Thief of Hearts
Nicholas slowly walked in Chrissy Field, alongside the shore of San Francisco Bay, listening to the sounds of the birds. He'd been walking around San Francisco a lot lately, trying to come to terms with being dumped by his lover, his personal thief of hearts.
She'd finally gotten her divorce, and Nicholas had been there in the first few weeks of her newly single life. She'd been emotionally fragile, and unsure of herself as a newly single woman, although she'd had Nicholas's shoulder to cry upon. They'd thought of themselves as a couple, even before her divorce, so her actions were shocking to Nicholas. They had a lot in common, and Nicholas had thought they'd clicked.
He'd expected an intense emotional response. Divorce was difficult for anyone to handle, especially a woman in her 40s. In less than 15 years, she'd attain sixty years of age, a frightening age for any woman, regardless of her financial situation. Nicholas just hadn't realized how badly she'd wanted financial security.
And what Nicholas had not expected was for her to dump him so soon after his purchasing a new condominium for her to live in. He'd thought that she and he would get married--she'd told him that she wanted to elope to Vegas within a month of her divorce, ostenibly to thrust a dagger into her ex's heart--and the condo was an investment in their future, a future that included a Mrs Nicholas Kokoris.
She'd happily trailed along to Kyparissi, and met his parents. She'd accepted the jewelry Nicholas had designed for her (a platinum, diamond and ruby ring being the star of his gifts). Nicholas had wined and dined her across Europe on their whirlwind vacation: he'd serenaded her while poling through Venice canals; he'd taken her through the Louvre and romped with her in the Scottish highlands.
Upon their return from Europe, Nicholas had carried her through the threshold of a luxurious new condominium. She'd laughed, and kissed him deeply--a French kiss. She'd ooo-ed and aahh-ed as she walked through the condo.
In the divorce settlement, the large house she and her ex-husband lived in was sold, and the proceeds divided equally with her ex-husband. So Nicholas had purchased a condominium--along the waterfront. She'd finagled him to sign the title over to her, which Nicholas did, much to his later regret.
Within a week, he'd been dumped. Publicly dumped. She got her divorce settlement, and a condominium paid for by Nicholas's money. She'd gotten jewelry from Nicholas, and she took his heart. Then she dumped him in the coffee shop of the hospital, and in front of a dozen of their colleagues.
Nicholas stopped his walk, and looked out over the San Francisco Bay. He watched the cars snake their way across the suspension bridge and marvelled at the engineers who'd built the Golden Gate Bridge.
As he watched the silvery line of cars snake across the Golden Gate Bridge, a tear slipped out of Nicholas's eye. That tear was followed by another, and another tear, until his beard was wet with his emotions.
To help ease his emotional wounds, Nicholas had plunged into San Francisco's social scene.
Social activity, Nicholas has decided, was good for him, allowing him to fully focus on something else other than the embarassment of being publicly dumped. As the weeks passed, and he began to learn the social customs of his adopted country, Nicholas had begun to feel better about himself. He'd been able to allow himself to realize that he'd been used by a woman looking for an excuse to get out of her marriage.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" Nicholas heard the voice, interrupting his rumination. He turned and saw a body falling off the Golden Gate Bridge. Another suicide attempt. Nicholas stripped off his coat as he ran towards the water. Reaching the edge of the water, he dove in, and swam with strong strokes towards the victim, who was now floating face down.
Nicholas reached the victim: female. He gently turned her over onto her back and checked her carotid artery for a pulse. Finding one, he made sure his patient was breathing. He slipped his left arm around her chest, making sure to keep her head above the water, and swam back towards the shore.
After what seemed like an eternity, Nicholas reached the shore with his patient. He pulled her up on the shoreline, and checked her pupils. Uneven dialation. Her breathing was steady. He saw a bulge in her front jeans pocket, so he reached in and pulled out a prescription container.
The prescription was for an anti-depressant, and was filled yesterday. She'd blacked out her name on the prescription lable but the physician's name was both visible and familiar to Nicholas. Who was it? Yes, he placed the name: one of the new psychiatry residents at University Medical Center just had one of his first patients attempt suicide: Dr. Howaser.
