Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Nurse The Hate: The Cane

He walked with a cane since suffering what was called by his tight ass primary care physician a “mini-stroke”.  Despite the term “mini”, it had been a fairly devastating event that had required him to leave his job and limp by on his meager disability check.  It was unclear if he actually needed the cane at this point as he was a well-known hypochondriac.  He had purchased the cane at a vintage shop where he had years earlier purchased the “fainting couch” which now adorned his hallway and was stacked with unopened mail.  Without a doubt this brass topped fox head cane was a much better buy.  He liked to twirl it in brief moments of levity while humming Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” in a private joke no one ever got.

He spent most mornings watching cable news in a constant spiral of bad news that he found somehow comforting.  Each day the same breakfast of Special K cereal, blueberries, and Minute Maid orange juice (low pulp) provided an expected backdrop of routine.  He tried to busy himself with various doomed house projects like the crooked bookshelves in his office and irreparable leak in the kitchen.  All the while his 16 year old Siamese cat Ping stared with firm indifference.  It wasn’t how he expected to spend his 60s but he had become accustomed to the low energy low expectation rhythm of his life.  He had his books, his records, and enough acquaintances that could be called “friends” as long as the definition of “friend” was wide enough.

The last afternoon I saw him was on an unusually hot and humid summer day.  He was meeting an old work friend from when they both had the illusion of power provided by corporate middle management.  Now they were both out of the game.  They ate lunch at the tired café that had long fallen out of fashion without either of them noticing.  They had the casual feel of men with nowhere to be and no one to hold them accountable.  They were at the age in which they had almost become invisible.  They nibbled at salads washed down with stiff vodka drinks.  Day drinking is the luxury of the very young, the very old, and the unemployable. 

I remember seeing him glancing up with one eye at the TV in the bar watching the urgent looking broadcast of the slowly evolving daily news cycle.  He looked at the coverage of the newscast of the Trump press event.  A sly smile crossed his mouth.  “Look at that son of a bitch.  He never thought he would make it here.  Now he has to figure out how he is going to get out of this thing!’  Both men laughed.  “I can’t wait to see how this shit show turns out.”  They resumed eating their salads and talking about long gone days of small business triumphs and forgotten deals.  They tried to rope me in, but I didn’t have the energy or the time.  I paid my check and left.

That was Thursday afternoon.  Friday afternoon he didn’t show up at the café for his normal Happy Hour appearance.  They called one of his friends who went over to his apartment to check on him.  They found him dead.  He was in his bed fully clothed, the same outfit as Thursday.  The theory went that he returned from lunch, laid down for a nap, and just never woke up.  The family decided not to do an autopsy.  What was the difference?  He was gone.  Oh, and his cane was all the way over by the front door.  I knew he didn’t need that thing.  That made me smile.   


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