God, what a surreal afternoon walk.

I wrote just a few weeks ago,

“A few months ago, when my Mum was visiting and had a bad fall, I could literally put my arms around her to help lift her to her feet. Knowing that I would not be able to put my arms around her or any other loved ones who fell ill with this virus is the intolerable prospect.”

I didn’t even think about the possibility—or problematic nature—of having to help a stranger to their feet during a pandemic. But then I saw her, this afternoon, a stranger sitting on the sidewalk outside my doorstep, as if she was waiting for me to get back from my walk. But she wasn’t sitting by choice, she had fallen, she was in complete shock, I must have arrived seconds after she fell because at first I didn’t see the blood, but then it started to soak through her mask. She spit the blood filling her mouth onto the sidewalk. When she took off her mask the whole lower half of her face was covered in blood like she was a vampire who’d just had a really good meal, and she must have seen the look on my face because she said, “I look pretty bad, eh?”

“There’s a lot of blood,” I said, cautiously, “but I think it’s your lip and I think lips bleed a lot, I don’t think it necessarily means it’s a really bad cut.”

She was maybe in her seventies. She didn’t have a phone with her, she didn’t want me to call 911 or drive her to urgent care and she couldn’t remember her roommate’s phone number. I asked if she thought she could get up and she said yes, but, even in her shock, she was adamant she didn’t want me to touch her. So I didn’t. I just picked up her broken glasses and she agreed to let me walk her to her apartment, a couple of blocks away.

“I’m Joy, by the way,” she said. I introduced myself and she apologized for interrupting my walk.

She walked fast. I had to tell her to slow down because she didn’t want me to walk close to her but I was worried she would fall again.

“Don’t get too close to me, we should be social distancing,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “it’s just my instinct.”

“It’s good I have the mask on,” she said, as we walked, “so I don’t scare people.”

Her roommate was home. I stood on the doorstep while Joy washed her face. She came back and showed me that it seemed to be just her lip that was cut through.

“But you could have a concussion,” I said. “I know, my Mum fell last year. You need to keep an eye on her,” I told her roommate.

Joy was grateful for my concern but insisted that I go, assuring me that her roommate or one of her neighbors could drive her if she needed to go to the urgent care. Afterwards I thought I should have left my phone number.

I walked home in a daze. Her blood is still on the sidewalk outside my front door.

Update: I left her a note on her doorstep this morning asking her to let me know that she was OK; she did, thankfully, go the Urgent Care last night where they did a CAT scan; she also got four stitches in her lip. She’s now back home resting.


blood on the sidewalk

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