Monday came and I woke up from a restless sleep with a pounding headache. My first thought was Jordan and I grabbed my cellphone from the bedside table and looked at it. There was no message or missed call from him. I thought about how I should have put a tracking app on our phones and that way I would know where Jordan was at all times. In the same line of thought, I scolded myself that this would be overkill. Jordan was an adult and I had no right to track where he was and be a control freak in that way.
I also thought about all the things that could be going on and I was worried about him. Having bought him a cell phone really meant nothing if he wouldn’t reply but I had done the same thing to him so it was no surprise really.
I pressed the actual call button and after a few rings the default voice mail message came on and I spoke with a trembling voice, “Jordan, it’s Shay. Please text me or call me. I’m sorry about yesterday. I forgive you for taking the Oxycodone, we can talk about it but please let me know that you’re okay out there. I love you.”
I lay in my bed for another hour, waiting and hoping Jordan would respond but he didn’t.
Over breakfast, I kept looking at my phone and I debated driving around to look for Jordan. I was worried sick about him.
It was around eleven, when I sat in my car and pulled out of the apartment parking garage. I had no idea where I was going to look for Jordan, but my first destination was where I had dropped him off the day before. I drove around for two hours, all over Seattle, and there was no sign of Jordan. I saw numerous homeless persons either sleeping on benches, in doorways, under storefront roofs, or begging for money next to store entrances. I saw a few homeless getting around in bulky old hospital wheelchairs but there was no sign of Jordan in his Quickie. I even stopped on the side of the road a few times asking out the window for Jordan or if someone knew him or had seen him. I either didn’t get any answer or just a mumble that they had no idea who Jordan was.
I remembered Jordan talking about the tent under the overpass where Mercer Street merged onto the Interstate. I took Mercer Street up and neared the Interstate on ramp. I tried to drive somewhat slower but not hinder traffic behind me too much. And while driving, I looked around to the sides of the road and somewhat above the street and right under the Interstate overpass where there was brush and dirt, I spotted some tents. I assumed this was where Jordan was talking about. There was no way for me to get there. I couldn’t stop on the street. This was a main road leading onto the Interstate with fast flowing traffic. I had no clue how Jordan would get up to these tents. I had no way to stop and I ended up having to merge onto the Interstate, drove on it for a short distance, then got off on the next exit into downtown.
I was frustrated and I headed toward Mercer Street again, trying to figure out how to get to those tents. I found parking in a side street close to the overpass where I had spotted the tents. I had no real idea how I was going to get up there and I was on my crutches. I limped along the sidewalk up the street and arrived at another narrow sidewalk next to busy Mercer Street. There were no pedestrians here. This was a busy road close to the Interstate, there was no reason for people to be walking on the sidewalk around this area. There were no stores, no apartments, only some uninviting industrial buildings behind large fences. Instead the very clear signs of Seattle being a growing city were obvious. Noises from construction sites nearby were echoing over the area, jack hammers were pounding, cranes were buzzing and moving large pieces of metal and concrete around pushing up dust and dirt in the air. It was a busy Monday for lots of people working at those sites.
I was the only person walking along on the dirty sidewalk and inhaling the fumes of exhausts from cars speeding by. I neared a tunnel opposite the tent site. I would have to cross Mercer Street and I was already nervous about this. I stopped and saw the tents up on top of an incline under the overpass. It was very noisy, cars speeding by me or above me on the Interstate, a constant loud buzzing and whizzing, cars hitting the concrete connectors in the roads and on the Interstate, blowing horns, speeding across with no idea that underneath the Interstate, people had tents set up and slept in them or took shelter there when it was cold or rainy.
I stood there on the sidewalk and cars were buzzing by me. I would have to take a chance and literally run across the street if there would even be a clear moment with no traffic. This was completely irresponsible and risky behavior. I looked at my phone once more but there was nothing from Jordan. A driver blew their horn at me as they sped by, probably indicating a warning to me to not even think about crossing the street right there.
