With the first day of summer ever looming overhead, what should be a jubilant anticipation is instead replaced by a burning thorn of remembrance. It was after all, summer, when I met him for the first and only time. And when I met him, I worked him… and after I worked him, I, along with several other despondent first responders partook in the horrific duty of declaring him dead where he lay… It was during those sticky days of summer that this all transpired; much like the ones fast approaching… And after today’s therapy session, they don’t seem all that far away – both in memory, and reality… I guess they never really are, weather I am talking about them or not…
Today whilst sat within a chair affixed to my therapist’s floor, I was asked a poignant question that released a monsoon of emotion along with response; “Matthew, how often do you think about the boy?” Her spoken words of professional empathy drilled holes deep into my ears. At first, I thought I could answer truthfully with no ramification – sadly, that was not the case. When I began to speak aloud my confession to her query, my voice buckled beneath the very heft of the words I was releasing… “Everyday, doc… everyday…” After emancipating the words into the ether, my soul began to claw at their hooks and edges, trying to take them back. But, it was of no use. I had set them free and along with them, my tears. I could no longer breathe a full breath of air. At first, I sobbed. And then, I gulped and wailed. I became the Niagara of painful rumination. I buried my face deep into my hand so as to shield myself from the watchful eyes of my protector.
I did not and do not think that she will do me harm nor judge me, but I have never cried in front of any audience and been told that it is okay… so, I try very hard not to, as that is the discipline that I have both practiced and been praised in… However, in that moment, manacled to the chair within her office, my hand began to moisten in my grief as it clung to my brow. Yet, my soul did not become lighter in its pain nor burden. Instead, each swallowed gasp lowered my aching mind further into the depths of hell that dwell within me – lower and lower. Back into the pit. Each weep became a flashcard of remembrance. First, his face. Then, his dangling body. After that, the urine… the foul sting of his urine crawling past my nares and into my sinuses.
You see, when we first entered into that home on that fateful day of summer, the broad soles of our boots clamored against the wooden steps that guided us into the pit. The pit was a basement with all kinds of modern dungeon-like smells; there was the scent of aging wood along with damp boxes and unsettled dust. As our footfalls carried us into the basement, I became privy to the swaying body of a slight fourteen-year-old boy. He was attached to one of the rafters by a crudely constructed execution device; a dog leash and rope. His older sister was feverishly and fruitlessly attempting to cut him down. I instinctively dove at his waist in an attempt to both lift him and alleviate the pressure around his neck. In doing so, I was confronted with a face full of the boy’s freshly excreted urine. My face was at his crotch. The damp cloth of the boy’s jeans smacked remorselessly against my face. I was able to stomach it for a few fleeting moments, but eventually I too, began to choke. As I let loose a cough or two, my strength gave-way… I unwittingly released my grasp of the boy, forcing a sudden freefall of his body until it was caught by the device around his neck. His body and bones projected an audible sound along with a visible jolt and sway!
This is something that I will never forget…
My face now sufficiently saturated in the boy’s final acidic release, watched as the rope and leash cinched into the flesh of his neck. Ignoring the horrendous odor of another man’s urine attached to my face, I began to lunge so as to pick him back up. But, before I could do that, I noticed that, Ryan, my partner, was cutting him down with his sheers.
I heard the sudden ‘snap’ of fabric releasing from itself, and both, Ryan and I took the boy to the ground. Almost as if to be in one fluid motion from hanging boy, to lain boy on a floor, I too reached for my trauma sheers, and began slicing away at his clothes. As I cut up his sleeve, I could hear the static sound of metal slicing through textile fiber. After doing so, his bare arm was exposed to me so that I could start an intravenous line. Through deep seeded concentration, my tongue lurked passed my lips and unintentionally fell victim to the detestable flavor of a dead boy’s urine! I swallowed his piss! A dead boy’s ordure. I wanted to gag, but I stopped myself and just swallowed angrily a few times over as I searched for a vein.
After sedating the urge to gag by burying beneath a newly borne anger, I followed through with the task of completing the line. I yelled through a single cough, “It’s in! I got a line!!” We could now push drugs.
When able, I used the sleeve of my uniform shirt to wipe at my piss lathered skin – to no avail, the damage was done; I had tasted the dead boy! Piss clung heavy to my tonsils and spit at the back of my throat. All the while my eyes surveyed the sight of a poor boy, dressed in blue, both in skin and in fabric. His lips were bulbous and distended. His neck was bruised from his heinous decision. And his jeans… his jeans were sopping wet. And now, so was my face and my tongue.
