The Normal Files

a caveat:

everything that follows is a work of fiction.

even that which has actually happened.

reality is what you can get away with

and i don’t think i could possibly get away

with you believing any of this.

if you did, you would only believe it subjectively anyway

Try as we might we all step in it.

Everyday, when we wake up, we take a risk. We step out of bed and take another. With each progressive step we take more risks, wearing out the soles of our shoes and taking us one step closer to death. Yet nobody can stay in bed in all day. Nature will call and life will entice us to partake.
My first few steps that hot august day, after nature had enticed me to get out of bed, were back and forth across the art gallery I called home. My steps were light; well fed, rested and ready. 
I was excited because I had made plans to spend the day with my nephew Blackbird. I was so excited that I had woken up hours before I was to meet him at the library. If anybody else were there in the gallery they might have told me to calm down. I was alone and didn’t want the criticism so I called someone I knew wouldn’t mind my excitement.
I called my friend Amelia. She answered in her soft, almost whisper, “Morning darling.” I replied, “How’s Boston?” as I stepped out onto the hot, sun soaked concrete. The sun outside was so stunning I almost missed Amelia saying, “It would be better with a friend like you.” I let the flattery of her words and the heat of the sun warm me from heel to ear. “How’s Albuquerque?” she asks. “It’s missing something” I replied.
I stepped back inside onto the cool, blue painted concrete. As if prompted by the change in temperature of my feet the tone of Amelia’s voice got cold. “It would be a lot better if I could stay out of the hospital too” she said.
Amelia had, at the time, lived in Boston for twenty-six days and been to the Emergency Room twice. The first time she went in was due to stress related bronchitis and the second was an incident that took place at a zoo, but she never went into explicit details. I began to chide her about those details and though she didn’t tell me, the conversation resumed its playfulness.
We talked for quiet some time. My ear grew warm and my elbow sore, but I didn’t mind. I was so engaged that before I even realized it I had stepped out of the house on my way to the library. My front door was locked; my shoes were tied and stepping. All the while Amelia and I told jokes and played with each other’s words. We were like children that had crawled under a blanket on some parent’s bed to hide. We walked down that dusty desert street separated by an America sized distance, but together under our comfort blanket in the dark.
Amelia told me she was homesick, so I was describing to her what I saw as I walked. I told her that the bronze man in front of the Barelas Chamber of Commerce was still reading Don Quixote. Playfully snide she asked if the bricks under his feet were still red. I told her they were. I told her when I passed the Red Ball CafĂ© that the patio was empty the way we liked it and she asked if I was hungry. I had just started to describe to her the Arrow Supermarket sign when something pierced through the imaginary fort we inhabited.
A man was ambling down the street and the way he ambled made me nervous. His steps were uncertain, some forward, some to the side, and some backwards. Then, for a moment, he stopped stepping altogether.
I stopped listening to Amelia. In Albuquerque the lights were on and the blanket cast aside, but not in Boston. I told her I had to go as I watched the man fall flat. I repeated myself through pauses, “I, uh, HAVE, huh, TO GO”, trying to explain what was happening. Somehow I managed the words 'someone needs help' and I started hurrying in his direction. My steps were determined, fast, and they left me no time to think about what I was going to do or how I had just so abruptly ended such a pleasant conversation.
I hadn’t run far enough to be out of breath when I came up on the man, but I was. My chest heaved against the hot summer air and I tried to assess the situation. The situation was a man lying on the side of his face at the base of a giant pink sign that read DRUGS. His back was to the road and his breathing difficult. A homemade tattoo on his arm read Dakota; the shape of South Dakota surrounded the letters.
I approached him slowly and bent down at the knees. I asked if I could help, if he could hear me. I observed him for a few minutes. I wanted to know if he was sick or just drunk. If he were simply drunk then I didn’t want to call the authorities and create trouble for him. He just breathed heavily and drooled a little. I was about ready to accept that he had had too much to drink and that Fourth Street was as good as any a place to sleep it off in this city. Then something stopped me.
It was a small drop of blood making its way down the man’s cheekbone. It started at his earlobe and soon made a trail to the tip of his nose. At his nose the blood accumulated into a drop and fell. It splashed on the sidewalk and was quickly followed by another. The blood in my veins accelerated as the blood leaving his beat the sidewalk like a metronome.
