7.23.2008

Falling Softly

The rain always seems to fall harder when you're in the ambulance than when you're outside. Maybe it's just because there's little noise when it hits your skin, compared to when it hits the hood. It's falling harder now. The heavy stacatto of the rain beats in time with my heart, which is going crazy.

"Assault, possible rape," the radio had murmured in the dark. I swear my pulse spiked before I even awoke.

"Sam, we need you." Drew's face is only barely visible through the fog in my mind and the darkness of the room.
"I don't want to go."
"We need you. You're the only woman on duty in a 20 mile radius. Let's go."
"I'm scared," I had whispered in the dark.
"Me too."

But here we were now, waiting for the police to clear us to go on scene. It's the first thing you learn; if the scene isn't safe, neither are you. If you aren't safe, what can you possibly do for your patient? The scene isn't safe. There's a criminal somewhere in Clearview, and he might still be around. I shudder as I think of a girl huddling in the corner of this dark alley, wondering why the ambulance hasn't come for her.

After what feels like an eternity, we get the go-ahead to approach. What I had pictured is almost the exact reality.

She's tiny. Five-foot-four with sopping wet hair, she holds her knees in close to her chest, shaking from the cold. Her sobs shake her, too, and as I come closer, she raises her head. Big blue eyes stare up at me, horrified and confused. I want to cry right then, but I push it away.

I am stoic, I am calm. I cannot let emotion overcome me when this girl needs me the most.

Handprint bruises are forming on her arms. I see marks on her face, and her clothing is torn. Her lip is bleeding onto the knee of her jeans, and the water is running out of her blond hair onto the shoulders of her green shirt.

Her name is Vicki, the police tell me as I get nearer. The rain falls softly on my arms, and I shiver from the cold, or so I tell myself.

"Vicki? Hi, Vicki, my name is Sam, I'm with the rescue squad."
"Hi Sam," she says as she manages a little smile. She's trying to be brave, and this display grabs my heart a little tighter, wrenching it a little more.
"Vicki, can you tell me what happened? I know it's difficult, but I need to know if he--er, how he hurt you." I catch myself, feeling stupid. Obviously, he hurt her. Obviously she isn't the same girl she was earlier.

She tells me what happened, and I nod and say stupid things like "uh huh," and "okay." I don't quite know what I feel. I'm angry, nauseated, sad, and hurt. I see Drew standing a few feet back, his eyes lowered to the ground. I feel so stupid and insignificant when I ask her more questions. She's going to have to answer questions for a lot of people soon, and I hate being one of them.

"How old are you, Vicki?"
"I'm sixteen," she says as she fiddles with her high school class ring. In big, bold numbers it proudly proclaims "2010." I fight the nausea a little harder as I look at my own ring.
"Sam?"
"Yeah, Vicki?"
"How old are you?"
"I'm nineteen," I say.
"Can I see your ring?"
"Of course."

She takes it from me gingerly and examines it.
"2006," she says softly, "I was in eighth grade."
Innocence flashes in her eyes, followed quickly by maturity. I don't know which makes me feel better. She hands me my ring back, and I slip it on my finger quickly.

I don't realize it's happening, but she's crawled into my lap. I don't stop her, I don't make any noise, I just let her find her fit in my arms. We sit there for a while under the dim light in the alley. The officers have turned their backs on us, not wanting to interfere in this. Drew and Eric face away as well, and answer the radio when dispatch checks to see if we're okay.

I hold her as she cries, her tears mixing with rain on my shoulder. Her fingers grip me tightly and I rock her softly as I hold her head with my hand.

After a little while of this, I pick her up and carry her to the ambulance. Drew wraps us in a blanket and squeezes some water out of my hair.

"Do you want me up front with Eric," he asks.
"That'd be fine."

Together as one, immovable, we ride to the hospital. I have strapped myself onto the stretcher with her, and asked Drew to call in the report. Her breathing slows, and her heart beats in synch with mine.

"Vicki," I whisper to her.
"Yeah, Sam?"
"I have to go now." I've placed her on the cold exam table in our SANE room. The forensic nurse is standing next to me, ready to go.
"Okay, it's okay." She forces that little smile again. I feel awkard saying goodbye. What do you say? "Feel better," or maybe "take care?" She speaks instead.
"Thank you, Sam."
"You're welcome."
"I mean, thank you for like...you know, just being there."
"I'm glad I could help some."
"I think you're the most helpful person I've ever met." She squeezes my hand as the forensic nurse pushes me out of the way. I take the hint and leave, my heart sinking.

We drive back in silence, save the rain falling heavy on our ambulance.
"So what happened?"
"He beat her, raped her, and left." I'm a little short with them, but if I go into any detail, I'll break down.
"Oh. Wow."
"Yeah."

