Jackson or “Jack” was a stranger to me when I woke up after having my throat cut. He was just as strange to me as any of the nurses, surgeons or anesthesiologists; I didn’t even know his name or where I had seen him before….
He was sitting there, flipping through the pages of magazine that had pictures of hitch campers and fly-fishermen having the time of their lives out in the Great Outdoors of Manly Men; his hair was tousled and his eyes were heavy. He looked exhausted even to someone who didn’t know him.
Jackson…for ten plus years….a fucking ROCK.
He had been there religiously since I got there to the Unit; he was on a first name basis with everyone before I even regained consciousness. He knew nothing about me besides the minimal information he had collected during and immediately following the drama of my injury/attack: my first and last names, my presumed DOB, the fact that I am anemic, and my blood type: AB/RH-. All he was sure of, all that mattered to him for those days in between my actual injury and the day that I woke up, had been that I was not alone and scared as Hell when it finally happened.
He didn’t know that I had no Dad anymore; he didn’t know that my Papa had recently passed, either. He had no details about any part of my life outside of the FACTS that he had seen first-hand, as my own personal Hero. When I ask him wtf he was doing hanging out in a hospital, waiting for some mutant-faced domestic hostage refugee to awaken and lose her shit upon finding out that she had not been having nightmares, after all – he always simply answers with,
“I knew enough.”
A man of few words, Jack has always frustrated me beyond description with his overkilling calm and seemingly delayed responses. He has balance that shines from every pore; the picture of self-containment and control. Never, have I seen him lose his temper for a nano-second; nothing throws him off, he’s “Money”.
Jack is the epitome of ‘Mr. Slickness’ –but, I digress.
The very first memory that I have after surviving and being hospitalized is of Jack the EMT; I became immediately and acutely aware of this strangely familiar man (whom I innately liked, but mentally associated with REALLY bad but unclear experience), fearfulness washed over me like a fucking wave of tangible and anchoring liquid. I tried to jump up and away from the feelings, and was driven closer to panic by the sobering appreciation of the fact that I could not move my body at all, tied into a bed by wires and stringy webs of hospital equipment; I tried to speak but only succeeded in letting out several very telling gasps for air. Reality lingered nearer, my fogginess began to clear quite suddenly and a moment of total recognition came over me then:
He was already up and moving, he immediately dropped off of his chair into a Mechanic’s Crouch at the foot of my bed in a submissive gesture that any mammal of earth, including severely retarded ones, would understand as his assurance of no harm meant. The way he recollects it, his instincts had already told him that I was a “kick in the pants”. His lulling drawl was calm and very passive when he softly spoke to me from his place near the footboard of my hospital bed.
“I know you are going to feel very afraid and confused right now, Cricket”
(I remember thinking: ‘my name isn’t Cricket…is it?’)
“And that’s okay and totally normal…”
He now says that was not the right thing to say and that it was inappropriate (because he has come to strongly harbor an opinion that in the circumstances in which that moment was defined by, there is really no such thing as “normal”) but let me tell you something:
As soon as he spoke, the relation I had to him rushed back over me all at once:
His voice over my face, blood everywhere – even on his upper front teeth, somehow; his voice commanding barks at me in the ambulance and through the swooshy doors of the trauma unit, his steadied hands gripping every single millimeter of my remaining life – fade in, out, fade in, out. The words he used were irrelevant and meaningless to me at that very moment in time, but his voice told me enough to know it was okay, he was okay, I was okay. I could trust that he wasn’t there to hurt me.
I was mean to Jack at first; I didn’t always feel gratitude towards him for being here to write this…on the contrary, we had many months of ugliness and instances that were reminiscent of a father and his unruly, rebellious teenaged daughter. Many days were spent with my eyes on “perma-roll” in response to his patience and lack of reaction to my anger and newborn PTSD. I recall sitting in his den (which became my “bedroom” for a while) with my index fingers plugged into both ears because I could not stand how calm and noiseless he was. (???) I was a bitch; a seriously scared and broken bitch. I do not like to think about what my recovery may have looked like had Jack NOT been the one called to the scene of my attempted murder.
