My First Crucifixion

“You’ve got a bunch of people attached to you. Do you want me to do a clearing and get rid of them?”

I never know what to say when he asks me this.

I was talking to Peter, a dear, true friend of mine who is a doctor as well as a… a… um… an empath? An energy worker? The correct term eludes me, but he talks to me a lot about “light” and how I manifest the divine feminine.

And I mean… not in a creepy way. Many very “spiritual” men have propositioned me, offering a 2nd chakra alignment, (meaning they intend to fuck the enlightenment out of me). But Peter’s interest in me has never been anything so vulgar.

Honestly, I’m not altogether sure what to make of his interest in me. We’re kindred spirits for certain. We met back when I was a paramedic, working in an urgent care clinic during my internship with a medical examiner’s office. He was a physician. We slogged through grueling 12-hour shifts together and found considerable relief in one another’s sense of humor. For example, I used to engage in interpretive dances in an effort to pass the time. These dances always involved an array of handy props: I.V. poles, neck braces, clip-boards, you name it. Peter tells me that the first time he ever saw me go pirouetting through the clinic waving a pair of ace bandages over my head, he thought to himself, “Oh, thank GOD, someone normal works here.”

As we became better friends, Peter allowed me to perform any number of procedures which were decidedly not in a paramedic’s scope of practice, but still super fun. I don’t care what you’ve heard, stapling someone’s scalp back together is a total kick in the head

Ka-chink Ka-chink Ka-chink!!!!

————————————————————————————————————-

Also, as we became better friends, Peter began letting me know that his talents extended beyond the corporeal realm and he also engaged in energy work and … stuff.

I say “stuff” not to be disrespectful, but rather because I flail at describing what, exactly, Peter does. I just know that every now and then, he calls and says he senses I’ve got some undesirables lurking about my person… souls that I’ve picked up from a death scene like cat hair or bed-bugs. “It’s perfectly normal,” he tells me. “You work with the newly dead. AND you work with souls who were pretty violently ripped from their bodies and they’re confused. It makes sense they would attach to you. You’re a pretty bright light and you’re there to restore order.”

Anyway, Peter always asks for permission to “clear” the hangers-on and I always give it. He has also “cut-cords” that energetically tethered me to a couple shitty ex-boyfriends. He has asked me afterward if I felt better and I suppose I did to some degree. To this day I don’t feel weighed down by those memories or characters anymore. But I’m a hardened skeptic. A cancer diagnosis paired with an Evangelical Christian upbringing will do that to you.

I’m not sure if you know this, but I was raised in a SUPER-Christian home. We didn’t handle snakes or anything, or reject modern medicine. But the gravity of my “inherent sinful nature” and a constant need to atone for it always simmered on the front burner of my developing brain. It made for a heavy childhood, thick with guilt and obligation.

On the one hand, I don’t hold anything against my long-ago spiritual teachers. I understand that they were doing their best for me. But on the other hand, some of the things they taught me ultimately equated to a primeval sense of cause and effect: If something bad happened to you, you probably did something to deserve it. And even if you didn’t, what right did you have to question the will of God? If God wanted you to have cancer, it was your job to find the lesson he was trying to teach you. Obviously, cancer was God’s way of trying to get your attention. So be a good girl and listen for his voice in the midst of your suffering.

I listened.

I heard the rattling and buzzing machine that fired deadly radiation at me.

I heard my ex-husbands beeping computer as he buried himself in video-games, leaving me to navigate the labyrinthine corridors of modern medicine, alone.

I heard the silence from friends and family members who called either rarely or not at all.

And I came out the other side of cancer with the distinct opinion that if “God” existed, he either couldn’t help me… or wouldn’t.

But believe it or not, I didn’t really hold it against him. The same way I wouldn’t hold it against a tidal wave that annihilated my home, my city and everyone I know. How can you be angry at a force of nature? Why bother getting pissy with physics? Not a single feverish prayer or spirited hissy fit stops fate from handing out some truly raw deals.

Of course, I haven’t gone completely atheist. But I regard the God of my youth the same way I regard many things: I don’t not believe in him.

When Peter said my soul had seen thousands of years on Earth, I didn’t not believe him.

When my palm-reading friend looked at my hand and told me I had “someone riding with me”… as in a guide or defending spirit. I didn’t not believe her.

When my shaman-in-training co-worker told me that my spirit animal was a tiger and it would help me through cancer treatment, I didn’t not believe her.

But I also don’t entirely believe them.

Still, I have to admit my Judeo-Christian upbringing has helped me out here and there. Most recently, my years of Sunday-schooling helped me figure out a particularly mysterious cause of death.

MY FIRST CRUCIFIXION

(professionally speaking)

I’m sorry, I know this is incredibly sacrilegious- but a friend sent it to me recently and I couldn’t help it.

———————————————————————————————————-

Very little enrages me as much as waking up to a beeping pager in the dead of night. Local law enforcement knows this and I’m pretty sure they draw straws to determine which poor bastard has to call me with a death report. This night was no different. After the pager pulled me out of a dead sleep, I called the flashing number and, with scathing derision, asked the officer what the fuck he wanted.

“Hey Grace. We have a dead guy here… he’s hanging.”

“Ok,” I grumbled. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. It’s a suicide, right?”

He hesitated. “Ummm… no? I don’t know. He’s hanging by his arm.”

“His arm?”

“Yeah.”

I shrugged, hanging up. Suicide or accident, it didn’t matter. I still had to ooze into some clothes and stagger my way to the scene.

When I got there, I realized it wasn’t a house or park or any of the typical places where people hang themselves. The scene was a massive, empty warehouse. The building had, at one time, housed one of those enormous, big box stores. But it had been vacant for a couple of years, save for being rented by a pop-up costume and accessory store-front that arrives with Halloween and is gone by November 1st. The parking lot was silent and deserted as I approached the darkened edifice. The pavement was cracked and full of weeds. The parking-lot flood lights had long been burned out and the decrepit desolation reminded me of a post-apocalyptic zombie flick. Only a single vehicle was noted: a van, parked in a far corner of the lot; obviously positioned there in an effort to avoid detection. I crept my county truck around to the freight entrance of the building where I found several police cruisers and an un-marked detective’s unit.

“What the hell?” I barked at the officers as I threw the truck in park and jumped out. “The dead guy is in there?”

“Yeah!” They called back. “Weird, right?”

“Hey guys?” I heard a hesitant, echoing voice warble out from inside the slightly open garage door of the freight entrance. “Is that the medical examiner? Are you guys coming in soon?”

“Who is that?” I asked.

They exchanged looks and one of the officers almost giggled. “That’s our recruit. He was the only one small enough to get under the garage door. He’s in there with the body.”

“He’s alone in that warehouse with a dead body?”

The officers snickered. “We gave him a flashlight…”

“That’s fucked up, you guys.”

They shrugged. “Somebody had to do a standby with the body until you got here. He’s fine.”

“He doesn’t sound fine.”

They shrugged again. “You wanna go under the door or up the dumpster chute?”

