On nights like these, quiet ones, my restless mind ponders on the world, and the problems within it. More specifically, the problems within mine. Outside of these thoughts, the only things I can here, are the distant, wails of a bouncing ambulance siren somewhere within the concrete walls of this vast city, and the subtle hum of my air-conditioner.
Tonight, my medic’s mind is forcing me to think about you – all of you. I am thinking about the photos of you. The pictures I’ve seen. The ones that hung flawlessly on your walls. The ones that lined the hallways and living rooms of your homes. The ones now etched to my functioning memory, and wounded mind.
I could recognize you from the photos. But sadly, when I met you, you looked nothing like them…
I am of course referring to the homes that I entered into as a paramedic. The homes your loved ones had called me to, in hopes that I could save you. Some of whom I did. Many of whom I did not. They never called the reaper but, he arrived anyway. Please trust me when I tell you this, I don’t like him any more than you do.
As a medic, when I would enter the home of wherever I had been called to, I would enter through whichever door I was told to and snake my way through hallways and kitchens, stairs and bedrooms. I would walk until I found a body. Your body. Usually, lain on a floor but, sometimes slumped in a chair or on the toilet. I would place my hands on you. While trying to save you, I would injure you – with my hands placed on the centre of your chest I would push down forcefully, over and over and over… And as I did, there would be a ‘pop’ or slight ‘snap’ as the ribs tore away from your sternum. I am sorry about that. But please believe me when I tell you, I was trying to help you. I wanted to save you. And I tried…
When all had failed, and it was time for me to leave, I would stand from where I was. Look down upon you, and knowing that my fight with the reaper was a loss, I would say silently to myself, “I’m sorry…”. From there, I would gather the gear that had been brought in to thwart the reaper and his intentions. I would carry it over my shoulder. Slinking passed your bereaved family, trying to dodge past their grief. This is when I would see the photos. The ones hanging in frames. The ones that had now become priceless. A slideshow of who you were. A man on vacation. A woman dancing. A child and their bike. You were all these things. And now, as the dead, that is all you will ever be – framed while hanging lovingly from a wall.
I would take note of them. I would gaze at them as I passed by. I could always find you, in a poetically somber way – in the photos, you are smiling. Happy and full of life. But in the next room from me, those years ago, you lay dead on the floor. Naked and still. A direct contrast to the photo I slogged by. I apologize for leaving you that way – naked and on a floor. I was trying desperately to do anything and everything I could to bring you back from the reaper and his cold hands. Sadly I could not. I’m sorry.
Although my time with both you, and the photos of you were brief, the memories and images of them both, are forever. This I promise you.
I began writing this tonight because I was thinking about you – the dead. Somewhere off in the ether. Before I started writing, for a long time, I was just sitting. Watching as the numbers on the clock would change. They changed along with the passing hours but, my thoughts remained constant and unwavering. They remained with you. Of you. So I started to write you a letter. Not sure where to mail it to however. Guess there really is no place for that huh? …
I don’t really believe in an afterlife. Not sure what I believe in really. But I do believe in settling a tortured soul. So, selfishly I must concede, this letter really isn’t to you, but rather, for me. Written to a younger version of me. A version of me that remains in your hallways. Staring at the photos adorned to your walls. Still feeling remorse for the dead body in the next room. The one no longer smiling as it had once done. Just as it did back then, it becomes clear to me; there will never be another photo of you to hang from a wall. I did however see the last image of you, so rest assured, it is an image that hangs heavy on the walls within my wounded mind. It is a haunting combination of your smile, and your lifeless face.
Some people carry photos of their loved ones within their wallet or purse. Me, I carry pictures if strangers around in my soul. And as of tonight, I write them a letter. Maybe then they’ll leave me alone…
As the sun rises, bringing life to a new day, I will retreat to my bedroom. Close my eyes, and attempt to find rest. Please do not take what I am about to say the wrong way but, as my eyes close, and my mind sets sail, I hope upon hope to never see your faces again.
A sorry paramedic. And a humbled human being.