>>> This is the third-ever "NoPo at HePo" (Non-poetry at Hello Poetry) upload. It is a new way to share your writings here, Fiction or non. I hope you enjoy it. If you choose to join in, PLEASE place the notice ">>NOPO@HEPO<<" (so that folks that look for them can find them and folks that wanna skip them, can skip them! ) If you'd like to read the second one, entitled “The Listening Bridge”, just find it on my page or click the link in the notes section below.
In the last hours of April fools day 1999, I was driving to a local pub for a pint of Guinness when I drove up on some cars parked close together, with their headlights lit, on the other side of the road. In the median dividing the four-lane road was another car, stopped kind of crooked and unintentional. I could see the silhouettes of about fifteen people in front of the first car on the far side of the road. While I knew it was some kind of accident, not even the car in the median seemed to be damaged.
Just as I passed by it, I saw a man lying face down on the other side of the road. He was just in front of the silhouettes and this vision told the whole story:
The car that was now haphazardly parked in the median, had hit him.
What had taken me aback, was that no one was anywhere near the poor soul laying in the gravel and grass on the side of the road. At first, I thought that maybe he was dead and they knew it, so they were keeping their distance. But a strange instinct told me to do a U-turn and go to that guy ...
For whatever reason, it told me that he was not dead ...
That instinct was correct ...
As I walked through the faceless people standing in front of the first car, I could see him lying there. He was taking short, deep, labored breaths. I bent over him and heard a gurgling sound. He was choking on fluid and in the lights of passing cars, I could see the thick, red puddle that his face was almost drowning in. I ran to my truck and retrieved a towel. After I wiped the bloody fluid away from his nose and mouth, his breathing eased and the gurgling stopped.
I looked at the people around me and I felt as though I was in a dream. They all seemed to be looking at the whole scenario as though it were on TV. in their cozy little living rooms at home. For a moment, I felt a rage at these all too familiar "Rubberneckers". I just couldn't believe that these vultures had stopped and gotten out of their cars to look, and yet, not one had raised a finger to help!
But, when I looked back down at him as he took another breath, the rage went away as fast as it had came. I turned and bent over him and touched his bare, blood and scratch covered back with my fingertips. Every few seconds or so came another deep and yet short breath. They were almost like spasms, as though he were having to force his lungs to take the air.
I began to talk to him, even though I’m not sure why.
I just wanted to reach out to him somehow … to let him know some one cared.
As I spoke, I looked at his injuries and assessed that they were numerous and damaging. His left leg was a compound fracture and there were a lot of scrapes and scratches from his post-impact tumble down the road. But worst of all … was a large dented wound to the top, right rear of his shaved head. It wasn’t bleeding very bad, but it was at least four inches wide and an inch or so deep. Another thing that shook me a little was his age … He looked to be in his late teens. Maybe his early twenty’s at best. I thought it strange that he had been walking alone.
I spoke to him in a voice that I would use if I were speaking to a friend I had bumped into on the street and I told him to concentrate on the sound of my voice. I told him to hold on and to keep taking those breaths for me. I really believe that he could hear me because he seemed to be taking these heaving breaths more often. I promised him that if he could do that for me and not go to sleep until the ambulance arrived, he would be o.k.
He stopped taking them for a moment, my lips closed together and my breathing stopped for a moment as well. I bent down over him and when I put my fingertips on his back again, he took another breath. I started talking to him again and assured him that I was still here. I again asked him not to go to sleep on me, because he was going to be alright.
Just then, I could hear the ambulance coming up the road. As I spoke again, I could hear the excitement in my own voice.
“You hear that my brother?” I said. “You’re home free … just don't stop taking those breaths for me. I know it's hard, but they're almost here and you’re gonna make it, I just know it.”
He took a few more breaths, but just as the ambulance pulled up ... he stopped.
I know it's incredibly pretentious of me to assume the thoughts and feelings of another person, but I really felt like it was all that he could do to take those breaths for me ...
For him ...
But now that the ambulance was here, he felt that he could rest. My heart sank.