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” I muttered as I hopped up on the loading dock and crawled, army-style, under the garage door. As I got up, I first noted that there was a relieved-looking officer standing before me, agitated and fidgeting with his flashlight. I also noted that the warehouse was cold, quiet and stagnant as a tomb. The entire expanse was an empty linoleum floor that seemed to stretch on endlessly before us. I squinted into the blackness and thought I saw a pale, ghostly shape suspended in mid-air in the far corner of the building.

“Is that him?” (as though anyone else would be dangling from the ceiling in there…)

The officer nodded and the others outside called in to us, saying the fire department had just shown up with some tools to cut the doors open. I barely heard them. With the officer (who looked like he was about 12) by my side, I approached our decedent. He was hanging, just like the officers had said. His feet were about 6 feet off the ground and he was maybe another 6 feet from the ceiling. But there was no ligature around his neck. As reported, the dead guy appeared to be hanging by one arm. Specifically, it looked as though he was hanging from one hand. With the flashlight, I could make out a length of wire, looped tightly around and crushing his left wrist. The wire passed behind him and was also looped across his shoulders and down to his right hand. But there was nothing across his throat and no indication of strangulation.

On the floor beneath him was a tangle of wires and a large toolkit. Above him hung a maze of piping and air-ducts.

“What the fuuuuuuuck,” I murmured.

“He was stealing the copper wiring, it’s actually pretty valuable,” the young officer told me by way of explanation. “His girlfriend was outside in the van. She says they got here around 7 a.m. and he came inside. She fell asleep and he wasn’t back when she woke up. She couldn’t see in the windows and just wandered around for a while until she called a friend. The friend boosted her into the garbage chute and she found him like this.”

“Yeesh…” I muttered. Crawling in the barely-open garage door was bad enough. But I couldn’t imagine crawling into the near-complete darkness to find your significant other, dead, hanging from the ceiling. It was gruesome and undeniably traumatic. “How the hell did he get up there?”

The officer pointed. “There’s an access ladder right there. It goes up to that trapdoor to the roof. He probably scaled the ladder then crawled outside the cage and just sort of crawled on to of the pipes to get to the wires.”

“Well, it doesn’t look like a hanging. He’s tangled in the wires but nothing is actually around his neck. Don’t touch him. He’s probably an electrocution. And stay away from all the wires. We don’t know which ones are live.”

Just then, the fire department tumbled in the door with a loud crash. They set up a couple of floodlights, which helped with viewing the scene, but also made the whole tableau look that much more like a haunted house display. The fire department was pretty gung-ho about cutting him down and getting the hell out of there. But both the police and I insisted on calling the local power company to make sure the power was completely shut off to the building.

This meant another 30 minutes of waiting for the on-call electric company employee to drag himself out of bed and brave the abandoned-building wasteland along with the rest of us. When he got there, he shuddered with disgust at the inert body hanging from the ceiling. But he looked downright horrified when he took in the chaos of the electrical room. Our decedent had made a glorious, tangled mess of the place. All of the electrical boxes had been smashed open and lengths of wire were stripped from the wall-anchors and lay, strewn on the floor. Electric-dude (as he shall henceforth be known) started pulling all manner of gadget out of his kit and fiddling around with… stuff.

After a few minutes he announced that he had to go outside to the electrical box and … do whatever it is he does… out there. While we were waiting, the officers and I prowled around the gutted mega-store, observing the damage our guy had done before meeting his end. In the back hallway, locked doors had been kicked in. Ceiling panels hung askew from their brackets and more wire lay in piles beneath smashed holes in the walls. Aside from the recent damage, the floors were stained and sticky. Paint was chipping and beautiful people with grotesque, billboard- smiles, grinned down at us from the peeling advertisements on the walls. All of us squirmed at the hollow echoes of our voices in the expansive void. The emptiness was darkly oppressive and unnerving, especially since the only illuminated corner of the building featured a suspended corpse.

“So, here’s the deal-” The electrical guy’s voice boomed towards us as he came back in. “As far as I can tell, the electricity to the building is off and has been this whole time.”

The cops and I exchanged a look.

“Are you sure?”

He stuttered for a moment. “Well, there’s still a very slight charge to the box, but nothing lethal. It looks like everything has been off for a while.”

“Okay… but are you sure there’s no electricity in those wires? I don’t want all of us to get electrocuted trying to get that guy down.”

His eyes flipped from me- to the cops- to the fire crew- to the dead guy- back to me. “I’m pretty sure…”

This was good enough for the fire department. They seemed bored with the whole production and quickly set up a ladder and looped a harness over the pipes in the ceiling to create a pulley system. I held my breath as one of the fire crew scrambled up the ladder and looped the harness around the decedent’s torso. The rest of the fire crew heaved on the loose end of the rope as the ladder guy quickly snipped the wire loose with a set of bolt cutters. I held my breath, waiting for an explosion of sparks and a surprised cry from the fire-fighter as 100,000 volts of electricity ripped through his body

But nothing happened. The other fire-fighters held the harness line taut as the suspending wire wrapped around the dead guy’s arm released and they gently guided him to the floor.

Once there, I began painstakingly examining his body for signs of trauma. Electrical injuries have a reputation for being evasive and subtle: a white spot on the thumb and a corresponding blackened smudge to an ankle. Of course other times, these physical markers dramatically display themselves as a charred limb or scorched digit- with layers of skin peeling away like barbecue. However, the blemishes I had been eying on our decedent’s body from a distance turned out to be common scrapes or even dirt. What I had initially been certain was an entry point for a lethal electric charge was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill laceration which was probably about a week old. Furthermore, the way the wiring twisted around our dead guy indicated he had been attempting to alleviate the pressure on his tangled left wrist by wrapping the wires around his right hand and lever himself out of the merciless loop that suspended him between heaven and earth. If he had been electrocuted, there would have been no attempt at escape, he would have been dead almost instantly.

Unable to find the expected culprit, I stood up from the grimy concrete floor and regarded our decedent in confusion. It was possible I was missing the entry and exit points for an electrocution due to the poor lighting, the layers of grimy clothing and the pressure of an audience. Even as I regrouped, the fire department started bubbling over with suggestions and speculations. Maybe he had died of a heart attack and that’s what caused him to fall. Maybe it was an overdose- like he had hit the crack pipe or something just prior to ascension.

There goes my hero…

———————————————————————————————————-

Maybe it was the word “ascension” that caught my attention.

Or maybe it was the fact that our guy was pale and thin… with a beard and straggly, shoulder length brown hair. His arms were splayed out to either side at shoulder level and he looked almost peaceful- kind of like someone I used to spend a lot of time with.

“Oh my god,” I gasped. “You guys… he was crucified!”

The cops and firefighters all looked at me like maybe I had hit the crack pipe. Crucifixion? I imagined them all thinking. No one jammed a crown of thorns on his head and nailed this guy to a post. I scrambled to explain as the realization filled me with triumphant excitement. Finally, my years in religious-school purgatory were paying off!

