For months afterward the cries of an ambulance pulled me back to that morning: Awakening to the discomfort of a strange arm beneath my head. Hurtling it out of the way, only to have it bounce back and disturb my sleep again. Opening my eyes and realizing the offending arm was my own. There were my wedding rings on the fourth finger of my left hand.
“Move your left arm,” I commanded myself. It did not move. Calling to my husband. Standing up and taking a few steps. Crumpling to the floor.
My husband arriving in the doorway. "What's wrong?!"
My irritation. Duh. Help me off the floor so I can tell you about my arm. His call to 911. "She's slurring her words."
Every time I heard the sirens, I replayed it, filled in the details, until I finally believed it. I had a stroke.
Now when I hear the sirens, which happens a lot in this city of mine, I think of "some poor bastard" whose life has changed. A man having a heart attack. A woman awakening beside the corpse of her husband. Compassion pours out of my heart and follows the sirens. I don't think they will ever be just background noise again.