I am becoming very good at folding the cot sheets on my own, corner to corner to corner–you would never suspect the straight-edge linens were completed with the help of a couple of armchairs for a backboard and a set of short arms, a person, alone. The way my other colleagues taught me, it’s a two-person job. I like proving people wrong. When I stack my sheets in the cupboard, each a replica of the other, they make the other sheets look bad. I think you’d like that.
I am becoming very good at writing patient reports without having to be told–I liked it better the way before, when, I said it was my life’s mission to make you do all the paperwork. You said I was gifted with words. We both knew what you were doing because it was always my signature ending the reports, not yours. Those days, you took naps while I, on the keyboard, typed. But I didn’t mind.
I am becoming very good at driving lights and sirens in the ambulance, at being my own voice in my head when my nerves require calming words. I think I probably mentioned you were like a ghost sometimes, cool voice sliding over the volcanic lava of my neurons saying, You have to drive the speed that’s comfortable for you. That memory has grown so distant, I’m not even sure those are the exact words you used. Instead, when I am driving that five ton truck, lights red and white, I clench my jaw so hard, my ear starts to ache. In my mind, there is nothing. Not even the white-noise of your voice.
Last night, my new partners and I plucked a woman from the local nursing home. I couldn’t tell you what was wrong with her, just that she had fallen, which was maybe the reason why her eyes wouldn’t open. On the drive to the hospital, my paramedic said, “I think she’s just dying.” I cocked my head and studied our patient real hard. One of her arms was curled to her chest like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. This has only happened to me once before, taking a dying woman to the hospital. I suppose I compared the notes. And I said, “I think you’re right.” So I unfurled her arm to get a better blood pressure, and I clenched my hand around hers. Pretending to take her pulse, I secretly held her hand. I spoke to her in a reassuring voice because even the dead can hear, you know. I’m not sure if it’s what you would have done, but that poor woman, I didn’t want her to die alone.
Afterwards, I made my bed at the station and curled up beneath three blankets. In ten hours, I would complete my forty-eight hour shift, though I could stay in this “eat, sleep, patient care, repeat” cycle forever. But my friends and family already get a little hostile when they add all my hours together. I closed my eyes and tried not to think so much.
I asked you once how you put the uniform aside and just live your civilian life. You said a lot of things, are still saying things. I’m stuck trying to comprehend it’s not a one-word answer. I told you once how sunny March days remind me of grief, death, and more grief. To this, you told me on those days, you open the windows and hope you get enough vitamin D.
I am still learning how to be like you. I realized last night, however, it’s impossible to be a one-man crew (and probably illegal). I can fold linens, write reports, complete two-man chores, and race down roads all alone–but with my thoughts, I’m not sure I could keep myself honest, though. That’s why I bother you each Monday through Sunday and keep the both of us busy with lengthy replies. We both know what I am doing. But you said you don’t mind.
I used to see you every Tuesday and Thursday in that La-Z-Boy recliner. But lately, I am becoming very good at accepting it’s going to be empty for a while.