Dear Female Paramedic Who Saved My Life,
I treated you badly at first. I hope you can forgive me.
You were there to save me, and I didn’t want to be saved.
You stood over me as I curled up in the bathtub, trying to get me out – cajoling at first, then berating.
“Come on,” you said in a clipped voice, “you don’t want the men out there to come in and see you naked, do you?”
When I responded sullenly and said I didn’t actually care who saw my naked body, your voice became exasperated.
“Come on, you have to get out. You can get out on your own, or I can tell the guys to take you out.”
I turned my head around to look at you over my naked shoulder and said drily, “I haven’t even been trained and I can deal with someone who’s suicidal better than you, apparently.”
I’m sorry I said that.
I actually thought you were a good person by that point. You had shown compassion for five minutes already (or at least I think it was five minutes – my sense of time was way off by then), and I had done nothing but act like a belligerent toddler. I wasn’t commenting on your personal abilities so much as I was commenting on the FDNY’s failure to properly train their EMTs to deal with patients struggling with mental health.
I am glad, though, that I made you laugh afterwards. In a job that can’t be easy for you, I showed you – inadvertently, and from the depths of the fog I was in – that I sympathized with your position.
I can’t know for sure, but I think my comments, said from the grip of cynical and desperate hatred of the world, made you treat me with more sympathy.
When I finally agreed to get out of the tub, you wrapped me in a sheet and guided me out of the bathroom, into the living room where I could see the fuzzy outlines of a dozen uniformed men milling around in the tiny space.
“Gosh,” I said. “There’s like fifteen of you here! I’m just one person!”
You said nothing but guided me, hands on my shoulders, into my bedroom to get dressed. I curled up on my bed and shrunk into the corner.
“Are you the only woman in that whole posse?” I asked.
“Yes,” you responded, a quizzical smile twitching at your lips.
My vision was hazy and blurred, but I could see your face as you rummaged through my drawer and took out underwear for me to put on.
I felt the weight of your position, one woman among this group of big heavy men, and turned my face to rest my cheek on the wall.
You laughed then.
“Sucks for me? or for you?”
“For the world,” I said, and you were quiet.