I’m sitting across from two heroin addicts in Starbucks. At this location, you need a code to use the bathroom, and that is only available with purchase. But they need that bathroom. They need to shoot up. So she bought a banana and put it on the table in front of him and he pulled out a large knife and cut it in half and said “There’s your fucking half” like he’s pissed at her about something.
He’s wearing the kind of outfit that no one in the city wears anymore unless they are addicts – a flat-brimmed Fox racing hat; fake Oakley’s on top, mismatched cargo shorts. They say the music you were listening to when you started having sex is the music you’ll always love most. I wonder if it’s the same with drugs and fashion; whatever you were wearing when you started using ends up being where your style gets stuck. She’s dressed in sweats and smells strongly of cheap perfume. It’s so strong that I almost had to move because I was gagging, but then the air from the ducts switched direction and now I’m upwind.
They’ve created a bubble around themselves with their possessions and the chairs and the tables and she keeps moving every part of the “wall” and it’s driving me crazy. Little adjustments to the tables in front of them. Picking her backpack up two inches and putting it back down. Pushing his water bottle an inch to the left. And then another inch to the left. Scooting up in her chair. Scooting back. She’s obviously irritated. Maybe fiending. He had gone to the bathroom almost immediately, and is now having trouble staying awake. She didn’t go. Did he use the last of the junk? Did she offer it to him because she loves him? “We only got enough for one. You take it, baby.”
I disliked them when they first sat down. Not necessarily because of my prejudice toward junkies, which I do have, but because he’s an asshole and she’s annoying. Everything out of his mouth to her can only be constituted as verbal abuse, and in a Starbucks that is usually playing classical music, for some reason today we’re being subjected to a nineties playlist that includes Evanescence and bands of that ilk and she’s been singing along loudly and poorly. He’ll tell her to shut up, and she’ll whine “I like this song” and then he makes a move in a way that makes me think if we weren’t in public (or maybe even regardless that we are) he’d slug her right in the face if he could stay conscious long enough. But he can’t, and halfway through his aggressive move his eyes roll up into his head and he does “the nod;” that slip into heroin bliss, that taste of heaven on the precipice above hell that they all slip and fall from.
It’s been a half hour and I’m still annoyed, but I no longer have feelings of strong dislike for them. I’ve been listening to their conversation when he’s awake and she’s not singing. It’s rambling, incoherent nonsense, and it’s sad. I’m sad. Part of me wants to turn my own music back on, wants to stop pretending that I’m invested in these strangers. But a bigger part of me is curious.
It’s her turn in the bathroom now. She’s been in for a while. She had been spending the past twenty minutes making crafts with colored pencils and heart stickers. I stole a close glance and it’s something you’d expect a six year old to create. Simple sentences and misspelled basic words. When she finished her art she packed it away and left for the bathroom and now he’s out of it again. There was a gold grenade on the table. I have no idea what it’s purpose is, but that’s what it is, and he slumped forward and knocked it to the ground and it’s been rattling next to my feet.
She’s back now and straightening up their area. She put the gold grenade back. Pushed everything around again. She had been gone for a good fifteen minutes. Maybe she did dope, maybe she didn’t. I don’t know. What I do know is that, while in the bathroom, she painted her nails an electric blue, and he’s now using alcohol wipes to clean the excess from her fingers. He’s moving with delicacy and gentleness. It’s a stark contrast to what I’ve seen from him so far.
“Oh, God,” she says, yanking her hand away.
“Whaaaaat,” he moans sleepily.
“Look,” she says, pointing to her finger. “You got my nail. Wiped the polish off. Fuck.”
“It’s fine,” he says.
“It ain’t. Fuck it, I’ll fix it. Whatever. Also, we got an eavesdropper.”
My hair stands up on my neck. What the fuck, I’m thinking. Are they talking about me? They’re so out of it, there’s no way.
“Who,” he asks.
“The motherfucker right behind us. He was talkin’ shit, sayin’ we was fightin’ an’ whatnot. I think he told them to call the cops.”
Ah, I think. Not me at all. I’m relieved. It’s not often I can be invisible as a 6’3″ man, but it’s still possible.
He’s left to use the restroom again, and now she’s moving all the furniture like a person that just got out of a long relationship and needs to change how everything in her life looks. And after pushing the chairs around for three minutes and having them end up exactly where they started, she sits down to touch up her nails, spilling her electric blue polish all over the table.
He’s back and they’re bickering and they’re moving now. Moving to a spot on the other side of the store. They don’t like the guy behind them. The snitch that ratted them out. He grabs the backpacks and takes them to the new spot, and she’s cleaning up the mess they made.
I think of people I know that have struggled with addiction. I think of my own struggles with addiction. I guess you could say I was “lucky,” in that I only had to deal with gambling. I suppose blowing entire paychecks has a bit less of an edge than chasing the dragon to destitution, but I can at least partially relate to the hunger. To the literal salivation that occurred when I needed my fix. Even that was hell. I can only imagine addiction at this level. I wonder if they’ll get help. If they want help. I know how hard it is, even when you want it. I wonder if they’ll make it.