footedly forward into the center of the triage area, next in line for the hurried triage nurse.

"Medical Assessment triage, medical assessment triage!" Crackled overhead by a tired guard, this welcome summons the charge nurse once again.

They take some deep breaths and hold one another tight. They can see the depths of this frightening world. Clocks drip from the wall like Salvador Dali's imagination and people's faces silently scream like the expressionist painting by Munch of the man screaming affront a blood red sky. All seven layers of hell are visible from where they stand.

The charge approaches and mumbles with another nurse in the tight quarters. The look at one another, then the foreign women, then at one another again. Their future is determined and like the gavel of a courtroom judge on his wooden bench, their room number is assigned with a loud rap. "Room number 11, please."

The wheelchair is unlocked and its occupant is once again pushed farther into the underworld. And, with the loyalty of a Golden Retriever, her one and only friend, the one who could be shopping now with their other friends, clutches her hand even tighter and shadows her down the hall.

"We're from out of town. We could be shopping, now." She says, as they slide deeper into their own nightmare.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

6 days.

Discolored beads of sweat created chalk lines down his furrowed, brown forehead. His eyes, twitching at the ultraviolet rays bouncing off the windshield of his old, blue van, were stained red and blinked frantically, trying to keep the figures leaning inside his van in focus.

His white tank-top T-shirt was stained brown under the sweaty armpits. His jeans stained with sweat from the 100-degree heat. His brown palms, dusted with the white powder of the peanuts he had been selling on the street to wandering baseball fans, held the polyester fabric of the front seat he was struggling in.

He shifted left, then right. Forward, then back. As if he were sitting on a bed of hot coals, he repeatedly adjusted his body in the cramped front seat, looking for that one perfect, comfortable, forgiving position.

The roar of the cars on the street passing by became louder and louder. The chatter of the near-intoxicated baseball fans chewed at his consciousness as the barrage of questions from the sweaty, bunkered firemen assaulted his mind. The oldies on the am radio in the van became up-tempo and louder; the symbols of the drummer crashed every fourth beat and rattled his brain like a bird in a cage.

The sun's heat boiled his blood, dried his skin, and suffocated his breathing. The radiant heat off the blinding concrete singed the hair on his arms and dried his mouth. It became harder to swallow and the warm drool from his mouth dangled off his lower lip and hung over his heaving belly.

The questions got louder and faster. His heart raced and his hands twitched. His eyes bounced back and forth like that white plastic ball on a ping-pong table. The blood in his wrist pulsated. And as he glanced down at his damp skin, he could see the tidal waves of red blood coursing through his arm. Time slowed as his surroundings sped up.

Words became noises and the faces of the responders blurred only into colors. He felt as though he was suffocating and drowning at the same time. Alive, but dead. Awake, but asleep.

He stood, after pouring the chilled remains of the glacier-captured water down the back of his neck. His legs wobbled and buckled and he felt as though he were floating. The chilled water ran down his sore back and evaporated by the time it made it to his waistband. The cotton from the T-shirt fought with the dehydrated body for the rights to this refreshing oasis.

The clouds swiftly streamed across the sky and left white, hypnotic tracers. The flashing lights of the emergency vehicles merged into one kaleidoscope of color and the background voices of the portable radios, affixed to everyone’s waist, surrounded him and assaulted his senses. As if he were falling down a tunnel, he sat himself down onto the stainless steel bed.

The plastic from the seatbelts seemed to suffocate his breathing. The ones loosely tied around his legs grabbed him like a hungry python and tried to squeeze the life out of him. He felt as though he was floating and the world was 100 feet below him as he was slid into the back of the ambulance.

The box grew smaller and smaller and the red and green lights on the control switch to his right blinked with the intensity of the sun. The handrail grew hands and sank from above, trying to push him further into the bed. The oxygen was noxious and loud and the clear plastic tubing seemed to be transforming into a rope around his neck. And the slow, slurred, speech of the paramedic trying to reassure him drifted slowly off into the distance, eventually becoming only an echo.

He sat there wrestling with his mind. Deciphering reality from fiction, truth from hallucination, he struggled to maintain his sanity. What was real, what wasn't? Was this even happening? Was this a dream, or a nightmare? If it was, should he wake or remain asleep?

For he hadn't slept in 6 days.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Watching the world go by.

I sit on the uncomfortable, white-sheeted, black mattress and remove my blue, bloodstained gloves. Sweat, pooled in the fingertips, pours out of the reversed, disposed gloves and drips off my fingers onto the floor. I run them across the side of my pants and waft them in the cool emergency room air. The pads of my fingers wrinkled like bloodshot eyes squinting at the sun.

