Murder, Romance, and Two Shootings
Todd Smith © 2018
All Rights Reserved
February 7, 2008
Ten years without being shot and then another bullet had pierced my body.
It was surreal. Once again, I was lying on a hospital gurney in a trauma center while emergency personnel were in a flurry of activity around me. I was having trouble concentrating. Focus. I took a deep breath and looked down at my blood-stained clothes, a seeping bandage of thick gauze pads encasing my right hand, and a nurse preparing to wrap a blood pressure cuff around my arm.
What seemed like a moment later, I startled awake.
“David?” I questioned aloud, looking around the bustling room. I needed him, there and now.
Would David be directed to the hospital I was in? Surely someone, the police, would tell him where I was. Not that I even knew the answer to that question. The ambulance ride was a blur of sirens and EMTs checking my vitals.
A nurse in blue scrubs came by and looked over my chart. I raised my left hand to gain her attention. “Excuse me.”
Finally, she looked my direction.
“I have a close friend named David. When he shows up, can you make sure he is allowed to come back? Please? I…I have to see him now!” I must have seemed desperate. I was almost shouting at her.
She narrowed her eyes and nodded as she walked away. All I could hope for was that she would make that happen, even if all the usual “family” protocols were not met.
I lay on the lumpy cold gurney, saying prayers to a god that some said would never hear my calls because I’m a gay man. Yet I wanted divine intervention at the moment, whether it was sanctioned by the Christian Right or not. I kept staring at the large metal clock mounted high on the sage-green wall and thinking, I won’t ask for anything else, God. I really need David to hold my uninjured hand right now, please, with sugar on top. This was a childhood expression, and here I was, an adult, using it.
Miraculously, as if appearing out of nowhere, David was by my side. Maybe it seemed this way due to the mix of the drugs they had given me in the ambulance, but it didn’t matter. He was there, and I could finally find some comfort in the sterile environment of the emergency room.
“It majorly sucks to have this happen to me again.” The first words out of my mouth were a statement of the obvious.
“I’m thankful you’re still alive, Todd.” He glanced around before he pantomimed a kiss and I gave one right back to him. This was all that we could do with nurses staring at us from all sides.
He reached out, took my left hand, holding it tightly, and cradled my fingers in his. The warmth of his skin soothed me. I didn’t look at my right hand. At the moment, I kept my sights focused on him.
An orderly came to wheel me into an examining room. He was muscular and silent as the fluorescent lights whiz by overhead.
“An emergency doctor should be in to see you soon,” he said as he walked away.
A little while later, the door to my room opened and a man in a white lab coat, his tie askew with wire-rimmed glasses that hung on the end of his nose, came into the room.
After introducing himself and making a brief examination, he said, “We’re going to need to have an orthopedic hand specialist in to assess the extent of the damage and what will need to be done to fix it.”
“I’m sure that will be painless, right?” I said.
“Probably not, but we have to know this before we can proceed with treatment. But first you need a tetanus shot.” A nurse arrived with a tray containing a vial and a large needle, the first of many that I would see while in the hospital. I looked away as the needle made contact with my left arm and I felt the small pinch as the needle punctured the skin. Ouch.
The doctor did a quick check of my vitals. “The hand specialist should be here in a bit. He’ll do a thorough check of your hand. In the meantime, try to relax and get some rest.”
I nodded, and with a smile, he left the room.
I put my head back on the pillow and closed my eyes for a moment.David kissed my forehead. He took my left hand tightly and warmth radiated from his grasp.
The sound of paper flapping on a clipboard above my head woke me. A tall man was now checking on me, his dark hair combed to one side and wearing a white lab coat.
“I’m Doctor Carruthers. I’m the orthopedic hand surgeon who was called in to examine your injury.”
He took a moment to check a page on the clipboard, then smiled and said, “So you’ve been shot. That couldn’t have been fun.” I guess he was trying to lighten the mood, but to me, it was a bit of a fail.
“No, not really.”
Reaching into a box of sterile gloves, he took two out and put them on, then carefully took my hand out of the bandages to exam it.
“We’re going to numb your hand to lessen the pain. You’re going to feel some sensation as I figure out how serious the wound is.”
After giving me a small injection in the area of the wound, he probed my hand, touching the hole meticulously and observing my reactions to better understand the damage that had been wrought by the bullet. I cringed and hissed each time he found a nerve, and David attempted to ease my tension as I clutched to him tightly with my uninjured one.
“It looks like we’re going to have to do surgery, but for right now, we’ll wrap it up and give you a chance to rest so you’re ready for the operation tomorrow.” Carruthers took off his gloves.
“Will my hand be back to normal?” This was the question I wanted to be answered right there and then. Yet I knew deep down it couldn’t be, which made this all the worse.
“We hope” was all he said as he cleaned and bandaged my hand.
I didn’t know quite what to think about his response.
“You’ll need to keep your right hand elevated.” He demonstrated by placing my hand on a couple of cushions before once again checking the bandage. Then with a “see you tomorrow,” he left the room.
At this point, I only wanted to fall asleep. I was exhausted from the loss of blood and everything I had gone through that night. Orderlies wheeled me into an elevator. I jostled as we went in and they maneuvered me to the right; making room for David. The aged elevator moved with the dexterity of an old dog on a freezing cold morning. Then once again, the doors came open and the orderlies wheeled me back out. I felt a bit helpless since all I was supposed to do, all I could do, was lay there while others moved me from place to place. Ceiling-mounted fluorescent lights flashed above us as we went down a long hallway before stopping at a small room. There was a plain bed with thin white linens. The two of them helped me onto the bed. I guess this was to be my home away from home for the moment.
I thanked them as they headed off. I assumed they had more people to roll around the hospital that night. David was looking into the small closet for an extra pillow that he knew would make me more comfortable before checking out the bathroom to see the condition of the amenities.
I stared up at the whitewashed ceiling, completely drained.
He brought the pillow, tucked and adjusted it under my head, and then shooed me over in the bed. Once I was settled, he carefully crawled in beside me and pulled me closer.
“Sorry about this.” I felt the need to acknowledge the craziness of the night. This was a lot to put someone through, and I’d had past boyfriends who would never have made it to the emergency room before deciding to cut their losses.
“It happens.” David snuggled in close to the left side of my body. The heat of his body and the warmth of his breath soothed me.
“Not to anybody normal, you know—only me.”
“I love you and your bullet-ridden body,” he quipped.
“Thanks” was all I could muster.
Ten years without being shot.
Then I began to think back to the first shooting. 1997—what I referred to as The Year of Living Dangerously.
Todd Smith brings a unique perspective to his writing having survived being shot twice. These shootings, along with the unsolved gay bashing murder of his friend form the basis of his first novel. While recovering in the hospital from the second shooting he proposed to his husband. Theirs is a mixed marriage of Missouri Baptist and New York Jew. Together they are raising a son and are trying to replicate his feat of travelling to all 50 states. Most of his writing career has been for newspapers, including the GLBT paper in Kansas City. He continues to work on new projects and writes with a group affectionately known as the Eville writers.