I heard talking. I heard the door close and my husband make his way back to the bedroom.
“What’s going on? What did they want?” I was really tired and really wanted to go back to sleep. “What time is it?”
“There’s been an accident next door and they needed a broom.”
“An accident? A broom? Who needed a broom?”
“He kept saying something in French, then did some rowing movements. I finally figured out he needed a broom.”
“Why did he need a broom? What’s happened? What time is it?”
My husband had a serious look on his face. “Ah … I think someone fell out of a window and into the flat next door. They need to sweep up the broken glass.”
“The police and fire brigade are here. I think they’re going to try to lift him out of a window.”
“What?” I got up and looked out the window and saw a fire truck and ambulance. There were police, fire fighters and ambulance workers running in and out of the building. It was all strangely quiet – no sirens, no police radios, no running engines, no talking. There were just people moving up and down our stairs, in and out of our building, doing their jobs, quietly. If something terrible has happened shouldn’t there be noise?
“A man fell out of a window and into the flat next door? How is that possible?” I demanded. I was still asleep and crabby.
“I don’t know,” my husband said. He was tired and confused himself, “But I think that’s what’s happened.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know,” he said. “But, that’s what’s happened.”
“He fell into next door? How could that work? Our building is straight up and down with no balconies. If you fall out of a window, you end up on the ground. Not in the flat next door.”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Oh, my god. Is there anything we can do?”
“I think stay out their way and let them do their jobs.”
“But I don’t understand what happened,” I said.
My husband shrugged.
Neither of us could go back to sleep. My husband started to clean the kitchen. He had to be busy and I don’t think he knew what else to do.
What the hell was going on? I went to the door and tentatively looked out through the peep-hole. I saw emergency workers move past the door. I grew a bit bolder and opened the door a crack. A view into the flat next door was reflected in the hall window. I could see people moving inside the flat and quite close to the door. Apparently they were working on someone in the middle of the flat. The middle of the flat? How did he fall into the middle of the flat so far away from the windows?
Emergency workers passed, met my eyes but did not say anything. One female police officer kept walking to the door of the flat next door, then back across the hall to the top of the stairs, and then back to the door. A fellow officer came up and looked at her. “You ok?” he quietly seemed to ask. She shrugged. He grabbed her hand quickly and gave it a little squeeze. I thought, they must see some awful things. The quietness added to the tension. I wanted to yell, “What the hell happened here?”
I stopped a police officer in the hall but could only whisper, “What happened?”
“A man fell out of a 4th floor kitchen window to the 2nd floor,” he said quietly and straightforwardly.
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Neither do I.”
Then I heard some noise in the flat next door. Then a voice, “What are you doing to me?”
Oh my god, the man who fell was American.
“What are you doing to me?” he said again, confused but loud and clear.
“Monsieur, you are in Paris, Monsieur. You are sick. We need to take you to the hospital,” replied the quiet, calming French female voice.
“I’m not sick. I’m not that sick. What are you doing to me?”
“Monsieur, we have to take you to the hospital,” she replied, again quietly.
“But I don’t want to go to the hospital,”
“Monsieur, do you live alone?”
“Yes, I am alone. I don’t want to go to the hospital. I’m fine,” he said loudly and defiantly.
“We have to take you. We have to take care of you.”
Then he whispered, “I am scared.” All his force had gone.
“I know,” she said softly. “Monsieur, we will take care of you.”
Everything was quiet again.
It’s been a week since the fall and, despite speaking to several neighbours and the concierge who lives in and looks after the building, I don’t know much more about what happened. No one is clear about the story. Some did not even hear anything happening. I even had a cheeky look into the vacant apartment next door while the builders repaired the broken window. I know that the man who fell is named John and he is from New York. I know he was only visiting Paris for the weekend but will be in hospital for a long time.
I also found out that John has friends in Paris who are looking after him. I did not find this out until Wednesday. Until I got this information I kept hearing him say in his clear American accent that he was alone and that he was scared. I also kept finding myself imagining what it would feel like to break through a window – the impact with the glass on my head and back just before the glass gave way, my arm hitting the frame, my head and back landing on the bed of broken pieces and these pieces imbedding into my skin. I kept thinking that the medic spoke English, but what if she hadn’t. I kept thinking about the fact that until Sunday morning, neither I nor my husband knew the emergency number here in France.
I feel better knowing that he is not by himself so far away from home. I still don’t understand what happened, but whatever happened I wish John a speedy recovery.