Flashes of white, streams and trails of grayish-green. The very tips of his New Balance running sneakers and streaks of the path he’s running, deep in concentrated thought, the wind howling past his reddened ears and face, Tomas began to have what he referred to as “acid flashbacks”. It appeared that the cement and grass beneath him were in a perpetual, random, liquid motion. Growing, flowing and breathing. This is something Tomas had felt and internalized on many occasions before now. He was convinced this occurred randomly due to his short lived stint of LSD use. He had tried the hallucinogen twice on purpose and once accidentally–slipped in some coca-cola at a party–when he was younger, about 11 years ago. He hadn’t cared much for the feelings it pushed and pulsed through his mind, didn’t like the hallucinations just as much. LSD made Tomas feel out of control and alone two feelings he wished to avoid with extreme prejudice.
For most of his adult life Tomas had suffered from mild anxiety disorder, coupled with a severe panic condition. Tomas would panic when in public settings and almost always the panic revolved around unrelenting thoughts of death and the way by which he most feared the act of dying. A heart attack, the facts of his life; that he was healthy, athletic and without family history of such problems didn’t seem to stave off the reoccurring waking nightmares. A panic attack could happen at any time, when he least expected it, it was usually triggered by something unrelated to the panic–a muscle cramp or headache–and caused him intense, real fear and anxiety. Tomas feared the panic attacks more than he feared dying.
This morning, while on his usual 4 mile run with his wife Molly, at the state park nearby their home, Tomas began to feel the start of a panic attack, beads of sweat appearing along his hairline, an overwhelming rush of irrational fear and paranoia, body temperature rising, a guttural need to run – to get away – to escape. This was a regular occurrence for Tomas, yet every time it happened; it felt like the first time. But, worse somehow because he knew what was happening and that he was completely powerless to stop it, even more so now, than before he had known the true reason for his anxiety and panic attacks. Tomas had been violently molested as a young boy, from his fifth birthday until he was eleven years old. The next door neighbors’ college age son Donald had been his abuser. Eventually Tomas came to realize the cause for much of his life’s mistakes and heartache were rooted in this 6 year tragedy in his childhood.
His back ached and throbbed, his side cramped and he doubled over straining against the fear screaming at him to run, to escape. Tomas’ wife who had always been supportive of his condition and never made him feel unsafe or alone; she stopped and rubbed his back asking him if he was alright, adding that they could stop for a moment if he needed to. She was looking at him with one part pity and two parts compassion, a concoction that broke his spirit. He couldn’t stand the idea that he was incapable of stopping his mind from playing these vile tricks on him; it infuriated him to no end. These attacks were a waste of his valuable time and ate into his mind like drops of liquid acid, eating away at the brain matter leaving nothing but a quivering mass of fear soaked, spongy, grey soup. His own intolerance to the condition made it that much harder to deal with, he just wanted it to stop and let him return to the way things were before all this shit began. Before he was raped. Before he let it happen.
Still looking at him that way, Molly noticed a light trickle of blood appearing at the hair line in several randomly spaced points, running down his brow mingling with sweat and being set off its’ intended course by the creases in his thirty year old forehead. Shocked, scared and bewildered she smeared the blood and said “Tomas, what in the hell is happening to you?”
Thomas harshly responded–out of breath–with “What?!”
“You’re bleeding, your forehead it’s bleeding!” Her voice was strained with fear. Reaching up to investigate his forehead Tomas took a long swipe across his head with the palm of his right hand, looking at his blood covered hand he began to feel uneasy and nauseous. What was happening? Why was he bleeding from his head? Just as that last thought crossed his mind his left hand seared with excruciating pain, it felt as if the flesh was being torn from his hand, from the center of his palm outward, awkardly raising his hand to his face he was aghast at what he saw, a inch round tear through the middle of his hand, opening unassisted. Blood was pouring freely down his arm and dripping off his elbow to the paved path below, pooling at his feet. The amount of blood being lost looked like quarts as it mixed with the water and mud on the path. His head felt light, rearing backwards and slamming hard unto his ass in the middle of the path, feeling as if he were going to pass out. He reached out for his wife, vision blurring.
