Jimmy loved Los Angeles. It was always summer there, and having been born and raised in the city, he never took for granted the fact that they never had to worry about things like winter clothes and indoor heating. He loved school, and being at the top of his class at Miranda High was no simple feat either. He worked his ass off to get those straight A’s. He was homecoming king, and captain of the table-tennis team. It had represented the state in the countrywide table tennis championships, and had come out on top. You could say that for Jimmy, life was good.
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It was Saturday, and he had no plans to go out with friends, so he decided to grab his electric bike and head down to the pier. It was a magical sunny day with a slight breeze wafting through the air. As he rode down the road with snazzy Lamborghinis whizzing past him, his mind kept going back to the events of the day, as he reminisced over Jen, the cute girl from Psych 101 class. They had definite chemistry, and he hoped she would call or text him later in the weekend, since he had taken the first step and given her his number.
He branched off onto the slip road once he spotted the pier, and with the bike’s wheels crunching on the freshly laid gravel, he made his way to the parking bay. He got off and secured his bike, took out his satchel from its holder, and proceeded to head down the sandy shore, with the seagulls and magpies flying in the clear azure air, trying to fight against the wind.
He had his headphones in his ears, playing a cool Colbie Caillat song on his iPod. As he walked on, he realized that there was virtually no-one on the beach today. That’s funny, he thought to himself. At any given day, there was your usual mix of families, college preps and fitness enthusiasts sprawled all across the beachfront, soaking in the sun, splashing in the water, or working up a sweat. “Oh well,” he muttered, “better a sparsely populated beach than an overcrowded one with elbows and legs all over the place.”
From a distance, he could spot the pier jutting into the ocean, and the white foam of water crashing onto the pier stands. All of a sudden, his line of sight was drawn to a man sitting (or is it lying?) under the far edge of the pier. Hobos were a constant sight in the city, but what made him take notice is the fact that this particular guy looked like someone he used to know. Jimmy walked towards him, and as the man’s facial features came into focus, he realized that he indeed knew the guy – it was Mr. Davidson from up the street! Jimmy hadn’t seen him in a while, so he had assumed that he had moved away.
His curiosity changed to horror as he realized that Mr. Davidson was sprawled across the ground, with a needle sticking out of his arm. His eyes had a glassy look to them, and a frothy substance dribbled from one side of his mouth and down his chin. He grabbed his iPhone out of his pocket and dialed 911, and asked them to send an ambulance right away. He then whipped out his blanket from his satchel and wrapped it around Davidson, and, making sure to avoid the bleeding vein from the man’s arm, gingerly pried off the needle and wrapped it in a tissue in case the paramedics asked for it.
The paramedics arrived in less than ten minutes, and as he rode in the back with Mr. Davidson, with the life support machine beeping rhythmically, he wondered what turn of events had led Mr. Davidson down this tragic road. His face looked a sickening shade of white, and he seemed to have lost a considerable amount of weight since the last time he had seen him. Mr. Davidson had been having a rough time, it seemed. Before long, the ambulance had arrived at LA General Hospital and after filling out some papers on Mr. Davidson’s behalf, he was checked into the hospital. The sun was setting, and with a jolt, he remembered that he had left his bike at the pier. He called his brother and asked him to head to the beach with his spare set of keys to get the bike. He was determined not to leave Mr. Davidson’s side that night, and was prepared to sleep in the hospital if needed, just to make sure that he would make it through the night.
As he was drifting off to sleep on a chair in the waiting bay, a man gently tapped his shoulder. “Hi, I’m Doctor Greer.” He updated Jimmy on Mr. Davidson’s condition, and asked him if he knew that Mr. Davidson had a history of drug abuse. Jimmy was shocked to hear this, for as far as he knew, Mr. Davidson was a respectable member of the community, and had been the man at the helm of any anti-drug or anti-teen pregnancy or anti anything else parade that was organized by the Parenthood Association in his neighborhood. The doctor went on to say that the toxicology blood report showed a large amount of crystal meth, muscle relaxant and heroin in his bloodstream. It was a miracle that he was even alive, the doctor said. He recommended that Mr. Davidson stay in the hospital for a few days, and then check himself into a rehab clinic. Jimmy stepped into Mr. Davidson’s recovery room and told him everything that the doctor had recommended. With a head hung in shame, Mr. Davidson agreed to go to rehab, and told Jimmy the whole story that led him to the point where he was found under the pier, his life hanging by a thread.
Mr. Davidson’s wife had left him when he refused to stop taking painkillers for a knee injury he had sustained while working out. It had all started out innocently, and the amazing fact is that his doctor had initially prescribed the painkillers for him. When the knee had healed, Mr. Davidson discovered that he would get splitting headaches and would spend days being restless if he tried to stop taking the pills. He managed to get another prescription and continued taking them.
Soon enough, the splitting headaches and restlessness stopped, and euphoria kicked in. Apparently, taking the painkillers made him feel good and powerful and at peace, so he continued guzzling them down at every opportunity. His wife caught him once gulping down five pills with his morning coffee. “One day those pills are going to get you into trouble!” she had said to him. He didn’t listen.
Then one day, he woke up and realized that the pills had no effect on him anymore! He frantically called up a doctor friend of his whose license had been revoked for prescribing illegal pills to his patients. The doctor had suggested that for him to get the same effect, he might have to get some crystal meth. He had put him in touch with a “supplier.” He started on crystal the same day, and did a few lines in the restroom at work. He passed out for twenty minutes, but when he came to, he was so high he couldn’t even drive home. He slept at the office. He didn’t want to be seen by his wife and kids like that.
He became more secretive with each passing day, and tried out other different drugs – Quaaludes, heroin and cocaine. Before long, he neglected his wife, children and work. He got fired, and his wife filed for divorce and custody of the children. He lost his house and moved to a motel. He spent all his savings on getting high, and was kicked out of his motel, and ended up on the streets, where he engaged in petty thievery like pick pocketing and con tricks. All this time, it hadn’t really hit him how bad things had become, until he was rescued by Jimmy under the pier with a needle in his arm, and heaven, only a few breaths away.
The few hours he had spent in the hospital made him realize that his life was horribly out-of-control, and that he needed to take some drastic steps to regain control of his life. Jimmy called his ex-wife, who made her way to the hospital in an hour. Together, they decided to enter counseling, and she vowed to help him on his road to recovery.
Jimmy left the hospital in the early morning hours, and as his taxi pulled out of the hospital parking, he realized that sometimes, it only takes one decision to turn everything upside down. Mr. Davidson’s decision to continue taking the pain medication had left him addicted to hard drugs. He realized drug addicts aren’t necessarily people you find on the streets or irresponsible kids that had run away from home. They were people like me and you anyone, and could be found right in our neighborhoods. This gave Jimmy a renewed sense of compassion and realism, and he vowed to keep checking up on Mr. Davidson, and to sign up for the local anti-drug chapter, to provide support for people who needed it.
Who knew an afternoon walk on the pier could uncover so much?