I watched the cars come up, this was a two-lane main road leading to the Interstate and cars were not going slow. I was nervous, my hands were sweaty holding the crutches, and my head was hurting. I was scared for my life but I was more scared for Jordan and I was determined to cross this street.
When there was a clear moment with no cars close, I didn’t care anymore and put all my weight on my injured foot, held the crutches up and ran across, screaming from pain and tears were coming out of my eyes. I made it across just as a car came speeding up and blew their horn aggressively. I threw myself into the dirt. I had landed amid trash and dirt on the side of the road. My face and hair were smudged with mud. My clothes were soiled like I had been in an actual mud fight. Feeling extensive pain in my ankle, I scrambled up to my feet and looked up the incline where the tents set above me.
The Interstate traffic over me was pounding and strangely it was scaring me. I felt claustrophobic under there. I had to climb up the dirt hill and I cried now, pitying myself and thinking about my misery and what I was doing. I held on to some strong limbs of bushes and pulled myself up, dirt sliding from under my feet. As I climbed up, I was gasping and crying at the same time. I wondered how Jordan ever got up to these tents if these were the tents he was talking about.
I made it up the dirt slope and right there in front of me the scene presented a cluster of about six dirty and tattered tents, trash all around the area. There were old shopping carts, a banged-up bike, numerous food containers, small torn and broken furniture items, wet and moldy, wet old blankets, and broken toys covered the area. I was scared. I also didn’t miss the syringes with orange caps laying around, the same type of syringes Jordan had used at my place. I cautiously watched my steps as I neared the tents. My foot hurt so badly but I couldn’t use my crutches here. I called out for Jordan as I walked up.
“Jordan, it’s Shay. Are you here?”
My voice had taken on a high pitch tone because I was scared. Tears ran over my dirty cheeks.
I called out for Jordan again and no reply or human noise came from anywhere. The cars speeding on the Interstate above me were really sounding out my voice.
If Jordan was high, he could possibly be in one of the tents passed out. I slowly and carefully neared the first tent and called his name. No reply or movement came from the tent.
I watched where I stepped and leaned down some and called him again, “Jordan, are you in there?”
I slowly opened the zipper of the tent door flap and hesitantly peeked inside. The tent was empty except for a few dirty mats and blankets. I saw two rats scurry away.
I moved on to the next tent and kept calling Jordan and stating that it was me. All the sudden from one of the far tents the door flap opened and I fearfully stopped in my movements.
A woman peeked out and stared at me, “What the fuck bitch…why are you screaming around here? These tents are occupied. Get the fuck outta here.”
She looked sick and ragged.
I tried to sound confident and asked loudly, “I’m looking for Jordan.”
At this moment I realized that I still didn’t know Jordan’s last name.
I expected her to ask me about him but she didn’t and instead she asked, “Why the fuck are you looking for him?”
I took a few steps closer, “I’m a friend of his.”
Now she broke out in laughter, snorting her nose, and she didn’t stop for a few moments.
She finally collected herself, “Friend?”
I realized this was strange to her but before I could ask her anything else, she said, “Are those your crutches?”
I looked at my crutches, “Yes.”
“Why do you need them? You look perfectly fine.”
She now crawled out of the tent and I was nervous.
She scrambled to her feet and barely managed to get upright. I was trying to guess how old she possibly was but I couldn’t really tell her age.
She now came closer and I smelled her from a few feet away already, the scent of a human who had not been in a shower in a long time and with a body riddled by disease. As she stood closer, I caught the odor of urine and feces surrounding her.
She eyed me for a moment, then pointing a the crutches stating with an almost toothless mouth, “If you wanted to give those to Jordan, he has no use for them. Fucking cripple can’t walk for nothing. But I’ll take them off your hands.”
Her words proved to me that she at least knew Jordan.
She stepped even closer and I saw her eyes were of a green color but glazed over and not focused.
I stated, “They’re actually my crutches. I have a foot injury.”
She grinned and I made out a few rotten teeth, “Oh poor baby. Foot injury.”
She now reached over and said, “If you give me those crutches, I’ll tell you where Jordan is.”
