I talked with a man, a normal man, an employee. Five months ago the man was shot three times with a nine millimeter pistol. His name was Vinzell. One shot passed through his arm, breaking it. Another shot passed directly through his thigh – a flesh wound. I found Vinzell one day, a week before he was shot, inactive at work, and what seemed to be laziness was soon interpreted as distress. In fact, he was exceedingly distraught.
It seems that his cousin was found dead in her home at age twenty-eight. In fact, she was found dead in her home at age twenty-eight, having perished at least a week prior and decaying quietly unnoticed for the duration preceding her discovery. Vinzell seemed to want to blame his lethargic anguish on the untimely detection of her corpse rather than on her untimely death. So I waited and approached him a few days later to learn the extent of his sorrow, and let him relieve, to an open ear, some of his mourning.
I listened to Vinzell, who later took bullet number three through his back (said slug narrowly avoided his spine and leaving him near death on the side of a Baltimore street), and held back tears as he ambushed me with simple statements.
“We was in school together. Damn near erry school we been in we been in together. Shit, we used to steal cars and sell drugs together. We did everything together as kids.”
“So y’all were pretty close up in age?”
“Yeah. She a year and a month older than me. Was. We stole a car once an ran that shit into ’bout five cars on the way wit’ them police atter us and she wanted to hop in the mall but fuck that I was boltin’ the other way, haha. But some of my homeboys fucked up their shit.”
“Whose? The cops’? They caught her? You got away? Your homeboys caught them?”
“Yeah. Yo, showed up in court banged up for real.”
“Yeah, but he prolly just threw that damn neck brace on jes for. Hahahaha ha. Hunh.”
“So y’all were pretty close?”
“I mean, tragedies, you know, I mean…yeah, you’ve had a rough year.”
Vinzell was in the hospital for his own injuries for nearly four weeks. I went to visit him, and when I arrived I was met by a wheel-chaired, withered and worn, ashen, black, old, balding ghoul, a Vinzell halved; he was accompanied by his mother. A shadow of his former or later self, Vinzell offered to let me offer to purchase lunch for him from the hospital cafeteria. Vinzell, choosy when he’s healthy, finally settled on turkey salad and tomatoes; whole cherry, not sliced sun-ripened. A fruit drink on the side and a swipe of my credit card were all it took to convince his mother that he had wholesome associates, associates who mightn’t cause her child to come under gunfire. I talked with him for as long as I could stand facing such extreme suffering. After about ten minutes I left the hospital and spent another ten minutes generously patting myself on the back.
There was a gross tragedy there, but the tragedy was not that Vinzell was shot down, nearly to death, on a corner mere blocks from his home. Nor that Vinzell’s cousin died, most likely of a heroin overdose, and went undiscovered, dead, and decomposing for seven days before discovery.
Nor was it that I took delight in his plight; I did have happiness, but it arose from the fact that he could make me feel and know, through simple statements, what I might never otherwise know and feel. Sorrow, anguish, despair and hopelessness carry the beautiful, brow and nose-wrinkling, eye-watering and heavy metallic taste of catharsis.
The tragedy was simply that Vinzell still has a colostomy bag attached to his intestines three months after he has left the hospital. And sometimes, it will leak wet shit through the plastic seam which is attached to the nub of his pink innards; when he’s asleep, usually. He knows he needs to go to the bathroom because the bag is full. And the definition of bathroom has an expanded definition to Vinzell. And the hospital will not reap what it has sown onto my friend, however healthy he may be, for he cannot afford the life that the hospital has saved for him. He can’t afford to have the bag removed.
And he has only become more irritable, and no one can stand him.
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