You don’t know Marcos. I didn’t know him until three hours ago. I helped him up a path from Barbur Blvd., at the foot of Pill Hill, to the VA hospital. Marcos was a young teen, looking sick. While, um, lying on the sidewalk. I found him lying on the sidewalk. I mean sprawled. If my seeing that unsettled me, man, how unsettled did he feel being it?
I helped him to his feet. He put his arms out and leaned against the stone wall. He kept spitting up; nothing more than spit. It looked like a bad case of nerves, like stress; at least, I think it was, and I’m familiar with that. I asked him if he wanted water (I had my water bottle with me); he said no. He told me he needed to get to “the hospital”; not because he was sick, as I first assumed, but because he said his dad was at “the hospital.” Which could mean several different hospitals and clinics up there, but he definitely meant Pill Hill, so he’d have to get “up there.”
I honestly thought he wouldn’t be able to walk up the steep hillside path; I suggested we walk around to 6th, where it becomes Terwilliger Blvd. and where the OHSU buses run. “I can’t do that far a walk!” he said. I told him I’d walk with him up the path I had just come down; he said he’d try. At a couple of moment Marcos had to lean down and put his hands on the steps, to keep his balance; it was too narrow a path for me to walk along him, so I walked behind him and kept talking to him. I was worried I’d look sneaky and suspicious, a strange man with an unsettled boy. I kept close, in case he fell. He never did. And I guess (and hope) that I didn’t look inappropriate.
Marcos finally told me his father was at the VA. We got there via a parking garage elevator, the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital lobby, the sky bridge to OHSU, and eventually the OHSU-VA sky bridge, talking all the while. (We also stopped at the reception desks of both Doernbecher and OHSU, as I hoped to get Marcos some more help – meaning people who could be sure he found his father.)
He perked up and looked more settled the closer we got to the VA, though there was a glimmer of a dicey moment when we started across the sky bridge and he said, “I’m afraid of heights.” “Look up,” I said. I then pointed out the X-shaped patterns of the bridge supports. He liked how they looked; he compared them to diamonds. We talked about video games until we reached the lobby. No one was at the reception desk when we got there, but Marcos said he knew where he was going. I saw him head off to the elevators.
I was more than a little weirded out by this, but I feel I did the right thing. I got the strong sense that there was family drama involved, on top of Marcos’s dad being in the hospital, which was stressing him out. But I’m going to hope for the best.