The Time I Almost Died

Two summers ago I bled out on a bare mattress in a foreclosed home in Miami. I’d been sick. I’d seen a doctor but, as an American without health insurance, I’d been able to afford only the diagnosis—not the solution. I went back to work.

Every week I stuck my tips in a jar. I took a lot of Advil. I went through the phone book and called doctors. Visited strip malls. I wondered if anyone would maybe put me on a payment plan; they wouldn’t. I wondered if maybe I could get a credit card; I couldn’t. I kept taking Advil. I kept visiting strip malls.

I found a doctor who would work on me. His clinic was the size of a Chinese take-out and nestled between a massage parlor and a bail bonds. I paid him straight cash. I recognized the situation as less than ideal, but the pain had made me desperate. So we rented a space. He gashed me good. I woke up in bandages and hopped in my car. He hadn’t told me not to drive.

When I got home the wound tore open, tore near the vein, I guess, and that was that. I lay on my bed for a while, stunned like those stupid deer. Frozen like every non-hero in every movie. The bandages slicked off like debris in a flood, and I pawed ineffectually at the dangling bundle, convinced everything would be safe again if only it would come back. I started shaking.

I took steps toward the bathroom. There was wetness down my legs, big red footprints on the tile. I saw the wound in the mirror, the black-almost-purple mat of my hair, the three of me staring back. Spinning. I dry heaved into the toilet; I didn’t want to make a mess. My fingers slipped into the bowl at some point and I thought, gross.

I think I

I don’t know

There’s so much blood; they’ll say that at the hospital later. I’ll think that nurses shouldn’t say that. But right now, there’s so much blood. The floors. It drips from the mattress through the futon. Totally saturated. There’re fat streaks where I crawled. Handprints on the walls. I think, this is like that scene from Dexter, and I get upset with myself for thinking about a popcorn cop drama – that my last thoughts might be of a popcorn cop drama.

I’ve always had a thing with last words. When I was younger my father fell five stories on a job site, right down an open sewer valve, right on his head into four feet of shit. The fall didn’t kill him, just knocked him out and fucked him up, left him unconscious and drowning in a tube full of shit. You know what he said on his way down?


I always told myself I’d do better. The blood matted my eyelashes. Burned. Blurred everything. I felt around for my phone: one of the old flip ones, fat like a football—pre-RAZR. I squint out a slow 9-1-1. I know I’ll be recorded and I’m very conscious of making a good impression.

Especially if…

I imagine people at home watching the local news. I wonder if maybe I’ll be on the local news. The tapes. My picture. The blue background and the scrolling text.

“There’s a good amount of bleeding coming from a pretty large gash here.” They ask for my address. I tell them. I try to put bass in my voice. “I normally wouldn’t call, you know, and distract from people with real emergencies, but, I just think this is a lot of blood and, also, I think I might go unconscious. Soon. I’m alone.”

I’m alone.

I’m alone.

Oh, no.

I’m alone.

I think of old men in recliners shaking their heads. Saying, poor boy.

I really am. I’m going to cry. I’m not going to cry. I can’t cry; I’m awful. This is my fault. Everything is my fault. I was terrible. I was a bad guy. Now I’m paying for it. Bad guy’s supposed to pay for it. Maybe Karma is real. Maybe this is okay. Maybe I’m supposed to die. My head hurts. I can’t stop shaking. I’m cold. There’s static in my veins, out my veins, in pools on the floor. I’m dizzy. I try to sit up but my gut rocks me prone; I see black. I clutch the wound, the gauze, my head, my eyes, rub the gore from my eyes.

I’m alone.

I always told myself I’d do better.

I open the phone and dial Someone from memory. I vomit—nothing dry this time—and the convulsions wrap my periphery in bright, shining stars. I hang up. I try again. Voicemail. I see blurs. I put the phone to my face. I try to breathe big. It hurts. It’s hard. I need air. I want air. I squint at the tiny monochrome screen, want to smudge it clear but I’m finger-painting red. It’s impossible. It’s frustrating. I shout and it hurts, it hurts so badly.

I think I press 96827324368463594663737766184265968.

I think that spells you are a genuinely good person. thank you.

But maybe it doesn’t. I feel suddenly weightless. Flying. I wonder if this is the whole heaven thing. I very seriously and very intensely hope this is the whole heaven thing. I want to see a white light but it’s all yellow and red blotches, the taste of tin and salt. My head floats off my body. The world is swirls. My phone is swirls. Far, far in the distance, I hear sirens. I know they are for me. I think of the people driving; they are for me, too. The world fades in and out. I rub my face. I’m sleepy. My phone doesn’t ring. Maybe I didn’t send the text. Maybe it was full of typos. How embarrassing that my last words could be full of typos. I wish I had autocorrect. I wish I had an iPhone.