I debated what to do because she seemed far from being trust worthy.
She asked me, “How do you know him and what the fuck do you want from him?”
“We’re friends. I need to find him.”
I didn’t even attempt to explain that Jordan and I were closer than friends.
Her toothless grin remained on her face, “Do you fuck him?”
I was caught by surprise with the question and didn’t answer.
I was relieved when she didn’t wait for an answer but now said, “I haven’t either. I wanted to but motherfucking cripple don’t want me. I wonder why, I mean look at me, ain’t I fucking irresistible?”
Now she broke out in the loudest obnoxious laughter. She hit her thighs with her hands and laughed hysterically and out of control for a few minutes. She laughed so much that snot came out of her nose and saliva came out of her mouth. She finally looked at me and I saw tears from laughter on her distorted face. I stood there swallowing the lump in my throat pondering my next move.
All the sudden I heard a loud male voice from one of the tents, “Shut the fuck up Smitty. I’m trying to sleep in here.”
The woman who was apparently called Smitty, turned around and stomped over to the tent where the voice came from. She positioned herself in front of it and started screaming from the top of her lungs. This was obviously her defiant reaction to the person inside wanting peace and quiet under this otherwise roaring overpass.
The tent flap now opened up and a beardy man peeked out and yelled at her, “Smitty, I will seriously kill you one day. I really will. Shut the fuck up and get your sick ass off my property.”
I was wondering what he referred to as his property. There was no visible mark of a property line around the tent. Smitty had stopped screaming and instead now explained to the guy in the tent, “This bitch here is looking for your fuck buddy.”
I took a deep breath at hearing this and was hoping very much there was no truth to this title.
Smitty belligerently stomped away to her tent again.
At the entrance to her tent she turned to me, “If you don’t need those crutches bitch, I’ll take them. I can get about a fucking twenty for ‘em.”
She then crawled into her tent.
I now turned my focus to the guy peeking out of the other tent and he looked me up and down curiously.
I slowly neared him and he asked, “You’re looking for Jordan?”
When I stood closer to him, I quickly recognized his crossed eyes, one was looking somewhat into my direction and the other one was looking in a completely different direction.
I nodded and wiped over my face, tears had still been slowly emerging from my eyes. Smitty had really scared me.
He now asked, “You look like you actually climbed up from fucking Mercer?”
I nodded again and he now laughed somewhat but it was a normal human laugh, not like Smitty’s hysterical animalistic shriek.
He now climbed out of the tent and as he stood upright, he was taller than me, “You should’ve come up the path.”
He gestured with his hand behind him and then turned to me again, “You must be the girl Jordy was going to see?”
His eyes were completely unfocused but not because of possible drugs but because of faulty anatomy.
I now nodded and stated, “You must be Charlie?”
Charlie nodded proudly, “Yes, I’m cross eyes Charlie. Jordan is my good friend but we’re not fuck buddies. We’re not like that at all. Smitty though is fucked in the head you know. She says weird shit all the time.”
I took a breath of relief, “Jordan told me you were friends. I’m Shay.”
Charlie just stood there and I couldn’t really tell if he had his eyes on me or not.
He asked, “Why is Jordy not with you?”
I took another breath, “I came here to find him actually. I dropped him off in the city yesterday but haven’t heard from him since. So, I came here.”
Charlie rested his hands on his hips and smiled, “Wow, you got some guts – what’s your name again?”
I was nervous, “My name is Shay. Jordan told me that this is where his tent is…or your tent but you let him sleep here sometimes.”
Charlie laughed, “I call him Jordy and it’s his tent too. He’s not here though. I haven’t seen Jordy since Friday night. He said he was going to meet this girl – you I suppose - and he was super happy but also very nervous.”
I nodded, “Do you have any idea where he could be?”
Charlie now shook his head and turned serious, “No, he could be anywhere. He doesn’t have a phone or anything.”
I explained, “I actually bought him a phone yesterday.”
Charlie raised his eye brows, “What?”
“Yes, I wanted to be able to stay in contact with him when we’re not together.”
