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By Christopher Robin was Murdered (Mon Aug 20, 2007 at 06:15:03 PM EST) (all tags)
The unremarkable sight of the dead end. It's raining sad, unkempt, hopeless men. Man down. Good luck, David.


    It would be hard to impress upon somebody who did not live in New York how utterly indifferent one can become to the sight of some old man passed out in your front yard.

    There was a time, not too long ago, when it was easy to keep track of the various street characters you could expect to bump into in my neighborhood. There were, at any given time, only a handful of homeless guys sleeping at the church on the corner, roaming the streets for recyclables, and, on special days, sleeping off heroic levels of alcoholic toxicity in our front yards. These days, seems like we've got an unusual number of this luckless tribe roaming the area. Some take it as a sign of the nation's overall economic health, though I think these cats have been on the outs for some time – decades in some cases – and seeing them as financial canaries in a coal mine is, I think, part of the same impulse to anecdotal verification that leads people to believe an unseasonably warm day is definitive proof of global warming. Data is the nerdy date of sexy, self-confident personal experience; he may have all the cash, but he can't get past the bouncer without her looks.
    Others suggest that the neighborhood, liberal Park Slope, is itself to blame. The number of homeless men isn't increasing. Instead, they are concentrating in the nabe. Proponents of this theory hold that the members of the Stinking Brotherhood have figured out that most Slope home owners would rather put up with some drunkard sprawled out on their stoop then do anything so reactionary as call the cops.
    I'm no fan of any particular explanation. As far as I'm concerned, these sorts of things are, for all we analyze them, pretty much like the weather. Whatever we may or may not be able to do to alter the shape of these grand and indifferent narratives occurs on such a macro-level that the link between action and consequence is, mostly, a matter of faith. On an individual scale, you just have to take these things day-by-day and make do.
    Regardless of whatever pet theory or strategy one adopts, the situation is the same. It is now fairly common to come home and find at least one passed out man somewhere on the sidewalks, doorsteps, or car hoods of the block.

    So it was Saturday when May and we walking home from the grocery store and found a man, seemingly deep in an intoxicated stupor, sitting up against the fence in front of our brownstone.
    To be perfectly honest, we were going to just ignore him and walk by. This nothing to be proud of, surely. We've simply become calloused and the reaction was a natural consequence of unproductive exposure. We don't even get to claim the cynical self-determination of the professed misanthrope. Instead, one takes the easy route and the easy route is to grow armor.

    As we walked by, I took, against my better judgment, a closer look at him. He was dumbly rubbing his forehead in a back-and-forth motion with his right hand, a common action among the drunk, as if they were already trying to assuage the headache they know is waiting for them in the future. I've done it myself. In fact, I think it was that motion, like some secret high sign for lushes and drunkards, that caused the flare up of fraternal compassion that impelled me to take an second look.
    On looking at the man again, I realized that every time he ran his hand over his forehead, a trickle of blood ran down his brow. Sometimes it ran along the top his right eyebrow, dripping down his temple and then his cheek. Other times, he'd squeeze some blood out of whatever hidden wound was under his hand and the blood would run off the bridge of his nose. That this blood then pooled slightly in his eye before trickling to his lips didn't seem to bother him particularly much.
    I stopped and stood next to him, grocery bags hanging from both hands. "Are you okay?"
    In retrospect, I guess it was pretty stupid question.
    Even standing away from him, I could smell the booze in him.
    He took his hand away from his forehead and looked up at me. He had a broad and long, but shallow gash above his right eye. A flap of skin had peeled off and mashed back incorrectly, it was now forming a sort of tube, the loose tip of the flap sticking to his head with slightly congealed blood. I realized he had a trickle of blood on the left side of his nose as well, though that was a little puzzling as the trickle didn't seem connected to the wound on his head and I couldn't see were it had come from.
    He stared up at me and tried to focus, as if I had the sun behind me and trying to make out my features was a physically painful process. (To be fair, I've gotten the same look from women on several occasions and I am now convinced that trying to make out my features is, in fact, a somewhat painful process for most people.)
    "How bad is it?" he mumbled.
    I realized when he spoke that what I took for a trickle of blood on the left slide of his nose was actually a thin, deep cut. When he spoke, it opened and closed slightly, like a gill at work.
    "It isn't good."
    He tried to explain what happened a couple times. It was clear he fell, but we didn't get more detail than that. He'd given up rubbing the Kleenex he had against his forehead, it was now just a wad of bright red shreds in his palm, and his hand flopped against his sides, palms up. The blood on his head flowed freely.

