Paul Coates

Feb. 27, 1958

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This is a story that never ends.

It started two years ago when a man in his early 20s came into my
office. He had a problem: Heroin. He’d had it for three or four years.

He wanted to do something about it, he told me. Maybe he just wanted to talk about it–but at least to him that was something.

We talked, I remember. He told me about his wife and two kids. In
return, I offered what encouragement, what stimulation I could. I think
I mentioned a hospital or two.

And he left.

I never heard from him again–until, that is, last Monday. This time he
phoned me. He said it was pretty important that I come to see him at
his home. It was a story for me.

I said I’d try, and he told me it was very important. So I said I would.

And the following afternoon, I did. That was Tuesday.

His wife answered the door. She was blond and didn’t look old enough to
be the mother of the two girls–ages maybe 6 and 4–at her side. She
invited me in.

It’s OK," she called to her husband. He appeared from another room.

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Switching a glass of orange juice from his right hand to his left, he shook hands with me.

"I didn’t think you’d come," he said.

His wife ushered the two children out of the room and he and I sat down and talked.

He filled me in on the last couple of years.

"I took your advice," he said. "I went to Fort Worth. To the hospital."

He let me wait a minute before he continued.

"But–well. I got impatient. I split. I cut out."

The reason? He was worried about his wife and kids. He came back to town and started working. He was all right.

For a year he was, anyway. Then he fell back with the same bad crowd and the same bad habit.

As we talked, my friend cast repeated glances at the window. Twice, in
the period of half an hour, he asked me to step to the back of the
house.

Both times, his wife went to the door and said no, her husband wasn’t home.

"Those hypes," he growled. "They never quit. They come by like it’s a parde.

"Hypes," he said, disdainfully.

Then he explained. He said he’d kicked it this time, on his own. This, he told me, was the eighth day.

He waved a fresh glass of orange juice at me. "Today’s the first day I’ve been able to keep it down."

I asked him if that was why he’d called me, why he wanted me to come over.

"That’s part of it," he said. "The other part’s the reason why I
kicked." He led me to a bedroom and showed me a baby, maybe 3, 4 weeks
old.

"A boy this time," he said. "He needs a man for a father."

We talked for a while longer and I asked about the men who had come to the door. "How come you didn’t talk to them?"

"Not yet," he told me. "Maybe in two months, a month. Then I’ll walk right by them on the street and I won’t bat an eye."

I was invited for dinner, but I said I had to leave. I wished them both a lot of luck. I told them to keep in touch.

And I figured, I suppose, that maybe I’d hear from them in a couple more years.

But I was wrong.

My friend phoned again yesterday. "I’m sorry," he said. "I’m real sorry. I goofed."

"What happened?" I asked.

"I answered the door."

[Note: The Daily Mirror mourns the passing of Vivian Sheehan, speech therapist who worked with Paul Coates after his 1966 stroke].

   
   

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Columnists, Paul Coates and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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