It seemed remiss of me not to at least ask.

“How’s he doin’ out there? He’s doin’ okay?” He didn’t look it, that’s for sure, laid out on the sidewalk as he was, facing the heavens, maybe twitching a little, a crowd gathering round. A skinny, bearded mass, sprawled out on musty nighttime pavement.

I was asking the woman who’d just stepped in. She wasn’t your first idea of a registered nurse: another soul looking somewhat down and out, olive skin tanned hard under an open vest, asking if I stopped by the Union Gospel Mission in Pioneer Square. She’d mistakenly left her bag on a bench down there fifteen minutes ago, and was hoping against hope. It’s Pioneer Square, sure, but… miracles have a way of happening in the worst places, too.

“Oh, I think he’s gonna be alright,” she said.
“I sure hope so. He doesn’t look too great, lying around like that. Good to see some folks steppin’ in.”
“And I’m a registered nurse, so,”
“Oh see there you go. Gosh, I’m glad you were hangin’ around! Nice uh you to lend your expertise!”
“Well, I leaned in to check vitals, and he starts cussin’ me out, ‘get outta my face,’ ‘get the fuck away from me,’ you know, and I’m all like, ‘okay, he’s fine!!”
“Ha! Yeah, that’s when you know they’re okay!”
“If they’re cussin’ you out, you know they’re gonna be fine. If they’re having trouble breathing, or they’re unresponsive, that’s one thing! But if they have the energy to actually be pissed off,”
“Which takes a lot of energy!”
“Oh yeah, he’s gonna be fiiiiiiine. He’s like, get away from me, you dumb bitch!”
“Oh jeez.”
“Hey, it’s cool. Means he’s okay!”
“Yeah, definitely gonna live. It’s like a car crash, if both people get out of their cars start yelling at each other, you know that means everything’s actually okay!”
“Exactly. If they were actually hurting, you wouldn’t hear anything. There would be nobody arguing!”

Profanity never sounded so good.

Article Author

Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.