Creative Nonfiction

This story contains sensitive content

TW: Mentioned: death of a child, home on fire, the darker sides of being a first responder, one partner is religious and the other is not*

Kazimieras walks into the staff room minutes before his shift starts.

He cringing as the flashbacks from his last shift slap him in the face.

It was to be expected but it's certainly not what he's looking forward to this early in the morning.

He greets some of the people from the B-shift, whose shift is about to end, while trying and failing to keep his mind elsewhere.

He curses as the what if's hit him like a train.

If they'd just arrived on the scene a little earlier, or if the fire department had gotten the call a little sooner, that little girl would still be alive right now.

As an older brother himself, he knows the teenager that tried to save the little girl from the burning building is never going to get over this traumatizing experience.

Which is to be expected, but a terrifying realization nonetheless.

He tries to shake off the nasty feeling.

He should be focused on the lives he's going to save in today's shift, not on the life he failed to save yesterday.

Actually it's not quite fair to call it that, because he knows they didn't fail.

He knows he and his partner are excellent paramedics.

He knows that if they could have done more to save the girl, they would have done more. 

There just simply wasn't anything else they could have done.

But that doesn't change the fact that it feels like they failed her.

Sometimes he asks himself why he doesn't just quit this job and settles for something easier.

Something a little less heartbreaking, with a lot less stress and responsibility and let's be honest; a much better salary.

But he knows the answer to that question, of course, he does.

It's because as heartbreaking as this job is, it can also be rewarding.

Nothing beats that feeling of knowing you're the reason someone got to go home to their family, got to graduate high school or got to walk their daughter down the aisle.

The fact that the dead tried to take someone but failed because you got there on time and did what you're best at; saving lives.

That is what keeps Kazimieras and his colleagues going.

Even during the darkest hours, they know they're still making a difference.

They know that what they do matters.

They know that they're making the world a better place with every shift they work and with every single life they save.

Because they save someone's child, lover, friend, and or sibling every day, and that matters.

He knows it does.

It's always going to matter more to him, than the shit he has to pull up with on a daily as a paramedic.

Yes, there are many downsides to the job; the dark humor it leaves you with, witnessing the hardest most traumatizing moments of people's lives, the heartbreaking feeling of not getting to someone on time or not saving a life, constantly being faced with death, and the fact that you have an enormous responsibility since people's lives are literally in your hands.

And then there's the fact that being a paramedic is a truly undervalued profession. from the lack of respect you get from some people in general, to the insensitive questions they ask, to the people that blame you when a victim doesn't make it, to the truly disappointing salary, to the cars that don't get out of the way, to getting attacked while you're just trying to do your job, to how awfull you feel waiting on a soul train, to having to make truly tough almost impossible choices, and to the bystanders that stand in the way, yell slurs at you, threaten you and take pictures of the victim that is fighting for their life.

Plus you've got the mental toll it takes on you, the long hours, and the fact that you never know what a shift is going to bring you. The unknowing can be both terrifying and exciting, but It's mostly incredibly stressful.

Not to mention the prank calls and absolutely insane emergencies or stunts people pull or the fact that sometimes the things they're being called for are just flat-out weird and disgusting.

(Although this does lead to entertaining stories that Kazimieras and his partner Evan get to share when they come together with their friends to blow off some steam once in a while. All though the stories would be even funnier if they didn't actually have to experience the weird calls the stories are based on).

And then he's not even speaking about the fact that you can't get too emotionally invested otherwise the job would kill you on the spot.

So yes, you can't bring the horror you see home, but it's sometimes truly impossible to just go home and move on after you've seen something truly terrible or after you watched someone's entire world collide.

You can say a prayer for them, but that's it,

Because a lot of people don't know this but a lot of the time you don't even get to find out if your patient made it, once you arrive at the hospital they become someone else's responsibility. 

All you're left with are the screams of their loved ones that will surely haunt your nightmares at least once in a while.

All of it is "a lot of time spent in the dark for a few moments in the light", as his partner once put it so beautifully.

But those moments spent in the light (like delivering a healthy baby in a weird place knowing you just brought life to this world and you're the reason that despite of being at a weird or dangerous place someone came to the world safely because of you) truly make it all worth it.

And so does the fact that you're never in it all alone.

You have your co-workers who watched the same horrible things go down as you did. You end up sharing a special bond with your co-workers and especially with your partner. Because they understand you and relate to you in a way the other people in your life won't be able to,

As if on cue he takes notice of his partner, Evan Montgomery walking in.

So he pours two cups of black coffee, instead of just one, and sits down next to Evan.

"How did you sleep?" He asks before taking a big sip of the cafeïne, god knows he's going to need it today.

Evan silently thanks him for the coffee with a little nod. "I didn't. What about you?"

Kazimieras decides not to sugarcoat it, he knows their last shift took a toll on both of them.

"Let me guess you also crashed your parent's place because you felt the sudden need to see your little sister?"

Evan sighs.

"I don't have a little sister, and I'm lowkey a little offended you didn't know that after literal years of working together, but yes I also did something like that."

Kazimieras stares at his now half-full cup of coffee, he knows Evan purposely gave him the option to fall back into their familiar jokingly banter (by giving him the chance to go in on his offended comment instead of sharing his more sensitive story), but he decides not to take the opportunity to immediately turn the conversation in a lighter direction since he wants to tell him about his night first. But he's not going to go in on the emotional details, because neither of them needs that right now.

He clears his throat and starts talking.

