A short story based on true events about a problem affecting many people's lives.
|Just One More Missing Face
Tommy, a thin man who lived across the street, was my official unlicensed mechanic. He worked hard five or six days a week as a carpet layer with his older partner Curt, often carrying large rolls of carpeting all by himself up the stairs of apartment complexes.
He would come by the house several times a week asking if I needed help with anything, sometimes for ten or twenty dollars, sometimes for free. So he would patch my roof, cut my grass, trim my trees and perform other tasks as needed. My aching back was thankful he was around to do those things.
I don't think he ever missed a work day in his life. He and his partner Curt lived in the same house for convenience sake. I would hear their old beat up van start up with a rumble. The old dodge van broke down at least once a week, which would cause Tommy to come asking to borrow tools from me as needed.
Curt was like a dad to Tommy, keeping him on the straight and narrow which Tommy needed. You see Tommy was a heroin addict.
Each day, when they returned home from a job, Tommy would run to the alley where the pusher would meet him, so by seven PM he would appear very intoxicated, his eyes hollow, his face a sickly, greyish, yellow. But that didn't make him stop working because he needed more cash because Curt would often hold his funds to prevent him from using too much of the drug. That was a good thing for me because I would pay him penny's on the dollar to keep my rig running.
Curt didn't use heroin, he was an unofficial alcoholic, meaning he denied being so but everyone on our block knew that he was. He almost had to be since he suffered from Psoriatic arthritis and he didn't like allopathic medications, but he wasn't a loser because he punched out a meager living to survive.
Tommy was thinking about reuniting with his wife after being separated for several years, but that possibility fizzled when she died of a heroin overdose just two years after I met him. He was very upset about her death so he started using more heroin which became a serious issue for Curt who was not only his boss but his makeshift dad as well. So Curt wouldn't pay Tom his full check because he was worried about him.
That forced Tommy to hitch a ride to a town about twenty miles away to earn whatever he could to get his next fix. He would often be stranded there, so he would spend the nights in abandoned houses with no heat. He would call me on occasion, asking for a ride back to town, so I would pick him up because he was my friend, a friend who never stole from me like most heroin users do.
Curt became seriously ill about four years after I met him. He too was a friend. He was so sick he had to hire another man to take over his work load so "Dot" (an old friend and co-worker), moved in with the two to help take care of things. Dot and Tommy drove Curt to the ER one day because he could hardly get off the couch. They said there was nothing they could do for him, sending him away without even one pain pill even though he was constantly crying out in pain day and night. You see the opioid epidemic is so bad in Ohio that the hospitals often refuse to give out pain meds. He became so ill that he stopped drinking. I would run to the mini mart to pick up his cigarettes and orange juice. One day, he asked to go with me to the automotive shop to buy some parts for the old red and white van which had broken down again. He was moaning in pain loudly as we completed the transaction. "I'm so sorry you're going through this Curt", I would say.
That was the last time Curt ever walked outside of his home. Dot found him one morning slumped over on the couch. I had lost a friend; a friend who considered me to be his "best friend."
I saw the ambulance outside of Curt's home and I knew it was going to be a rough day. I threw my jeans and shirt on and walked over to the house to find Dot shaking badly. The police were there so I immediately introduced myself to them. "I was Curt's best friend who had been doing all that I could for Curt, bringing him meals etc..."
"Curt died sometime last night or this morning," the officer said.
Dot was in denial, he had never found someone deceased before. I had a few times, so I knew what it felt like.
The ambulance drove off without his body since that was the coroner's job. Dot ask me not to enter the house, so I waited outside for the coroner. Tommy wouldn't go home when he found out because he had an outstanding warrant which many users do because crime and addiction seem to be comfortable together.
The coroner, a middle aged woman, and an officer took Curt's bagged body from the house and loaded it into the specially adapted station wagon used for such transports. I said, "goodbye Curt" with a tear almost leaving my eye. You see it was my turn to be strong for Dot and Tommy both of which were wondering what would happen to them now that their boss and business was gone. The coroner said she would reveal the reason for Curts death after the autopsy. It was later revealed that his body was full of cancer.
Tommy spoke with the company that normally gave the crew their carpet jobs and found a way to make the transition work out but Tommy took the old van (which belonged to Curt) out on a job several miles away, probably for some drug money but the van broke down. He managed to make it home but left the van which was soon impounded.
Tommy started complaining about pain in his shoulder and chest and became weaker day by day so I took him to the hospital late one night. They admitted him and performed some tests which he said was a fungal infection in his lungs. He stayed there for four days but his addiction made him check himself out on the fifth.
His dad was a multi millionaire who had recently passed away. Tommy was to inherit close to a million dollars as a result so he asked his sister to borrow $1,000.00 until the circumstances were ironed out. That was the tipping scale of his addiction which went wild almost immediately after I had driven him home from his sister's home.
Tommy avoided almost everyone after that but occasionally worked up enough energy to come sit on my porch for a home cooked meal. About a week later Dot revealed that Tommy could barely walk and that he had lied about having a fungal infection. "It is cancer that was found in his lungs."
So Tommy called his drug dealer over who injected a lethal dose of heroin into his neck with a syringe. Dot called the ambulance when he found Tommy nearly unresponsive. They took him away literally looking like a ghost, his face a light gray as they loaded him in. Tommy died that evening.
A couple of family members and a few friends attended his funeral a few days later.
I still wonder about the whole event. Tommy lost his wife, Curt, his father, and his job all within months of each other before losing his health as well. Not even able to enjoy that million dollar inheritance aside from that thousand dollars.
Life can be so cruel to some people and death for most, means just one more missing face.
The events in this story are sadly true. Opioid addiction is rampant in many areas of the US in these times. Our community in Ohio has to employ extra manpower to deal with the heroin problem alone. So many people like Tommy are affected by this tragedy, a result of both the medical profession and bad relationships within the "wrong crowd." Even if you aren't a fan of President Trump, at least he is trying to do something about this serious problem, so he deserves our support on this issue alone.
This item's image is one of my own digital drawings.