Wednesday, August 15, 2012


“Eeeeek!” This began the discovery that I could once again, run. Wade threw ice at me. I turned and did some soft of shambling run across the back yard of Happy Acres. He threw a couple of pieces at Holly. She turned and fluthered off in the other direction. “You moron, you’re gonna electrocute me!” She was wearing some kind of new-fangled heart monitor. It was March of 2011, fine weather for a Saturday, about 10 am. Hooked up to his chemo thingy, chasing the shambling blind chick and the heart-attack lady. The creaky old crocks having fun. Wade was already drunk. 

This was okay. Wade was one of those people you excused. The first day I came to Happy Acres, under the auspices of Hillsborough County, being homeless and finally deemed fit enough to leave the hospital after two months’ care, I met Wade. He was 6’ 4” and weighed about 140, due to the chemo. He had beautiful green eyes; a fine looking man. Originally from Pittsburgh, washed up on these shores here with the rest of us. A true Pirates and Steelers fan. And a lonely one at that. He had to put up with the Bucs, Rays, Bears, Tigers and all the other misfits here.

I had no earthly idea what this “shelter” thing was all about. I was sitting on a couch in the common area. Wade plopped himself right down next to me, introduced himself, and told me he had Stage IV colon cancer and showed me all the literature. He’d already had his surgery and had gone through his first 3 rounds of chemo, hot and cold types. He was good for about 12 more weeks, he said. Things were looking up. Other than a bit of pain management and treatment for anxiety (no shit!) he was confident he'd beat it; I believed him. He told me he was just sorry he hadn’t had that belly pain checked out sooner.

If it seems odd that a complete stranger comes up and starts horking up their life story, I thought so too, at first. After living cheek-by-jowl in this situation until August 2011, and still living closely to these people, I find it not strange at all. Death and tragedy comes swiftly. Our demises are not  always of our own making, either.

Wade was fun. Just plain fun. Drunk or sober. The same Saturday we had the ice fight, was the day, another resident Kevin, who looks like a leprechaun on steroids, went on a tirade about the shoes. It started sanely enough. Kevin said, “yeah, I got these shoes at Walmart, and I put them on my feet.” We’re like, okay. That’s all good. Then, Kevin says, “but then, the soles fell off and blah, blah, blah…” and he rants about lousy shoes for 20 fucking minutes. He’s getting louder and louder and he yells, “so, keep your eyes out for good shoes!!!” I look at Holly and she mimes keeping her “eyes out.” I’m done. I’m rolling on the ground. Kevin never even notices. He continues his screed. “It’s so you can’t even get the ground to stay on the soles of your feet!!!” I’m laughing even harder. Wade chimes in, “yeah, it’s a bitch when you can’t get the ground to stay on your feet, what with that floating and all.” Oh shit. Shut the fuck up.

So many stupid little things like that you remember about a person. We celebrated Wade’s 53rd Birthday shortly before I moved last August. We didn’t celebrate just anybody’s birthday. One day after that, I was out on the porch early, trying to cut my fingernails. Here come Wade and Kevin, drunker than Lords. They both see what I’m doing and want their fingernails cut. So, I cut them. They were funny. They kind of squabbled over who would get their nails cut first, then each waited patiently, as little children. It was decided I would do first one hand, and then the other’s. No favoritism. Kevin moved out and I do not know if he knows about Wade, yet. When he does, well. There will be violence and maiming, if not death. Kevin loved Wade and hates Ray.

I think it was last Sunday, Wade was out walking with Ray. Ray is someone I never mention. Ray is really the underbelly of the Nebraska world. Ray is a sociopath, a thief, beggar and self-aggrandizer. He uses women, physically and monetarily. I loathed him the instant I clapped eyes on him and he knows this. He asked 6 of us for 40 cents once. This was one too many times. When we all said “no,” he responded with, “gee, that’s sad, 6 people can’t come up with 40 cents between you.” He hates me. I called him a “goddamned mooch” in public. He’s a cold bastard.

Wade was taken off life support at 6:30 Monday morning, August 13, 2012. The cancer didn’t kill Wade. Cold indifference did, apparently. I’ve written before of the “Nebraska grapevine” and how unreliable it is here on Neb Avenue. If you see a guy in an Army uniform, at noon, 4 divisions will have marched north by nightfall, but for some reason, knowing the principals, this rings true to me.

Wade fell and hit his head. He fell backwards on the pavement. He was not drunk at the time. Wade used to fall a lot. As one who has balance problems and is prone to falling, I can attest to it being my biggest fear and as tall as Wade was, a fall like that would have been ruinous, if not outright fatal. This is what I have heard. Ray walked off and left Wade lying on the sidewalk. If it had been anyone but Ray, I would dispute it. I fell once (well, a lot more than once,) and a drug dealer and pimp picked me up. If Ray were around? He’d have let me lay there; the guy is that cold. The police investigation is still under way. There isn’t a person around here who doesn’t believe this could have happened. I’m not saying Ray walked off, either. I’m just saying, it’s a very real possibility. Rest in peace, Wade. You are loved and will be missed.

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