image source: mathtourist.blogspot.com

“Let’s leave earlier so I can go see if I have any mail at the old apartment” I told my then boyfriend Rocky. My sister was flying in and we all decided to greet her at the Montreal airport.

“What makes you think the new tenants are holding your mail?” he asked, “You never know, it’s worth a try. Come on!”

We drove to my old apartment in posh Rosemont district, two streets away from the slums. I knocked on the door and waited. A few minutes later, I turned around and shrugged at Rocky who was waiting in the car by the curb. Just as I was about to leave, the door opened. I turned and came face to face with a deathly white guy holding his arm. “Hi, I’m Marie, I used to live here and was wondering if… do you need help?”

He looked like he might faint. He pulled his hand away from his arm revealing a gash. So much blood was lost, it was white inside. I could see the bone. Rocky yelled from the car “Let us take you to the hospital!” He said he was on the phone with 9-1-1 waiting for an ambulance. I told him to never mind the wait, we’d get him there faster. Free health care meant longer waiting times…

He agreed but wanted to end his phone conversation. I followed him inside. He was wearing boxers and nothing else. On impulse I acted like a speed-queen and grabbed a pair of pants, a shirt and shoes scattered around the floor. With a handful of paper towels I scooped all the blood. Don’t know why I did that, just felt like the right thing to do. You just don’t leave an empty apartment with blood everywhere on the floor.

I was done before he said goodbye to the 9-1-1- lady. We rushed out to the car.

I gave him his clothes and off we went. The only hospital I knew of was St-Luc, in old town. It was a good 20 minutes away. I knew there was a closer one, but dreaded the thought of driving in circles looking for it. Behind me he said “My name is Phil by the way. Am I ever glad you stopped by!” Rocky drove like a classic race car driver, not knowing years later I’d marry one.

We spotted a police car one block ahead. Rocky sped up honking his horn like if his favorite team just won the world cup. The cops pulled over and I ran to them waving my arms. I’m obviously very calm under pressure. Running up to their window I yelled over and over we needed help. They told me it would be faster if they escorted us to the hospital rather than have Phil change cars. “Just do what you can to keep up, we’re not stopping for lights!”

It was like in the movies. With their blasting sirens, we cruised through every red light. I turned around and buckled Phil in. He was being slammed left and right as he struggled to put his pants on. At the hospital I ran out with Phil while Rocky parked the car. Straight to triage, the nurse’s face dropped when Phil showed his arm. On the PA system she uttered the code for “I need a doctor here right the fuck now! STAT!” In a blink of an eye they ushered him away.

“I don’t have my wallet, or any money on me!” Was the last thing he told me. “Don’t worry, we’ll wait and take you home.”

I took a seat, the nurse was calling for me waving me over. “I have some questions for you.” She said. “Uuuuhm, ok” I told her. She asked me his name. “Phil.” Last name? “Don’t know!” She asked his contact info. I gave his full address. “Phone number?”  “Don’t know.” “How do you know his postal code but not his phone number?”

I explained my relationship to Phil, and how I came about to finding him in that state. Rocky joined me in the waiting room. “How is it?” he asked. “I don’t know yet, they took him in right away.” Thirty minutes later a doctor walked to the triage window and talked with the nurse. She pointed her finger at me. I was nervous. Don’t know why, but I just have this instant guilt trip thing. I was afraid I might be accused of ripping his arm up. Don’t ask. I’ve always been a true catho-guilt-tripper-lic like that.

The doctor came to me. Put his hand out. “I needed to meet the woman who saved that man’s arm” I stood up with shaky knees and shook his sweaty hand. It’s ok. Mine was sweaty also. Sweat to sweat is ok. But dry to sweat is unacceptable.

Totally unacceptable.

With the amount of lost blood, only five more minutes and he would most certainly have lost his arm. Had he waited for the ambulance, had we transfered him over to the police car, had we not showed up on his doorstep, Phil would be a one-armed man.


The summer after my break-up from Rocky, I was hanging out quite a lot with Marc and his sister Lisa. We always passed off as brothers and sisters the three of us together. Actually they were siblings, and I just happened to fit in the family portrait. We always said yes when people asked if we were brothers and sisters.

They lived at their parents’ house. And I often stayed over.

One Sunday afternoon, as I was sitting in my apartment wondering what to do, my phone rang. It was Marc. “Marie, you have to come over!” “I thought you had a big family reunion at your house.” I answered. “But you’ve never met my brother, and besides, you ARE family!”

As soon as I got there he grabbed my hand and tugged me. “It took you so long to get here!” We ran to a skinny guy, standing with his back to us, talking to Marc’s dad. “Hey Phil, I want you to meet somebody!”

He turned. Looked at me. His face dropped. Pointed at me. Repeated over and over “It’s you! It’s you! It’s you!” He was shaking. His dad was awestruck looking left to right like Phil and I were playing tennis. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I never met you.” Then I saw his scar. “What happened to your arm?”

His dad connected the dots. Scooped me up like a bear. “Poor Phil, we never believed him when he said a woman just knocked on his door!” I was suddenly surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles – mystery solved. They knew I was a part of the family but never understood why. Little did we know, I was already bonded to them by blood.

Phil tore his arm on a window lock above the bathtub. He was taking a picture of a skylight. Something I always wanted to do when I lived there, but never got to it.


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