You might remember my writing about the needles I’d find in Washington Square Park last fall. I presumed they came from heroin users, though I don’t know what drugs people inject. You may have noticed I haven’t written about them for a while.
Well, I’ve continued my sidcha of picking up at least three pieces of litter from the northwest corner of the park and the cannabis dealers have been there every day, but the heroin users disappeared from the park over the winter. Now they’re back.
I’m writing about it because I’ve noticed the difference between them and the weed dealers and I’ve been challenging myself to describe the difference. The weed dealers seem like businessmen. I’ve talked to a few. They’re lucid. They have a purpose—to serve customers. Their customers come from outside the park. They do their deals discretely. If you don’t specifically look to see a deal happen, you won’t see it. I can’t tell if they use what they’re selling, but they’re relatively alert. They’re all black and all men. I’m pretty sure they’re all foreign.
The heroin users are wrecks. At a given moment, several will be collapsed on a bench. One might be on the ground. Sometimes one will be in some weird position like leaning against a fence. They buy and hand out the drugs clumsily, where anyone can see. Their clothes are in disrepair. Few stand up straight. They don’t talk coherently. They leave the park to ask people for money. They leave more wrappers on the ground, whereas the weed dealers leave more coffee cups. The heroin users include women, maybe twenty percent, and whites, more than half. I think they’re mostly American.
I don’t think my description captures their wretchedness, which I don’t say as an insult or judgment. I’m trying to find the words to describe what I see. Not much to live for. Sullen. Given up. I can’t imagine what it would feel like for a family member to see a relative like that. For a parent to see a child like that. I can’t tell what level of conscious thought they’re practicing. Do they have hope? I know many people use heavy drugs and return to regular life so maybe they aren’t as far gone as they look to my naive eyes. Maybe they’re just experiencing something in the warm weather that lasts a few hours after which they return to appearing sentient.
I’ll keep working at describing them. Partly I want to explore my writing ability. Partly I see something human in them. Partly there’s something beyond my experience that I think reveals something about our society. This corner is in the middle of one of the world’s most elite universities campus. The buildings across the street from this corner are super-luxury buildings. Greenwich Village is a premier neighborhood for the city and nation.
I presume they ran around playgrounds as kids, played hopscotch and jacks. Did they know what they were getting into? Did they get caught off guard? Did they get overprescribed an opiate and through no fault of their own find themselves addicted, then descend to this state? Are they just fine in a way I can’t tell?
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