You see, in addition to filling little children’s heads with self-loathing and shame, many Christian schools also subject students to incredibly graphic descriptions of Christ’s crucifixion. I suppose the idea is to impress upon them the extent of Jesus’ suffering to pay for mankind’s sins. Subsequently, I learned the pathology behind crucifixion at such an impressionable age that I could never hope to forget it. Most people think that crucifixion victims die of blood loss or exposure and that’s a fair assumption. The torture rituals surrounding crucifixion are brutal enough to cause death long before the main event actually takes place. But here’s the thing- anyone who manages to survive the floggings and beatings until they’re nailed to a cross actually dies of positional asphyxia… that is to say, they suffocate.

Your lungs don’t inflate of their own accord. Put simply, air gets pulled into your lungs when your diaphragm (a big, flat muscle that’s stretched across the bottom of your ribcage) expands downward, creating a negative pressure gradient. Without that muscle, you couldn’t breathe on your own. Furthermore, the muscles between your ribs (your intercostals for those of you feeling scholarly) assist in breathing. And these muscles are like any other muscles in your body. They are subject to fatigue if they’re over-taxed. When someone is suspended by their arms for an extended period of time, (either stretched to the side or over their heads) the diaphragm is stretched and has to work extra hard in order to expand enough to pull air into the lungs. The intercostal muscles also put in extra work to enable the mechanics of breathing. If a person remains suspended for an extended time, all those muscles eventually give up. It’s a grueling and painful death, gradually losing your air as you dangle. A lot of images of crucifixion show a little wedge at the feet, upon which the victims could brace themselves as they awaited the inevitable. It’s debatable if this little wedge was actually a thing. It’s also believed that the victims’ feet being nailed to the cross also supplied a certain amount of support. But according to history, if a crucifixion victim managed to hang out for too long, surviving the elements and the injuries, people would get bored and the powers that be would command for the victims’ legs to be broken. This action would eliminate any remaining hope that the victim would be able to hold a position in which their respiratory muscles could function. Fully suspended, they would be dead in a matter of hours.

Just like our decedent.

Following the story we were being given, The decedent had gone into the warehouse around 7 a.m. He had managed to get some demolition and thievery done before climbing up to his perch and then falling, probably grabbing at the wires on his way down. Which explains how he ended up wrapped up in the wire in the first place. And there he hung. It wasn’t until 11 p.m. that the girlfriend began wondering in earnest where he was. Then another hour went by as she summoned a friend to help her gain access to the dumpster chute. All told, our guy had likely been suspended by his one arm for at least 12 hours. Possibly up to 16.

More than enough time to slowly suffocate.

I told all of this to the gathered assembly with excited glee. It was an incredibly unlikely death, and an even more unlikely discovery. As far as I knew, not one of my colleagues had ever come across a crucifixion before and I couldn’t wait to tell them.

Of course, no one else shared my enthusiasm. Quite the opposite. I was so excited about figuring it all out that I kind of forgot to consider what this meant for our victim: an excruciatingly slow, torturous death. The cops and firefighters all gazed at me in horror as I chuckled and beamed in exultation, congratulating myself for my own acumen. And it didn’t occur to me until I was driving home, that when the decedent’s friends and family called and asked their favorite question, the one friends and family always ask: did he suffer, I was not in a position to offer my usual response. Typically I say either No, he didn’t, or I don’t know. In this one instance I knew the answer. It had been drilled in to my brain from the moment I was first able to babble the lyrics to Jesus Loves Me.

Yes, he absolutely suffered.

His death was probably indolent and terrifying… shadow-like, creeping up the walls as the light faded from the windows and his breaths came shorter and shallower.

It was probably awful.

The thought sat on my lap and stared at me as I drove home from that scene. I felt heavy… I felt haunted. And I guessed that if I ever had any “spiritual hangers-on” I definitely had them now. Intrusive thoughts and vicious little pictures played themselves out in my head. I couldn’t stop imagining him, hanging there, waiting to die in the dark… alone.

I thought about calling Peter and asking him to do one of his “clearings”-whatever that means. I don’t know if he sits cross-legged in a quiet room and imagines brushing cobwebs off of me or what. But it was still early, I didn’t want to wake him. Then again, I also didn’t want to carry the spiritual/emotional/metaphysical residue of this death into my home. I didn’t want to track this shit into the living room. I didn’t want to lie down in my bed while my ghostly thoughts laid down next to me and stroked my hair as I tried to sleep. I didn’t want my brain-monsters watching me shower.

When you become a medical examiner, or when you begin working in healthcare, you’re generally required to take classes that train you to properly clean up after medical emergencies and such. It’s usually called, “blood-borne pathogens” or something equally unimaginative. You’re also trained in the proper use of “PPE” or “personal protective equipment”. There are guidelines and laws and documents governing how you keep yourself safe and clean. But no one tells you how to sanitize your mind. How do you peel the images off your brain? How do you rinse the existential ennui from your spirit and scrape the demons off your shoes before you accidentally track them through your life?

As the sun rose, I stood in my front yard, staring at my house. I couldn’t go in… not yet. I had to do something…something to pry the evil eye off my back. I couldn’t bring that death home with me. Not that one.

Earlier in my life, I would have prayed. I would’ve sung a hymn to myself and asked Jesus to cleanse my mind of melancholy and phantoms. As a child I used to plead with God to remove the monsters from my closet. Then I implored him to ease my way through high school. Later I begged for confidence, a job… a husband… But, I don’t know, asking Jesus to help me stop thinking about a guy who got crucified kind of felt like asking Jack Daniels to help me stop drinking.

Not really his wheelhouse.

So I decided to wing it.

I stepped off the sidewalk and on to my front lawn (less a lawn and more a tangled mess of weeds and under-watered grass). I kicked my shoes off and delicately placed each bare foot on the ground. I stared at my toes and willed the earth to soak up the darkness I had absorbed during the night. I willed the sorrow away. I tilted my head back and took a deep breath of the chilly, pre-dawn air. I smelled dew mixed with grass and the faint, saucy sweetness of my rosebushes nearby. I said his name, addressing him directly. I told the crucified dude that I was sorry for what had happened to him, but he wasn’t allowed to come home with me. I told him he didn’t belong here anymore. I told him to move along.

And as I opened my eyes…

… there was my 80-year-old neighbor and her dog, standing on the sidewalk, staring at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.

She didn’t say anything, just watched as I hastily pulled my shoes back on and adjusted my massive, black work bag on my shoulder.

“Hi Karen..” I mumbled as I retreated into my home, leaving the stubborn spirit of one, recently dead, crucifixion victim on the front lawn, hopefully to follow her home instead. After all, Karen lives alone and is a much better hostess than I am, judging by the banana bread she baked us last year.

When I talked to the dead guy’s family, they didn’t ask too many questions. I think when I explained the mechanism of his death, they drew their own conclusions about how unpleasant his final hours were. Life went on, uninterrupted, and the next time I talked to Peter I half expected him to warn me that I had a whopper of a restless spirit skulking around and stinking up my aura. But he didn’t mention anything. I can only surmise my half-assed little “ritual” must have worked.

Cool.

It’s a satisfying feeling, knowing I can clear my own atmosphere. Because let’s be honest, Peter’s a doctor. He’s got all kinds of other shit going on. And Jesus… well, I’m not too sure what Jesus is up to these days but I want him to know I’ve got my business handled.

