A Passing Shiver

This story has no ending yet, not one I am privy to, anyway.

There are many reasons a person may attend the recovery meetings I attend. They are private to each attendee, of course. Each person may hold several disparate reasons inside him or herself at any moment for coming to a meeting, even reasons that are in conflict with one another. One lucky stroke for me is that at six plus years sober, I am six plus years removed from the life that had me living just this side of the category of “Street Urchin.”

I was seated next to a street urchin today. He was shivering, even though it is September 1. He started shivering once he started to speak, and speaking may be what saves his life in the long run.

Five foot eight or nine, tattoos on both arms and both legs—well, the parts of his legs I could see. His right leg was (is, Mark, is, right now, wherever he is) swaddled in a self-assembled collection of Ace bandages held together by encasing the whole swaddling in a yellow plastic Shop Rite bag. He had tied a knot with the handles, like his foot was something he had picked up at the deli. (It was a drizzling morning here today, so the bag may have been added to keep the assemblage dry. His right hand was similarly swaddled, minus the shopping bag. He was using a cane, but because his injured leg and busted hand are on the same side, it must have been more of an annoyance than a help.

One of the tattoos on his left, non-swaddled, leg, was of the Buddha, and it was the least fanciful tattoo I have ever seen. A simple, single-line drawing, perhaps done free-hand. Perhaps drawn ironically, as his life is, at the moment at least, not very, um, “Buddhist-y,” to coin a term.

“I had an accident,” he began, and acknowledged this with a nod downward at his injured limbs. “I learned yesterday that my girlfriend wants me to move out tomorrow … I could always get by on my own, but I don’t have anyone.” There was more, but he gave no details in several minutes of speaking. The relationship between his injuries and the impending changes in his domestic situation, if there is one—and I assume that most of us assumed that there is a relationship between his injuries and his domestic life—was skipped over. He started to cry. An act? I do not know. He looked like a tired 35, which means he is probably 25.

“That could be me,” went through my mind several times.

There is a saying: “I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank or did drugs, but every time I got in trouble, I was drunk or on drugs.” A jokey variation goes: “I am allergic to alcohol. Every time I drink, I break out in handcuffs.” Myself, I was spared legal repercussions in my drinking life, but only because of reasons that I do not even have a joke for. For instance, I stopped driving years ago and not because I needed to stop or because New York State wanted me to stop. I just did not want to drive again, and now, ironically, I can not (unless/until I get a car with hand controls).

I was spared all of the physical comedy that our visitor seems to be enduring. But I could picture myself deciding to limp to a CVS or Osco Drug store after an accident to buy an entire shelf of Ace bandages, limp home, realize that I had neglected in my state to buy tape or clamps, and decide to manufacture a solution with a shopping bag and Scotch tape, instead of go to an emergency room or walk-in clinic and get real medical attention.

One of us took him aside after the meeting and gave him a phone number to a local homeless shelter. “No, I don’t think I need that,” came the reply. “Well, do you have someplace to go?” he was asked.

“There’s a guy who said last week he might hire me, I have to wait if he calls.”

With a gesture to his leg and hand, my friend asked, “Do you think someone is going to hire you right now?” My friend asked him when his last drink was. His answer was evasive in its specificity: “It was a Friday.” He was asked if he does drugs. “I smoke some pot.” Another friend invited him to a noon-time meeting. “I have to see if this guy calls.”

I left the room because there were people I needed to speak with. Outside, I caught up with them. The thought crossed my mind that one can not want good things for a person more than they want to reject it. With a shiver, the thought passed. We watched him limp his way across the street, away and off into his day.

* * * *
Will I see this person again? I do not know, of course.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 1 asks us to reflect on the word, “Shiver.”

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