I just figured out I've spent about 3500 nights on the ambulance. 20,000+ calls. Then all the driving around in between calls, hanging out with cops or homeless people, meeting the men who built shacks on the pier, bullshitting with other units. It's a lot to remember.
New Year's Eve, East River Drive, 5am./Bare hands in the underpass wind./Puked-up whiskey. Gasoline. Blood sizzling on the engine./Did anyone turn off the ignition? ESU sparks fly./Cutting away the cradle. Rocking into heaven. Or hell./A concrete pylon. An accordion car. Seven boys tangled inside./Four dead. Three likely. Grinding and pounding./Glass in the snow./I'm trying to hold the driver's head still./Everything's mushy and slippery. I can't get a grip./He keeps screaming about his legs, turning towards me./As he does the outer layer of flesh pulls away./He looks like an anatomical model. Screaming./All the white tendons and ligaments. Don't be afraid./Don't be afraid. I'm taking care of you, don't be afraid.
The starkest things pop up fastest; homicides, people under the train, jumpers. But the rest is there, I know. I'll be biking by a corner and think, oh, there used to be a boxing club on the second floor here, where the men were all black and Spanish and the coaches were white. We had a berry aneurism in one of the rings.
St. Patrick's Day, green beer, green hats, kiss me/I'm Irish! Too-ra-loo-ra. Skipping over pools/of green vomit. A bulky man from Long Island tumbles/down the steps. Is that a sheleighleigh in his hand?/Wha' happened? Wha' happened? Wha' happened?
It seemed like it was going to last forever. My nights were ambulance nights. My holidays, ambulance holidays.
Christmas Eve. 1982/Blow wind blow, where will Santa go?/A man slams his car into the North Pole/Amsterdam Avenue a field of snow./Where does the street end and the sidewalk begin/Lights and siren. Driving slow./By the time we get there, the ESU cops/Have the man in a metal basket, loaded/into the back of their truck./“We figured you'd never make it. Nothing's moving.”/A cop boosts me in. I crawl around hacksaws and body armor./The man's hair is matted with blood/his pupils fixed and dilated. Gurgling breath./A cop lies beside him, trying to keep his neck still./No room to sit up. I curl around the top of the basket/metal digging into my arms. Thread a tube into his trachea/as the ESU truck slips and slides its way to St. Luke’s./All the saints are just hospitals here.