Sunday, June 20, 2010

BUS STORY # 189 (Transplant)


, originally uploaded by tcastlen.


We’re on San Mateo, just south of I-25, holding down the bench at each end and waiting for the bus.

He asks me if I know when the next bus comes.

I tell him they run about every 15 minutes or so. I figure it’s already been 10 minutes.

He asks if I’m a native. I tell him 30 years and ask him about himself.

He’s been here less than a year. He and his wife moved here from Las Vegas. Nevada, he adds, which tells me he’s been here long enough to know he needs to make that distinction.

Hot place in the summer, I say. Up to 117 four months out of the year, he replies. And the nights only cool off to a hundred.

Lemme tell you, he goes on, Las Vegas isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. You can’t walk to the grocery store and back without getting hit on for money or cigarettes a half dozen times. And there’s drunks everywhere, just lying in the street.

I tell him I’ve read the economic collapse hit Vegas especially hard. So is what he’s telling me because of the crash?

It’s Vegas, he replies. It’s a magnet for losers.

How long was he there?

12 years. He was in the tree trimming business. Palms, mostly. They’re filthy things, full of rats and roaches and pigeons and all kinds of crap. And tough to trim even when you know what you’re doing.

What brought him to Albuquerque?

His liver. He’s here waiting for a transplant.

How’d it happen?

Alcohol. He smiles ruefully. He was doing a case and a half a day.

I tell him he looks like he’s quit drinking to me.

He’s been sober for three years now. He woke up one morning and vomited a bucket of blood. Scared the hell out of him. He hasn’t touched the stuff since.

So is he still in the tree trimming business? I note there’s not much in the way of palm trees around here.

He’s disabled. He’s got three herniated discs. He says the docs gave him hydromorphone – “It’s a synthetic morphine” – and now he’s addicted to the damn things. He found this out when he ran out one weekend and couldn’t get his prescription filled until Monday. He came down with a bad case of nausea and the shakes.

“It was a lot worse than alcohol withdrawal.”

He says he asked for something less powerful, but the docs told him it wouldn’t relieve his pain. So he takes one when he gets up in the morning, then every three hours after that until he goes to bed at night. He says without them, he wouldn’t even be able to walk.

“See my eyes?” he asks me.

Sure enough, the pupils are tightly constricted.

The bus comes and we board. He grabs an empty aisle seat near the front. I head for the back. Going past him, I touch him lightly on the shoulder and wish him good luck.
__________

The photo at the top of this story is posted with the kind permission of tcastlen. You can see this and all tcastlen’s photos on Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjcastl/4274850927/

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