I fight my own battles-

and I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

New Podcast Episode!

Hey there folks…

Here’s another survival story. This one comes from the faraway land of Mexico… where my friend Duque managed to survive a shootout and kidnapping attempt… then he managed to leave that life behind and simply commit to social justice, cold drinks… and cooking tacos.

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

The politics of resuscitation…

Ok… So- this isn’t going to be a fun post. I’m as riled-up as a kicked beehive and there’s really no resolution to this story. Sometimes, I find my hands tied with no means to break free and make myself heard in the way I intend. It’s all bureaucracy and red-tape and this-is-how-it’s-always-been-done…

Is this a religious rant? A feminist rant? I don’t know. You decide.

In all honesty, I don’t understand what the hell is going on with this year. Our planet is a gunky little dust-bunny rolling around under the universe’s bed and it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to clean house.

(This old thing! I thought I threw it out eons ago!)

Things have been nutty this year when it comes to being a deputy medical examiner. This may sound crazy, but death investigation can really get redundant. After dutifully documenting 10 years worth of catastrophic decisions, it takes a lot to leave me stymied on a death scene. But 2020 is shaping up to be a real trophy-holder when it comes to weird shit..

One of the benefits and simultaneous curses of working as a deputy medical examiner is the sheer volume of people I meet. Seriously, death is known as the great equalizer and consequently, I meet people from every race, ethnicity, faith, economic status, education level, ideology etc. etc. etc. I try to be accommodating and sensitive towards all these demographics, and as I’ve already stated, not much surprises me anymore.

But sometimes, the shit I see sits with me about as well as a bellyful of salmonella.

(Yeah, I had one of THOSE kinds of shifts)

This past shift I had the occasion to professionally meet a family who left me truly speechless. Before I got there, the officer at the scene had told me a convoluted story about how our decedent was a 44 year-old woman who belonged to some kind of religion that didn’t believe in medical care. Her family had called 911 when she stopped breathing, but then the husband told the responding firefighters to stop resuscitation efforts when they (understandably) charged though the door and started pumping on her chest.

“Are they Christian Scientist or something?” I asked the officer.

“Nope,” he replied.

“Well, um, what are they, then?

“I don’t know.”

“Cool story, bro” I muttered under my breath as I hung up the phone.

Quick side note here- As a rule, Christian Scientists don’t believe in medical intervention of any kind. My first experience with this phenomena was in college while I was on student exchange in Mexico. One of my fellow American students (a Christian Scientist) sprained her ankle playing soccer. Later, at the local cantina, she staunchly refused when everyone told her to elevate and ice the injury.

“Candice,” I remember scolding her. “Your ankle isn’t injured because you’re an imperfect reflection of God. Your ankle is injured because you ran into a wall.”

She shrugged, wincing at the pain. She DID, however, accept a few generous servings of tequila and didn’t even flinch when we hobbled her home through the dark streets later that night.

Since then, I’ve been called to quite a few Christian Scientist deaths. They’re a sticky, gray area because often enough, the cause of death is excruciatingly apparent. However, because there’s no documented medical history, these deaths still have to be investigated as unexpected/suspicious. I always feel like kind of a dick, walking into people’s homes and asking a bunch of probing questions that, doubtless, sound judgmental and self-righteous. But I’m certainly in no position to judge. As much as I might disagree with their stance on medicine, I spoke in “tongues” and waved my hands over my head with zealous glee in my childhood pentecostal church. People thought I was crazy, too.

That said, I’ve seen a Christian Scientist die of a brain cancer that literally melted half his head away before it finally took his life. This poor guy had a single gauze band-aid placed over the gaping crater in his cranium- it was the only “treatment” allowed. I can’t fathom voluntarily going through such an experience. Moreover, I can’t fathom watching someone I love going though such an experience. But hey, to each, their own. I suppose they can afford all those funerals with the money they save on healthcare.

(You can’t tell me that shit didn’t HURT.)

Anyway, back to the situation at hand.

I arrived at the scene of this woman’s death and was greeted by a collection of 40+ people all gathered in the front yard. Men and women were seated in lawn chairs while swarms of children dashed about. Someone had arranged a tableau of donuts and coffee on the hood of a car and the whole scene oddly resembled a church picnic. While there wasn’t any overt laughter, there also wasn’t any blatant grief. As I got out of the county truck, the assembled company watched me with flat interest. It was as if I was there to clean the carpets or tow a car- not a fun event, but also not a horrible one. I gathered the decedent’s husband and oldest children to one side of the yard along with the investigating police officer and flushed out the rest of the story.

The family, and all of their collected community, identified as “non-denominational” when I asked for a clearer description of their religion. Which is a really good way of saying nothing at all. Kind of like when people tell you they’re “spiritual” but not “religious”… it’s some kind of weird faith approximation that manages to avoid any definitive stand. But whatever. The woman had awoken with shortness of breath around 5am and her symptoms got worse and worse until 11am when she collapsed and stopped breathing. At this point the family figured they should call someone; probably 911. As already stated, the fire department arrived and jumped right into a resuscitation attempt that actually had a pretty decent chance of success. But the husband insisted that his wife wouldn’t have wanted resuscitation and the fire department, unsure of what else to do, called their supervising doctor for some direction. This doctor, who was at a hospital on the other side of town, took the husband’s word for it and advised the firefighters to cease efforts and pronounce. Which they did.

It was at this moment in the story when the monster in the back of my head decided to start jabbering. This monster is a suspicious little troll that lives under the bull-shit bridge in my brain- the bullshit bridge being the path that any input takes on it’s way from simply being information to being something that I actually believe. Whenever anyone offers data that I find suspect, questionable or downright false, the troll crawls out of the shadows and growls “Who’s that trying to cross my bull-shit bridge?!”

(“I know what I’m talking about and YOU don’t”. “Bullshit.”)

(This troll is often called “intuition” or “gut-feeling” or even “I-know-that-isn’t-true.” All women have this troll in their minds but we’re trained to gag him and keep him quiet for the sake of politeness. As a result, I’ve found myself believing a lot of bullshit in my lifetime. And it’s total bullshit.)

In this case, my bull-shit troll was growling about the decision to pronounce the dead woman with no resuscitation. I wasn’t altogether sure this course of action was correct, or even legal. See, I can totally get down with declining medical care for religious reasons. I’m also fine with NOT resuscitating someone who didn’t want it. What bugged me about this whole scenario was the absolute lack of documentation.

When someone doesn’t want to be resuscitated, they need something called an “advanced directive” or a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) This is official paperwork that testifies to the deceased person’s wishes. We see DNR’s a lot with elderly folks who have burned through their life’s bandwidth and they don’t want to be brought back in the event of their death. They tend to have diseases and disorders and a lengthy resuscitation/hospitalization isn’t going to do anything but postpone the inevitable and rack up a prolific hospital bill. Other people get DNR’s for other reasons. Hell, I once had a co-worker on the ambulance who had it tattooed on her wrist because she was so nauseated by the thought of anyone doing CPR on her. Whatever. The reasons don’t matter. The documentation does.

