up on the internet and they seem like really good people. Really good people. The community is lucky to have them. Ken and I made sure the hospital social worker called ahead to update them on your case. They’ll try to help you with some job outreach, but it’s going to be tough going because you don’t currently have a birth certificate or a social security number. They’ll have to figure out how to get you paid…”
I trail off, scaring myself with that line of thought. Of thinking about how John will fare until his memories finally come back.
“Anyway, here’s your phone back,” I say, reaching into my purse with my free hand and passing it to him. “Please don’t hesitate to use it if you need anything. Anything at all. And of course, I’ll try to visit whenever I can.”
Until then, I might as well have been babbling to myself, because he doesn’t say one word until I offer to visit him.
“No. No, Doc, I don’t want you visiting me there,” he answers with a firm shake of his head.
“Why not?” I ask. “Seriously, it wouldn’t be a problem for me to stop in after work. It’d be like having an old fashioned home visit from the doctor. I could check in on you, make sure your healing process is coming along as it should…” Help you get home when you finally remember who the hell you actually are , I add to myself silently.
I don’t particularly like romance novels, but for whatever reason, I feel desperately invested in John finding his happy ending.
But he doesn’t seem at all concerned with the many practical reasons why a visit from me, a medical professional, might be a good thing.
“After work—that would be at night? You want to come visit me at an all-men’s shelter at night?” He asks these questions like I’m certifiable.
“Well, not exactly at night, per se,” I answer. “I get off at six, so it would be more like early evening…before sunset.”
But he just shakes his head, his face stony and unyielding. “No. I don’t want you visiting me there, Doc.”
“Okay…” I answer, not really knowing how else to respond. After a moment of thought, I come up with, “Then maybe we can have lunch sometime. I bet there’s a restaurant we can meet up at.”
“Yeah,” he agrees, a little of the stone slipping off his face. “Let’s meet somewhere. That’d be better. I could see you on the weekend, maybe.”
“Yes,” I agree with more enthusiasm for the idea than I’m actually feeling. A coffee shop meet-up just doesn’t feel like a good enough substitute. But I tell myself it’s better than nothing as I follow my navigation app southeast to a small neighborhood just outside Washington, Pennsylvania.
Really, he’s lucky. According to the hospital social worker, a lot of these places have waiting lists a mile long—especially for men. John was lucky there was a place to take him within the tri-state area. And Washington is a super cute city. Lots of old tan brick buildings, a quaint little downtown, and it’s less than a thirty minute bus ride from Pittsburgh.
I might be able to convince John to let me visit him at night after all , I think as I drive through Washington’s classic American downtown.
But the neighborhood we eventually end up in isn’t the sort with cute little corner cafes, or even a Starbucks. In fact, the only buildings not abandoned on the seedy street we pull onto is a methadone clinic and a halfway house—which I know after a few years in my rural medicine program often takes the place of rehab centers in smaller cities. There’s also a bar, I note, scanning further down the street. Wonderful.
We pull up to the Union Baptist Men’s Shelter. It’s a squat, red brick building with one solitary steel security door. The door’s been painted over several times with various shades of blue, probably to cover up gang tags, and it looks very, very heavy. I’m sure there are people inside, but the door remains firmly shut when we come to a
Elizabeth Economy Michael Levi