When a life unravels what happens to dreams?

Surviving the fall – a jump really – might be the easiest step for a young woman whose life unraveled before she had a chance to live it

The tones go off and light explodes around me, waking me instantly. I had been asleep for nearly 30 minutes, allowing whatever dreams to come without fighting. It had been a grueling shift with no end in sight.

"Rescue 1 and Engine 13, Respond to Allen’s Avenue at the Rt. 95 on-ramp for a female who has fallen off an overpass, injuries unknown."

I wonder why there is a girl on the overpass, and what led her to such a place. I think of all of women I have seen during this tour. The high school students walking to school in groups, laughing as they pass the street people, unseeing, unaffected and oblivious. The teenage mothers who live with their mothers and exist on the meager payments that the state provides. The dancers at the strip clubs, existing on vodka, heroin and attention from strangers.

I keyed the mic,
I keyed the mic, "Rescue 1 in service." It’s a long, grueling shift with no end in sight. (Photo/Pixabay)

I wonder if their paths have crossed mine for a reason or perhaps the other way around. And I wonder if I am worthy of the encounter.

Then there’s the young woman whose life has unraveled before she had a chance to live it. Her father is sick and they are living in a high-rise. Only he is not embracing his existence, flawed as it may be, he’s thinking only of himself, and his drug and alcohol addiction. He smokes and drinks his days away while his daughter wanders lost through the streets of Providence.

She’s walked for hours. She’s cold, lonely and afraid. And she’s dangerously depressed, but nobody knows that, least of all her father because she is afraid of upsetting him. Eventually her solitary journey leads her to the highway. She walks up the on-ramp, not really knowing why, only knowing that she needs to keep moving.

Cars pass her, spray freezing water and road salt onto her clothes and skin as they speed by. The on-ramp has a railing, about waist high. As the world moves on around her, she leans on it, then leans over it and falls thirty feet, and crashes onto the pavement below her.

The PA repeats:

"Rescue 1 and Engine 13, Respond to Allen’s Avenue at the Rt. 95 on-ramp for a female who has fallen off an overpass, injuries unknown."

We’re in the truck in seconds and on scene in a minute. As we approach, I see a number of people on the overpass, looking down. Thirty feet below them is a crumbled heap. Horrified onlookers form a semi-circle around the heap, but nobody goes near it. Police cars converge and Engine 10 is heard in the distance, approaching fast. We glove up and go to work.

She is miraculously conscious and screaming. There is no gross deformity and no hemorrhaging. The primary assessment is unremarkable. I gently turn her, straighten her legs, and secure her to a backboard. I take off her necklace and earrings - matching silver angels - and place them next to her head. We get her into the truck, cover her with blankets and cut off her wet clothes. Still no blood, except for a finger that appears scraped.

Maybe I should have left the angels on.

Before we leave the scene I take another look at the place she fell. People are still on the highway looking down. I stand on the railroad tracks that are laid through the pavement, estimate the distance the best I can and settle on a fall of at least thirty feet or maybe forty.

I can’t believe she’s alive. The police have talked to people on scene and they confirm the girl’s story. She definitely jumped and should have died.

I talked with her hours later as she sat in the trauma room, waiting for test results. She fractured her pelvis and tailbone. The pain medications loosened her up enough to tell me what had happened and why. I only spent a few minutes with her before the X-ray people came in for some more pictures.

She took my hand before I could leave.

"Should I tell them I might be pregnant?"

Dear God.

"You need to tell somebody."

She’s only eighteen, and has nobody. Her father couldn’t be reached.

I’d like to reach her father. I’d reach over and wring his neck until his eyes bulged out of their sockets. Then maybe he would see more than his own miserable little world and start acting like a man.

Does she have a chance to dream? Do our dreams intersect on a level that we are not aware of? Has her unborn child achieved awareness, and the ability to dream?

I keyed the mic, "Rescue 1 in service."

It’s a long, grueling shift with no end in sight. My partner drove us back to quarters and I dozed in the officer’s seat; thirty hours in, eight to go. The shift ground on, and I existed in that strange world between alert and unconscious. She visited me when I dozed, unbidden. I saw her and her child in my dreams, wondering if they would ever have a chance to see their dreams materialize.

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