Junkies and the Settin' Sun

I'd like to talk to you about addiction.

Scratch that.

I'd like to talk to you about "Greg".
We'll call him "Greg" since that's his name.
Greg is a twenty-five-year-old boilermaker.

Scratch that as well.

Greg is a sad demographic.
Greg is a statistic.
Greg is a heroin addict.
Notice there's no "recovering".
Not even a hopeful heroine could change that.

My mother falls into that category sometimes;
the Good Samaritan, I mean.
She's a social worker at a Rehab Center in Newburgh.
Greg was a patient there.
He had soupy brown eyes and rough hands.
(They still are.)
His mouth sometimes outwitted his heart.
(It still does.)
He meant well, but got in his own way.
(The story doesn't change, regardless of the name.)
Greg reminded my mother of me.
(I'm not sure how to feel about that.)

The union might have sent him on vacation.
Maybe he went by his own volition.
It doesn't matter.
Greg is a heroin addict.
That's all you need to know.

My mother saw that he wanted help.
He played by the rules.
Went to the meetings.
Slept under the required roof.
Completed some trivial Steps.
Greg even managed to graduate.
I think that's what they call it.
But Recovery is a continuing Step.
Greg didn't stick with that one.

They shipped him to a half-way house in the ghetto.
My mother bought him a bike, fixed it up.
Greg couldn't drive anymore.
The needle sews things closed.

She asked me to make some phone calls.
I did.
She's my mother.
I'd do far more than that if she asked.
Greg sounded nice enough.
Said he could weld.
Wanted to work.
Didn't have tools, but was eager.
Ready, willing, and able.
I made some more phone calls.
Greg said he'd go on the interview.
I told him to drop my name.
I didn't care.
It was for my mother.
Greg could do as he pleased with my reputation.
Lord knows I have.
It was his life.
Well, it used to be.
Greg is a heroin addict.
That contractor never heard from him.

The summer bled out on the sizzling asphalt.
Another graduate ran into Greg on a side street.
He looked like a broomstick wearing clothes.
His eyes had receded into his skull.
The soup was gone.
The hands were still rough, but shaking.
His legs were weary from walking around town.
Greg had sold the bike within a week.
Greg is a...
You get the idea.

My mother's voice was strained when she told me.
She's sick of seeing the Cycle repeat.
It was hard to hear what she had to say.
Greg had been picked up by the cops again.
He was with some unsavory characters, selling.
There was a hefty load of dope.
The bail had been set at twenty-five grand.
That's no petty possession.
Greg won't be making boilers for awhile.

But the other side of the story is what hits me:
If my mother had the money, Greg would still be hunting.
And I haven't deleted his number.

No comments: