0330 hrs. A little break in the action, just in time. My head hits the pillow and I'm gone, sweet blackness, no dreams, no tossing, no turning just me and unconsciousness. I call it death sleep. I've never actually been dead, but days like this lead me to believe it might be preferable to consciousness.
My body has melted into the bunk, the mattress that was bought after the Blizzard of '78 feels like a priceless feather bed, not the plastic coated, springy thing that it is. It is amazing what thirty hours of constant awareness does to a person's needs. I could sleep on anything now, and as the minutes add up, the body begins to recuperate.
Blinding light wakes me. I'm not certain how long I've been out, but it must have been a while. I'm refreshed, and ready to roll. The tones are far better than the bells that would rattle my bones all those years ago.
The digital clock on the dash reads 4:23. Little birdies start their chorus early this time of year, and their song escorts us out of the building and into the pre-dawn solitude. Nobody is on the road, not a soul. A few lights burn low in the houses we pass, a stray dog, some rats and a gentle breeze pushing the previous day's litter away from the curb are our only companions.
It's Gayle who called. She lives on a folding chair next to an abandoned building. Sometimes her niece lets her stay with her, usually at the beginning of the month, when the disability check makes its monthly appearance. Once that is gone-according to Gayle, spent by her niece and her friends on men, booze and cigarettes-she's out, back to her chair.
She sits there most of the day, and into the night, occasionally shuffling into a store for a bite to eat, or to get warm for a minute, but she is a large woman, and homely, and wears the aroma of street living. The proprietors of the shops quickly dispose of her, giving her something to keep her quiet, because if they don't, she will make such a fuss the police will be needed.
The cops don't know what to do with her, so they call us. She's a hard woman, mean as a snake and bigoted beyond belief, calling me White Boy Cracker, and my Asian partner the Walking Won Ton. She is not fond of the Hispanic population either, and continually ridicules her fellow African Americans, calling them Uncle Toms, or worse.
She likes me. I have no idea why. Other than the white boy stuff, that she says out of habit more than vitriol, she's polite, and cooperative. But she's also 400 pounds, and her home is broken, the tiny legs finally giving up, and collapsing under her weight.
We lift her onto our stretcher, my own tiny legs nearly collapsing, and she starts to cry. Bearing witness to the surrender of a person so used to hardship is nearly impossible to watch. She's obese, ugly, mean and alone. None of the area hospitals give her more than the bare necessities, and rightly so, she has burned all of her bridges in the city, and is truly alone.
Rhode Island Hospital waives their restraining order for tonight, but additional security is needed to keep an eye on her while she is treated for phantom chest pain.
At 0500 I'm back in my bunk, the plastic mattress feels like a fine feather bed once more. I close my eyes, and blackness takes over.