The Lady in Red

When performing CPR, it is the job of the resuscitator to administer thirty compressions and two breaths to the victim until they are revived or the responder passes out on top of the victim due to physical exhaustion. In many ways, resuscitating a victim is a lot like writing. First, the writer must survey the scene and make sure that the area is safe to proceed. Given that the area is secure, he can begin taking in the scenery; delicately commenting on the subtle backdrop of trees and the people strolling about the park: the woman breast feeding her child as she sits on her blanket overlooking the pond with her sweater wrapped around her shoulders, or the two gentlemen carrying on about the day’s business each with a cigar in hand.

Now cognizance of the victim should be determined.

“Julia, what happened? I didn’t see you at last night’s annual Children of Africa benefit.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Maryanne. David just hasn’t been home much lately and seems to be staying at the office later and later with each passing week.” Julia shifted her position on her checkered blanket and removed an afghan from her basket, a corner of which protruded from the edge; and wrapped herself in it as best she could with one arm, the other being preoccupied with her newborn, still breastfeeding. Her sunhat was turned toward the rising orb, the rays of which transcended the brim of her hat and left small, glowing spots on her warming cheek and the face of her nursing son.

“Junior here has been a lot to handle lately and with David gone, I’m just not sure how to manage.”

“You can hardly say he has gone, Julia, he is simply working a little more. You know how proud he is of you and Junior. I’m sure that he is working as hard as he is just to make sure that you both have everything that he can possibly offer you.”

“You don’t understand, Maryanne. He rarely looks at me anymore! It’s as if we’re strangers in our own home; and when he does look at me, oh it is with a wicked stare especially when Junior cries for hunger and I- I have to feed him, and David, he just- he just- s-stares at me.”

The sunspots begin to intermingle with Julia’s tears. First one, and another, until a stream forms and cuts away along the crevices of her exterior–chipping at the surface until larger material is dragged down stream. Bits of mascara, spots of foundation, eyeliner, rouge. They reveal a broken woman; and Junior begins to cry.

Place one hand over the heart of the victim–the victim’s left side towards the center of the chest–and then place the other hand on top, interlocking the fingers. Leaning over the victim, with arms locked, begin compressions – thirty short bursts that begin first from the back, to the shoulders, to the hands, to the chest, and then to the heart – unsure and waiting.

A man in a bathtub lies under the water with only his face protruding the surface. His eyes are closed as he focuses only on the soft crackle of his breaths – like autumn leaves lightly tread on – and his heart beating just as it always has before. He can hear the valves open – close – open – he was waiting for something now that wouldn’t yet come. A change, perhaps–a murmur, a pause, death –something that might disrupt the monotony of two beats and a breath.

When he opens his eyes, he takes in the vision of a woman not his wife. Her hair is muddled, her lipstick smeared. He made a mental note to clean his face before he returned to the office. Her legs were alabaster white, dancer’s legs–did she dance? He knew so little, though he didn’t care to know too much– he loved the way she carried herself, the way she played with her hair when she began to get tense. The way his shirt wore her curves and revealed just enough to make him wonder without giving too much away.

Her voice was silk, “I was beginning to get nervous. You’ve been in here for quite a while, I wasn’t sure if maybe your heart had given out.”

“My dear, you have nothing to worry about.”

“I know, but you know how I worry,” a strand of hair was curled around her finger, “do you have to go back to work soon?”

“What time is it? He sat up slightly and wiped away the water from his hair and eyes.”

“Nearly four.”

He never showed his teeth when he smiled unless he was with her, and when he did, they were comparable to pearls, “I think I’ve worked enough today,” he looked at her and offered his hand, “come here.” She removed his shirt and immersed herself on top of him. Steam began to rise from around her and they were alone together.

When the first set of thirty are completed, administer two breaths. Place one hand on the forehead and the other under the chin. Apply pressure to the forehead and tilt the head backwards to open the victim’s airway. Remove the hand from the forehead and clamp both nostrils then administer two quick breaths by fitting your mouth to that of the victim’s. Continue with compressions.

