"Men die and they are not happy."-Camus
Doc died in my arms. On the filthy, dirty floor of a YMCA gym as I shouted and then screamed, "Stay with me! You fucking stay with me Doc!", while I craddled him in my arms he blew his last breath into my face and departed.
I was new, I was stupid with strength, I was hired as a hammer. A metropolitan southern city hired me as the new director of internal affairs for the police department. I was 35, a very hard man, a hammer, I was invincible. The first day I fired my entire staff; cops back to patrol and civilians off to some other city job. I was hated, I received death threats, I didn't care, I was a fucking hammer. I was in The Life and thought I could survive unscathed, I underestimated the cost. No one escapes the Life unscathed. I would pay later.
I needed a gym to lift weights and the YMCA offered 20% off for city employees. There were 6 to 8 of us that arrived each morning at 0530 hrs for serious iron. A couple of juicers, a few cops, a fireman, me and Doc. I had been lifting weights since I was 13 and I knew the iron pile protocol; keep your head down, don't look up, work hard and show up each morning. After a few months I was accepted by the group and acknowledged as a serious lifter.
That Doc and I gravitated to each other was no surprise in hindsight. Doc was a marine, served in Viet Nam during the Tet offensive I was retired army and looked the part. Brethren in combat and blood. We started out spotting each other thru heavy lifts and eventually began working out together. Doc was a psychiatrist at the local state university medical center saving those the State deemed insane as best he could and I was a fool rooting out corruption in a corrupt system. We would both soon suffer for our sins.
I would falter and fall first. After doctors had taken a drill and a saw to my skull then split my brain in half reaching deep into the third ventricle only to have my tumor erupt into a bloody mess, Doc arrived two days later. "You look like shit Scylla but your chart looks good. Get well." And the he was gone.
6 months later I was back to the early heavy iron. Doc had a son, an Army Officer. We would speak of this son often as we lifted and grunted and sweat. Our only goal was to wrestle gravity for mastery of the heavy iron. Then my health began to tank and Doc could not help being a doctor.
As I began a slow death Doc was there. When my doctors wanted to remove four of my vertebra Doc was at the gym to guide me, "They want to get ahead of this Scylla. Better four vertebra now with clean margins then letting this go to who knows what.". The next day Sarah and I approved the surgery and I signed the forms granting my medical files open to Doc.
Later on it was part of a lung and some upper intestines that they wanted. Doc told me, "You've no choice Scylla. It's coming to kill you so have the surgery, take the treatments and then fight to gain your strength." So we did this too. Six months and I was back to the iron pile. In accord with our machismo and distain for weakness Doc and I would only speak of workouts and his son.
Two days after Easter that year, early morning we shuffled into the gym. Warm up and stretch. Doc caught my eye, "My son is here and I want you to meet him he'll be back from his run soon." Grand. Now to the iron. As I finished my first set I looked over and Doc was hanging from a pull-up bar, stretching. More weight. Another set. I look over to see Doc fly backwards into the wall as if he received an electrical shock. Then Doc slipped down into a crumpled mess.
I know death. I've shot men and stabbed men and strangled men. Death is an instant off switch for the body. Dead men fall to the ground, just as Doc had. I ran to Doc, pulled him away from the wall. Not breathing, pupils staring and fixed, no pulse. CPR.
Even after just taking the class I can not remember; is it 15 compressions to 2 breaths or 20? Or is it 30? I decide on 18. I push and pump and push and breathe and breathe. Doc rasps and gags. I turn to a gaggle of juice heads and yell to call 911. They run off like mice.
Then Doc dies. It is just that simple. I am on the floor holding him in my arms when he rattles and exhales and lets go. I am fixed, I begin CPR anew even though I know in my heart that CPR is all stage acting now. 20 minutes, a crowd gathers, 3o minutes Doc is still dead and the EMTs arrive. They try and shock Doc back. This does not work. I meet Doc's son at the rear of the ambulance. I have tears he does not.
So Doc died and I could not save him. Could I save anyone? I banished these thoughts. I am Scylla the Rock...on my good days at least.
On 6 May a few years later I am at the bar in the New Orleans Airport waiting for my son to pick me up. He is late. My phone rings. It is the coroner...I scream into the abyss and the abyss screams back.
I've failed my family and friends. My son is dead, Doc is dead. I am dying. No one escapes the Life intact. I am Scylla the Rock, I am unredeemable.
"I dont' care to to stay with the living."-N. Merchant
"Take note of what you seek, for it is seeking you."-Anon