Heaven or hell?

“Medic 9 respond, 10 High St for the unresponsive patient.”

My partner groans. It’s a Known Address; a rooming house. In fire inspector parlance it’s a Single Room Occupancy or SRO. Each ‘apartment’ consists of one room large enough for a bed, a television, and maybe a microwave. Everyone shares a kitchen at one end of the hall and a bathroom at the other.

Its denizens are a teeming mass of humanity one small step this side of homelessness, but that’s not why we know the address. Among all the stories and lives, the mundane and the desperate, two stand out.

Jefferson is an alcoholic. He hasn’t hit bottom yet; he still pays rent and has a roof over his head. We see him regularly both here and on the streets of our city. He’s a big, mean drunk, a danger to both himself and the people who respond to help him. We dread this address because of him.

Abe, on the other hand, is a small polite diabetic. He’s always friendly, even when his sugar is in the tank. He tries hard, but sometimes it gets away from him. He apologizes after we wake him up, and he always wants to walk himself down the stairs. You just have to like him.

Big, small; friendly, mean; diabetic, alcoholic. Heaven or hell, which will it be today?

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