Thomas tore open the tarp in one swift kick. The tarp immediately started rolling down the sidewalk and into the street. The wind had picked up overnight. Jack must be suffering with hypothermia, Thomas thought. “HELP! HELP! I NEED HELP HERE! MY FRIEND IS IN NEED OF HELP!” -Thomas screamed, as he carried little Jack as fast as he could toward the Mission House. The wind in Thomas’s face was like a blow torch with the 21 degree temperature. He probably was going to suffer frostbite. What a stupid decision I made to not stay at the Mission House, Thomas thought as he noticed a police cruiser turn the corner at a traffic light. “Hey, I need help officer! Please stop!” Thomas pleaded with the officer in the cruiser. The police car slowed down to within 15 feet of them. Thomas could see the officer smiling at them as he sped up and away from both men. He must have thought we were both drunk, Thomas, reasoned. No one would turn away from people who need help, even the homeless of the area, would they? Thomas sobbed as he struggled once again to get Jack to the Mission House. Jack was a little guy. But, he was dead weight….and then Thomas thought how inappropriate that thought was as he saw the display of the Mission House in sight now. “Somebody, ANYBODY, please help me!!! I have someone in desperate need, please!!!” Thomas again screamed. Thomas could make out a man’s form step out from the Mission House which was about 500 feet away now. The man came running toward them. It was the Mission Captain Jack had spoke to the day of Miss Betty’s death. “What’s wrong with him?” the captain asked. “I think he’s suffering with hypothermia. Would you please call an ambulance?” Jack pleaded. “Let’s get him in the shelter and see if we can revive him first. I’ll notify my supervisor to get an ambulance from City Hospital here ASAP!” the Captain yelled at Thomas.
Jack was laid out on the floor, of the Mission House with paramedics working on him. They only had a faint pulse and Jack was ashen now. “What hospital are you taking him to? Is he going to be alright,” asked the frantic Thomas. “Sir, we are doing everything we can for him. The only hospital that will take him is City. You can meet us over there if you wish,” said the grim looking paramedic. Someone behind Thomas spoke to him. “If you want to ride over with me, I’ll be glad to take you,” It was the cop who had passed them by earlier who was offering him a ride to the hospital. For the briefest of time, Thomas considered telling him to go practice safe sex on himself. But, now was not the time for anger. “Okay. Let’s go,” said Thomas. “Buddy, you don’t know how…”Let’s just forget, for the moment, the fact you passed on a man that desperately needed your help, okay? Let’s get to the hospital. I want to be with my friend!” Thomas said upon interrupting the cop before he could give an excuse. Both the police officer and Thomas rode to the hospital in desperate silence as the siren blared for all others to get out of the way. As the cop stopped to let Thomas out, he again tried to apologize. “I know you are mad at me, I don’t blame you one bit. But, I just thought you guys were drunk and making your way….” “Don’t try that shit with me, officer. Don’t even try it. If we had both been well-heeled, well dressed men, with one man carrying the other, you would have stopped to offer to ‘protect and serve’!!! You know it, I know it and the whole damn world knows it!!! I’m not going to try and help you ease your guilt. You will have to do that on your own,” screamed Thomas. With that, Thomas slammed the door and ran inside the emergency room.
It was 5:26 AM according to the First Louisville Bank. It was now 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Neither bits of information meant anything to Thomas as he quietly sobbed in the outside foyer of the emergency room. Thomas felt numb…and not just from the bitter cold and wind. He was numb because his little friend Jack, that innocent, simple, child-like man, had succumbed to the bitter cold. Nature can be a bitch without an ounce of mercy. Nature is cruel, brutal and hell on wheels with those that get in her way. But, Thomas wasn’t blaming anything or anyone but himself, his own anti-social behavior, as the main contributing factor in Jack dying from the extreme elements of the night. Sure, the cop could have stopped. But, how many drunk homeless men had he seen in the exact same scenario over the years? Probably far too many, Thomas thought. No, Thomas only thought of himself tonight as not wanting to be near so many people, so many people like himself. There was no way in hell Jack was leaving Thomas in the bitter cold by himself. Jack loved and respected Thomas. But, love is not something Thomas has ever been able to accept in his life.
Thomas knew he should have left to go to the Mission House with Jack. That’s something that will haunt him for the rest of his days. But, as always, Thomas thought only of himself and his wants, his desires. What other people thought and wanted did not matter to Thomas, as he continued to berate himself. Thomas was desperately sobbing now. Other homeless from the shelter, including some from his own community who had begged him to come with them, tried to console him. But, it was no use. Thomas pushed them aside and ran…RAN into the bitter, biting wind and icy streets. For too long Thomas had neglected the people in life who mattered most to him like his very own brother. The people who loved him, while not quite understanding him, accepted him with love. You accept those whose faults you find impossible to deal with. But, you love them in spite of their faults, their weaknesses. This is something Thomas has realized all too late. His narcissism has cost him a dear little friend who depended on him. There is no disputing it now. There’s no way Thomas can continue on with this kind of guilt, this kind of despair any longer. His life is meaningless and has been for a long time.
The West City Bridge would give him a permanent respite from this life of hell he has found himself immersed. Thomas began a swift, steady walk to the top of the bridge…..