I moved into an apartment on my own about two years ago while in the throws of a very messy divorce. The divorce was not of my choice. Lord knows I loved her more than life itself, but the situation was out of my control.
I am a Nurse Paramedic and have been for many years. I accepted the fact that my bedside manner was much more refined than my prowess with the ladies. I wasn’t sure whether it was my dourness over the divorce, my temporary distrust of all females or just plain being rusty after having been married for so many years, but I vowed not to cast my grim shadow on anyone else. I preferred to remain alone.
The apartment complex I chose was large and semi-upscale. I picked it mainly due to its close proximity to work and the fact that having lost a beautiful home, and a beautiful wife, in the divorce, I felt I deserved a nice place to lick my wounds and rethink the remainder of my life before, hopefully, buying a new place of my own and starting fresh.
I was returning home one morning after an extremely arduous night at work and noticed the beautiful young lady of about 36 who lived in the apartment above me, struggling to carry a rather large load of laundry to the laundry room just outside my apartment. This lady was beautiful: about 5’ 7, around 130 pounds with long blonde hair, beautiful green eyes and a smile that warmed your heart, and your loins, at the same time. I often noticed her coming and going and had entertained the idea of striking up a conversation with her in hopes of asking her out, but never seemed able to work up the nerve. I settled for smiles and hello’s in passing. My self esteem was at an all time low and I was at that point that all betrayed divorcees experience; that of being unworthy of the attentions of anyone socially acceptable. My friends had been counseling me ad nauseam about this affliction for some time, but it’s a phenomenon that most everyone in my situation goes through. I figured it, like the legal bills and the deep-rooted sense of abandonment and loss, would one day wear off. Until then, I would just pour myself into my work and my friends.
I slid my field bag off my shoulder and set it down to help lighten her burden. I assumed, somewhat sadly, that with that much laundry she must have a roommate; though I had never noticed one. Her roommate was probably a male and that was just my luck; par for my ill-fated course. A quick, unconscious, scan of the contents of the basket, though, showed only female wares which, in an off handed way, raised my hopes, (and my mood), and brought about thoughts of a candlelight dinner over a nice bottle of wine and some much needed conversation and maybe………..well, whatever.
She thanked me profusely and introduced herself as Kim. I set the basket down on the washer, extended my hand to shake hers and exchanged introductions. After a moment of slightly awkward silence, she glanced at my field bag and my uniform and broke the ice,
“So, you’re a Paramedic, huh? That must be grueling work. I’ve seen you come and go at all different hours and wondered what kind of work you did.”
I usually showered and changed at work and came and left home in street clothes. The service had our uniforms cleaned to insure we weren’t walking around breeding any plagues from the blood and bodily fluids we came in contact with on a daily basis. Today, however, I had been picked up at the apartment because my Jeep was in the shop for repairs. My partner was working an additional shift, transporting homebound patients to doctors’ appointments, so he dropped me off as he headed for his first stop just down the street from my place.
Kim and I exchanged some idle chat for a few minutes when she asked if I lived alone. Being a rather private person, except where my friends are concerned, or after a few too many conferences with “Jim BeamÒ”, (which I was doing a bit too often lately), I vaguely explained that I was divorced and starting over again.
Kim, too, had been through a divorce and was, at present, working part time. She had been a student for the last two years, working on her masters degree, when her husband, in the throws of a mid life crisis, decided he wanted someone else. He was either a fool or there was something wrong with Kim that didn’t present itself to even the most diligent observer.
Working up what little courage my weakened ego could muster, I asked Kim if she had ever heard of Dillon’s, a local restaurant and pub within walking distance of the apartment with great food, good music, and the perfect ambiance for a first date. My friend Rick owned Dillon’s, and the rest of our motley crew and I were regulars there. I thought quickly to myself that if she were so inclined, and agreed to join me, and things got uncomfortable, there was always someone around I knew who could help liven up the conversation. My friends are great at that kind of thing and could always be counted on to watch my back. I asked Kim if she’d like to join me for a drink one evening.
“I’d love to.” she replied, “But I’m tied up with scads of homework and school obligations till Saturday. Would Saturday be all right?”
My heart dropped when I realized that I had, just that morning, agreed to take a shift for one of the other guys on Saturday night, usually my night off, so that he could attend one of his daughter’s school functions. I was working a lot of extra shifts lately to keep my mind occupied and earn some extra cash to pay off the bills that go hand in hand with starting over. With those facts running through my mind, I looked Kim right in her beautiful green eyes and said, “Saturday’s great! How does eight o’clock sound to you?”
I love my job and have a deep-rooted work ethic, but this was a chance for a night out with a very beautiful woman and priorities were priorities. Besides, it was only Monday. That gave me five days to get someone to take my shift and free me up for some much needed female company.
There weren’t a lot of my co-workers who readily worked Saturday nights when they weren’t scheduled to do so, but I was determined. I decided that, regardless of the impropriety, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the “how many times have I covered for you” guilt trip or, if things got desperate, the “I have a date” card. Most of my co-workers had been riding me for so long to get a life that some of them might have even given up Super Bowl tickets just to get me out among the living and out of my funk.
Kim quickly agreed and I bid her goodbye until Saturday. I unlocked my door and stepped into my apartment to start making the calls that would hopefully get me out of working Saturday night.