I began to block all sound and tastes away from me. All I allowed entry to, was anger and concentration. I fought hard to save him. I did CPR longer than any other person there. I even ignored the calls to ‘switch out’ after a certain number of cycles. I just thumped on his chest as hard as I fucking could. I felt his ribs snap beneath my gloved hands. I watched as his body twitched with each compression. I also watched as he became bluer, and more pallor. I knew he was dead. And yet, I punched at his heart anyway. Fuck you, boy! Live! C’mon… LIVE, damnit! My hands dove into his chest, wishing for his heart to start… it didn’t. It never beat another single beat…
I was still doing CPR when I heard Ryan’s voice break-in above my head; “He’s dead… I got a termination of resuscitation order from the doc,” he held up the unit phone. Unbeknownst to me, he had called into the on-call doctor after we had exacerbated our efforts. I was told the boy was dead whilst my hands remained on his reddened chest. I lowered my head and released my clasped hands. And in doing so, I pursed my lips, and licked them once more – one final and unwitting ingesting of a dead boy’s piss! My face grimaced as my eyes winced. I stood to my feet and along with the other men in uniform, gazed down upon our fallen boy… The sight of a still developing male, accompanied by the breathing tube, electrode stickers and intravenous line made for a less then stellar picture. This, along with being stuck in the pit, and knowing that we had failed, gave birth to an ember of rage destined to become a roar inside of me. My hands at my sides and my feet planted beside his left arm, I looked directly at his dead and aloof eyes, and said, “Fuck you! You fuckin’ prick!!” I did this while shaking my head from side to side in defiant opposition of his circumstance.
Outside of the pit and beyond the walls of this now tarnished home, the sun stood triumphantly high within the pale blue sky. Birds continued to sing as though nothing had happened. The world continued to move, while I stood there, shackled to a dead boy, in the pit that was his basement and tomb.
Ryan said that he was going to go upstairs and tell the family. He had a shift supervisor with him, so I told him that I would stay behind and clean up a little before the family descended into chaos. As I was cleaning-up, I could hear the muffled baritone of, Ryan and our supervisor, falling through the floor and seeping into the basement. Soon after hearing that, I began to hear a drum that was akin to that of one played before a final battle. It was the freefalling fists of the mother who had depleted to her knees at the news of her slain son. She was wailing both in voice and physicality against the floor above me.
Boom! Boom! Boom! …
I took my left foot and stepped over the lifeless boy. I followed that with my right foot, and then ascended the stairs in an attempt to escape the pit. I was weighted by our gear hanging off of each shoulder as I lumbered step after step, trying to reach the top. When I got outside, the sun slapped my skin and poked at my eyes. Through askance gaze I walked towards the ambulance. As I was placing the gear back into their rightful positions, my mind began to think on what we had just done and witnessed. It reminded me of what was attached to my skin; the boy and his piss! With that, my stomach violently twisted and churned in preparation to expel somber reality in the form of bile. But I refused to let it go. I instead began gagging with no fruition of vomit! I spit vengefully at the pavement many times over while trying to remain subtle and unphased.
We left that home with a dead fourteen-year-old-boy inside of it. He was lain on his back atop of the senescent cement floor, adorned by the remnants of our efforts to bring him back. And although I was alive, a piece of me remained along side of him, down in that pit.
It still does… He revisits me on some nights when I am sleeping, or sat in solitude at the bar, attempting to seek refuge from my weary wayfarer mind.
I was at the bar seeking respite tonight after therapy; a flawlessly beautiful young woman who works there smiled at me and asked how I was… I don’t know that I will ever learn the words to describe how impossibly difficult it was to smile and say, “I’m good, you?” all the while tasting a dead boy’s piss that sits in the back of my throat! Later in the evening and after one beer too many, she would expound that I look sad… She had no fucking idea just how veracious she was… I may smile, but my eyes remain crestfallen.
This memory, along with today sucks! It just sucks. I tried so hard to save him. I did… Please, believe me, I did… I just couldn’t. He was too far gone.
Sometimes, that’s how I feel; too far gone… I fear that I will never again know the love of a good woman, or once again stand for something greater than self; because the good parts of me are lying at the bottom of a pit somewhere. I am married to ghosts. Marred by memory. Hell, I can’t even seek out my mother for comfort nor council, she decided that we were not worth sticking around for. So, she killed herself… just like that fourteen-year-old-boy! It is her perfume that I smell from memory, and it is his pungent piss that I taste all over again at random… and I do that while smiling a fictitious mirth while reciting the words, “I’m good… you?” … Horribly saddened words, hidden within the most generic of confabulations.
(I often wonder if there is such a person out there…)