last night i watched a man die.
i was on my way for drinks and dinner with julia, my cousin who'd been living in australia for the past 7 or 8 months. i changed my route because the road was blocked by an engine and a paramedic's van. i was riding through the park across from hubba's hide out when i thought i should go watch. see what they do, how the professionals handle things. you know, for educational purposes. when i rode up there were three or four folks just standing back, watching. about 6 paramedics surrounded him. he was laying on the ground, on his back, his shirt was torn open. it was the first time i'd seen compressions done on an actual human being. it was hard to watch. the amount of force put on his chest. how deep down his sternum went. you could see the waves go down through his stomach to his legs. they shocked him a few times. i watched for about five minutes. the whole thing had been going on probably about ten minutes total.
he was a tourist. fat and touristy looking. his wife was sitting on a bench next to him. on the phone with lord knows who. family, emergency department, dispatch? she was deep in shock. her face had no expression. it just looked long. like her skin was no longer attached to her skull. like it had given up. at about 8 minutes in one of the paramedics began to collect her things so that he could take her away, walk her away from this horrible thing happening to her husband. as he was collecting her things he accidently dropped a brand new eggshell white and burgundy SF 49ers hat in a puddle. he picked it up and started to shake the water and dirt off but i could see it was going to have a stain. it occurred to me that the stain on that hat, if she decided to keep it, would always remind her, always draw her back to that day, that exact minute in a park in san francisco where her husband passed away.
i imagined her alone on the airplane, still in shock, gripping that hat. her fist clenched, her knuckles white, her eyes staring blindly out the window at the gray fog trying not to see the empty seat next to her. fighting that empty seat with everything she had. how she would be numb, blank in everything that she'd do from exiting the plane, not really seeing the flight attendants with their smiles and their 'thank you for flying with us'. how she'd walk through the airport not really seeing the people running their chocolate stands. how she'd wait, tense and empty for her luggage. would their be two suitcases? how she'd have to travel all these miles, all this time fighting. that it wouldn't be until she was in her family's arms that she could break. that she could crumble. that she'd have the support that she needed to let go, to lose the fight and let go and be overwhelmed.
they put her husband on a back board, then a stretcher and then loaded him into the van and drove off.