Day 100 in my year of daily new actions, I called 911 for the first time. Dear One had been dizzy for a couple of hours, along with a headache and nausea. I asked him if he wanted me to get him to the emergency room and he said yes.
"Do you think I'm doing the right thing calling you?" I asked.
"Yes of course. We will be there in three hours. Put away all the family pets."
"Did you say three hours? Did you say put away all the family pets?"
'If it's going to take you three hours, maybe I'll call a taxi."
"Yes, you could do that."
"But he'll have to wait if we go in a taxi. If we come in an ambulance he'll be seen right away."
"No. In an ambulance he'll have to wait just the same."
I called the taxi. The French hospital was just around the corner. Five hours later, Dear One said his niece with the Montreal police told him if police ever get shot they go to the General, which is English.
"I wish you'd said that in the taxi."
The emergency room has no one in it to greet you. Bye and bye a sullen person becomes visible behind a plexiglass window but does not make eye contact and is not reachable by any normal means of communication. There are posters on the wall that say the following things, in French: Be alert for thieves: we are not responsible for any of your possessions should they be stolen. And: We will not tolerate any displays of anger. Verbal abuse will get you thrown out of this hospital. And: Don't expect anyone to tell you how long you will have to wait. We cannot know this.
There were security guards and policemen. A man who looked like a Greek fisherman sat with his toque on, a blood-soaked rag crammed in his mouth. A pair of teenagers played hangman and emanated strong and consistent fumes of pizza. An old woman in a pair of crocheted green slippers sat stoically for hours. Behind a curtain a man and woman lay snoring in beds hooked up to IVs, and there were patients asleep all down the hallway with its peeling paint and raw plastered holes. Dear One was so dizzy he slumped in his chair with his eyes closed. I spied two chairs that had no chrome arms and I lined them up with a third that did have arms and turned them all so that Dear One had a makeshift bed. From an empty stretcher in the hallway I stole a pillow and blanket. I rolled up my scarf and coat to upholster this bed and he went to sleep.
The entire atmosphere of the place was one of doom, dereliction, the fifth circle of hell, decline and despair. No staff member moved faster than a snail's pace, or smiled, or even spoke to us. A few strolled the corridors with styrofoam tubs of food. There was not an iota of humanity or comfort. After the five hours Dear One's name was called. We went ecstatically to a dismal little room where the doctor, a lovely young woman, made him flap his hands like a marionette, stand up with his eyes closed, and put his finger on his nose and then on her moving finger faster and faster. She took some blood. He waited an hour and she said the blood was okay. She gave him pills for the dizziness and sent him home. I made him some miso soup and he is now in bed.