Andrew was there tonight at the meeting; he strolled in late looking like a walking breeder of quarantinable diseases with his prerequisite virus laden sunken cheeks and those dark circles that were so pronounced that they almost threatened to engulf his eyes. I think that it has been about a year since I’d last seen him and back then he had told me that he was about to finish school and start working as a certified shiatsu masseuse at one of the better hotels in the city. Back then he wanted to know if I would consider being his roommate in an apartment that he was about to be renting. Back then he had been tanned and fit with what looked like a sparkle of hope in his eyes.
But tonight? That Andrew that I’d been talking with back then just wasn’t here and the difference between the two of us made that last conversation of ours seem like such a long time ago and as the evening dragged on I tried not to thinking about it. And I didn’t until the meeting was over and then we were all out front talking shit and of course the ones that do smoke were smoking cigarettes and then Andrew, who had un-mysteriously disappeared, materialized again coming out of the bathroom and this time the sparkle in his eyes wasn’t from hope or any enjoyment that he was experiencing in his life. It was from that last hit of coke that he’d just shot up and with the dope still ringing in his ears he had come out full tilt and walked right up to me pulling up his shirt sleeve to show me a huge bright red abscess that was forming on the middle of his arm. “Look at this!” He said. And I was having a hard time looking at it but at the same time I couldn’t turn my eyes away!
“Man, you’d better take care of that thing!” I said, and there I was describing it as if it was a pet or something. But what else could I say? Yet the reality was that he wasn’t listening to me, he was just talking to move his jaw as the cocaine had a hold of him and what words were coming out were all about how he’d been getting high and how he’d tried to kill himself by shooting massive amounts of heroin and now he was shooting so much coke that he should be dead and he was saying this with a huge smile stretched screaming across his face like he was sharing some funny ass joke with me.
“So, what-cha gonna do?” I asked. And it was like I had proposed that he tackle an intricate algebra equation or that he was somehow being forced to explain the meaning of life. Because he just stood there with this monosyllable look of confusion and couldn’t say a word. Though he finally ended up asking me for my phone number and of course I gave it to him as Andrew’s not gonna call me at 4am looking to barrow some cash because he knows that I won’t give it to him. But he may call me for help or need someone to take him in to the hospital and I’d do that because somebody once did it for me when I was in as bad, if not worse, a shape as Andrew and how’s it suppose to get better in this world of ours if we don’t extend a helping hand to those who are constitutionally incapable of doing it for themselves?
Yet as if by coincidence just this morning I had been walking back to my apartment from getting my usual morning paper and coffee and there was an unopened plastic bag of ten hypodermic needles lying right there in the middle of the sidewalk like it had magically appeared on the street corner straight from the pharmacy and just seeing it took me back a ways. As there was a time that I’d turn in and then pick up a box of ten bags exactly like this one every week at the needle exchange for me and my girlfriend to use. Though just the sight of that bag laying there with those unmistakable orange protective caps glowing through the clear plastic with “U100 Diabetic Insulin Syringes” written across the side in black block letters sort of irked me a bit. However upon seeing them I didn’t even hesitate or slow down as I made my way up the sidewalk and it wasn’t until I saw Andrew’s infected lump on his arm that I thought about them again.
Funny how some things evoke memories because of how our brains associate images and feelings and when we are faced with our fears and obsessions we tend to remember past indiscretions and overindulged mistakes and even the odors that were present at those occasions when smelled again make your emotions twitch. But what really kills me is that after seeing something as gross as an oozing puss filed abscess that somewhere, like way back there in the unused folds of my brain tissue, there’s that dormant slight urge to go shoot some dope. Of course there’s no urge to be incarcerated, or homeless, or penniless and on the streets doing crimes or dope-sick every morning when I get up wondering where my next fix is coming from! There’s no unrequited desire to be weighing 125 pounds again with all my bones sticking out and existing on Camel cigarettes, Coca Cola, Heroin and Snickers candy bars. And the guilt ridden memories of lying to my family and myself while life passed me by doesn’t even enter into the picture because the human mind is a terrible thing to witness when it come to the pleasure centered aspects of addiction. Where I could so easily justify everything as I only remember the quote “good times” as if they somehow out weighed all the horrific moments of reality that in the end were a greater percentage than the actual seconds of relief that I felt when injecting badly processed Mexican opiates into my veins!
But how do you convey all that to somebody that you know and consider a friend like Andrew? How do you say – don’t do that man! How do you watch someone go down a road that you yourself took and know only too well what lies ahead?
Of course for me there are days when I’d really like to start smoking cigarettes again or that the taste of a glass of Merlot with a nice meal is a thought that sort of tends to haunt my vision and I got to confess that when I had oral surgery last year and the doctor offered me a script of Vicodin that my mouth started to water. But that’s just me and my dope fiend infested mentality and I gave up my rights to getting high a long time ago as I wasn’t able to keep it under control, which is putting it mildly. So in the long run who the hell am I to be telling anyone how to live their life?
Its just hard to stand by observantly unattached when you know the ending to the story already!