Monday, May 25, 2015


     A man plops down next to me on the light rail. He has a large fresh scab on the bridge of his nose. One by one he asks everyone around if he can use their phone to make a single call. They all give him excuses; their batteries are dead, they don't get service on the train, they're waiting for an important call...

     Finally he turns to me. I brace myself.

     "You look real happy," he says.

     "I'm tired," I say.

     "How far to Instate and Lombard?" he asks.

     "Ten, fifteen minutes," I say.

     "I was told it's four minutes once we get over the bridge." 

     I shrug. Another train passes us as we inch across the bridge. The late afternoon sun shimmers on the water.

     "Can I use your phone to make just one phone call?" he asks.

     "No," I say.

     He stares at me hard then looks away.

     "I just need to call the apartment before I get there so they can let me in," he says. I stare out the window. "If I don't call ahead of time I won't be able to get in," he says. I nod. He snorts, shakes his head. "At this point I'll be dead by the time I get there," he mutters, more to himself than to me. "They got my insulin in there. Without it I probably won't even make it to the front door. Be dead before I even make it to the door."

     I think of asking him some questions about his diabetes, whether he's type one or type two, how old he was when he was diagnosed. I think of asking him why he would leave the house without his insulin in the first place and why he thinks he could die if he doesn't immediately get his insulin. Perhaps he thoughtlessly just ate an entire cheesecake or multiple ice cream sundaes and is feeling himself slip into a hyperglycemic coma at this very moment as he sits beside me on the train. I think of showing him the insulin in my own pocket and asking him if it's the same kind he uses and, if so, if he needs to borrow any to prevent his suddenly death. I even carry a spare needle and a glucometer if he'd like to check his sugar. We could check it together, see how high it really is.

     After a few minutes he turns to the worn-out looking mother sitting to his left. Her kids are screaming and laughing and bouncing up and down on the seats. She tells him her phone is almost out of juice but "go ahead and use it anyways." He punches the number.

     "Hey man I've got the twenty bucks I owe you. You got my... insulin? What? She did? But I told her I would meet up with her there! I'm already on the train! Okay. Shit. Shit. Okay."

     He hangs up and hands the phone back to the woman. A full minute goes by, then he turns to her and says, "Thank you."

     "I'm not telling you again you kids you need to sit the fuck down! You're welcome," she says.
     When the train stops at Interstate and Lombard, he just sits there. I'm just about to tell him he's going to miss his stop when he lurches to his feet and staggers out the door. I take out my phone to check the time. It's been exactly thirteen minutes since we crossed the river. 

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