He wheeled up to the main entrance, pulled himself out of the wheelchair and sitting on the lowest step he lifted himself up each step, backward.
Could you get that for me?” he said nodding to the chair.
I struggled to carry it up the stairs
“Damn, it’s heavier than I would have thought.”
“It’s even heavier when you have to sit in it”- he laughed in a mean spirited way, which I didn’t much care for.
He climbed back into the chair once we were inside and only then did he look at his surroundings. A smokey, beaten down building, once a large, private residence, then a cooking school now a smokey, beat up, recovery center. We called it ‘the clubhouse’.
Despite his initial gruffness Jerry became a favorite at the clubhouse. His drunk stories were entertaining and they always ended with the police trying to arrest him and he fighting several of them either in his wheelchair or sprawled on the floor swinging his arms. He had a huge laugh that would ring out when he told his stories of drunken debauchery.
He had become paralyzed in a car accident and was expecting a big payday after his lawsuit finished out. He was suing his former friend that was driving the car the night they were in the accident. Jerry and his friend had been drinking and drugging all night. His friend was driving the car when they ran into something, I never knew what. Jerry became paralyzed but his friend escaped any major injury. Jerry decided to sue this guy for the loss of his legs. It always seemed peculiar that Jerry blamed his friend, as they had both been drinking and Jerry could have just as easily been driving the car, but I didn’t say anything, because, despite his huge laugh, Jerry was an angry man capable of great violence, even if he was in a wheelchair.
Jerry was one of those who came in and out. He got a significant amount of time at first, maybe 9 months and went out one day when he was feeling sorry for himself, that’s usually how that happens. After his initial relapse he could never stay sober. He would always come back with stories of his exploits- each worse than the last. He was still getting into fights with the police and getting arrested but the stories were no longer funny. He asked me one day, after recounting the tales of yet another weekend of binge drinking, why the people at the clubhouse didn’t respond to his stories anymore. I decided to just answer with the truth, at least how I saw the truth.
“The problem with your stories, Jerry, is that they are happening now. Those kinds of stories are funny only after they are over, when they are happening they are heartbreaking. - That shit going on in your life now isn’t funny ...it’s just sad.”
I don’t think he spoke to me after that. That was about 8 years ago and I haven’t seen or heard from him since. Someone told me that he was in prison for selling crack and that the big court payoff never happened- but who knows- He may be fine. He could be telling the stories about fighting cops that happened a long, long time ago and how he's grateful that he doesn't have to live that way anymore...or not.