"I made the drive to Philidelphia late at night. Got there long after the girls were supposed to be in bed. My mom was pissed, but I needed to see them you know? So I woke them up and it resulted in me reading fairy tales to 5 year old and a 7-year-old while wearing a pink princess dress at an ungodly hour."

As expected that gets a laugh out of Evan. "I'm sure you looked beautiful in that pink dress."

He gives him a challenging look. "You bet your ass I did."

Evan takes another sip of cafeïne, probably regretting that he didn't at least try to fall asleep last night. 

"So how did you cope? Punched a hole in the wall again?" Kazimieras jokingly asks as if that is a normal thing to ask and it doesn't make Evan look like a high-tempered, unprofessional asshole. Which actually couldn't be further from the truth.

Evan glares at him, playfully, then he rolls his eyes.

"Okay that was one time, let it go already. And no, I waited for my stepbrother to get off from work and then we ordered takeout and watched terrible comedies and stayed up until our older brother got off from his night shift and then I drank coffee with him and got all emotional and shit."

Kazimieras gives him a knowing look. "Aaron? He's a fire fighter right?"

Evan nods.

"Yeah. In a different City, so not with the department that was responsible for last night's call but obviously he heard it on the news. We drank coffee while he showed me some pictures of a kid he saved from a fire a few years ago. Her mother still sends him a picture on her birthday every year through Instagram or Facebook or something. Highly unprofessional and unusual, but he loves it. I'm pretty sure she's 10 now. It was nice to see, put things in perspective you know, reminds you of why we do what we do, even if it's not always very rewarding. I mean god knows we first responders don't nearly get enough recognition, money and respect for what we do. But these kinds of things remind me why we do what we do."

Kazimieras nods, letting the words sink in for a second.

Then he decides to try and lighten the mood again.

"You little shit, you already drank coffee this morning? It's not even 5 yet and you're what on your 3rd cup? You know if you were to drink 40 cups it'd be a high enough dose of cafeïne to be lethal. Don't ask me how I know that, but you can Google it, I'm right about this."

Evan gives him a challenging look while pouring both of them another cup of coffee and then he proceeds to grab his own cup and down the entire thing in a matter of seconds.

"Lucky for me my partner is one of the best paramedics a guy could ask for."

"You're the worst", Kazimieras groans.

"You love me", Evan teases while standing up to clean their dishes.

Kazimieras grins at him.

"Love is a big word, let's just say I tolerate you."

Evan puts a hand on his heart. "I'm honored, Azzy."

Kazimieras rolls his eyes. "Yeah yeah, keep the sarcasm for when you meet up with your brothers again, why don't you."

Evan sighs.

"You know to be fair, I'll see them again soon. I had to visit Aaron anyway, because that self-sacrificial asshole, and may I add grown-ass man, can save lives but can't for the life of him take care of himself. So every once in a while I drop by to bring him a bottle of expensive burn cream because I know he's too greedy to buy it himself. Which I guess is fair since despite of him literally risking his life every damn shift, his salary ain't shit. Just like ours. Even though neither of us do what we do for the money obviously, I mean who am I kidding I'd be somewhere sitting at an office desk, kissing ass, if this was about money. But anyways I keep trying to remind him that you're not supposed to save money by cutting into your health budget. Seriously if it weren't for me he'd never take care of his burns and other injuries. Every time I see him I end up yelling at him. Because I can always just tell the little shit didn't apply burn or scar cream... And he's supposed to be the adult."

Kazimieras raises an eyebrow at Evan. "Hate to bring it to you bud, but I'm pretty sure you're an adult too."

Evan rolls his eyes at him. "I meant that he's older than m- ... oh shut up you know what I meant."

Kazimieras laughs and puts a hand on his shoulder.

"Let's get changed, it's almost 5. We've got lives to save."

"That we do", Evan responded, then they did their handshake.

Before they leave Evan stops him.

"Wait I want to do a prayer before we get ready. For the little girl's family and for the people we will meet today."

Kazimieras nods and closes his eyes while Evan leads their prayer.

Kazimieras has never really been the religious type, it is hard in their field of work to believe in some higher power when some things are just so unfair.

Why would that little girl be robbed of her life?

Evan is completely different.

He always says the only reason he is able to do what they do is because of his religion. 

He says it is what keeps him hopeful when most people would have already given up. That it is what keeps him going after a tough shift and it's what made him want to become a paramedic in the first place.

He always prays for the families of the victims that didn't make it but also for the people that they did get to save and the hopefully bright future ahead of them.

They know they're supposed to keep a distance between themselves and what they see on the job. They can't get emotionally attached to the people they meet.

But as he already mentioned, that isn't always easy.

Once in a while, like last shift, a case hits a little too close to home. In those moments it's nice to have something or someone you can count on.

Like a religion or a support system or a sarcastic best friend and partner.

April 28, 2023 22:52

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Jaylyn Newton
02:05 May 06, 2023

OMG reading this hit me so hard i just lost my girlfriend to suicide a few days ago so reading about death and feeling like its your fault really hits deep for me but ofc its your story so its obviously amazing just like every story you make your books make me so happy!


Eline Pols
19:30 May 06, 2023

Jaylyn, words can't begin to describe how sorry I am for your loss. Sending you so much love. I hope you know it wasn't your fault and that you're surrounded by people that support you in this tough time. You deserve someone who listens to you talk about your feelings: 'don't forget that you can always reach out to people if you need to talk (for example to a therapist). I am so glad my stories make you happy. If you ever need to talk you can comment on here, you can dm me on @ElinePols_ on Instagram or you can reach out to me on AO3 (ARand...


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