Cold and alone by the ocean

Walking down to the beach last night after dinner, I noticed there was a young athletic-looking guy lying on his back on a platform, shirtless and in basketball shorts, staring at the sky.  It looked like a nice place to rest and look up. I walked past him.

Before I got to the water, I heard a loud yell.  Like an “AAH!”  Then a pause.  Then another one.  Then I realized it was coming from him.  No one else was close enough to notice it or respond.

For a minute, I rolled my eyes and shot an accusatory glance at the ocean. That’s nice, but I have to work tonight. Get someone else, okay?

Two more yells.

Okay, fine.

I walked up to him.  “Hey! Are you okay?”

He shook his head like he was trying to talk, and nothing came out.  I saw that he was shivering, and took a few steps closer.

“Hey.  Do you need me to call an ambulance?

He found my face and said, “No. No. No. Please.”

“Okay. No problem. What do you need?  Are you cold?  Do you need a blanket?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. I’ll see what I can do.  Did you take drugs?”

“Yes.”

“What kind of drugs?  Did you take LSD?”

“No.”

My brain ran out of other drug ideas.  “What did you take?”

No response.  I looked at his scattered stuff.  There was a backpack, a textbook, a book called Kama Sutra for Gay Men, a towel, and a jacket wrapped around his leg.  He couldn’t move.  I climbed onto the platform and wrapped the towel across his chest.  I pulled the jacket off his leg, lifted him up by the shoulders, and placed it underneath his back.

I ended up spending four hours with him.  The first two were just sitting there, in the cold, trying to get him to talk.  He passed out a few times and I shook him back awake.  His name was Joey. He was 31.  His parents were in Arizona.  He hadn’t seen them in a long time and they didn’t accept him. He was gay.  He was a massage therapist.  He wanted to join the military.  He loved to cook.  He was addicted to meth, and was in a harm reduction program. He was homeless.  He wouldn’t say whether this was a suicide attempt or not.

After awhile, he sat up.  He was convinced that I was in the military (it finally dawned on me: the haircut. right) and kept trying to convince me to let him join.   “I want to fight for freedom. I want people to know I’m strong. I want to cook for the troops in Iraq.  I want to bring them comfort. Nobody ever fought for me.  Nobody accepts me.  Nobody’s there for me. I want to be there for them. They need me.”

With much effort, we eventually got him to stand up and climb over the fence around the platform.  After much many versions of the same question, he finally gave me the address to the shelter he was staying at, on the opposite end of the city.  After much stumbling, we finally got him to my car.  I put him in the back seat and let him lie down.

“I’m hungry.”

I had two eggrolls and some chicken curry in a leftovers container from my dinner.  I handed them to him.  He devoured them.

“I’m hungry.”

I took him to McDonalds and bought him a big sandwich, fries, and drink.

“I’m hungry.”

He insisted that he needed five more sandwiches from the dollar menu, plus another large fry.  I bought it for him on the condition that he wait until the shelter before he ate it.  I really didn’t need him puking in my car.

Outside of McDonalds, he bummed a cigarette from a nearby woman and introduced me as someone from the military. I corrected him, and said I wasn’t.  After she walked away, he gave me a look of worry.  “I’m sorry!  Of course! Your work is secret!  It’s classified!  You can’t tell people! I didn’t know!  You should have told me!  I’m so sorry!  You know I didn’t mean it.”

He went on to beg me for advice and guidance on how he could get to where he wanted to go in life.  What he wanted to do next.

Driving down the street, heading toward the shelter, he asked me to let him off at the music store instead.

“Are you sure?  You’re going to have to find your own way back to the shelter if I leave you here.”

“I know.  I want to go here.  I’m okay.”

“Okay.”

“But first.. Tell me what i need to do.  You know, to get my life on track.”

I ripped a piece of paper out of my notebook.  “Okay, I’ll write you a letter.”  He watched me from over my shoulder.

Dear Joey,

I found you on the beach tonight.  You were shivering and alone and crying out for help.  I sat and talked with you for a few hours, and then we got some food.  You ordered six sandwiches!

You thought I was in the military and you asked me how you can join.  Here’s how you can join:

First, you need to get clean.  They won’t take you if you’re on drugs.

Then, go to 670 Davis St in San Francisco, and talk to a recruiter.  They will tell you what you need to do.

You want to fight for freedom.  You love to cook. You’re a massage therapist. People love and accept you.  You’re going to be OKAY.

Love,
Sarah

He cried as I wrote.  I put the letter in his backpack, gave him a long hug, and told him he was okay.

He nodded.

And left.

—-

For those who weren’t watching my twitter or facebook updates last night, here are the smoke signals I sent:

Beachwalking, passed a young guy shivering, crying, on too many drugs. Sat with him for two hours. Getting him food now.

He’s gay. Parents far away. Keeps saying no one accepts him. Sez he wants to join the army to fight for freedom cuz nobody fights for him.

Just figured it out: he thinks I’m in the military and is trying to convince me to let him in. Ah. The hair. Right.

I bought him what he wanted from mcdonalds: six mcchicken sandwiches, two large fries, and a coke. He promised not to eat it all at once.

I wrote him a letter before I dropped him off and had him put it in his bag. It described the night and told him he is loved and accepted.

Home now. I think I spent three hours with him. He’s homeless, a meth addict. He kept repeating: “I want people to know I’m strong.”

He also kept repeating: “I love to cook. I want to cook for the troops in Iraq. I want to bring them comfort, to feel like home. Home.”

When I found him, it looked like a suicide attempt, and he begged me not to call 911. What would you have done in that position?

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16 Responses to “Cold and alone by the ocean”

  1. moya Says:

    you’re a beautiful and amazing person, sarah. obviously the universe knew what it was doing when it brought you two together.

  2. whittles Says:

    I adore you.
    You show your heart beautifully.

  3. Kat Says:

    Your heart knows no boundaries….I love you!

  4. Debbie Says:

    Beautifully done. Thanks for doing it, writing about it, modeling it.

  5. @J1 Says:

    Nice work. Good job. Pat on the back. Way to care for someone other than yourself and your priorities. I hope it follows your advice. He needs to clean up first.

  6. schmutzie Says:

    I had a similar experience once, and it changed me forever. I’m so glad that you had the courage to stop and help him out.

  7. Joe Says:

    Wow. You just don’t live life on the boring train, do you?

    Thanks for doing right by a stranger and for celebrating his life and your moments with him.

  8. Allie Says:

    Sarah! You are awesome! Thank you for making the world a better place.

  9. tnkgrl Says:

    Wow.

  10. Christopher Reynaga Says:

    Thank you for your compassion. =)

  11. Lia Says:

    You are a breath of free air in this crazy walk of life.

  12. Volatelle Says:

    beautiful. you are part of the beauty in life that keeps me in awe…

    thank you!

  13. kv Says:

    ended up here randomly, I don’t know you at all. But your story and his left me sobbing. I’m glad you were there, and amazed at your brilliance in writing him a letter. Hopefully the next day it made sense to him and he was able to remember your care and advice.

  14. Jen Says:

    never a dull moment..

    what a kind spirit you have.

  15. Beth Says:

    Thanks for sharing this; quite a spiritual experience. I’m a friend of Roger T’s- he told me about your blog, and I read it every so often. Glad I saw this.

  16. pure acai berry Says:

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