“See that?” Luis said, pointing to the gurney, “the old guy’s dead.”
“How you know?”
“See how he’s all bundled up? They don’t want to actually do the sheet over the face thing, right? Scares everyone else in the old folks home, makes them wonder if they’re next…But you also don’t want people looking at a stiff, cause that’s like some depressing shit as well, right? So, they do that wrapped up tight shit. Like you just cold. But you ain’t. You just dead.”
“How you know that?”
“That’s what they did with the guy on the top floor of my apartment…Wrapped him up like that…Had to take him down those front stairs too. You could hear it too. THUMP THUMP THUMP…Then they’d stop to get him turned around on the landing and then they’d start again…..THUMP THUMP THUMP. Pretty eerie, man, listening to that and knowing that’s the sound of a dead guy getting carted off.”
“So, what happened to the guy?”
“What do you mean?” Luis said, although it came out more like “Wha-dya-mean?”
“The dead guy in your building…What happened to him?”
“Howd’fukIknow?,” Luis said, “they probably carted him off to East Mercy and then out to the funeral parlour and then they stuck him in the ground somewhere and covered him up.”
“Maybe they cremated him.”
“Maybe they stuffed him and put him over someone’s fireplace for all I know.”
I got a picture of that in my head and started me laughing.
“All I know,” Luis said, “ is one day the guy’s thumping down the stars and a few days later his kids I think musta went and emptied out his apartment, because the dumpsters out back were suddenly full of old furniture and lamps and shit. Then the Super paid my brother and my cousin a hundred bucks to re-paint the place and now some Rasta and his girlfriend live there.”
I couldn’t get to sleep and I was thinking about this guy and how he ended up.
I’d been dragged to my Gramma’s old folks home enough times to know how depressing they were.
Just a bunch of old sad people in diapers, all in this strange sort of holding pattern there until they died or whatever.
And I was thinking that the old guy wasn’t always old.
At one point he was like me, some dumb kid in the ninth grade.
Then, like that guy said in the poem we were studying, ‘way leads onto way’.
And one day he was that old man in that stinky old folks home.
And I wondered if that was the kind of place where I’d end up, at the other side of my life.
And thought about all the stuff, cool stuff and not cool stuff, that was going to happen to me before then.
And then I finally slept.