My feet dangle off the side of the mechanical hospital bed. Evidence of dried blood is crusted on the hinges of the chrome rails; bleach radiates from the mattress pad and mixes itself with the other smells of urine, vomit, and sweat. My scuffed black boots float above the stale linoleum floor. It's hot outside, and I sit here at the proverbial fork in the road, typing my report and watching the world go by.

In front of me, a yellow plastic sign warning all passerbyers that the "piso es mojado". The streaks of the overused, infected mop radiate from under the fluorescent ceiling lights. Crocs, tennis shoes, boots, and dress shoes hurry pass the sign with indifference.

A look to my left reveals a row of beds like the one I'm sitting on. Like cars in a mid-day traffic jam, they sit their eagerly awaiting their purpose. Their patched, black mattresses lean against the wall showing the skeletons of the beds. Green oxygen bottles are tucked beneath the heads of the beds and wire baskets hang haphazardly under the sides. Large, white foot pedals with red and green ends protrude from the feet of the beds. Collapsible black handles are their imaginary headboards.

To my right, security and triage. A rectangular cubbyhole with scrubbed nurses, rolling blood pressure cuffs, a pediatric scale, a sink and some out-dated computers funnel the walk-in traffic of people's emergencies. Blue, plastic chairs with chrome, triangular legs attempt to contain the hysterical patients sitting in them. Swollen eyes, bloodied lips, and destroyed lives all pass through this gateway. Each, like the summer run-off of a mountain reservoir, are released in their own good time.

Another hole houses men in pale blue polyester shirts. Leather gun belts packed with tools of the trade rest on the hips of the uniformed security guards. A door to their left and a desk in front of them, they juggle the demands of the patients and family in the waiting room and the urgencies of the paramedics entering the sliding glass doors.

Those doors whoosh open and close with each motion detected by the electronic eye. In comes in a steady stream of paramedics from every agency in the city. Some, sick and in need of immediate attention, quickly bypass this area and scream down the hall, firefighters and paramedics in tow. Some, more often than not, await their inevitable passing of judgment by the ED charge nurse.

And with all this in front of me, I sit and type as the world creeps by. Restrained, crying teenagers spit at the authoritative police figures. Handcuffed inmates in bright orange jumpsuits shuffle their shackled feet towards their rooms. Wheelchair bound, homeless men with plastic walking casts berate all that pass. And, more often than need be, someone fighting for their very life, breathing either way too fast or way too slow, passes by my personal voyeur window of this world.

And there I remain, feet dangling and fingers typing, waiting to be called out on the next one. So I can bring them here and start the process all over.

Friday, June 15, 2007

That peach colored box.

There he rested. On his back, white belly sunny-side up. The zipper on his 501's halfway down, the metal button carrying the stressful burden of keeping his blue jeans on. White socks, stained by the dirty concrete parking lot, peeked out from under the frayed cuffs of his dirty jeans. One foot crowned yellow, the other stamped with the Hanes logo.

Thick, black hair crowned his head like a Halloween costume. Sideburns, thick and reminiscent of Elvis, crawled down his puffy cheeks, in front of his sun burnt ears, to his thick jaw line. Chapped lips and a pot-marked nose with large hairs crawling from each nare sat atop his puffy, round face. His eyes squinted at the sun as he lay resting, trying to stay awake, on the graveled lot of the bar-b-que joint.

I approached the vision and saw his fat belly slowly rise and fall. He was flat on his back in the parking lot, next to someone else's car, overdosed on heroin. Another two steps, and I saw his drunken eyes floating back and forth at all the towering uniformed people standing above him. His superferlous nipple greeted me as I bent closer to speak to him.

Beads of sweat framed his hairline like dimples on a baby. I bent down close to him and talked forcefully.

"If you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you," I said as my shadow casted authoritatively over his poor soul.

"Where are your needles? I don't want to get poked. That makes paramedics very angry when they get poked."

As he slid his worn hands down his body towards his pocket, I reminded him once again.

"If I get poked, I'm gonna be mad," I said.

He rummaged around his tight blue jean pocket. Out came a red lighter, some gas receipts, and more folded papers.

"I don't have any," he slurred trying to keep his eyes open.

I patted him down like a cop in a dark, back alley. I pinched his pockets and rolled him from side to side, scanning his back pockets as well. I grabbed his ankles and pulled the frayed cuffs up, looking for needles tucked into his socks. I moved to his waistband and pulled the belt loop from his sweaty belly, keeping an eye out for needles tucked around his waistband and in his groin.

