I’ve started doing the Zombies, Run! 5K Training program recently; I’m really hoping to actually stay on track with it. So there I am, last night, getting ready to start my second week of workouts. I go out for my run at about 8, when it’s starting to cool down, and as I’m going along I see this old guy sitting on the sidewalk across the street from me, kinda holding onto his ankle, and I’m like “That doesn’t look good.”
Recently there was a thing going around Tumblr about the Bystander Effect that I found really galvanizing, so I decided to not be a bystander right now and go over and see what was up. And indeed, he was not okay! He said he had middle and inner ear infections in both ears that had just destroyed his equilibrium, and a bike had come by and freaked him out and he’d lost his balance. He didn’t want me to call 911, and he said he lived alone, so I figured I’d stick around for a while until he felt better and then help him get home.
While sitting there talking to him I learn the following amazing facts:
- His name is Tenney, short for Tennyson, as in Lord Alfred. He claims he’s related. (I asked if he writes poetry; he said “No, but I love to read it.”)
- He used to live in Hawaii on Oahu and has a thorough knowledge of (or at least a lot of thoughts on) Hawaiian history and culture which he was happy to tell me about at some length.
- He taught “spiritual mental training” while in Hawaii. (I asked him at one point if that meant Transcendental Meditation, and he made such dismissive noises that I decided not to mention that my family and I are TMers.)
So I’m sitting there talking to Tenney, and another young lady comes by, heavily laden with groceries and talking on her phone, and she stops to see what’s going on. Turns out she’s a nurse — THANK GOD — name of Melissa. She and I try and get Tenney up to his feet, with no luck. A minute later a young man stops, steals a chair from a nearby driveway, and gets Tenney in a bear hug as we try to get him up on his feet and into the chair. WAY not happening: Tenney starts groaning and he’s basically dead weight, so we get him back down onto his knees. At this point I’ve got one arm around Tenney to support him, and this poor young man has Tenney basically in a bear-hug to keep him upright.
Melissa: How old are you, Tenney? Sixty-five? Seventy?
Young guy: You don’t look a day over twenty-seven.
Tenney: Well, at least you’re a good liar.
Young guy: Hey man, I’m just trying to get laid.
Tenney: Me too, me too.
Melissa and I notice that the young guy is kinda straining holding Tenney up, so we ask if he’s okay. “No,” he says, rueful, “but not because of this. I’m having a bad day.”
Tenney says, “Tell us about your day.”
Young guy’s face crumples up and he says, “I’m in love with a boy who I don’t think can love me back.”
And just like that, suddenly both of us women are going “ooooh noooo honey we’re so sorry” and TENNEY is sympathetically patting this guy on the chest while hanging in his arms, going “One-sided things are no good for anyone.”
The story peters out after that: Melissa called the EMTs over Tenney’s objections; a friend of the young man turned up and they left, presumably to commiserate about his breakup; Melissa went home to cook dinner; a little old lady joined me on the sidewalk for a while, clearly there as much for the gossip as out of concern for what had happened; the EMTs decided to take Tenney to the ER, over his objections; and I went home, telling this whole story to my parents on the phone along the way because it had gotten actually dark and I didn’t want to walk home “alone.”
When I got home and told this story to my roommates, our conclusions were two-fold:
- That is the most ridiculously Capitol Hill thing any of us have ever heard of — like, you could not create a better cast of Capitol Hill characters if you tried, with the old spiritual teacher and the nurse and the writer and the little old lady and the guy who just broke up with his boyfriend.
- This is totally a scene out of a play — except that people would dismiss it as being too unbelievable.