Out walking my dog, I pass a man who is dying. I know this man. Not his name, but that he lives in my neighborhood. He uses a wheelchair, but when I saw him he was lying next to it, on the sidewalk, incoherent, but breathing.
I asked him, “Hey! You OK?!” once, twice, three times. I didn’t want to touch him. I’ve seen him drunk before, and I think he was probably drunk. But I don’t know much, except that, he reminded me of my father.
I immediately went into my superhero mode, which is a little dance I’ve practiced since about the age of seven. It involves action. It does not involve wringing our hands, or ignoring the scene. I am the daughter of an alcoholic. This is all I know.
I call 911. Describe his location.
“Is he breathing?”
“I think so.”
“Is he sweating, that you could tell?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you going to go back to where he is?”
This was the question that scared me. Was I supposed to go back? For all I know, this guy got wasted, decided to pass out on the sidewalk, and fell out of his wheelchair. For all I know, this happens to him on a weekly basis. I don’t want to be involved with this man. I have two alcoholics in my life and that is quite enough.
“No, I don’t really know him. No.”
“Can you describe him more? What race?”
“Honestly, I don’t know, maybe Black, maybe Asian Indian?”
I start to feel like I am wasting the operator’s time. There are other emergencies.
“What is he wearing?”
All I can think of are his lips, trying to grasp for air, to speak maybe?
“Does he have any heart conditions or asthma?”
The sirens came just as I began writing this, and now they are gone.
I will never know how much of this was just about me, having to do something so that he won’t hurt me or my sisters or my mommy again.