Saviour /ˈsāvyər/ a person who saves someone or something from danger, and who is regarded with the veneration of a religious figure.
I could see her hiding in the shadows. Her cold, blue eyes pierced through the darkness. Our eyes locked. Immediately, my face grew flushed and I felt the palpitations in my chest. It was like my heart was seizing, and I could do nothing to control it. Finally breaking away from her gaze, I hung my head. My feet were firmly planted to the ground, and no matter how much I wanted to run, they would not budge. The shadow began to close in. With every footstep, the panic worsened. Beads of sweat accumulated on my brow and slowly started to roll down my cheek. The stinging saline burned as it grazed my eyes. Staring at the ground, I could see her bare feet gaining ground within my periphery. As she neared, she stopped. I could not swallow. I could barely breath. A calloused hand reached out and took mine. Her hands were hardly feminine in nature; the scabs from multiple injections made notable ridges. The blackened debris under her fingernails signaled continuous use. At first, she easily took my hand. As the silence continued, she squeezed my hand signaling for my attention. My head began to raise slowly. If only there was a word to depict the shame that I felt. Her stoic face revealed no feeling. Like a newborn calf, my legs could barely support me.
“Why can’t you look at me?” she whispered. “Is it because you know that you should have tried harder?” Her hand let go of mine and began to move upward until her palm touched my neck. With a swift motion, she clutched my trachea like a squeezing vice grip, and any hope that I had for escape was gone.
My clock was blinking those fluorescent numbers, demonic reminders that I couldn’t go back to sleep. It’s a normal time to get up for work anyway, right? Flipping on the coffee pot, I stumbled through the dimly lit room to head to my desk. Reaching for the cord, the precariously perched lamp fell to the floor.
Little jumpy, aren’t we?
It had been several nights in a row with the same dream, each one progressing a little further than the last. Before now, she had never tried to hurt me. My coffee steamed and the machine terminated it’s brewing with seizure-like activity. The dryness of my eyes was exacerbated by the teetering fan in the corner of the room. I couldn’t believe that I remembered her after all this time.
It was around five years ago when I met her; I remember because it was one of the coldest winters in recent history. The roads were stained a charcoal color from the debris on the vehicles crossing over them repeatedly. Juggling my bag and my coffee, I slid across the parking lot with the finesse of a bear in the circus, somehow managing not to spill the steaming brew. Feeling the frozen hairs in the beard, I fought against the fog that accumulated on the lens of my glasses when I entered the station. The night shift crew looked haggard, complaining about the chaos of the frozen tundra they had experienced just hours earlier. Rubbing the remnants of sleep from my eyes, I braced myself from the exaggerated light reflecting from the snow. After grabbing a mediocre breakfast, we meandered over to our post. No sooner than putting the ambulance in park: “Medic 19, respond non-emergent to the alleyway between 5th and Jefferson for an unknown medical problem. We’ll update you when we know more.”
In other words, you won’t update us.
We bought the call, and started over to the address.
“Probably a dead body,” my partnered grumbled. “Start your day with a DOA.”
“Do me a favor and see a proctologist about your upcoming lobotomy.”
After circling the area, nothing obvious caught our eye. “Dispatch, do you have an updated location for us?”
“Oh, yeah, Jefferson and 7th.”
An update would have been helpful.
We turned the corner and drove down the gravel alley. There were a pair of feet sticking out behind a dumpster. “Dispatch, roll me an officer. I think we’re going to have a crime scene here.” I jumped out of my seat and walked over to her. She was like a lifeless manikin lying face down on the ground. Her shirt was torn and her underwear pulled down around her ankles. I rolled her onto her back, the entire left side of her face of completely unrecognizable. After a few gasps, she uttered a few incomprehensible words and shot up to her feet.
“Leave me alone!” she shrieked at the top of her lungs.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let’s have a seat here,” I said, escorting her to the back steps of a nearby house. “Tell me what you remember.”
“He didn’t mean to…” She stared at the ground, refusing to make eye contact with me.
“My boyfriend. It’s been a rough couple of months. It’s not his fault.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“All I said was that I was tired of paying for his part of the rent… that’s the last I remember. But I know him. He didn’t mean to. I’m fine. I really shouldn’t have said anything anyways.” She pulled away and stumbled as she tried to get up off the step. I offered her a blanket and suggested that she at least let us move her to the back of the ambulance to warm her up. Her skin was translucent from the cold, blending in with her stained white shirt. The swelling worsened as the bloody salivation accumulated on her bottom lip. She kept staring at the ground, the snow growing increasingly crimson under her.
“No. I’m not going anywhere. I’m fine. You can leave.”
“We can’t leave you here. Not like this.”
“Didn’t you fucking hear me?!” she snarled. “I’m fine.”
“No. No, you’re not.” Looking down at her legs, I noticed the yellow hue of old bruises around her thighs and shins. “He’s done this before. He’ll do it again. Really. It’s better that you come with us. You’ll be safe.”
“Safe? You really fucking expect me to believe that? Safe? So what… I go to the hospital, they don’t fucking do anything, and then I’m right back here.”
“I have an officer coming; maybe you should think about giving them a statement. Pressing charges. He shouldn’t be able to do this to you and get away with it.”
“Leave me alone. I can take care of myself.”
“Let us at least check you out. Can we start by just checking your blood pressure?”
“Why, so you can feel me up, too? Y’all are all alike. Touch whatever you want. Hit whatever you want. You probably hit our girlfriend, too, you fucking pig.”
“I promise, we don’t want to hurt you. We’re genuinely concerned about you. We want to help you.”
“If you want to help me, then fuck off.”
With that, she wheeled around and spat directly in my face. Feeling the contents travel southward down my chin, I grabbed a roll of gauze and wiped off the debris.
“Listen, I can’t force you to go, but I think this is the right decision.”
“Go to hell.”
After several minutes of bargaining, it was clear there was no way I was going to convince her to go with us. I called into the online physician, explained the situation, gave my recommendations, and discussed the adamant refusal despite my best attempts. Reluctantly, the doc gave her blessing. Running back out to the ambulance, I grabbed the clipboard and started to fill out the paperwork. Walking slowly back to her, I explained everything I was filling out.
“You’re right. I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I know that you don’t have to go through it anymore. It doesn’t have to be like this for you. If he’s willing to do this to you, he’s willing to kill you. Do you really want to take that bet?”
With that, she walked away, leaving the refusal unsigned. No shoes. No pants. No coat. I watched as she staggered down the alley, routinely leaning against fences or garbage pales, whatever she could to restore her balance. After she passed a few houses, she pulled herself up two uneven steps and jiggled the back door handle of a house with a sunken back patio roof. My stomach sank.
“Gotta love it. He beats the shit out of her and we’re the bad guys,” my partner said biting into his lukewarm burrito.
“Shut up and eat your breakfast.”
The rest of the day was mundane. No exceptional calls. Nothing miraculous. Just us trying to beat the cold. We started to make our way back to the station in the dark for our off time when the radio started to squawk again.
“19. We got another downed party by 7th and Jefferson. Description sounds like what you had this morning.”
Goddammit. “En route.”
There she was. Exactly like we found her eleven hours ago. It felt ironic. The eleventh hour. So typically lauded as the hour of redemption. The hour of saving. This time, however, there was no saving to be done. She’d been outside for awhile. Probably a couple of hours. My best guess is that some neighbor noticed her when they went to take out the trash or got home from work. Same shirt with the stains from that morning. She lay there on her right side with her eye still open. The back of her head missing clumps of hair with notable dissymmetry from right to left. Her wrist was swollen and her right hand bent in an unnatural position. I knelt down in the snow an touched her right eyelid, gently bringing it down. You don’t need to see this anymore. Kissing her forehead, I planted my hands on the ground and tried not to fall while getting back up.
That night, I couldn’t go to sleep. The rocking chair in the boys’ room seeming just as good of a home as any, so pulling myself out of bed, I sat there instead. Staring at two perfect boys with no understanding of how cruel and unforgiving the world around them could be. One day I’ll try to tell them; hopefully before they find out on their own. See, we all have things we want to be saved from. It doesn’t always look the same from person to person. Maybe we’re all just hoping for somebody to lower a rope down into the pit we’re in. Maybe we’ll take the help. Maybe not.