Profound and Stupid Continued
Or: I Ain’t Goin’ Back
You know me from the prison. I was one of the group when you came to visit. Maybe you’ll know me when you see me. I got out.
Where are you now?
In town. Staying on my brother’s couch.
Do you have a car?
No. A bike. But it’s broke.
Is there a McDonald’s in walking distance?
Meet you there tomorrow at 1:30.
At 1:30 I walked in, he knew me but I didn’t recognize him. We sat down. He looked like eighty years old to me. I read out his shoes, he was wearing someone else’s shoes, cut out the toes so he could walk in them.
I asked him to fill me in. I confessed I didn’t recognize him.
During the course of our conversation, he mentioned he was one of the guys who insisted on walking me out when I visited because there was some dangerous talk among the skinheads targeting me that day [see story Profound and Stupid, skinheads with neo-nazi thought pardon the expression are the major problem in the institutions in my state].
That was me, he said, I was in them who walked you out. It was nothin’ really. They’re punks we know how to handle them.
He was a big man.
How old are you?
How long were you in prison?
When he said thirty years I went quiet. The curtain parted for a moment and I sat staring at him the reality of thirty years of his life in that place penetrated and I struggled for a moment to hold back my tears, this wasn’t my life it was his life and I had no right to cry over his life but I wanted to, I felt myself cracked open to the sadness of that and his voice gentle, pleasant, without a hint of negativity.
Only this: I ain’t going back.
He said that a few times, in the same way: I ain’t goin’ back.
We talked a little more. I asked what I could do for him.
I need medicine. I can get my diabetes medicine but they won’t cover my ED.
Erectile dysfunction. They won’t cover my Viagra.
I looked at him again in quiet. Thirty years incarcerated. Maybe he has someone. I wanted him to get that medicine. I was between laughing and crying but what I really wanted for him was that medicine.
Right, I heard myself saying, let’s get that medicine.
I called the free clinic and said, this is Dr. Goodman. I have a patient who needs to be seen and seen right away.
I got an appointment for the next day.
Do you have shoes? I asked him.
Let’s get you some shoes. How about your bike?
I’ll get your bike fixed. Would some food from the jewish food pantry help out where you’re staying?
The food at the jewish food pantry wasn’t nearly as easy to obtain as Viagra and after two days waiting in their lobby (it was more disorganized than the bazaars of Kyrgyzstan) they got him registered and he went home with three bags of groceries.
It’s not easy getting help, I thought, unless you’re crooked.