The Time I Almost Died


Two summers ago I bled out on a bare mattress in a foreclosed home in Miami. I’d been sick. I’d seen a doctor but, as an American without health insurance, I’d been able to afford only the diagnosis—not the solution. I went back to work.

Every week I stuck my tips in a jar. I took a lot of Advil. I went through the phone book and called doctors. Visited strip malls. I wondered if anyone would maybe put me on a payment plan; they wouldn’t. I wondered if maybe I could get a credit card; I couldn’t. I kept taking Advil. I kept visiting strip malls.

I found a doctor who would work on me. His clinic was the size of a Chinese take-out and nestled between a massage parlor and a bail bonds. I paid him straight cash. I recognized the situation as less than ideal, but the pain had made me desperate. So we rented a space. He gashed me good. I woke up in bandages and hopped in my car. He hadn’t told me not to drive.

When I got home the wound tore open, tore near the vein, I guess, and that was that. I lay on my bed for a while, stunned like those stupid deer. Frozen like every non-hero in every movie. The bandages slicked off like debris in a flood, and I pawed ineffectually at the dangling bundle, convinced everything would be safe again if only it would come back. I started shaking.

I took steps toward the bathroom. There was wetness down my legs, big red footprints on the tile. I saw the wound in the mirror, the black-almost-purple mat of my hair, the three of me staring back. Spinning. I dry heaved into the toilet; I didn’t want to make a mess. My fingers slipped into the bowl at some point and I thought, gross.

I think I

I don’t know

There’s so much blood; they’ll say that at the hospital later. I’ll think that nurses shouldn’t say that. But right now, there’s so much blood. The floors. It drips from the mattress through the futon. Totally saturated. There’re fat streaks where I crawled. Handprints on the walls. I think, this is like that scene from Dexter, and I get upset with myself for thinking about a popcorn cop drama – that my last thoughts might be of a popcorn cop drama.

I’ve always had a thing with last words. When I was younger my father fell five stories on a job site, right down an open sewer valve, right on his head into four feet of shit. The fall didn’t kill him, just knocked him out and fucked him up, left him unconscious and drowning in a tube full of shit. You know what he said on his way down?


I always told myself I’d do better. The blood matted my eyelashes. Burned. Blurred everything. I felt around for my phone: one of the old flip ones, fat like a football—pre-RAZR. I squint out a slow 9-1-1. I know I’ll be recorded and I’m very conscious of making a good impression.

Especially if…

I imagine people at home watching the local news. I wonder if maybe I’ll be on the local news. The tapes. My picture. The blue background and the scrolling text.

“There’s a good amount of bleeding coming from a pretty large gash here.” They ask for my address. I tell them. I try to put bass in my voice. “I normally wouldn’t call, you know, and distract from people with real emergencies, but, I just think this is a lot of blood and, also, I think I might go unconscious. Soon. I’m alone.”

I’m alone.

I’m alone.

Oh, no.

I’m alone.

I think of old men in recliners shaking their heads. Saying, poor boy.

I really am. I’m going to cry. I’m not going to cry. I can’t cry; I’m awful. This is my fault. Everything is my fault. I was terrible. I was a bad guy. Now I’m paying for it. Bad guy’s supposed to pay for it. Maybe Karma is real. Maybe this is okay. Maybe I’m supposed to die. My head hurts. I can’t stop shaking. I’m cold. There’s static in my veins, out my veins, in pools on the floor. I’m dizzy. I try to sit up but my gut rocks me prone; I see black. I clutch the wound, the gauze, my head, my eyes, rub the gore from my eyes.

I’m alone.

I always told myself I’d do better.

I open the phone and dial Someone from memory. I vomit—nothing dry this time—and the convulsions wrap my periphery in bright, shining stars. I hang up. I try again. Voicemail. I see blurs. I put the phone to my face. I try to breathe big. It hurts. It’s hard. I need air. I want air. I squint at the tiny monochrome screen, want to smudge it clear but I’m finger-painting red. It’s impossible. It’s frustrating. I shout and it hurts, it hurts so badly.

I think I press 96827324368463594663737766184265968.

I think that spells you are a genuinely good person. thank you.

But maybe it doesn’t. I feel suddenly weightless. Flying. I wonder if this is the whole heaven thing. I very seriously and very intensely hope this is the whole heaven thing. I want to see a white light but it’s all yellow and red blotches, the taste of tin and salt. My head floats off my body. The world is swirls. My phone is swirls. Far, far in the distance, I hear sirens. I know they are for me. I think of the people driving; they are for me, too. The world fades in and out. I rub my face. I’m sleepy. My phone doesn’t ring. Maybe I didn’t send the text. Maybe it was full of typos. How embarrassing that my last words could be full of typos. I wish I had autocorrect. I wish I had an iPhone.

I wish my phone would ring.

I promise I’ll do better.

And there’s a knock, but I’m gone.

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image – DrStarbuck