Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Factoid #65: The Shooting Gallery


Greg&Marian 1972, originally uploaded by panthergirl.

Another entry in the series of expanded explanations of my 100 Things.

#65 reads: "I sat in a "shooting gallery" in Brooklyn when I was 15 years old with my 22-year-old heroin addict boyfriend. Thankfully, I was terrified of needles."

This is a photo of me and said boyfriend (I was 17 here). At the point that this picture was taken, he was in a Methadone program. I remember riding the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan, him slumped on my shoulder, the other passengers clearly wondering what I saw in this drooling junkie. The Methadone was given to him at first as a liquid he had to consume in front of the administrator, but eventually in tab form to take home. He let me try a quarter of a tab one Saturday night. After a night of vivid and amazing dreams, I woke up to find myself hiding upstairs in my grandparents' bathroom, projectile vomiting. The high lasted for three very scary days. I was convinced that the drug had permanently altered by brain and that I would never be "normal" again. And remember, I was both living at home with my parents and still attending Catholic high school. As frightening as it was, it also gave me a clear understanding of why people become addicted to heroin. It was the most euphoric feeling I've ever experienced.

I was 15 when I first met him in the neighborhood and, flattered by his puppy-dog attention, began to hang out with him and his stuporous friends. While they languished in their drug-induced hazes, they would give me all of their "works" (needles, etc.) to hold because I was underage, and therefore wouldn't have gone to jail if caught. (I didn't consider the prospect of Juvenile Hall.)

Eventually, he went back to shooting up even while he was on Methadone and things got very bad. His mother called me an "angel of mercy" for sticking with him, which was a big wakeup call. I wasn't in the Angel of Mercy business, and left him shortly thereafter. His poor, sweet mother had to suffer through his drug addiction, and as if that wasn't pain enough, lost her eldest son to combat in Vietnam.

A few years later, my uncle spotted my former beau digging through a dumpster in a subway station, filthy, down and out. I was sure he'd wind up dead before 30.

About 4 years ago, I was stunned to receive an email from him. He had found me through Classmates.com, and told me that by that magical age of 30 he had hit rock bottom, lost all his teeth and was at death's door. His family dragged him to rehab and he was able to get a menial job at a convent, determined to stay clean.

He managed to get back on his feet and married a woman with a daughter that he loved as his own. Describing the home he now cherished, he said that he still loved music and had built himself a listening room and still had all of his old albums. He told me that he often played a Nina Simone record that reminded him of me. Although my memory, especially for sensory triggers lke music, is usually excellent, I had blocked out everything but the painful stuff. I had no recollection of Nina Simone or anything else pleasant from that time. I did not let on. He sent me this picture of us (nice makeup, eh?) and said he couldn't believe he had been given a second chance at life.

Scratch that -- a third chance. He had been working in Food Service at Cantor Fitzgerald in 2001, but left his job just 2 months before 9/11.

His is a true story of survival, in every way.