"SKKKKKCCCHHHH!" Hay scatters as I slide the door open of an an old barn in the middle of no where. It is a makeshift hospital we put together to take care of the stranded. "Hungf!" I run inside, fleeing the eccentric wind outside that seeks to show me what it's like to dance with death, then turn against the door, summoning all the strength I have left in me to push it shut, and with one last shrug..."Uff!"...it is closed.
As good as it feels to be inside, safe from the terror outside, my work has only just begun as almost a dozen people lay injured, screaming for relief they have faith in us to provide. We make eye contact as I head towards my first patient, I see that your work has already begun.
I lift his robe revealing a gash the size of a soda can and the shape of a football that can be seen on his upper thigh. This is way beyond the area of expertise that a boy scout camp I took in my adolescence provided, as is made evident by the expression on my face. You notice and push me out of the way, telling your 8 year old assistant who is too young to have to experience such a thing to keep the pressure on your current patient.
"Here, I got it." You say sharply, moving my arm out of the way with your body. You put a bit of ointment on his wound which causes him to writhe in pain for a moment, then take off your outer garment and wrap it around his leg. "Why are you just standing there, help someone else out!" I hesitate, overwhelmed by the weight of it all. "There," you motion toward an elderly woman, "see what she needs help with!"
I come to, pacing slowly at first, then move into a normal pace, you watching me the entire time while you work. I arrive at the woman who despite the chaos of the situation seems to be unusually calm. I glance back at you, seeing that you are just finishing up with the patient you took over for me and moving back to your original two, which motivates me to work.
"Hi, I'm Frank. I hope your not too uncomfortable here with all the..." I pause. Here expression is not one that I would expect given the scenario, rather it is one of quiet observation. "Ma'am." After another moment of silence you begin to speak.
"Do you know who you are?" you start.
"Ma'am?" I respond with appropriate confusion.
"Do you know, who you are?" She asks again, with conviction just as strong. "How do you expect to save the world, much less all of these people if you don't even know who you are?"
I hesitate, lifting up from my initial position of hovering over her, as I am taken back by the question. "Ma'am I'm not sure what you m-"
"DON'T BACK AWAY FROM ME!" You exclaim with utmost importance. "Come here!" I glance back at you to see if you are getting any of this, only to find you busy too caught up in your own work. What's the worse that can happen? They say people say all types of things when on the brink of death. I lean back in, close enough to hear her raspy soft voice again without too much strain, which she shows health she didn't convey before in reaching out her hand and grabbing mine.
The feeling is slight at first, I barely notice it, but before I am fully aware of what is going on I am in what I can only describe as a trance, unable to move or speak. Not because I am unable to do so, but because my attention is...elsewhere.
Before I know it I am in a...room? Initially it is filled with light, that begins to dissipate as two people come into view. One is an elderly lady who face a young...
I begin to sob as I see my younger self. The moment is of a lifetime ago. The boy I see is happy. He is sure of himself, and he is completely unbothered by the woman who took him in and treated him like her own after his mother passed away. It was the last day that he saw her.
"Your always so full of energy! Your gonna become something great one day!" This makes me smile. It's amazing how simple but encouraging words like these can warm the entire being of the old and tired. I continue to play with a toy airplane as the vision ends, light taking away the moment as mysteriously as it gifted it.
Suddenly, everything goes dark.
My feet begin to sink slightly into the floor. Am I falling into quicksand? But I stop. The ground is wet, and as I lift and drop my fit I discover that I am standing, sunken slightly into muddy grass. It is cold and wet. There are people around me who give condolences that mean nothing to a stranger. All they know is that a little boy just lost their second parent, and it is something that they are supposed to do. After a while the "I'm sorrys" and the "wishes for strength in this time of great loss" start to blend together. Surprisingly enough I enjoy hearing that "she's in a better place."
Soon enough everyone is gone. It is just me, you, and an escort, waiting to take me back to the foster care system that birthed the man I am today. I am lost in in the shock of your dead lifeless body. It feels so unnatural, and I suppose it is according to what you told me.
"Life is meaningless, unless it is lived with the knowledge that we won't be here one day." I hear these familiar words you would say as things go dark again.
Suddenly I find myself back in the barn with the lifeless hand of the old woman loose around mine. You run to me in shock asking me what I'm doing. The lady has passed. I have no explanation. You scream in frustration at yet another loss. The weather is bad, people are sick. The situation is hopeless, but those of us who can continue to push forward as if our desire to "win" will turn everything around. I take my jacket off, getting my head out the clouds and back into the situation in front of my.
I don't know what that was, but it was what I needed to hear to be effective in the situation in front of me. I look back at the elderly woman, still and eyes closed now, one last time before moving onto my next patient. "never forget who you are." The voice is soft. I look back to see that the woman is still gone, then turn and smile, cherishing the gift that I was given tonight. I move onto the next patient with confidence, not in my ability to get everything right, but to encourage those who need to hear more than the pain they are in.
"I'm Frank and I'm here to help." I say, holding the hand of a young woman. She smiles through pain as I gently elevate her legs. "Everything is gonna be ok.