"Hey there Doc, we have Bryan here. He was stabbed 9 or 10 times, we lost count. Heh heh (no one laughed at his stupid attempt at a joke). The worst one is the left chest. Oh, and the neck. Heh heh (again, no laughter). All the others look pretty superficial. Bleeding is controlled, and he's been stable for us the whole time."
The medics seemed to have gone through two or three boxes of gauze of various shapes and sizes while dressing all of Bryan's myriad wounds. Fortunately Bryan's girlfriend's knowledge of vital anatomy was on par with Donald Trump's knowledge of, well, anything, because there were no life-threatening injuries. A quick X-ray of his chest showed no penetration of the knife into the thoracic cavity, and on examination of his neck wound the platysma had not been violated. Whew. Still, he had an impressive series of lacerations on his left upper arm, left forearm, left chest, neck, left thigh, and right shoulder, all of which needed to be repaired.
In spite of myself, I said the one thing that I shouldn't have:
Of course, that's when the floodgates (also known as Bryan's mouth) opened.
"Man, fuck that bitch! I can't believe she did this to me!"
God damn it! Why the fuck did I say that? Nooooooo! Take it back! TAKE IT BACK!
"What the fuck is wrong with her? I'm gonna kill her. That bitch stabbed me what, 20 times? I'm gonna kill the bitch. I'm gonna fucking kill her. I'm gonna go home and kill her. Dead. Dead!"
He looked up right into my eyes.
At a loss for words, I looked imploringly over at the police officer who was standing right next to me and had been apparently waiting patiently to take Bryan's statement. He returned my quizzical glance, both of us too stunned to speak. But Bryan wasn't done. Not remotely.
"Fucking bitch. Gonna kill her. Gonna fucking kill her. Dead. She's dead. Bitch you want to stab me? You're gonna die."
I took a break from suturing, inhaled deeply, and tried my best not to sound too patronising.
"Sir, you may want to curb your violent enthusiasm until after the police officer here is done questioning you and leaves."
Bryan, however, was not to be discouraged.
"I don't give a fuck who's here! Let the police hear me! She stabbed me, I'm gonna stab her back. That bitch is GOING TO DIE."
I looked back at the police officer who simply smirked, shook his head, and wrote something in his little notebook, which I have to assume was something resembling "HOMICIDAL PSYCHOPATH, DO NOT LET NEAR GIRLFRIEND".
About an hour and 2,401 sutures later (I may be exaggerating slightly), Bryan was all fixed up and ready to go. I briefly went to check on another patient, and when I came back a few minutes later to give Bryan his discharge instructions ("1. Come see me in a week to get your sutures out, 2. Apply antibiotic ointment 2-3 times a day, 3) Don't kill your girlfriend"), he had a very fancy set of matching stainless steel bracelets on his wrists. I tried to question one of the other police officers who had come to take Bryan away, but all he would tell me was that "the official story had changed".
I decided to accept that and move on.
Had Bryan actually done something that warranted a moderate bloodletting? I don't know, and I will likely never find out. And to be perfectly honest, it doesn't matter one bit, because my job is to fix holes. Holes I can fix. People . . . not so much.
Regardless, what Bryan said was bad enough, and the way he said it made his situation even worse. But Bryan taught me a very important lesson: it isn't only what you say and how you say it, it's also to whom you say it.