    I asked May to take the groceries in and call an ambulance. I asked her to tell them that we couldn't say whether the man was simply very very drunk or whether he was suffering from the fall.

    The man and I sat outside for a second. He turned towards me and asked how bad it was again. His gill opened and closed.
    "I think you're getting stitches."
    "Just a butterfly."
    He looked at me and then stared down at the Kleenex, almost regretfully, as if it were the last Kleenex he'd ever own and he'd hoped to put it to some grander and more noble use. But here it was, damp through with blood and tattered.
    "I'm going to get something to clean you up. Okay?"
    He looked at me and said nothing.

    I ran inside and May was still on the phone. "No. We didn't find him in the house. He was in front of the house."
    I grabbed some peroxide, some Q-Tips, and some tissues.
    He was still sitting there, hands to his side. He was looking at the tree that grows in front of our house. He had a look of vague suspicion.
    He mentioned again that wound would only merit a butterfly.
    I told him I was going to clean him up, asked him to look at me. He turned his head slowly towards me and explained that he'd tripped. I told him that I knew that. The sidewalks are old and uneven and they're dangerous.
    I dabbed at his forehead, clearing away some of the blood. He was forcing the bleeding with his rough rubbing. A light touch cleared the blood away, leaving a swath of exposed meat the pale yellow color of uncooked chicken skin.
    I warned him that the peroxide might hurt.
    He told me it wouldn't.
    He didn't wince. Instead he mumbled that he could feel it working.

    I went to clean the slit on the side of his nose, which temporarily still as he concentrated on the burning sensation of the peroxide.
    It was then I realized that the man's nose was nearly flat and crushed to one side. It was clearly broken, or had been, but there was none of the darkness or swelling I'd associate with a fresh break.
    "How's you nose feel?" I asked.
    "No good."
    "Did you break it?"
    "Boxing," he said. "I used to box. I was a boxer."
    I couldn't work on his nose while he talked. The gill-like flapping of the cut was too strange to approach.
    "Well, I must be the worst cut man you've ever had."
    "You're alright. My nose hurts."
    "Hold still."
    "I think they'll give me a butterfly."

    His name was David. May joined us outside. After we cleaned him up, we had him hold a cloth to the wound on his forehead. Even though the cut on his nose looked much worse to me, the head wound kept threatening to drip into his eye. Before he applied the cloth to the bloody slash, I tried to reposition the flap of skin for him. I pinched it lightly between my thumb and forefinger, unrolling it and spreading what was left of it over the wound. Then, using my pointer finger, a tried to gentle smooth it out. It was, short of marital duties, perhaps the most intimate contact I've ever had with another living soul.

    Together we sat for about twenty minutes. We didn't talk much. He was pretty out of it.

    The EMTs asked him if he'd been drinking. He, in his most lucid moment of the whole event, gave the very specific answer, "I had a beer with a sandwich."

    The EMTs had to lift him up in the stretcher. I told him that we'd see him around, though that was probably a lie. He said he didn't need stitches. He thanked May and I. He said again that he didn't need stitches and then they rolled him away.

< "Yes, I'm sorry. Go on." | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
One Big Union | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden)
stitches might be what he gets by lm (4.00 / 4) #1 Mon Aug 20, 2007 at 07:06:26 PM EST
but I don't think that stitches are what he needs.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
they can stick that skin down by fleece (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Aug 20, 2007 at 10:46:57 PM EST
when it's scraped off against a sharp edge it rolls up like a holland blind and shrinks a bit over time but if they can get to it within a few hours they'll unroll it and stick the whole lot down and it will heal up okay if it still has a blood supply. good bloodflow in the head area too. he should be back on the catwalk in no time

Lost cause, I think. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 05:06:00 AM EST
As far as I could tell, he lost some pieces of it. I'm thinking he might have stripped bits off with his heavy-handed rubbing.

Nothing serious in the long run, I imagine. Perhaps he'll end up with a scar, but that's worse case scenario for that wound.

