On my way to meet some friends last night, I saw something strange out of the corner of my eye. Ahead of me, down a side street, was a man. The man was lying in the middle of the street struggling to move. Every few seconds, I’d see his torso pop up and just as quickly it would go back down. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to stand up or crawl, but, either way, he wasn’t going anywhere.
In the time it took for me to reach the man, several cars and other people had passed without bothering to stop and check on him. By the time I got there, it appeared he had given up. He had curled into a ball, and he was lying on his side in a small puddle of near freezing water.
As I reached down and shook his shoulder, the first thing that hit me was an all too familiar smell. He reeked of an unmistakable but not uncommon combination of body odor, cheap cologne, alcohol, and cigarettes. He was hammered. At first, he was resistant to my help. I tried to pull him up, but he was nothing but dead weight. His legs were like jello and all he kept saying was, “Приятелю, не мога. Приятелю (Buddy, I can’t. Buddy.).”
“Не мога” is a favorite Bulgarian expression, and I stopped accepting it a long time ago. And every time he slurred, “Приятелю, не мога. Приятелю,” I simply said, “Можеш. Хайде (You can. Come on.).”
After struggling for a while, I was able to get him on his feet. He was a big man - my height and considerably heavier. But once he was on his feet, he could lean on me as I dragged him down the street in the direction of where he had told me he lived. When we got to what he claimed was his house, he refused to go inside so I left him on the front doorstep.
As I walked away, he repeated several times, “Благодаря ти много, приятелю (Thank you very much, buddy.).” When I walked by on my way home an hour or so later there was no sign of him, so I assume at some point he went inside. It’s a good thing he did. The puddle he was face down in last night was frozen this morning.