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I was only supposed to be at the small town’s emergency department to clean hospital beds and record patients’ vital signs, but when an ambulance brought in a woman who had tried to kill herself, the staff asked me if I could help. They needed an extra pair of hands to hold down the woman’s legs because even though she had cut both of her wrists and was losing blood, she was also fighting the staff to stop treating her and let her die. Two hours later, the staff was finally able to put her to sleep and take her to the operating room where they would eventually stop the bleeding.


Once I was able walk away, I overheard one of the EMTs from the ambulance and a police officer talking about how they found the woman. After she cut her wrists, a man found her outside of the house and called for an ambulance. While he waited for the ambulance to arrive, he took a shoelace and tied it around one of her wrists, hoping that action would stop some of the bleeding.


I don’t remember seeing the shoelace tied around her wrist. Maybe someone cut it off before I got there, or maybe I just didn’t notice it. Once I heard about the shoelace tied around her wrist, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I learned to tie my own shoelaces. How my parents, tired of getting down on one knee and my shoes’ dusty imprints on their pant legs, transformed the shoelaces into kid-comprehensible bunny ears and explained the knot. From that point onward, I could quickly and easily prevent an untied cleat from flying into the air after a kick on the soccer field or a scraped knee from tripping over my shoelaces. I would always know how to tie my shoelaces.


When I think back on the shoelace tied around the woman’s wrist, I imagine that when the man tied it, he wasn’t thinking about how he learned to tie his shoelaces. I imagine that despite the unmistakable difference between a shoe and a cut wrist and the action’s unforeseen purpose, nothing was stopping him from performing the nearly instinctual motion of tying the shoelace. And I imagine that ever since that moment, tying his shoelaces has been absent of childhood memory. I imagine because I will never know – I’ve only tied my shoelaces to my shoes.

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