Today, my dad and I ignore what those police officers told us 9 days ago as we step off the elevator and get ready to open the door to my grandma’s apartment.
Over the past week I’ve googled companies that can come and clean up her apartment, but I don’t want strangers walking through my grandma’s space, stepping places she’s been.
My dad’s in front of me, unlocking the door. He turns around to tell me to brace myself, that it’s bad.
We’re holding garbage bags, bleach and the surgical masks my mom made us take from the ICU. I feel myself trying to hide behind him for as long as I can. But, here we are.
I’m relieved. I don’t know why. It’s no more or no less than I thought it would be. But the wondering is over. The room is stuffy and it smells like a handful of pennies. The more I look at the blood on the ground, the more I don’t believe it.
I straddle the 3 liters of her blood to hop onto the edge of her bed. I’m sitting 10 inches from it all and I wonder how we are going to clean it up.
The blood is dried, it looks like it’s permanently stuck to the floor-I’m not even sure it looks like blood anymore, but it must be. Her slippers are laying in front of her bed, to the right of the pool of red.
I pick her cell phone up out of the blood and wipe it off. It was laying open, like it had just fallen from her hand. It’s still on and she has a voicemail. I key in her code and its the 911 operator.
“Ms Jellerson, the paramedics are outside. If you can, come to the door.”
Are you kidding me?
There are 10 paramedics standing ten feet from my grandma, on the other side of her door while she bleeds out. When she calls 911 she doesn’t specify that she can’t come to the door-they don’t even try to break it down.
I close the phone and stick it in a ziplock.
I look at the green rolling chair under her table-a retirement present from the Skokie Skatium years prior. I can see where the blood has splattered against it.
We start to pick up the towels and throw them in garbage bags. Every towel in her apartment is on that floor-for every one towel we are picking up there are five more. We get to the bottom of the pile and pick up the last towel, but it’s not a towel at all. It’s her bathrobe.
You can feel the franticness of the paramedics with each towel we dispose of. I picture them grabbing whatever they can find-bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, bathrobes, paper towels- and still so much of the blood was left uncovered.
Blood is sprayed against every corner of that room-on the plastic container under her table, across the chair where she must have put her ankle up, on the coke bottles lining the floor against the right wall, on the desk in front of her, on the comforter on her bed.
All of the towels are up off the floor. We step back and take it all in. It lays right in front of us and still seems unbelievable. We move all of the furniture, the space is cleared.
My dad pours bleach across the entire floor and the dark red, dried blood seems to come to life. Bubbling back up into the brightest red imaginable, as if it has just hit the floor, like she has come back to life right in front of us.
And underneath all of the red we begin to see the little brown strips. First just a couple band aids and then twenty or thirty.
I stand there and I imagine my grandma looking down at her ankle. First a small cut, no big deal. She walks to the linen closet to grab the band aids, but the blood is coming faster now. She sits on the edge of the bed, pulls the rolling chair towards her.
She’s lifting her leg onto the chair and then a spray of blood, the first of many each time her heart beats. She’s trying to put a band aid on, but the blood is engulfing each one making it impossible for anything to stick. They’re all falling to the floor.
I can feel the moment in which she had to have panicked. I can see the exact second she knew this wasn’t going to stop. She’s grabbing her cell phone but the blood is pouring out of that half inch cut so bad, she knows she doesn’t have time to explain.
“Come right away” is all she can say before she goes unconscious and the phone hits the floor-blood breaking its fall.
That’s it. She goes to sleep knowing no one is there. I don’t know if the red of her own blood is the last thing she sees.
After much too long, the paramedics rush in and she’s slumped over on the bed. They say each time her heart beats the blood sprays out of her. She’s pale, unresponsive, cold.
They’re ransacking the linen closets and throwing down whatever they can find. They can’t stop the blood. Nobody can. That night nobody knew why.
They get her on a the stretcher and run out with her. You can map out their route through her apartment with the wheel tracks stained red into her floor.
We’ve opened all of the windows and run the air conditioning. We make trips back and forth to the garbage, throwing full bags of blood soaked pieces down the chute.
The police got it wrong when they found us that first night. This doesn’t look like a crime scene, it IS a crime scene. Even then, we don’t know it yet.
I look at this picture almost every day still trying to make sense of it all, searching for the words that adequately explain all that happened in its entirety and still all I can think is:
What cannot be said, will be bled.