The afternoon had darted away too quickly. A hundred years would have darted away too quickly. And returning down from my heights I felt lost.
'Don't make too much of it ya idjit!' My brain scolded. Better sense is usually instilled in me.
My existence was by no means dull. The sparkle of that single afternoon just put a tarnish on all else, or maybe it was just that nothing much else could shine as bright.
I tried walking the same street where we had met. Kept my head down in much the same way. I thought if I couldn't bump into her, at least maybe I would bump into someone else. To this my brain chimed in, 'quit looking for a person to make you happy you big baby. If you like her just shut up and wait.' I could tell by the tone of my thoughts that my head and heart were feeling the pinch. My head battling with sensibility against the foolish wants of the heart. A man can never be sure which of the two is the wiser.
The season changed from the blustery Fall we had shared to a snowy Winter. The face I saw in my mind's eye became tarnished, too. Clouded by thoughts about money, and work, and Christmas it started to wither. At first I fought hard to retain those smokey cobalt eyes in my thoughts but in a slow trickle they faded out. My good sense prevailed, and my heart shuddered for the cold of the season.
*** *** ***
The flash of lights and wailing siren thrills us because it fills all of our secret wish to be the center of attention. Even these became humdrum at work. So when we came upon the man lying facedown in the snow I was more calm than usual. Unflappable.
It is a very unnatural thing to be facedown in the snow. For one, snow is cold. For two, it is very hard to breathe while pitched face first in it. I hate to say that I was not surprised to find that this man had neither concern for the cold, nor for breathing as I stood over him.
We rolled him supine. 'Supine for staring at the pines,' I thought. I always think that when I roll someone onto their back.
The snow shovel lying next to him gave two very clear indications. Firstly that this was not a traumatic event, and secondly that it was unlikely that we would get him back after a heart attack - an infarct - so massive that it stopped his circulation.
"26 Bravo 3. ALS back up for the cardiac arrest, please." My partner worked the radio, while I worked the chest.
I looked up and she was there. I couldn't tell whether she was smiling or sobbing. She stood across the street from the driveway where we worked. I watched her intently. My secret wish came true. The one where THE girl shows up somewhere and sees me playing the hero. I smiled slightly. A wish, a dream, my simple hope to see her again came true. My mind raced at the possibility. Beautiful thoughts danced around the words 'compress, compress, compress' echoing in my brain. The cracking cartilage beneath my fingers didn't sicken me in the usual way. I felt elated.
The angry voice in my brain piped up. 'What are you doing gawking at a girl? People are watching! Are a professional or a pervert?! Doin' this for show are ya? get your fuckin' ego in check buddy...' The voice would have continued if I would have let it.
Situational awareness crept back in and I looked up in time to see a fire engine, a police cruiser and an advanced life support unit pull up. Apparently the man's wife was also standing there talking to us and I unknowingly retained more of her barely coherent yelling than I thought.
"64 year old male, came outside to shovel the driveway, had an unwitnessed collapse and was found by his wife face down in the snow. He was still face down when we got here. We found him vital signs absent and began CPR." I said this aloud so that the ALS crew got the idea of what happened. "Patient has a history of two MI's and has had a CABG in '96."
"Okay guys," the ALS attendant said, and then quietly for certain ears, "Let's give it the old college try."
These things take a lot of hands. There was an engine company of firemen and women from the local volunteer fire department, and 4 paramedics, including myself, who worked on the man. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police always come to any death, overdose, assault, or suicide attempt to keep accounts of things and help the families. They see the most of any of us.
In the melee of it all I lost her. I wondered how much she had seen. I wondered whether this was a help or a hinderance to me. I reasoned that if she had seen too much she wouldn't want to be contaminated by all the sadness that follows us around. 'Did she see me smiling at her? Jesus, did anyone else?' These were important questions in my own mind. You don't want to seem too happy in the presence of someone's tragedy, it either makes you seem nervous or inconsiderate.
"You good?" The good partner's question after any call that may have been tough to deal with. And the usual response, "yeah, fine, man. You?". That is the question and answer that happens 99.9% of the time after a difficult call. Any feelings are deemed a chink in the armor of a good paramedic. It's the culture. Not only that but it would have been too embarrassing to say, for more professional reasons than emotional, that I was being withdrawn and quiet not for the life of a 64 year old man lost, but for the love of a woman lost a second time.
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