Friday afternoon, just hours into the long weekend. The Stones sing their hearts out. They say, “Ti-i-i-ime is on my side; yes it is.” I’m praying they are right for once. Our strange mix of a family sure needed a little time together.
As the song ends, a door swings open, slams shut, and my son’s voice shatters happy thoughts of blissful days ahead.
“Come quick,” he says, breathless. “Dad is hurt. Bad!” Before the weight of the last word sinks in, he does a 360. I tail him to the scene of a front-yard football fiasco.
game of catch
catches him off guard
There at the bottom of the hill, Tim, it’s code red. My ex-husband of a decade is hunched over, draining blood like a faucet. The grass beneath his bloodied face is completely soaked. Within minutes a crimson lake has formed. I survey the damage: deep gash on the side of his knee, bruised shoulder, scraped arm and a face that looks as if he’s become a boxer in the Bronx. It’s difficult to imagine that all of this has come from a short game of football with an 11-year-old.
Two full-size, bloodied towels later, it is apparent the bleeding is not going to stop on its own. Appointed designated driver, I rush us to the nearest hospital. Except I can’t remember which road it’s on, and, when I do find the little blue sign with the big ‘H,’ the long and winding road to the Emergency Room is decorated with signs that say, “SLOW!” and “25 mph.”
in a hurry –
the signs say slow down
and life takes its time
In the busy E.R., we become the main attraction. Two Mexican boys are equally fascinated by the ex’s bloodied face and my son’s book about the world’s most famous boy wizard. They alternate interests, one asking Tim, “Can I see it again?” while the other tries to read some of Harry Potter upside down, his nose pressed close to the page.
invisibility cloak –
the boy pretends not to notice
In walks a prisoner, thick, silver chains hanging from his waist, binding wrists and ankles. Shirtless and unshaven, he wears thin shorts, bright blue, to contrast with an aura of smoky confusion. His police escort is careful to position him in the center of the packed waiting room.
“Jesus!” the man shrieks. We’re all riveted to the scene. The prisoner doubles over in what appears to be mock pain. Now, he turns to the cop, a Schwarzenegger look-alike packing heat.
“What kind of gun’s that boss?” It’s more of a demand tinged with sarcasm than a question to curiosity. Sunglasses still on, the tanned officer shifts his weight but refuses to divulge the 411 on the gun. Tension mounts. The disturbed – or highly theatrical – inmate begins a rambling discourse punctuated with intermittent cries of, “Jesus!”
a prisoner in chains
surveys the waiting crowd
We are on “the fast track” to see a doc, but after an hour and a half, we are still sitting in the hard plastic chairs. The pink towel is now solid red. Tim’s nose, lips and jaw are swollen. I’m determined to get him help. Now.
The news is not good. There are 13 people supposedly on the fast track in front of us. I look around trying to find someone else who’s lost so much blood he’s dizzy and challenge the attendant. She shrugs her shoulders and says there’s not much she can do.
“Is he still breathing?” she asks nonchalantly. When I answer yes, she nods and says she’s sure he’ll be just fine. I want to smash through the glass window and knock her senseless. But I don’t. I ask for Tylenol®, but it turns out they can’t even give us a pain reliever until he sees the doctor.
hours later we sit
An hour passes, and we are all startled by a tall man who rushes down the long corridor from inside the hospital toward the waiting room. He is screaming something in Spanish and flailing his arms. His eyes are deep black orbs of terror. He cries out like a wounded bear and wails, but nobody can understand him.
For fifteen minutes he rants and rages, his movements first skittish and then angry and erratic. He refuses to follow police officers who’ve been called to coax him back inside, but he doesn’t turn and leave. Two, then three, then four officers corner him mere feet away from where we sit. Finally, they make their move, but it doesn’t end.
He is one man possessed with fear and rage. He thrashes and bangs the group of officers closed in around him against the glass window, which runs floor to ceiling. A table breaks. Did I see him reach for a gun?
in the E.R. –
“Somebody call 911!”
I want to grab my son and run for safety, but there is nowhere to go. I lean closer to shield my son from the scene and whisper quick instructions I can’t remember now.
After what seems like hours, one officer sprays pepper spray in the man’s eyes. But it doesn’t end. The man becomes even more irate, kicking forcefully. I seize the opportunity, pull my son by the arm and dash to the relative safety of a room off the main waiting area.
Later, Tim will describe how it took a fifth man to carry the terrified and screaming man back down the hallway from which he had emerged a half hour earlier. We will learn from a Hispanic woman that the man had indeed been terrified, screaming over and over again, “They will hurt me. They’re trying to kill me.”
at the hospital –
can they save a man
who thinks they’ll kill him?
Ten minutes beyond the three hour mark, the ex, the kid and I are absolutely drained. I check one last time – still five ahead of us on “the list.” Tim signs a waiver, and I take us home to rest. I tell him time is on his side. I hope it’s on mine, too.
the waiting over
we walk away
now we wait