Circle of Life

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In highschool he used to pride himself on snapping the necks of cats and breaking into houses, he was 26 and still hangin’ with high school kids. I never saw how disturbing that was at the time, but as an adult I thought “what a fucking loser!”

But then… I felt bad for thinking that.

Because I actually saw him at a Tim Hortons a few months ago, he was talking to himself, sitting on the curb chain smoking Players Light Cigarettes. In the throws of an intense come down. I suspected crack by the look of his teeth, disturbing nature of his psychosis and total disregard for personal hygeine. He didn’t look like he could afford coke or heroin.

I got out of my car slowly and walked towards the Tim Hortons, the whole time staring at him from behind my shades thinking “holy Jesus, what happened to you?”.

Millions of thoughts raced through my mind; “should I say hi, does he recognize me, is he going to beat the fuck out of me, is he going to suddenly start crying uncontrollably, does he have turrets syndrome, why is he talking to himself, maybe he won’t notice me, yeah i should probably pretend i don’t see him…”

By the time I reached the door and my well-shielded D&G glare became parallel with where he was, I realized that I hadn’t decided on how to handle this and walked into Tims to get my morning coffee. Only I didn’t stand in line.

I sat in a booth where I could continue to watch him. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t believe that this was how things turned out for him, even though he was a chronic acid head in highschool and smoked more weed than any of the chronics in school.

I was in a weird spot. I was afraid, I was ashamed, I was sad, I was disgusted, I was fascinated and torn all at once. If this was any other old comrade from ten years ago I would surely have said hello. Why not to him though… Was it because he appeared to be homeless, high and unstable? Or did some part of my ego and pride feel too ashamed to recognize him and talk to him.

His hair was longer now, greasy matted and unkempt. His face wore lines of strife and hard drug use, his eyes were void of a soul and he just appeared lost. I couldn’t tell through the window exactly what he was saying, but he appeared to be having an intense dialogue with himself, swearing a lot, his hand mannerisms becoming more erratic the closer someone came to him.

Suddenly I heard some kids in line, high school kids, making fun of him:

Kid1: “Did you catch Cracky McCrackerson out there sketchin’ out?”

Kid2: “Yeah that dude smells like piss and vomit. He’s always hangin’ around here. We should kick the shit out of him one day for a laugh.”

I stood in line behind them, listening to them slag the same dude in high school that everyone was afraid of and wouldn’t dare talk back to because he would pound their face into a bloody pulp.

Now… he was nothing. He was lost. Not even human anymore. Just the source of some kids joke, a disturbance to the local coffee drinkers, and an uncomfortable presence that people chose to ignore.

When I got to the counter I ordered two double doubles and a breakfast sandwich. I hadn’t given it much thought because I was too busy listening to the mean comments coming from the teenagers in front of me. I couldn’t believe the lack of compassion I was hearing.  Who was I to judge though, I was a mean kid too… Many of us were.

I walked out, removed my sunglasses and began moving towards him. His eye movements told me that he knew I was approaching him, but his mannerisms told me not to. I ignored what every rational thought in my mind told me to do, and placed the coffee and the breakfast sandwich in front of him.

He continued to ramble and mumble and all I could comprehend was the odd “fuck” here and there. I had no idea what he was saying or whether it was even coherent. I stared at him for a minute, which was all I was comfortable with and then left the coffee and the sandwich on the curb beside him as I headed back to my car.

I watched him through my rear view while driving away. Something told me I wouldn’t be seeing him around much anymore.

The following week I read the story of his death in the local newspaper. No funeral arrangements were made. I felt weird about his death and started researching his life after high school by tracing his whereabouts and crowds of friends the past ten years and asking them questions. Not surprisingly, his friends were all young, most of them junkies, and none of them really doing anything with their lives. I don’t know what I was expecting to find, but I was disappointed to discover that he really didn’t do anything other than get high.

In talking to his junkie pals, I met this one kid, his name was Trent. He dressed all in Black and had half of his head shaved and the other half dangling with random pieces of badly cut hair and fraying braids. He was older than the others, had no motivation, and didn’t really enjoy anything at all about his life. For some reason, he tolerated my questions and either ignored them, or gave me one word cynical answers.

I convinced him to let me buy him a coffee and a breakfast sandwich one day, and we talked, for a very long time.

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2 thoughts on “Circle of Life

  1. It’s almost the experience I have when I “stalk” people I went to high school with on MySpace. Seeing the all the promise go to nothing or seeing the most whacked out people with $100,000 a year.

    It’s really tough seeing people go down into drugs or alcohol or just never left the party from when they were 18.

  2. It’s strange how the people in high school who you expect would make something of themselves, don’t… and the ones you don’t expect would make anything of themselves, do.

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