Buddy lived on the side of a hill not far from a liquor store where he would panhandle until he had enough money to buy a fifth of vodka that he would drink on the hill so that he could pass out. It had been his routine for over fifteen years and as a result he had very few memories of that time. Long ago, Buddy murdered a guy in self-dense. The act had gotten under his skin. He started drinking and never stopped. The pain of the memory of driving the knife into that man’s gut was simply too overwhelming. The mere thought of it caused him to breakdown in sobs, as if it had happen just yesterday.
Buddy met Dean one day on the corner near the liquor store. Dean was a skinny dude with a long scraggly beard and wild eyes. He held a cardboard sign that read: “Let’s get real–I NEED beer!!!”
Buddy was a burly man who had once been a boxer. To anyone on the street, it was clear who the alpha was. Buddy walked up on Dean with the intention of running him out of his territory. But when Buddy got close, Dean gave him a gap-toothed smile, shook his hand and offered him a swig from his whiskey bottle. It was not the sort of thing that usually happened on the street. Buddy let it happen. Because he was lonely. Because he hadn’t really talked to anyone for over fifteen years.
That night Buddy and Dean had a great time together. Dean was the kind of guy who did whatever he could find. A little dope. A little blow. Some ganja. A bit of crystal. He had a little bit of everything. It was fun, but to Buddy the best part was finally having someone to talk to. He ended up telling Dean his story.
Dean was a emotional guy who had some serious highs and lows. Buddy’s story touched him deeply. Maybe because it resembled his own. When Dean took a friend, he took him for life. The problem was Dean had never learned how to treat a friend. He would do everything he could to help Buddy, but when Buddy was laid out he would not hesitate to take everything Buddy had including clothes, bedding, food, etc. Buddy would wake up from his nightly stupor to discover everything he had was gone.
Dean had a knack for attaching trouble as well. When he drank, he acted crazy. The area police all knew him by name. Buddy would try to calm him down, but it never worked. Sometimes Dean even got uncontrollably angry and did some very stupid things. One day when Buddy refused to give him a dollar, Dean jabbed a penknife into his arm. Buddy was spilling blood all over the sidewalk. A passerby called 911. Buddy was taken to the hospital while Dean was taken to jail. Buddy swore if he ever saw Dean again, he would stick a knife in his gut. Like the man he had killed so many years ago.
A few days later, Buddy was visited by a homeless outreach worker. A lady named Rena. Something about the way she smiled made Buddy sign her papers. Before he knew it, he found himself in rehab. He spent 90 days sobering up, some of the best and worst days of his life. When he was done, Rena helped him get social security and found him a studio apartment. Buddy could not believe how quickly his life had changed.
Then one day, Rena came for her monthly visit. She had somber look on her face. Buddy asked her what was the matter, thinking the worst. Maybe he had to go back on the street. If he had to go back, he knew he would have to kill himself. There was no way he could live that way again.
“I thought you would want to know,” Rena said tearfully. “Dean was found dead a few days ago. Alcohol poisoning is what they think.”
“Dean?” Buddy was shocked and confused. “But how do you know Dean?” he asked Rena.
“But didn’t you know?” now she was as surprised as he was. “Dean was the one who told me where to find you.”
Buddy had no idea what to do other than weep.