How NOT to respond in an emergency: Italy 2013

looking down from window

looking down from window

I gazed down at Jay. He lay on the grass, a couple of metres from the tiled walkway, definitely moving, legs in the air.

Leaning out, I called softly, not wanting to disturb the household in case this was a hallucination. “Jay? What’s happening?”

“I don’t know.” His tone matched mine, quiet, puzzled. “But my back really hurts.”

Moving as through sludge, I made my way down the uneven stone stairs inside the house, through the hallway and kitchen. The clock read midnight, only an hour since we’d gone to bed. I stumbled out onto the terrace and around the corner.

“Jay, did you fall out the window?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

Hearing nothing in his voice to suggest he’d suffered a traumatic fall, no pain or panic, I asked. “How did you get here?”

“No idea. “

“Are you okay?”

He turned on his side and manoeuvred himself onto his hands and knees, then collapsed. “I don’t know.”

As he rolled over, in the dim light from the terrace, I saw a large scratch across his lower back. It was bleeding but not badly, blood pearling on the skin, a nasty scrape. I couldn’t see any other damage. Upon request, he demonstrated that he could move all his limbs, turn his head.

“Help me get up,” he said.

I tried but he couldn’t get any further than hands and knees. “I’ll go get help,” I said.

“No, no, don’t wake them.”

“Jay, I have to. You’ve hurt yourself.”

“Okay, okay.” He sounded irritated. I couldn’t see his expression. “But bring me my robe.” He was naked under the stars.

I felt as though I was seeing double: on the one hand I couldn’t see how he’d ended up out there if he hadn’t fallen out the window. On the other I couldn’t see how he could have fallen out the window and still be so functional and calm.

I beetled back upstairs, grabbed his robe and knocked on Michael’s door. There was no point waking both of them. Jay needed help getting up. I couldn’t do it – he’s much bigger than me, but Michael could. Then we’d get him back to bed…or something.

Michael responded almost instantly. “Yes?”

“Sorry Michael, but ah… well, Jay’s hurt himself. I think he fell out the window.”

“WHAT?” Michael flung open the door. He looked tousled, red-eyed. “WHAT?”

“Shhh. Let’s not wake Scarlett.”

“Meg, he can’t have fallen out the window.”

It seemed increasingly unlikely. The windows were large and swung open, but they weren’t French doors. The sill must have been 18 inches off the floor. You could not just walk out that window.

windows from inside

windows from inside

The two of us padded back down and out into the warm night. Cicadas chirped, otherwise all was quiet. I helped Jay into his robe. He apologized for the disruption. Michael asked all the same questions I had. The last thing Jay could remember was going to bed.

“Well you can’t have fallen out that window,” said Michael. We gazed up at it, impossibly high above us.

windows (upper level) from outside

windows (upper level) from outside

Michael continued, “You must have come down to the terrace and slipped on the steps.” There were three steps down to the walkway, one more to the grass.

I nodded. That made more sense, but it was weird he didn’t remember. And I had not heard him leave the room. Still I’d been mostly asleep…

We couldn’t get him up. He rolled one way, then the other, grunting in pain.

I woke Scarlett and filled her in, my teeth chattering despite the warm night.

Scarlett frowned. “Well, he can’t have fallen out the window. Michael’s right.”

We all gathered around Jay on the grass. He still didn’t seem to be in grave pain and spoke quietly, as though we were discussing a minor logistical problem. Then he started to shiver. Violently. We sprang into action, found a sleeping bag and covered him. We kept mumbling to each other that if he could just rest, he’d feel better, as though he had sprained an ankle. We decided we must get him off the damp grass and dragged a mattress out of the living room. Somehow we got him onto it. We brought him water to drink. Although no one articulated it, we just couldn’t fathom how to get emergency assistance in the middle of the night in a country where we didn’t speak the language. It would, we reasoned poorly, be easier in the morning.

Then Michael asked, “Meg, when you came down, did you have to unlock the door to get out here?”

“Yes.” I recalled struggling with the heavy bolt.

We stared at each other, horrified. He had fallen out the window. We needed serious help. Immediately.

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4 Responses to How NOT to respond in an emergency: Italy 2013

  1. I remember this from the group. This is a big improvement. The incredulity really comes through.

  2. David Pratt says:

    Hi Meg, Thank you for keeping me in the loop with your fascinating and horrifying story, and as usual brilliant prose. David

    Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2014 17:49:37 +0000 To: dpratt1939@hotmail.com

  3. martine beland says:

    I’m living every moment as if I was there! What a nightmare……………………so happy to know it ends well!! xoxo

  4. Sheila Noyes says:

    Meg, I got “goose bumps” reading this. You are such a writer, and the story is compelling.

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