again i waded through a sleepless night. staring at the numbers digitally tick by on my girl's 'hello kitty' clock. at 4.30 my restlessness was too much for even the most sticky-icky bowl pack so i decided to go for a walk...again.*
*i'm not sure what i expect when i do this. you would think i'd realize that walking around the shittier parts of harlem during the pre-dawn hours leads to nothing but trouble...and yet, most mornings, you'll find me strolling down malcom x blvd like an escaped alzhiemers patient. not clue in the world where i am or how i got there, just happy to be out, just happy to be free.
anyway, enough digression (as if this ALL isn't digression)...where was i...oh, yes, walking 'round harlem during the wee hours...
so i stumble down the three flights from my apartment to the door and greet the predawn light with a belch and a cigarette. my new land lord, reynaldo, is sweeping the sidewalk in front of the building. "hello there twain", he greets me politely, albeit with the wrong name, but i know what he means and don't care enough to correct him. "hey rey-rey", i return, "how's trix today?". he stops sweeping for a moment and looks thoughfully towards the end of his broom, "someone pissed in the stairwell again, i think they ran from the 6th floor all the way down, pissing the whole way...it was everywhere." i can't help be chuckle a little bit...urine is never not funny...i feel bad for reynaldo, having to clean up piss and all, so i try to make it better the best and fastest way i know how...offer him mind altering substances...he accepts. so i go back up to my apartment and get part of my stash. also, i grab a stalk of wormwood that i have been soaking in a bottle of grappa (an italian booze, made from the waste products of wimemaking) for about two weeks. the weed mixed with the wormwood soaked in hooch should give us a nice little buzz. so i go back downstairs and reynaldo leads us out the back way of the building. we sit on a metal-grate staicase leading down to, what looks like, an alley dug out of the beach at normandy. i half expect to see nazi stormtroopers come tearing down the narrow corridor screaming at me in german...especially after eating the alcohol engorged leaves of wormwood.
but no nazis emerge and we hit the bowl. rey-rey immediatly slouches back against the metal stairs. he holds up the small bit of wormwood branch i've given him, as if carefully considering whether it is friend or foe. "what it is, man?" he asks me. "it's wormwood soaked in alcohol", i explain, "rumor is, that wormwood will make you trip out, but the best effect i've found for this is that you get buzzed without smelling like a drunk." "what do you do with it?", he asks as he spins the lightly-leaved twig between his fingers. "you chew on it till it's gross", i answer. he chuckles as he puts the wormwood in his mouth. i hit the pipe again and them pop my own stalk into my mouth.*
*now, to anyone who's never tasted pure wormwood...it's the definition of bitter. add to that bitterness the woody, earthy, oakey flaovors of the grappa it had been soaking in, and you've got something truly disgusting. so to say we were fighting off the gag reflex was an understatement...everytime we swallowed our esophaguses staged a minor revolution. leaving us to look and sound like a couple of poor, watery eyed virgins in the back seat of her boyfriend's car about an hour after prom...but again, i digress (from my digression)
rey-rey looks at me with that squinty, glassy smile, "thank you, man", he says to me, almost tearfully. and looking into his eyes i see the edges of a soul-swallowing lonliness. an internal emptiness skulking around the edges of his psyche, just waiting for him to abandon all hope. a great undefineable pain lurking just behind his eyes. a devastating, gnawing...suddenly i am showered with citric acid and half-digested rice and beans, and i realize, he wasn't in pain at all he was preparing to vomit. and now it is all in my hair and covering my crotch. fantastic.
"oh shit, man, i'm sorry", rey-rey sputters as he wipes his mouth with his sleeve, "let me help you". rey-rey lurches to his feet, but he has no idea that he is too fucked up to stand, and prompty tumbles down the grated stairs head first in a stupendeous caccophany of clangs, grunts and ankles.
