Past midnight. A giant of a man stands by the open door of his twisted Buick blinded by the lights of the fire truck. He is bare-chested, blood streaming from his severely lacerated head. There is a hole in the windshield the size of a basketball.
“I don’t need a collar,” he says, ripping off the collar I have just put on him after cautioning him to be still. “I’m an EMT. Leave me alone.”
“If you’re an EMT, then you know the game,” I say. “Put the collar on and be still.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“You’re impaired. You just put your head through the windshield. You’re going to the hospital.”
“I am not! Leave me the F alone.”
“Not going to happen,” the police officer says. “Now shut up and behave. Listen to the paramedic. You should know better.”
He goes with us in the ambulance but he is not happy about it. He lies on the board with his arms crossed, as we head to the hospital, lights and sirens. I notify the hospital. “No loss of consciousness,” I say, “but unbelted, unrestrained, stuck his entire head through the windshield.”
He grudgingly tells me his name and address and medical history. I wonder, if he is an EMT, how many times he has had a similar patient on his stretcher, and what he tells his coworkers later? “Guys says he’s an EMT. What an A-hole, stuck his head right through the windshield, bleeding like a stuck pig, says he’s fine. Can you believe?”
Lying there looking up at the ceiling, he looks angry. I don’t know if he is mad at us, or at himself for totaling his car, or mad at someone else or just life for setting off the events of this night that led to him losing control, bisecting a telephone pole, and ending up head-on into a stone wall, his skull breaking through the glass of the windshield, going through to the other side, and then coming back.
“What an A-hole,” my partner says later. “Can you believe the size of that hole in the windshield? I’m surprised he didn’t cut his head off.”
Two days later, we are eating lunch when there is a knock at the station door. There is a giant man with ragged stitches in several places across his forehead and temple standing there taking up the doorway. He smiles and nods his head and offers his hand to shake. “You took care of me,” he says.
“Yeah, how are you?”
“I’m okay. They kept me overnight and stitched me up, prettified my head. I just went to look at the car and…” He vigorously shakes my hand, bowing as he does it. “I just want to thank you; I want to thank you for taking care of me.”
I say no problem, I’m glad he’s okay, good thing he has a hard head. I thank him for coming by.
We go back and sit down to our Mo Shu Pork.
“Nice guy,” my partner says. “Not everyday you get someone saying thank you.”
“Unusual,” I say.
Later I wonder when he stopped to see his car, if he took a picture of the windshield, and if he did, whether he shows it to his EMT buddies at work and laughs about his hard head. Or maybe he’ll just keep the photo under his pillow when he lays his head down, after he has said his night prayers.