They pulled the stretcher out of the back of the ambulance on a Friday night at Parkland Hospital. A fat man lay there, naked save for a sheet covering his hips and legs. A piston, strapped to his upper torso, chugged vigorously compressing his chest. Every time the piston chugged a small trickle of blood leaked from two bullet holes in his side.
Chug. Chug. Chug.
The rhythm of life.
I sat on the curb with my friend Ron as the ambulance attendants wheeled the stretcher into the ER. They didn’t seem to be in too big of a hurry. We watched the spectacle as we waited for word on his wife, Julie. Earlier in the evening she had tried to kill herself with a hammer.
Not a razor or a gun or an overdose.
She didn’t leap in front of a bus or throw herself off a bridge.
She tried to bludgeon herself to death with a hammer. That’s committment.
When the hammer failed to take her to the peace she sought she tried to hang herself with a bathrobe sash tied to the shower head. That’s the way her husband found her, face swollen, bloody and bruised from the hammer blows, skin purple from the lack of oxygen. But this wasn’t the first time for Julie and Ron. They’d partied like this before.
We stared in silence as ambulance after ambulance pulled into the ER bay in steady intervals delivering their payloads of bloody carnage. Friday night, county hospital, South Dallas, the devil danced and kicked up his heels. The procession kept up all night. That was 22 years ago. For all I know it’s still going on, ambulance after ambulance, keeping pace with some hellish, darkside metronome.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
When the doctor finally came out to talk to Ron he seemed to be at a loss for words. Working at county you know he’d seen it all. But he found it hard to tell Ron that his wife had hit herself in the head and face 23 times with that bloody hammer. 23 times she had stood in front of the mirror and watched her own hand swing that hammer straight at her own face and skull. 23 times. Blow after blow. Steady. Determined.
The Rhythm of Life…