Last night a strange thing happened. It was a rainy night, dark and stormy and unusually warm for this time of year. Although it was a Friday night, I went to bed early as I had to work in the morning. having just turned off the light and already half asleep, J pounds up the stairs and yells,”Call an ambulance! There is a man lying in the gutter outside our house!”
Instantly my mother is on the phone (later, she tells me she wanted to phone 411 but J set her straight) and I, in my pyjamas and slippers race downstairs after J. Indeed, there is a man lying wedged between a minivan and the sidewalk right in front of our house. He is an elderly gentleman, stout of build and dressed meticulously in a dark suit with a sweater vest. His umbrella is lying crumpled on the sidewalk, his baseball cap (?) and glasses neglected beside him. He is lying as dignified as possible with his legs straight out and his hands crossed over his chest as if he were already in his coffin and this was his wake. J tries in vain to wake him up but he is dead to the world, although still breathing.
My first aid training kicks in, and I do a quick sweep of the area to make sure there is nothing dangerous around him. Then I yell into his ears in both English and French. For my efforts, I get a fluttering of the hands, a grunt and whiff of alcohol that does not leave me all night.
As his head is in danger of falling back into the gutter where the water is accumulating rapidly, J gets a blanket from downstairs and stuffs it under his head. In the meantime, my mother is on the balcony yelling down questions from the 911 dispatcher. Is he breathing? yes. We yell up that we think he is drunk. This hypothesis is confirmed by a passerby who saw him weaving down the street. The ambulance is on its way. My mother brings down two umbrellas and there is nothing else to do but wait.
J and I stand over the man trying our best to shield him from the rain and waiting for the ambulance. They come and load him onto the gurney, say a quick, “thanks” and leave. J and I go back upstairs, my nostrils filled with the smell of ingested alchohol and an ineffable sadness hovering just above our stomachs.