Showering With The Dead

This morning when the sun rose, shedding light on a new day, I lay on my bed. Slowly allowing for my eyelids to peel themselves apart. After a few exaggerated blinks, I began to feel the familiar and almost daily ache in my lower back. A pain of consequence from my time spent lifting and carrying bodies while encumbered by the tools of my trade. An ache all medics will understand all too well. Soon after, my right knee joined in with a humming of agony. Not off to a great start.


I slowly sat myself upright in my bed. Drawing in some deliberate breaths before using my arms like paddle oars to shimmy to the edge of my bed. From there, I sat for a moment as air from my cantankerous air-conditioner began caressing and soothing my skin. With my hands, I wiped the sleep away from my eyes before standing to start the daily ritual.


It would be in the shower that my injured mind would take a turn for the worse…


I turened on the water to as hot as I could bear. I stood beneath the falling streams of water. Allowing for the heat to combat my wailing back muscles. I also began placing shampoo onto my hands before lathering it into my hair and scalp. As I was doing this, my hands began to remember a sickeningly familiar and abhorrent sensation.  As the tips of my fingers began sinking in-between the strands of my soap covered hair, they began to recount a story from another time where I had felt something identical to what I was feeling now…



With my eyes clenched shut, I started to sink into the wormhole of time travel. Although in reality I was standing in the shower, my wounded mind was now back in uniform and responding to a call for help. The call was for an “unknown problem – man down” within the cluttered avenues of the cities inner streets.


The call would be for an unconscious male in his forties, who had been beaten to such a state that he was lain on his back, and unable to move. As we pulled the ambulance into position, I peered out of the passenger side of the window and observed a blood-soaked man splayed onto the asphalt. I thought he was surely dead – and he was but, not yet…


My partner and I exited the ambulance and entered into the dense heat of the summer day. (Every-time I feel a summer’s soaring temperatures, I cannot help but think of this day). I grabbed the trauma bag and airway kit. My partner had already walked over to where this bloodied man lay flat, and began assessment. A fire crew had arrived now as well, and I had instructed them to retrieve the stretcher for us and all other gear that we may need. All hands were on deck.


I knelt by the man’s head. Within such proximity to him I could now see the devastation imposed upon him by whomever had perpetrated this act. There was a deep and avulsed gash ascending from his left brow. His nose was obviously broken and disfigured. It was covered by a blanket of clotted blood, both dark and almost black in color. His eyes were closed and puffy. Not yet discolored but that would soon change as well. Whatever had happened to this man was purposeful, and foul in intent. He was ravaged in anger by someone who was long gone by now. We deduced that some kind of blunt object was used to inflict this brutality upon him.


None of that mattered now. Not really, anyway. All that mattered now was getting him from where he lay dying, to the trauma centre without causing any more undo harm.


I was instructed to maintain C-Spine (Controlling the head and neck in place to mitigate any further and/or potential damage to the spine) while the rest of the crew worked hastily to package and treat this beaten man.


Occasionally, tiny bubbles could be seen in the blood surrounding his mouth, and atop his lips as he struggled to breathe. While I held the head still, another medic was working on correcting his compromised airway. An odd sight to see – air bubbles and blood – both things required to live, and the very things robbing him of his…


As I was placing my hands to the sides of his head, I felt a repugnant ‘sinking’ sensation to the tips of the fingers of my right hand. It felt as though my fingers and hand were sinking into the man’s badly beaten head.


Much like they were through my shampoo covered hair…


I leaned my gaze to one side so that I could see what was actually happening. What I observed was a ghastly sight of my gloved fingertips, disappearing into a matted clot of blood, glued loosely to the side of this man’s scalp. As I pulled back, attempting to readjust to a more desirable location, I could feel the ‘suction’ like sensation of pulling your hands back from something sticky. My gloved hand was now completely saturated in a masterfully grotesque pallet of clotted blood, bits of fatty tissue, and flesh. It was at this moment, that I decided my hands were “fine” where they were. I removed my gaze from the reality of this man’s injuries, and began to stare down towards the tops of his feet, which were pointed off in either direction. Blocking out the rest of his broken state.


I could feel an indentation from where something must had struck the side of the man’s head. I had to return my gaze upon this discovery to see if there was any visible brain matter. It was impossible to see through the swirl of this man’s long and unkempt hair, matted with clots and running blood. All I knew for sure was, he was in a bad way.


It was around this time in my rumination, my stomach began to recall a sensation of its own – nausea. I Opened my eyes and removed my hands from my scalp. I placed them in front of my eyes and I swear to you, just as you see words to this screen, I, for a fleeting moment of panic, witnessed a tapestry of blood, tissue, and hair clinging to my hands.


Instantly I began rubbing my hands together while placing them under the running water. I was mumbling to a God that I do not even believe in to make it stop. To make the demons go away. With my eyes once again clenched shut, I rubbed and I rubbed.


The reality was that there was no blood on my hands. Nor hair or tissue. Just bubbled foam and memory. Torment in a bottle.


When my eyes had returned to the present, they apprehensively opened, gazing towards my hands. Now, all they observed was two hands shaking with adrenaline beneath the running beams of water. This was my shower. As told by PTSD. I was showering with the dead.


I exited the shower and began drying myself off. As the nausea subsided, and the adrenaline calmed, I found myself fighting from fixating on the intrusively grotesque memory that had invaded the sanctity of my shower moments ago.


I decided that leaving the house was in order. So, I got dressed and exited the torturous walls of my apartment. I locked the door and the demons behind me, and began walking aimlessly along the winding sidewalks of the city. The sun was shining so, that did not help with the attempt at ignoring ghosts of the past but, I did my best. This is just another reason why I hate the sun – its rays carry with it, warm reflections of the past.


I eventually made my way to a coffee shop which I decided was a good resting point. From there, I ordered my caffeinated beverage. Pulled out my laptop. And wrote this down. I’ve decided that after I finish writing it, I am going to allow it no more room in my mind for the day. I am going to end any further thoughts of that day on the final period of this post. It’s all I can do really – can’t change the past. If I could, I may not have taken the head end…


I will say this as well though: Most people sing in the shower. Sing and dance. Me, well, I am still picking up the dead along the faded city streets of years gone by…


One thought on “Showering With The Dead

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  1. that was so heavy but telling. You articulate your personal traumas and memories in a way that allows me as a reader to experience it with you.


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