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Looking Death in the Face

It's nights like last night that bring it all together. That flush all of your worries, annoyances, complications, and goals down the toilet. It is the kind of night that truly puts everything into perspective, and forces you to enjoy the simple things in life - the very minute enjoyments that gets overlooked. 

Yes, it is a night like last night...

It was the usual and typical evening on a weekday. Return home, undress, and lay on the couch unwinding with the tag team partner for a little while. Lately, this process has been a bit more therapeutic as I've found myself in a mental rut. Completely and utterly frustrated by work, I've mentally been flat-lined throughout the work week. And so has the tag-team partner with her work environment. We all go through it. But lately, its been more of a struggle than the past.

After a thirty-minute session of dishing back and forth about the crazy people we work with and the silly processes that occur within government jobs, I decided to head to the gym to not only let out some aggression and frustration, but have some enjoyment.

I had no idea the experience I was in for. 

Upon finishing my workout, I noticed a few gym goers staring up on the second floor balcony where all of the cardio machines are located. As I made my way to the steps en route to the locker room - also on the second floor - I was passed by a paramedic who rushed up the stairs passed me. As I reached the level, I noticed several people standing with an urgency, and a very frantic woman who seem to be pacing aimlessly. 

As I got there, I was asked by a few guys, guys who I know from seeing them everyday at the gym, to help out. It was there I noticed a body laying on the treadmill. After helping clear some on-lookers who just were either being nosy or in shock, I heard one of the paramedics say, "he's not breathing."

Further panic ensued. 

As the guys helped the first responding paramedic get the body out of the corner it was in and onto a flat surface, it was there I saw the unconscious - and now not breathing - man's face.

In a weird moment, I looked death in the face. 

His eyes rolled back into his head. His face, expressionless, and pale. His neck limp, as his heads hangs.

It was almost as if it were in slow motion. And I swear it was almost as he was staring right back.

After a while, I made my way to the locker room a bit disturbed as more emergency personnel arrived. The frantic woman, the man's girlfriend, made her way into the men's locker room where a few of us sat stunned. She asked if we knew which locker was his and out of sheer panic and raw emotion began pulling on all of the locks.

She finally settled down and located the lock. She had no idea of the combination, or had a key.

I quickly alerted the young front desk worker, who stood nearby not knowing what to do, to get a pair of bolt cutters. Those of us in the locker room attempted to calm the woman down. None of us dared say those cliche words so often comforting in times like this - "everything will be okay". Because after all, we couldn't guarantee that. And after twenty minutes, with no good news coming from the hallway where they were working on him, such a statement would be downright insulting.

After the clerk returned, I held the lock, and another guy helped snap it off. We helped her pack his stuff into a bag as an NYPD officer entered the room with the cold statement of, "when you're done doing that, I'm going to need details from you". 

We attempted to keep her mind focused on the task and not the unsympathetic officer, or her phone which now was buzzing non-stop. 

As she left, the commotion continued in the hall way. We sat there a bit longer in the locker room staring at one another. So many thoughts and emotions running through each individual's mind. We were afraid to leave the room. Afraid to know the outcome. Afraid to face the truth that life is indeed this precious. 

One moment, a man who did not drink or smoke, and was a total health nut as described by his girlfriend, ran on a treadmill next to his girlfriend, and the next moment, he wasn't breathing. 

And looking back, it's weird, but also encouraging, to see how folks who see each other everyday and are only familiar by face and time, can come together to help another of the same connection. 

I have a feeling this event will bond the three of us that were in that locker room moving forward.

Nonetheless, I manged to leave, and as I headed down the steps, no one was working out. Everyone stared up at the balcony hoping for the best and probably wondering the how quickly life can change. 

And how ironic, in a facility to improve one's overall life, is where we were hoping that someone's life would be spared.

I left the gym with a strong mental tunnel vision. My thoughts consumed me. Even to the point when two women outside saw me leave and were interested in knowing what was going on, I walked right by them as if nothing happened. I even crossed a major street and have no recollection of doing so. I know for sure, I did not stop walking. 

As I was walking away, I did manage to hear someone say "he just threw up, so that's good." 

I have no idea if that was in regards to this man. I pray that it is. 

However, I can't help but wonder how quickly life can change. So sudden. So quick. No warning. Out of no where. 

Boom! Just like that. 

I can't get over it. 

Last night was a huge awakening on appreciating life.

Gone were the worries of work. The annoyance of the workplace. Acquiring necessary items. Making plans. The Knicks playoff woes. The Yankees struggling offense. What's for lunch the next day? What needs to get done? And so on and so forth. 

It all seemed so miniscule on this walk. 

All so stupid and insignificant. 

All I could think about were my wife and her lovable quirky smile. My parents and the crazy things they do that make me laugh. My friends and how weird and abnormal they are. And how lucky and blessed I am to be in the position I am in, instead of complaining.

I went from mentally coasting through the week and wishing for the weekend, to appreciating every moment of this race called life.

I'm not afraid of dying. And most likely never will be. 

But when you look death in the face, life becomes much clearer. 

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