In the absence of a DNR, emergency workers legally HAVE TO at least attempt resuscitation. There are a whole host of legal reasons for this rule, mostly involving liability and protecting emergency medical crews from litigation. There are a few cases in which a DNR isn’t necessary to cease rescue efforts- for example, if the person has been dead so long that a resuscitation attempt is clearly superfluous, or if they’ve suffered such a profound injury that there’s no point… think beheadings and fire deaths.

(“Sue me if you must, I’m not doing mouth-to-mouth on that guy”)

What weirded me out, and set my bullshit-troll grumbling, was the fact that this woman was young, she had NO documented medical history, and she didn’t have a DNR. The fire fighters and their medical director decided to stop resuscitation and pronounce the woman dead, based simply on the husband’s word.

“I don’t like it…” muttered my bullshit-troll.

“Me neither,” I told him.

The world has changed quite a bit for women in the last few decades, mostly for the better. But that’s not to say that everything’s fixed and great. Some truly disturbing laws and behaviors are just barely fading in American society’s rear-view mirror, while others are still very much in practice. And lets’ all remember what’s printed on the bottoms of all those mirrors: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” In other words, it wasn’t that long ago…

(“Yep, I can still see unbridled misogyny and chauvinism back there…”)

You don’t believe me? Give these little facts a backward glance:

-It wasn’t until 1976 that the first state (Nebraska) decided that it was illegal for husbands to rape their wives- meaning that a man was absolutely within his rights to force his wife to have sex with him regardless of her feelings on the matter. If that’s not gross enough for you, maybe consider that it took 17 years for the rest of the country to follow suit. That’s right… 1993.

-Domestic assault wasn’t even recognized as a crime until 1920. Even then, unless men were caught in the act, a domestic disturbance was considered a “private matter” and police would not respond to these calls. It wasn’t until the 1979 when the first congressional hearings on domestic abuse were held.

-As of 2017, a woman cannot withdraw consent for sex in North Carolina. If she changes her mind and “yes” becomes, “no”, the participating man can force her to continue and she has no legal recourse. According to state law, it’s not rape.

-In 7 states, rapists have parental rights. This means that sexual assault victims can be forced to have continued contact and coparent with the perpetrator. Way to go Alabama, Maryland, New Mexico, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wyoming.

-Women have had a historically difficult time obtaining birth control. Specifically, a friend recently told me that even though she knew for all of her adult life that she didn’t want children, no doctor would consent to performing a tubal ligation on her until she was 30 years old. When she did turn 30, she had an extensive list of questions she was required to answer in order to justify her choice. One of those questions was: “Do you have your male partner’s support in this decision.” Then she had a mandatory waiting period in case she changed her mind. BUT if she waited more than 3 months to have the procedure after all this rigmarole, her consent would “expire” and she’d have to start all over.

Long story short- in both recent history, as well as present day… women have a lot of people making decisions about their lives for them.

All of this enraging information aside. It is widely known that a woman is FAR more likely to be murdered by someone she knows than by anyone else. A 2019 study done by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime determined that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family everyday- that’s one every 10.5 seconds.

So… what does this mean for our 44-year old, non-denominational mom with no documented medical history, no DNR and no paperwork granting her husband medical power of attorney?

Well, it means that, statistically speaking, the person most likely to murder her was also the person telling the firefighters not to resuscitate her. It means that her life was, essentially, at the mercy of men who never questioned who was calling the shots: Her husband.

And why would they question him? He’s a dude, they’re all dudes… they had a big, fat, “we’re-dudes-and-we-believe-each-other” convention over this woman’s dead body… and then they called another dude (Their attending medical director) to get permission to pronounce. And I just want to know if it EVER occurred to ANYONE (other than me) to question this whole situation?

Now, just to be clear- I don’t think the husband killed her… at least not directly. But I came to that conclusion after doing a thorough scene investigation and physical exam on the body- something that the first responders didn’t do. THAT SAID, I’m going to let you in on a little secret about our decedent: Her daughters told me that she had a family history of diabetes and she took her blood glucose several times per day, almost to an obsessive degree. Her blood glucose was well over 300 on every occasion (a normal level is 80-120) At times, her blood glucose was over 500, almost too high for her glucometer to measure. And her daughters were right. She took her blood glucose between 6 and 7 times per day. In my mind, this was not the behavior of someone entirely sold on faith-healing. This is the behavior of someone who is concerned for her own welfare. This is the behavior of someone who wants to live.

I could be wrong. It’s entirely possible that when she saw that lethal number continue to rise, she believed that God would protect her from diabetic ketoacidosis… organ damage… death. Maybe she believed that it was her duty to adhere to God’s will, even if God’s will was for her to die on her living room floor with her 5-year-old daughter watching.

Or maybe, that glucometer meant that she wanted something different. Maybe she didn’t entirely believe God was regulating her blood glucose. Maybe she didn’t think prayer was quite cutting it and she wanted a second opinion. Maybe she wanted to exercise some agency over her own fate. Maybe she wanted to see a fucking doctor. And maybe she asked for someone to call 911, but they refused and admonished her lack of faith. Or maybe she felt she couldn’t ask for an ambulance for fear of being labeled an unbeliever. Maybe the excruciating weight of familial expectation and religious pressure stifled even the most basic human instinct: survival.

Ultimately, we ruled the death natural- long-term complications of unmanaged diabetes. It’s still bugging me. Not so much that the woman died of an entirely treatable disease, but rather because her death uncovered what I consider to be a really fucking disturbing feature of our EMS system: Letting the spouse govern resuscitation attempts in the absence of any documented advanced directives. I mean, ok… so in this case, she died of diabetes and didn’t want to be resuscitated, maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not. We don’t really know because there’s no record of her wishes. And… what about next time? What happens when some woman is murdered by her husband for the insurance money and the husband tells the responding ambulance crew- “Oh… stop doing CPR! She wouldn’t have wanted it!” I mean… the imagination runs WILD with all the ways this could go badly. But when I called the fire department’s EMS coordinator to discuss their protocols regarding this matter, I was met with defensive denials and equivocations all around.

The fire department’s staunch stance was that they did everything right and the decision to pronounce had ultimately been up to their medical director and therefore they were exonerated from any blame. They followed their protocols. They didn’t seem to understand that I was not questioning whether or not they had followed protocol, I was questioning whether or not the protocols themselves should be re-examined. Naturally, they took my questions as criticisms and refused to look at the matter any further because the fire department can’t exist in a world where they aren’t unquestionably right.

(“It’s ok ma’am, I’m following protocol”)

In the meantime, a woman is dead because that’s what her husband said she wanted. And maybe it was… but we don’t actually know that, do we? And how will we know next time if this is how we do things?

I’m not satisfied.

New Podcast Episode!

Hey guys…

So, now I have two new blog entries in the works… because things happen faster than I can write about them. But they’re coming. I swear they’re coming.

In the meantime, here is a new podcast episode-

This is a story of miscommunication, racial tension, and 75 tootsie rolls (or a laser pointer)

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

Lord Voldemort Rides Again!

So, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. It turns out podcasts take up a lot of time, but a new adventure in mortality is almost complete. Stay tuned! But in the mean-time- here is the latest podcast episode-

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

New Podcast Episode

So, here it is- Chris’s story.

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

So… I’ve heard that people have had a rough time with anchor cutting off the podcast episodes after only a couple of minutes.

Has anyone had that issue?

Well- just so you know, it’s available on Google Podcasts

Or Stitcher

Or Spotify

Or Apple Podcasts

I’m sorry, I have no idea how to link those

Anyway, my point is- if you want to listen, you can find it all over the place…

and you SHOULD listen… I mean I like that people sometimes enjoy the stuff I write, but the fact is- writing essays can get kind of tedious for me when I’ve spent an entire shift cranking out case files.

SO- my own stories will continue to come suffering down the line. But in the meantime- listen to a survival story or two.

xoxox

New Podcast Episode!

So

this story isn’t new to you guys, but it is likely the first time you’ve heard me read one of these stories first-hand. If you would like to hear me read “The One That Got Away” to a live audience- you can check it out here:

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

Otherwise- congrats to us all for surviving another week of the apocalypse!

High-five!

Love is in The Air: Deputies, Decomps and Distracted Drivers

Holy shit.

I’m not sure what to say.

The world is sick and America is burning- burning like a greasy dumpster behind a KFC… that’s been stuffed with explosives…and kindling.

How was everyone else’s week?

It’s a technicolor disaster… a high-def detonation. It’s a mortar gone off so close to my head that there’s blood dripping from my ears and I’m staggering around in the settling dust, wondering which way to start running. I mean, I’d go see my therapist but, get this, she’s black. And let’s be completely honest, paying a black woman to help me process my feelings about the civil unrest in America right now kind of feels like the biggest privileged-asshole move I can pull- ever.

Because here’s the thing, I find myself on the “wrong side of the battle lines on this one. Not only do I work alongside the police every single fucking day of my life, I also sleep next to one every single fucking night of my life.

I don’t actually sleep next to this one. I don’t know this guy, but you get my point.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Yes, you read that right. And maybe that fact is a little TMI, but it seems to me like your heart on your sleeve is the accessory of choice in the year 2020. Let it all hang out, kids. Scrawl it on the side of a building in spray paint. Put it in a bottle and throw it at someone. Anything goes.

The experience is something like that awful nightmare. You know the one, we all have it. You’re trying to scream and the breath just evaporates into a whimper when you open your mouth. You can feel your ribcage squeezing your lungs like handfuls of jello as you try and try and try to make a sound. But all that comes out is a single, wheezed syllable, “no” or maybe “stop

If I could say anything, I think that would be it: “nostop…

But I’m not sure who I’d be saying it to. Besides, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t listen anyway. No one seems to be listening right now. To anyone.

My friends are all posting pictures of themselves holding signs over their heads that say “ALL COPS ARE BAD COPS!”. Or they’re making blanket proclamations that if someone doesn’t echo their narrative, then that person has clearly chosen the side of the oppressor and should be silenced, unfriended and ostracized.

So, I haven’t said much. I’m frozen in panic, watching as my liberal community of friends unanimously votes the love of my life off the proverbial island. And I suppose they’re voting me off too. I’m a collaborator after all. I’m in collusion with the enemy. I’m cahoot-ing with him every night. It doesn’t matter if he’s the kindest, funniest, most emotionally evolved, honest, compassionate, earnest dude I’ve ever met. He still straps on a gun and a badge everyday. And the worst words I can add to this conversation are, “Hey, not all cops…”

It’s awful. From every angle it’s awful and I’m not going to pretend it isn’t. I’m also not going to to kidnap the story and say it’s about my pain. Nor am I going to defend excessive force on the part of the police. My goodwill toward them is not so all encompassing that I believe they can do no wrong. If anything, my relationship with the police means I know them better than anyone. And therefore I know how fucked up their behavior can be. After 5 years as a paramedic and almost 12 as a deputy medical examiner I’ve seen some of them at their worst. I’ve seen things in the middle of the night when no bystanders lurk nearby with cell-phones recording every move. I’m there when we’re all exhausted and pissed off with the endlessness of our work. And sometimes, it’s truly stomach-turning. Sometimes, we’re bad people. Myself included.

If it makes you feel any better… these guys are French.

——————————————————————————————————————-

But you already know that.

So I’m going to tell you a story you don’t know.

The way I see it, before everyone decides I’m a fascist and unfollows me, before the thronging hoards beat at our door with tar and feathers in hand, crying out for Mike’s head… I’m going to tell you about the day we met.

I’m going to tell you a love story.

I was working.

No surprise, I’m always working.

Specifically, I was working the second day of a two day shift. It was mid-morning and I was already miserable and exhausted. The day kicked off with a shot-gun-to-the-head suicide that tore me from sleep like a screaming drill sergeant. I had staggered off to that grotesque scene, dragging my wits behind me like the fraying hems of my work pants. And, while finishing up the investigation, my pager shrieked out it’s ear-splitting alert. I had another death- this time a motorcycle accident on the other side of the county. I extricated myself from the teary, imploring grip of the suicide victim’s wife and stumbled back to my truck when another page heralded yet another death. This one was a fatal overdose, located roughly midway between my location and the motorcycle accident.

Grumbling every incarnation of “fuck” under my breath, I called back the deputy at the motorcycle crash, telling him that he would have to wait while I tackled this overdose first. He sounded downright chipper, “No problem! See you when you get here!” It was probably the first sunny day of the year. Doubtless, sitting in a rural field with a sandwich was a beautiful relief for him compared to the usual inane cop-bullshit he handled. I sighed and turned my wheels onward toward the overdose, where a decomposing dead girl, a roomful of dirty detectives and fate were all waiting for me.

Pulling up to the scene, the first thing I noticed was a middle-aged couple, laying facedown on the front lawn of the house and writhing with distress. The woman’s jagged howls rose and fell like a ship on a stormy ocean. The man held her, rocking back and forth, pleading for her to calm down. I side-stepped the couple, making for the front door. “Those are the parents,” said the patrol officer standing on the front step. “Sounds like she didn’t respond to calls or texts for about a week and a half, so they decided to come here and check on her. They found her… like that.”

it’s something like that… but smellier.

——————————————————————————————————————–

I didn’t have to ask like what. I could already tell. The scent of decomposition was worming its way out the decedent’s bedroom and toward the front door as I approached. I cringed. It’s bad finding a loved one dead. But finding a loved one decomposing leaves a dent on your psyche that no amount of therapy can buff out.

Shit.

After burning most of my bandwidth of the suicide victim’s wife, I would have to dig deep for this one. Contrary to what deputy medical examiners present to the public, our wells of empathy do run dry. No one can endlessly exist in a state of sympathetic benevolence. I recognized this woman’s death was a life-ending event for her parents. But for me it was only my second out of three tragic deaths that morning. Somehow, I had to convey the appropriate emotional involvement to these devastated people, while still hurrying the fuck up to get to the motorcycle crash 20 miles away. And I figured telling them their daughter’s death was merely a 3 out of 10 on my salty, overworked trauma scale, probably wasn’t the most compassionate approach.