"dude, are you okay?" i ask feebly. he just exhales in response, so i call 911 and rush down the steps to see if i can help. not likely. rey-rey's skull is certainly fractured. i pull of my t-shirt off hold back the blood oozing from his head. thankfully, he landed on his back and he's breathing on his own (i was NOT looking forward to CPR with a dude who just puked...on me). i gently press on his chest and sides, to see if anything is broken. i can't check his spine, but since i wouldn't know what to feel for, i figure it's best to leave that to the paramedics. so i keep pressure on his head wound and wait...and wait...and wait. 20 minutes pass (which is ridiculous because there is a hospital less the five blocks away) before the EMT guys peek through the door, "is that the guy?", one of them asks from the top of the stairs. "yes", i reply, "he bashed his head pretty good, but the bleeding is nearly stopped. he hasn't regained any consciousness and i can't tell if he's hurt worse than that". the other EMT worker pokes his head out, "we ain't going down there." i stare at him in disbelief, "this man could be dying, what the fuck?" the EMT guys look at each other, "we wait for the cops", the first EMt says. "this is ridiculous!" i exclaim. suddenly, rey-rey regains consciousness, "ohhh, por que?" he tries to sit up. "no, rey-rey!", i jump to his side, "stay there you fell down the steps and might really be hurt." he relaxes back to the ground, "my head is really sore...and wet", he reaches his hand up and finds the blood, "ay! dios mio! call an abulance, i'm dying!". i sit on his chest, so he can't move and so he'll pay attention to me, "rey-rey, the abulance is already here, they're at the top of the stairs and won't come down til the cops get here". rey-rey strains feebly underneath me, "why won't they come save me?!?", he pleads. then in the dirction he thinks the stairs are in he pleads louder, "please, please, help me, my head, it hurts so much." but the EMT guys have moved out of our view and back into the apartment building's 'lobby', such that it is...rey-rey's pleading gets no response so i stay down in the alley with him til i can't wait anymore. "rey-rey, can you tell if you can sit up, without actually sitting up?", i ask. "yes, i think so. why?" "i'm going to get you outta here myself. you need a doctor NOW." i stand up and survey the situation, "put your arms around my neck and let's see if we can get you to your feet." we try to stand him up but i don't have enough hands to lift him and hold my shirt over his now re-opened head-wound...so much for moving him as a good idea...but we've already past the point of no return, so tell him to hold the shirt, and i'll hold him up and we'll make it together. he takes one step and nearly collapses in pain, "OHHH, MY HEAD!", he screams. i bear hug him around the waist and lift him up. climb in the metal-grate straircase. my face bright red and every vein in my neck attempting to tear through my flesh. i speed walk past the EMTs as if i'm on the last leg of a record setting boulder relay (you know, like in the 'world's strongest man' competition), all the while spitting out the words, "get the fucking ambulance open!" while rey-rey cries out in pain, "stop please!, oh my head! stop!". only one of the EMTs reacts and gets the side door to the ambulance open. i set rey-rey down. the other EMT rushes up behind us, "what the fuck were you thinking, he couldhave been seriously hurt!" i stare at him in disbelief, "he IS seriously fucking hurt! and YOU left him at the bottom of the stairs BLEEDING! why would you do that!" the other EMT steps in between us and camly, but firmly, explains, "cause we though you were junkies trying to jump us to steal the drugs from the truck, okay." and suddenly, my perspective shifts. i realize that, from where they were standing i'm a skinny, dirty white boy, highly agitated, standing ina VERY secluded area over a man laying in the dirt, who might, or might not actually be hurt (they couldn't see the blood). all of it taking place in the deserted alley behind one of the most disreputable buildings in the neighborhood, that is not officially a crack-house. i might not have gone down the stairs to help either..."oh", is all i can say in response. i just turn away and blankly walk back into the building. the EMTs are saying something to me, but i can't hear it. i feel like such a douche. and to top it all off, by the time i get back upstairs i realize it's 8.30am and i'm already a half hour late for work and i haven't called. shit. shit. shit. at least it's all gonna be uphill from here...