This was the third time Pete was OD'ing, I think. Jesus, it's like 8:15am, I just got here. Do I really have to deal with this already? I haven't even had my coffee yet.
I grab the portable phone and head for room 17. I turn down the aisle that leads to his room and there he is, half in his room, half out, on the floor. I walk up to him and ask the three people doing nothing but staring to move out of the way.
“Pete! Pete!” I say loudly. He's not moving. “Pete!”.
I kick him a couple of times. He's not responding.
His eyes are rolling farther back in his head than the first two times. He was really, really deep into something here. This must've been some extra good junk, Pete was lying in some real lowlands here...or highlands. Either way, he was down deep in this hole.
I get down on my knees and get right in Pete's face this time. “Pete!! Pete!!”
I actually really have no idea what I'm doing. I mean, my nine years in the music business before this job selling records to stores really never included how to save someone from overdosing. Not part of the job there. I make a phone call to a record store, ask them if they need any new stock, tell them about the new records we have coming out, and type in the order. Really safe, really manual. Never really came across a situation where somebody had taken too much dope, and were leaning over the edge of the cliff. I think once somebody had a couple too many cups of coffee in the office and got a little panicky. They had to talk to their cubicle worker to calm them down. That was about as close as I got. And that ain't close. And yeah, that somebody was me.
OK, I guess maybe I should slap him in the face or something? Sounds about right. I slap him in the face really hard. I couldn't help it, but I laugh a little. This was ridiculous. The fucking shit I find myself doing at this place, totally ridiculous. I slap him again. He turns his head slightly and I do hear a slight moan. But that's about it. This dude is deep.
I suddenly realized this might be like, for real. My usual cold front towards this type of situation is suddenly altered. Usually, on the day to day here at the hotel, I have myself wrapped in a self-protective field. This is out of necessity. Otherwise, I'd lose it. There's too much here to actually allow myself to calculate as reality. Better to pretend, to blindly robot myself through the day. Better to walk out the door at four PM, hop on my bike and in the ten minutes it takes me to get back to my apartment, forget I was even there for the day.
I dial 911, for what I'm guessing is about the hundredth time in my two years here. I have the routine down to a science by this point.
“911 emergency, how may I help you?”
“Hey, it's John at The Glenwood Hotel. I have another person overdosing here, this one looks pretty serious, he ain't waking up.”
Pete's eyes move a little bit, as if he's trying to find the real world again. There's a flicker that suggests he's coming around. Maybe. I yell at him again. And again.
“Sir, can you explain the situation to me?” says the operator on the phone.
I had forgot I was still on the phone.
“Hang on one second, please.” I say.
I put the phone down and slap Pete again. And yell at him again. Mary Ann suggests that I pour some hot water on his face. She's so old and out there that I do the usual – I ignore her. Pete moans again and I feel like with a little more effort he can climb up out of there. I hear the front desk bell ring, someone wants to check in. I pray the poor soul is lost too. The kind of person that would see what was going on here and still want to check in. The kind that would see Pete on the floor and instead of being scared out of their mind, they would think “Oh cool, there's dope around here.” The chances of that being the case are very high, those are usually the only type that stay here. But occasionally we get the backpacker from Spain, eighteen and in NYC for the first time. If that was the person at the bell, I definitely don't want them seeing this.
Pete's eyes come out of hiding and seemingly almost accidentally align themselves correctly. I don't think it's by any cognizant knowledge of his own. Somehow, someway, he's finding his way back to the light, but I'm pretty certain this comeback is out of his control. It's going to happen if it happens, but not by Pete's doing.
I pick up the phone and tell 911 that I think he's coming out of it. She starts to say something, but I hang up on her. I hardly ever follow all the way through on these calls, since there's hardly ever a need. I'm pretty used to being at this point of the phone call and feeling totally fine hanging up. I don't feel like at this point I need to give her a play-by-play. I think Pete's coming around. If he doesn't, I can always call back.
Pete tries to lean up, but he can't do it on his own. I put my arm around his back and get him sitting up. He starts to try to say something, but his tongue isn't quite working yet. I rub his back. Again, why I don't know. Seemed like the next logical thing to do. Maybe get some blood flowing. Or wait, maybe we shouldn't get the blood flowing. Would that kick the dope in again? Would that get it going to his brain again? Wait, is that where it even goes? What exactly happens when someone takes heroin? What's the science of it? Jesus, I really have no idea what's going on here. I keep rubbing anyway. Maybe the warmth of the rub will take over for the warmth of the dope? That's what I'll go with. Sounds good.
The three residents go back to their rooms. The fun's over. If there isn't going to be an ambulance, a bigger scene, and actual chance of death, then they've seen all they want to see. To them, it's just Pete being Pete. He almost died, but didn't take enough to kill himself. Par for the course, really. One day, maybe, but not today. So the show's over, and the sick fucks are actually disappointed.
Then, within what was probably about ten seconds, Pete's back to almost normal. Like he just woke up from sleep and is starting his day. He gets up on his feet, wipes some spit off his mouth and smiles. He's back.
“Oh shit, man. What the fuck?” he mutters.
He looks around, trying to find something to focus on. He sees the bike that he's been working on. He goes over to it. He grabs a wrench and starts cranking on the wheel. I'm floored. Thirty seconds ago he was at the door, and inch away from the great beyond. It really could've went either way, I think. But he snapped out of it, back into this life, back into his bikes, back into waiting for the next time he scores. I go over to him and turn him around and put my hands on his shoulders.
“Pete, do you realize what's going on? Do you know what just happened?”
He looks me in the eyes. He doesn't answer. I'm not sure if he knows the answer. I'm not sure he wants to know the answer, more precisely. And I don't know if it's even worth telling him. But part of me wants some kind of acknowledgment. I think I just saved this guys life. I think I slapped him back from the brink. Maybe not. Maybe he would've come out of it regardless. I guess I'll never know. And I guess it's pointless to really tell him. It won't make any difference. If he knows he almost died, that will have zero effect on him when he's buying his next bag. I've known Pete for two years, and despite his occasional death taunt, he's a pretty cool guy. And he can fix the hell out of a bike. But maybe he wants to die? I don't really know the inside of Pete. Maybe he'd actually be mad at me for pulling him back. Maybe I interrupted his death wish. Shit, who knows?
“Do you still need your brakes fixed?” he asks.
Yeah, better to leave Pete in his oblivion. They say there's people that are just lost in their own little world. Pete is probably better off there. I'm guessing he put himself there, in his own little world, so he didn't have to deal with the real one. I guess if that's what he wants, who am I to take him out of it? And yes, I do really need my brakes fixed.
“Yeah, Pete, I do. I'll bring my bike over in a few minutes.”
I walk back towards the front desk. Pete goes back to his wheel.
The front desk is actually a cage. Like you see in those old NY movies from the seventies. Those movies where somebody is checking into a fleabag motel. That's because The Glenwood is actually one of those places. The fleabags are bedbugs, however. And there are a lot of them. The front desk is surrounded by a steel cage type of barrier. There's a slot at the bottom where people can slide their room keys or money through. It's kind of pointless though, because if you walk around to the side there's a half door, where the top part is an open space. So if somebody actually wanted to rob me, all they had to do was walk around the side. There was one of those hook latches holding the door locked in place, but very little effort would be needed to actually rip that off the hinge.
The person that had rung the bell was definitely not a backpacker. He was another in a long line of down-and-outs. He needed a room for one night. The rooms were $33/night. And I knew without asking that he wouldn't be paying with a credit card.