Nicholas looked up and then looked around for the people he had fully expected to be in attendance. He saw none.
Usually, those seeking suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge attracted a large audience. Crissy Field was now a grassy area, with trails instead of pavement, and a tidal pool had been formed for the birds. The area was a hugely popular spot for windsurfers, and Baker Beach was popular with the nudists. But strangely, no one seemed to notice the would-be suicide.
Those who jumped and who survived the leap oftentimes spoke of the fall as a transcendantal experience. A mystic thing, the would-be suicides told attending ER physicians before being wheeled off to a three day stay in the psych unit.
Nicolas reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his cell phone. Too late, he realized that by diving into the San Francisco Bay he'd rendered the phone inoperable.
Checking to see that his patient was breathing steadily, he stood up and ran towards a phone booth recently installed in the park. He reached the phone, picked up the handset and dialled 911.
"Doctor Nicholas Kokoris, of Presidio Med. I have a suicide attempt at the Golden Gate Bridge. Unconscious female, age 25 to 30. Breathing normally, pulse is steady. Possible barbituate overdose. Transport to University Medical Center."
"Transport is on the way. Should arrive in three to five minutes," the operator said. "We know the location for we just installed the phones at either end of the Golden Gate Bridge for this reason. Too many suicides."
"Thank you," Nicolas said as he hung up the phone. Turning, he raced back to his patient, thinking it very odd that no one had stopped to help. She was still breathing steadily and her pulse was good. Nicholas opened the prescription bottle and counted the remaining pills. She'd taken five, hardly an amount to kill her but she'd need her stomach pumped with activated charcoal.
It was possible she wanted attention. Had she wanted to fully commit suicide, she would have taken the entire bottle and then just stayed in her home to die.
Nicholas again checked her pupils. Still dialated. In the distance, he heard the wails of the ambulance as it rushed towards the Golden Gate Bridge. People were beginning to notice the fact that there had been another suicide attempt and some were belatedly pulling out their cell phones, presumably to phone 911.
"Do you need any help?" a male voice asked. Nicholas looked up. The man, a well dressed young man in his early 20's was standing beside Nicholas.
"No. I'm a doctor. I've already phoned 911."
"Will she be all right?"
"Yes," Nicholas's answer was curt. He wasn't going to disclose any information and the tone of his voice told the young man that no more information would be forthcoming from Nicholas.
The young man backed away some distance. He automatically reached into his pocket to pull out his cell phone. Nicholas heard him say:
"Hello, Sandra? Yeah, I just saw a suicide attempt. Yeah," the young man snickered. His wedding ring flashed on his finger. "She's out of it, a wacko."
That remark caused Nicholas to stand up. He walked over to the young man and said, quite loudly so Sandra could hear, "You, young man, have no respect for human life. As for you Sandra, if he's snickering at my patient, he would snicker at you, or your children, should you have problems you couldn't cope with."
The young man standing in front of him visibly squirmed. "I, uh, didn't mean to laugh at her, sir, uh, doctor." He was looking both ways now, trying to get out of the situation he'd placed himself in. A silent crowd of people had now gathered and were watching the entire exchange.
Nicholas merely gazed at him with steely eyes. The young man squirmed some more before finally saying, "I'm sorry, sir, uh, doctor. I'm very sorry."
"Make sure it doesn't happen again," Nicholas's deep voice was stern and he gave a long steely look at the young man.
"No, sir. I, uh, mean, yes sir. Doctor. It won't happen again." The young man backed up some more then turned and walked quickly away.
Nicholas walked back to his patient. He checked her pupils again, and then her pulse and breathing. Both were steady. The wails of the sirens grew louder and the ambulance pulled up beside the small crowd of onlookers. The paramedics got out of the ambulance and took out the stretcher.
"Pulse?" the female paramedic asked.
"Steady. Breathing's steady. Anti-depressant overdose, five tablets," Nicholas replied as he and the female paramedic placed the woman onto the stretcher.
"Stomach pump," she replied and Nicholas nodded. She attached an IV to the woman and an oxygen mask and checked the woman's blood pressure. The paramedics loaded their patient into the ambulance.
