by Bob Thurber
Sunday, before breakfast and morning meds, Wilson broke the wire frames off his reading glasses and twisted the metal into tools that he used to pick the lock on his door. For twenty minutes he roamed the hall, opening and closing cupboards, searching the detox ward for a cigarette. He visited the community room, but all the ashtrays had been emptied and refilled with the white sand that reminded him of crystallized cocaine. He was about to head back to his room when he found a sack of laundry in a janitor’s closet. The clothes were a loose fit—the trousers baggy and long, the rolled cuffs wide enough to conceal his bare feet. There were five shirts and Wilson put them all on, buttoning one over the other. As he tiptoed past the nurses’ station, he heard the women in back, laughing.
The elevator required a passkey so Wilson took the stairs, four dizzying flights. In the lobby he passed a skinny janitor chatting with a dark-skinned girl aiming her spray-bottle at potted plants. The woman working the reception desk didn’t look up. Wilson pushed through the double-doors into the crisp air. The security guard, a brute wearing earmuffs and sunglasses, tilted a Styrofoam cup toward his mouth as Wilson passed.
The sun was harsh, glaring at a severe angle. Wilson had to squint. Mist rose from the melting snow. His feet stung and the chill climbed his legs. He walked quickly, elbows tucked, hands by his hips, across the near-empty lot toward a wrought-iron fence with a mound of plowed snow heaped against it. As he started to climb, a siren blared—another ambulance bringing someone in. That might be him. Not now, but in a day or a week. He was lucky to be alive. He had always been lucky.
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Bob Thurber is the author of Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel and the recipient of a long list of awards and citations. His work has been anthologized more than 50 times and utilized in schools and colleges as teaching tools. Visit his website at http://www.bobthurber.net/