The call goes out late one winter night...baby not breathing. He races to the scene, the big Chevy sliding on each icy corner, driving much too fast, but somehow holding the street. In the projects he slides to a stop and runs up to the apartment, his hard-soled boots ringing on the metal stairs.
The little girl, six months old, lies in her grandmother's arms, black yet pale. She is not breathing, a white crust on her lips, her eyes half opened. He takes her, there are no questions, and pushes her chest with his finger tips, covers her nose and mouth with his mouth and breathes. The air does not go in at first, there is a block, but then it opens and her chest rises against his hand with each puff.
He runs down the stairs, leaving her family behind, crying, and climbs into the back of the just-arrived ambulance. He places her on the gurney and continues breathing for her as the medic in back begins compressions on her tiny chest. The driver spins the big truck around in the icy parking lot, and hauls ass toward the hospital. The siren sounds muted and weak as she vomits into his mouth as he delivers another breath, and he takes this as a good sign.
At the hospital he will carry her inside, still breathing for her, still making her heart beat, and will hand her over to a nurse. A doctor will declare her dead within minutes. He will lean on a wall outside and ask a medic for a cigarette, his first in months, and a few days later he will cut her obituary from the paper, will learn her name, and will wonder for the rest of his life who she might have been.
17 hours ago