Материалы к занятию
Chapter XI. Part II
I think back to the lunch at Wild Ginger, how it felt vital for the waiter to see Cade as a person, to know his name. “On the streets, people may see you, but they don’t see you, you know?”
“Well put,” Jan says. “And I must say, this new development in your life certainly ties into your series. You said you haven’t decided on the final direction for the second piece. I don’t suppose you’d consider adding a personal thread to bring dimension to the newsworthy elements? Like from record label executive to the streets—a real exposé on homelessness in our city. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but this could be award-winning.”
I shake my head. “I can’t, Jan. Not this story. At least, not now.”
“Well,” she says. “However you write it, for publication or for yourself, I hope it has a happy ending for all.”
“Me too,” I say.
I’m on deadline. Determined not to include Cade in my piece, I start draft after draft, zeroing in on the profits that developers stand to make by eliminating the homeless presence from Pioneer Square. The tone of my prose feels analytical, ice-cold. Is this who I’ve become?
No, I tell myself, but actions speak loudest.
At precisely eleven forty-five, I get up from my chair, sling my purse over my shoulder, and head out. I told Cade to meet me in Westlake at noon. Will he come?
Rain clouds hover overhead. They may mean business, but I don’t care. Let it rain. Let it pour. I march onward. All I can hear is the clack of my heels as I walk the six blocks to Westlake. One foot in front of the other.
When I reach Westlake, I can feel the first raindrop on my cheek. I make a beeline to the spot where Cade was yesterday, but when I arrive the sidewalk is empty, save for a man strumming a Dylan song that I can’t immediately place. Where is he? I look around. I wait. Ten minutes pass. Twenty. Maybe he’s still coming.
After forty disappointing minutes, I decide to head back to my office. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I won’t see him for another decade. Maybe…I turn around for one final glance, which is when I glimpse a distant figure moving slowly up the block toward me. Cade? Cade!
It’s him, that’s for sure. But why is he walking so slowly? Why is he limping? And then his face comes into focus, bloodied and bruised, swollen cheekbones. Adrenaline races through my veins as my legs instinctively begin moving.
“Cade!” I call, running to him. My heart is pounding when I reach his side. Fresh blood drips from his nose. His eyes are nearly swollen over, with dark crimson rings around each socket. A deep abrasion on his left cheek is four shades of purple and gaping open.
“Oh, Cade,” I say, beginning to cry. “Who did this to you?” I take his hand in mine. “I’m going to get you some help. I’m not going to leave you this time. I promise.”
When his eyes meet mine, I can see that he understands.
Traffic is light on this rainy day, and thankfully the cab ride to Harborview Medical Center is quick. When we reach the emergency room, I wave over a hospital employee, a bald man with kind eyes, to bring a wheelchair.
“Easy now,” he tells Cade as he helps him into the wheelchair. I hand a ten-dollar bill to the cabdriver and follow behind as Cade is wheeled into the ER.
“They’ll get you all checked in here,” the man says, pushing the wheelchair to a stop at the front desk.
A young woman with a nose ring and a tattoo of a butterfly on her forearm eyes us as we approach.
“He needs help,” I say. “Can we get him in to see a doctor right away?”
The woman gives Cade a long look and then sighs, as if my request is highly annoying. “Ma’am,” she says, “you’re going to have to take a seat and wait. We’re incredibly backed up, as you can see.” She points to the waiting room, which is filled with people in various states of distress.
“But look at him,” I say. “He’s badly hurt. He needs help.”
“And we will do our best to help him, when it’s his turn,” she says, clearly unaffected by my concern.
Just then a handsome-looking couple rushes in. The woman, with a white leather Coach bag slung from her shoulder, is in tears. She’s beautiful in a formfitting black cashmere sweater dress and knee-high leather boots. Her husband, in designer jeans and a pair of black loafers, stands beside her, holding an ice pack to his head.
“He fell from a ladder,” she cries. “He needs to be seen immediately.”
The woman behind the desk nods and jumps into action. “If you could just fill out this paperwork,” she says, offering a clipboard. “Just the top side is all. We’ll get him in right away.”
Thank you,” the woman says through tears.
