When the cab pulled over on Astoria to let us out, I paid for both of our fares and left a good sized tip as well. The Cabbie thanked me profusively, and I couldn't help but wonder how much more he would've thanked me if he'd only known that I'd saved his life during the ride than he'd thanked me over a ten dollar bill. I stood awkwardly with the now unarmed gunman. "Soo..." I felt funny somehow outright asking what the guy needed for help, but I did genuinely want to help.
"My baby's sick," he blurted out," She's dying and I can't afford the medication that could save her life and my wife's out of her mind with worrying, you wouldn't believe it. She told me not to come back 'til I'd got the money 'cause she can't stand to look at me thinkin' I ain't givin' it my all to save our baby girl," he hung his head, "I was desperate man... I been tryin' so damn hard... so damn hard." He looked up at me, his eyes damp. "I just.. we ain't got it, you know? We got the jobs, but we can't barely meet ends as it is without this medication. It's damn expensive stuff, man, more than my rent is... and I live in fucking New York City!" he paused, then admitted, "Most nights me and my wife, we don't eat just so our baby can... so we can get diapers, and pay the medical bills..."
My heart broke for him. "C'mon," I said, leading the way to an ATM just inside my hotel's lobby. I swiped my card and pulled the maximum amount the ATM would allow and handed the guy five crisp one hundred dollar bills. His eyes widened and he started to protest, but I held up my hands. "No. You use that to get diapers and food. Maybe get something special for your wife. Come back tomorrow and I'll have a check for you for the medication then, okay? I gotta draw the check and all that."
The guy was crying as he took the money and hugged me in a big, manly bear hug fashion, something you wouldn't expect from a guy who looked like... well.. a hood. He was shaking. "Jesus... Jesus. Man, thank Jesus Christ for you. You're saving my baby's life."
I glanced up at my numbers... I'd gained another five minutes.
When I reached my hotel room, I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes. The room was completely silent, and the pillows so comfortable. I had a massive headache: way too much was happening in my life, way too fast, and I felt pressured on all sides, in complete overload. I was fighting sleep - I didn't want to waste my time that way. See, I'd done the math once on the tour bus and I'd come up with the conclusion that - if people sleep for the recommended 8 hours a night - we sleep through one third of our lives. So if you live to be 75 years old, you sleep through 25 years of that. How freaky is that? So basically, having 5 days left, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep through 40 hours of that.
The pillow did feel nice, though.
I sat up quickly like being shot out of a cannon, and shook the sleep from my head. I could hear knocking on the door, and I glanced up at my time.
TWO HOURS?! Shit!
I groaned and struggled to my feet, cussing myself out for falling asleep as I waddled to the door. I pulled it open to find Brian on the other side. "Hey buddy," he said tenatively. "How're you feeling?" he inched into the room as I stepped back to let him through.
"I'm alright," I answered with a shrug, closing the door and following him into the room.
"AJ told me about earlier," Brian sat on the chair by the tiny hotel room desk, and picked up a pen and began fidgeting with it. "I thought you might wanna talk aobut it."
I paused, and sat on the edge of the bed with a sigh. "Everyone wants me to talk about it but I don't want to."
Brian nodded, "Okay. Well.. I can respect that, I guess. If you change your mind... you know." He paused, "Nick, I'm just worried about you, that's all. You're my best friend, and.. well... I don't know. This morning you were acting all freaky, and then the thing with this girl on the street, and..."
"I almost got shot in a cab today," I interrupted him, then I back tracked. "Well, I didn't. I got five days still. But the cabbie -- I saved him at the last second. Literally." I smiled weakly, then continued, "But you see, the guy.. the one with the gun.. his kid's dying and he needed money, so I want you to know that when I die in five days, please give him all my money. So he can help his kid and get his life together. Okay?"
Brian blinked, "What?"
"Well, I dunno, I mean I figure you guys don't need it really, you know?"
Brian tossed the pen onto the desk and got up, crossed the room and laid his hands on my shoulders definitively. "Nick... have you gone crazy?" he asked, "You aren't dying. This is absurd that you're even talking about it."
"Yes I am," I answered, I looked up at my numbers. "In five days, four hours, seven minutes, and like.. I dunno, thirty seconds."
Brian looked over my head at the place where my numbers hovered and for a split second I thought he could see them. But he couldn't. "Nick," he said in a tone that carried a finality to it, "You are not dying."
"The numbers are right, Brian, when they run out, I die."
Brian shifted uncomfortably and stood upright again, "Numbers..." he shook his head, "Nick, that's enough, okay?"
"It's true, Brian! I saw that girl, she had run out of time and then she died..." I paused, "And I'm running out of it fast."
"STOP," Brian shouted at me suddenly, his voice loud and sharp. He turned and looked at me, "You're my best friend, Nick."
"I'm not lying, Brian," I said in my most serious tone.
He looked me right in the eyes, and I could feel him searching me, waiting for some sign that I was full of crap to tumble out of my pupils. He stared hard into me and finally, after a solid minute, he backed away, his face paling, and fell helplessly into the desk chair again. "You aren't lying," he mumbled.
"I'm not lying," I repeated in confirmation.
Brian covered his mouth, horrorfied by the thought. "Nick..we gotta change it, you can't die," he whispered. "You can't."
I shrugged, "I'm trying, Brian... I don't know how else to change it." I frowned, "I save lives, and... I get like five minutes in return. I've saved FOUR LIVES today, Brian, and all I got was twenty minutes. Which I more than slept away just now."
Brian's eyes were closed as he absorbed the information. He took a long, shaky breath. "Then you need to save more lives," he stated, as though that were simple. "A lot more... Hundreds, maybe even more."
"I know," I said with a nod, "But I dunno how."
"We'll figure it out," he replied with determination, "We have to."