I starred at the blood falling for a few moments before regaining what was left of my composure. I followed the trail of blood back to his ear. There, I thought I would discover he had hit his head in falling, but I was wrong. The blood did not come from the back of the man’s head. It pooled in his ear and overflowed down the side of his face. I stood and called nine one one.
The phone rang once and I prepared to make a clear statement. The phone rang twice and my nerves were once again shot. I pressed the phone, still warm from my previous call, against my cheek and turned away from the man. I turned as if he shouldn’t hear me explain his condition to the people that were going to help him; as if he could hear me at all.
On the sixth ring they picked up. A woman very calmly said, “Albuquerque Rescue what is your emergency?” At first I didn’t say anything. It was as if by involving another person reality had become amplified. I felt like I needed to yell to make myself heard, but I couldn’t find my voice. “Your emergency,” she repeated.
The words staggered and stumbled out of my mouth. I described watching the man fall, the sound of his breathing, the blood. I told her to send a paramedic to Fourth and Cromwell. I told her that I didn’t know if the man wanted help, but that he needed it. I told her this as if I were an authority on head traumas rather than some helpless kid. “Someone is on the way” she assured me and hung up.
I stood there feeling empty, trying to think of what else I could do. I told the man that I had called an ambulance. I told him that I would wait with him; that he needed medical attention. I told him not to worry. He just lay there in his sweat, blood, and misfortune.
I began pacing around up and down the sidewalk. My feet had become heavy and I waited anxiously for a sign of help. I walked a few steps into the road to get a better vantage point. As I stood there in the street the man got to his knees. My head turned to watch him but my feet remained still. I was in shock because I thought he was in shock and if that were the case it didn't make sense that he was now standing and walking away.
I didn’t know what to do. I thought about calling the operator back to update her but realized that wasn’t practical. I thought about trying to force the man to stay but considering I was trying to get him medical attention that didn’t seem to make sense either. So I did nothing except watch.
It only took a few minutes before I heard the sirens. A fully equipped fire engine was coming down Fourth Street at full speed. I stood out on the sidewalk and waved to get their attention. Blocking the entirety of Cromwell, the truck pulled up next to me. I quickly explained that I was the one who had made the call but person in need had left. I was given inquisitive but concerned looks from the men in the truck. I pointed down the street to the man stepping slowly west down Cromwell and was quickly left alone.
Standing in the street with my phone in my hand I felt like I should do more, but my role in this drama was finished. I was a bit part player watching the play from behind the curtain. I wanted to step back on stage, to say something more but I could only drag my feet across the pavement in the direction of the library with my mouth agape. I began to think of what I would say if someone were to ask me what I had done that day.
In what felt like no time at all I was in front of the Albuquerque Public Library. I was a zombie as I walked into that library full of living people; it was as if I had forgotten how to relate to anybody. I was afraid the simplest of greetings might cause me to spill my guts. It was then I got lucky and I felt my shoes get lighter.
The first person to greet me in the Library was Blackbird. His two year old legs controlled his falling pace as he hurdled toward me. He screamed in joy at the sight of me. His voice pierced the expected silence of the library and heads turned. As his few teeth flashed in his smile I became giddy. “Blackbird!” I yelled in response to his shriek and the turned heads remained turned. I picked him up by the armpits and threw him around my neck. I squeezed him for all the innocence he is worth. 
As I sat in the kids section of the Library amid stuffed animals and building blocks waiting for Blackbird to pick out a few books I began to relax. I watched his little hands struggle with a book as big and colorful as he was. I watched as he balanced it on his knee as he tipped it off the shelf. I watched him lift his feet high for each step he took, struggling to hold the book and walk. I thought I would like to help him, to carry him in order to keep his feet from from wearing out his shoes, from accumulating too much risk. Instead I just watched him struggle, ready to help him up if he were to fall.

About a year later the family gathered to celebrate our late brother's birthday. We sat on Sarah's patio having drinks and sharing memories when Blackbird raised his glass of sparkling cider. He cleared his throat and immediately had our attention. Without being prompted Blackbird lifted his glass a little higher and we all stopped to do the same. Then in his infinite three year old wisdom Blackbird gave what I still believe to be the greatest toast in history. His toast was this 'To bang-ups and hang-ups." And so as today he turns six I toast to Blackbird, 'To bang-ups and hang-ups and the places you'll go'. 
Happy Birthday
Little Dude!