Eddie Gonzalez expected the walk home from his first job as a stationmaster to be uneventful. But life really knows when to kick you in between the knees doesn’t it?
Eddie was on his way to his studio apartment when he noticed the silhouette of a man standing under a tree from the corner of his eye. He heard soft sobbing from his direction. Eddie watched, horror growing, as he threw a rope around its highest branch and tied a loop at the other end. Eddie dashed for his direction and snagged his arm just as he was getting ready to drop.
“Don’t do this yourself, man!” He yelled.
The man lolled sideways, groaned, then almost collapsed, but Eddie caught him by the arms in time. He reeked of drink. In the lamplight, Eddie saw red-rimmed eyes, tear stains, and large grey bags around his eyelids.
He was a suicidal drunk. What a combination.
“Why are you trying to kill yourself?”
The man groaned again, mumbling, ‘I don’t want…” over and over again. Eddie tried to get a decent word out of him, but with no avail.
“Where do you live?” He asked finally.
Suddenly, the man began sobbing heavily.
“I don’t have a home. My home was Lucy. And now she’s gone. No home,” He murmured.
Eddie sighed. He wanted to go home, but he couldn’t leave him here. What if he tried to hang himself again?
The man suddenly looked up at him with big, child-like eyes. “Lucy?” He slurred.
Is he referring to me? He thought.
“No, I’m not Lucy. My name's Eddie.” He said as soothingly as possible. The man’s head slumped onto his shoulder, half asleep.
This is ridiculous. He thought.
Eddie was back from his second job as a bartender watching the bay, in deep thought. Each thought brought a new wave of pain.
Mom’s getting worse everyday
And there’s nothing I can do about it
That’s when it happened again. Beside him, a dozen feet away, he saw a man, softly sobbing. It was Cliff.
He had ransacked through the suicidal drunk’s wallet and managed to find an address and name. Cliff Steeder.
He had taken him to his huge house, put him on the couch, and plopped a blanket atop him, and resisted his persistent requests to cuddle.
Eddie didn’t give him another thought after that. He had plenty on his mind already.
So what was he doing here?
Eddie watched again, appall increasing, as Cliff slung his legs over the railing. Eddie dashed to him and yanked him back onto the ground.
Cliff collapsed sideways, still sobbing, and cried.
“I lost… I lost… Just let me die, Lucy, I deserve it,” Cliff slurred between sobs.
“It’s Eddie,” He said through gritted teeth. “And you’re not dying,”
Cliff smelled so heavily of alcohol Eddie was overwhelmed. At this point, Cliff was probably so drunk he’d do something stupid and dangerous if he was left alone.
Eddie sighed. Cursing himself and Cliff, he mumbled reluctantly, “Let’s go get a coffee,”
Eddie took his silence for consent, and half walked, half dragged Cliff to the nearest pub. Fortunately, it was still open at 11pm.
“A coffee for him, please,”
Cliff finally snapped into attention.
“No! I don’t like,” He snapped, rolling his o’s.
“Okay, make it tea,”
“No,” He barked.
“No,” He lengthened the ‘o’.
“Just water, then. ”
“No!” He whined, crossing his arms. Eddie was getting frustrated. He wasn’t spending all night babysitting a drunk. The blonde bartender sighed and raised an eyebrow. They were wasting her time, too.
“Then what do you want?” He retorted.
Cliff leaned over to the bartender, winked, then grinned like an idiot.
“Vodka shot, beautiful,” He said with another flirty grin.
“Absolutely not. You’ve had enough drink for six lifetimes,” Eddie said sternly. “Sorry, miss,” He apologized to the bartender.
Eddie sighed. This is going to be a long night, he thought. “How about a lemonade?” He asked with anticipation.
Cliff’s furrowed his brow, thinking. He then gave another abrupt grin. Eddie took that as a yes. “Lemonade it is, and a beer for me,”
Cliff and Eddie sat at a booth, waiting for their drinks. Eddie thought it was a good time to ask some important questions.
“Why do you keep trying to kill yourself?”
Cliff frowned, then sighed, then looked not so drunk for a second.
“Sometimes, Lucy, there are things in life that hurt too much to live. Things money can’t fix. I tried. I failed. For you. I’m so sorry Lucy… ” His voice thickened towards, the end, and he teared up and held his face. Eddie awkwardly patted his arm.
“And now, Lucy's gone, and I don’t belong anywhere, because the only place I belonged… was with her. She was my home. ”
“I’m sorry,” He felt so sorry for Cliff he didn’t care he called him Lucy again.
Their drinks arrived. Cliff sampled his lemonade and scowled and whined at the lack of alcohol. Then Eddie had to restrain Cliff from trying to hit on the blonde tender.
For the first time, Eddie noticed what he looked like. A mop of tousled honey blonde hair, obviously used to fancy product but recently unkempt, gray eyes ringed red, and sleep wrinkles and discharge and dust with sleepless nights and drinking. He was obviously rich, the Rolex on his wrist and his house had made that clear. Life was quite unkind to him.
