I think the one request any human being can make to another human being, and it be a simple case of decency, compassion and an intact soul is a request for clean drinking water. I didn’t want to go outside and deal with the adult man who needed assistance. I am 5 foot nothing, female and over my dead cold body will the boy go out with me to help someone with a needle in one hand, and his head on the sidewalk. I was worried. The man hadn’t moved for quite some time. I am not about to let anyone overdose on my doorstep, so decided to shout down and see if he needed help. He was clearly very much on the nod, very very high, but talking and relatively lucid. It was more a case of my interrupting his high, than him falling out. He did ask me for water. I made him promise he was not overdosing, and ran to get him a gallon of water. This is my neighbor. I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. He told me he was ‘just tired’, as the syringe lay beside him, the sterile water ampule, the orange caps, the tell tale signs other than his glasses in the gutter and his head on the sidewalk, and one heck of a nod on the go, that he was potentially in trouble.
I would never call the cops, I would call for an ambulance if he seemed honestly in danger of overdosing. He was at least able to talk to me, and keep his head up, so calling an ambulance would just make his already difficult life worse for him. If it was me in his position, what I really would want is for everyone to leave me the fuck alone. I presumed he wanted the same. What he did ask for was water. This is America. Every single person should have access to safe clean water. I ran up, got a fresh clean unopened gallon of water. I didn’t have any smaller bottles, and ran it down to him. He raised his head, and sincerely said to me, “God bless you.” I don’t believe God gives a shit, that is if he isn’t dead, insane or lost interest in his little experiment entirely, but our little interaction, me an old ex junkie, and this young man, young enough to be my son, was one that was not negative.
Now imagine a cop had been involved, one of these cops flooding the streets in the crackdown. My neighbor got up, had a drink of water, picked up his stuff, and made it up the road to fight another day. No drama. No life ruining arrest. Minimal fuss. He could have sat there, but chose up move on as soon as he was able to. There is a need for services, housing, voluntary programs. Detox when people want it, safe supply for those who are not ready yet. Safe supply might just be the single act that could save so many lives, especially the young people. Fuck, I am old. If I fuck up and end up back down there, I know the score, I have been down one time, been down two time, been down three time, never going down again, like Fleetwood Mac sang, but these kids who have never known anything other than a brutal fentanyl addiction, deserve a chance to survive it all. There has never been anything other than fentadope on the streets their entire drug careers. It breaks my heart. Give the kids a fucking chance.
The very least any of us can do is provide what we can – water, a kind word, an offer of help if it is needed and wanted, some hot food if possible, and not calling the fucking authorities unless someone really needs that life saving help. Really, just not being a jerk. That is what it boils down to. People helping people.
I don’t sleep very well nowadays. Too much on my mind. Too many worries. I sit with a cup of herbal tea and look out my window. See some pretty strange stuff out there sometimes. Drop offs. Pick ups. 3am assignations. Lovers tiffs. Shady goings on in the shadows. Tears in the gutter. Advertisements for the Cal Fire, hey hey hey….Yet last night might win prizes. A man was drinking an ice coffee. Tall, reasonably dressed. Didn’t look particularly drunk, perhaps four shots down instead of about to take a nap in the gutter and piss his pants. He had the look of a lost frat boy heading home from some late night out partying. The clear gas station cup of ice latte was reasonably steady in his hand, his hat jauntily angled on his head a la Lou Reed, circa 1976, and his acid washed jeans looked as if they had recently seen a washing machine. Not who you usually see out there in the dead of night. He was being chased by a crumped up brown paper bag, that was hurtling towards him at a rate of knots. Faster than the Flash. It seemed to be tumbling like tumbleweed, but with remarkable accuracy, heading directly up the sidewalk and towards his ankles. I put my glasses on. The crumpled brown paper bag was actually a small wheaten colored cairn terrier, who was enthusiastically heading towards the slender, cute be-hatted young man, whilst being studiously ignored.
A young woman appeared on the street, some distance behind both dog and man. The dog was not looking back at her, but who takes Toto out for a night at a bar? The small crumpled paper bag of a dog finally made it to the object of his desire, and paused to piss up against a tree. The man stopped. Looked down. Patted the dog on the head. The dog radiated ecstasy. The two of them, both leashless, trotted up the street, the small dog weaving dangerously between the mans legs and trying to nuzzle him. I could not work out if they were old partners or new friends. I suppose it didn’t matter, they seemed to have each other now. Just before the young man turned the corner, he picked up the small wriggling paper bag, and kissed the top of where it’s head would be, if crumpled unbleached bags had heads, and disappeared from view. The young woman paused, lit a cigarette and looked vaguely disappointed in life. I would be too. Everyone needs a Toto to rush after them and leap into their arms. A marlboro light is all well and good but no substitute for love.
Smack hits all those love endorphin synapse traitors. It is like a warm fluffy cotton wool cloud hug of motherlove. It is even better than a cairn terrier with a capacity for innocent affection. It is also a backstabbing bitch, a hard mistress, a death bringer. Fentanyl doesn’t even have the warm and fluffies going for it. We all need love. We all need care. We all need water and food and shelter. We all need to be treated like human beings. We all need to be asked “are you ok?”
Are you ok? Do you need water? Do you need help? Is there anything I can do? Sometimes, trauma aside, the fact men scare the shit out of me put aside, there is nothing to do apart from take a risk or two, or else end up another soulless consumer behind a window and a wall and a door that locks. And if all someone has in return for being seen and acknowledged is saying, ‘hey thank you. Bless you’, then isn’t that enough? To not lose our collective souls in the face of so much crackdown, sweep ups, criminalization of poverty and sickness? To remain human beings?
All I know is, if I ever end up out there again, I’ll curse the motherfucker that won’t even fill my water bottle for me. Basic human indecency will be met with fury.