-----

The sound of the rain is replaced by the shower water. Steam rises up, disappearing as it makes its way further into the bathroom.
"I'm going to take a shower," I announce to no one in particular.
"10-4," is the generic response I get.

I make my way into the humid room and carefully take off my clothes, folding them neatly in the corner. I step into the hot water and slide the curtain closed behind me. The hot water replaces the cold water that had made its way into my bones, and I seem to melt right onto the floor of the shower. The teal tiles wash my already-pale skin out even further, making me look like some sort of living ghost. I remind myself of Vicki.

I'm not sure how much time has passed. I'm not sure if they could hear my sobs or feel my pain from the other room. I'm not sure if they could picture the way my teeth were bared tragically in some sort of twisted smile as I bawled. All I know is that the water has become tepid, and I am shivering. I think I've stopped crying, but I can't be too sure.

The water stops running, and I raise my eyes to see why. Drew is standing over me with a towel. He covers me, and gently picks me up off of the shower floor. My fetal position remains the same as he carries me to my bunk. He wraps another towel around my body, and puts one in my hair.

"I..." My attempts at verbal expression fail, and I don't try again.
"Sam, I don't know what she said to you. I don't know what happened in the SANE room. I don't know anything, really. But what I do know is that you're hurting, and I want to do whatever I can to help ease that pain. You don't have to explain anything or tell me what happened. All you have to do is tell me how I can help."

And staring into those big, blue eyes of his, I put my head in his lap as the rain falls softly at the window.

21 comments:

tracy said...

Oh Sam, Heartbreaking, just so very sad... so vivid and beautifully written.
i wish i had the words to tell you how i feel.
thank you,
tracy

Fyremandoug said...

Wow....Sam, I just cant find anyway to explain what you wrote other than Wow

Epijunky said...

Honey, I know I said I wasn't going to comment.

She was VERY fortunate to have you.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the SANE patients leave the biggest scars on your heart but know that you left an imprint on her heart as well.

Evil Lunch Lady said...

Geez kid! Great wrtting, but a sad, sad story. You are a beautiful person, inside and out!

Polar Doc said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes and an aching in my heart for Vicki's ordeal and your compassion.

Bernice said...

I don't even think I can muster a comment that would do your story or you justice.

JD said...

All I can say is you were there when she needed you. And folks don't believe in angles. . .. I don't know why, you were one when one was needed the most.

Take care of yourself too. You are too good a this job to let yourself get burned out. Folks need people like you out there

JD said...

All I can say is you were there when she needed you. And folks don't believe in angles. . .. I don't know why, you were one when one was needed the most.

Take care of yourself too. You are too good a this job to let yourself get burned out. Folks need people like you out there.

Anonymous said...

Tragic, Excellent, and well-written! Later

Medix311 said...

I feel for you and Vicki. Take care of yourself. I'm thinking of you.

Silent Owl Scribe said...

Samantha Evelyn...or Medic61,

Question for you: Are the 'skins going to the Super Bowl this year? I would say yes, but I do not choose to jinx them.

As the sun sets and moon rises, I hope that your weekend will be a nice one. Bye.

Forty_Two said...

The long term solution to this problem is to stop producing rapists, but don't expect to hear that from anyone in authority.

Alaina said...

Wow--beautiful writing. You certainly have a gift for making readers feel like they are right there with you, experiencing the exact emotions you write about. Amazing.

Michael said...

Wow. Excellent writing.

John-Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John-Michael said...

I have never talked about it ... I had hidden it away in some private recess ... you brought it back ... and I shared the experience with you ... through tears, I now write. It was below freezing. I was a Supervisor over a group of newspaper carriers. I was riding with one of my guys. She was sitting on the hood of a vehicle in a used car lot ... clutching her knees to her chest ... wearing only a tee-shirt and panties. She stared out into nowhere ... couldn't speak. I picked her up, wrapped her in my Levi Jacket, and carried her to the van. She curled herself into my arms all the way to the warehouse, where I picked her up again ... still mute and unaware of her surroundings (I learned later that she had been drugged in a club, and repeatedly assaulted) and I drove her (as she leaned into me in the front seat of my old VW) to the hospital. It was 1988. I will never forget. am so very appreciative (from my own personal place of understanding) of who you, My Darling Friend, are ... and how you conducted your loving Self.

I love You.

Silent Owl Scribe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You were strong when you needed to be - and fell apart when you needed to. She will never forget your kindness as no doubt you will never forget her. I have recently been involved in a very similar incident and can't remember the last time I cried so hard as when I left her in the care of others and was finally able to let my feelings out. Hope you're continuing to get good support with any ongoing feelings.

RiverPoet said...

I'm sure that Vicki saw you as an angel, and really, isn't that what you are to the people you help?

God bless you - D

Chapati said...

wow! this is the most powerful thing i've ever read