It’s 2am and I was in the back of the ambulance. We were on the way back home from a call, a fairly bad one. We arrived on scene to a younger-looking man with overly large brown eyes looking panicky. His heart was giving him issues. He’d had a valve replaced almost a month earlier and he thought he was having a heart attack. He packed him up in the back of the rig, me hurting my thumb doing it, and we went on our way. We thought cardiac at first and cut off his shirt, a red-and-black ACDC deal, and set up a 12-lead ECG. Then we administered aspirin and nitroglycerine. The nitro did bring down his blood pressure to something more reasonable. It didn’t do anything for his pain, though, so we administered another. Nothing. The pain didn’t respond to the morpheine either, which made us think that maybe his problem was respiratory instead. But by then we were at the hospital and that was that. We dropped him off and wished him well.
It was cool in the back. Up in front my boss was talking to my partner about ideas he had for generating additional revenue for our service. I wasn’t in the mood for it, so I drifted further into the back and looked out the windows. Outside it was snowing enough for you to turn on your low beams, snowflakes fat and wet and white and covering everything.
Earlier, before the call, I was having a discussion about the meaning of life. It was one of those drawn-out conversations that leaves your head buzzing. We talked about faith and the possibility of God. We talked about other possibilities. The one that stuck out the most to me was the idea of the world as a tapestry. What if every person, object and thing was a thread and that thread was coloured by our bodies, our ideas and our feelings? Every day we would brush against others all along the length of our thread and maybe nothing will happen, but the more exposure to other threads causes a sympathetic response between them. But if these threads make up the world and the universe and everything, would the things that are exist be real simply because enough people believe them to be?
I was tired, so I took off my boots and laid down along the side. The power to the back of the rig isn’t on after a call, it’s easier on the electric grid, so it was chillier than I expected. I was okay underneath my jacket, but the cold of the seat crept up my legs like so many hands. Still, it was something I felt I could stand. Anyway, I was tired and wanted to have some rest for the next call in case there was one. My patients deserve that much, a lucid and functioning EMT. I buckled my legs, my waist and my chest in using the straps we have to strap in an extra oxygen tank to the seat, then I closed my eyes and tried to relax. My head was still buzzing and I was still thinking of her. I was during the call, too. When I was trying to calm my patient down, the core of me was remembering the threads, remembering that every time threads touched they amplified the chance of affecting someone else’s. So instead of just talking to him and offering him an explanation of what we were doing I took off my glove and held his hand in mine and looked him in the eyes. More contact for more of an effect. I started to drift to sleep.
I dreamed I was surrounded by pipes of all colours. They looked like mario pipes extending to forever, shiny. They moved and wrapped around each other and became like cords, cords made up of many lesser cords, a rope. Threads. I saw a thread I knew was mine, all blues and greens like the ocean. It was nestled between many others. I climbed up upon my cord and dug my fingers into the fabric and it took me away, slithering like the snake and I was the cowboy. As I traveled I saw many other threads, and then I saw another: fiery; oranges and reds and blacks. Mine slunk close, then away, and the fiery cord chased. Just as it was about to touch mine, it slide away and then it was my cords turn to chase. Back and forth the threads went, until, shyly they slid next to each other. Cautiously they felt along each other’s length, rubbing here, touching there. It was like watching a courtship. As they touched, they left flashes of their colour on the other where they had touched. I looked up and saw the ends of the two weaving into one another, making patterns inside of one another.
I woke up. The image of those patterns was still turning in mind in my mind. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it felt like something I had been privileged to see. It also occurred to me that the dream was wrong. The geometry was impossible. It couldn’t possibly have happened like that. It was like painting a sunset scene with only 5 different colours that all mixed to brown. There just isn’t any way to do it true-to-life. It was just a metaphor, a metaphor for something bigger, something beyond our mind’s capability of understanding. I felt like I understood along the edges.
I was cold now, two steps beyond uncomfortable. I unbuckled the straps holding me in place and curled up my legs to my chest and held them there. That helped, but my feet stayed cold. I rolled onto my legs so they could soak up the warmth from the cushion. That made my feet warmer after a few, but made it difficult to breathe. So I went back to my side, then to my back. Eventually I gave up trying to be warm laying down and put my boots back on and sat up. It was still snowing outside.
In the summer of 91 suddenly my town disappeared. I had been playing alone on the porch and suddenly, beyond that second step, the world began to sink. The army men I had set up in the yard sunk into white goop and were gone. The car was next and it dipped face-first as it slide under. The last thing I saw of it was the rear blinker. The trees stood their ground, but it was inevitable. They, too, sunk and were gone. I sat and wondered. At that age I hadn’t yet learned that the world doesn’t just disappear, so it seemed perfectly rational that it could if the world so chose. I didn’t know what to do about it and I wanted my rocket launcher men back (everyone knows that rocket launcher men are the best), so I went in to tell to my step-father who was getting ready to go to work. He told me not to be ridiculous. Eventually I had bugged him enough to get him to go outside and I pointed out at the whiteness. He gave me a look, then picked me up by the back of my shirt and pants and threw me right into the middle of it. I landed on the grass in the yard and everything was normal again, sans the scrapes on my knees and cheek.
We were on the long sloping turn back home. I was glad, the cold was really getting to me. I was doubly glad I hadn’t had to say anything, I had managed to keep it in all the way there. We turned in to our station and backed in. We restocked the ambulance and then I drove home and laid down, completely happy for the wonderful inventions of the quilt and the comforter.
Truly, if there is a God out there and he loved us, those two things are the surest sign of that love. I went back to sleep until the morning.
If the world were to drown and I fell in and didn’t land on the ground in the yard I think I’d probably be doomed. If I wasn’t doomed, then there must be a life preserver out there to me. When I grab on, it stills the furious beating of my heart, lets me slow down, lets me breathe and lets my body relax from all it’s struggle and fight. When I touch the cord of the preserver as it pulls me in it’s all reds and oranges and blacks.