If You Save A Life

by Lester L Weil

I’m sitting on the park bench watching the dealings of the drug crowd. I’m only interested in one person though, a scraggly looking girl who might be a teenager or a 30 something, depending on how close you are. Drugs do bad things to the user.

If you save a life, are you then responsible for it? That is the question. Is that a real Chinese proverb, or is it something made up by that old tv show, Kung Fu. I don’t know, and I don’t know anyone who does know. But I think that maybe the premise is true. Not that there is something in the ‘Karmic Universe’ that dictates it, but maybe it is just that when you save a life, your interest in that person grows. With that interest comes desire for the person’s well-being.

Judy, the scraggly looking girl, is actually 20 years old and lucky to have made her eighteenth birthday. If I hadn’t been trying to walk off a little of my drunk after an evening at Jake’s Bar and Grill (actually there isn’t a Grill as Jake put up a wall and rented out that space rather than shell out bribes to city health inspectors). Anyway, I was walking home, and if I’d been able to hold it longer, I wouldn’t have gone into the alley to take a piss.

Partway down the alley was some guy kicking the crap out of a girl curled up in a ball.  He was yelling at her to give up her crack, but I guess she figured the crack was worth more to her than the beating. When I hollered at him to stop, he turned toward me and pulled a knife. Nasty things, knives. When I hesitated and took a step back, he turned back to the girl and started to cut her to get the drugs—so I shot him.

Yeah, I shot him. Maybe it isn’t fair to take a gun to a knife fight, but I didn’t have a knife and was in no shape for a knife fight anyway. The cops would say I used undue force, since I had a gun and he only had a knife. Besides which I was still half drunk. So I took off one way and the girl took off the other. But I got a good look at her and it took little effort to find out who she was.

In my off time I sit in the park and watch her and the rest of the dopers. I wonder about being responsible for her, and wonder what in hell I can do about it. She’s a junkie. Have you ever tried to help a junkie. Well…let me tell you, it’s hard.

First I followed her, and when she propositioned me, I paid her to come have coffee and a chat instead. I’m not a prude, but screwing junkies is just not my cup’a tea. Her story was unsurprising and depressing. Divorced parents. Alcoholic mother. Started  doing drugs while hanging out after school to avoid going home. Ran away with a boyfriend who made her do tricks to support them. Et cetera, et cetera.

As she got to know me, I’d buy her coffee or food a couple times a week and I’d throw in a few bucks for whatnots. She wanted to quit drugs—of course she did—but refused to go to AA meetings with me. She had vague plans for rehab in the future, but couldn’t do it now because…well, you can add the ‘excuse of the day’ here.

After the inevitable overdose, I talked her into a rehab program and she did really well. When she got out we went to daily meetings. But I gotta tell ya that AA meetings are kinda depressing places with really depressing stories, and really, really shitty coffee out of nasty styrofoam cups.

Anyway…all was well until the old boyfriend showed up again and she was back using and turning tricks. She avoided me, and I wouldn’t see her for weeks at a time.  I finally found the boyfriend alone and it only took a new gimpy knee and a broken thumb to convince him that maybe Florida just might be a better place to live.

So things returned to ‘normal’. A couple times a week I’d buy her coffee or food, and kick in a few extra bucks. She still vaguely wanted to quit drugs, but there was no more talk of rehab and she wouldn’t go to meetings with me. I wasn’t disappointed about having to do without the crap coffee.

When she got pneumonia and was taken to the hospital, she checked herself out early so she could get back to the drugs. Back at the park she was like walking death. So I borrowed an old hunting cabin from a friend of mine and took her there. Offer her drugs and she’d follow you anywhere. The next four weeks were not very much fun for either of us. I don’t want to talk about the awful messes, or the screaming and pleading. But when all was said and done, she was clean and moderately healthy.  And after she started feeling better she wasn’t even too pissed at me.

We came back to the city and started going to meetings. She got a job as a part-time waitress and things were going pretty good. Then one day about a month later she was gone, just gone. I didn’t see her again for over six months. When she came back to the park, she looked like hell, thinner and scragglier than ever. She made it a point to avoid me. That was almost a year ago.

So in my off time I sit in the park and watch her and the rest of the dopers. I worry some about still being responsible for her, but what in hell can I do. She’s a junkie.

Originally published at The Screech Owl 2014

Lester L Weil
Lester L Weil, an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture builder, ex-house builder. He is retired in Arizona near the Mexico border.

Leave a Reply