I just didn’t anticipate touching a dead body, you know?
Wednesday morning, I woke up surprisingly un-refreshed after a night of bingeing episodes of HTGAWM in the sweltering heat. When I returned from dropping the girls off, the streets surrounding my neighborhood were all blocked due to re-pavement, so I had to park and walk. I was the camel, and the straws on my back were heavy that day; I was in a real crappy mood (I’m a crier).
I work from home and I usually check my emails and tidy up before settling into my Ogre form. Instead, I decided to shower again, wash the attitude away and put on some real clothes. Going into the bathroom, I heard my neighbor come home and I thought about the jar of balm I’ve been wanting to give him because he cycles, and is always very kind to my rambunctious kids. My anxiety and procrastination often hold hands, so I hadn’t spoken to him yet. Next time.
It was a little after 1pm; I was at the kitchen table going through case files when I heard my next door neighbor enter his apartment again. Odd, because I’d thought I’d heard him come in earlier. I was a little antsy, and it was about 30 minutes until “lunch” , so I went to go sweep the floor or something.
While moving things around, I heard a young girl yelling, but i didn’t register the words because.. I mind my business. I realized that she was screaming her uncles name, I heard the words “I don’t now, he’s face down”. I go outside and see my neighbors Niece, on the porch frantically speaking into her phone. Even then, I was still hesitant to insert myself. I asked “Is everything okay?”, I don’t know what the hell she said but clearly, it was not. I could hear the 911 operator asking for the address. Niece was hysterical, and I obviously know the address so I told the operator. She handed me the phone, so I continued to speak for her. If you’ve seen any show, ever, you know what’s next.
We entered the apartment, my neighbor lay face down in the hallway. There were blue splotches over his body and he didn’t have any shoes on. His niece tried to feel for a pulse; I touched his wrist and felt nothing, it was cold. The operator asked if we could turn him over. I certainly didn’t know if that was possible, but we did it. Of course his niece was still hysterical, she said she couldn’t look at his face. It wasn’t my uncle and it had to be done, so I told her not to look, it’s okay. I described what I saw, there was blood, his face was blue. For a second I wondered if I’d ever even looked this man in the face before, because I didn’t know the man laying there. The operator instructed me to do chest compressions until the paramedics arrived. There was no point. I took a class some time ago, so theoretically, I knew what to do. I could hear her counting the rhythm over the phone, I could hear the sirens coming down the street, I could hear “Staying Alive” by the BGs playing in my mind. It was only like 30 seconds or so before two Officers arrived and I backed the hell away from the body.
I really didn’t know what to do. I remembered the niece and went downstairs. The EMTs had arrived, and the other neighbors had begun to come see what was happening. The severity of the situation settled and I couldn’t get the words out. It took a second for them to calm me enough to relate what happened.
I walked back towards my apartment and watched as the paramedics came down the stairs each carrying various pieces of equipment. I made eye contact with the last to come down, and she answered the question I hadn’t yet asked. He’d been dead for hours.
I stood with the niece, she just kept asking why they weren’t taking him to the hospital? Her mother had arrived by that time and she asked me how her mom looked, what she was doing? As I looked up the staircase, I remembered that I was supposed be “at work”, and I’d been outside for ages. It seemed like so much time had passed, but my laptop hadn’t even gone idle.
Our porch is shared, so the mom was tucked in front of my door, trying to make her phone calls. You could imagine how difficult it was for her. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t stand. I noticed her daughter at the bottom of the stairs, still trying to figure out what exactly was going on. There were officers moving in and out of his unit, neighbors gathering in the walk way. I offered my apartment, so that she could step away and make her calls.
I watched as an officer broke the news to the niece. I watched a family’s heart break as one, as more and more arrived to hear the news of their brothers death. I watched the officers close down the apartment and make arrangements for the body to be moved.
His niece came to thank me for helping her and her mother, but I could only apologize in return.
Life is weird. Life is moving. Life is not to be taken for expected.