After they’ve stepped away, I turn to the woman behind the desk. “I thought you said that you were full?”
“We are,” she replies without emotion.
“But you’re letting that man in.”
She looks at me as if I somehow do not know the rules of a very elementary board game that everyone understands how to play. I want to pull the Herald card, but I’m here on a personal matter. I settle for “I think you’re discriminating.”
The woman rolls her eyes, then motions for me to come closer. I do.
“Listen,” she whispers, looking beyond my shoulder at Cade. “I get your concern for this guy, I really do. But we have limited staff and resources here, and if we admitted every homeless dude with an owie, we’d have no room for the people who really need our help.” She points over to the J.Crew catalog couple.
“I beg your pardon,” I say, turning to look at Cade’s bloodied face. “This is more than an owie. He’s in serious pain, and the wound on his face is going to get infected if he’s not treated.”
The woman shrugs. “Look out there in the waiting room. Look at all of them, mostly junkies. We bring them in, treat them, give them what they need, then they go back to the streets, repeat their behavior, usually high, and we see them again the next week. It’s a cycle.”
“And have you ever seen this man?” I ask, anger beginning to rise in my chest. “He is not a junkie.”
She turns her gaze to Cade again and shrugs. “Maybe, maybe not. You can’t always tell.”
“He’s a human being,” I whisper, worried that Cade might hear. “And he needs help.”
I pull out my cellphone and call Tracy. I’m grateful that she answers after the second ring.
“Trace, it’s me,” I say a little frantically. “I’m at Harborview. In the ER.”
“Kailey, are you okay?”
“I am,” I say, “but Cade is not.”
“Oh no! What happened?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “But he’s bloodied and bruised. Someone beat him up. He’s going to need stitches on his face, almost certainly. And I think he may have a few broken bones. I need your help.”
“The ER is booked up,” I say, lowering my voice. “And the woman at the check-in desk is not too keen on getting him in anytime soon.”
“Yeah,” Tracy says. “They see a lot of…uninsured people who kind of abuse the system. But still, it’s no excuse.”
“I need you to make some calls,” I say. “See if you can pull some strings to get him in.”
“Sure,” Tracy says. “It just so happens that the head of my department is the best friend of one of the attendings over there. I’ll ask him for a favor.”
“Thank you,” I say, exhaling. Cade stares ahead despondently.
“It’s nothing,” Tracy says. “Hey, how are you doing?”
I bite my lip and step a few feet away from Cade. “I’m…scared, Trace. I haven’t told Ryan about all of this. It just feels so…monumental, like suddenly my whole world has been turned upside down.”
“I know,” she says. “But, Kailey, that’s life.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, wiping away a tear.
“Well,” she says, “it’s up and down. It’s high and low, it’s cyclical and scary and raw. That’s being alive.”
“I don’t know if I can handle all of this,” I say.
“You can handle it,” she continues. “I know you can. For starters, this is a great first step. You’re going to get Cade some help, medical attention, psychological attention. You’re going to get him stable and sort out what happened to him. And then you’re going to sort out everything you’re feeling in that beautiful heart of yours, which, by the way, is the size of Arizona. No, Texas.”
I laugh, but it comes out as a cry. “I love you, you know.”
“I know,” she says.
“Or something.” She’s speaking in the background, but I can’t make out the words. “All right, you sit tight. Let me make some calls. In the meantime, take care of your guy.”
“My guy,” I say after Tracy has hung up. The words roll off my tongue freely, but they sound awkward once they hit the air. I immediately think of Ryan and feel a pang in my heart that I cannot explain.
Someone with a heart the size of a major Southern state would not be deceiving her fiancé.
Eleven minutes, if that, have passed, when a nurse appears through a pair of swinging doors. “Cade McAllister?”
If he hears her, he gives no indication. “Yes,” I say quickly. “That’s us.” I stand and push the wheelchair toward the reception desk.
“Assuming there is no insurance card?” the woman behind the counter asks.
“That’s right,” I say, unashamed.
She nods unaffectedly, as though she’s seen the same scenario play out a thousand times. And I know, from my research, that Harborview will not turn anyone away. “I’m very sorry for the wait. We understand that Mr. McAllister needs immediate attention.”
