C. laughs at me that everything in this blog relates to Baltimore, so I feel almost self conscious starting off this blog this way, but screw it. Maybe everything DOES relate to Baltimore, damnit!
So in Baltimore, you see junkies doing the heroin nod all the time. Everywhere. Especially if you live in the neighborhoods I lived in and take public transit. It’s such a running joke there’s even a website about it, That Guy’s On Heroin.
Once I rode the light rail from Timonium to Lexington Market, and a woman sat across from me the whole time, going in and out of a heroin doze, nose nearly touching the floor at one point. Periodically she’d come to and ask me where we were, and I’d say, ya know, “Falls Road” or “Mt. Royal” or whatever, and she’d mumble, “shit, I’m goin the wrong way,” and doze off again. Right before I got off she roused herself long enough to say, “Shit. I’m late. Gotta get the kids from the babysitter,” and down went her head again.
When you see enough of this, I admit, you become calloused, and forget that heroin is actually really tragic. (RIP, Eli, wherever you are.) You don’t bat an eye when you see people slumped against walls, or barely propped up by filthy trashcans, or falling off of benches that proudly claim that Baltimore is the Greatest City in America. You laugh at them, or set up websites about them, or read the websites about them and laugh. Totally without realizing how a piece of your humanity has slipped away somehow.
So drugs aren’t really a thing in Istanbul, at least not in the small segment I inhabit. Yesterday I took the metrobus home after filling in for a coworker at the branch in (fml) Bakırköy. The manager at that school kindly (?) dropped me off at Zincirlikuyu, otherwise known as the gate to hell, which was still ridiculously crowded at 10:30 at night. It took three buses passing for me to be able to position myself where I wanted to be- right by where the last door of the bus should open, so that I could surge forward into the rear and hopefully grab one of the platform seats. While I was waiting for the bus to pull up, A man standing near me and came and dragged the teenage boy standing near me away. The man was nicely dressed, the teenager a little tatty around the edges. The man put his arm around the kid firmly and made him stand away from the the other people and I wondered for a moment if it was some racist, anti-gypsy or kurd thing. Then the bus stopped, three crucial feet from where the last two had stopped, and I had to fight my way on to claim a seat. (I did.)
Kiddo got on the bus and stood there, looking lost, and I wondered if he was a little touched in the head. You don’t just stand in the open door of a metrobus as people are filing in. That’s a good way to get trampled to death. (He didn’t.)
It wasn’t til the bus was hurtling down the metrobus lane towards the bridge, (if you get a seat, those few brief moments when the bus is going over the Bosporus is the sole consolation of the whole ghastly metrobus experience) that it dawned on me that kiddo was’t repeatedly bringing a balled up tissue to his nose because he had a cold.
At the next stop kiddo forgot to hold on when the bus lurched back into gear and he fell over. He did that at the next stop, and the next stop, too. It was sort of mesmerizing, really, watching him repeatedly, almost reflexively bring his huffing hand up to his nose, down, up again, down again. When the kid fell over he was helped to his feet by impassive men. I looked around and there were concerned looks and tsks everywhere.
I cannot even imagine how fucked up that kid was.
When we got off I kept wary distance from kiddo as he got off, and kept my eye on him. Two men who’d been on the platform seats with me ran up to him and I had a moment when I thought there might be a fight, but no. One put his arm around Sir Huffs Alot’s scrawny shoulders and gently led him out of the flow of foot traffic. The other knealt down in front of him and began talking, quietly and earnestly, about what I can’t imagine, but I know it was kind.