There’s nothing like walking home in Astoria from a night of drinking. The food carts serve their chicken and rice. The salsa clubs wind down, playing the last of their fast paced meringue. There are the usual drunks whom wind about the streets and of course the beggars which plead for a quarter or two. I love it all. I really do. But at 3:00 in the morning I am tired. So is my boyfriend Sam. We are drunk. We are into our thoughts. The last thing that we want (or need) is to deal with anyone else. The beggars get nothing and as for the rest of those drunks, they get nothing too, not even a nasty look.
I have found though, that life doesn’t care what we want or need. Life wakes up, decides today is the day it’s going to throw a pie in our face and before you know it, the bad joke has taken over. Walking back to my apartment from a friend’s party, we proceed down Steinway, onto Broadway. In our drunken stupor Sam and I were analyzing the social scene that we just left.
“Well…I don’t think Mike is really into her. He kind of ignored her through the whole party,” I said.
“Well she wasn’t that much fun either,” Sam replied.
We paused for a bit by the side of the road as our discussion heated because Mike’s relationship was THAT important. But suddenly I heard a loud “BANG”. I turned to my left to see a body pummeling through the air. Then, I watched as it landed on the street next to Sam and I making a loud “THUD”. We ran to the body on the street. Blood was draining out of his head, ears and nose pooling to the one side. A car had skidded to a halt next to the body. It stopped fully, a small man got out of the car and walked toward us. Sam and I now stood with the driver who had hit this man. I called 911 while Sam rushed to the man’s side to get some sort of response. And as for the man-heck who knows. Sam and I let him fade into the crowd that was now forming.
Now I did not ask for this. I did not. At 3:00 in the morning, after seeing a body fly through the air, you can imagine how quick a person sobers up. Life is annoying like this. All I wanted to do was walk home and instead I found myself on the phone with some very slow 911 operator who kept asking me where the accident was. Our conversation followed something like this:
“It is on Steinway St. in front of the United Colors of Benetton Store”
“It is on Steinway St in front of the United Colors of Benneton Store.”
“On Steinway and Broadway”.
“Steinway and Broadway”.
I might as well have said the accident happened on the intersection between Crater One and Crater Two on the Moon because I don’t think she quite got it. It took forever for the police to come and even longer for the EMS teams to follow. At this point the pooling at the man’s head had formed a very small deep red puddle which looked like a beautiful red paint. A man offered up his shirt and we tried to wrap it around the man’s head. This was ridiculous though, because the shirt would not stay tight enough. It was like trying to plug up a hole without knowing where the hole was. On top of this no one really wanted blood on their hands, but it was inevitable.
Eventually, the police came and the EMS crew arrived shortly after. They ordered everyone to go away even though people were trying to help. They were mean and nasty, probably tired of seeing this stuff all of the time. I saw that the man had lost his shoes. I tried grabbing them and giving them to a police officer but he wouldn’t take it probably because the risk of blood. Sam still in his drunken stupor, for some unknown reason tried to shake the officer’s hand and the officer refused because of the blood on Sam’s hand.
I am a hypochondriac, plagued with worry. I am a paranoid crazy. At this moment blood was the root of all evil. It was hurt. It was sickness. It was death. It meant hepatitis and AIDS. Not only was it pooling at my feet, causing me to believe the man had lost a considerable amount of blood, but it was also causing me to worry about my own health. Since I had touched the blood, did I have any open wounds? I checked my hands with a reassuring no. Could I get a disease without open wounds? Maybe. Could I die? Maybe.
After the police came and took the man away, Sam and I finished walking home. We needed to clean up. I had blood on me but Sam had a little more. End of story. Sam tried to put his arm around me but I shrugged it off. We were two recovering drunks in shock. The walk home was silent. I had nothing to say. We finally reached my apartment with the bright blue vestibule. I found my keys and opened the first door. I then opened up the second door to my apartment. I couldn’t get the door open. Now why would I not be able to get the door open?! I looked on the floor and almost passed out. On the floor was a body. Two shoes. Two ankles. Two legs covered in jeans. That’s right, a “body”. Now one body during the night I can handle. But two?! Two is one too many bodies. Who needs to face the possibility of death more than once during a 24 hour period?! In shock, I quickly took my hand off the knob and let it shut. I turned around and whispered to Sam, “There is a body on the floor.”
He looked at me with a blank stare and then turned behind us, grabbing the vestibule broom. He opened the door, nudging it with the broom and pushed body away with his feet. Once inside we realized that the body was in fact, my roommate not the dead stranger I had envisioned it to be. My roommate had passed out, obviously from a night of drinking and was now laying face down with her head resting on a a pile of magazines in my bedroom and her legs extending into the hallway.
Sam and I helped her up. I guided her to her room. Once inside her room she started heaving and vomited into my lap. Now at this point not only do I have blood on me, but now there is vomit in my lap. For the next hour or so I spent the time holding her over the trash can in the kitchen. This was only after she tried vomiting into the sink and onto the couch. She finally settled down and at that point and I noticed the blood had dried and the vomit had caked up into tiny balls on my jeans. I was now filthier than five minutes before. And my paranoia about germs had increased to a level which left me numb to the fact that I had more fluids on me than ever before.
At this point it was now 5:45 am. Sam had taken a shower and left to go back to his apartment. I had also taken a shower and lay in bed staring at my ceiling. It was just one of those nights. It was night where the shit just didn’t hit the fan. Sometimes the shit goes beyond the fan. Well-this was one of those times. At this point it was now six o’clock on Sunday morning. The only thing that I needed was coffee.
I pulled my sleepy self out of bed and threw on some jeans and the first shirt I saw in my chest of drawers-this ugly purple sweatshirt that I’ve had for years. Outside the birds were chirping. The air smelled cool. My neighbor’s American flag wagged in the wind like some dog’s tail. The Mexicans waited for their usual work and I passed them, walked down Broadway to find tents set up- just another summer street fair. I went to the nearest bakery and got my coffee with milk only. They always try to throw some sugar in there and I only get annoyed. On my way back, I passed through the street fair to enjoy the people and smells of food and the white tents but then I was stopped by some guy with a cart selling balloons. He motions toward this purple one in the shape of some animal.
“Mam…You like?” he asks in broken English. “Here, you take to match shirt.” he says.
I was thrilled at the prospect of being given a balloon but even more excited that it was a purple one and one that could match my ugly purple sweatshirt
“Sure!” I responded.
“Twenty dollar” he replied.
No way. I hated the thought that I would have to pay for this ugly purple balloon now.
“You take for your children” he coaxed.
UGH. Ok. So it was bad enough that I had to pay for the purple balloon. Now it was even worse that I was supposed to buy it for my children. I quickly walked away towards my house. Past the post office and some stores where I looked at my reflection in the windows only to see someone that looked horrible. Not sleeping at all had made me look haggard, but that ugly purple sweatshirt made me look like a mother. A mother!!!! This at my youth was an insult.
I walked back to my house, with my coffee, my ugly purple sweatshirt and no balloon. I passed the one house which has this cat that likes to perch on the radiator outside, its own personal balcony made for one. I passed my neighbor Jose with the peg leg and my next door neighbors, the Balkans which like to have pig roasts and sit outside and watch tv (yes their tv is outside and they sit on a couch outside and watch it. It is plugged into their house). I think to myself that this is just another day and as my brother says-one crazy thing only prepares you for something even more mind blowing later. And usually you will need more than just one purple balloon to save you.