You see a city. I see a living, breathing organism full of people.
You see a man walking down the sidewalk. I see Otis the town drunk. I subconsciously evaluate his gait, and I wave if he doesn’t seem too likely to fall over. If he looks undsteady, I try not to distract him from his walking. There’s no sense making work for myself.
You see a beautiful three story Victorian home. I see an overweight diabetic, with a seizure history, at the top of three flights of narrow, twisting stairs.
You see a city worker doing his job. I see a success story; a man who might not be alive today were it not for me and my partner.
You see a stone wall, newly repaired. I see a car on its roof and a pending court case.
You see a small memorial; flowers and cards stapled to a tree. I see the looks on the faces of the paramedics who picked up that poor teenager, and inside I’m relieved I wasn’t there that night. And then I’m ashamed for feeling relief. My time will come; only the city knows when.
The city is different for those who know. We see the dark corners and the unexpected beauty. We monitor its pulse, knowing if it’s busy or calm. We listen to the fire department and keep track of their movements. We know that if Engine 5 is doing calls over here, everyone else is busy working elsewhere.
We keep track of our regular patients, both the ones we like and the ones we dread. There are certain addresses we know will be trouble, and others we’ve never visited before. I can shout out a number, and someone will answer with the rest of a common address:
130 – “Eastern Avenue”
170 – “South Common”
56 – “Margin St”
655 – “Boston St”
. . . and on it goes, an encyclopedic knowledge Google will never be able to catalog.
It even contiues off duty. You see a beautiful harbor. I see the city line, and hours spent parked waiting for another truck to clear so we can go back to our own quarters. You see an ambulance on the street. I see Medic 9 way out of its district, and know that the city must be busy today. You see news footage. I see my coworkers, and maybe even my own unit, doing what we do every day: keeping the city’s heart beating.