The first time I met him, he was sitting in his boxers on the edge of his bathtub, blood spilling down his arm into the shallow water, his skin still damp from the shower. I knelt on the bathroom floor while I washed his arm off and dressed the wounds, and coaxed him into the fresh pair of jeans waiting on the edge of the sink. We draped his button-down shirt over his shoulders as he hid his arm from the other people in the apartment building, not speaking a word during the entire process.
In the quiet of the truck, he told me that he'd been trying to kick a heroin habit for the last year, that he'd just started methadone treatment and then the social worker took his daughter away. That life had finally given up on him.
I told him that he didn't have to believe me, but it'd been nearly a decade since the scars on my own arms were made, and things had gotten better. He just had to be stubborn.
The second time I met him, he was having an anxiety attack because he'd taken the wrong medication. The unknown pills belonged to a friend of a friend, and there were none left to bring to the ER to show the doctors. He wouldn't say it straight out, but we both knew they were illegal drugs rather than prescribed medicine. He'd gotten the two confused because the unlabeled pill bottle had been left on the kitchen counter where his pills normally were. He recognized me, but I didn't want to remind him of his rock-bottom, so we talked about how he was thinking of going to school again.
The third time I met him, he was lying supine on the floor of his bedroom, surrounded by empty pill bottles. He was still warm, but not warm enough. His pinpoint pupils stared empty at the ceiling as we manhandled him on to a backboard, attempting to keep compressions going as we carried him down 4 flights of narrow stairs. The monitor told us what we already knew, that electricity was useless, but we kept fighting until the hospital staff took over. We were stubborn. Life wasn't ready to give up on him, even though he believed that it already had.
But he had given up on life.
And he had given up on a little girl, who would have done anything to walk down the aisle one day arm in arm with him, no matter how many scars he carried beneath his black tuxedo sleeves.