I was running late to work again. Will I ever learn how to leave much earlier? And what’s worse, when I was running down the staircase, I nearly stumbled over a lying homeless bum.
“For Fu… Sake! – I blurted – Can’t you find another place for taking a nap, Mister? – I shouted even louder.
The homeless guy muttered something under his breath. He was probably rat-arsed. I didn’t have time to call a municipal police. If I meet him here again, I will get even with the guy, he cannot just lay here stinking.
I glanced at him over my shoulder and couldn’t help but grimace. It was the middle of the summer, and the bum was just lying there in a brown sheepskin coat and black hat stuck on his head. But what surprised me most, were his bare feet. They looked as if they were frostbitten.
I dashed to my work quickly. On my way I visited my pal for a minute. I mentioned something about a man who made a shakedown in our block of flats. He advised me to get rid of the man as soon as possible, because if I will not do it, other bums will come uninvited. I guess he was right.
I was coming back home when it started to get dark. I opened the door leading to the staircase and was about to turn on the light. Suddenly I heard heavy panting. I felt a lump in my throat. I did not know what or who caused the noise. I completely forgot about the morning guest. I instinctively switched the light on and pressed the exit handle to run away.
I saw a silhouette of a man framed by the basement door. He was bluish. Looked as if he was one step from suffocation. I felt confused. He was also a human being after all.
“All is well?” I asked uncertainly, blaming myself that I’m becoming entangled in some sad and desperate story. I did not intend to get on close terms with him.
The bum gave me a piercing look of his black, retracted, beady eyes. No answer, only wheezing. He slowly held out his hand towards me.
“This is the end.” He uttered.
“I’m calling for an ambulance!” I felt a sudden surge of energy. A moment later I heard a voice from the dispatch room, announcing that an ambulance will not arrive earlier than in 15 to 20 minutes.
“The rescue will be here soon, just please do not die here.” I said terror-struck.
“Forgive me son.” It seemed that the man started to rave.
“You must be mistaken, sir. Please, lay still. The ambulance will be here in a moment.” I really had no idea what to do.
“I beg for forgiveness!” The man was suffocating to the point of dying, as if he was starting to panic.
“Do you want me to forgive you what? Cool, no problem. You hid yourself here, but I was not that mad at you, so I have nothing to forgive you” I had no idea what he was muttering about.
“I left. Your mother cheated on me. I didn’t have enough strength to live with her. But forgive me that I left you.” The man was clearly becoming delirious. He took me for his son. Or perhaps my father whom I have known since my birth wasn’t my biological father. I quickly shook off this stupid thought. It was fever speaking, or something else.
I know that you are a good man. I was always living close to you. I was never brave enough to talk to you.” The bum was panting heavily.
It sounded more and more strange. I had an impression that I am starting to fall into delirium, or rather daydream.
“I loved Helena so much…” The man closed his eyes, tears swelled beneath the eyelids and soaked his face.
Helena? What is he talking about? This is my mothers name!
“What Helena?” I pulled the guy. I wanted to hear that it is not true.
“Helena Lipińska, I loved hear so much, but she tore my beating heart.” The man whimpered again.
Phew, my mother’s surname was Stolarczyk. What a convergence of situations and names. I heaved a sigh of relief.
“Hold on for a minute more, the rescue is coming, then you will be able to talk with your relatives.”
Suddenly, I felt as if a thunderbolt struck me. Lipińska? Oh, God. This is my mother’s maiden name!
“Hallo! Sir. When was it? When you left Helena?” I was getting more and more anxious.
“April, 1983. Helena was five month pregnant. She told me that she doesn’t know who is the child’s father.” I lost it. “I just went out of the house.” the man coughed and tried to catch his breath using his last resorts.
My mind was spinning, I was calculating when I was born. Suddenly, simple arithmetic became too difficult for me. Everything is right! Almost, I was born a month earlier. But I was a premature infant! Jesus, Son of Mary! This is happening for real!
“And the second man? Who was the second man with whom she cheated you.” I had a flicker of hope that all previous information are just pure coincidence of facts.
“Stanisław, Stolarczyk Stanisław.” I heard and felt dizzy.
“How do you know he’s not my father? Why are you meddling with my head?!” I cried at the weaker and weaker man.
“When you were a kid you had a serious surgery. They needed blood… Forgive me for leaving you, son. Later, I wanted to come back, sort things out. But she had already. You were a family already. Forgive me.” It seemed as if he sobbed on behalf of both of us. I wasn’t able to utter a single word.
Meanwhile, the ambulance arrived. Paramedics quickly hefted the man up on a hospital trolley and administered oxygen. A stranger tore of the mask, looked at me and uttered with a feeble voice
“Forgive me, son.”
I nodded. Unable to say anything.
I found myself in an empty and dark place. Behind the window, I saw an ambulance driving off. I was shattered, couldn’t gather my thoughts. I thought that I am playing a part in a movie.
Finally, I found my courage. I dialed a number to call my mother.
“Hello? What happened son, why are you calling so late?” A warm voice of a person I always trusted came from the other side.
“Hello, sonny boy! All is well?” Mother asked her question again.
“They have just taken my father to the hospital.” I swallowed loudly, feeling a strange lump in my throat.
“Sonny, what are you talking about? Your father is here with me. Don’t make fun about such things.” One could tell she was nervous.
“They took my father.” “Real father.” I felt tears swelling in my eyes.
A deathly hush fell on the other side.
“How do you know?” I heard a strange, alien voice after a while.
“He came to say goodbay…” I hung up the phone. And yet it was true, not a dream.