So Eddie sat down and got to know him. It was… not terrible.
Eddie was on his way from his third job as a gas station attendee. The air felt… dangerous. He didn’t like it. He was already anxious with a long list of worries. His mother was getting sicker. Dialysis seemed to be getting more and more expensive by the three days. His three jobs were straining his energy.
And Cliff. As if he didn’t have enough worries. But Cliff, underneath the wrecked mental health and the drunkenness, was a good person. A person he liked. He made a friend in that drunken man, even though neither of them said so. He really, really, really didn’t want to admit it, but he cared about the big drinking doofus. No use denying it, after he sent him food and checked on him. It wasn’t as if Cliff really knew him. He was always drunk, like the fogging, clouding, wasted drunk, so even when he was sober, he’d forget everything, including him. He still called him Lucy, for crying out loud.
But it has been weeks since he heard from him. He doesn’t answer when he visits, or reply to his texts. Eddie wondered if he should’ve done more. If something happened to him… whose fault would it be other than his own?
This thought disconcerted him. He decided to try check on him one more time.
Eddie reached his elite manor, but froze in shock when he heard that terribly familiar soft sobbing. Without knocking, he let himself inside and saw a drunk, suicidal Cliff.
He had never looked more destroyed than he did at that moment. Words couldn’t describe the pain in his eyes, the deterioration of his physical state, and the hurt he could've been feeling.
He also had a pistol pointed at his own temple.
“Cliff! Put the gun down,” Eddie shouted, trying but failing to keep his voice from trembling.
Cliff stared at the floor and his face contorted as a eyes flooded with tears.
“Cliff!! This is serious. Put the gun down!” Eddie was horrifyingly afraid. He didn’t want his only friend to kill himself.
“No! It doesn’t matter anymore. No one cares, Lucy, no one! She left me, even though I loved her, then she died! I have no one! It was only you! And now, I’m going to go be with you!”
He raised the pistol to his head, and Eddie screamed, “No!!”
Cliff met his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. “What?! No cares! I’ll die and that’s it! There’s nothing left for me anyway!”
“That’s not true! Me!” Eddie yelled, feeling sick.
“You’re my friend, Cliff, my—my best friend. And I don’t want you to die on me.”
Cliff looked at him the way he did when they first met by the tree, with the big, innocent eyes.
“What?” He croaked
“My mom is going to die soon. And she’s my favorite person in the world. I don't think I can lose you too,”
Cliff stared at him like he seeing Eddie for the first time.
“Please don’t hurt yourself. If not for you… for me,”
Cliff kept on shaking his head. He looked so… overwhelmed at Eddie’s words. Had he never had a friend too?
Cliff let his gun fall to his side and staggered to Eddie. When Cliff fell into his arm, he didn’t feel disgruntled or uncomfortable or annoyed. He was just so relieved Cliff wad okay. So he just held him, and neither said a word.
*—6 months later—*
She had days left if they didn’t get her a new kidney. They could save her. But not all the money they had could afford that kidney transplant. Neither did they have a suitable donor, even though the whole family tried out. It was completely and totally out of their reach.
Eddie felt another headache come in. And he was out of Advil. What a terrible day.
At the pharmacy, Eddie strolled through the tiles looking for Advil. And that’s when he saw someone that almost made him choke on his tongue.
Is that… Cliff?
He looked much cleaner than Eddie remembered. Remnants of insomnia and alcoholism still lingered on his face, though immensely less than before. He looked brighter, younger, happier. He was at the counter, buying what looked like sedatives, and talking to cashier. Seeing him now, after everything they’d been through together, made Eddie’s mind race.
Eddie dropped his medicine in his shock, and Cliff walked to him to pick it up. When he did, their eyes met, and Cliff’s grew to the size of saucers. He looked taken aback and confused. Eddie opened his mouth to say something, anything, when a high voice snapped.
“Sir! You forgot your change!” It was the cashier.
The were so dazed that her voice made them jump.
Cliff walked away, still looking over his shoulder and frowning confusedly at him.
What the HELL just happened?! He thought. Did Cliff forget him? Looks like it. He sighed heavily, feeling worse. He shouldn’t have wasted so much time for Cliff. It wasn’t worth it. And with everything else on his mind, he decided to forget the whole incident, just like Cliff forgot him.
He went home and went to his second job as a bar tender. and when he returned home there was a letter waiting for him. A letter that made him collapse on the couch and cry with tears of joy and bliss and relief.
There was also a check for 100,000 dollars. Enough money for 10 kidney transplants. And a letter saying that they found an eligible donor. Eddie’s eyes ignored everything on that letter except for a single line.
Name of donor: Steeder, Clifford Josiah
And a handwritten sticky-note.
Consider this a thank-you for saving my life over and over again, Lucy-I mean Eddie;)