I suspect there are things my mother would rather I didn’t do.
I suspect I shall continue to do them.
I would’ve come home hours ago, except that my boyfriend’s mother served coffee at 9:30 tonight and I couldn’t resist grabbing a cup. 11:00 found Boyfriend and I highly caffeinated and parked on his couch watching episodes of Game of Thrones, him on his laptop filing his taxes, me switching back and forth between poor choices in Words With Friends, and fat fingered trombones in Draw Free on my cell phone. Two episodes and one game of double-deck Solitaire later it was 2:30 am. Where does the time go?
2:40 am. I pull into the garage at my apartment, tired, but not exhausted. Might have a few games of Solitaire Blitz left in me before I hit the sack. I swap hands between my keys and phone so I can check Facebook when I reach the elevator, and open the door to the lobby. And you know? I never thought the man on the floor in front of me could be hurt. A guy got shot in the head a couple years back in the lobby of the building next door (he survived), but somehow the prospect of violence didn’t occur to me tonight. Probably just as well. I might’ve responded by doing something stupid. Like calling the cops.
But I did no such fool thing. Instead I called the body “Sweetie,” and settled down on my haunches to engage it in what would turn out to be a decidedly one-way conversation.
“Hey Sweetie,” I said, perhaps too quietly.
“Hey,” I repeated without adding much volume.
“Hey. You’ve got to get up now, okay? Hey…”
I placed my hand on his shoulder and shook him a little. I wondered briefly if attempting to rouse a drunken stranger was unwise, but decided that concern was irrelevant in the greater scheme of things and moved on.
“Hey… Do you know where you are? Honey?” I pulled back his collar so I could talk directly to his face. “Do you know where you are? Come on now Sweetie.” Another shake. “Come on now. It’s time to wake up. You can’t sleep here. You can’t–“
He sighed and pulled his outstretched arm in tight to rest his face on his hand. Just out of his fallen reach was a nearly full bottle of Heineken, tipped over on its side. *tsk tsk* Such a waste.
I shifted my purse to my other arm so I could reach him better. I slipped my fingers into his curled up hand.
“Hey honey. Do you know where you are?” I paused for a response I knew wouldn’t come. “You’re in the lobby. You’re in the lobby of my apartment building. Do you live here? Do you have friends who live here? Wake up, honey. Time to wake up. You can’t sleep here all night, now.”
It went on like this for several minutes, my efforts earning me another sigh, and then finally a smiling sort of sound.
“Hey now! There you go! I knew you could hear me!” I chuckled at him. “I bet you did this to your mama when you were a little boy, huh? I bet you did this when she tried to wake you up? Pretended you were still asleep?” I took his hand, patted his shoulder, shook him a little.
Another sigh, another smile. He tucked his face down farther into his jacket.
“It’s okay. I did the same thing to my mom,” I smiled, hoping he heard it on me. He must have, because he smiled again. Such small, sleepy smiles. It took me back to nap time in the days when I used to babysit. None of the kids ever wanted to nap. Funny thing was none of them ever wanted to get up, either.
We passed a few more minutes together of me talking quietly, shaking him by the shoulder, holding his hand, and my eventually deciding if my mom were here she’d probably be doing the same thing.
“You can’t sleep here, okay?” I tried again. “I don’t want somebody to find you and be mad and call the police or something. I want you to wake up when I’m here. I want you to wake up for me now, okay? Wake up and we’ll find your apartment and you can sleep in your own bed, okay? I don’t want somebody mean or mad to find you. They might not be nice to you. I’ll be nice to you, okay? And I want you to wake up for me.”
When he’d originally lay down or fallen, his iPhone had landed near him on the ground. I picked it up. The screen displayed four missed calls from A—, a text message from her asking where he disappeared to, and then another asking if he was okay. But I couldn’t call A— to see who this guy was, or if he even lived in this building, without the phone’s pass code. Lacking that I tapped his cheek with my fingers. He shifted.
“What… are you talking about?” he finally slurred with a smile. I laughed.
“You, honey! Do you know where you are? You’re asleep on the floor in the lobby!”
“What are you talking about?” Another slur. Another smile.
Rinse. Repeat. Two more runs of this now stale call-and-response, then he propped himself up on his elbows, revealing a set of keys on the floor beneath him.
“Aw, look at that now. It’s your keys! See? You don’t want to sleep here on the floor! You’ll get a key imprint on your face! Now let’s get you up and get you home, huh?”
He smiled, and let out a shy laugh. I laughed too. I had to. It was funny. To both of us.
He pushed himself back onto his heels while I picked up his keys and phone, leaving the bottle to its doom on the lobby floor. He started to stand, and then kept going, and going, and going. He was 6’4″ if he was a foot. It was like watching a baby dinosaur testing its legs for the first time. He took a wavering step toward the staircase, then began to drop. He must not weigh as much as he looks like ’cause I caught him as he was falling.
That or I am awesomely strong.
Or really good at estimating appropriate leverage.
“How about the elevator, huh? I’m gonna help you into the elevator, okay? What floor do you need?”
He silently mashed the button for my floor. The door closed behind us. He turned to face me, his eyes bloodshot but such a spectacularly bright green against the brown of his face that it surprised me a little. He closed them and leaned back against the wall for support.
“You’re gonna be alright, yeah? Gonna crawl into your bed and sleep a lot better than on the lobby floor, right?”
I smiled. He smiled. The door opened and he swooped out with grand but slow steps. I followed closely, hoping he wouldn’t crash into a wall and wake any neighbors. He’d come so far and done so well. I’d hate to see him come to any trouble when we were so close to making it to safety.
“I’m gonna walk you to your door and make sure you get in alright, okay?”
“Okay,” he whispered, smiling an eight year old’s smile. Oh Sweetie. Oh baby dinosaur.
We began our trek down the corridor, him weaving in and out between the comfort of the wall and the goading of some invisible pace car in the middle of the hallway, putt-putt-putting away just ahead of us.
He put an arm around my shoulders for balance. I lifted it, found a better spot under his shoulder to wedge my 160 lb. fulcrum, grabbed hold of his hand, and hoisted. We were not going to fall down so close to our goal. He stopped, looked at me with a grin, and resumed his quiet, gentle weaving.
Thirty feet and two minutes later we reached his door. The end finally in sight it seemed like minutes swept by while he searched his pockets for his key. Into the lock… turn… wrong way… turn… click. He opened the door enough for me to see he has a dog. Strictly speaking, dogs are not allowed in this building. I smiled, because strictly speaking: Neither are ferrets.
He had stopped moving and was leaning against the wall beside his door. I gave him a little pat over his heart. He nodded and smiled that little boy smile again, embarrassment in it this time.
“You’re gonna sleep so much better now, right? You go in there and have some water, okay? You’re gonna be glad in the morning that you did, right?” I gave him a grin I save for the Uncertain.
He pivoted into his apartment, then turned back to look me square in the eye. “Thank you,” he said, the slur now gone.
“Of course,” I whispered, grinning.