Normal Tuesday. Arrival of cleaners in their shiny white van. Me, online reading retched, retched stories of former church and wishing I could turn back time to not attend that party where we met that abominable human being who got us both into this mess. Yes. Both. Even though I have seen the light, I still feel bad for him. Was always week. Without will power. They’ve got him by the balls and he doesn’t even know it.
Two things happened. Mechanical gates opened. Just opened. Not closed. And was not proceeded by the exit of the cleaning van, or any other vehicle.
Went back to online scouting, anger burning in a pit of stomach.
Heard distance sound of ambulance. Thought to self — huh. Have not heard ambulance here in country. Which took me back to days in London. Constant sounds of sirens; a city melody.
Noticed, through reverie, that sound of ambulance getting louder. As in, closer.
And yes, before I knew it, inside of cottage was lit up by red and blue lights. Van passed my window, sirens deadened, ambulance slowed. And passed through the gates.
Burnt stomach flooded with fear. Mortified. Something had happened to Landlord.
Thankfully had just been outside for cigarette — shoes were already on. And, by a stroke of luck had put bra on this morning. Is a rarity these days. What is point of putting on bra when you’re not even leaving house? But shoes and bra meant I could run the moment I saw ambulance.
Crashed at the back of the cottage, across field, and climbed over fence. Driveway is most direct root. Ran faster than have run in a long, long time. One of the ambulance drivers was getting gear out of van. Other, evidently, all ready inside. Door was open.
Foyer full of people. Three cleaners, ambulance driver, and Landlord. He was on floor, at the base of the stairs; hair ruffled. Ambulance man was bent over, holding a finger out for Landlord to follow.
The other paramedic moved passed me with a bag, and together the two men started working on the Landlord. They were checking the back of his head.
‘Just a little cut. Not worth any stitches. Will have a bit of an egg, though.’
Next was his wrist. He’d sprained it, but not broken it. His knee was swollen again, just bruised.
I was standing there, next to the large guided mirror, unnoticed by everyone for quite a while. Until Landlord spotted me. Gave me the weakest smile.
Discussions between paramedic and staff. They’d found Landlord at the bottom of the stairs, out cold when they arrived. Think that was the moment I started to feel sick. Had it not been Tuesday, Landlord would have stayed there for days. I certainly had no intention of going to see him. He could have died. Could have started to decompose before anyone noticed. Why? Because he’s alone. And yet, he doesn’t have to be. Here I am, at the bottom of his drive. Am so self-absorbed, I’ve not even had the thought of going to visit my Parkinson’s suffering neighbour.
Officers started talking about whether Landlord was able to walk to ambulance, or if the should get the stretcher.
Landlord was resisting. No. He did not want to go to hospital. Was fine. No need.
‘Mate, you’re concussed,’ the first paramedic said. ‘Have to take you in to be monitored at least.’
When Landlord continued to shake his head, he was told that if he fell asleep, he might wake up. ‘If you had someone living with you who could monitor you, fair enough. But you live alone, mate.’
Could tell, despite everything, the use of the term ‘mate’ was grating Landlord. Could never introduce him to my father, then.
With a tilt of the head Landlord acquiesced. I stepped forward. Surely, surely, I could be of some use?
‘I couldn’t ask you to do that,’ Landlord said, surprising everyone. Took me a moment to realise was because I had said nothing, so they all thought Landlord was talking nonsense.
Raised eyebrows at Landlord in meaningful way.
‘Very well,’ he conceded.
Paramedic turned to me. Was given instructions. Was to keep him awake. Set an alarm for every hour on the hour. Ice his knee and wrist. Be prepared for vomiting. There’d be a lot of vomiting.
I, of course, knew all of this. Have been concussed myself. Hit on head with cricket ball as child. Spent evening in hospital being shaken awake by frantic nurses every hour. Would dream of people calling out to me, waking to find wide-eyed nurses shaking me by the shoulders.
After taping of knee, head and ankle, the paramedics were satisfied all was well and we all helped Landlord to the downstairs bedroom.
Left one of the cleaners — small one who had visited me at the cottage — with Landlord. Paramedics dropped me off home so could get supplies. Change of clothes given I’d be at the main house overnight, phone so could communicate better with Landlord and for the alarm. Also, and I know this is cheeky, I grabbed my washing, too. A book. My laptop. Two packets of cigarettes. In my defence, looking after Landlord would mean staying awake for twenty-four hours. Needed something to keep me awake.
Which meant copies amounts of coffee. Started intake of caffeine the moment arrived back at the house. Landlord has a Nespresso machine. Enough said.
Popped head in spare room. Landlord awake? Yes, yes, all is well.
Popped clothes in washing machine, weaving around cleaners who were moving around the kitchen with stunning efficiency. Was almost like a dance, watching them work.
Popped back into bedroom. Landlord awake? Yes, yes, all is well.
Pointed iPhone at Landlord with question on screen, asking where his phone was. Bedroom, he said.
Cleaners had already been in the room. Air smelt fresh, deodorised, had diagonal hoover lines.
Yes, have been in bedroom before. For the dinner-making debacle. Took in what I could on that night, yes, but not everything. Like the gilded tray on drawers. Meant for the odd bits and pieces men extract from their pockets at the end of the day. Wallets, notes, coins, receipts, bits of fluff, butter menthols and other suchlike. Imagine having to go through that routine every night. Thank goodness we women have handbags. Mind you, am sure it is not a routine Landlord completes daily. There’s no need for him to carry around a wallet when he barely leaves the house. To be honest, there’s no need for him to have a mobile when he has no one to call. Perhaps he enjoys playing Candy Crush.
Anyway. Next to this tray. Small, quite insignificant (but perhaps significant in its small size) a picture frame.
A stunning dark-eyed beauty with waves of luxurious brown hair.
Interesting. Landlord has once loved.
Returned downstairs with phone and charger. Cleaners departing. Shake of the head. No, no, there is nothing else you can do for me.
Back in the spare room. Landlord okay? No. Not all well. Had vomited all over sheets. Blasted concussion. Why does it make you vomit so much?
Landlord humiliated. Could tell was more than just his current situation. Was looking into his future. Have been researching it myself. Up until now the only example of Parkinson’s I’ve had is Michael J Fox. Landlord in for a rough time of it. Increasing tremors, plant-foot (where feet will become rooted to the floor, unable to move) depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction and dementia. The fall, I expect, is bringing it all home to him.
Despite my rejections (ie; slapping his hands away) Landlord helped me change the sheets. Put them in the wash — my own were dry; waiting to be folded.
Vomiting continued — I gave Landlord a bucket which I found in the laundry. Wondered if this was the designated vomit bucket. Had one when I was small. Was only ever brought out when I was poorly and had no other use. Was orange, small, and had a handle on the side. Like a measuring jug but without the sprout.
Made toast for dinner. Did not want to give Landlord anything which would disrupt his stomach. On one, the tiniest bit of jam to get some sugar into his system.
He is yet to vomit it up.
I found him pyjamas for this evening. Like an idiot I unbuttoned the shirt, thinking it would make it easier for him to put it on but when I went back in the room, finding him lying there with his chest on display, I remembered too late that he can’t manage the buttons. Tried my best to do up the shirt without my knuckles brushing against his skin. Impossible. Landlord just as uncomfortable with the process as I was — pulling up the duvet to cover himself for some semblance of dignity.
Alarms set. Am ready for the evening. I think it will be a long one.