Jack took it upon himself to carry the burden of recapturing the events of The Ripper’s attack on me, as well as his escape from the scene of the crime – and ongoing evasion from police; and he held nothing back with it. In retrospect, he wanted me to be disgusted by all of it, I think. Jackson literally sat beside me through some of nastiest surgical procedures on earth: stuff that made my own family dread having to actually look at me – but, he always made eye contact with me, without once batting an eye…and believe me, I was ever diligent in looking for a cringe or reaction from him over my appearance. He was an EMT for thirty years leading up to that point, and that was no coincidence either, I’m sure. He knew what was going on with my physical recovery process better than I did, and was annoying die-hard with my long-term wound care, wound-cleaning, debriding, grafting progress, etc.
In hindsight, aye…I was mean to Jackson when I woke up to my newborn life as a Cut Throat Survivor – a gift that he had given to me. He didn’t care what I said or did, he never faltered on me. He was like clockwork day in and day out. He was the scientifically sound evidence of humanity floating sacrificially amongst a sea of hungry evidence-eating sharks and humanity devouring monsters I was trying to resurface from. He waited THERE for me. To his detriment, I’m sure. He was single because of me for way too long in my opinion; any woman that he tried to be serious with has been threatened by my existence and his ongoing contributions to it. Did he give a shit about a single one of his ex-girlfriends’ feelings or insecurities when it came to me, even one time? No, he did not.
As a Native American tribesman, Jackson’s devotion to giving back to the community he lives in runs deep, and his devotion to me was born of this characteristic. He has never been remotely shitty to me, even when I would redundantly spit out hatefulness and embittered perceptions at him for ensuring me the life in order to feel so angry; even when I wasn’t yet devoted to me, he was. After the doctors were finished with “Frankenstein”, and I got to go home finally – Jack was unable to keep himself together – he cried tears of joy. His bottom lip still quivers when he speaks of that day, he was proud of me. He is still proud of me. I struggle, even now, to understand my stroke of luck when it comes to him.
A few months ago, I asked him why he insists on calling me “Cricket”; and his response to my question was this:
“When I saw you for the first time out there in the yard…I saw YOU. Yeah, yeah…your face was not your face back then; that was before you grew up, shit what were you? All of twenty?…I remember the fear in your eyes when I got to you, if you coulda talked to me, you woulda asked me not to let you die, I saw that in your eyes…I saw you wanted this terror and fear to be over, I saw in your eyes that you were willing to work with me in order to stay alive to the unit…”
I was tearing up by this point in his recollection – due to the fact that he is totally correct in his summation – I remember these things – staring up into his face intentionally, willing my eyeballs to burn into him so that he’d recognize my ‘fighter’, still in there with her fists up.
“…those little legs folded up under you, you were bone-broken into bits… and gurgling blood…it was a tough last ride to retire on…”
I was nearly killed on Jackson’s VERY LAST DAY AT WORK, prior to his retirement – again, no coincidence.
“…still, you were smiling at me the entire time…I don’t know, but you were a Cricket – delicately in my lap…a happy little Cricket, gurgling songs…and I made the decision right then and there, that you had seen enough bullshit for one lifetime. That I would see you better and set free…”
I have written countless poems and prose in my lifetime as a result of my love for literary beauty and conciseness; however, when those words, simple and few as they may have been, have remained burned into my head like a white-hot branding to my brain – it’s description, too meaningful and heavy in my own perception to even write poetry about. Basically, what he was saying was that he made the choice way back then (based on my “broken cricket legs”, and my own version of a ‘death rattle’ and morbid smile) – before knowing a thing about me – to FREE me from the living nightmare I had come to know as Life.
“I knew enough.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACK THE E.M.T., MY HERO AND FRIEND…
Here’s looking at YOU.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