"I'll meet you at University Med," Nicholas said and walked back to where he'd left his leather jacket. Picking it up, he raced back to his car. At least he hadn't signed over his car to his former lover.
He threw his coat into the passenger seat, got in, started the engine and drove to University Med, following the ambulance carrying his patient.
At the hospital, he pulled into the employee's parking lot, parked his car, got out and ran to the ER entrance. The paramedics had just unloaded his patient.
"BP?" Doctor Karen Michaelson asked the female paramedic.
"90 over 60!"
Nicholas said, "Five antidepressants, no broken bones. Strong breathing, pulse has been steady since I found her."
"Stomach pump. Henry! Get the charcoal and call psych now! Exam room 5!' Karen called as the stretcher was wheeled into the ER.
"A CT would be advisable," Nicholas said.
"Right. Henry! Order that up!" Karen called as the ER team assembled around the female patient. Mary was cutting the patient's clothes off, and trying to find identification.
"Does she have any id?" Karen asked.
"Not that I could find. She is a patient of Doctor Howaser. She blacked out her name on the prescription bottle," Nicholas replied, holding up the bottle for Karen to see.
"Howaser? He's in psych. Not in your area. I'm surprised you know him. Is he on shift?" Karen asked.
"Don't know. Met him only once," Nicholas replied.
"Henry! Tell psych that one of Howaser's patients just came in," her voice resonated throughout the ER.
"They'll be sure to send someone down quick," Karen noted to Nicholas in a quieter tone. She was a formidably built woman, strong musculature and her stature commanded attention.
"Howaser's new," Nicholas repeated.
"Too new. Just started his residency last week," Karen commented as she slid the tube down the patient's throat. She activated the charcoal drip and Nicholas watched the black fluid flow in the tube down his patient's throat.
"She's steady for now, good thing you were there," Karen said. Leaving her patient to ER residents, she motioned for Nicholas to walk with her.
"I, uh, just got back from recovering after my surgery and I heard what happened between you and Doctor..." Karen's voice trailed off as she saw the hurt kook on Nicholas's face "I'm sorry, Nicholas."
Nicholas smirked. "I fell for the wrong woman. I'll get over it."
"You're a good man, Nicholas. Too good. You've got a heart of gold. Were I closer to your age, I'd be hanging out my sign for you," she said as she turned her head and smiled at him. Her hair was more silver than red although the remaining red streaks dimly glowed under the harsh lighting hair.
Nicholas smiled back, his white teeth flashing.
"You need to go drink some coffee, and stain those teeth," Karen told Nicholas, a smile playing on her lips.
This remark made Nicholas laugh heartily, despite the inadvertent reference to the place where Nicholas had been publicly dumped a few months previously.
"They are beacons in the darkness," he intoned rather seriously, making Karen laugh in turn.
"Get out of those wet clothes before you catch cold," Karen now said, with a serious tone in her own voice.
"Yes mummy," Nicholas responded in turn. Karen laughed again and slapped him lightly on the shoulder.
"She'll be okay," Karen told Nicholas who nodded. Nicholas took a last look at his patient--Doctor Howaser's patient--then turned and walked out the ER entrance and back to his car. Getting into his car, he noted the wet spot on his seat where the water had soaked in. Shrugging, he sat down and started his car.
Pulling out of the employee's parking lot, he decided to drive around San Francisco. He opened the windows of the car and let the breeze dry his hair. As he drove, a smile began to play around his lips.
He thought life could be good again, despite what the thief of hearts had done to his emotions. He drove for an hour, then aimed his car for his condo in Sausalito, over the Golden Gate Bridge. He'd shower, change his clothes, then treat himself to a seafood dinner. He wasn't on shift for a few days and he enjoyed the relative calmness he felt when he was outside of the hospital.
A car horn beeped at him, and Nicholas looked at the driver: one of his new neighbors in Sausalito. She smiled at him and waved and he waved back. Dinner with her tonight? Nicholas thought as they drove in opposite directions.
Possibly. It was just five thirty. Nicholas
would be prepared, just in case. Feeling better, Nicholas reached over
and turned on the radio. The strains of Moonlight Sonata drifted
through the car as he drove towards home--and dinner.