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Gil C. Schmidt was born. Lucky for him and some 416 people, many of who don't seem to know it. Lives in Puerto Rico, which is convenient because he also works from there. Gil writes about dozens of real things (with relish) and dozens of imaginary things (like phantasmagoric pickles), in separate forums. Author of several books and a son, Gil gets in trouble when he's bored. Please head to the egress now.


Friday, May 27, 2005

3:16 Call

The phone rang and I automatically checked the time: 3:16 AM. I was alone, and though the shift had long ended, I didn’t hesitate to pick up. I would wonder about that for a long time.

Her voice was ragged, broken in heart and spirit, her words tumbling softly without shape. “I wanna kill myself.”

When you joined Rapline, you were told to screen such calls carefully, to explore the sentiment and situation to determine how serious the caller’s intent was. In most cases, it was simply an expression of pain, a silent scream for support. In most cases.

You were also told to never work alone, for if a caller was serious and intervention was needed, your partner would alert the authorities while you made every effort to help the person. And if the situation became critical, your only goal then was to identify who the caller was and where they were, so that your partner could lead the authorities to the emergency. If it was critical. If you had a partner.

There was no need to screen this caller. Four times before I’d dealt with a possible suicide and each time it had been a slow process of trying to help the person before they reached the point of acting. Two of those had required intervention. And here I was facing a third, because I sensed--deep inside--that the girl had already acted.

3:17 AM. And I was alone.

I asked her what had caused her such pain. Her words came slowly, as if covered with razors. She was pregnant. Told her boyfriend. A week ago. She called him constantly. No answer. Went to his apartment. He was gone. Finally called his parent’s house. In Oregon. The first call, he answered. Then hung up. She called again. Many times. Finally a woman answered. Screamed. Called her a whore. Told her to stop calling. She took pills. Many, many pills.

I asked her name. No. Told her mine. Nice name. What pills. Blue. Used to be my roommate’s. How many. A bunch. Please, how many. I didn’t count. Did they have a marking. Yeah, a letter. What letter. B or D. Maybe an E. And some red ones. I’m really tired.

3:31 AM. All we had was each other and she was fading. I gambled. “I bet your name is ‘Sally’.”

A small laugh. “Silly. My name is Beth.”

“You sound like you live on campus, like on Sorority Row.”

Snorting. “Uh-uh. Got an apartment.” She named the building. I walked past it every night as I roamed Oxford in the dark.

She started gagging. “Which apartment?” My voice was strained. Almost harsh.

She coughed and wretched. I heard a faint Two-oh-four, then: “I gotta throw up,” followed by the phone hitting wood.

I raced out of the office and leaped down the stairs. The University Police Department was on the first floor. I burst in and told the dispatcher to alert the chief, a suicide intervention and to hurry. She stared at me like I was mad. I repeated myself then raced up the stairs.

3:36 AM. Faint sounds far from the phone. Then: “I threw up.”

“Beth? Is your door locked?”

“No.”

I asked her if she had confirmed the pregnancy. Yes. If she had family nearby. No. Family in Florida. Divorced. Hadn’t seen her father in three years. She was mumbling.

3:44 AM. “Beth!”

She grunted. “I wanna die.”

I told her I wanted to die too. Then I said it again. The desperate tone was sincere. Why. I felt alone and nobody cared about me. No friends? No. Like me. No, you have a friend. Who. Me. No you’re not. I am because I’m listening and I want to help. No. I’m listening. He left me. Because I’m pregnant. And I hate him. He shouldn’t have left me. That’s true. I loved him! She started to cry, then cough.

3:52 AM. The door behind me swung open and the UPD Chief, a lanky ex-Los Angeles cop, walked in and perched a hip on the desk. I passed him a note with the details. He read it and gave me a hard, bored look. I let him listen to Beth as she continued sobbing. I nodded. He just stared at me. Then Beth howled, a ragged, raw soul in torment, screaming without hope. I saw him shiver and he tried to cover it up. He didn't see mine. Without a word, he left.

“Beth?” The phone was set down gently, clicking into emptiness. “Beth!” No dial tone. “Beth!” I was standing, sweating, trembling, willing her to answer. She had to answer.

She did. “No.” The phone thudded softly, echoing my heart.

The seconds dragged, piling upon me like yokes of despair. I called her name and listened to the drumming of my chest as the only reply. My hands became slick with anxiety. I called again and again and again, a name to momentarily stop the whirlpool of thoughts that crushed my breath: If I hadn't been alone... If I hadn't answered the phone... If I hadn't failed...

3:59 AM. A loud series of knocks. A strong voice calling out her name. “Please answer the door.” More knocks, another request and a curt “We are coming in to help you.” I heard the door open, then movement and a request for assistance. Muffled phrases in staccato: Check her pulse. Roll her over. Breathing isn’t good. Stomach pump. The bathroom’s back there. Possible overdose. Take her in now.

The phone was picked up. “Hello?”

I replied: “She told me she has a confirmed pregnancy.” A hand covered the receiver and passed the information on.

“We’re taking her in. She’s pretty serious right now, but we’ll do all we can.” He hung up.

4:04 AM. I hung up. I was alone once more.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Powerfull...moving. Life.

Thank God you were there and reacted the way you did. Meant to be.

September 26, 2006 10:06 PM  

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