she remembers the weight of him uninvited on top of her and inside of her like the feeling of putting on last season’s coat and finding you have grown a lot over the summer. you can just take off the coat, but for an instant your arms are trapped. your heart rate increases and you start to sweat, feeling like you might need to be buried in that coat if you can’t get. it. Off. Right. NOW. only when it was him, if she got the coat off, she knew the coat would be the thing buried. because she would bury it. she knew she could. she knew what was within her but she was scared of who she would become if she unleashed it. so she didn’t.
five years later naomi was in her second year of nursing school and nearing graduation. for an assignment in her community health class she was asked to find a health related article in the local paper, observe its perspective and intended audience, and suggest any edits for accuracy or accessibility. in the modern world of the internet she had not read a physical newspaper in years, and in fact, would still have gone online if the exercise hadn’t required clipping the physical article and stapling it to the assignment. which is why, when she read that he had been arrested for possession and possible distribution of child pornography, she remembers the smell of the fresh newsprint, the feel of the grainy paper, the contrast of black letters against grey, and how they swam together in a blur in the hot brine of her overflowing fury.
her heart was pounding and she was starting to sweat. she had prepared for this. for years, and especially in the past few months, she had been studying and getting ready for this moment to come. by now she knew the patterns, she knew what to look for, she knew when to wait and when to go ahead. and the time had come to go ahead. she was going to do it. she knew after she did she would not walk out of there the same person she was when she walked in. but this was what she wanted. this was the plan. she was ready now. she had taken so many notes, knew the schedules by heart. there were times when she felt she might have gone a little crazy. she found herself in strange coffee shops at strange hours, hidden in the dark hood of a nondescript baggy sweatshirt. at times she read the same words over and over, at times she stared out the window, watching, waiting. she had lost sleep. she sometimes forgot to eat. she had memorized so many details. all for this. here. now.
she had hoped to be alone when it happened. she didn’t want anyone around so she could focus on her task without worrying what someone might see. there were more people around than would have been ideal. but in the end only so much can be planned, and she had left room for this possibility. her heart was still pounding but she took a deep breath and steadied her hands. she moved closer to him until she was right beside him, touching him. he didn’t see her and that was ok. in fact it was better. if she didn’t get this right the first time she might not have a chance to try again. she grabbed him quickly and with one fluid motion, she thrust the needle into his flesh. she barely waited for the telltale flash before she squeezed the plunger, ejecting the carefully chosen drug from the syringe.
she could tell from the response of his body that it was working. he let out a sharp gasp, his eyes panicked, then stared straight ahead, losing focus. then everything in the room fell into silent, still anticipation. everyone was looking at them now. no matter what happened next she knew she couldn’t escape. without realizing it she was holding her breath. everything seemed frozen in space but the ambivalent second hand, dealing out their fate one defiant tick at a time. then it finally happened.
Beep… beep… a collective exhale. Beep… it seemed like full minutes had passed, but in reality it was just under five seconds, according to the continuous EKG monitoring his heart activity, which after stopping completely for almost five seconds had miraculously returned at a regular rate and rhythm. his eyes refocused and he looked around the room, pausing at each face, processing, thankful. naomi’s heart rate was slowing. she did it. after years of careful preparation for this minute, these slightly less than five seconds, she had saved a life. only then did she realize she was still holding his arm. she gave it a squeeze, and she let him go. then she smiled, and left the room.