As I pulled up to the Casey’s, it was impossible to avoid looking at the tweaker. He was an indeterminate early thirty year old man, replete with thousands of dollars of tattoos across his exposed legs, hands and neck. He sat and shifted on top of the wood for sale out front of the store. His jerky movements were uncontrollable, his eyes and head shifting wildly. I could tell that at some point a few minutes prior the rain had washed him.
For reasons I’ll have to think about later, I felt a wallop of sadness. It was totally unexpected. I see my share of tweakers in Fayetteville. None of them started life with that intention. I parked directly in front of him and when I exited I said good afternoon. His eyes briefly met mine and then he nodded wildly.
While I waited in line inside, the younger man in front of me kept looking out the window at the tweaker. He told the man in front of him that he wished we could round up all the tweakers and put them down as an act of mercy. Though he probably said it offhandedly, the residual effect of sadness inside me flared into anger.
I told him that if that were the case, I hope he would be capable of doing the so-called act of m mercy himself because that kind of heartlessness requires personal accountability. And that perhaps he could call the tweakers mom and let her know that her son has zero value left in life. The younger man commenting was stunned by my words. Everyone grew silent for a moment. Momentarily I felt bad for what I said. It doesn’t matter what my motivation was. My comments did not add anything positive to the world.
It’s true I would not trust the tweaker in my car or my home.
I bought a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and a soda for the tweaker. When I exited I placed the things on the woodpile next to him. I told them that the things were for him and he again nodded and grunted.
I know that I didn’t do those things for him. I did them for myself, to feel a little bit more human, and to express gratefulness that I had not chosen a road leading to where he is. It’s raining hard now and I know that he has nowhere to go. It’s likely we all know how his road will end. But there is a very small possibility that the universe will choose him for an unexpected upturn in life.
I drove away, glad that the young man commenting had a good enough life to foolishly think that such a thing could never happen to him. We all think that.
I don’t have a neat wrap-up or lesson here. I sit in my car inside my beautiful life, writing this without edit or correction.
Paraphrasing Alan Watts, he said that muddy water clears best when left alone. So I’ll leave my thoughts here unredacted.