I wish my phone would ring.

I promise I’ll do better.

And there’s a knock, but I’m gone. TC mark

image – DrStarbuck


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  • Asdf

    Holy fuck. This had me captivated from start to finish. Holy, holy, holy, holy fuck this was amazing. Glad you didn’t die.

  • Kyle Angeletti

    Good story. Really liked your writing style. 

    You just made me very grateful to be Canadian. 

  • Paulspensley

    I’ve never cried at a blog post before. Thank you Jack, your words moved me to tears.

    The greatest piece of writing I’ve ever read. Thank you 

  • Laura

    Shit me. Captivating. 

    Made me glad to be a Brit.

    Just seriously, fucking hell. 

  • Michael Koh

    So. fucking. good.

  • Ciarag

    Incredible. My boyfriend nearly bled to death 2 years ago. Seeing the feeling of bleeding out in words nearly broke me again. My hands are still shaking just from reading your story. Thank you for putting into words this feeling. I couldn’t imagine how you felt writing it… living it. 

  • space mtn

    alone is the most horrible

  • space mtn

    alone is the most horrible

  • Alex Thayer

    best thing in a while here.

    want more

  • Poopstain

    Sue that doc!

  • Sympathy

    Seriously amazing story. Never had such an emotional feeling towards an article. Made me wish I’d been there with and for you, stranger. Hope there’s a part 2 to this.

    • Frida

      same here. solidarity.

  • Your Friend

    Loved this. Great job.

  • irreverent puddles

    you have congratulations from some of the most difficult-to-please readers of TC…. so congratulations on the absolutely deserved compliments. this is an interesting story, and i think this is the kind of story a national publication might be interested in (especially in the context of “obamacare” controversy)… have you tried to submit your full story (e.g. including onset, search for provider, diagnosis, search for surgeon, inability to pay, etc etc) to like the NYTimes or Newsweek or some other more open newspapers or magazines?? PLEASE DO.

  • Bethanie Marshall


  • Luxe

    This made me feel like I was going to faint and I fell over while I was reading but damn it was worth it

  • polina

    I could taste the blood as I was reading this. I could see it, feel it.

    Wow. Good job. And I’m sorry.

  • Frida

    I cringed the entire time.
    Hard for someone like me to read, since I feel like I’m experiencing everything,
    but I’m glad you didn’t die and hoping you never go through something like this again!

    The being alone thing also really resonated.

  • lisbeth

    This was seriously good. Reminded me of Ernest Hemingway. Frank. Blunt. I liked it.

  • Anonymous

    wow this got me good

  • Anonymous

    Goddamnit that was something else. Your style fits the content so well here.

    I don’t have a source for this but I remember reading somewhere that the most common last word from pilots in fatal plane crashes is “shit” according to the black box recorder thing. 

  • Brogan

    I want more! I want to keep reading. I want to know the whole story.

  • J. Ky Marsh

    Okay, this was awesome. Just wonderful.

    I’m frustrated that we can get greatness like this piece on TC, and now we’ll get a flood of 6 garbage pieces from writers like Kat George. Fuck.

    • Nope

      True. It’s actually kind of embarrassing to think that this is on the same website as Kat George’s non-stop swill.

  • douchegirl

    Great job! This piece was wonderful.

  • Daniela Asaro

    This was incredible. Chest was tight, I was uncomfortable, yet I couldn’t stop reading. More.

  • Asdf

    Gonna preface this with another mention of thanking {whatever deity or power you wish} that you came through it alright. I am sorry you had to endure this, but I am glad that you came through it and I’m sure it’s definitely altered your life’s point-of-view. First and foremost, be well.

    This has been on my mind all day and I just reread it and was able to give it the time it deserves. I was finally able to digest it after work. It’s so much more powerful on subsequent reads. This is far and away my favourite piece on TC. This should have so many more comments and “likes” than it does — it’s disappointing to me that it’s not receiving the attention that a “5 blah blah blah” article does. I think readers are just blown away by it, though. Maybe intimidated by it. I’d love to read a followup or precursor piece.
    *THIS* is why I read TC. I will smile the day I see Jack Cazir’s name grace a byline on an article for The New Yorker (insert your favourite higher-order news establishment) that just blows me away, and I’ll be like, “Shit. I remember that one story…” and I’ll go back and fetch my archived copy of this and read it again and be blown away all over again.

    Dunno where you work for a living, but I get the feeling you’re going places, sir.

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