I stopped by Kenneth’s alley to see if he was around. I wanted to wish him a Merry Christmas but he was still sleeping. Next, I decided to go back to where I met Sergei. I had met him by the railway tracks behind Water Street. I remembered Sergei saying “stay in this area long enough and you will see someone smoke crack”. On Christmas Day, I want to spend time with people who smoke crack. I have never encountered this drug, so this will be a new experience for me.
After spending a few minutes in meditation, a man and a woman came to the area and asked if they could join me. I gladly accepted their offer and asked them if I could get them anything. “A hot cup of water and a soda” was their request. Earlier in the day I was given $5 while panhandling. I only needed $2. So I decided to spend that extra money on them.
I left my things and went to the Starbucks located at the waterfront station. When I came back, I brought myself a hot cup of water as well. It was time to drink another tea. I sat back down and noticed a woman named Sandra (not her real name) playing scratch & win Bingo. She was smoking a cigarette and had a crack pipe beside her.
Most of my time was spent staring into space while waiting for her to initiate the conversation. I did not want her to feel uncomfortable and I certainly didn’t want to bother her. One thing I learned quickly was how tough it was to hold a conversation with someone high on crack. We started talking when she needed help playing her game of Bingo. She had difficulty reading the letters and numbers on the card. Sandra even attributed her loss of vision to crack itself. She was well aware of the negative effects it had on her body.
With tea in my hand, I spent the next two hours sitting and watching her play Bingo. Her friend came by and offered me some “skunk rock”. I have no idea what that is, but it certainly did not sound too appealing. Sandra took a few more hits of her crack pipe. At this point, she was clearly high and became increasingly paranoid of her surroundings. Three birds sang a beautiful melody up in the sky, so I asked her if she could hear that. She replied, “WHAT? Hear what? COPS?!? They here?” She started to look up and down the alley multiple times.
When she calmed down a bit from her paranoia, I asked her some questions.
“How much money can you win if you hit the jackpot?”
“Do you know anybody that has actually won it before?”
“Yes. The person who purchased me this ticket won $25,000.”
“What did he end up doing with all that money?”
I guess winning that much money in one shot while being addicted to drugs isn’t very beneficial. I stopped asking her questions, because I don’t think she wanted to talk to me. Sandra lit smoke while she was scratching away at her game. She frequently dosed off while sitting cross-legged on the pavement. “Sandra, wake up! You are falling asleep.”
Every time I said that, she bounced up dazed and confused. She was completely aware and completely unaware at the same time. In order to connect with someone on crack, it may require very precise listening and an immense amount of patience. I was not able to hold a decent conversation with her.
Towards the end of my stay, Sandra ran out of crack. It was time for her to panhandle for money to keep her high going. I guess this is how addictions work. It is beautifully sad. Beautiful in the way that her devotion to this drug would make her almost do anything for it. And it was sad because this devotion was applied to drugs and not something healthier instead. It would be beautiful to see this kind of passion, dedication and motivation applied to something that does the opposite of harm to the individual and others around them.