[ Parent ]
The ambulance company will bill you. by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 02:59:08 AM EST
And the guy will come back with some friends acquaintancesothers, break into your house, stab you and rob you.

This is America. No good deed goes unrewarded.

nice. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 03:37:59 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Ya know. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 03:42:23 AM EST
Sometimes I feel like my view of the world is pretty grim. Then I read one of your comments, mr. rat, and I realize I'm actually a sunny optimist. Thanks, I guess. Of course, my experiences with various homeless people have generally ranged from neutral to entirely positive, so maybe that's affecting how I see this particular situation.
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
I love you too. by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 04:34:24 AM EST
As for my world view, I've been listening to too much left-wing radio.

Incedentally, I'm not bagging directly on the homeless guy. I suppose it could change my comment to be something like: Friends of the EMTs who hear about this nice couple who look like easy targets do the break in and stabbing. Does that sound better? All I know is that karmic balance must be restored somehow.

[ Parent ]
Karmic balance. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 3) #11 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 05:01:19 AM EST
My theory is that, in the way a stray cat you feed once will return to the same window, any drunken homeless dude who busts his head or slices open his hand is going to stagger his way to our place for free amateur medical care.

We're going to have to buy one of those deli counter ticket wheels and "Now Serving" signs.

[ Parent ]
I think CRWM should by sasquatchan (4.00 / 2) #13 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 05:10:58 AM EST
be more afraid the man was a werewolf incognito. See, I think the underground is onto CRWM's coverage of the horror genre, and they're looking to shut him up, and this scout was a test to see what's the best way to draw him out.

Next time, a bleeding homeless guy will leave a little splatter on CRWM's doorstep, with the blood trail leading off to a dark alleyway, and that's the last we'll ever hear from him.

[ Parent ]
A scholar, a gentleman by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 03:46:57 AM EST
and a humanitarian. Indeed, who is your neighbor ?

Long time since I was a scholar. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #14 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 05:14:33 AM EST
And even when I was, I was a pretty mediocre student. I reckon I'm just educated enough to work simple machines, read most street signs, and master the canonical three eating utensils. I've found the rest of this vast store of knowledge, so-called, you can fake and most folks don't notice.

As for a gentleman, aside for the Southerner's genetic predisposition to the basic p's and q's, I don't make no claims.

Finally, as to the accusation of me being a humanitarian: the rumors of my eating my enemies are Western colonialist propaganda.

[ Parent ]
better to light a candle by clover kicker (4.00 / 2) #8 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 04:42:58 AM EST
than to curse the darkness

True. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 2) #10 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 04:52:58 AM EST
But still, somebody needs to put that darkness in its place. It could use a verbal thrashing now and again.

[ Parent ]
no it's not by fleece (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 01:00:01 PM EST
fucking darkness.

there isn't that better?

[ Parent ]
Giving aid by blixco (4.00 / 2) #9 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 04:52:55 AM EST
to strangers is a very unusual, very intimate thing.  In the very brief time that I wanted to do that for a living, I found my reaction to it dulled (as it would) but I could never drop it entirely.  If someone is holding on to you for dear life, or they are crying out in pain and your hands are the only things that are both helping and maybe hurting them....

It's a difficult place to be.

The boxer will be OK.  He's seen a lot worse than that.
"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

F**k by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #15 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 06:32:58 AM EST
I miss New York.

Getting close to a stranger is amazing. Next time you see your boxer - try dancing with him.

"It means more if you have to earn it, even if it's by doing something as simple as eating a meal." Kellnerin

Dancing was on the to do list. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 07:32:08 AM EST
But those puritanical EMTs with their "we're concerned about back and neck damage" had to ruin everything!

[ Parent ]
isn't there a movie by alprazolam (2.00 / 0) #17 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 08:36:42 AM EST
about an ex boxer turned bum who takes up boxing again and becomes the champ? Resurrecting the Champ I guess...based on a true story even.

Did the guy have a big, tribal tattoo on half of his face by any chance?

Not even the Mao on the bicep. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (2.00 / 0) #18 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 08:38:06 AM EST
He was an older white dude and, from the look of his face, he was never the champ.

[ Parent ]
Good on ya . . . by slozo (2.00 / 0) #19 Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 10:09:15 AM EST
. . . that's all I have to say about that.

One Big Union | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden)