When I was eight, my parents gave me a diary for Christmas. I liked writing little story-books, making construction paper covers for them and stapling them together, so they were sure I’d love it. It even had a tiny lock and key, to keep others from discovering my secret thoughts. The only time I ever wrote in the diary was on Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, I printed very carefully, “I ate an ice-cream sandwich today.” That was the day we got extra lunch money to buy dessert.
I wish I’d written more. I can’t remember my thought processes at that age, or what I did. The only thing I remember clearly is dreading the prospect of writing in that diary. I’m reading The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain right now. Here’s a quote: “If you wish to inflict a heartless and malignant punishment on a young person, pledge him to keep a journal a year.”
However, for about three months in the early 1990s, I did manage to record my calls when I got home from work. It was painful. Getting off at 7am with my skin aching from being so tired, biking home, and then trying to remember what happened during the previous twelve hours. I was going to do it for a year; I thought it would be a great record of the times. I’m sure it would have been. Here are some calls from those three months:
We had an 8 year old boy knocked down by a car who did twenty push-ups to prove he was all right, and refused to give his address or his mother’s name. Finally the cops loaded his bike into the trunk and took him to his grandmother’s up in the Bronx. An old sailor with emphysema, wearing a baggie white undershirt, his ribs popping into sharp crescents each time he breathed. A junkie who ran off as soon as we revived him, and old woman who had banged against the sink, tearing her tissue paper skin from elbow to wrist.
A kidney patient who had gone into arrest. We used the shunt to start the IV and when he got a pulse blood shot up the tubing.
A 13 year old knocked down by a cab. She lived in Brooklyn with her 17 year old cousin and her cousin’s 32 year old boyfriend. The boyfriend was a dealer, covered with gold, every tooth capped gold. We told him to say he was the girl’s uncle so she could get treated. Her parents had thrown her out and wanted nothing to do with her.
A small Peruvian girl with a broad flat face dressed in a white blouse and long plaid skirt, simple and country looking, sitting at the bench at the precinct, her face expressionless, tears rolling from her eyes. she had been kidnapped in the Bronx at one in the afternoon, driven around in a van and repeatedly raped by three men, then thrown out into a vacant lot, after which she had taken the train home, taken a shower, then told her aunt and cousin what had happened so they brought her to the precinct. The girl was 15 and spoke no English. I asked the cousin was she bleeding and the aunt said to the cousin, ‘la primera vez’. There were no women cops and no one came with her to the hospital. The sergeant was having an argument on the phone over what precinct should take the report since it happened in the Bronx.
A drunk old man who got rowdy in a sex shop on the Deuce, just out of prison, where he had been for 42 years. A girl who got her arm caught in the roller of a pressing machine, the bone wrenched from its socket, she knelt on the floor screaming. A Chinese man dead in his bed in an apartment that had been sectioned into small cubicles, like a beehive, so that twenty men lived there. A baby who ate a battery.
A man standing naked at the intersection of 34 and Broadway who claimed that a mouse had run up his pants leg and he had to leap out of his clothes.