Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Other Guy.
Bronson Walker had a nice home, a nice wife, a nice family, and a nice car. He had a nice job and a nice career. He had nice kids and lived in a nice neighbourhood. He had nice parents, nice brothers and sisters, and worked for a nice boss. It was a nice town in a nice part of the state.
So far, Bronson Walker was having a pretty nice life, although to be fair, he worked very hard to achieve these things. He was a prudent and thoughtful man, a good husband and wonderful father. He was also very lucky.
The hell of it was that he knew it.
Simply put, the tall, athletic, well-educated African American was a very, very nice man.
Bronson even had the wit and the grace to feel a little guilty about it sometimes.
“Why are we here?”
Shawna’s voice hissed in his ear as they sat in the fourth floor lounge area. Several patients had visitors, and the more mobile used this area rather than lay in a bed, taking visitors while someone took their time about dying in the next bed; or was merely laying there with ears wide open.
“There is someone I would like you to meet, if he will see us,” said Bronson.
There was really no way to explain this, this feeling, and so he preferred not to attempt it.
“Who? Who are we meeting in the hospital?” she insisted.
A white-clad figure clattered down the hallway and came to a stop.
“Lawrence says he doesn’t know you, or at least he doesn’t remember you,” the nurse told the couple. “But he will see you. He doesn’t get any visitors.”
“Yes, I know,” said Bronson. “Come on, honey.”
Reluctantly, with a hand from her husband, Shawna dragged herself up from what was a deep and comfortable couch and reluctantly tapped along beside him. What was he dragging her into? Normally a stable and considerate man, all the mystery was simply infuriating. Making a scene was not her style, and all she could do was to endure.
They turned and entered a sunny, double room. Thankfully, one bed was empty, although wrinkled and disturbed bed-coverings attested to an owner. The other bed had an occupant, sitting up with the back of the bed on an angle, and looking at the pair of them expectantly.
“You don’t know me, or us, I should say. Are you Lawrence Bliss?” he asked, with Shawna hovering uncertainly at his side. “I’m Bronson Walker and this is my wife Shawna.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said the figure on the bed as Bronson quickly stepped forward.
They shook hands briefly and a little awkwardly, with Mister Bliss reaching across his body with his right hand, as Bronson was sort of on the wrong side of the bed.
“What is this about?” asked Lawrence.
“You're the guy who fell off the bridge,” noted Bronson, as Shawna drew a sharp breath, in sudden recollection of the story, if not the name.
“Yeah!” agreed Bliss. “That was a long time ago. What about it?”
“Well, it’s pretty amazing that you lived,” said Bronson. “I heard you were off work for a long time.”
“Never really got back, actually,” he said.
There was a silence as Shawna studied the emaciated features of the man before her.
“Are, are you disabled, Mister Bliss?” she asked.
“No!” he said. “Car accident.”
“Oh,” she said, nonplussed and unable to contribute much.
Bronson had something going on inside his head, and she sure wished she knew what it was!
Her hubby pulled a roll of bills out of his hip pocket.
“Your house burned down in two-thousand and three,” he told Lawrence Bliss.
“Oh, yeah! That’s right,” said Lawrence. “The furnace broke down and the dog knocked over the kerosene heater…”
“Yes, I read about all that in the paper,” said Bronson. “Look, I want to give you some money.”
“Why?” asked Lawrence. “What did I do?”
“Well, you were just hit and almost killed by a hit and run driver, probably a drunk driver,” noted Bronson and again Shawna was struck by the reminder.
“You were in the paper! I remember reading all about it,” she said brightly.
“Yeah. I kind of doubt if they’ll ever catch the bastard, though. Some kind of black car, they all look the same these days,” noted Lawrence, mystified by the attention of these strangers.
“I’ve never been in the paper,” observed Bronson obscurely, and pressed the wad of bills, about a thousand dollars worth, into the man’s reluctant hand. “I’ll give it to the nurse if you won’t take it. She’ll stick it in the bank for you. We’ll get you a trustee or something. Please take the money, sir.”
With a big lump in her throat, Shawna nodded brightly, and the man accepted the gift.
“Thank you,” he began, but Bronson held up a hand.
“No, thank you,” he said. “If it’s all right, I might come back and visit in a couple of days.”
“Sure!” said Lawrence Bliss.
And then they were gone, with Shawna no more enlightened than when they set out.
It was a long, silent walk down the hall to the elevator. She said nothing in the elevator, just looking and wondering at the strange behaviour of the man she loved. The walk through the lobby and out into the parking lot was silent, with neither one saying anything.
Unlocking the car without a word, the pair got in and Bronson started the engine. He left it in park and just sat there for a moment.
Finally he turned and looked into her inquiring gaze.
“That man was flooded out in ninety-four and ninety-six,” he told her. “His dad was an alcoholic and his mother ran away and no one knows where she went. His little sister died of cancer at nine years old.”
She said not a word. All she could do was to listen.
“He did eleven months in jail, and then the charge was withdrawn when the actual culprit was caught, some sort of convenience store robbery,” he went on. “He was in an armoured vehicle in Iraq when it hit a roadside bomb. He has four steel pins in his leg and a titanium plate in his head…he fell off of his bike and lost his front teeth. He was kicked out of school because he didn’t want to be a choir boy…the list goes on. Oh, Lord, the list goes on and on and on.”
“Oh,” she said.
“Do you know who that man is?” he asked her, his voice rising in some deeply-rooted emotion, a near hysterical tone evident. “Do you know who he is?”
“No, honey I don’t,” she said very, very quietly. “Who is that man?”
“He’s the other guy,” said her husband with a tone of finality. “He is the other guy.”
And without another word, Mister Bronson Walker put the thing in gear, and calmly drove to their fine suburban home, and she never mentioned it again.