Friday, June 10, 2011

two threads crossing

DOWNTOWN VANCOUVER: A few days ago as I was walking across the street, a man in his late forties staggered towards me on the crosswalk, asking for help. He was moving too slowly to get off the road before the traffic light changed, so I held his arm and coaxed him to the sidewalk.

Jeans, no shirt, well-tanned, thick belly and chest, strong arms, old tattoos. He said he thought he was having a stroke.

"I've had two strokes before. My blood pressure is through the roof."

I tried to help him breathe slowly and calm down, called another guy over to call 911, helped him sit on the ground when he felt faint. He had a vacant look in his eyes, and when I held his arms I could tell something was really wrong. His pulse was going crazy.

"Just relax, brother, you'll be okay."

I don't know how many people walked past this guy before I got there - ignored him because he was shirtless and dazed and looking unwell. I saw three people pretend not to see him before I got to him.

The ambulance eventually arrived.

"So you feel like you're having a stroke? Have you had a stroke before?"
The man said he had two strokes before.
"What have you been doing today?"
"I've been drinking rubbing alcohol for the past week."

At this point, the emergency people said I could go.
I squeezed the guy's shoulder before I left.

"Take care, brother."
He looked up at my face and said, "This guy... this guy helped me."

I treasure those chance connections, those moments when the backdrop of the big lonely city disappears and the focus closes in on two people closely interacting for a short period of time. Two humans reaching an understanding, communicating about the most basic, important things with no falsehoods layered on top.

Then the moment ends, we disappear separately into the masses of people and our individual stories continue on from there.

1 comment:

  1. I'll admit to one little tear.

    Well done, friend. The world is a better place because of you.