The undertow

My son August and I were leaving the gym two nights ago when we heard a commotion coming from a white panel van on the edge of the parking lot. The interior was lit and the door on the driver’s side was wide open. Someone was yelling and as I glanced over I saw a young man on the narrow strip of grass between the lot and the woods. Oddly, he was hopping up and down, in addition to hollering.

Aug turns to me and says ‘Let’s go, I don’t want to get involved.’ Honestly, at first I thought that somebody might be getting a blow job (yes, I’ve seen that on my walks around town before) but it quickly became clear to me that this guy was in duress. Aug dialed 911. Another young man, a kid really (turned out he was 20) walked right over to the guy who was freaking out to ask him what was going on. I later learned he worked as a police dispatcher, and so knew exactly how to respond. I walked over too and told him we had called 911 and he said we should ask also request an ambulance.

When I walked back over to where the van was the young man who was freaking out was trying to pull his shirt off. He was crying and yelling and puking and kept scratching at himself and talking about how much he was itching (I would later read that both the itching and vomiting are a reaction to heroin). He was holding his belt in his hand and I am sure he had used it to tie off. He kept saying something about ‘Seamus’ and how he was throwing up inside. He also kept apologizing and said they had just come from the hospital and he produced a bottle of prescription anti-nausea medication that had Seamus’ name on it. If this was heroin, he was on a hell of a bad trip.

The first officer arrived within minutes and when he shone his flashlight on the young man I saw that he was a handsome kid with curly dark hair, clothes dirty, eyes wild and clearly frightened out of his mind. His face was the last thing I saw as I fell asleep that night and the first thing when I awakened the following morning—I will never forget the look in his eyes.

As it turned out, Seamus was inside, puking in the locker room. Once the ambulance (and a firetruck plus one more police car) arrived, August and I took off, but we were both really shook up. August hated the fact that we had to call the cops as he didn’t like getting anyone in trouble. ‘Hon, he was already in deep trouble and it was the right thing to do.’

Life is hard. Really, really hard for so very many people. All I could think of as I was watching that kid in that bad, bad place was that somebody out there loved him. And as his arm was already full of needle sticks (the cop looked him over) I didn’t feel terribly optimistic about his future.

I couldn’t go to the gym last night but August did. He said the white van is still there, the interior light yet lit.

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