I came down the stairs of my building at a light jog. It was 10:30 on a warm evening in early June. As I approached the exit, I put my right hand on the handle and pushed on the glass door with my left, as I always do. The handle, however, refused to cooperate. By not sticking to our routine, this persnickety handle forced my left hand to plunge through the glass of the still-closed door.
Panicking, I pulled my hand back through the broken glass to assess the damage. My wrist dragged against one of the remaining shards. As I looked down, blood was squirting with every heartbeat and the concrete at my feet was turning red.
“Call 911!” I shouted as I wrapped my right hand around the wound and stepped onto the sidewalk.
Though I would soon go into a calm and polite state of shock, at this moment, I needed everyone to understand the severity of the situation.
“It’s vertical! It’s vertical!” I kept repeating.
I’ve always heard that if someone really wanted to kill himself, he’d cut his wrists vertically.
Suicidal images of blood-soaked people sprawled across their bathroom floors began to fill my head. A crowd started to form and I could hear people asking what happened and if I was okay. My sister called an ambulance and my friends ran upstairs for paper towels. Yet somehow, amidst all of this commotion, my head was clear. For a second, I stood on the sidewalk and stared straight ahead as blood poured between my fingers.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” a man asked, appearing seemingly out of nowhere.
“Can you hold this?” I asked, lifting my wrist higher in the air, as if he really needed clarification to understand what this was.
Without pause, the stranger wrapped both of his hands around my gushing laceration and applied a Hulk-like amount of pressure. He didn’t ask if I had any diseases or look for something to wrap the wound in. He just went for it, barehanded. Fuck the Hulk; I’ll take this guy any day.
With the help of other onlookers, he guided me to the wall of my building and sat me down.
“Thank you for helping,” I said respectfully, like he’d just helped me carry groceries up the stairs. The shock was in full-effect.
A woman from the pizza restaurant across the street came over with a rag from the kitchen. She ran to me with wide eyes. The looks of horror on everyone’s faces scared me more than the injury itself.
“I’m EMT certified,” she announced confidently to the crowd, “we need to wrap this up and keep applying pressure.” Despite the concern in her eyes, I was inspired by her taking control of the situation. She was like a medic in the field of battle—the quirky, grunge-chic, typically harmless, Bushwick battlefield.
The Hulk stand-in removed his blood-soaked hands. I lost several more good quirts in the seconds before the rag was secured.
“Thank you guys, I really appreciate it,” I said, hoping that the ambulance would be there soon. I couldn’t stop saying thank you. I even started asking people their names. It was far easier to focus on them than on the pain.
When the ambulance arrived, it was a seamless transition. The EMTs stepped in and the others retreated. Fearing that changing the bandage would constitute more blood lost, they put another on top, tying it so tightly that I could no longer move or feel my fingers.
One by one the folks on the street would say, “Feel better” or, “Good luck,” and then continue on with their night.
Of the last to leave was my Hulk.
“You’ll be okay, man. Just tough it out,” he said, grabbing his guitar case from against the building and disappearing into the dark space between the streetlights.
After two surgeries, a repaired artery, and a slowly recovering tendon, I’m here to tell the story. Had no one been around, I could’ve bled out in minutes. But I didn’t. So thank you ladies and gentleman of Bushwick. And to all those who read this, if you see something, do something.