Josie - an afterword

"Josie" was inspired by a walk back to my car after a day in the hospital sometime late in my third year of medical school.

You have to understand something about Temple Med - I maintain to this day that it is the home of some of the very finest clinical practice and teaching on the East Coast. Since I am above all a clinician, this is something of a big deal to me.

That being said, the medical school and hospital are located in what was a pretty rough part of town when I was there. Still, most of us would park within two or three blocks and walk to wherever, no big deal. But no lie, it was a game amongst us to count empty crack-vials encountered on the sidewalks during those trips.  My personal record was 23 in a single block.

Every now and again, I would pass a spent shell-casing and wonder...

It was summer twilight, just before full dark. The entire block behind the medical school had been razed the previous year to make space for new construction of some sort. The packed-earth surface that resulted became a favorite place to park for students of the medical school, dental school and the assorted allied-health schools: after about ten a.m., your chances of finding a place to stash your car were pretty slim. After about five in the afternoon, the lot would end up more or less empty, making it fair game for anyone who saw something in your car that they were willing to break a window to grab.

People learned in fairly short order to keep the insides of their cars clean - not out of some sense of hygiene or style, but so that random passers-by would be able to see at a glance that there was nothing worth risking a nasty safetyglass cut for. You would even leave your car's glove box and ash tray wide open, advertising, "nothing here, move along..."

My car was in a far corner of this lot, which as I mentioned, took up an entire North Philly city block. So I was waking back to the car around eight-thirty in the evening when I spied a couple of gents on the corner that I was planning to edge across. They were squared up like boxers, trading blows.

Being the astute boy that I am, it took me roughly thirty seconds of walk time to realize that these guys weren't kidding around. This was not "street boxing" or any kind of sporting summer evening's rough fun. Just then, dying light reflected off of the surface of a knife blade.

No, these two gentlemen were doing their damndest to kill each other.

I smartly turned around, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. What I really wanted to do was run like hell, but that wouldn't have gone terribly well with the whole notion of "inconspicuous," now would it? I turned the corner into the lobby of the medical school, nearly gibbering. Called 911 from a pay phone, and was given some scintillatingly brilliant advice: "Stay where you are, don't try to stop the fight." 

"No shit," I thought.

About twenty minutes later one of the campus cops came into the lobby to fetch me. This was heartilly reassuring, because Temple's cops are honest-to-god commissioned police officers, with real, live guns. He walked me back to my car, and I got the hell out of there.  Here's the thing - the line of thought that went through my mind as I slunk away from the bloody tableau in the first place went something like this:

"Good, Eubanks. What do you think the chances are that they'll see you and figure, 'well, this is kind of fun, but here's wagering that the skinny boy in scrubs will be a whole lot more entertaining than this game of us standing around slugging the living christ out of each other.'" 

I went home and roughed out "Josie" that evening.