I was in my North Bergen basement apartment hazily awake with miscellaneous memories that led to no conclusion – I couldn’t sleep well. I stood up and couldn’t decide if it was too early to eat. It was Tuesday and it was about six in the morning. Strangely, a phone call came in and my mind began to wonder if it was a prank or a wrong number, but then I saw my brothers name on my screen. He didn’t sound good. His voice came to me as a whisper in his throat and he seemed as if he could barely muster out his words.
“Tim…” he began.
“Hey, what’s happening?” I replied.
“I think I ate some bad Chinese last night…; will you bring me to the hospital? I have food poisoning.” he said, then he groaned with pain.
The drive to his home would be at least 10 minutes, and I felt like this was something for a professional to handle. So I resolved, “You should call the ambulance. Should I call them for you?”
“They’ll charge me.” he whimpered and then bellowed, “Please!”
In that instant, I knew that the responsibility had set upon me and that the liberty to discuss any further options had drawn to an end.
“Please!” He said with more strength.
I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT HE WAS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. With a head full of anger and determination, my eyes set firmly in my head and I knew that I wouldn’t stop until he was safe. I fit into some sweats and sneakers and sprinted to my car. Less than 5 minutes later, I was in front of his apartment in Fairview, NJ. I had called just a minute before pulling up.
He said that he was coming down and when I asked if he needed help, he said, “No.” He didn’t sound so bad anymore. Maybe it was because of the relief of my arrival. Then I saw him. Slowly and uneasily, he shifted himself down the stairs and into my car. I took off and said that we were going to the Englewood Hospital. In hindsight, I probably should’ve went to Edgewater, but then again, there’s often so much traffic around down there.
My Blue Honda CRV was already down to the street when he started to put on his seat belt. We hugged the corner as I began asking him questions. He was sitting in the back seat with his hips forward and one arm holding his stomach as the other one clinched the front of his seat. He told me that the cause of this was some bad Chinese food that he had the night before. Strangely, he said that he had eaten there before, but it had been awhile since then. It didn’t mean much to me, but I knew that this neighborhood had a few questionable places to eat. I didn’t take my eyes off the roads, and I made sure that not one obstacle would be in our way. I must’ve been driving with a speed near 60 MPH through back roads on this cool spring morning and he warned me to slow down, but there were no cars on the road because it was about six fifteen in the morning; the sun had barely come out. Just to avoid a collision, I also slowed down near the intersections.
I found my way to route 9W and I was approaching the intersection on Palisades Ave to turn onto to descend down into Englewood. That section is a little busy and I avoided a car and then turned left from the second lane after the inside lane and cleared the space with no problem, and then we quickly descended down Palisades Ave.
I made it to the hospital and stayed with him for the next hour as a tense brick of a man. It was like I was swollen into a sculpture and on my face was a mask of a piercing stare that found clarity only through the leaking crevices. I requested service, then I demanded it. He was turning over in agony.
After a test, the doctor told my brother that his gall bladder had to be removed if they had waited 3 hours then he would’ve died. The staff there was pretty good to keep us calm, but they seemed to be a little too nonchalant for me. However, they completed the procedure and he was fine.
Several months later, a traffic ticket was sent to my home from the Englewood Cliffs Police Department. The cameras at the corner of Palisades Ave and 9W recorded me as I had sped too fast and turned without my signal on to go down Palisades Ave from the wrong lane. I was even shown the video by the sergeant and it was bizarre. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember why I had done that. It was like someone had used my car and I would have to pay for it. I was with my new girlfriend and I was embarrassed. I didn’t want her to think that I was reckless. I just couldn’t remember what had compelled me to do that because it was really rare of me. So, I was given a date to appear in court.
I had thought about it for awhile and the next day I realized that this was the day that I sped with my sick brother who desperately needed my help. To prepare, I got some of the discharge paperwork from the Englewood Hospital to prove that I brought him there because of an emergency. I joined the ranks of violators who trudged through the process of waiting on the line with shame and a smoldering thought of redemption within the prosecutors room. As I entered, they were finishing their explanation to one guy who seemed to be a foreigner. He was sent into the court room. The prosecutor was a Caucasian guy who looked like an ex football player. He was seated behind a mahogany desk next to an uncomfortable portly Caucasian man in a suit. The prosecutor asked me what had happened and I explained that I had to rush to the hospital because my brother had tremendous pain in his stomach and he didn’t want to call the ambulance. I offered the document as proof, and it stated that my brother was there, but it offered no explanation about why. The uncomfortable sweaty man next to the prosecutor closely searched the paperwork for dates. I thought that this might not suffice, and the portly guy rattled out that I’ll need to go get some better paperwork. The prosecutor offered the hope that I can take my chances with the judge to see if it’s enough for my amnesty. The emotion that wanted to show of all I had gone through to save my brother was like a multicolored orb in my mind that I had to suppress. So, I exited the prosecutors room and went into the court room.
Although there were people that saw the prosecutor after me, I sat there on those church-like benches as everyone was processed first and then I was called to approach the judge as the final case. It seemed like the judge had already understood what had happened prior to seeing me. My girlfriend waited by my side as I was asked to put my hand on the bible and sware to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God. I swore, “Yes, your honor.”
Then, I was asked to explain what had happened that evening and I began with the phone call that came in so early in the morning, but by the time I got to the part of the story when my brother was groaning in the back seat of my car, I started to cry as I explained that he was making a sound that seemed unhuman. I continued to try to speak through this catharsis as I said that I had never heard him make such an unearthly noise, so I knew that I had to bring him to the hospital.
Just then, the judge intervened to offer me some solace, “The case is dismissed.”
Still sobbing a little and eased by his pardon, I exited with my wife and we passed the police officers who seemed unmoved by the entire scenario. The judge had understood that I was a good Samaritan; this was no crime at all, but an honor.