Friday, June 02, 2006

The Locusts Have Arrived

Strap on your seatbelts. Today was the day that the universe chose to show me it reads my blog.

Whenever one asks, "Seriously -- can it get worse?" the universe laughs and shows you that it can. What I am about to tell you may totally gross you out, freak you out, or make you feel sorry for me. Let me just say up front that it's OK if you laugh. In fact laughing about it this afternoon with CrabbyKate from TTLU was about the only bit of sanity I had all day.

I decided to stay in bed this morning. It should have been a sign. Even though I had the day off, Nate was scheduled to go to daycare and I begged the Dog to take him on his way to work, so that I wouldn't have to put clothes on before noon. I had a day of last-week's-laundry, possible brunch and a doctor's appointment planned. I woke up at 11 and realized that if I was going to shower and make my 12:30 appointment, I'd better leave the laundry for later.

I was having a quick chat with my mom, when all of a sudden I heard something that can only be described as the equivalent of 20 raccoons in a Royal Rumble. Then I realized it was coming from one person. Then I realized it was coming from next door.

Now I live in a pretty "upcoming" (read:sketch) part of town. So crazy noises are normal and, therefore, normally ignored. The next door neighbours, with whom we share a wall, are two middle-aged sisters, one of whom (Ivya) suffers from seizures and has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. They are lovely people, but it is also quite normal to hear strange things through the thin joint wall.

But after the shrieking subsided slightly, I heard Gwen, the (I hate to use the word) normal sister running up the stairs. Then I heard her say, "OH MY GOD! I'M CALLING 911!" I hung up with my mom quickly, put some clothes on and went next door immediately.

The front door was open. "Gwen, it's Nadine. I heard some screaming. Are you all right? Can I do anything to help?"

"Oh yes, come quick!" I race up the stairs. Gwen is on a regular phone that has about 30 feet of extension cabling on it. Remind me to buy her a cordless for Christmas. I realize she is on the phone with 911. It is all happening so fast. I see a blood trail leading to the bathroom, where Ivya is standing with her hand over the sink, wrapped in a towel, shaking and crying hysterically like a child.

"What happened?" I asked dumbfounded. "She cut her finger," Gwen replied. Oh, I thought, OK we can deal with that. But she wasn't done her sentence. ""

I was stunned silent.

"We have to find the finger," Gwen said, intermittently talking to 911. Faaaack. Why did I sign up for this again? OK, I went into autopilot as Gwen lead me into the bedroom. The spartan room had a desk, a TV and a twin bed with an old tan bedspread that was now soaked in blood. I tried to look around without touching the blood, and not looking too carefully because really, who wants to see a dismembered finger? "Um, I don't see any finger..." Maybe it's lost for good. Maybe I'm off the hook.

"Ivya, where's the finger?"
"In the windooooow." Crying, sobbing, crying.

Oh fuck. Yup, there it is. There is some skin sticking out of where the old window must've guillotined her finger off. She was trying to open it, but the sides didn't catch and it slammed back down faster than she could react.

"We have to get the finger," Gwen repeated, this time with more urgency. Oh fuck. By "we" she means ME! Oh dear sweet Jesus. I press the tabs on the window and lift. There it is. An entire tip of a finger, including the entire fingernail, right up to the first joint. I noted two things immediately: it looked fake, like a Halloween prop; and it oddly looked like a white woman's finger tip, even though Ivya is from Trinidad. It had been completely drained of blood.

"I'll need something to pick it up with and something to put it in," I tell her. She returns with a Ziploc bag (which may or may not have had bits of old sandwich in it) and some Kleenex. I was kinda hoping for stainless steel thongs. And maybe some gloves like Marg Helgenberger wears on CSI. No dice. I gingerly picked up the finger tip, careful not to feel it or have too much contact with it. I drop it in the Ziploc and hand it to Gwen.

I'm standing in the hallway. Ivya waves me over. "It hurts so much!" I rub her back and try to calm her down. "I was just trying to open the window. It's my right hand too, now I won't be able to draw anymore."

"It's going to be OK," I try to console her. "The same thing happened to the Dog when he was little, and they were able to reattach it. You're going to be just fine. Hang in there." It saddened me to think that one of this woman's few joys might be taken away from her. I think of Gwen, caring for and parenting this sibling that no one else would take in once their mother passed. I think about the bonds of love, the obligations, the duties, the hard work, the sacrifice.

The paramedic arrives and instructs me to get some ice. "Between you and me," he murmurs, "where this finger is cut, they won't reattach it." He is sardonic, but in a job where on any given day you might find someone who has been dead for 13 days, I can see why he is numb to the situation.

I did my usual cheerleader bit and tried to keep spirits up as best I could. The paramedic loaded Ivya into his car, as Gwen locked up and decided to follow in hers. With Ivya safely esconced in the car, he caught my eye, held up the bag with the finger, and shook his head and winked. I had to laugh.

TO BE CONTINUED... (yes, that wasn't the end of it.)

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