God, I was tired. Not so much sleepy-tired, but more bone-weary, fatigue. I was impatient-tired, annoyed and defeated under the weight of all the paperwork and inane tasks already crowding my day. I grit my teeth as I stomped through the carpeted entryway and glanced around the living room of the woman’s house. A few patrol officers and drug-detectives crowded the small space, milling around and sifting through our decedent’s belongings. Unreasonable frustration sizzled up my throat and gathered like a crackling storm cloud in my head. There was no organization, no leadership. Clearly, no one had done jack-shit because they were all waiting for me to get there and make sense of it all. They should have done some work. They should have pulled something together. Why do I have to handle every little goddamnned THING? I seethed. I drew a breath and barked, “WHO THE FUCK IS IN CHARGE OF THIS SHIT-SHOW?”

“I am,” came a male voice behind me.

I turned, poised to unleash a wrathful lightening-storm on whoever was stupid enough to claim ownership of this professional insult I was suffering.

-And my ire evaporated. The incinerating rage burning in my frontal lobe extinguished like someone had smothered it with a wet blanket-

– a sexy, sexy, wet blanket.

Not actually a picture of Mike- I don’t know this guy either, but you get my point.

—————————————————————————————————————–

“Uuuuuhhhhhhhhh… hhhhhhhhhHi!”-

-or some other such floundering inanity stumbled out of my mouth. And the realization slapped me, I hadn’t showered in at least 38 hours. I hadn’t worn anything resembling make-up or perfume in at least 5 years. My hair was flat, my clothes were rumpled and flecked with blood spatter. I had pretty much just mother-fucked every officer at the scene and the odor of decomposition simmered around us. All the same, beams of sunlight broke through my morose, overworked funk. Choirs of angels sang as the overcast sky split into a glorious, luminescent dawn-

-And I was going to get this dude’s number if I had to beat it out of him with the dead woman’s leg.

I haven’t asked the witnesses, but I imagine I underwent probably the most dramatic before-and-after transformation since Bruce Jenner became Caitlynn. I was A GIRL!

He was tall, easily over 6′. He had a broad chest, biceps that bulged out of his short-sleeved uniform, a firm jawline and the slightest hint of dimples at the corners of his mouth. But, above all, he had the most impossible green eyes I had ever seen. The kind of eyes that steal your breath and leave you blank… trying to remember that there’s a dead body in the next room and her family is freaking the fuck out on the front lawn.

I gaped, likely working my mouth like a suffocating goldfish.

“Body’s in here,” he said, motioning for me to follow him into the bedroom-

oooooooooohhhhh…. the BEDROOM…..

-where our decedent lay, oozing into the mattress where she met her end. I shook my brain loose and began working. But I was a new creation. I was effervescent and charming, giggling and smiling and batting my eyelashes. I cracked jokes, I teased- and I watched Officer Sexy-Pants for signs of interest, even as I performed the perfunctory ring-check to see if he advertised his taken/not-taken status.

He wasn’t wearing a ring, but I knew that didn’t mean anything. Lots of cops forgo weddings rings on shift. And even if he wasn’t married, he could still be in a committed relationship. Hell, he might even be gay. How could I know? I worked my scheming mind like a blacksmith’s bellows as I went about the investigation, wondering how to unearth the goods. Was he single or not? Was he single or not? Was he single or not?

It wasn’t until I was perched on the mattress, straddling the putrefied body of our decedent when the stroke of genius overcame me. I glanced up at the officers gathered in the doorway of the bedroom as I grabbed the woman’s limp arm and heaved her over so I could examine her back. Undeterred by the looks of abject disgust on everyone’s face, I set my plan into action: “HARD TO BELIEVE I’M SINGLE, RIGHT,” I bellowed at the horrified assembly.

Did you hear me? I SAID I’M SINGLE!

——————————————————————————————————————-

The officers and detectives stared blankly at me, not quite registering that I was talking about dating at a time like this. But I was on a motherfucking mission and was not about to be deterred by anything so paltry as “tact” or “appropriateness” So I wound up and took another swing: “Hahahaha, yeah. On my dating profile, when they asked me to share an anecdote about myself, I told them, ‘technically, I’ve dismembered more people than Jack the Ripper!’ Hahahaha!”

Amateur

———————————————————————————————————
A couple of the officers shifted on their feet and tittered nervously as they angled back out the bedroom door. The others either didn’t hear me or had decided to ignore the comment and in rapid order I was alone with the corpse. “Goddamnnit” I sighed and jumped off the bed, following them back into the living room where detectives had found an array of pills and powders arranged on the coffee table. Some of these had clearly been cut into lines and snorted off a dinner plate. The detectives discussed toxicology and autopsies while I listened with half and ear and watched Officer Adonis walk out the front door to retrieve a field test kit. I kicked myself repeatedly for my clumsy, half-cocked attempts at flirting and figured the whole scene was a wash as I followed suit and went out to talk to the parents. They were ravaged to the point of numb acceptance by the time I got to them. I described what they could expect and what was going to happen with their daughter’s body as they stared through me with empty eyes, nodding mechanically. I wanted to say something more- something meaningful or comforting. Anything at all that might relieve their suffering, but they were so far beyond the reach of my words all I could do was hand them a card and back away. Drifting back to my work-truck to go tackle the motorcycle wreck across town, I paused to say my farewells to the law enforcement officers and take one last look at what was probably the highlight of my day…

You see, because the thing is, I was tired. I know I already said that, but it went beyond current circumstance. I don’t just mean I was tired of death and work and blood and trauma. I wasn’t just tired that morning. I was tired of life, tired of loss, tired of people, tired of dating. Literally a week before this shift I had more or less ended the music with the last dude I attempted to date. It was a decision I didn’t make lightly and I was still agonizing over the possible mistake. His name was Nate and he was fine. He was great, even. He was friendly and mellow, even-keeled and quiet. He had a stable job as a dental assistant and got along with his family. He didn’t display anything resembling a temper and always paid for dinner unless I insisted on doing so myself. Unlike anyone else I had dated in the past 10 years, Nate was not a psychopath. He wasn’t sinking below some quagmire of PTSD. He didn’t have maniacal exes or a substance abuse problem. He wasn’t addicted to video games. His record was cleaner than a model home: no assault charges, no DUIs, no possession with intent to sell. He didn’t even have any tattoos or ride a motorcycle-

-And I was decidedly NOT in love with him.

This, latest defunct relationship had me seriously wondering if I was officially ruined. What was wrong with me that a suitable suitor had left me bereft of excited tingles. Nate was… good… adequate… preferred. Solid as a pylon. But I struggled to work up anything resembling giddy enthusiasm. I liked him a lot. And given my track record, he seemed like a really safe bet. But I felt a hollowness that I was beginning to suspect could only be filled with chaos, drama and … assholes. Ultimately, I was describing this fear to a friend of mine when she gave me the girlfriend bitch-slap that I needed. I was telling her that I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. I was broken. I was shallow. I was a glutton for punishment. But Alexis, bless her heart, denominated the whole mess down to a single statement: “Grace,” she said with her characteristic, no-bullshit gravity. “If it’s not a ‘fuck yes then it’s a ‘no.'”

