July 25, 2020
“Hello there, what a fine summer’s day!
May I join you on this park bench
While I watch ‘my children’ play?”
(On the monkey bars)
And he turning to me
With a sparkle in his old eyes
That had seen his world turn sideways—
It was this he had to say:
“Harsh realities, Son.”
(somehow I found this comforting)
Then he turned towards the play ground where an older woman was pushing a child on a swing.
“Higher, grandma!” Squealed the child with delight, “Make me go higher!”
And the older woman replied with a giggle:
“If you go any higher you’ll be flying!”
“I want to fly higher, grandma!”
“Ok ok, little Icarus!
Hold on tightly now…”
Sitting down I
Between the old man’s feet.
An empty water bottle filled with used needles.
And he being only too happy to speak up:
“Ever since the state started their needle exchange program…that’s my granddaughter there with her grandmother (shaking his head in sad reflection)…they told us it was the most compassionate thing to do…that was over thirty years ago…you ever loved someone addicted—or been in love with someone who loved an addict?”
“Tears your heart out with no anesthesia…changes you, eh? Something you soon won’t forget.”
(and he looking straight into my faraway eyes—
“I met Heather* when she was ‘in recovery’. She
Thought she was so
Cute and adventurous. Together
Were going to conquer the world–”
“And then it happened, eh?”
(I turning to face the old man—)
“And then it happened…”
(and here I am watching Heather’s kids while she ‘pulls herself together’. Don’t get me wrong—I love her kids—they are the ones who suffer the most, and it makes me happy to see them play, but they need their father. She says, “he is an alcoholic.” He says, “and people wonder why I drink.”)
“Son,” said the old man, “Give me a woman in charge of her own mind any day of the week and especially on Sundays!”
(and I laughing out loud)
…the next time I came to see the old man on the park bench, I came alone.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. What do you think? Does the needle exchange program truly reduce harm? Is it a benefit for the whole community? I’d love to know your views.
*inspired by actual events.