|Cyrus is sleeping in the passenger seat. The trip is not far but it is far enough for me to become irritated by his incessant questions. I took him down a week ago to visit when I found out about the eviction notice. This time, he will stay. A war veteran, Cyrus returned from the Korean War hobbled and broken-spirited a mental and physical condition that never went away.
It is good he is sleeping; asleep I won't become tense and feel his fear about going to the convalescent hospital. It is good he is sleeping, asleep; I will have time to think about all that needs to be said and done when we get there.
I do not exactly remember how he came into my life; I just know, for some time now, I have been responsible for him. We are not kin or related in any way; except for the fact we are humans, except for that. One old and one not too old, that is all. Relative or not, we been drawn together and bound by some unexplainable force. His duty is having me take care of him and my duty is taking care of him. He does not have much in family and I am not attached to any breathing person---I guess it is not that unexplainable now that I think about it.
Coughing in his sleep, I glance at him-he's okay. The doctor at the Veteran's Hospital said he did not have pneumonia and that the coughing would subside. The doctor gave me some medication and sent us on our way. I am glad he is resting, I don't have the energy today to deal with all that comes with befriending a slowly, dying man.
Bubba Ray, yeah that's it, Bubba Ray is how Cyrus and I became acquainted. Yeah. That's it. Back in 1999, still working on my graduate degree, to make the little money I earned from teaching last, I rented a one-room place off of Main Street. I taught twice a week and once a week, drove down to Orange, California to attend class. Embarrassed by my penury existence, I did not speak to any of the other tenants and they did not speak to me, it was a good arrangement---that is---until Cyrus moved in next to me
On several occasions he knocked on my door wanting a favor or something of the sort, sometimes I obliged many times I did not because I could not. Little did he or any of the other tenants know, back then, the government checks most of them received once a month and spent in a day, was more than I made teaching. I guess all they saw was my newer, un-dented car.
Yeah…that is how we met. He came knocking on my door one night. He asked for cigarettes. I offered to pick up a pack from a nearby liquor store for him. He said he did not have any money but could give me food instead. The plastic bag he held out contained a large can of chili, a can of potatoes and a packet of rice pudding. On my way to the liquor store, I saw a short, fat man sitting on Cyrus’s bed drinking beer. Cyrus, held up by his walker, stood by his front door waiting for me to return.
I drove to the liquor store and bought Cyrus a pack of generic full-flavored cigarettes. I drove back and gave him the pack and retired to my own hole. Back in my apartment, I tried to shut out the sight of Cyrus standing by his front door and the thought of the fat man sitting on Cyrus’s bed drinking beer out of my mind. I tried.
What I concluded from all of this was there is an invisible horizontal line running from one end of the earth to the other end. Some people are above it because they are human. Some people are below it because they are not.
Yeah that is how we became acquainted. Using his walker, he hobbled over and knocked on my door, spoke to me and offered me food that he probably needed. Yes, that is how we became familiar; he knocked on my door and broke the arrangement.
Y: "You're awake?"
C: "Been awake."
He never could say my name without stretching it.
Y: "Yes Cyrus."
C: "Are we gonna get stopped by the police?"
Y: "I don't think so, why?"
C: "They stopped us before."
Y: "You're right."
C: "Don't drive fast Yan-nick."
Y: "Cyrus, I am not speeding!"
C: "Yan-nick, I don't want the police…."
Y: "Cyrus, the police are not going to stop us and speeding wasn't the reason the officer stopped us."
C: "Why he stop us then?"
Y: "Don't you remember? The officer stopped us because he said I should have taped a red flag or red cloth or something on your walker that I put in the trunk."
C: "Why didn't you?"
Y: "Geez! Cyrus, don't you remember, I didn't have time?"
Not today Yannick, do not get mad at him, not today, I thought. Gripping the steering wheel tighter, I tried to remain calm for the barrage of questions I knew would come.
C: "Oh…oh Yan-nick?"
C: "I know. That's when I got kicked out!"
Y: "Yes, Cyrus. Do you remember why you got evicted?"
C: "On account I was playing my music loud?"
Y: "No, Cyrus."
C: "On account I'm black?"
Y: "No, Cyrus. You got kicked out for yelling at people walking by."
C: "Well I'll be?"
Y: "Don't start…don't start. You know perfectly well the apartment manager asked you a dozen times to quit yelling out your door."
C: "Is that why the police came?"
Y: "Yes, Cyrus Buchannan, that is why?"
C: "I only yell at people I know."
Y: "Cyrus, you don't know everybody in town."
C: "Most of them, I know most of them."
Stay calm Yannick stay calm. He can't help it. I relaxed momentarily but tightened back up when he began the next series of questions.
C: "Can Bubba Ray come see me?"
Y: "No. I told you before, he's not a friend."
C: "Why? Why can't he come?"
Y: "Because he steals your money."
C: "How you know? You don't know everything Yan-nick. Me and Bubba Ray go way back."
Y: "Yup. As far back as when you started receiving your disability checks."
I remained quiet and did not answer him, and pretended to be preoccupied with driving the car.
C: "We gonna go to that place to eat? We gonna go to the place to eat all night?"
C: "Why not?"
Y: "You know why not. How come you always ask about things you know?"
C: "Sometimes I forget…sometimes I can't remember. You getting mad Yan-nick?"
Y: "No, I am not getting mad. We can't go back to the restaurant because they told us not to come back."
C: "On account I'm crippled Yan-nick?"
Y: "You're not crippled Cyrus, you just need a walker."
C: "Yan-nick, we can't go back to the eat all night place on account I'm black?"
Y: "No, Cyrus. We can't go back to the all you can eat place because you pinched the waitress's rear when she walked by our table."
C: "Well I'll be?"
Y: "Please Cyrus…please don't give me that."
C: "Yan-nick, the purdy little thing…"
Y: "It does not matter Cyrus."
C: "Can't look?"
Y: "It isn't the looking that got us kicked out Cyrus."
C: "'Hmpf', well I'll be?"
Cyrus coughed and stared out the window.
"When we gonna be there, he asked?"
"Fifteen more minutes. About fifteen more minutes," I replied.
I thought about what the doctor at the V.A. Hospital said. He told me it could be six months or a year. He did not know. It all depended on Cyrus’s white blood cell count.
Y: "Want to listen to some music Cyrus?"
Y: "What's wrong?"
C: "Promise not to get mad?"
Y: "I promise."
C: "Remember at Christmas?"
Y: "Remember what?"
C: "Yan-nick, remember the present you gave me?"
Y: "Yes, Cyrus."
C: "It had a whole lot of money in it."
Y: "Yes, Cyrus, the wallet had money in it."
C: "All twenties Yan-nick! Five twenties. You promise Yan-nick?"
Y: "Yes, Cyrus I promised to not get mad."
C: "I lost it Yan-nick. I lost your present. You told me to leave it right there on the table…I did Yan-nick. I did just like you told me. I left it right there on the table."
Y: "It's okay Cyrus…it's okay."
C: "I looked for it. I looked under the bed. I looked under the table. I'm sorry Yan-nick. I'm sorry."
Y: "It's okay Cyrus…it's okay."
C: "I'm dumb Yan-nick. I'm dumb."
Y: "Cyrus, what I tell you about that? You're not dumb and you're not crippled."
C: "Five twenties Yan-nick. Five twenties."
Y: "Not all money is good money Cyrus. Not all money is good."
C: "We gonna be there soon?
Y: "A few more minutes…just a few more minutes."