“David! David!” His shirt lay crumpled at the foot of the tub, the shirttails soaked with the cooling water–steam still rising from the floor. She threw herself on him, pounded his chest with both of her fists and screamed. She tried mouth to mouth but to no avail, she just kissed him harder, held him tighter, and waited for the paramedics to come.

They rushed him off to the closest hospital and were able to resuscitate him along the way with the help of an AED unit. She stayed behind to collect his things and check out of the room. She found his watch and his wallet, his hat, scarf, and shirt with the still-soaked shirttails. She dressed herself and went to check out with his credit card as the two had done so many times before.

“Ah, Mrs. Finch, did you enjoy your stay?” She did not answer right away but only stared at the lapel of his uniform, “Is everything alright ma’am?”

“-No, not really,” she dabbed at her eyes and, after realizing that she had forgotten to set her hair or fix her makeup said, “Oh my–I must look positively dreadful!”

“Not at all ma’am, however, if you like, you can return to your room for a few minutes to repair your face.”

“I–thank you, but I’m afraid I’m in a bit of a rush and I- I- really must go now.” She was becoming frantic again and tore the money from David’s wallet. As she returned his card to its appropriate sleeve, her hand grazed the crease in the back of David’s wallet that housed his wedding ring. She knew what it looked like and had committed the inscription to memory my darling love, forever. As she ran her fingers over the circular crease, she thought of all the moments she had hoped to share with David outside of room 210–the only thing that remained constant between them. She thought of the life they had planned together, the life he said they soon would have. She thought of their home, a dog maybe–clothes hanging outside next to the garden drying by wind and sunlight, and their children–the children. She sobbed uncontrollably. It came it heaves.

Two more breaths–strong, definite breaths. Now turn your head so that your ear is above the victim’s mouth and look towards the chest and stomach. Wait a few seconds for any sign of life: the chest rising and falling, the sounds of the victim breathing, warm breaths against your cheek.

Julia was home from the park for only a few minutes before she received a phone call.

“Hello ma’am? Is this Julia Miller?”

“Yes, who is this?”

“My name is Cynthia and I’m calling from the county hospital. We have a patient here whom we’re told is a Mr. David Miller; but he arrived with no identification. His wife made the 9-1-1 call; but she stayed behind at the hotel where they were vacationing, I believe they said her name was Heather. We can’t seem to locate her so we found your number in the address book in his jacket pocket. Would it be possible for you to come down to the hospital? He’s asking for Heather; but we can’t seem to reach her like I said before.”

“What happened to him?”

“He had a heart attack ma’am.”

“Will he live?”

“He was shocky for quite some time; but the doctors say that he’s going to make a full recovery.”

“I see.”

“Ma’am?”

“Cynthia, when he wakes up I want you to tell him something for me. I want you to tell him goodb-” She took a short breath and waited a moment for her voice to return to her, “I want you to tell him not to worry and that I’m sure someone will be there soon.”

Thirty more compressions. Your limbs are strained, your back aches, and your arms feel as if they’re going to buckle. You wish that help was on the way; but you know that no one is coming. You were simply a bystander walking outside when you saw a man run by you in a hospital gown screaming the name, “Julia!” before he collapsed. Sometimes people are not meant to be saved, sometimes they cannot be. You collapse over him.

There is the image of a woman dawning a long red dress with matching heels and straightened hair. Her face is fixed, her makeup done and nails filed. She drew her shawl tightly against her neck and wrapped her child close to her to shield them both from the autumn’s steady breeze. She stopped for a moment, child in one hand, suitcase in the other, fixed her hat with the large brim to her head; and as she descended the granite steps she thought about how she knew this day was coming for quite a while but had always seen it ending differently. This way was better though. This way they both got what they wanted. He, a wife whom he loved and a house to match, and she, a new chapter. Yes, this way was better.

Her driver helped her with her luggage, closed the door for her and she was gone forever.

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3 Responses to The Lady in Red

  1. nice site over here! Thanks for posting…

  2. The concept of CPR interwoven with the story lines gives you a good setup. Some of the images are striking, like the one with the hat and the sun near the beginning.

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