Ezra slowly wakes from unconsciousness with a shiver. The cold air reminds him of when he would fall asleep in his bed with the windows open during a summer night. At some point in the night, a gust of cool air would tumble through his sheets and wake him. Ezra would reach out, grasping for something or someone to give him warmth. A chilly breeze now rustles his choppy hair, trickles over the bridge of his nose, and sweeps across his chest. With his eyes still heavy from sleep, he feels every goosebump from his navel to his neck stand at attention. Instinctively reaching into darkness for comfort, Ezra’s fingers instead graze metal bars.
Another gust of air rattles Ezra to his core. He feels as if every inch of his body is chilled. The only warmth comes from his mouth, which feels strangely warm and wet. Ezra tries exploring the strangeness with his tongue, but he can’t muster the strength to part his lips. He finally opens his eyes, rolling them down to focus on a fog in front of him. The fog is incredibly dense, but seconds later dissipates. It returns with the same intensity and disappears again. Ezra realizes the appearance of the fog mimics his breathing. He holds his breath in hopes to get his bearings. Before he can see through the last of the fading fog, a voice appears at his side.
“Hey, buddy? Can you hear me?”
The face of a dewey-eyed paramedic pops into Ezra’s field of view. The medic’s hair flops into his eyes, which widen at the sight of Ezra’s face.
“Now, um,” the medic stammers, “we’re just looking around for your wallet. Don’t try opening your mouth. We just want to know your name for the report.”
Ezra feels a jolt in his heart. He silently prays that the medics won’t find his wallet in his coat pocket. He urges the medics to just name him John Doe and let him on his way. He’s always liked the name John. And anything was better than what was on his driver’s license.
“Gotcha!” the medic exclaims. Ezra turns his head to see the medic fishing through his wallet, pulling out CVS receipts and deodorant coupons. He watches as the medic removes the I.D. and mutters the information to himself. The medic furrows his brow. His eyes dart back to the same line, rereading the name printed on the plastic. He whips his head around to look at Ezra and then back to the card in his shivering hand.
The medic rushes to the back of the ambulance where his partner is preparing the trip sheet. The young medic gesticulates to the I.D. and then to Ezra laying on the stretcher. The partner, a man considerably older than the young medic, lumbers over.
He gruffly asks, “Your name is Nina?”
The blood freezes in Ezra’s already frigid veins. He wished that name belonged to a stranger.
The older medic doesn’t give Ezra anytime to correct him. “It looks like my partner hasn’t quite mastered the art of observation. We’ll take good care of you from here on out, Miss Nina.”
Ezra begins hyperventilating after hearing his birth name so carelessly tossed around by strangers. He can no longer see. His rapid breaths fog up the oxygen mask clamped to his face.
“Hey, Paul!” the older medic screams. “Confirm with dispatch: 18 year-old female with multiple lacerations of the face and shortness of breath. Let’s go!”
The older medic pushes the stretcher through the back of the unit, hops in at Ezra’s feet, and slams the double doors shut. The young medic kicks the idling unit into gear and the ambulance speeds off through the streets of the city.
The medic in the back sees Ezra’s chest erratically seizing.
“Alright, Nina. Stay with me,” the tired medic coaxes. “We’re just going to get some of these layers off so you can breathe easier.”
The medic reaches into his bag and pulls out a pair of trauma shears to cut through Ezra’s clothing. Ezra shakes his head in furious protest but the medic is already cutting through Ezra’s T-shirt.
The medic’s voice trails off as he stares down at Ezra. The black compression binder that Ezra uses to masculinize his chest hugs every curve of his body.
“No wonder you can’t breathe, girl,” the exasperated medic quips.
All Ezra wants to do is scream, “Stop!” But the medic cuts right up the middle of the black lycra. When he snips the last piece, the fabric falls to Ezra’s sides. Ezra looks up at the medic’s face, noticing that the medic can’t take his eyes off of the breasts that emerge from under the fabric. For Ezra, time slows down as he examines every detail of the medic’s face, noticing how the confusion in the medic’s eyes melts away to disgust.
The unit screeches to a stop. Paul, the young medic, opens the double doors to pull Ezra out of the unit. He stops halfway, realizing his partner hasn’t moved to help him. Then, Paul’s eyes latch onto Ezra’s exposed chest.
“Come on, Paul,” the medic behind Ezra mutters. “Let’s get it inside.”
It. The syllable echoes viciously in Ezra’s ears.
Ezra’s chest heaves under the weight of stranger’s stares as the medics wheel him into the chaotic flurry of the emergency room. Ezra nervously shifts his weight, trying to hide his chest from inquisitive eyes.
The sound of voices thunder distantly behind him. A woman’s voice breaks through the meaningless garble, asking, “Why isn’t this woman covered?”
Ezra hears Paul trying to explain the shock the medics felt when they discovered that their patient “wasn't normal.” Ezra wants to cry for help. But all he can muster is a gurgle.
The crackling of a radio suddenly at the his side muffles Ezra’s attempts to get attention, “This is 5400 dispatch. Come in, unit 5411.”
“Paul, give me 4 milligrams of Ketamine to calm her down,” a gruff voice insists.
The older medic forcibly grabs Ezra’s arm. Ezra yanks it away as the medic’s calloused hands try to flush something through his IV. Ezra pulls himself upright and slides off the stretcher. He rips the oxygen mask over his head, gathers the remains of his T-shirt around him and woozily jogs to the exit.
“Get back here,” the medic’s voice barks at him.
But Ezra marches through the emergency room doors. The cold air hits the open wounds on his face. He winces in pain. Walking through the ghosts left by the ambulance’s idling diesel engine, he ambles to the main street. Slowly, it becomes summertime again as he reaches out in the darkness to hail the yellow taxi coming down the street.
Emmett Patterson is a queer trans health activist living in Washington, D.C. He focuses his writing at the intersections of trans health, disability, and structural violence. He is currently writing PRICK: Trans People, Our Health, and the People Who Could Save Us, a fictionalized memoir to be used as an emergency medicine training tool. Believing in community health education and intersectional empowerment, Patterson's work focuses on the ways in which trans people experience wellness and sickness, life and death, and finding the strength within it all.
This issue of Chelsea Station was co-edited by
Mitch Kellaway, AJ Sass, and Noah Grabeel.