I broke up with Nate the next day.

He wasn’t a ‘fuck yes’ and I was killing myself trying to turn him into one.

Now, here I was, making an ass of myself on the scene of a drug overdose because something about Officer Fuck-Yes had lit up my brainstem like a goddamnned Tesla coil.

Heeeeeeeeeyyyyyy!

——————————————————————————————————————-

I was just about to take my leave of my latest embarrassment when he piped up, seemingly out of nowhere.

“Every now and then when I’m on a dating app and I see someone’s profile picture is just a photo of a flower or something… I swipe right just to roll the dice and see what her deal is-“

!!!!!!!

He had a dating profile. Like, he was talking about using it in the present tense and everything! I stopped dead in my tracks and smiled.

“Oh my God, right? People’s photos are crazy. Like, I see some guys’ photos of themselves in sunglasses with a baseball cap on, taken from 50 yards away and all I can do is wonder what he’s hiding. And I don’t know what makes dudes post pictures of themselves looking downward at their phone. Don’t they know that angle gives them 3 chins and their nose hair is their most prominent feature?”

He laughed and the next thing I knew we were commiserating over the woes of “app-dating” Nevermind the fact that there was a fatal motorcycle crash mucking up the county until I got there and dealt with it. The roads could stay closed as far as I was concerned, I was having a moment.

Or rather I was having a moment right up until all of the officers suddenly went silent. I had been mid-joke with Mike when something happened over the radio that dropped a cinder block on the whole scene. I didn’t hear it myself since all of them were wearing ear-mics, but I watched their faces change and a heaviness fell. Apparently, while I had been blithely wasting time at the scene of this overdose, flirting with Mike and hoping I was making a lasting impression, one of the officers who was blocking off the scene of the motorcycle accident got hit by a car.

Officer Fred Warren had been in his cruiser, closing off the rural highway and waiting for the idiot medical examiner to arrive and clear the motorcycle accident. He had just been relieved and was leaving to get lunch as another officer took over when a distracted driver slammed into Fred in his squad-car, trapping him and essentially snapping his leg in two. The officers around me had gone silent, listening to Fred gasp and groan and howl in pain, even as he attempted to raise dispatch on the radio and get himself an ambulance.

Quick as a wink, all the officers- including Mike- disappeared into their squad cars to render aid to poor, squashed Fred. And I was left there, with the horrified realization that it was MY FAULT.

If I hadn’t been intentionally lallygagging around at the scene of this overdose… I could barely bring myself to think it. Fred was the cream center of a smashed Oreo and I let it happen because I wanted to flirt with a cop.

The guilt washed over me as I scurried back to my truck to haul ass over to the motorcycle accident. I was such a dick. And perhaps even more of a dick because, much like the distracted driver who had slammed into Fred, I was now driving with my phone in my hand and hurriedly doing some Facebook recon on Mike. Within the 20 minutes it took me to get to the motorcycle accident I knew that Mike had two young sons, a gray truck and 6 months earlier he had gone to some kind of formal police banquet thing with some bitch in a blue dress (the girl, not Mike) who I officially hated. Nothing recent regarding girlfriends or relationships. Fuck it! I said to myself and punched the “friend request” button with my thumb. It’s fine, I told myself. I’m friends with lots of officers. It doesn’t mean anything. We just had a nice time talking. It’s fine.

To hear Mike tell the story. He had absolutely no idea that I was flirting with him and he only vaguely registered that “the medical examiner had a nice ass” at the scene. Right up to the moment he got my friend request, he was utterly unaware that anything was going on. He and one of the other officers who had been at the overdose were in the middle of getting lunch when his phone dinged with my request and Mike had pulled it out, gazed at in in confusion and then showed it to his co-worker. “That’s weird,” he reportedly said. “the medical examiner just sent me a friend request.”

His coworker, who was clearly more observant than Mike, said something to the tune of: “Are you oblivious or just stupid?”

Mike was measuring how best to respond in the affirmative to being both oblivious and stupid when his co-worker went on.

“You guys were having a moment,” he told him.

“We were?” Mike gaped. “Oh shit… should I ask her out?”

-which earned Mike an eye-roll from his co-worker

Really?

The rest, as they say, is history- a slightly mortifying history in which I have to admit that I let Officer Fred Warren get hit by a car so I could get a date. It’s okay, though. Fred is on paid medical leave and rumor has it he actually began walking last week. And as much as people told me I wasn’t responsible for Fred getting hit by a texting driver, I still maintain that I played a part in his accident. But I made it up to him. I sent him a card with a certificate in it that officially gets him out of helping the medical examiner move any dead body of his choice… you know… in the event that he ever makes it back to patrol.

I guess if I could leave you with anything, dear reader, I hope that you’ll remember that cops are people- most of them are good people (but I’ve got the best one) Also, it’s worth waiting for the person who turns your world from black and white to technicolor. As Alexis so adeptly summed it up, “If it’s not a ‘fuck yes‘ then it’s a ‘no’.

Oh yeah, and don’t text and drive.

This has been a public service announcement.

Love is Blind

You probably already knew this, but love makes you stupid. Especially when you’re feeling it for the first time-at the age of 35.

Confused? Yeah, so was Megz when her girlfriend tried to kill her. Hear all about it on this week’s podcast episode, Megz Story.

I swear I’ll get back to writing my own material this week. It’s just with all the crazy shit going on in the world today, I have been finding it difficult to do anything other than watch reruns of Ru Paul’s Drag Race:

strangely therapeutic… or just strange.

In the meantime, here’s the link to the podcast episode.

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

And now for something completely different!

Well,

I did it. I finally got my first podcast up. But for those of you who are hoping for a fucked up story about someone dying…

THINK AGAIN!

The podcast is all about fucked up stories of people LIVING!

That’s right. In an effort to combat the crippling depression, anxiety and ennui resulting from my incredibly traumatizing job- I’m producing a podcast of survival stories. I spend all my time listening to stories of why people are dead- I wanna hear why they’re alive.

But, don’t worry. I’ll still craft dark and morbid tales of depraved deaths for you here on the blog. But if you find yourself a little too depressed, feel free to give this a listen.

First episode is up and available on Anchor and Stitcher and Spotify and PocketCasts. (I think… sorry I’m still trying to figure this shit out. I’m old and technology is strange and frightening.

Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout Dead Men’s Donuts

Certain risks come with working private security in Mexico… for example, people coming to your home to kidnap you and your family.  Not only did Duque survive the ensuing fire-fight, he also managed to leave that world behind him… and now enjoys the simple thing in life…. like making tacos while he’s being interviewed.
  1. Duque’s Story: Cold Water on a Hot Day OR How to survive a Mexican Shootout
  2. The Dating Zombie
  3. Caedmon’s Story- 75 Tootsie Rolls
  4. Ash’s Story- Voldemort Rides Again!
  5. That Crazy Bitch

If you like it, tell your friends… if you hate it… tell your enemies.