I Cradled a Woman’s Bleeding Head While My Amish Friend Called an Ambulance
I washed my hands 10 times, then 10 times more. It felt like the blood wouldn’t come off. WHAT THE FUCK? screamed my mind on repeat.
The scene from the last hour kept playing through my head. Warm blood running over my hands, staining my clothes. Dark red. Not my blood. Her voice mumbling, “Sleep, I want to sleep.” No you fucking don’t. The masses of ambivalent bodies passing by, disconnected. Not wanting to get involved. Empty space between their eyelids causing them to be blind.
The only comfort was him standing beside me, sharing my disbelief at what had just happened.
I met him in Belltown in downtown Seattle. He was working for board in the hostel where I had just arrived. I was alone, shy and suspicious when he approached me. He was stereotypically attractive and smiled too much. We were both 19; he told me he had just moved away from home and this was his first time in a city. He convinced me to go out for pizza. He insisted on paying. “Girls shouldn’t pay for pizza.”
We walked along the pier looking at all the lights along the boardwalk. Orange and yellow and red flickering on top of the dark water. I wondered if this stranger was going to murder me. He could throw my body into that murky water and no one would ever know. Then again, I figured he couldn’t do anything, because he was an employee of the hostel. He would lose his job and have to move back to his small country town in Utah with his 10 other siblings and authoritarian parents in their Amish community.
Through dark corners and alleyways, we walked. Up and down hills and over cracked-up concrete. The city was loud. Car horns and sirens never sounded too far away. We talked about his conservative views and my lack of religion. I was surprised he didn’t try to convert me. We were getting along. I never thought I’d be friends with a Republican.
The sirens and the car horns stopped. We heard a loud moan and a desperate cry for help. Everything went silent. He grabbed my arm and pushed past the herds of people who continued to march on, unphased by the sound of a woman’s cries. We ran to the opposite street corner. Everything was fast. Everything went quiet. His lips moved frantically, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I was focused on her. I dropped to my knees.
Tears streamed down her face over purple bruises. Red poured from her ears and into her hair. The sound came back to my own ears and to my mouth as I yelled at him to call an ambulance. He already had. I rested her head in my lap and he held onto her hand. I asked her what her name was. She couldn’t answer. She mumbled about sleeping, and I reiterated that there was no fucking way we were letting her fall asleep.
“The ambulance will be here soon,” I soothed, panicking at how long it was taking already. I looked at him; he reassured me they wouldn’t be far. I gazed in disbelief at the full crowds of people walking past us as we cradled this woman’s head while she bled all over us.
When the ambulance finally arrived, they took her away and gave us zero information on what would happen next. Shaken, we walked back to the hostel in silence, through the masses of emotionless zombies. I stared at the bloodstains covering my clothes and still on my hands. Not my blood. I felt nauseous, but not because of the blood — because of the reaction of every person who’d looked at us that night and then looked the other way.
We cleaned ourselves up together in the hostel bathroom. He told me he thought he understood now why his parents preferred the country. I chewed off my last fingernail, anxiety on high as my mind replayed the sound of sirens, car horns and crying. A sea of strangers without eyes, moving slowly away from us. Void of any empathy.
He hit my fingers away from my mouth and held my hand. “It’s a bad habit,” he scolded. I pulled away and washed my hands 10 more times.