Yesterday afternoon, Neil and I were on our way downtown when we noticed an older man sort of heaped on the pavement next to a shrub. Like any other place, this town has its share of afternoon drunks and so we thought little of him at first. Several people passed him by as if he didn’t exist. I kept looking back to be sure he could get up on his own and wasn’t hurt. We were just rounding the corner to enter the subway (underground pedestrian thoroughfare) when I looked up one more time. I saw blood running down one side of his face from his right cheekbone.
“Neil! He’s bleeding!”
With that, we dashed back up to help. Neil called an ambulance while I helped the skinny man up to his feet and over to the nearby bench. Two middle-aged women stood near but disappeared after they saw him sit on the bench. Before they left, one woman told me, “You certainly are observant.” I couldn’t answer that. I mean, how hard did they try to ignore him? He was in the open, a mere four feet away! I sat down with the man and started chatting. I didn’t want him to go anywhere like this and we knew he needed medical attention. Everyone else bustled by with their blinders on…
The man was old enough to be my grandpa and clearly pickled with booze. He had a shopping bag full of cans, but not of alcohol. From what I could see, they looked like cans of Ensure or some other similar product. Nutritional drinks – often necessary for people who aren’t able to get basic nutrients in other ways. He said they were his medicine. I started talking with him. He was partially coherent – in the way you expect an alcoholic to communicate. Able to speak pretty clearly, yet with a vacancy attached to each word. I suppose part of that could’ve been due to his fall.
He seemed shy. I introduced myself and learned his name in return. Tony and I chatted about several little things in the minutes before the ambulance arrived. I don’t think he was accustomed to having a stranger sit and chat with him. He opened up a bit and asked about my tattoos, where I was from, and how I ended up here in England. Though drunk and injured, he had a lovely demeanour and seemed content to sit with me. He didn’t want an ambulance, but didn’t fight it and stayed put. I told him about how Neil and I walk to town for coffees. We made small talk about living near the town centre. All the while a fat stripes of blood clotted and streaked him from cheekbone to chin. He didn’t feel a thing. He had no idea he was bleeding, but he believed and trusted me. We sat and waited for the ambulance. I think he felt safe.
The medic didn’t require anything from us and so before moving on I joked with Tony to stay out of the way of those nasty shrubs. Part of me wanted to stay with him to be sure he was going to be OK, but Neil and I did the right thing and left him in the ambulance’s care. We continued on our way to get coffees and work away from our everyday four walls. Tony is going to have one helluva bruise on his face and may not even remember what happened, but I hope he gets help. If he goes through this again, the next person that finds him might rob him or worse. No one deserves that, though we all have our flaws.
Good luck, Tony. No more pickin’ fights with the shrubs and pavement, buddy.