Sunday, June 05, 2011


This morning at 8:30, I was walking out of the apartment to head to the gym, untangling my headphones in my hands, when I heard our next-door neighbor yelling for help inside his apartment.  "Help me!  Help me!  Is anyone there?  Please help me!"  I continued walking down the first flight of stairs before I stopped and came back up.  I called to him through the door.  From what I could understand, he said he had been stuck in his bathtub for two days, and could I go to the superintendent and get the keys to his apartment.  I said I would.  I went downstairs and knocked on the super's door, and got no response.  I called him and left a voice message.  I knocked on my neighbor's door and he started yelling again -- "Help!  Someone, please!" -- and his voice faltered.  He must have thought I had left.

I conferred with L and we decided to call the police.  She called 911 and spoke to the operators.  Soon other neighbors had gathered with us outside of his door: the neighbor who was the reason we called 911 the last time, a girl doing her laundry.  When the police arrived at the building, they buzzed our neighbor's apartment to be let in, which struck me as grimly hilarious.  Key in hand, the superintendent came spilling out of the elevator with the cops and EMTs.  Everyone went inside the apartment.  We hung back, afraid to look through the doorway.  They were worried about what kind of mess they might find.
A few minutes later they rolled our neighbor out in a rickety wheelchair that looked like lawn furniture.  He was wrapped from head to toe in a white bedsheet, with his skinny legs dangling and his gnarled feet dragging on the floor tile.  He was every figure of the Pieta.  His body was bisected by bright orange straps tied tightly to secure him.   They asked him his name and if he knew his social.  Soon he and the police and EMTs had all vanished back down the elevator.  L said, "Should we wish him good luck?," but by the time we tried to say it they had already gone.  Before they left one of the cops made sure his lights and air conditioner were turned off. 

A few of us were still on the landing.  The super said he didn't mind helping our neighbor.  He was old and alone, and not all there.  Lou Gehrig's disease.  From our apartment we can hear him playing classical music most of the time, and yelling to himself when he gets frustrated.

In the afternoon we saw the neighbor from the last 911 call, who said he was going to the hospital to check on the man.  Since he's all alone, you know.  But before he left for the hospital, our neighbor had to check the building directory posted by the buzzer to make sure he knew the man's last name.

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