She was screaming his name, it sounded faint and far off, she was screaming “Tomas, please get up!” “What’s happening?!” “What’s happening, someone please help my husband’s hurt, someone!” He was fading out fast and bleeding faster, when the second hole began to tear into his right hand and the third in the top of his left foot, he began to weep. Tears salty and large ran down his paled, unshaven face intertwining with the blood and sweat from his brow. His throat tightened and he couldn’t yell or even whisper his wife’s name. Tomas was still fading, dizzy now, bursts of tiny, white lights in his field of vision, darkness edging in from the peripheral, thoughts spinning round. Must lie down, it’ll all be ok if I lie down.
When the forth hole ripped through his right foot tearing asunder the bone and cartilage rending the flesh outward in an explosion of intense pain, blood and marrow, he let out a weak, hoarse cry of pain and winced. Gritting his teeth he collapsed backward cracking his hard skull on the even harder pavement splitting his scalp, pouring blood onto the path.
Molly, his wife was frantically calling for help and another runner stopped, giving Molly his cell phone, concerned for the man he’d never met. Lying, bleeding to what seemed like death. Molly weeping, frantic on the phone with 911 screaming through her tears and fear. “Please hurry!” “He’s dying!” “He’s dying!”
The stranger was first to notice the blood seeping up and out of Tomas’ brown track suit. Sticky and wet soaking the front right side near his ribs. Molly fell to her knees and ripped open the track suit top, pulled up the white cotton t-shirt beneath to uncover a horrific, deep puncture, right below the ribs of her husband of 9 years. Tomas was draining of his blood, and his skin was pale–pale even for an Irish American, who loathed the sun–and he was dying. No he was already dead, he wasn’t breathing. Molly was too distraught, angry and broken to notice the high pitched wail of the sirens and the alternating flashes of red and blue, red and blue on the curving path. When the paramedics touched her shoulder and asked her to let them near the body, she nearly screamed.
The body? This was not how she wished to remember Tomas. No. Not as a body. The body. No.
This man was not going to leave her, not like this, not unexplained. He was going to make it, going to pull through. They took his vitals, he was alive, but barely, and was fading fast. He was breathing but so shallowly that it was not apparent by the movement–or lack there of–in his chest. He was soaked in his own blood, a pallid grey and not moving. The lead paramedic, Bill–a very large man by any standards–instructed his partner John to begin all the onsite routines for a “Bleeder”. They bandaged and applied pressure, they transferred and strapped Tomas to a stretcher and ran full bore with Molly in tow to the ambulance parked only fifty yards away on the side street that ran past the west end of McCooner park. Tomas was still unconscious but he was alive, and he was breathing as evidenced by the occasional translucent, pink bubble of blood that grew then popped silently at the corner of his clenched mouth.
All the way to the hospital, Molly prayed. She used a Buddhist mantra she had learned from Tomas, who was a devoted practitioner of Buddhism; “Ohm Mani Pad me Hung, Ohm Mani Pad me Hung…” whispered under her breath hundreds of times as they raced to the hospital. “Prospects were grim” Bill had told her solemnly; “Things don’t look good” John said over his shoulder as they speed along. Wasn’t this just the same thing put differently? Was this supposed to prepare her for the worst? She had trouble preparing for something she felt–no, knew wouldn’t happen.
A doctor, short, husky and bald shook his head and did what he could for the bleeding man, the paperwork, the patient. He did what he was required to, no more. When Tomas was no longer actively bleeding and hooked to an IV, he had a team of three nurses attending to Tomas giving him the care and attention he was going to need to pull through. The doctor had left, his name left with him.
Molly sat an untiring vigil for four days and three nights, when on the fourth night Tomas, woke gasping for the breath he thought had been lost. Horrified at what he found.
Body Full of needles and tubes, and covered in thin baby blue cotton, covered in flowers. Lying on the hard unrelenting mattress of hospital issue, his eyes big with fear and then she was there. Molly was there. He was going to be alright, he was going to live. Tomas let himself relax; Molly lay down in the bed beside him, and took his pink, warm hand in hers.
She was crying and he began to cry as well, their shared tears were all that they needed tonight. It would be enough. The unspoken, strong bond between them was all he’d need. They drifted to sleep together on the cold, hard bed in the dark, in his arms, in his big, strong arms, holding her. She would be alright, everything would be alright.