“Are you serious?” I yelled, when he told me what he’d done.
I waited until I heard him putter away and then opened the door. Red splats decorated the stoop. I peered over the balcony and saw him sitting on the stairs, clutching a bloody towel.
“Call A.,” he yelled. “I’ve tried to kill myself!”
A. was our landlord. I called his number but there was no answer. Then I went downstairs. I’d been kicking back in front of the TV with a few vodka sodas, and the warm night air had a fuzzy, hazy quality.
D. put the towel next to him on the step and stared down at his wrists. The wounds were horizontal at least but jagged and gaping, like a Halloween pumpkin. I looked away. The smell of blood and tequila wafted up.
I got a towel from my apartment and wrapped his wrists, tucking the ends under. I couldn’t think of anything to fasten them with. Bright red seeped through the white fabric.
“Stay still,” I said. “I’m calling the ambulance.”
“I’ve taken twenty clonazepam as well,” he said. “These, there.” He nodded at the crushed packet lying in front of his door. His small, desperate eyes shone proudly.
“Well,” I said. “You’ll probably be all right with that. I did the same thing the other week, mas o menos. With half a litre of vodka.”
He stared at me. I shrugged. The reasons for this incident on my part were complex and not anything I was planning, at that stage, to examine.
D. pulled at the towels with his teeth. Overall there was a pinched quality to his face; an entrenched aspect of complaint.
I didn’t know the number for the ambulance and didn’t have a phone book so I called my ex-boyfriend, also a D. – and also three sheets to the wind, as usual.
“Uh, try 060,” he slurred. “That’s general emergency.”
In my broken Spanish, I struggled to relate the situation to the operator, along with my address, which is not on a street with a name, but off a cobblestone road and up some stairs and then up a pedestrian-only alleyway. It took a while, but I got through it.
When I finished the towels were lying on the step. D. was holding his wrists up, examining them. Then he started screaming.
A light flicked on in the apartment opposite mine, upstairs. The guy who lived there was standing at the window. I waved at him and he turned around. Seconds later the light in the apartment went back off.
“I’m such a loser,” D. wailed. “I’ve lost everything. My daughter, my wife, my job…. I can’t work anymore.”
“Okay, keep still.”
“I was in the film industry in L.A. I worked with Mariah Carey…. But now I can’t go back there. I’ve lost it all. I’m such a loser. Arggh!”
He got up and trotted into his apartment. I followed and watched as he rifled through some stuff on the kitchen counter. Blood dripped onto the concrete floor, and a yellow plastic bottle – the cheapest brand of tequila.
“Look. She’s in here.”
I glanced at what he was foisting at me: a leather-bound photo album, scuffed around the edges. It was full of different people he said I should recognize. The only one I did was Mariah Carey – her head cocked to one side and doe eyes flirting with the camera.
“She’s always showing the right side of her face huh, in photographs?” I said. “I read that somewhere. She thinks it’s her better side.”
In Mariah’s hair was a sparkly clip in the shape of a large bird.
“What is that,” I leaned forward to get a better look. “An ostrich?”
“I worked on one of her movies.”
He gazed at me, an anguished look on his face.
“Movies? What movies?”
“I used to work with all of them. Look!”
He kept flipping through the album.
“I had a great life!”
“Oh – well, good.”
“But I’ve lost it all!”
He flung one arm over his head.
“Okay, why don’t you settle down. Here, let me put these towels back on.”
“I can’t go back to the States.”
“There we go.”
He sat down on the floor, clutching the photo album to his chest.
“I’ve got three DUIs. They won’t let me go back.”
“Well then,” I said. “Puerta Vallarta’s not so bad is it?”
“I’m from Canada – Calgary. But I don’t want to go back there. I want to go back to L.A. My wife and daughter are there. Look.”
He opened the photo album again. “Oh, they must be in the other. Aaahhhh….
“I’ve lost them!”
He squinted up at me. “I took twenty of those pills. I wonder what will happen.”
“You’re used to them to some extent I’m guessing? So you’ll just be very relaxed for a few days.”
“I took twenty….”
“Look, you don’t have to believe me. The doctor’s coming. No, no, keep the towels.”
“It’s because I screw everything up! It’s terrible.”
He went into it further: all the things lost. Houses, cars, family. Eventually I heard a walkie-talkie and went to the door, looked out. Three police officers in white uniforms appeared out of the darkness, up the hill.
“Suicidio, intento,” I told them. “Ugh. Los manos.” I pointed to what was self-evident and showed them the empty pack of clonazepam as well. The first officer glanced at it and looked D. up and down with no change in his expression.
“Is he your husband?” he asked me, in English.
“No!” I shrieked. “I mean no. I live upstairs. This is the first time I’ve spoken to him. He knocked on my door.”
“Okay.” The officer took a few steps away and talked on his phone. Then he sauntered back.
“How old are you?” he asked D.
“Forty-three,” the officer repeated, looking bored. “And why do you want to do this? Life is not so bad.”
The other two officers wandered around the apartment, peering in D.’s closet and lifting up the odd dish. One of them kicked at the tequila bottles on the floor and smirked. Then they both stood by the door, staring out over the alley.
D. picked up his photo album and showed the first officer the picture of Mariah Carey. The officer frowned and then a look of recognition came over his face and he nodded. He motioned to the other officers to look as well. They started talking, pointing at the picture and laughing. Then the first officer snapped the album shut. The other two drifted back to the door.
“I worked with her on Glitter,” D. said. “It was a movie – Glitter.”
The officer shrugged.
After a while a guy in a red Bomberos shirt showed up. He was wearing a headband with a light attached to it, and he was peering into D’s eyes.
The officer asked for identification and D. started rifling around in a black case. I took this opportunity to slink back to my apartment. My ex had instilled it in me that it was a good idea to make oneself scarce anytime official documents were being requested.
“Those pills will kick in,” was the last thing I heard D. shout. “I took twenty of them! Yes, yes!”
I locked my door and lay down in the dark.