“Hey, sorry to interrupt,” Rob said all breathy, “but David’s in the middle of the street in his underwear, covered in blood. Should I call 911?”
I was in a meeting with the Resident Director of our community, Nelson, when Rob burst in. I narrowed my brows. “Pardon?”
David was one of our residents. I was in my mid-twenties, working at California State University, Chico as an Assistant Resident Director while also getting my Master’s Degree. For those of you who went to college and lived on campus – I was basically the boss of the Resident Assistants at my complex and Nelson was the boss of all of us. I had a separate apartment on campus nearby and Rob and I were freshly married. He was on his way to work when he saw him in the street.
David had Asperger’s syndrome – a form of autism that effects the ability to effectively socialize and communicate. I guess you could say that David could be, a little, socially awkward. He would visit my office every morning and chat away about his favorite things. Our conversations were usually technical and in great detail, so I would try in earnest to stay present. Inevitably, my mind wandered towards which RA I could talk into getting me a Starbucks. When it had gone on a bit too long, I’d have to gently usher him out my door so I could finally take a few personal calls in my office.
David was gentle and kind, one that could be counted on to attend all our resident events. This really endeared me to him because sometimes he’d be the only one there. For an RA who was already terrified no one would show up to their Saved by the Bell dance party, he’d be there in the corner with his black biker jacket (I think he was supposed to be Tori, Zac Morris’s butch love interest in the last season?) drinking punch. He was a beloved fixture in our community.
I shot a look at Nelson to get his vibes on the bloody kid in the middle of the street situation, and he just waved me off to let me take care of it. He had another appointment and was already late. Nelson grew up in Columbia and had this “I’ve seen everything” way about him – nothing phased him.
I ran out of the office and gave Rob the okay to head to work. I looked out to the main road outside our complex, where David was indeed, just standing there in the middle of the road, wearing only his tighty whities, covered in blood. As the cars cleared, I ran to him and guided him back to the sidewalk. It was hard to process what I was looking at and why I was looking at it. Had he been beat up? Was this his blood? Is it someone else’s blood? Oh no, he killed somebody. I don’t have time for this.
I called 911 and we slowly made our way back to his room.
“I, I, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing,” he said.
“Do you recognize me, David?” I tried to comfort him and looked for a patch of peach skin I could pat that wasn’t covered, sticky dark red. I was in my twenties, I thought I was grown. A real professional. But do grown professionals keep wanting to call their parents to get their take on what to do next? I don’t know, probably.
“Yes, you’re Anna.”
“Do you recognize this place? Where you are?”
“I’m on campus.”
“Good! That’s right. Do you know why you were in the middle of the street, and why you seem to be so badly hurt?”
“No. I, I, don’t know what I’m doing.”
We walked slowly to our residence community. Our complex had many older residents and was set up more like an interconnected apartment complex than a typical dorm. We slowly made our way back to his room and then stopped when we stumbled upon our first clue.
“Well, I think we know why you’re so bloody,” I told him, moving forward to get a closer look. The entire bay sized window to his room had been busted out, with jagged shards of glass jetting out of the frame of his window. “Too good to exit through a door like the rest of us idiots, AMIRITE David?” I said, easing into a chuckle that I quickly phased out. I have a tendency to try and make people laugh in the midst of little traumas to ease the tension. One time in high school, my friend took a turn too fast on fresh asphalt and rear ended an elderly couple. As the police pulled up, I opened the passenger door and flopped out like a dead body. It’s a coping mechanism, let’s not overthink it.
We were careful to avoid glass as we made our way into his room. I had a small pack of tissues in my back pocket I had stolen from the main housing office and used one to help get blood out of his eyes. I inspected his cuts, and tried to act like an adult by keeping a confident look on my face. I’d never seen that much blood. I think the last time anything ever came close was when my mom cut her hand dicing an onion and if I recall, I screamed, ran into my room, locked the door, and threw myself on my bed for a good cry.
Some of his cuts had already clotted up and stopped running. A few, particularly on his legs and hands, were very deep, but none of them were bleeding in a “Let me tear off my shirt and make a tourniquet!” sort of way, and for that I was grateful because I wasn’t wearing my good bra.
He was apologizing before getting interrupted by sirens. I told David to sit on his chair (and stay there!) so I could greet them and bring them back to his room to help us. I gave two policemen and two firemen the rundown and when we got back to David’s room they immediately took over.
After talking with him, they surmised that David was on a new medication and woke in a sleep walking state. He busted out his window with this fists, hoisted his gangly legs over the edge and wound up in the middle of the street. I mean, he broke out a bay window with those little chicken wings? Good grief, humans are capable of such greatness! They called paramedics, who took David in to get cleaned, sewn and bandaged.
Besides tracking down drunk kids roaming about hollering and sniffing down the scent of some stankweed like a police dog, this was often the kind of high drama I had to deal with. In fact, it wasn’t long after the incident with David that Nelson and I had another meeting interrupted for an emergency.
“Hi, um. So, my friend is stuck on the back fence?”
“Okaaaay,” I said trying to pull more details, “Like, stuck in between the bars?”
“Like, he’s um, hanging from a spike.” Nelson and I jumped up. This time he went with me as we speed walked to the back of our complex (I wasn’t wearing a proper bra for the occasion, yet again, and Nelson’s never phased, so a full out run was never really an option for either of us). Apparently, a group of residents tried to scale our back fence because they didn’t want to walk all the way around to our front entrance. One of them lost his footing and had his upper arm punctured clean through by one of the bars that had a spike on top. He was dangling by his arm and if it wasn’t for a small piece of bar at the bottom he used to prop himself up, this would have been a gory scene way above my pay grade.
We called 911 and help descended upon us almost immediately. Shortly after, a news crew rolled up and started taking pictures. Firemen used a metal cutter to slice the bar above and below his arm. They laid him on a gurney where paramedics took him to the nearby hospital to have the bar surgically removed. To this day, I think there’s still a picture on the Internet of this sad little scene from the local newspaper. The student’s bent arm is blocking my face, but you can see my huge, frizzy curly hair (it was a dewy morning) outlining his arm.
I have to admit, I felt a little famous.
I remember thinking this was my life’s purpose. The high drama of working on campus and the lives you get to help and love and mentor and laugh with – makes it feel as if you’re supposed to do it forever. After getting my Masters, I assumed I’d eventually be a counselor. A weird career choice since I habitually break emotional moments with bad jokes because I can’t bear the tension. Thankfully, for my potential clients, it didn’t happen.
Because there was this one day, while I was sitting outside a cafe eating an enormous cinnamon roll, I thought maybe I’d write instead.
A woman always has the right to change her mind.