Maureen B. on Second AvenueAbout 12:30 am on Saturday night.
I didn't see her until I heard her asking me to call her an ambulance.
She looked like days of yore when drinking yourself into street stoops
and toothlessness was a bit more common. She said she was from Ridgewood. Queens.
"You visiting friends, family?"
She snorted. "No."
"Just in for a drink?"
She laughed. The same way Florence would when to answer directly would mean admitting to a lifetime of fucking things up.
One of the Chinese kitchen workers from the nearby restaurant offered instructions on how to make her more comfortable.
As I talked to the police operator, I propped her up against my legs, while many young people came and went from the Irish bar next door. A couple of them offered to call or get help and one even tried to give me a dollar.
They were a better dressed version of my youth. And leaning against my legs was what could have easily been my old age, for it was on Second Avenue during days of booze, that my wobbling feet would weave up and down with hopes of love and when that didn't work out, hopes for cupcakes and something good on TV.
The ambulance showed up and the bouncer came out. "I told her not to sit down but down she went. She wasn't sitting there a long time, maybe a couple of minutes before you showed up."
"Perfect timing," I said.
After a couple of questions and snapping blue gloves on, the EMS guys got Maureen up on her feet. The bouncer watched and then said to me, "She just needed a warm bed tonight."
Like committing a petty crime for two-hots-and-a-cot, maybe getting drunk for a warm bed wasn't that much different than getting drunk for different kinds of sweets.
As I watched Maureen, tiny between the two EMS guys, hobble to the gurney, I looked into her face. Beat-up, sagging, ravaged by whatever bottle she lived in, there it was - the unmistakable memory of a little girl who must have laughed with great hope for something, something better than this, maybe even a little warm or a little sweet.