There I was… high again. In the large handicapped bathroom stall at the Tim Hortons on Queen Street waiting to level off. My breathing was heavy and shallow at the same time, beads of sweat trickled from my forehead and my heart pounded like a fucking jack hammer.
I heard the door open, my heart raced faster as I tried like hell to become invisible and go unnoticed. The shoes in the stall beside me were Brown, they were loafer like… The kind of shoes you would buy from one of those Orthopedic specialty shops. An older woman I presumed. She cleared her throat a couple of times and released a couple of escapees while emptying her tiny old bladder. It looked like she had a cane with her, I noticed the rubber grip resting on the floor in front of her loafers.
My purse was at my feet and contained a half gram of heroin, some Oxycontin, my fake diabetic card, a tourniquet, and a used syringe that I had to discard, here in this bathroom. The woman next to me was still sitting on the toilet, she was muttering something unintelligible. Maybe she has dementia, I thought to myself.
I heard the toilet flush (finally) and the latch on the stall door open. Next I heard the soap dispenser, she used exactly 3 pumps of foaming soap, and finally the dryer. No water? I thought… How fucking weird. My heart started racing faster again. Who is this sick lady and why doesn’t she wash the soap off of her hands?
Suddenly her small white head appeared under my door as I sat there frozen in terror and disbelief. She muttered and mumbled as her dentures clacked up and down in her trembling mouth as words and sounds trickled out like bad water pressure at a campground. Her eyes were large and vacant looking, she wore big round glasses that magnified her pupils. I began hyperventilating, the air felt thin and scarce, my breaths not enough to satisfy my mind. She kept trying to move under the stall closer towards me. I sat there trying to breathe, wanting to puke. White as a ghost. What was she going to do? Now on her knees she was half way into my stall. She slid her dark brown cane towards my feet. I screamed. Her cane helped her swipe my purse, and she was gone as quickly as she had appeared.
I stayed in that stall for what felt like an hour, but what was probably more like three. An employee came in and knocked on the door, I guess somebody had alerted them that I was there.
“Excuse me?” said the small fragile voice “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
I stood up, knowing that I had to go. “I’m fine” I said as I opened the door. She looked at me suspiciously. I ran out of the bathroom and back onto the street to discover a new atmosphere.
It was dark, the street lights were giving me tracers. I watched cabs and cars with loud systems drive past me and heard the distant sounds of young club goers and tourists. My high was gone. I was starting to crash, I was starting to feel sick.
My rent was due again. I wasn’t gonna make it. The H was too important to me, more important than my rent. I knew I was gonna find (yet another) eviction notice. That’s why I kept my place clean and had little furniture or knick knacks. It was only a matter of time before I found myself out on my ass again looking for a new place. My waitressing job helped me fund my habit, and my habit helped me fill my time. It was all that mattered to me.
On the way home I decided to stop in at the Sunrise Retirement Complex. My friend Harry lived there. I met him 3 apartments ago before his kids forced him into the home. We became friends. He’s the only one I can talk to, and he feels as close to family as I will ever get.
I knocked on his door. “Come in” he shouted.
“Oh it’s you” he smiled. I went over and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Hi Harry”.
“You don’t look so good” he said. “Are ya hungry?”
“You know me… I’m never hungry. I’ll just throw up if I eat.”
We chatted for a half hour or so. I always kept his door open when I visited in case he went off into one of his boring 3 hour stories that didn’t have a point. At least then I could watch the action outside of his door. Crazy seniors with Dementia and Alzheimer’s acting like toddlers. Nurses being overly strict with them, as if they needed to be punished, and families crying when their loved one (who wasn’t loved quite enough to stay with them) kicked the bucket.
Harry recounted the events of his day; his morning walk, shower, almost forgetting his pills, wondering where he put his book, trying to find his book, and making a phone call to his grandson. My mind wandered as I smiled and tried to look interested and not like I was craving more H.
I heard a noise in the hall. “Hold on a second Harry” I said as I jumped up from his bed. I turned my head down the corridor to find the White hair who had stolen my purse running (without her cane) and holding my purse.
“Hey” I shouted “Come back here, that’s my purse.”
She rounded the corner. I abandoned Harry and followed her. She slipped into a room and shut the door. My heart began racing quickly again, like it had on the stall earlier when she invaded my privacy and stole my purse. I put my ear to her door. I heard cackling. She was mumbling again, only now her mumbling was apparently humorous.
I took three deep breaths and said “she’s just an old lady, what are you afraid of, just open the fucking door and get your shit back”.
I counted to three and opened the door quickly, to catch her doing a line of heroin off the top of a walnut armoire while standing on a chair. I swiped my purse and ran. I ran out of the retirement centre, and all the way home.
Finally, secure, safe… in my own home, for now anyway. I stared at the eviction notice and opened my purse carefully. My diabetic card was still there, my Oxycontin was still there, so was my used syringe… But not the H. It was gone.
“That fucking old bitch” was all I could think, but I admired her.