A Matter of Life and Death

Jim wanted to go to Kelly’s Tavern at Haygood. Twenty-six years old, kind of stocky, sporting a few tattoos. And down in the dumps.

At least that’s what it looked like. It’s hard to tell with guys (women are usually easier to read). He seemed sulky, but maybe he’s just introverted. And even if he’s struggling with something, maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it. Especially to an Uber driver.

But I took a shot.

“You all right, man? Everything good?”

“No. I’m just gonna go spend the rest of my cash, then come home and shoot myself.”

“Shut up, man.”

“I’m really gonna do it.”

“What are you talking about? What’s going on?”

“I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Come on, man. I’m a stranger. I can’t judge you. We’re only gonna know each other for about five minutes. What’s the problem?”

Somehow that worked. He didn’t go into detail, but he gave me the outline.

Jim’s wife had left him and took their one-year-old son. They’d been together for nine years. Married for four. She not only left, but was quickly shacked up with another guy. Maybe more than one. And it was ugly.

She had called him just to rub it in. To tell him how much better the new guy was in bed. Tell him he was worthless.

“She told me I should just off myself because I’m a piece of sh–.”

The bar wasn’t far away, so I didn’t have much time.

I told him that I couldn’t relate to what he’s going through, but that I was old enough to know some things about suffering. I know it’s cliche to say “this too shall pass” and “time heals all wounds,” but that it’s still true. That if he didn’t do something stupid tonight, a year from now or five years from now, he’d look back on this and feel completely different. Pain is real, but it doesn’t last.

I asked him what would happen to his son if he killed himself. He said he’d get $400,000 when he turned eighteen. Navy life insurance covered suicide. He’d looked into it.

I said, “When your son turns eighteen, he won’t want $400,000. He’ll want his dad.”

“You sound like my psychiatrist.”

“You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to know that a young man needs a dad. I’m a dad. I’m a son.”

I begged him not to do it.

He shrugged. “I’ll probably get drunk and forget all about it.”

When I dropped him off, I gave him a business card with my contact information. And an invitation to my church.

“People care, dude. If I can do something for you, I will.”

Jim shook my hand and thanked me. He asked if I’d still be driving at two. He was planning on being there until the bar closed. I told him I probably would be and that I’d be happy to drive him home.

After he walked into the bar, I prayed for him. I pulled over and asked my Facebook friends to pray for him too. Even though it was after midnight, I got dozens of responses. People all over the country promising to pray for Jim.

For no particular reason, I checked my driver rating. There’s a place where riders can leave comments. Not many people bother to do it, but there was a new one. It had to be from Jim:

Review

Maybe Jim would be okay.

I did a few more runs, but made sure I stayed in the vicinity of Kelly’s. At 1:30, I parked in the lot. I planned to go inside and have a beer with Jim. Offer to take him home.

The doors were already locked though. They were cleaning up inside. It looked like I’d missed him.

I got a ping for another ride, and as I was pulling away, I saw Jim and two other guys on the other side of the building. They were flagging me down. I turned around.

“Can I take you home, Jim?”

“Yeah. My buddies are coming too. Is that okay?”

“No problem. I’ve got room.”

I canceled the other ride. Jim’s phone had broken and he couldn’t use the Uber app, so I told him to forget it. I’d just drive them home.

They all had their drink on. They were goofy, clowning, childish. Even Jim.

They offered me a beer. They were really excited about the Jolly Ranchers I offered them.

“You guys are gonna take care of Jim, right? He was feeling pretty down earlier. Talking crazy.”

“Oh, yeah. We got him. Right, Jim? He’s all right now.”

His pals might be dopes, but they were pals. They all got out at Jim’s place. It looked like they were going to spend the night there.

Jim gave me ten bucks for the ride. Shook my hand and thanked me again. Told me he hoped I’d be his driver again sometime. A few drinks and time with his friends seemed to make a world of difference.

He would be all right for now.

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