When Thomas moved into the coach house behind me he hung a “w” next to his front door on the outside. It always made me laugh and I called him Mary Tyler Wells. He brought with him his own brand of “tales of the city”.
He was a heavyset guy with a pretty established relationship with alcohol. He used to get drunk 3 or 4 times a week with regularity, I didn’t notice much out of the ordinary at first, probably because I partied just as much. But I did notice the “w” next to his outer front door. I saw it every morning as I left my apartment and every evening as I came in.
All seemed normal in our uptown version of Barbary Lane, until one summer evening. It was like most evenings. My cousin from Illinois had been staying with me for a few months and we were watching “Showgirls” on my tv in the bedroom. We were laughing out loud at some of the bits- the Gina Gershon bitch rants, the Elizabeth Berkley naiveté, and the very flat and one-dimensional ” Keanu Reaves School of Acting” techniques that permeates the film. It was a spontaneous evening of delight.
There was an unexpected pounding at the door. She and I looked at each other and wondered whether we should be frightened. The knock repeated and we made our way to see what the matter was. Outside stood an unknown shirtless guy looking very nervous and saying that our neighbor had fallen and wasn’t responding.
I went over to Thomas’ apartment to see if I could assist. There he was laid out, eyes shut, on the 2nd floor with a green cast to his skin and what could be interpreted as a bit of foam slipping out of the side of his lip as it pressed against the carpet. I shook him a coupla times and called his name over and over. The shirtless guy was going on about pain meds and good intentions and I decided to call 911.
I went back to my pad to put some shoes on. I waited about 15 minutes and the paramedics arrived. They struggled with carrying him because of his size and had to wait for backup to assist them in getting him out. The 2 others arrived and I remember being in my house, looking out my back window and seeing the EMT’s hoisting the gurney up over their shoulders to carry him from the door to the truck. It looked almost like queen tut being transported at the end of a royal procession.
As I watched this impromptu parade, I knew I needed to be a good neighbor and deal with the next agenda item- the shirtless visitor. My intuition had me believing that the phrase “hustler” could best describe the mold from which he emerged. I went into Thomas’ apartment and spoke with him. He had put on a t-shirt by this time thankfully, and he displayed no intention of vacating the apartment. He insisted that Thomas had invited him to spend the night. I assured him that I believed him, but that didn’t affect the responsibility I had as a neighbor and friend.
He protested, and even presented his Driver’s License with the intention of verifying his authenticity. The Kentucky document had the name Johnny Outlaw printed across the front. I chortled a moment and proceeded to request that he go to the hospital where Thomas was and get the house keys from him directly. Johnny then asked if I could spare a piece of cardboard on my floor for him. Sadly, I was unable to comply.