His name was Earl

He didn’t sit down. He landed. He bumped into me as he settled into the seat, and then turned to ask me what I was reading. I could smell the alcohol on his breath.

His name was Earl. He worked as a machinist, “a good one, too.” He would turn 59 years old this year. He wore a navy blue t-shirt and pants. His beard was long and curly, with bits of silver. His glasses were smudged and finger printed. He had a few stitches in the middle of his forehead.

He had been hit by a car going 65 mph. At least that’s what they told him. He was pronounced dead. Now he’s having a lot of back pain. “I won’t lie to you…” he said several times, then going on to tell me how he’d turned to alcohol. But it didn’t help any. He told me alcohol was far worse than any rock you could take.

He was on his way to the doctors, needed to make an appointment. He said the doctor wouldn’t see him like this, but he just wanted to make an appointment. He tried taking the medicine. Didn’t work. He’s in a lot of pain.

I hardly said a word. I just let him talk. What could I say? He was drunk, probably on his way to a hangover. I had to struggle to understand each word he said. Most of the time I just let him talk and picked up what I could, nodding my head when I understood.

“I need something to help me with the pain. Alcohol sure don’t do it.” He said. I wondered if I was supposed to tell a drunk about Jesus. I prayed silently, not wanting to preach to this guy. It was the last thing I wanted to do. But I also know this was one of those moments of truth. One of those moments I’d look back on and write about. But I didn’t say anything. I waited for an opportunity, and kept listening.

Finally my stop came, and as I gathered my things Earl said, “You should be a psychiatrist.”

I laughed. “Why?”

“Because you listen.” He said.

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