Saturday, January 05, 2008

Quincy's Lesson

In my other life, I was a police officer.

I was one of two female patrol officers out of 80 in the municipality I worked for. To be successful in that career as a female then, it took two things… It took getting through the academy at an age where I was on average 14 years older than most students there, (while they went out and partied every night, I stayed in my little dorm room and studied my ass off), and it took allowing the men on my shift to test me, to see for themselves that they could trust me to cover their ass in a bad situation, to be successful in my chosen career. I loved that job and I was good at what I did.

That was, of course, before my mental illness began to manifest itself.

While on patrol, I met a lot of people from many different backgrounds, many lifestyles that I could never have imagined until I began working with them. One of those people was Quincy.

Quincy was a young homeless man of 24. Sometimes when it was very cold he would go sit on the porch of some business that had closed for the day in order to be arrested and get out of the cold and maybe a hot meal. Sometimes he would go to some big store where he could be somewhat ignored. and he would find his way to the restroom and go to sleep on the floor for a while, at least until an employee would walk in and find him there.

Quincy didn’t talk to everyone, but he talked to me on several occasions. I’m not sure why he chose to talk to me, but I learned so much from him.

Quincy carried everything he owned in a bag. He wore what appeared to be all his clothing, layer upon layer, all the time. He had a most pleasant face and an even more pleasant attitude.

One night, I had stopped by city hall to drop off some reports and Quincy was resting on the bench there in the hallway. Most of the officers didn’t seem to notice him when he was there, or at least they didn’t acknowledge him. This night, he nodded as I walked in the door, and I knew it was a night when he was willing to talk. It was a quiet shift so I stopped and talked.

Now we all have our pre-conceived notions about people, especially someone like Quincy, who was obviously homeless. We assume so many things as to why they are where they are in life. I had too, but Quincy taught me something that night.

He pulled his old ragged bad from under the bench and pulled a sketch pad out. Flipping through the pages, he stopped at a pencil drawing of a woman’s face. I was just dumb struck. I asked if he drew the picture and he solemnly nodded yes. He then flipped through several pages, showing me more of his artwork.

I told Quincy how beautiful his work was and what talent he possessed. He told me about his art and about when he was young and discovered he had that ability. He talked about his life on the streets. He spoke so eloquently. His grammar so perfect.

When I questioned him about helping him find a place to live until he could get back on his feet, he smiled and slowly shook his head. He didn’t want to go anywhere. He was content.

Quincy never bothered anyone. We never had a call on him other than he was attempting to make his bed on some sidewalk behind some business, or someone would call in a report of a “suspicious looking male”. People saw him with his bag and his dark coat with its hood which covered his face and they were afraid. I would have been too had I not known him.

He wouldn’t take money. I have heard more than one person say that, and I too had offered him a few dollars now and then. He would just shake his head and tell me thank you but I don’t need it. I had a friend tell me once that he was at a Burger King and as my friend walked by to go in, Quincy handed him a coupon for a free Whopper. He told my friend that someone had given them to him and he couldn’t use them all before they expired.

Some fast food places would see him outside and take him a meal, which he would accept graciously. He would also take clothing or a blanket if it was offered to him, but never money.

This week, on a night that it was 18 degrees outside, Quincy was hit by a car while trying to push his buggy full of belongings across a four lane highway. By the time the car came to a stop, Quincy was trapped in the windshield of the car, and everything he owned was scattered across the roadway. As of today, Quincy is in stable condition. He has massive internal injuries and it is expected he will lose a leg when he is in good enough condition for surgery.

The local news channel showed a picture of Quincy. I recognized it as an old mug shot. He had that same smile I always saw. They also showed a picture of all his things lying all over the road, and a picture of the windshield he was hanging from when the car finally stopped.

I cannot get his face out of my mind. I hear his soft voice as clearly as if I just spoke with him yesterday. I so desperately hope he will be okay, and that he will not suffer.

If he doesn’t pull through, I hope that when Quincy gets to Heaven, he will have the biggest mansion there. I hope he has more sketch books than exist in all the stores in the world.

God please take care of Quincy, and all the other Quincy’s in the world on this cold, cold night.

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