I was having my regular lunch of 4 'gourmet' tacos (39 cents each, hot sauce and water included) on the SLU Del Taco 'terrace' when a lean bald man with bad teeth and a goatee came up to me clutching a crumpled up yellow page: "do you know how to get to Des Peres Hospital? Mo Baptist Hospital? Alexian? Which is closer?" We talked for a while about it "You don't wanna go to Des Peres, no bus", and "why not St. Louie U hospital?". The conversation was confused by another guy and his girlfriend who had definite opinions and were trying to bum cigs off of goatee-boy. "Hey howzabout a cig for a quarter? You don't wanna go to Des Peres, bad gig, it's Alexian for you, just take the Grand Bus to Chippewa - hey I gotta transfer, how about a cig for a transfer?" The interloper was a shortish man in a Hawaiian shirt that hung off of his lean frame, he was with a dark haired woman with a perpetual cigarette and too much flesh.
"Why don't you want to go to BJC? or SLUH? I asked? Or there's the Vet up on Grand..."
He flashed a conspiratorial grin "Well to tell you the truth, I'm lookin' for pain killers". The Hawaiian shirt interjected, vibrating like Rodney Dangerfield: "Hey, if you wanna pill, the place to go is St. Anthony's, they'll give you a Percoset there". "They useta give you a shot, really good shit, but they won't do that anymore, just a pill. They'll give it to ya though", he vibrated. "What bus do I take?", the goateed one asked plaintively. I shrugged, "dunno".
I had evangelical visions of intervening: "You don't want the pain killer, my man, you want Jesus!" with 'Jesus' said in the same orotund tones that Oral Roberts used to use on his show. But I didn't. I just got up and said, "Sorry, wish I could help you" and walked back to my office. Said a prayer though, "Lord help this man reach bottom quickly and when he does, please be there to catch him".
I learned from myself that you can't catch a man while he's falling. The truth is we don't fall, we strive and actually swim for the bottom, we're so certain about what we need. You've got to wait around until he hits it, until all of the shine wears off. That's when when you notice Him...right there, next to you. When you're all alone and no one else is there to help or explain or even to trade a cig for a quarter. I pray that I can be there when it happens for my friends and my family and even goatee boy and his newfound vibrating friend.
Because it's at the bottom where the miracles happen.