The Missing Ingredient

The ambulance was cruising across the highway. Another restless shift. Why couldn’t he just be a fireman? Just having boring shifts playing cards with the guys and maybe once every few months going to fight some fire which most of the time ended up being a malfunction in the fire alarm. After all that’s what he wanted. A nice job he can have fun and get paid for it. Nothing too much. Well, of course, that’s what most of the human kind wanted. But only few chosen ones actually live to have it. Most just find themselves with a job they can’t stand and a boss they can’t stand even more. It was always a hard choice for him. In any of his jobs he found himself contemplating with the existential question of why can’t he stand his job? Is it because of the actual job or is it because of his boss? Since he couldn’t find the answer he just waited for his boss to be replaced. If it was the job he couldn’t stand, a new boss won’t make it better. If it was the boss to blame, he might start having fun.

 

He always liked cooking. That was probably the first thing he would have done if not being a paramedic. Well, as long as he doesn’t need to wake up every day to drive somewhere to do it. He liked cooking for his friends. He was actually in the process of cooking his favorite dish before jumping on the ambulance. He learned how to make this dish from some one-time guest in a cooking show he watched a few years ago. Just five more minutes in the oven and it was done. Maybe it’s for the best. There was always something missing with this dish. He remembered the guy in the show reading off the ingredient list. A phone call. He missed the last ingredient. Only one. His friends always gave him compliments for every dish he made. Not for that one. Something was missing. They called it the “unfinished dish”. No girlfriend stayed with him more than a week after cooking this dish. Women like guys who cook but only if they cook something to their taste. He knew the one missing ingredient could make the difference. He will win the perfect girl. That one ingredient would have made the dish a masterpiece. Instead of being remembered in the hospital as a paramedic that used to cook he will be remembered as an unforgettable cook that used to be a paramedic. If only he would have received this dreadful phone call one second later. His life would have meant something. He googled all over the internet and found like seventeen different ways to make the dish but none was the one he saw in that cooking show. He even tried calling the TV station but they told him the program is going off air due to low rating and they have better things to do than help someone find some so-called missing ingredient. He never got a hold of the actual show guest who made the dish.

 

The guy lying on the bed near him was definitely fighting for his life. Connected to all those machines it was obvious it’s going to be a miracle if he makes it to the hospital. He asked him to hold his hand. Looks like he was afraid to die. How does it feel like knowing the end is near? You are about to disappear from earth and if there is no heaven, reincarnation or even hell it doesn’t look like you are going to exist in any form or even get another chance. That’s all. You finish your life as “Mr. X”. If you just knew in advance. Maybe you wouldn’t have bought so many groceries that will stay to rot in the refrigerator. And you probably wouldn’t have waited so long to buy that huge TV you always dreamed of having. You could have had six donuts instead of the one you get for breakfast. After all, who cares about obesity in the last day of his life? Maybe people with cancer should consider themselves lucky. After all they have some advance notice. They can at least plan their grocery shopping better.

 

Traffic jam. Cars trying to clear the way but there is still nowhere to go. It’s not a good idea to die in a rush hour. If you can, better do it in early morning. If you woke up too late try to stay alive during the day, make sure the roads are clear and then have your heart attack. Early evening was the time between shifts and usually the “day shift” didn’t have the same patience to deal with a patient who decided to die during rush hour. They might connect him to life sustaining machines before doing everything they can to save him. He wondered if anyone ever checked statistically how many people in a life-threating situation died during the rush hour compared to other times of the day. He just wished the ambulance would make it to the hospital soon. His favorite team is on TV tonight.

 

The dying guy’s grip of his hand got tighter. Desperately trying to hold into life. But, taking all into consideration, the guy should feel lucky. There are much worse ways to die. Like in a plane crash or burning to death in some public building. When you die you want to be alone. Think about your life, your childhood, your first kiss, your first sex and your loved ones. Going back to life intersections where you could have taken a different path. Where you might have been today? For sure not in the ambulance. All those people screaming around you, sharing their death with yours distract this thought process. You might start feeling sorry for everyone else around you. It is hard enough feeling sorry for yourself. Much better dying here in the ambulance holding hands with the paramedic.

 

He stared directly into the dying guy’s sad eyes. He looked somewhat familiar. Dead people looked the same lying there. Same fear. How does it feel to die alone? No one was at the house besides him when they came. While he was still able to talk he didn’t mention anyone else. He looked lonely. Just like him. One lonely dying guy holding hands with one lonely living guy. Maybe that’s one of the main reasons you stick with your spouse, if you have one, after the age of sixty. You don’t like her, she annoys you, it feels like hell on earth to be with her in the same house but – she is going to be there in the ambulance. Sitting near you, holding your hands, maybe even crying. It makes you feel good to see someone crying on you when you are dying. Even if they are faking it so you won’t feel bad. If you are leaving this world while someone is still crying on you, you know that you made a difference. If not you, this someone might have been having fun on the beach right now. Instead he is sitting here crying.

