Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Drunk and Bleeding in Public

"Hey, dude- you know you're bleeding?" asked a nervous bus-rider.

That right there- public bleeding and ignorance thereof- is a major criterion I use when forming a first impression. Another is if they have a half-finished bottle of whiskey in their front shirt pocket. Half-finished at 8am. This guy had both. A gaunt scruffy redhead who appeared in his 50s was clinging to the hanging strap, lurching every time the bus did. Every time he fell into someone's lap, he apologized profusely and jovially.

Back to the blood though. There were numerous black spots on his hands and wrists, and blood was oozing out of several of them. Gangrene perhaps? Well, he certainly smelled bad enough.. The unfortunate passengers seated below him stared in dread at the dark droplets that shook off now and then. When a seat opened up next to me, the man genteely offered it to each passenger in the front of the bus, one at a time. When no one claimed the seat, he plopped down next to me.

Meanwhile, a young man exiting the bus noticed a streak of blood running down the shoulder of his snazzy, cream-colored suede jacket. He furiously opened his mouth to confront the guy, but after taking another look the man who had just bled on him, thought better of it and just filed away with his defiled jacket, glaring and with his hands balled into fists.

The man, who quickly introduced himself as Robert, immediately began regaling me with jokes and anecdotes about his life, both tragic and humorous. After 30 years away, he'd just returned to his hometown, to Hampden where he grew up. The neighborhood had changed so much he no longer recognized it, he said. Poignant/cliched as that sounds, he appeared to recognize very little of his surroundings in general. Robert cautioned me to never join the military, to never go to war because "it'll fuck you up. You'll never be the same." There'd been good times too in the military though. When he was stationed in Saudi Arabia, there had been no booze available for obvious reasons. He reminisced "We made us up some moonshine in these big barrels and boy did we get FUCKED UP! When we got caught, we got our asses beat, but it sure was fun while it lasted."

As the bus ride progressed (and it was about 45 min long, so we had plenty of time to get acquainted), he revealed more and more of his life to me. There were sad stories about estranged family and sad stories about the friends he watched die in Vietnam, all liberally sprinkled with jokes. He knew a lot of jokes. An awful lot of jokes. A lot of awful jokes. Robert's attention span was short, he was easily confused, and he delighted in looking at women. Any woman. Someone's portly grandmother hauled herself down the aisle. Due to her girth, she clocked him in the head with one of her hips. He was thrilled and turned to holler after her "Oh honey, you can come sit on my shoulder any time!" as well as a few similar suggestions. Nothing obscene, just puzzling. Chuckling, Robert admitted that he just couldn't help himself with the ladies.

I pulled out my phone to text my balti-blogging co-conspirator with an "omgz you won't believe who's sitting next to me on the bus!!!1" message. Robert thought my phone was just about the funniest thing he'd ever seen. He guffawed, shaking his head, and intently watched me texting, finally laughing "What's the matter, honey? Can't you get that funny-looking camera of yours to work??"

After another slug of whiskey, he matter-of-factly explained that he was on his way to rehab after being confronted by some friends the night before, and that he had no idea where said rehab clinic was, just that it was on this bus line. A collective effort on the part of several passengers got him where he needed to go. I sincerely hope that, in addition to sobering up, he got those sores looked at.

Confidential to the guy with the besmirched suede jacket: just burn it. I mean, seriously. It's a total loss.

No comments: