Magical Boy Lost
Some days the heat is so sweltering you can smell it in the air. Even if you take refuge indoors the smell of the heat outside mixes with the processed air inside and every part of you is aware you live in a valley of fire. When you are camped out with your partner in a metal box on wheels, it doesn’t matter how high you crank up the AC, you just sweat and melt and sweat. I had my headphones plugged into one ear listening to a podcast, leaving my other ear free to hear the crackling of the beat down radio, in case they called our unit number. My partner was rambling on and on about how he thought anyone over sixty-five shouldn’t be allowed to enter the lottery because they were bound to die soon anyways. I hear this rant every time the Powerball pot became gigantic. Him and half the crew are driving down after shift to the Cali border to purchase tickets. I had already told him three times today I didn’t want a ticket, like I tell him every time. He thinks the heat must be getting to brain though so just keeps asking if I’m sure. I’m about to tell him if he mentions the lottery one more time I’m going to tell his new girlfriend about his stash of porn photos on his cell phone but the radio crackles again and wonkie sounding female voice you can’t understand emits from it. My partner, agitated at the run down radio kicks it for good measure. I guess the 119deg heat has us both edgy.
The squawking voice came over the radio again and this time I could make out our unit number. I responded clear and she advised there was 419 possible suicide about three blocks from our staging area. 419 means dead. The kind of dead I can’t help you back from. My partner lit us up and I advised we were in route. He began cursing at the cars not yielding to our ambulance as per usual and then said, “I hope it isn’t a damn kid”. I thought about that for a second then replied, “I hope if it is his parents aren’t the ones who found them. That’s always the worst.” Then my partner quipped, “It’s too hot to do anything, even die. Maybe we will get lucky and it is just an attempt. It is too hot to be attempting things too though.”
We came screaming to a stop in front of a beautiful home in a richer area of the Valley. My partner jumped out and grabbed the gear bag while I grabbed the gurney. As we walked towards the front door I could see a man standing in the entrance. He didn’t move a muscle or even blink as we approached. Tears just openly poured down his cheeks. I approached him, “Sir, can you take us to the emergency.” He didn’t move out of the doorway. His six foot frame just blocked it like a great oak tree. My partner put his hand on the man’s shoulder and that seemed to jolt him back to reality. He just kind of shuffled to the side, letting us through the door. Like we do on most calls, we let our ears do the walking and followed the sobs. The sobbing lead to an upstairs bedroom where a young boy, maybe fifteen, was lying on the floor of his room being cradled by his mom. She looked up as we entered and began screaming at us to save her baby boy. There is a place people can go that is past hysterical, me and my partner call it the death break. Some people see a loved one dead and shut down, softly sob to themselves, start pacing but a few mentally break. I could see lividity had set in and there was no working this young man. My partner picked her up off the ground and I did my cursory check of vitals to confirm the obvious signs of death were present. No pulse. No breaths. Lividity and upon touch slight rigor mortis had set as well. There were three empty bottles of prescription pills turned over on the bed. One was prescribed in a woman’s name. All three of the medications were lethal in large doses. All three bottles were empty. Not one pill left. I stood up and told the Mom, “Your son is dead. There is nothing medicine can do for him now. My partner and I will be here with you through everything that is about to happen.” I was frank and honest, just like I was trained to be. No fake words of comfort. No euphemisms or false platitudes. Just the simple, honest, horrible truth. That is when the death break happened. She had been waiting for us. Hoping what she already knew was a lie. Hoping I could work miracles. She slapped me as hard she could across the face. Her nails dug into the skin around the corner of my eye and little drops of blood began to form. My partner wrapped her up from behind and physically removed her from the room. I could hear the Police cars who had been dispatched at the same time as us finally arriving. The Police never stop moving when the real heat descends on Las Vegas. People just lose their minds. I quickly covered my eye with gauze and tape so as to not contaminate the crime scene. I couldn’t leave the body alone now that I was here.
As I looked down I saw a small, gangly teen who would have probably grown up to be very tall. He was so skinny right now though. I bet he hated being that skinny. I bet he had been trying just as hard to gain weight his whole life as I had been trying to keep it off. Looks like we both hadn’t done very good at our goals. His death face was so sad I couldn’t look at him any longer. As I glanced around the room the first thing I noticed was a large Star Wars poster hanging behind his bed. It was the most famous one of Princess Lea wrapped around the leg of Hans Solo in her white dress. The kid had good taste in movies. I discovered we would have gotten along famously if we had been able to meet under different circumstances.. His room was a beacon of geekdom. He had Sega, super Nintendo, PlayStation, x-box all on the entertainment center below his TV. So he was definitely a gamer like me. As my eyes scanned past his desk, which had a stack of Spider-man comics (Batman is better, just the facts, nothing to be done about it), I noticed a stack of shiny foil packets next to his stack of comics. My breath caught. I stepped a little closer and saw that logo. Magic: the Gathering. The game I’d loved my whole life but almost never talked about with anyone, not even my partner, because I didn’t want to hear the inevitable “girls play that nerd game” remarks. I studied the boys face harder and tried to remember if I had ever seen him at an FNM or maybe at a comic event. Couldn’t place his face anywhere though. I wondered if he played MTG with an older brother or sister, or maybe some friends. If he had even heard about Friday Night Magic, or knew there were places you could go with people who love the same geeks things everyone else calls you names for. I wondered if he loved school or hated it, if he would have been a blue mage or red one. Maybe his brain would have been soaked in white mana like mine. As I stood there thinking about Magic and this dead child who didn’t have to be dead my heart cracked. I thought about all the other dead face I had rolled on and wondered what it was about this one boy that seemed to affect me so strongly. Why the girl my crew calls the Texas Tornado wanted to just sit down cry. I didn’t feel much like a Tornado standing over this boy. I didn’t even feel like a little dirt devil. I was deflated. I was empty.
I made it through the rest of the call and never shed one tear drop. The Police shuffled in and out, the Coroners crew showed up. Me and my partner gave our statements and account of actions and steps on scene and then we were back in our metal cooker driving back towards the station. My partner glanced at me and said, “this one bite you?” I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I didn’t want him to die.” My partner understood. He had calls bite him too. I’ve worked countless suicides since that call, they all just whirl around you and you wonder how to stop them. What can be done. What can be said. How you make child who has been beaten or abused or ignored understand it gets better. How you explain it doesn’t get perfect but it gets livable, sometimes it gets down right awesome even.
I can’t relate to what you are going through. I can empathize but that is falling just short. I’ve been beaten plenty of times but never physically abused by a loved one. I’ve never been raped, I wasn’t picked on in high school, my parents weren’t assholes. I’ve never suffered from crippling mental disorders, or chemical imbalances. Never had a terminal disease and while I have had plenty of aches and pains, never had the kind of constant pain some of my patients have. The kind of pain you’d do just about anything to get to stop. I have never known what is like to be trapped in a body I feel didn’t’ belong to me. I don’t know why that little magical boy couldn’t stand taking one more breath that day. I don’t know why you might want to join him. I can only tell you what has helped me in my saddest, darkest times. It is quite simply Magic. Nerds like me. Being with my people. People who love to debate the tiniest detail of a of a character painted on a piece of cardboard and whether it really fits with the “flavor” of their color scheme. It is getting lost in a passion. Something that can consume you, somethings not so serious and scary. I don’t know if you like to get lost in your art, your music, or like me in a little bit of magic but please get lost. Don’t stop. Get lost. Stopping is so final. Search as hard as you can for as long as you can to find that one thing, your hope charm. Your Magic. When you finally find it don’t ever anyone take from you. Don’t ever let go.