Time Catches Up with Tim
The first surprise was that Tim was not alone. He had brought his blind brother Sean with him. The second surprise was that time had caught up with Tim and punched him in the mouth - his top front 4 or 5 teeth had been broken in half and they appeared pointy, grimy and yellow. His hair was grey and skin mottled. He greeted me with the cherry warmth of a late morning buzz. 'Your bald' he laughed as he danced up to me quickly for a brotherly hug. I caught the smell of beer and smoke underneath a thin veneer of Scope mouthwash. The third surprise was that Tim had shown up at all. I had been in NYC for 20 days or so and Tim had already promised to make the 1 hour bus ride from Easton several times without appearing or letting me know that he was not.
Because the lobby is closed due to remodeling, I lead Tim and Sean through the electrician's basement door entrance. The plan had been for me to introduce Tim to my cousin Amy - who had been kind enough to let me stay in her Manhattan apartment for a month while she explored Australia. Suddenly, I find myself in a quandary, do I want to bring drunk, obnoxious, unpredictable Tim into the apartment? The timing can't be worse, Amy has just returned from her month long Aussie adventure and I feel a deep responsibility to honoring the sanctity of her home. The momentum of my previously formulated plan of having Tim meet Amy propels me past the make shift doorman's desk. I say: 'Hello' and he says 'hello' back. Sean is on my elbow and Tim sidles behind us about 15 feet. I half expect the doorman to stop him and he almost does but I give him a look so he remains silent. We get to the elevators and are about to get in but a woman with a double stroller - filled with two kids - gets on board in front of us. I haven't seen Tim for 14 years or so. The shock of his appearance, demeanor and tipsiness all lead me to make the quick decision to take the stairs. Its only 11 flights so I figure it won't be a problem.
I wait about a minute and Tim and Sean make it to the 11th floor. I feel a twinge of guilt because they are both looking a little pasty and they are both having trouble breathing thru their smoke damaged lungs. Tim is kind of incredulous and unable to comprehend why I did not want us to take the elevator. Sean looks like he's going to pass out and says something like: 'wow, I'm really out of shape. I gotta start doing something to get fit.'
I open the door to the apartment and they both stumble in looking like they have just run a marathon hungover. At my urging they take off their boots and then collapse onto the couch like a pile of dirt laundry. Tim continues his litany of insults directed at me in deliberately obtuse ways that fall off me like rain on a roof - I am impervious. He cannot believe I made them walk up the steps and is seething. I don't say anything but I am shocked: they are massively under exercised. Suddenly, Sean pops up from the couch - 'Where's the bathroom?' he queries. I point in the direction and off he goes (he's legally blind but can still see enough to not crash into any walls). I can hear him retching into the throne and make a note to give it a good cleaning.
Sean soon makes his way back to the couch and that is when Tim angrily starts demanding 900 dollars from me. I am like ha ha, that's funny ha, ha. Tim's like: "I am not joking. You think Sean and I came here to see you? To see your stupid play? Then he's demanding: I want my money Byrne. You owe me 900 dollars." Now this isn't funny anymore.
"Knock it off Tim. I don't owe you a penny." I say this sternly. Tim appears to sincerely believe that I owe him money. One of the things he's always complained about was all this money that all these people owe him. AJ owes him, Denis owes him, Klein owes him... Somehow, he seems to have deluded himself that even I now owe him. He keeps going on and on until he says:
'I brought heat.' And then he's digging into his dingy little square black and gray duffel bag. Then he cackles and gives me a pointy broken teeth smile and says: "Just kidding, Byrne." He then sighs contentedly and lovingly pulls out a 16 ounce can of Budweiser.
I then can't help but smell the tobacco that must follow them everywhere. The apartment now smells like Marlboro Cigarettes. Their clothes emit smoke. I am horrified. What will cousin Amy think?
"No." I say before Tim can open the beer. "No way you are drinking beer in here." Tim looks at me like he's about to cry. Sean sits there silently taking it all in. Tim protests but I am firm and unyielding.
At this point, I have had enough. Amy is due any minute to meet us here at her apartment to hang out. Frankly, I am now not just embarrassed, I am worried. Tim's alcoholism has not only added 15 years to his appearance, it has also addled his brain. I have no idea what he is capable of and make the decision to hustle him and Sean out of there before he can inflict his chaotic demeanor onto my cousin. Before we leave, I crack the window, the rushing air whistles in and 'hope it gets rid of the toxic smoke' I think.
We board the empty elevator and drop down to the basement level. I lead them into Central Park. The roads are pretty clear but there is a lot of snow every where else. All I brought to NYC, were my shiny black Air Jordan's, to wear in on my feet. So I am jumping over various slushy puddles and trying not to climb over any of the 3 foot high snow banks. We walk along the road that winds thru the West side of the park looking for a bench to sit on so Tim can finally start sucking on his 16 ounce can of Budweiser. We end up having to walk the equivalent of 10 blocks or so before we find a bench that doesn't have 4 feet of snow piled up on it. The whole way, Tim seems to be going thru serious withdrawal, he's whining and complaining that he's been waiting and waiting to drink some more beer. He cannot believe I made them walk up 11 flights of stairs. At this point its almost 4 o'clock and so its almost 4 hours that Tim has gone without a beer.
We finally find some benches. Tim cracks open a beer and a smile as he is finally able to begin fulfilling his purpose in life: drinking beer. Sean pulls out a Cherry Coke, takes a couple sips and then pulls out a syringe and doses himself with insulin. Tim decides to throw a snowball at me. I retaliate for the next 15 minutes. Before I am done, Tim is covered with snow, on his face, neck, inside and outside his coat. His cigarette and cell phone are covered with snow as well. Finally, I am laughing.
Tim and Sean get up, they both look a little better. They head towards the subway, off to meet up with Denis at Max Fish. He says: "Good to see you again, Byrne. you look good. You look the same."
"Thanks Tim. Good to see you." I start jogging back the way we just came and toss "See you tonight", over my shoulder. I hope not - I think to myself. Who knows what condition he will be in after another 6-pack or two.
I call up my cousin, there's still time to get to the apartment and meet with her. She's been in Australia for a month. I haven't seen her for several years. So, after several hours of trepidation - that began the second I realized that Tim was actually coming in to the city - I feel relief.