I nod. “Yes, he’s badly hurt. Thank you.”
She takes the handles of the wheelchair and pushes him down a hallway to the triage area, where she wheels him into a space with curtains for walls. A man moans loudly behind another curtain.
“Now,” she says, extending her hands to Cade, “let’s help you up.” I watch as he takes her hand. He stumbles a little as he rises to his feet, but she’s able to gently help him to the bed, where he sits. She reaches into a nearby drawer and pulls out a gown. “Would you like help putting this on, sir?”
He doesn’t respond, so she takes charge. “Okay, let me get you undressed.”
Cade is still as she unbuttons his coat. I feel a mixture of familiar affection and horror when I see his bare chest revealed, so thin. His arms, once so strong, are mere flesh and bones now, and I can easily make out each of his ribs.
If the nurse is concerned by the sight of Cade, it’s impossible to tell. Her professional manner reveals nothing. His boots come off next, and though I’ve seen him unclothed so many times, I look away as she helps him unbutton his pants. “There,” she says, tying the light blue gown in place. She turns to me. “Are you his sister? A friend?”
“A…friend,” I say. I sit in the chair beside Cade’s bed. He shifts positions and winces in pain.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper, squeezing his limp hand. “Help is coming soon, I promise.”
A moment later, the doctor appears, and Cade flinches.
“No,” he cries. “No, no!”
“Mr. McAllister,” he says calmly, “I’m Dr. Green. I’m here to help you.”
The look on Cade’s face is one of terror, and it makes my heart hurt.
Dr. Green acknowledges me, but his eyes are on Cade. “No need to be frightened, Mr. McAllister. We’re going to assess your injuries and fix you up.”
Cade looks away but doesn’t flinch when Dr. Green places his stethoscope on his chest. His blood pressure is taken next, and when the exam is over, the doctor makes a few notes in a folder, then turns to me. “We need to get some scans. He clearly has some broken ribs, but I’d like to rule out internal bleeding. He has some significant bruising in his abdomen.”
I nod as the nurse comes in with a basin of warm water and a stack of washcloths. “I’m going to get those wounds cleaned up,” she says.
As Dr. Green steps outside the privacy curtain, I follow him. “Doctor, may I have a word with you?”
“Sure,” he says, turning around.
“This man didn’t used to be like this,” I say. “He didn’t always live on the streets. He used to be the president of Element Records.”
The doctor’s eyes widen. “Element Records? That name brings me back to the nineties,” he marvels. “I used to listen to so many artists on that label. What happened?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Ten years ago, he left the company and Seattle, and I never heard from him again. I only recently found him on the streets.” I shake my head. “It just doesn’t add up. How could he have gone from the top of his field to…this?”
“There are many possible explanations,” he says, “the likeliest culprit being addiction.”
“No,” I say. “I know him. He never touched any of that stuff. In fact, he was always disgusted by it. This is not addiction. This is…something else.”
“Mental illness, perhaps,” Dr. Green continues.
I shake my head. “Cade never struggled with depression or any related condition.”
“Well, mental illness is a tricky beast,” he says. “It can lie dormant for years before someone has an episode.”
I sigh. “My best friend is a pulmonologist at Swedish. This case is outside her area of expertise, but she did mention the possibility of a brain injury of some kind. That would explain why he barely speaks and doesn’t seem to know me, or even himself.”
He adjusts his glasses and presses on: “You say he has memory issues?”
“At first he didn’t know me,” I say. “And I’m not sure if he does now. But”—I pull down my sweater to reveal my tattoo—“he remembered this, because he has a matching one.”
“That’s curious,” he says, eyeing my tattoo. “Toujours?”
“ ‘Always,’ ” I say, “in French.”
He nods. “Well, I’d say a CAT scan is in order, maybe an MRI. We can get a sense of what’s going on in there, perhaps detect some damage or past trauma.”
“And if you find something,” I say, “is there treatment available? Medication?”
“Brain injuries are tough,” he says. “We’ll get a neurologist to consult.”
“Thank you,” I say, “so much.”
He smiles. “We’ll do all we can.”