I grabbed his ankles, the firemen grabbed his arms, and like a burlap sack of potatoes, we lifted him onto the bed. He slept peacefully in the suns heat as we exerted ourselves to move to lethargic 250 pounds of overdosed flesh.

"Thanks guys," I said to the firemen as they closed the back doors.

"Don't give me any of that narcun," he slurred as I grabbed a sweaty arm for a blood pressure.

"My friends overdosed and you guys gave him some of that stuff, and he looked horrible because of that."

"I tell you what," I replied. My mood was surprisingly patient. "If you stay awake, I won't give you any."

The metal box bounced down the highway, the sun setting as its rays made last attempts to shine through the snow-covered mountains in the distance. I sat with my laptop and punched buttons as we bounced down the highway. Then, from the front of the ambulance, my partner turned the black dial on the am/fm radio. The volume increased and George Thoroughgood's voice rasped an old blues song about whiskey, scotch, and beer.

"I love this song," he said as he laid his head back, closed his eyes, and began to enjoy his high again.

His mouth moved sluggishly as he worded the lyrics of the song to himself. He had forgotten that he had overdosed, that he was under arrest, and that he was going to jail. He had forgotten that, under these circumstances, the ride in this ambulance was not supposed to be a high-enhancer. We weren't there to safely transport him from one place to another so he could remain high on heroin.

I grabbed the small black, metal box. Popped the silver hinge and thumbed my way through the colored boxes. Finally, in a row like soldiers, were the peach colored boxes I was looking for. I grabbed the small, rectangular box, popped the cardboard top, and slid the small, glass tube out. I popped off all the red safety features and screwed it into the plastic administrator.

He tapped his fingers on the railing and, like Jimmi Hendrix, visualized the music in his head.

I screwed the Narcan into the plastic IV port, straightened out the IV tubing, and shot 1 milligram of the life -saving liquid into his veins.

I sat next to him and waited.

Thirty seconds later he opened his eyes. He gasped a couple of times and turned pale in the face. He sat bolt upright and squeezed the handrail with his restrained hands. Then, he looked at me.

"What the f*ck did you give me!" he screamed.

"You broke our deal," I said.

"What the f*ck did you give me!" he screamed.

And with sobriety slapping him in the face, he gradually pieced everything together. Thoroughgood had stopped singing and the colors of the music had disappeared. He had stopped taping his fingers and had returned from wherever he was. He closed his eyes and began to cry.

He was not high anymore. And he was not enjoying the ride.

I discarded the peach-colored box and went back to typing my report.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The men in blue!

Rain drizzled from the sky and the sun's last rays reflected off the mirrored walls of the downtown high-rises. Approaching the intersection, sirens and horns echoing through the downtown streets, the two emergency vehicles met. I, sitting in a rather large box of an ambulance still realized I was the smaller of the two, flipped my right hand along the emergency switches and extinguished the rotating strobes of my light bar like a flame between two fingers. The fire engine roared through the intersection.

We tucked in behind the large white truck and drafted ourselves the remainder of the way to the call. We pulled around the truck and parked at an opposing angle, creating a safe little box for all the emergency personnel from the slightly intoxicated, road-raged, curious drivers of downtown.

A man with wafty hair ran towards us all, shouting nonsensical words. His advancements halted with the verbal leash of a friend inside the bar. He stopped, smiled, turned, and ran back into the bar.

On the ground, wrestling his ripped shirt, was a bloodied man. A diamond studded belt buckle held up tight blue jeans. His white oxford was half on, half off. Buttons popped off the stitching and rolled like marbles on the wet concrete sidewalk.

We approached, and I quickly turned back to the ambulance, knowing that this vision of inebriated chaos was coming with us.

"He's beyond detox," said a fireman.

The man shouted slurred obscenities and waved his tangled, bloodied hands.

I returned with the bed, a backboard (because they are more or less disposable and we can leave them at the ED for them to clean), a cervical collar, a blanket and a sheet.

"The sheet is because he is so bloody," I hinted to the fireman helping me unload all this gear.

"Optimistic, are you?"

We wheeled the bed past the diner's windows. Patrons inside strained their necks as they looked over their shoulders. The waitress, with mouth wide open, held a steaming pot of coffee. Their world was on pause.

I approached and all I saw was blood. Hands covered in dripping clots of red. Hi mouth bubbling bright red as his jaw bounced up and down with every slur. His white shirt stained bright red. And little pools of diluted blood ran through cracks in the sidewalk down into the street.

