Excerpt from my new collection; Rescue 911…
Under 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 in.
An Amtrak Xcella sped past, fifteen feet from where we worked, whipping up pebbles and dust. The wind it created seemed to draw you 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, he bought some heroin. It was the least he could do for his girl. Generous by nature he 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 to call 911. At forty-eight years old there simply wasn’t enough strength left to do the job.
Once the narcan kicked in she was able to get up 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.