It only took one call to a sweetheart named Nancy; a coworker and a close friend. She and her husband Ron and I had closed Dillon’s on many occasions after an evening of long comical pool tournaments, in-depth talks about life and love and lots of dancing. Nancy considered herself my Mom and protector, even though she was ten years my junior, and joked that she’d give her spleen to see me go out and finally have a good time.
I was scheduled off Tuesday and Wednesday and didn’t take any extra work because it had been brought to my attention by the powers that be that I had been working entirely too many hours and needed a break. I was given the speech about Paramedic burnout and the blurb that I was too good at what I did to be lost to said burn out. Our shift coordinator, Mike, is a great guy and a good friend who genuinely cares about his “experienced” people. Mike suggested a visit to Dillon’s Tuesday evening, (yes, if you’re ever going to get ill, Dillon’s is the place to do it; the majority of the clientele are “medically inclined”), and said that he’d stop in after work so we could shoot a little pool and relax over a few cold beers.
I strolled over to Dillon’s at around noon Tuesday, after the first real good nights sleep in recent memory, and met the night shift as they were coming off duty. We exchanged the usual playful insults and grabbed a table to start the days’ festivities. Everyone had a story to tell about the night before. There had been a concert at the Amphitheater and, as is always the case when rap music, drugs, alcohol and youth are combined, the work was fervent.
Time flew as it always did with good company and those still married began to file out at around four to fulfill their obligations to family, etc. Mike came in, almost on cue, as the gang was leaving; much to the approval of the younger, newer, team members. Mike had no patience for those still “wet behind the ears” until they had earned their comeuppance and his respect. He tended to be rather hard on new EMT’s.
Mike and I shot a few games of pool, and at seven-thirty he announced that he had a date with Debra, his long time girlfriend, and had to get going.
Looking around, I noticed that most of the gang had left, and the younger college crowd was ambling in. I decided to bid my farewells and call it a night after a stop at the Chinese restaurant next door for some, all too familiar, take-out. I am, or was, a self professed gourmet in the kitchen, but with no other pallet to tantalize but my own, had fallen for the allure of fast food and minimal dirty dishes. Having ordered everything on the menu at Dillon’s at least a dozen times, Chinese was a welcome change.
I had just finished my dinner and was nodding off on the couch in front of some mind-numbing re-run on the boob tube when I heard a loud knock at the door. I assumed it was one of the guys needing a place to crash because they were too hammered to drive. My close proximity to Dillon’s is a Godsend to many of my friends. A few of them even have a spare key for access on the nights I was working.
I answered the door to find Kim looking rather pale, holding tightly to her abdomen.
I quickly ushered her in and asked her what was wrong.
She moaned pitifully, her voice quaking, “I stretched out for a quick nap a little earlier with a stomach ache. I thought it was just something I ate. When I woke up an hour ago, I was in excruciating pain. My stomach is killing me! I heard you come in. I really hate to bother you, but I was hoping you might have something to make me feel better. I’ve just been too busy to do any shopping so I don’t even have an aspirin in the house.”
I eased her into a chair and felt her forehead. She felt cool; a good sign. I asked who her doctor was. She said that she hadn’t been to one in some time. Along with her divorce went her health insurance and, working part-time, she couldn’t afford any. I suggested that I drive her to the emergency room to get her checked out because I was concerned, given the obvious severity and general area of her pain, that she might be suffering from appendicitis or a vast array of other maladies that could turn life threatening quickly.
Kim pleaded with me. “Could you please check me out? If it isn’t something that requires a trip to the emergency room, I won’t have to dole out a small fortune for nothing? Honestly, I hate doctors. I have since I was a child. They scare me to death!” Kim groaned, doubling over with a fresh stabbing pain.
Not being a doctor, and not licensed or qualified to diagnose; I was torn. I decided that it might help relax her and convinced myself that if I thought Kim was suffering anything more than gas, I’d rush her right off to the ER for assessment and possible treatment. I knew most all the docs there and might have been able to make it a little easier for her.
I asked Kim when her last exam was and if she was due for her period. She said that she hadn’t seen a doctor in years and wasn’t due for her period for a couple of weeks. I tried again to get out of the role of diagnostician. I explained to Kim that given the anatomical area of her pain, she would have to undress for me to examine her properly and that she might be more comfortable, given the fact that we were basically unknown to each other, if she saw a doctor.
“Well you are a paramedic and a nurse, aren’t you? I know you see this kind of thing every day. It can’t be any different than going to the doctor.” she quickly replied in pained resolve. “Besides, I’m beyond caring about modesty. I just want to find out what’s wrong with me, stop this horrible pain and avoid the hospital and doctors if at all possible”.
I had to admit she was right. We saw just about everything in our line of work; people at some of the worst moments in their lives. All feelings aside, this was no different than a “day at the office”, so to speak.
I have a large dining room table with a bright chandelier above it to accommodate our all too frequent poker games. I knew I needed a hard surface to deeply palpate Kim’s abdomen. I cleared the tablecloth and bric-a-brac off of it and went to the linen closet to get some sheets and a pillow to turn the dining table into an examination table; all while Kim sat doubled over in the chair, pleading with me to hurry.
And it really heats up from here. Read, "The Paramedic"