2 July 2014
I had a window seat on the bus home and was, as usual, engrossed in a book to entertain me for the forty-five minute ride. A man sat next to me, invading my comfort zone. He began to lean on me. I looked at him and recognized Little Jake. He said, “I wondered how long it would take for you to notice who I was.”
“Hi Jake ,” I said. It’s good to see you.” He was drinking a dark liquid from a clear plastic drinking bottle. I didn’t recognize the smell, but it was strong, maybe brandy.
He said, “I’m going back to my place, but I really don’t want to go in. Maybe, I’ll just sit outside on the steps for a while. The paramedics left all kinds of medical shit behind. They worked on Shakes for about twenty minutes. They got a slight pulse, so they loaded him on the stretcher, but he died on the way to the hospital. I was a mess. I was shaking so bad I needed help to dial 911. I felt so helpless. I’m sorry to vent to you like this.”
I said, “I can’t imagine how you must have felt. I’ve lost a father, mother, brother, sister and nephew, but I wasn’t there when they died. I know that helpless feeling you’re talking about. It never really goes away. After my mother died, my father, brother and I stayed drunk for three days.
“Have you heard anything yet about funeral arrangements?”
“Betty and Fran are looking after that. They phoned around to a bunch of places. I think there’s something arranged for Monday, but I don’t know the details. I hate the guys those girls are with, Shakes did too. I had to get out of there before I hit one of them.
“Another person who was really upset was Blaine. He really fell to pieces, so did Curt.”
“Joy will take it hard. She’s known him since she was thirteen years old. We all lived in the same general area, but didn’t know each other then.
I said, “Last time I talked with you, you mentioned moving to a new place.”
“Yeah, now I’ll have to. I can’t stay in a place where my friend died. It was the same when Wolf and I found Weasel, sprawled on his back with his tongue sticking out. It really freaked us out, man. I have to my place to pick up the rest of his stuff to give to Betty, otherwise I’d crash somewhere else. I spent one night last week in the park.”
I said, “We didn’t know where Shakes was for about four days last week. When did he go to your place?”
“I was thrown in the booze can, Thursday. After the cops let me out I didn’t get home until about 3:30 in the morning. When I arrived, Shakes was asleep in front of my door. He was with me ever since. On Sunday we were having a drink together when, all of a sudden, his eyes roll back and he passed out. I couldn’t handle it, so I banged on the apartment next door. A woman came out and dialed 911 for me. My hands were shaking so bad, I couldn’t do anything.”
I asked, “How old was he? I think he must have been around fifty, but any time we asked, he wouldn’t give us a direct answer. He admitted that he was born in the early sixties, so that would make him fifty something.”
“He never wanted to tell his age. I’m forty-two and I figure he had about eight years on me. He and Uncle Wolf were about the same age. I wonder who will be the next to go. I hope it’s me.
“Now you got all these numbers going around in my head. I’m not real good at doing adding and subtracting —- mental gymnastics — I used to be, when I worked as a waiter, but not any more.
“Is this my stop coming up? I better get going.”
I watched Jake stagger across four lanes of traffic. I think he made it safely to the other side. I didn’t hear the screeching of brakes or tires skidding on the pavement.
To avoid missing posts and promotions, please subscribe using the form at the left. If you have previously subscribed, please subscribe again to this revised site.
Sample my books for free — proceeds feed the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People