It is an arduous task keeping him on topic. He has a way of veering away from questions, steering back to his days selling black molly’s and eventually methamphetamines. There is also the distracting way he repeats himself. Eventually, we have worked up a signal. I will tap him on the arm when he begins to tell the same story over again. It was thought this peculiar habit was a by-product of what is referred to as the alcoholic wet brain. While thought to be irreversible in a lot of situations, Dave seems to be slowly making his way back to normalcy, whatever that is for Dave.
“Now look, you have to keep your eyes peeled, if you know what I mean.”
“Peeled on what?” We lite cigarettes and sit in chairs for most of the day, watching people come and go, patients and staff hurry back and forth while we sit and talk, smoke, and gossip about everyone.
“That fucking kid. You know the one.” He has a serious tone. He leans back in the patio chair, as it lazily rains, “you need to find a cheater.”
“A cheater?” I sit up slightly, preparing for the unexpected humor.
“Well, you saw what happened. That fucking kid charged out of the group and right at the male nurse. Mind you he is, or was, a male nurse before he got ate up with the Demerol, he don’t come across like a punk.”
“Yes, I think he pulled his punch at the last minute.”
“I spent time in a federal prison behind a raid on my junk yard in 1983. Only thing those punks could get on me was a bullet…” I tap him on the arm. He gets my signal, readjusts and smiles. “The point is I may be old, but I ain’t no fucking punk.”
I sense his general fear and decide to needle him a little bit. “That fucking kid, you don’t know what he is going to do. You can reason with a sane man,” I say stamping out another unnecessary cigarette. “You can’t reason or anticipate crazy. That kid is nuts.”
“You know his momma is a good-looking gal. She was a Cowboys cheerleader years ago. She still has a figure. Probably married well. She has dumped him here to warehouse him while she gets passed around.”
“Passed around?” He doesn’t hear me or doesn’t respond.
We watch the rain that hasn’t stopped since I arrived. It has rained every day for three weeks. My vomiting withdraws eventually gave way to routine and sitting and waiting. The absence of television has left Dave as my sole source of entertainment. We have gone through every possible story imaginable. Kevin’s unprovoked attack on the “male nurse” has provided a break from the same ole same ole, as Dave fidgets and plots his defense.
“You mentioned a cheater?” I break the silence again.
He leans in and his eyes dart back one way and the other. “I have been looking around my room for a piece of metal that I can sharpen. I am not telling you your business, but I would find something. I am no punk, but I am not going down without a fight.”
“You think I need one?”
“You can’t fight crazy, like you said. That fucking kid is not only a dandy but he is bat shit crazy. You can see it in his eyes.” I snicker to myself as we go back to watching the back and forth. Patients carrying notebooks with their 4th step work, standing at the office door waiting to ask a counselor about a weekend pass or wanting to get new toothpaste. I see Dave’s neck twist as he peeks to watch someone approaching. He gives me a kick as a signal. I turn and see Kevin, with his tall and lanky frame. He moves very quickly, wearing sunglasses, as he does at all times obscuring a clear view of his eyes. There is a surprising quickness to his gait. He is on a mission, heading directly toward Dave, who seems to pull back and grasp the chair in anticipation for anything.
“Hey Dave. Can I have a cigarette?” He stands motionless over us. I watch Dave’s expression, looking for any indication that in his defensive posture he is moving toward a hidden weapon.
“Sure buddy,” says Dave pulling out his cigarettes slowly. “Why don’t you take a few of them.” We both stare at him as he pulls four cigarettes out of Dave’s pack. I watch Dave’s eyes as he follows Kevin as he darts away disappearing between buildings and an area that is restricted.
“You need a fucking cheater.” He leans over and pulls up his pantleg displaying a piece of wood that has been broken and fashioned into a weapon. “It is just a matter of time.” I feigned a cough to hide a laugh that was trying to burst out of me. I didn’t have a clue that I would soon be wishing I had a “cheater” to protect myself against Kevin’s madness.