 

The dying guy was fully dressed. Probably just came back from work. Somebody should call his office. Let them know he is not going to make it tomorrow. What if there is a major project for which he is supposed to give a presentation tomorrow. Actually, that might have been one of the reasons he had the heart attack in the first place. The room filled with all managers waiting for him to come and give the presentation. Checking their phones. The presentation is about to start. The company is going to lose so much money by having so many managers doing nothing for one hour. Almost as much as it is going to lose having them doing something in this one hour. His boss is frustrated. Thinking, why did I do this? Why did I give him this responsibility? I should have done the presentation myself if only I didn’t delegate my role to everyone around me so I can make it on time to the dates with my mistress. He shouldn’t have counted on anyone else beside himself. He never felt confident putting the project in the hands of this guy. He was always late. This time is one time too many. He better have a good reason or he is out of here. He will probably have some excuse, as usual. Something about the traffic or his mother not feeling good. He is history in this company. Not even one month’s notice. He is out today. If he can only give the presentation himself, the manager kept thinking. But what’s the point of being a manager if you are actually doing something that someone else can do much better than you?

 

He looked at the guy’s phone lying beside him. He was not lonely after all. Still had the ultimate friend, his phone. Did he have enough time to post a Facebook message saying goodbye? What about his account? Who will inherit all his wonderful pictures and funny posts? What about his Facebook friends? Are they going to come to his funeral? Are they actually going to miss him? Are they even going to notice he is dead? Some people die in their cubes while no one notices for few hours. How long does it take your Facebook friends to notice you are not posting anything? A week? Month? Year? How can they even notice when each has more than five hundred friends? Unless he unfriended them just before he was about to die. They might notice a change in the number of friends. But it will take them some time to find who it was.

 

He used to google the names of the people in the ambulance. It was interesting to see who they were, what they did in their lives. Not every time he found the right one. After all he couldn’t search for something like “Mr. X dying in an ambulance”. His phone was dead. He looked at the guy’s phone. No, he can’t do it. He can’t use the phone of a dying man. Well, still not dead but definitely on the fast lane for being one. He looked again at the phone. Maybe only this one time. Nobody is going to notice. He really wanted to google his name. The last respect he can give to someone lonely who has no one to cry on his dying bed. At least he will know who this guy was. And then, holding his hand he will feel something for him. Not like a spouse, a family member or even old friend but still something. Before the guy takes his last breath he will see someone caring for him.

 

He took the phone. The weak battery signal flashed. The battery was dying, just like its owner. They were close to the hospital. Even if the guy lying here is not dead by then, he will definitely be dead by the beginning of his next shift. He holds the phone gently almost trying not to annoy the battery hoping it will give him a few more valuable seconds. Not much time. The last thing he can afford to happen now is someone opening the door and finding him playing with the phone of a dying patient. He will probably need to look for a job as a cook. He checked again the name of the guy on the medical board. With shaking hands he typed the name. The search engine gave few results. He checked images related to the guy. Few faces appeared. One of them resembled the dying man. The phone beeped about to turn off. Last few seconds. He must find who this poor guy is. He pressed on the guy’s face on the screen and was redirected to a website. Some TV channel. He scrolled down looking for his name. There was a link to a cooking show with a list of guests. The guy name was the last one. He checked again the name of the TV channel. The name was familiar. It was the same channel he watched the cooking show with the missing ingredient. He looked at the guy again. The phone. The guy. The phone. The guest. The phone. The cook. The phone. The missing ingredient. It can’t be. It just can’t be. That’s him. That’s the last guest of the cooking show he watched. The phone died.

 

Here in front of him was lying the guy that meant so much to him. Gave a reason to his existence. His hero. He got his last chance to find the missing ingredient. Here he is sitting in front of the treasure. He just needs to find the combination to the lock.

 

He didn’t think twice. He pushed the guy aggressively waking him up. “Wake up, Wake up, please!!! I have a question. One question and then you can die!” The cook opened his eyes, probably for the last time. “Remember the show? The cooking show? What was the last ingredient? Please. Just tell me. The last ingredient. Please!” He yelled not caring if anyone would open the ambulance door. He must find the missing ingredient. The cook looked at him. He understands! He understands what he was saying. “Please”, he cried, “Please help me. What was the last ingredient???” The cook looked suffering. He was making an effort to say something. He start uttering some unrecognized words and crashed shutting his eyes for the last time. The recognized dead monotonous sound came from the machine. He cried like he never cried before. All he wanted was the missing ingredient. The ingredient missing from his dish, from his life, from his happiness. He took the cook like a baby in his arms. Someone cared for him after all.

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