I "net" him with the white sheet and everyone grabbed a hand. Another gloved the mouth that spat blood with every obscenity. And like a frat boy holding a baby, we awkwardly, and uncomfortably, lifted him onto the backboard and placed him on the bed. Hands were Velcroed and his knees and chest were seat belted in. The streetlight framed his face and everyone was now able to see the reason for the bleeding.

We all stepped back and asked one another questions.

"Do I have blood on my face?"

"No, do I?"

After self-inspecting, we get back to work.

"What happened?" asked my partner.

No response.

"What's your name?"

No response.

We wrapped his head with gauze like a combat soldier and held pressure at the point of bleeding.

As we wheeedl him past the fishbowl of Diner patrons he finally decided to coherently talk.

And like a zombie in a B-flick movie, he thrusted his bloodied, bandaged head upward to the sky. Spitting foamy bubbles of blood, he turned his head towards the frightened crowd within and screamed. Everyone inside flinched, coffee was spilt and coins were dropped. The waitress turned and briskly walked away.




Monday, June 4, 2007

Dream Catcher.

He pulled the dented car over onto the side of the highway. Rush hour traffic screamed by him in the other three lanes. Horns whistled as the irate drivers raced dangerously close to his driver's side door, angrily flipping him off as he sat in his car weeping. The trashy small sedan reeked of cigarette smoke and the front windshield was stained with the yellow fog from every nicotine-laced exhalation. A dream catcher hung religiously from the bent rear view mirror. It hadn't worked in years.

The sun was at 2 o'clock. It's warm rays reflecting off the chrome gauges inside the piece of shit car. The car that he hated, but had to love, because it was all that was left. It was all he had in this world, and even though it stalled at every red light and sputtered along at 45 in the 55 mph zone, it allowed him what freedom he felt he had left.

Hands clutched to the steering wheel his mind raced. Bills, women, family, hopes and dreams all flashed before his eyes like a mirage. Good memories were shadowed by bad. The sun shining everywhere but on him. It was a warm spring day, yet he felt so cold.

He opened the driver's door recklessly, swinging it wide open into oncoming traffic. He didn't care. Maybe a car would hit him and save him from having to talk himself into doing what he was about to do. The cars veered, still honking and cursing him, as they maneuvered around the obstruction on the shoulder of the highway.

He placed his left foot out. Puffed fanatically on the burning cigarette in his hands and tossed the glowing-embered stump out the door and onto the warm, white pavement. He swung his other boot out from the rotting foot well and twisted its heel into the smoking cotton filter of his cigarette. The knobless radio still played his favorite cassette as he stood and exited his vehicle, leaving all his personal belongings inside. The engine misfired irregularly and the keychain with only one key rattled in the ignition.

The sand from the previous winter had all drifted to the side of the highway. It crunched with each step under his black boots. He made his way to the front of his car, stepping over blown-tire remnants and broken glass. He paused as the clouds framed the mountains in the west and the rays from the sun reflected off the broken glass near his feet. A gust of wind pushed through the open driver's door and rattled the dream catcher. He stood and watched it spin. Everything seemed as though it were underwater, his eyes floating in tears.

He grasped the concrete barrier and felt the coarseness irritate his hands. The black dirt under his fingernails contrasted the white, newly painted barrier. He knew what had to be done. He had every intention of following through.

He swung one leg over the barrier and straddled it like Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western. His heart raced and his mind cleared.

He swung his other leg over. Now, he was sitting with his back to the highway. His butt securely planted on the concrete barrier with his heels wedged into a small lip of the outer-side of the bridge. His palms steadied him on this tight wire as his legs dangled over the side of the bridge. It was already as though he was floating, he could only see sky before him.

Behind him, the world raced by. No one cared about what was going on on this ledge. No one cared that a life was about to be destroyed. No one wanted to notice or even had the time. Alone, with his feet dangling 70 feet over a concrete sidewalk and paved rode, sat a crushed man about to end all the misery in his miserable life.

Then, sirens. From the distance and approaching fast. The wail seemed sharper and louder the closer it got.

He wedged his heels into the side of the bridge. He stood and his outstretched arms secured him as he neared death, his knees shaking.

The siren was here. He could see the light from the approaching ambulance. Flashing back and forth, the headlights of the boxy ambulance announced its presence.

And one last time, through weeping eyes, he looked back at his car. The dream catcher from the rearview mirror, spinning in the wind, had failed yet again. His dreams were lost and so too were his hopes.

He looked forward. Closed his eyes. And jumped.