Part 3: The Meth Addict
“And the Lord looked upon the woman with mercy, and spoke thusly to those souls around her who would stone her: ‘You wicked men! Judge not, yet you yourselves be judged. Condemn not this woman merely because she sins differently than you do, lest you yourselves will be judged before your heavenly Father, and the grace you show will be shown to you.’ And they looked to the dirt with shame and let their rocks fall to their sides, and they departed. And the Lord looked to the woman and said, “Child, go and sin no more, for you are loved along with the rest.”
“Hell son, I’ll give you a dollar if you can tell me where to find some whiskey drink.”
“Some whiskey drink. I can’t find any (expletive) whiskey ‘round here.”
The question startled me. The sign I was holding read: “Tell Me Your Story, I’ll Give You A $”, but it was the only time someone ever offered me money, despite the fact I looked like I was panhandling. Plus, the brashness and honesty of the request was hilarious.
I couldn’t help but smile. The bald man, wearing a tank top and denim shorts, looked exactly the part to be asking me such a question. He had a furrow running down the side of his face—the type a villain or a veteran has in films. I’ve never been a decent judge of age, but the man looked 40, going on 60. He sat down next to me and leaned over with an arm across the back of the bench and teeth that were 10 years past the point of salvation.
“So you’re looking to hear a story; what’s the catch?”
There isn’t a catch. I’m a total stranger, and chances are, you’ll never see me again.
“Well, I’m from Bakersfield.”
“And I’m a meth addict.”
He got my attention with that, and he knew it. He realized he now had my focus.
“And I (expletive) hate my wife. That’s why I’m looking for some whiskey. I can’t stand the (expletive).”
I ask him if he’s ever planning on quitting. He replies, “Nope. I’m going to be smoking meth all the way to Hell, and then a little more when I get there. I absolutely love it.”
And here he paused. “All those church folk assume everybody is looking to change; well, some of us are happy just the way we are.”
It was a fair point.
I was about to ask him to expand on this particular theology when a woman walked up.
They say that after being married for some period of time, people will start to take on the features of the other. Living together and using the same drug makes the resemblance all the more remarkable. I knew it was the man’s wife before she was introduced as such.
With them, they had a beautiful, young teenage girl, who I was told was their niece. Unlike her aunt and uncle, she had none of the furrows and lines on her face. Her hair has blond, and her face was innocent; her aunt and uncle had eyes like coyotes—not malignant, but certainly not simple and kind. A touch of cunning, a splash of experience, and a splinter of stubborn compulsion. But there was none of that in their niece. It was as interesting as seeing a church lined with fearsome statues of gargoyles—terrible, except to the untrained eye—and then walking inside to find some grand painting or statue, crafted over a sustained period of religious ecstasy. Indeed, the work of art is made even more beautiful for the guardians surrounding it.
The man caught them up to speed on what I was doing—he was just beside himself, telling everyone around who would listen how I was crazy—but the good kind of crazy. I told him that I thought that he wasn’t the good kind of crazy. He threw back his head and laughed until he couldn’t breathe.
Meanwhile, their niece sat on the bench beside me. It was her first time to Venice, so I was a novelty—the type you would expect to find and could tell your friends about. I had given her uncle his dollar, which he had tried to refuse, but when his niece sat down, he gave it to her, and she held it up while her aunt took a picture of my sign, and me and her beside it.
I asked if she had any stories (besides spending a sunny day with the smell of the ocean and her meth-addicted relatives, of which she seemed unaware of. Or, like many raised around such things, merely assumed it not worth noting). She said she was a barrel-racer. She told me this in the same way you would tell someone what your occupation is—for up to a certain time in one’s life, your sport is your profession until you actually get a ‘profession’. She told me the craziest thing that had happened to her was when she was riding a horse and got pitched over a fence and landed flat on her face. It seemed no one had taken the time to tell her the horse had only been ridden perhaps five times prior and was wholly unbroken.
As they all started to leave, my new acquaintance again tried to return his dollar to me. I refused. He made some remark to a passerby about “how much he loved this kid,” and insisted that they talk to me. Then put his arm around his wife’s waist—the other about the shoulders of his niece—and walked off.
About 20 feet away, he turned around without breaking stride, grinned, gave a little wave with his hand, and continued off, presumably to find some whiskey drink. The three of them looked like a happy, loving family. I’m sure in many ways they were—as if grave dysfunction disqualifies a person from happiness or love. It is often the perfect who misunderstand what it is to love in spite of flaws. People often speak of feeling ‘judged’ by the religious or the ‘perfect’, but very few people lament being judged by the patrons of a dive bar. It is also the perfect that don’t stunt their earthly years with functioning meth-addiction, so there are two sides to the sword.
I wish them all the best, regardless of which side they may be walking.