Her hand is cold as it makes contact with my face. She's looking right at me with these cloudy green eyes, lost in her overdosed haze. I'm supporting most of her weight as she tries to pee before we go. I'm literally her rock right now.
"Sarah," she says longingly as she strokes my face, "Sarah I'm so sorry."
She smells like my mom. Her hair is long enough that it reminds me of playing with my mom's hair as I sat behind her on the couch. A burning wetness stings behind my eyes, and I force it back.
In a moment of lucidity, she snaps.
"Oh GOD just go, just let me die, Sam. Jesus just go, I just want to die, I took all these pills and I just want to die."
I help her up from the toilet, pulling her pants up while juggling her weight with the basket I hold for her as she tries to vomit. I flush the toilet with my foot, and bear hug her all the way out to the stretcher.
"My husband doesn't love me. I asked him for a divorce. He knows I want to die, he told me to just fucking take the pills and get it over with and just do it. He has a death wish for me."
"Mary, we're going to take you to the hospital now."
I don't even have a set of vitals on her. Eric and Jake wheel the stretcher out to the ambulance as Mary clutches my hand like it's her lifeline. Without letting go, I climb into the back with Jake as Eric heads for the driver's seat. She keeps looking at me without seeing me.
She sees her daughter, Sarah.
"Sarah, I just love you so much, you and your brother, you know? I'm so, so sorry. You're so beautiful. You've gotten so much older since I saw you last. And your hair, it's so long."
She stops, her head hitting the stretcher with a thick smacking noise that sickens me.
"Oh god the drugs, Sam, the drugs are kicking in."
"Mary, I need you to stay with me. My partner is going to start and IV on you to give you some fluids and medicine, okay? I'm just putting these stickers on your chest so we can get a picture of your heart and make sure it's okay."
"Okay, okay, I'm trying."
"No one sleeps in the ambulance, isn't that right, Sam," I hear Jake say as he spikes the bag of saline.
"It's the second rule of the ambulance," I say, referencing Frank Pierce's number one rule without letting on.
"I'm here, I'm with you."
I tie the tourniquet around her arm and feel for a vein. It's beautiful, and I know Jake can get it with no problem. I move over so he can stick her, and try to keep her talking.
"Mary? Mary? Mary, stay awake."
She doesn't move. I rub her sternum deeply and she groans, opening her eyes.
"I'm here, I'm awake. Oh, Sarah, you're so pretty."
"No sleeping, Mary, I need you to stay with me right here, right now."
Her head smacks against the stretcher again, and her arm drops.
"Mary," I yell at her as I rub her sternum again, "Mary open your eyes."
She doesn't move. I rub it again, with more force, and she doesn't even flinch.
"FUCK," I yell at Jake as I hurdle over the patient and stretcher in one fell swoop.
"She's not breathing."
I pull out the bag-valve mask and rip the plastic off. It floats in the current the heater produces, waving eerily. I hook up the oxygen and drop the stretcher back. I position her, lift her chin, and make a tight seal with the mask.
I watch her oxygen saturation levels rise as I breathe for her, my hands responsible for her life. Jake finishes the IV and pulls out a nasopharyngeal airway to keep her airway patent as I bag her. I see things flying around the back as he applies lubricant to the airway, pulls out suctioning equipment
Every five seconds, I pump a life restoring breath into her body. Jake gets orders for Narcan and pushes it, but there's no result.
She wakes up long enough to pull out the airway as she vomits, and promptly returns to her previous state. I try to hook up the suction and still keep her alive as Jake yells vitals up to Eric to call into the hospital.
My hand is cramping from my grip on her face--on her life. I push the annoyance out of my mind. Bag, I tell myself once every five seconds, but it's not enough. I need the metronomic tattoo I usually get from the bridge we drive. But tonight we go to a different hospital, away from bridges and rivers.
I hum. It's quiet enough that Jake can't hear, but I know that some part of Mary does. It provides me a steady, calm rhythm to which I can bag, and connects Mary to her daughter, at least in my mind.
Mama who bore me
Mama who gave me
No way to handle things
Who made me so bad
Mama, the weeping
Mama, the angels
No sleep in Heaven, or Bethlehem
Some pray that one day
Christ will come a'-callin'
They light a candle
And hope that it glows
And some just lie there
Crying for him to come and find them
But when he comes they don't know how to go
As we arrive at the hospital, I continue the song in my head, too embarrassed to be heard. It's partly out of respect--respect for Mary and Sarah and the sanctity of the bond. I bag her as we change beds, as they expose her indecently on the table.
I allow myself to be pulled out of the room by the current of those around us. Propping myself up against the wall in the EMS room, I close my eyes tightly and shake my head.
"You alright," Eric asks as he comes in.
"Yep," I lie.