Tracks

railsUnder a highway, next to some railroad tracks they made their camp. It was her birthday; she turned thirty-three today. He bought her a cake and a tube of frosting so she could write her name on top. Nobody had ever bought her a cake he told us as the IV went into her arm. An Amtrak Xcella sped past, fifteen feet from where we worked, whipping up pebbles and dust. The wind it created seemed to draw us closer, but that is probably just an illusion. The fear of death is always close when standing next to a speeding train.

They decided to party, and he bought some heroin. It was the least he could do for his girl, he told us.  Generous by nature, he said, her let her have more, nice guy that he is. Put her right into respiratory failure. He tried on his own to revive her, slapped her, dragged her into the rain, soaking her, picked her up, crossed the tracks and tried carrying her up the twenty foot ledge we had just climbed down. He failed there, at the foot of the ledge, and used his cell phone to call 911. At forty-eight years old their simply wasn’t enough strength left in his drug and alcohol addled body to do the job.

Once the narcan kicked in she was able to stand and help us as we helped her climb the steep hill toward the rescue. He carried the cake, the red scribble that was supposed to say her name nothing but a smudge, washed away by the mist. I wondered if she had died there, under a bridge, in the rain, twenty feet below the rest of us if her life would have been as easily obscured. Gone, just another junkie; homeless and abandoned.

She cried then, once she left the make-believe world under the bridge and entered reality. Her pupils remained pinpoint and her breathing rate slow but I just didn’t have the heart to administer more narcan and take the little high that remained away.

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