Friday, March 5, 2010

Crack Heads on a Snowday

I have lived in this neighborhood for about eight months. I know what is going on in parts of this neighborhood. I am no stranger to drugs, so it easy for me to see the score here. There used to be one of the biggest housing projects in the city just on the border of this neighborhood. The city spent millions of dollars tearing it down and building better housing here. The city is growing, and areas like these are improving. But, certain things are slower to change.
My neighborhood is still in the veins of the drug exchange for this city. It is obvious at certain times that there is a lot of buying and selling going on on these corners. I can spot it; junkies hanging around wanting it, dealers hanging around hoping to get rid of it…shady activities in empty lots and dark alleys. I know the score…I have been there before.
Today it is snowing…AGAIN. It has been really snowy this year, especially for this part of the country. It started falling about ten this morning, and has been snowing most of the day. It is not sticking. I guess the ground is too warm. It sure feels cold out there, though.
The neighborhood is always sparse when the weather is inclement. You don’t have people hanging around the corners in this kind of shit. Most of the day, much of the traffic through the neighborhood was in a vehicle. Few people walking to the store, to catch the bus…but no one is just hanging around in the snow. We are too far south for people to be doing that shit.
Just before the sun was setting, my son starts looking out the window again. He is almost one and has become increasingly curious about what is going on outside the windows. A lot of times, I look out with him and we talk about what is going on out there. Today, we talked a lot about the snow. He was excited and fascinated with the snow.
As we are looking out the window, I notice there is someone outside next door. A local crack head, who was probably taking advantage of the porch next door to smoke. People sometimes hang out with the old guy next door, so it is not unusual to someone here in normal weather. This particular crack head is homeless, and he lives at the shelter. He has a sad story…while serving a jail sentence for a crack related charge his mother died in the home they had shared. His sister came home to find their mother dead, and she dropped dead from a heart attack. It was days before anyone else found them. The house was sold, and when this man got out of jail…he had nowhere to go.
So, he stays at the shelter. And he wanders the neighborhood all day, getting high. He smokes weed, too. Usually, he rolls it all up in a blunt and walks around smoking it. I notice he is smoking what appears to be a blunt. He probably just ducked onto the porch next door for his last hits before he goes back to the shelter for the night. I feel sorry for him, as his addiction is the reason he is homeless.
I then look across the street, and by the abandoned house I see two more regulars. These two, I think live or squat in the neighborhood. You always see them together. They seem happy together, and they are often walking hand in hand or arm in arm. I know they do not work because they are always walking around. It was pretty obvious to me that these two are also crack addicts. They actually remind me of Liam and me at times. Very much in love, and very much entangled in that web of addiction that has you pretty much homeless. Thick as thieves.
The two lovers duck onto the porch of the abandoned house. It is not unusual for people to duck behind that house to get high, but the weather today was not permitting. The only place to stay out of the snow is on the covered porch. I start to watch them, and I start to think about the past.
There is no one around, and they have no idea anyone sees them. I watch them as the man is fumbling around with something. They are too far for me to observe all the details, but I know what is going on. I have been there. I see him turn his back away from the road, and face the house as he holds up the small, narrow stem. I see the lighter flicker several times, and then I notice it is burning good. From where I stand, the chore seems to glow like a bright fire. I notice him exhale several times.
Then there seems to be a pause in the lovers’ activity. I assume he is packing it up for her. I then notice her holding the stem, as he goes to light it for her. I see the lighter flicker again, and then I see the burning end. She exhales several times. Then, they walk off the porch and back towards the corner.
I am reminded of my past. Waiting on the corner in the rain; waiting for the man. Waiting for dope in a rare New Orleans snow storm. I am reminded of scoring, and needing to take a hit right away. I am reminded of times I ducked into an alley or onto an abandoned porch to take a quick shot. I am reminded of the closeness Liam and I shared. I am reminded of those days when drugs ruled everything.
Today, I did not go outside because I did not have to. The weather was cold and snowy, so my son and I stayed inside. I did not need to go out for groceries, or beer…and I certainly did not have to go out for drugs. I remember having to go out; rain, shine, sleet, or snow…because I had to get dope. It did not seem out of the ordinary to go out and score NO MATTER WHAT. I am reminded of those times, and a tiny little part of me missed something about it.
Then, I realized how thankful I am that I did not have to leave the house today. At that very moment, my son comes running down the hall babbling and smiling. I am filled with joy. I look at his precious face, and realize how lucky I am. I would not trade the worst day with him for the best day on drugs. His tiny face looks up at me, grinning from ear to ear, as he grunts and shrieks in his little way of communicating with me. I am truly blessed.

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