“Nobody provides any call to inform me,” San says, “ever.” Though there is no way that the ambulance drops him some- where else, right? It is an official ambulance car from the hospital— the one you always see driving around the city pretty much every day. San is convinced that it isn’t an ambush. The guy is in the official uniform.
The church bell rings. It is seven in the morning now. A day of waiting drives her nerve dazed. The call never comes, “Not at all, either from the hospital or from Oli.” This silence begins to build a great fear inside her. “This unknown is really disturbing,” she says. She waits to hear about her husband’s condition, “and expects further instructions concerning what I have to do next,” she longs, “if there is something I need to do for him.” She guesses, “he might need some new clothes, a toothbrush, some snacks,
maybe.” Nothing, not a single ring, “my heart skips a beat. Or maybe I am the one who needs to give them a call?” She does.
It is a little after seven when she finally collects her courage to make the first call to the emergency service of the hospital where the ambulance was supposed to take her husband. San simply aims to ask, “When can I come to visit, and does he have any requests to bring? And the most important,” she points out, “I really want to know his condition,” she wonders, “how is he really doing?” She says. After training herself what words to say, San dials the number, asking if her husband is there.
“We can’t provide you the information, Madame,” the lady on the phone tells San. The voice is cold and very distant, assured that further information won’t be given. San asks, “Why is that?” It makes a strange sense. The lady answers, “Pour la raison de confidentialité, Madame,” her voice remains very cold and rushy. San
aims to ask more, but the line goes dead already. The lady didn’t want to be held any further for another confirmation.
No. It might just be a misunderstanding, maybe San poorly explained her request. Her French is still poor. It is, perhaps, merely a language issue.
She calls the emergency service half an hour later. The reply on the other line remains cold. It might be a different person who picks up her call now. San isn’t quite sure. “Madame, I don’t un- derstand your language, parlez-vous Français?” Though San is speaking French to her. She even prepared the speech before calling, making sure to know what she needed to say on this second call.
Fine, she tells herself, maybe the person doesn’t understand the accent. Or, maybe San doesn’t articulate her words correctly. “Parlez-vous Anglais?” San asks whether the person speaks English. She tries to sound as kind as she possibly can. Yet, the question gets the person irritated. She hangs up after only saying ‘no,’ leaving her chilled to the core. Pretty rude, San tells herself. The response is unprofessional. It is questionable whether racism is involved in the service or unluckiness is merely following her today. San is not sure.
She tries to make another call once more, inquiring about the same matter. Where is her husband? The lack of French skill obviously gets her frustrated as all the staff on the telephone have little patience, “either to understand me or the other way around, to make me understand what they wanted to say. It seems no solution is offered to help me to find my disappeared husband who was brought by ambulance last night.” She is unable to argue or
to explain quickly. Her French isn’t excellent. It is not her mother tongue. She needs to think and collect words in her head before spelling them in an understandable sentence. “Such a terror,” she says. The panic starts to take its toll.
San calls an hour later, begging to do a check this time. “He came with the ambulance yesterday, and I am the wife, s’il-vous- plâit.” What confidentiality is the lady talking about?
“I am the only family he has in town,” she says, she feels jolted, “I need to know his condition,” she repeats, “I am his wife, wouldn’t you do the same if your husband was brought by an ambulance?” Her voice trembles with indignation. San cries help- lessly, burnt-out frustration tears. “I told you, Madame, I can’t tell you, anything else doesn’t really matter,” the lady on the phone says, stubbornly cold. One more time, she hangs up with a farewell French word, “au revoir,” then a click.
The phone line is cut. The same person has been answering her last two calls. She is sure that it was the same person she talked to earlier.
San tries her last luck to call the hospital. It is now almost nine. “Bonjour,” the person on the phone starts to talk. It is now a differ- ent voice. San has hope. Maybe this person would say something else. Perhaps a piece of advice, at least, how she could find her husband.
“Non, Madame, we can’t tell you,” the person says. The lady on the phone responds to her request. The voice isn’t as cold as the others, but the stubbornness remains precisely the same. And ad- vice for a frustrated wife isn’t what they would spare their time for. They are busy, or too busy even. Once more, the line goes dead. Though, the person has a little time to say au revoir et bonne journeé à vous Madame. It is not such a brutal cut as the calls she made earlier. But it brings her nowhere. She stands exactly where she was, in devastation.
She has been trying to lower her tone, begging for helpful assistance to discover her husband’s whereabouts. No help can be found. The calls she made proved fruitless, but she maintains her faith. She doesn’t believe that such a policy exists, not even for a single bit. She just thinks they want to fool her around because of her bad French. San aims to throw a tantrum. She is so desperate, but she holds herself up, very tightly. She prays that whoever answers her next call will be less miserable. There must be some friendly staff working there, or someone who does a proper job if a friendly one is too much to ask.
Once more, she dials the numbers. It is now ten o’clock. It has been almost three hours since she tried the first call. San starts to beg right away once she hears someone on the other line answers, forgetting about giving information in the first place about Oli’s personal information, “I just want to know where is my husband, can you just say where is he now?” Lamentably, this time things only get worse. It sounds like a rumor about a crazy lady calling the hospital to find her husband is already on everyone’s radar. The person on the phone laughs, and there is a click. The line is cut.
It is Sunday. Many of her friends will be available. San needs someone to help her out. She wants to go to the hospital, but go- ing all alone, holding little Alex in her arms might not be ideal. She needs someone to come with her, to help her communicate with the hospital, to plead with the staff for help. Or screaming if need- ed. She doesn’t care. She has to find her husband. This whole
thing is strange, she tells herself. She brings some paperwork to prove that she is the wife.
Two friends offer to come to give her company. San doesn’t drive. She has no driver’s license. One of the friends who offer to go along also voluntarily provides them with a ride to the hospital. But he doesn’t have a car seat for the baby. Fine, San tells herself. “I can also take the bus, and we can meet up there,” she says to both of them.
It is almost noon when she finally arrives at the hospital. The two friends get there before San, and they are waiting in front of the hospital lobby.
San lets her two friends deal with the front line staff. It will be easier that way, she tells herself. She also hands over Oli’s ID card
to one of her friends, and Oli’s insurance card, too. Her friend passes the documents to the staff lady. “I need to check on the computer,” she says, excusing herself to go with the card to the other side of the circular desk. There isn’t a confidential blah- blah this time. She goes straight to check. “The person is no longer here,” the lady says. “What do you mean?” San can’t help herself. She is confused. One of the friends takes the initiative and starts questioning, “why wouldn’t you tell the patient’s wife earli- er? When she called this morning?”
“The person is no longer here,” the person repeats with a tight and cold face, ignoring the question about what had happened earlier. “When did you release him?” The friend asks. “He left around noon.” Which is just now, San tells herself. She needs to get home as soon as possible, Oli has no keys. She needs to be back when he gets home. But it is Sunday. There are not so many
public transports running on Sundays. It is a long ride by bus from the hospital to their apartment.
“We might catch him by the bus stop if we are lucky,” San thinks out loud. The friends nod in agreement. “On y va alors,” one of the friends takes the initiative to leave. But Oli is not found by the bus stop.
Maybe he already took the bus, San assumes. Maybe someone gave him a free ticket to ride the bus. He has nothing. They dragged him to the ambulance without letting him bring any- thing. And, now, it sounds like he got kicked out without anything either.
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