Heroin is horrible. Yeah, I know: I’m stating the obvious. It’s just that I know this firsthand from losing two friends at the same time: They both died from what’s called a “hot shot.” For those of you who don’t know what a hot shot is, its a shot of heroin from a bag that is many times more potent than usual. An addict unaware of this will take what they think is a “safe” dose, but because of the heroin’s hyperpotency they overdose.
How might this happen you ask? I’d like to think that your friendly neighborhood pusher just made an honest mistake, like making a sloppy mixture when cutting the drugs or miscommunicating with his fellow distributors on which batch is what — but that shit ain’t true. No, folks, there’s a much more sinister and much more likely reason why this occurs. Either for revenge or sabotage, hot shots are made to kill. A dealer or distributor can rid himself of competition, enemies, or even witnesses using this technique. In this battle for territory and capital, people like my good friends (R.I.P.) get caught in the middle and suffer the ultimate consequence.
I bring it up because an experience I had on the SMART 740-12 Mile bus brought these sad memories back …
I boarded the 740 headed east like so many times before, and I was feeling real good, ’cause most of the time I get on this particular bus I’m heading to good ol’ Albe’s bike shop in Warren. I paid my fare and went to find a seat, prepared to enjoy the lengthy ride ahead. As a point of reference, the 12 Mile runs about four miles north of the famous and infamous 8 Mile, which separates Detroit city proper from “da burbs” as they’re often called. Truthfully, though, when you go north of Eight Mile Road you’ll encounter a diversity of urban and suburban areas with blurred lines that only the most knowledgeable metro Detroiter could alert you to. My point is that even though Detroit gets a bad rap, both justly and unjustly, the dark side of life still exists in the places we’re trained to believe are quiet and “crime-free.” I put that in quotes ’cause, while there is such a thing as quiet, there is no such thing as crime-free. Often the most heinous crimes happen behind quiet and closed doors. Just about anything can happen anywhere, people. Believe that!
Anyhow, I was sitting at the left and front of the bus, contemplating what parts I was gonna buy for my ride when, on my periphery, I noticed this dude acting strangely. He was sitting to my right in the triple-seated area that’s parallel to the sides of the bus, and was somewhat facing me. I could tell he was troubled. He was displaying behavior reminiscent of my former drug-addicted friends: wringing his hands, impatiently bouncing his knees up and down, curling up in a ball, and, in the midst of all of this, occasionally nodding off. If you didn’t know, nodding off is a typical effect of heroin. I’ve seen people do it mid-sentence, snap out of it, and continue where they left off. I never saw his eyes, but I’d be willing to bet his pupils were damn near as big as his irises.
So there he was, shifting, twisting, nodding, waking up, and wringing his hands so hard his knuckles looked pure white while the veins in his arms popped out like he was in the middle of a heavy workout. All the while, he seemed to be doing his avid best to keep what he was going through to himself. He was a white guy who looked as though he was familiar with the underbelly of life. He was sporting a gray “wife beater” T-shirt, jean shorts, some expensive and new-looking gym shoes, and a blue Detroit ball cap he had wisely pulled over his face. He appeared to be aware of the silent fit he was having and tried to cover both his shame and his entire body under that hat of his. I don’t know if he was flyin’, comin’ down, or somewhere in between, but I happened upon a front-row seat to this guy’s not so private high (or misery).
In the midst of all of his semi-controlled spasms and movements, he dropped his phone. It was painful to see how slowly he came to the realization that he dropped it and almost unbearable to see how slowly he went about picking it up. After much fumbling and a comedy of errors just trying to get a grip on the phone, he picked it up — then dropped it again, repeating this process three or four times before he finally secured his phone. By the time he got a hold of it, he was almost horizontal and seemed to nod off again, with phone in hand. I remember feeling a mixture of emotions and thoughts at the time ranging from curiosity to sadness to pity and, God help me, a little bit of humor. I knew it wasn’t really funny, but it kinda was. I remember thinking, “This fool and his phone! Heh-heh. Pick up the damn phone, bruh!” Of course I’m not talking about a belly-whackin’ good time — I’m just sayin’. Any humor I found in the moment was lost when I remembered what was really going on. Overall I was grateful that he wasn’t me and vice versa.
I’ve witnessed the effects of heroin on people: how they behave while they’re on it, when they come down from it, how it affects their lives and how it can suck the life out of them. It can turn an otherwise honest person into a sniveling liar, take a productive person and turn them into a sloth, and age you many times faster than normal — but you probably know that. What I’m getting at is, there I was, on my way to enjoy a simple pleasure in my life with a clear conscience, yet, on the way, I encountered this starkly contrasting existence. We were going the same way, but in vastly different directions, and I was both humbled and grateful that, despite any issue I might have, I was in a better and happier place than my man was. I thought of what this dude might have had to go through to get it, how much money he had to spend for it, how much time all of this took, and how far he would go if he didn’t have the money he needed for it. And that’s sad and scary.
I snapped out of contemplating and reminded myself that no amount of empathy with this guy was gonna help him — and that I was on this bus to get to Albe’s! I looked in his direction one last time before ringing the bell, and gave a silent prayer both for him and for gratitude that I wasn’t him. When the bus rolled to a stop, I got off and pedaled toward my destination feeling the “fresh air” and the freedom of locomotion from my own manpower, and felt thankful for it. If not for the grace of God, that poor guy could’ve been me — or you …