Even though Charlie basically towered over me like a giant, looking fierce and shabby, with a scruffy thick beard, a wool hat on his head, torn and dirty clothing, and large dirty and calloused hands on his hips, I felt I could trust him.
He then said, “I don’t know what to tell you…what’s your name again?”
I answered again, “Shay.”
“Shay, I don’t know what to tell you. If he shows up, I can let him know that you’re looking for him but I’m not here all the time and fucking Smitty would never tell him. She’s worthless. And the other people who crash here kinda come and go as well. Most of us are always on the go.”
I nodded and swallowed the lump in my throat, “I see.”
Charlie sounded empathetic, “Why do you need to find Jordy?”
I lowered my eyes, then looked back up at Charlie, “I’m just really worried about him. We had a misunderstanding and he hasn’t responded to my messages or calls. I just want to make sure he’s okay.”
Charlie now tilted his head and glanced over to a few syringes scattered close to us on the ground, “You do know that…that he uses, right?”
I nodded again, “Yes, I know. He told me, I saw it, he did it at my place.”
Charlie now whistled through his teeth, which he still seemed to have some of them, and he nodded, “Wow, okay.”
He looked back at me and asked, “Do you use?”
“No, I don’t. I never have.”
Charlie sighed and nodded to himself again, “Okay, well – if he shows up, I’ll let him know you were here or to get in touch with you. I’ll be out tonight so if I see him, I’ll let him know.”
I nodded, “I would appreciate it very much.”
Charlie nodded and then said, “And where the fuck did you come from? Like you climbed up the dirt hill? You crossed Mercer down there?”
“Yes, I parked my car in a side street about a block from here.”
Charlie grinned in his thick beard, “You could’ve gotten yourself killed crossing fucking Mercer.”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I didn’t know how else to get up here.”
Charlie now turned around, “So let me show how you get up here next time you want to visit us.”
He actually laughed, apparently amused at the way I had come up to the tents.
I followed Charlie, again carefully watching my step.
At Smitty’s tent I stopped, “Hold on.”
Charlie stopped in his stride and turned around watching as I pulled out my wallet from my backpack and found a twenty-dollar bill.
I leaned down and called, “Smitty?”
She screamed from inside, “What is it bitch?”
Then she appeared in between the entrance flap of her tent and I handed her the money, “Here you go. I still need the crutches though.”
Smitty took the money quickly from my hand and stared at me now. She seemed stunned for a moment and then her weathered face changed into a softer expression.
There was her toothless smile again, “Cripple’s going to milk you for your money bitch, but thanks.”
Then she disappeared in her tent again and I stood up and turned to Charlie who then walked on. I followed him carefully watching my clumsy and painful steps.
In a factual voice he said while walking in front of me, “Don’t listen to her, she’s fucked in the head. Jordy talked about you weeks ago when he first saw you in the city. He was talking about how you bought him coffee and talked to him. He was super happy and also really fucking sad you know. He was so sad because of how fucked he lives and stuff…and he said you were uppity up working in downtown and he didn’t know…and then he didn’t want to pan handle down there anymore, said he didn’t want to see you again or maybe you not see him again. He was ashamed and all because you had been good to him.”
I listened to Charlie and my eyes teared up. Charlie kept walking on a trampled dirt path through brush and around some concrete barrier and then there was an actual asphalt path leading down to Mercer Street. From the path, I turned around and realized that the tent site was not visible to pedestrians on the path.
At the barrier he turned to me, “This is it. This is how you come up here next time. This is how Jordy would come up here in his wheelchair and stuff. Unlike some tweakers faking shit to get money from people, Jordy actually really needs his wheelchair, it's like his legs, because you know his legs don’t work anymore at all. He can’t come up a dirt hill…”
Charlie laughed, “Unless he crawled.”
I stood there and pulled out another twenty-dollar bill and handed it to Charlie. He stared at the money in my hand for a moment.
I smiled and a tear trailed down my cheek, “Just take it.”
