Damn, hangovers are the worst. It hurts to open my eyes, and my head is ringing. Wait, that's my cell phone. “Hello? This had better be important.”
The voice on the other side hesitated, but talked anyway. “Kyle, its Amanda. You had better get here soon. I am not sure how long she will keep it up this time. But we can’t get her to calm down at all. I need you here to try to help get her calm down.”
Karen, my sister, is having another manic episode. I am getting used to this happening. It usually happens about once a week, but this time is the third in just the last 20 days. I got some new clothes on, slipped on my shoes, and ran out the door trying to get there so she didn’t cause any damage this time. I grabbed my favorite hat with the logo of the Philadelphia Union clearly emblazoned on the front. She was used to me wearing it, so maybe it will help. I hope.
Mark grimaced as he thought about the horrors he had seen that night. Little Allison Martino, sleeping in her bed, had been burned so severely, they had a hard time figuring out who it was. When they finally did realize it was her, it was only because of her scar on her right leg. There was no denying that. Mark remembered when she had first hurt it; He was one of the ones to respond to the call. She had fallen on the way home from her friend’s house and had landed on a piece of glass. It tore her leg pretty good, and scared her incredibly. He had managed to calm her down and keep her from looking at it while the EMS crew removed the glass and bandaged her. He even went to the hospital with her in the ambulance, keeping her calm and making her mother think he was the greatest thing in the world. He had personally carried her down the stairs, making sure he was incredibly careful. He laid her gently down on the stretcher, arms gently folded over her as best as he could. He didn’t care at that point who had seen him crying. If anyone had given him any shit about it, he would have knocked them out right then and there. After he had gotten it together, that was when he saw Kyle vomit again. He teased him about it, trying to deflect his own grief and sadness. That night he drank himself into a stupor, and vomited in his bed again. He needed to find a better way of dealing with his stress, and needed to save money, instead of pissing it away on booze. He was turning into his Uncle Dave, drunk all the time, and not really moving anywhere in life. The booze was starting to ruin his career so fast; he lost all his favors from old friends in his first year. Turns out that staying in the Fire Department is a lot harder and requires more favors than he wanted. His file was thick, and not with accommodations. He had been written up for everything from sloppy work to causing a serious accident by falling over while carrying a patient down the steps. He was too drunk to find the steps, and she broke three ribs from the fall. He was almost canned for that one, favors or no favors. This was starting to get old quick, and most of the guys and the people they knew avoided being with him after hours. They had seen how bad a drunk he could be. Sadly, he had yet to see it himself. No one wanted to film him to show him how bad it was. He was finally going to get the help he needed… tomorrow.
Coming back into the station is tough when you are trying not to show that you were drunk last night, and don’t remember most of it. I tripped over my equipment while trying to tip-toe past Mark. Thankfully I didn’t fall down, just made a ton of noise, which was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I meekly picked up my stuff, and hurried over to my bed. I put my pillow down, and set up my blanket. I might only have a few hours on this shift, but made sure that I was going to be comfortable. I was also making sure that I would have some comfort measures to stay relaxed when I had the chance. This included my laptop, some movies on DVD, and anything else I was able to do to relax. Staying relaxed made life easier, but it kept me out of trouble during work. It helped me avoid the drinking. I was still having nightmares, but would automatically pretend I was fine if anyone asked about the other night. I hoped that no one would be able to pick up on my depression, or realize just how bad it had affected me. I struggled all day, especially eating my dinner that I picked up from Marek’s, the place a few blocks down the street. They were decent, but nothing as good as the Martino’s food was. It turns out that this wound up hurting the most, because it made me think of Connie again, and face the image of her burned body.
This face was a haunting one too. Was it a mix of a smile of contentment, or fear? I couldn’t be sure. All I knew was it would forever haunt me. It bothered me at all times of the day, all times in the night. I needed to see someone, and soon. I just had to make sure that none of my crew knew about it. That was the last thing I needed, for them to think I was so weak from only one fire.
Gathering my gear took a little longer this time than I usually do. I laid it all out the same – boots inside the bunker pants, suspenders resting on top so they could be grabbed right away to put the pants on. Then the bunker coat was hanging on the door handle, so I wouldn’t forget to put it on before I got in the truck. Mask and helmet were in my seat, waiting for me to need them again. Looking at my mask, I remembered the things I had seen while it was on me. I wondered if people cold really see our expressions when we were working. I sure as hell hoped not. They would be able to see the pain we all tried to hide every day.
Tonight wasn’t as hard as the night of the Martino’s incident. We only had a few accidents to respond to, and no one died. Thank God for that. We did get to cut the roof off of a Lamborghini, whose driver thought 55 was only a suggestion for speed, and wanted to double it. Well, it didn’t work out too well for him. Two broken femurs and an insurance claim that will seriously raise his rates later, we all laughed at his stupidity. I could get used to laughing as a stress relief. It was easier on the head the next day than drinking was. But that was my plan again tonight. More Netflix had come in, so my DVD player would get a workout.