I hear the propellers pushing through the swamp like air. It’s summer in Washington DC. It’s hot. Humid hot. Sweat dripping off my arm hot. People who come from the west coast always ask what happened to the dry heat? I remind them, after 26 years of living in this city, there is no and has never been dry heat in any summer in Washington DC. Ever.
I live a block over from a very busy road that cuts through DC into Maryland. By 7 pm the street is full of people smoking blunts laced with everything you can imagine. Fentanyl is so big here now. Tonight I am looking for a client I knew from our men’s shelter. He was doing so poorly that when I saw him earlier today I only recognized him from his voice. When I asked him if his meds helped him feel better in the past, he said they did. He told me he would stay and wait for me and the crisis response team “Great! I will be back when crisis response calls me. Stay in your apartment until I come back.”
He told me what to bring back. The local dealers stole everything in his apartment. “I need socks, underwear, a hoodie because it gets cold at night, coco butter, oil,and”
Okay I tell him. “But first we need to talk to the team to get you feeling better.”
When I hear the swishing of the propellers I know what just happened. It’s a helicopter from the nearby trauma hospital. I usually am home by now. I see the helipad from my bedroom window. The red and yellow copter flies out and in within minutes.
This usually happens every night in DC’s unbreathable summer air. It’s usually young guys below the age of 25. Just like the young man I am looking for tonight.
I see a memorial set up by family and friends along this busy street while I wait in front of the CVS to see if he turns the corner. Deflated balloons. The person’s name spelled out in plastic roses. Maybe a liquor bottle that his friends drank at his memorial. It’s heartbreaking. Since I do community based work, I pay attention to the memorials.
I Continue walking home. Thank god I live near so many people I serve in our hosing program. I can be at many clients apartments within ten minutes of fast walking. I am so tired today. Hot flashes hit me hard in the evenings. Tonight walking home without finding him is no exception.