Jimmy the drunk shambled toward the bus shelter like one of the undead. He held his arm as if he had hurt his elbow. His eyes were vacant and didn’t register any recognition of me until he sat beside me on the bench. He just looked with a weary expression at some point across the busy street. The smell of stale sweat occasionally hitched hiked upon the cold winter breeze to impose on my senses.
“No. That’s the trouble. I’m off the drink. Listen I know I’m a drunk. That’s what I do. Cats catch mice. Fish swim in the sea, and drunks drink. But, I had my one-too-many. I spent the most miserable night last Sunday and it’s made me think that I need to change my ways.”
“What happened to you? Someone beat you up?” I asked noticing the black eye.
“A beating isn’t going to stop me. I’ve taken a fair share of beatings, and I’ve given them too. A good fight is a pleasure. No. It was just a night of one terrible incident after another. At the end of it I just thought to myself, ‘there has got to be a better way of living’. That was five days ago. I am going to try to stay away from the drink, but I don’t know if I can do it. Look.” He showed me the tremble in his hands. “I’ll tell you what happened. I had been drinking for a few days straight. Then this terrible pain and sound wakes me up. I try to ignore it, but it just gets worse. Finally, I get this zap! ohh. It hurt I tell you. I am seeing stars. It makes me jerk my head, but, get this, I am under the fucking bed. So, what happens? I bang it on the bottom of the bed, which makes me jerk my head down. At this point I am screaming, and I hit my jaw on the ground biting the shit out of my tongue in the process. The whole time I have this fucking sound in my ear. Then I figure out what it is. There’s a bug in my ear. I tell you. You wake up right quick when you figure out there’s some creature in your head laying eggs or eating at your brain or whatever. I scuttle out from under that bed in double time. I bouncing off walls like a pinball every time that damn thing shakes its wings. It was an awful sound. As a bonus, I’m bleeding all over myself like a stuck pig and screaming with my bit tongue. A fucking sight I was. I know I have to get to the hospital. One of the old ladies on the ground floor came out to see what the noise was and she got an eyeful of me. Ha! Her face looked like she’d seen her own death.” He cracked a smile and continued. “I get into my car and try to drive myself to casualty. Oh. Hell. That was fun. The damn bug is dancing around my skull and I’m still spitting blood out the window.”
“I get there all right. I am a little calmer, but this thing is killing me. The noise is horrible. The lady takes all my information and tells me to sit and wait. I tell her, ‘you don’t understand I have a bug in my ear.’ Remember I got this big swollen bitten tongue. So, I talk like one of those deaf people.
‘Yes. Sir.’ she says. ‘Just sit over there. It won’t be long.’ I give up and try to be cool. I go to take my seat. They call some woman. I think she’s got piles or something. She’s walking funny. I don’t know what, but she sure doesn’t have a bug eating her ear. So, I go tell the nurse. ‘I have a bug in my ear and it’s killing me.’ Fucking hell. It was like talking to a spastic. After a few more shouts of ‘I have a bug in my ear’ and furiously pointing at the side of my head, they get me in a room. You know what that fucking doctor asks me. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I’m covered in my own blood, and I have a bug in my ear. I could have killed the bastard. I tell him ‘I got a bug in my ear.’ He gets one of those things to look in my ear. He’s fishing around in there and he says to himself, ‘Jesus. You do have a bug in your ear.’ That man was asking to be killed.” He stopped, shook his head, and whispered a slow “filthy bastard” as if it was an amen.
After few seconds of silence anticipating the conclusion, I ask “Well, did they get it?”
“Yeah. Yeah. They got it. A wee thing.”
“But how’d you get the black eye?”
“I couldn’t tell you. That was there before all this.”