They lay there on the grass, lazy and sailing. The man had come, bringing the joy dust, the wonderful white powder that freed them from worry. They didn’t have to think about getting sick; the slow horror of the growing need for smack, coursing through the blood, setting muscles twitching, nerves screaming and every particle of mind shrieking for the sweet peace and contentment of heroin. So they lay there on the summer grass in Tompkins Square Park, cigarettes burning down to their drooping fingers, then falling on their clothing, burning unnoticed holes, until the hot coal of the butt started to sear numbed flesh. Then they would lift slow-motion hands and brush away the smoldering ashes.
The three of them were lying on the sparse grass, unconcerned with where they were, or what was happening around them. Full of the security of having just taken off, and not having to worry about scoring for a few hours, they were as puissant as kings in their own minds. Manuel and Ripper wore short sleeve shirts, because they skin-popped, hitting themselves in the buttocks with the needle. Hermano, who mainlined, always shooting up the big vein in his forearms, wore a long-sleeved, white dress shirt, buttoned at the wrists, to hide the tracks left by a hundred needles.
The daily life of the park swirled around the three supine figures. Old men sitting in the sun on well-worn green benches, people walking dogs, young mothers with children playing in the sandbox, boys playing baseball, young men playing soccer and a few ancient women gossiping, relics from another land. It was a calm day in the city park that frequently erupted into protest, chaos and violence.
Manuel, Ripper and Hermano lay there motionless, without desire. Lying in the hot sun, completely at peace, they wanted nothing but to lie there forever, remain high, and be warmed by the gentle heat. They didn’t say much to each other, occasionally opening a languid eye and with a slow effort, lifting a heavy head and mumbling: “This is good stuff, huh man?” To which there would be soft words of agreement. So the junkies were at rest. No more sweating for enough money to score. No more fear of getting burned with bad stuff, because they were already sailing from the good smack. They wanted nothing more then lying on the grass, soaring through imaginary worlds, being licked by the tongue of the hot sun.
They fit in naturally in the constricted park environment, because they didn’t bother anyone. No one paid them more then a moment’s attention, before moving on to more interesting sights then three young men, dozing in the park. No one could know that when their high collapsed, they would lie, steal, assault and prey on any victim who would provide them with the means of escape from unpalatable reality.
No one could see the cartels and bureaucracies, the turns of crime, addiction and money exchanged – and violence and blood spent, all to make for the scene in the park that day of the three, and also to prevent it – how could they know?
– Paula S., Recovered addict