He took the money and stuck it in his pocket, “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
He then looked at me and even though his eyes were not focused he had his face directly in front of me.
We looked at each other for a few seconds and then Charlie asked with a serious expression, “Do you like him? Jordan – do you like him?”
I nodded, “I do, very much.”
Charlie took a deep breath, then said, “Jordy is still young you know. He’s only like thirty something, he still has a shot at maybe getting clean if he has the right support. I’m fucking sixty something, it doesn’t matter anymore for me, but Jordy should still get a fucking chance at coming clean. He’s a good kid, just had been dealt the fucking wrong cards all his life. He was so fucking excited when he met you, told me how beautiful and special you were and all this shit how you were. I didn’t believe him at first, thought he was fucking high or hallucinating or shit like that but I guess it was true and here you are. He didn’t lie and I can see how he was ashamed.”
While Charlie was talking, tears were slowly streaming out of my eyes.
I replied, “I want to help him if he wants help. I care very much about him.”
Charlie nodded, “You know, it’s not easy…that fucking dope fucks everything up, like everything, your whole life just turns to complete fucking shit…I’ve given up. I’m just going to keep shooting up until I die…hopefully soon. But Jordy…maybe he has a chance with you. Stuff like this doesn’t happen to guys like us, it’s like a story you know, kinda like a fairy tale…like you are out of some kind of story or something…it’s like a fucking good story and maybe it’ll have like a happy end. I want that for Jordy…”
I nodded, “I want that too. I love him really and I want to have a happy end.”
Charlie nodded again and I saw his hands twitch now.
He said once more, “When I see him, I’ll let him know to get in touch with you. I’ll fucking chew his ass out that he hasn’t.”
“Thank you, Charlie. Do you think he could be in trouble somewhere?”
Charlie tilted his head, “Like what do you mean…overdosed or something?”
I nodded and he quickly replied, “No, he’s smarter than that. Kid had never overdosed before. He’s out there somewhere probably trying to get some money. Don’t worry okay. He’s all right. I’m sure of it.”
Somehow with Charlie saying this, I actually believed it.
“Thanks again Charlie.”
He nodded and turned to walk back to the tents, “Just go down the path, there’s a cross walk and you should be safe. It was nice meeting you Shay. You’re definitely special.”
I grabbed my crutches and made my way down the path. After a moment I was actually passed by a bicycle, I was back in the civilized world, Jordan’s world was hidden behind thick brush and not visible from the path.
And I thought about how Charlie had said I was special and in my mind I told myself, “Yeah, a special kind of crazy.”
I limped down the path and reached the cross walk that would take me safely across Mercer Street. As I stood at the light waiting for it to turn green, I realized a woman who was sitting in her car staring at me. I had completely forgotten that I looked like a mess and my yoga pants and hoodie were dirty and my face had mud smudges on it. I probably looked like I actually lived in one of the tent camps as well. I held on to my crutches and with my eyes down I crossed the street as the light had turned green.
I made my way to my car as quick as I could, limping along with my injured foot and trying not to put too much weight on it. It had really hurt when I had run across the street and climbed up the dirt hill. I was glad when I finally sat in my car. I grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and rested my head on it, inhaling deeply and thinking about what I had just seen. I was sad that I had not found Jordan but Charlie’s words still rang in my head. His confidence in Jordan being okay out there had me believe that it was true. There was nothing else I could do. Even if I would drive around again, the chance of finding Jordan was slim. He could really be anywhere. At least now Charlie knew I was looking for Jordan and I was certain he would tell Jordan if he would see him.
I started the car and drove off and toward my neighborhood. It was already after four and I remembered now that Matt was going to come over after work. The whole way home I was pondering if I should call him and cancel but I felt alone and the thought of Matt coming over with dinner was comforting and good. I didn’t cancel but instead I drove home and planned to change clothes and clean up before Matt would arrive.
I didn’t hear anything from Jordan, he didn’t call and he didn’t text me. Shortly after five I received a text message from Matt though confirming that we were still on for a visit. I confirmed with him that I was looking forward to his visit.