(continued from The King of King’s Road (11))
On the morning of the fifth day in the hospital, the homeless man regained consciousness and began to stir. The nurses reacted quickly and began to examine their patient closely, sitting him up and rotating him in bed, feeding him some water and rewrapping the bandages around his ribcage. They summoned the consultant on duty who tested the patient’s breathing. Finding it satisfactory, the consultant concluded that the punctured lung had sufficiently healed and removed the breathing tube. After concluding a thorough examination, the consultant helped the homeless man get out of bed and walk across the room to a chair, where he sat as the nurses changed his bedding.
As promised, the consultant called the Chelsea Fire Station to report on the change in status of his patient. A few of the firemen promptly came to the hospital to visit their strange neighbor, bringing with them a deck of cards and the homeless man’s Rubik’s Cube. The homeless man smiled in recognition of his firemen friends but said nothing. When they gave him the cards and Rubik’s Cube, he began to twist and turn the puzzle, solving it quickly as he had always done. He then began to shuffle the cards, smiling at the familiarity and comfort of handling the deck. No conversation ensued, but the firemen left feeling satisfied that their neighbor had survived.
The next day one of the firemen came back to visit with the Head Minister of the Chelsea Methodist Church who greeted the homeless man warmly and enquired after his comfort. The homeless man stared back blankly and did not respond. The fireman explained who the minister was, why he was there and how he could be helpful. The minister explained the services offered to the community’s homeless population by the West London Churches Homeless Concern and invited the homeless man to avail himself of their service. He offered to return with a case worker who could help the homeless man find his identity and get mental health care. The homeless man did not respond. The fireman and the minister left, somewhat less hopeful than when they arrived.
The next morning, the minister visited again, this time alone. He sat with the homeless man and did not talk or ask any questions. He remained with the homeless man until the nurse brought his lunch at which point he left but returned an hour later and sat for much of the afternoon silently watching and reading. After a while the homeless man began to shuffle and deal the deck of cards, placing two cards face down in front of the minister and one card down and another card face up for himself. He held out the deck toward the minister and nodded. The minister smiled and said, “Hit me.”
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