2:30 am Saturday night. More like Sunday crack of dawn. The banging was getting so intense that Kevin poked his head out to ask the police officer, “Hey there, we have little kids so I was wondering if we need to evacuate.”
He apologized for the noise and assured us we didn’t have to evacuate.
The officer was there with about eight other firemen standing in our hallway. 2:30 am! Two firetrucks and an ambulance standing by outside.
Though I am the queen of rubbernecking, Kevin wouldn’t let me poke my head out lest a flying piece of door or wall get me. I couldn’t make out much from our peephole but I did know that the firemen were using an axe to force our neighbor’s door down.
The door that is inches away from ours. So close that when she and I are both unlocking our doors, we are practically touching.
We were shy about asking what was going on because er, they were busy AXING DOWN A DOOR. However, Kevin did manage to find out that our elderly neighbor had called 9-1-1 because she was sick and needed help. She could not come to the door.
Imagine being so sick that firemen have to bust down your door at 2:30 am. The loud banging, the drama, the walkie-talkies, the expense. The shame.
I was only able to think from the vantage point of a healthy, able-bodied thirty-something. I couldn’t fathom someone NOT being able to at least CRAWL to the door to avoid all that, if they were alert enough to call someone. My privileged, healthy ass just could not wrap my brain around it no matter how hard I tried. I would only understand if I ever found myself in her predicament.
Soon we heard her talking to the paramedics. Whew! She was alive.
Around 4 am we heard more commotion. I chose sleep over inquiring about new developments but Kevin, being the head of our household, got up to talk to the police officer in our hallway.
Our neighbor is a hoarder. When we first moved in, we had no idea but other neighbors told us. With disdain and digust.
The police officer told Kevin, “I don’t know how anyone lives like this.” Kevin agreed as he had to help her out during a storm. Kevin came back that day and said, “Let us never speak of this day again. My eyes have seen things I cannot unsee.”
I keep thinking about her as I stroll past her damaged door with the boys. Even as I type this, various workmen are tending to her home. Imagined her slumped over in her filthy apartment, helpless while listening to firemen break down her door to rescue her.
Does that mean she had NO ONE to call?
[Here, I have to confess that I also thought about how she has a three bedroom apartment that she pays below market for since she’s been here for decades, before it went co-op. Kevin and I both confessed that it had crossed our minds – if the co-op insisted that we buy her place for next to nothing, as long as we clean and fix it up. Even as drooled over the fantasy of THREE MORE BEDROOMS and ALL THAT SPACE, we didn’t know if we would take it due to the conditions. Anyways, I digress.]
I wondered what her life had been like before she started hoarding. Before she got so sick that she had to be rescued by police, firefighters, and paramedics. Was she lying there thinking, “How did I get here? How do I have no one? What happened to me? When did it get THIS bad?”
We have all experienced a Before. Before we got jaded. Before we became so resentful. Before we lost our way. Before we lost hope.
Unlike my neighbor, whose mental and physical health issues were on display this past weekend, many of us may LOOK like we are going about our lives, well-packaged and presentable, functioning in society with our own more tucked away demons. Even those of us with the shiny, happy Facebook profile pictures, have something that keeps us up at night.
Habits we have yet to break after years of trying. Addictions. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Insecurities. Emptiness. Feeling like failures in certain areas of our lives.
And not just the obvious addictions like drug, alcohol, gambling, or sex but other seemingly more innocuous “habits” like those who cannot be left alone, always having to avoid sitting with themselves by going on social media to avoid pain under the surface.
WE ALL HAVE SOME BROKENNESS.
So at first, I gasped at the Saturday night scene. And then I felt extra grateful that I have people to call before I call the paramedics (though just to be sure, I’mma have to email a few local friends and ask if they’d be willing to be my Pre-Paramedics phone call). And then I felt guilty for counting my own blessings at the expense of what our neighbor was going through.
And finally, I started praying that upon her return, she can find hope again.