As the three rescue workers, two men and a woman, piled out of the van, I stepped away. The deputy, that had arrived only moments after I had, coerced everyone else to the back of the last car ... but not me. He said not a word to me and I wondered if he had the same instinct about me being there as I had had when I first saw the poor fellow lying alone on the side of the road. I truly felt that I was supposed to be here and, it seemed, the deputy thought so too. When I looked at him, he gave a blank stare and turned to call the trauma 'copter on his radio.
The first paramedic, who was now leaning over the pedestrian, stood up and yelled out:
"Has any one seen this guy breathing in the last few minutes?”
My heart sank even deeper as I told him, with all the urgency I could muster, that the pedestrian had been breathing right up to the moment when they pulled up. He nodded at me but didn’t speak. The others were busy opening boxes of emergency gear and I don’t think they heard me at all. When I looked back at the first one, he was kneeling down to join his co-workers examining the injured youth.
They looked at his wounds and, after they put on their rubber gloves, they rolled him over onto a backboard and then placed a foam collar around his neck. I watched as the third EMT put a set of electric paddles on his chest and I waited for the familiar jolt ... but it never came. They looked and mumbled to each other and then removed the paddles without even giving it a try.
I wanted so badly to scream out "Go for it Dude! If he's gone, what have you got to lose?"
But … the words were just not there.
The situation had overwhelmed me …
Again … I felt like I was dreaming.
They put the backboard onto a gurney and lifted it up so that the wheel assembly fell with a loud squeak to the ground. For the first time, I could see the pedestrian’s whole face … I was amazed to see that his eyes were now open.
He seemed to be staring, with a peaceful smirk, into the cool, star filled sky and I wondered if he could see or hear anything at all. I looked out in the direction of his stare, but all I could see was the dark outline of the trees on the side of the road … and stars.
I watched the second EMT, a woman in her mid-twenties, turn towards the deputy as the other two lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance. Her face was expressionless, though it seemed to me that she working very hard to hide her emotion. Her eyes were wide and she never blinked as she spoke. Perhaps she was new, I thought. The deputy didn’t seem to notice, he never looked at her face. In a monotone voice, she told him not to bother with the 'copter ...
"This one's code", she said.
For someone who's so full of emotion, I can't say that I've ever felt like I did at that moment. I looked at the deputy and he gave me the same blank stare that he had given me minutes before.
Without saying a word, I picked up my towel and my keys and I walked back to my truck.
My head hung in a daze.
If this was a dream, it was a nightmare.
I threw the towel into my truck-box and climbed into the drivers seat. I held the ignition key in my hand and watched the ambulance pull away with its flashing lights on … but no siren. I sat there for a minute or two, trying to chase off the malaise that had overtaken me. When I finally did leave, I quickly caught up to the ambulance. Not that I was speeding really, but that the ambulance was in no hurry. Through the rear windows of the large ambulance, I could see two of the EMT’s sitting over him, talking. Their faces were somber and calm.
As I turned on my street and headed to my cottage, I watched it drive on into the darkness. Its silence was painful. I’d forgotten all about the beer. When I got home, I sat at my computer desk and wrote this piece.
I don't imagine that I'll ever know why the pedestrian gave up his fight by the side of the road on that clear April night.
I know he was trying, I could feel it.
I like to think that in those last few moments, he heard my concern for him … that maybe he could feel it too ... and that he didn't die alone.
For the next thirty days, I called the morgue to see if I could find out the pedestrian's name and then maybe get in touch with the his relatives. I’m not sure why I felt this compulsion, or even what I would have said to them, in such a horrible moment in their lives. I guess I just wanted them to know that somebody was there with him. Maybe, I hoped, it would help ease their sorrow.
In those thirty days, I learned that he had had no identification on him and, because no one had claimed the body, that nobody knew who he was. As the thirtieth day approached, they actually asked me if I wanted to try and claim the body for burial since I was the only person who had shown any interest in the pedestrian. I sadly … and respectfully … declined.
He was never identified ... As far as I know, no one ever came to claim him. This frustrated me as much as that fateful evening. I was told that he was cremated at the Pasco County Animal Control incinerator and buried out near Dade City as a “John Doe”.
April 1st, 1999