Saturday mornings in my neighborhood are usually very quiet. A neighbor cutting wood for the winter, the sound of a family building a fence. Rarely screams for help.
I got up late. It had been a few days since I’d had a full night’s sleep, and last night’s thunderstorm basically rocked me out of bed with a horrible nightmare. So by the time I was up and walking downstairs I had been hearing what sounded like a saw. An intermittent, not too far away, sawing. I stepped out onto my little Juliet balcony and heard it again and wondered what it was. Then I heard a distinct cry for help. I grabbed my glasses my phone and a jacket. I already had my gym shoes on for the day. I told Mint I would be back and ran out the front door.
First I went to my neighbor’s house at the end of the street where I thought the sounds were coming from. There was no one home. No dog, no cars, except for the ones disappearing into the field of yellow flowers this late summer. As I turned and walked up the street back to my house I thought maybe I had not heard the word, help. But then I did hear someone saying hello to me and it was two little gray heads popped up over the balcony of a house on the hill above my house looking at me and they asked, Did you hear someone calling for help? I said I had. And I thought, it was real if they heard it, too. Did you call 911? I asked. No, they said. Where did you hear it coming from? Your direction, they answered. Will you call 911? You don’t need to give your name or address. We exchanged house numbers and they said, Nice to meet you. Same, I said, and turned and jogged back to my neighbor’s house. I didn’t want any subsequent questioning to not include the fact that I had actually rung the doorbell on my neighbor’s house to check—always the crime investigation student.
So I did that.
I climbed the stairs and rang the doorbell and no one came. Since the ladies were calling 911, I crossed through the end of my street’s chunky uninhabited area where I set off the dog behind one fence and two entire families of quail. No one had come through here. I was thinking either the woman was left on the river walk trail or on the next street east. So I walked up and down the street and saw nothing suspicious. I wondered if I had heard someone die. I couldn’t shake the sound of the screams—like someone being tortured over and over again, and I thought it was some neighbor cutting firewood.
On my way back to my house I saw three sheriff’s cars parked at a house west of mine. I took the long walk back and went down the street. Five officers were talking to one person. There was an ambulance parked next to the house. I got about 100 feet from them and I stopped and decided there was no reason for me to interrupt whatever was happening right then. I walked back home and all the way down my road where I could see that house which was surprisingly close. Basically two doors down and two doors over. Death had already visited my street twice since I’ve lived here. I needed to know that they had found the woman screaming.
I called 911 and gave the dispatcher my general location and said that I had heard screaming in the neighborhood and asked if they could tell me if the police officers I could see were at the house where a woman was needing help. He told me they were and I asked how the officers knew what house to go to. The dispatcher said the owner of the house had called. I said, I’m not sure you can tell me this but did they find her and is she OK? He said, I can’t disclose much but I can say that it was a psychiatric call and the medical personnel are with her. This information comforted me. I was very glad that she had found help, but also, very sad for her.
I came home and lit a candle and sent as much good energy as I could her way.
When I think about it, I wonder why I am the kind of person who runs outdoors in her pajamas late on a Saturday morning to see who needs help. But then, I was born in a woman’s body. That means, I need to help all women because that might be me one day. You learn, being a woman, that every situation has an element of danger. And if she had not verbalized the word, help, I would probably still be thinking a neighbor was cutting wood, and she would still have gotten help.
But I know, that if I hadn’t heard that word, I would not have acted, and if I am ever in a physically dangerous situation, I need to remember to use the word help.