Jared is going to Washington D.C. with his class soon. As a result, of course, this means he needs new shoes, shorts that don’t have stains and socks that are clean and free of holes. We headed to the mall, the night before he was too leave, no less, with a list of things. While we were driving to the mall he tells me that he and a friend of his, whom I shall call Blondie, encountered something when they were in our center of town which everyone calls “down town”. A guy was walking by them stumbling, nodding off in place, and “licking his sneakers”. He said Blondie was just staring at him (Jared), when the guy finally moved past them, Jared said to her that he is high on heroin. I think she was frightened, or at least disgusted, while Jared felt, in his own words, nothing. He said it seemed sort of unfazed by the whole event. To him it was something that happens, and even though it isn’t normal, it is something he has seen so many times in his 14 years of life, that it seems common.
The only thing I could say to him was, it’s really sad you know that.
We got to the North Shore mall, and headed for the shoe store because he needed new sneakers. We did the ridiculous routine of looking at a million different pairs, some to small, some too big, one had a weird wedge thing in it that dug in his foot, one was $190 to which I pointed and laughed-that wasn’t going to happen. An hour and $100 bucks later we walked out of the store new shoes, socks and shoe cleaner in hand.
On our way out of the mall, we encountered a woman on a cell phone, pacing and talking very loud. She said to whomever was on the other end of the phone that she couldn’t stay in the house anymore, even though she was sick, she had to just walk around the mall because if she stayed home, she would get in trouble. Jared stopped to look at Zippo lighters at one of the Kiosks (a boy can dream!) I was openly watching her, and listening. And I knew I shouldn’t be, but I was so enthralled in her conversation. She would pause, while the person on the other end was responding, I assume, and then start talking again. She looked rag-tag. Completely disheveled. Stained blue T-shirt that was wrinkled and had a small rip in the right shoulder. The caption on the front, two frogs fishing in a tiny row boat that said Fishin’ For Life. Her green shorts were cut offs, from what looked like sweatpants, and frayed, half way to her knee. Her pale white legs were covered with scratches, bruises and welts. Her used-to-be-white socks were a sad shade of gray as were her used-to-be-white Reebok sneakers. Her sneakers reminded me of my mom’s from the early 90’s. Her wild, unkempt hair was somewhat wrangled into a Red Sox baseball hat which looked as though it floated here from the Tsunami in Japan. It had salt stains around the rim, oil stains and burn holes in a few different spots.
When she started talking again she said, loudly, I don’t want to do the wrong thing, if I am going to beat this I have to keep on the move, the mall doesn’t close until 9 so I will stay here until then. Silence for a moment and then she said, I haven’t gotten that far, I will figure that out at 9 but I think I will be ok if I just keep on the move, I can’t stay at the house, the walls are closing in on me and I’m not as sick so I can keep going. Silence for a heartbeat. Then, I will just keep walking until I’m tired and then I will head back and go to bed. At this point, Jared started asking me about letting him get a lighter and I can tell you that a snow ball has a better chance in hell than Jared does getting a lighter, so I couldn’t concentrate on her conversation anymore. I have a bad habit of saying yes when I’m not really listening. By the time I had explained to Jared the reasons he couldn’t get a lighter and then after listening to his well thought out reply, and then told him hell to the no way, she was gone. I sort of looked around to find her, and then realized that I was intruding on her (even though one could argue when you have a loud conversation like that in public that you forfeit your right to privacy) so I headed for the exit. What was interesting to me, was I understood what she was going through. Maybe not ACTUALLY, because I am not an addict, but from a once removed perspective, I totally got it. I saw JoDee crawling out of her skin, not being able to stay home, wanting us just to drive around, anything to keep her mind occupied. I wasn’t disgusted by her, or frightened by her, I was inspired by her. She may not have had the best plan, but she knew that and was winging it. Anything as long as she didn’t use. I could tell that she was past the really sick part, the physical part had subsided mostly, now she was at the emotional part, which is so much harder to deal with.
On the drive out of the mall, all I could think of was it sad that I know that.
Jared needed toiletries. Men toiletries are way more inexpensive and easier to get than girl items. When JoDee would go away while in high school, or the many detoxes and rehabs/programs she has attended, I have purchased a boat load of crap. Jared just walked over the travel section and picked out a shampoo, a body soap, toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, hand sanitizer, Q-tips and tissues. Boom. Done. I was amazed it was that easy. And under $20 to boot! I pondered this while standing in line to check out. From behind me, I hear “Hey man, I’m gonna grab a bic”. I turned around to see a man, late 40’s maybe early 50’s, and swaying, stumbling, very droopy eyes. The cashier told him he can’t go behind the counter, and he would get the lighter for him. He stood behind Jared and me while we waited, and eventually checked out. He started nodding off, putting his face down on the magazine rack. Jared said ya buddy wake up, twice. The man mumbled something about a long day. Then he started saying something about Jesus (praise Jesus, holy Jesus, Sweet baby Jesus, Jesus grab the wheel, who knows) while trying to count his money. He kept counting the same one dollar bill over multiple times and confusing it for a $20. When we walked outside, Jared said you know what he was on right. I just nodded. He said we see people doing heroin everywhere and he can’t figure out how people don’t know. I reminded him that we wouldn’t have known if it was for his sister.
He said it was pretty sad we know that.