The Matisse

When I was doing my paramedic ride time, we did a stabbing in a crowded second floor apartment over a bar. It was a hot humid summer night. Music was pounding and we had to fight out way through the crowd to get to the patient. A woman had slashed a man, there was a lot of blood, the patient was barely conscious and we had to carry him down the stairs on a backboard. I took the end of the board, and started down the stairs. An EMT on the scene advised me to lean against the wall as I went down the stairs for balance. “Just watch out for cockroaches,” he said. Leaning against the wall was a great tip, and now whenever I carry anyone down the stairs, I lean against the wall with my shoulder as I go to brace myself. It has saved me from stumbling on many occasions. As far as the cockroaches, I have seen a few, and while they are legendarily hard to kill, they are smart enough to scatter when my big shoulder approaches.

I am again carrying a patient down the stairs, but today my shoulder is not against the wall. I am not in a second floor walkup above a bar, but on the second floor of a west end mansion. My patient is not stabbed, he has a vertigo. Instead of hip-hop, classical music plays lightly in the background. The carpet is probably worth more than I make in a year and on the wall all the way down, is enough artwork to fill a small museum. You can’t lean your shoulder against a wall when a Matisse is hanging on the wall. Instead a firefighter has his hand against my back and calls out the steps as I descend. My partner and I have the patient, the firefighter has me. The Matisse looks on with approval.

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