It was a pretty average Monday afternoon, at 5pm, broad daylight still, on that road, you know the one? That one that snakes off the mountain and flows into the city, past that big shopping centre on the left, it curtsies to The Grand Old Lady before bending to the right. You know that bend? The one with the old cinema that shows art movies, the one named after the princess with the rude name. The cinema next to the gracious old government building, or is it naval?
It’s the one that watches over that intersection, the one with the robots (traffic lights to you foreigners), the robots that lead up the little side street that connects to the other big road that goes all the way up to the mountain and falls down the other side, into the bay. That little side street is the same one with that music shop, you know, that one. The one with the guy who found Rodriguez.
I’m moving too far from where I saw him, though, let’s back up a bit, back to the gracious (naval?) building, the one next to the rude princess’ cinema. It has stairs leading up to it, open onto the street, walled to about chest height at the street level, the walls filled in with grass, I think. It doesn’t matter. It was the stairs that mattered. Well, not the stairs really, more the boy on the stairs, his back pack messily placed next to him, various things scattered about him.
He looked like an average twenty-something year old, almost a hipster, but not quite. I first just saw the tip of his hatted head above the walls of the stairs as we came around the bend after curtseying to The Grand Old Lady. The robots were red, so we stopped. I had a chance to look at him properly, to take in his rucksack, to get a glimpse of his face, a good-looking face, I think, I couldn’t see properly because it was bent slightly, a tight elastic band or string clenched between his teeth that led to the top of his arm where it snaked around just below his pushed-up sleeve.
He was concentrating very hard on inserting the needle of the syringe into his vein.
We went around the block, and passed him again, fleetingly this time, as the robots were green. The syringe was gone, but the tourniquet was still there. I wondered if we should stop and release it for him.
It was a strange coincidence because it happened the day after I read American Junkie. I’d never before seen a junkie shoot up on a public street in broad daylight and it made me sad. We continued on our way, though, down that side street, past that music shop, you know the one, and on to dinner with old friends. My sadness hovered near the door though, as I hoped he’d find somewhere safe and dry to sleep, even if it was just there, in the doorway of the arthouse cinema with the rude princess’ name. Rain was forecast.