pij to

Getting on the subway around 9pm on a midsummer Saturday, I saw there was some amount of bustle. A neigborhoody (i.e. latino) man approached the station attendant: “A guy’s ODing: call an ambulance.” Walking down the ramp to the platform, we see that the train is in the station, but also hear a commotion. I quicken my pace, though I can’t say whether it’s because I want to catch the train, or to see what is up with the crowd. About fifteen people are shaking a red-clad person who, by his distance and floppiness, looks like a small child.

The neighborhood person, returning to the crowd, says “Water! With ice! Anybody have ice water?” S and I had just filled our newish pink 1-liter Nalgene, to get us through the hot night platforms on our 3-transfer subway trek across Brooklyn. “We have water, but it’s not icy.” For a moment he holds out, as if someone else might yet show up with ice water. A middle-ageish woman is also saying something about agua. Seeing no other offers, the crowd takes up our water; they unscrew the top and encourage OD to drink it.

Everyone in the crowd (to my surely cynically biased recollection) is latin@ and “from the neighborhood”: we appear to be the only hipster gentrifiers who are joining the crowd.

The ODer. He is skinny in a youthful way, his face very pale. His head, shaved in the past week or so, is flopped back as they bring the bottle to his lips; his friend is shouting at him in Polish. The crowd thoughtfully dumps some of the water on his head; this brings his head upright. “Water! Drink the water!” They put the bottle in his hands, and he stares at this shimmering crystalline pink football. “Agua drink water!” He seems distracted by the lid flopping around on its tether. His friend says pij to! pij to! The crowd takes up this bit of Polish: pito! pito! He stares at the bottle in his hands; others shove it to his lips, but he pulls it away, with strings of saliva attached.

He grasps the bottle decisively in both hands, and shakes it wildly up and down twice, still entirely bewildered. Pito! Pij to! The water splashes the crowd and its cool impact somehow breaks the spell. An announcement tells us that an ambulance is on its way. The ODer sits on a bench, his friend still encouraging him to pij. The train is getting ready to leave. We sort of halfheartedly ask if he still needs the bottle. “Sure,” (the friend) “it’s okay.” But OD is clearly just as confused by the idea of letting go of the bottle as he is by the idea of drinking from it. We get on the train. Time to buy another nalgene.