I went to Nevada over the weekend to visit my brother. My trip started on Furlough Friday in California and ended on Sunday night. The drive up there through the mountains usually takes two hours, but when I returned on Sunday it took almost seven hours because the main highway was basically at a standstill due to too many spin offs on the icy mountainous road, there were some accidents, and delays for installing chains. On my way back I was trapped in the roadway corridor for two hours, in between median concrete barrier and nowhere to exist, till I finally reached an animal-crossing opening in the median barrier. I said to myself I feel like an animal at the moment, so I made a U-turn and went back to the city that I had just left two hours ago, which was only thirty miles away, and then I took a different mountainous road, a road less traveled, and after another five hours of driving in the rain and snow I finally made it back home.
My brother owns a gas station that is now failing due to the economic crisis in the State. It is located in one of the busiest intersections of the town. He’s been depressed for two months now, something he’s never been. All his life he’s been one of the most optimistic people one ever meets. He is a people’s person, gets along with almost anyone, hard working, friendly, outgoing, a total businessman who believes in free market economy. But now, after a life time of working hard his business is failing miserably. I estimate this month alone his store revenue is down by 60%. He had to let go of his full time employees, only keeping two part-time ones. He works as much as fifteen hours a day sometimes; his wife works the graveyard shift, and they do this all day, every day. They no longer can afford any health insurance, he has cut down on any expenses he can, and sometimes he sells gas at cost just to generate some cash flow.
I went to see him to give him company and help him out with whatever I could. While I was there I learned how to run the register. I’ve done a lot of cashiering in my life. It was not a big deal to learn it, but it’s prices of goods that are hard to remember. They have hundreds of different items in the store and not everything is marked. Some times I can’t even remember names of my colleagues; let alone prices of hundreds of items in a mini-mart store. Sometimes business was so slow that he laid down on the floor in his office and took a nap. He told me some nights he can’t sleep, worrying about how it is all going to end. He repeats his options all day long, over and over again: close the door and leave, don’t pay the bills, go back to Iran, get a line of credit, get a lawyer and sue the gas supplier,…close the door and leave, don’t pay the bills, go back to Iran… He says he came to this country with one suitcase, he’s going back home with none.
One of his part-time cashiers is a white 49-year-old guy by the name of David, who is very intelligent and articulate. He could’ve easily been a lawyer under some other circumstances, but now he is an alcoholic bum. My brother gives him work when he’s not drinking, but when he drinks he is off work and on his own. He goes off for a while and comes back again several days or weeks later, clean. When he is drinking, he begs for money at street corners. A couple of weeks ago he chopped off some trees around the property and got some calluses on his hands and one of them on his right hand eventually got infected. He had some swelling on his right hand on Friday morning, but still he came to work. He said he had gone to a county medical facility and was taking some oral antibiotics for it. Friday night the swelling had spread almost to his elbow, yet he didn’t seem to be seriously worried about it. My brother kept telling him to go to an emergency; that the oral antibiotics would take a long time to take affect. So, that’s what we did; I drove him to a nearby hospital. Within an hour they operated on his hand. I have never seen anyone, especially an indigent patient, go from emergency room to operating room so fast. They told him if he had waited till the next day he might have ended up losing part or all of his hand.
Right now they’re pumping him with the most powerful antibiotic mixture they have, and they’re going to keep him till Tuesday, at least. Somewhere along the way he told me he once had a 24-year old lawyer girlfriend that one day got sick and ended up in a hospital, but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, and a week later she died of a blood infection. I didn’t ask for more details. She seemed to be way too young to be a lawyer at 24. Maybe she was a smart woman. I wondered if this happened when he was also around her age. I wondered if they were in love; I wondered if that was the reason why he became an alcoholic bum. It’s so awful to lose a loved one at such a young age.
His hospital room reeked with smell of blood and infection. They drained his hand every so often; they had an irrigation tube inserted into his hand that was exposed at each end. His nurse flushed it from one end and collected the secretions from the other end, but I can’t figure out why they left it in an open container to stink up the room. With all the things in my brother's mind, he says I don’t want anyone to say anything bad about David. He’s my friend, he says.
A lot of other things happened, but my attention span is about a page long; maybe a page and half.
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