Monday, March 29, 2010

Karen: Another from the "Streets"

I think people tend to either see themselves the way other people see them, or they seek out people who see them the way they see themselves. I've always done the latter because of my problem with impossibly high self-esteem, masquerading as low self esteem. It's hard to tell the difference. Some people may not do their hair or wear makeup, they may do drugs, sleep all day, and say that nobody loves them because they have low self-esteem. Or, like me, they may not feel that they need makeup or styled hair. They may do drugs because they're isolated in their little tower of greatness, and they're lonely, and they sleep all day for the same reason. As far as nobody loving them, well, they know that's not true but making that up frees them to do whatever they want and not have to think about hurting people. It's a fine line. It occurs to me that I was not ever as great as I thought I was but I made every effort to find people to whom I could be great. That's why I befriended Karen. Some of you reading this may remember her.

Karen was a drug dealer, and I use that term loosely. She was more of a drug connector really. She never had any money and we were forever having to travel all over the city to meet this person or that person and sometimes she couldn't get anything at all. She was an old black woman, I say old but she could have been anything from 40-60, probably in her 50's. You can never really tell, heroin keeps you looking young, until you don't have any of course. I spent a lot of time at her apartment, usually just waiting for something to happen. She could smoke an entire cigarette and only ash it twice. She could have been a surgeon with those steady hands. I liked her because she liked me. She was always impressed with how I kept up with my bills and always paid people on time and how I held a job and went to school. Finally the recognition I deserved.

I've always liked being around black women because, in my experience, they assume a type of authority that I've never had myself. Karen was like that, she always spoke her mind and although she was a drug addict and connector she had morals, she was polite and demanded that others be polite too. She used to get so offended when people would walk in to her apartment and not say hello to me (or anyone who happened to be there). If someone came in and started talking to her she would lean back, her eyes would get all wide and she'd snap "how you gonna walk in here and not say hello to my guest?!" It always embarrassed me.

I dealt with her for years and they say that nobody in the drug world is really your friend and for the most part that's true. I don't know that I have any friends who I met doing drugs who I still keep in touch with or worry about or even think about. Karen is the exception. She always kind of took care of me, I felt. She would never let anyone particularly unsavory talk to me or be around me. I guess that would seem odd reading this, not ever having experienced the drug world, but some people are worse than others. Most are just people who get sad and sit around and talk about how much they love their parents, some are really bad, scary. To quote a preacher I heard one time, who was referring to the same type of people, "they've gone too far and stayed too long." Those are the ones you want to steer clear of. When you don't know how to spot them, it's good have a Karen.

One time she and I were at a house, a house that should have been condemned. I don't know if the people "living" there were squatting or what. There were a lot of people there though and it was obviously not a good place to be. A guy walked in whom everyone seemed to know but Karen told me to go, to get in my car and get out of there. She, of course, stayed behind. So I left and called her later. She said that after I left he tried to rob everyone and one of the guys there shot him, killed him.

This was the first time I had ever heard of anything like this happening in real life. I was fascinated. I asked Karen non-stop what would happen now. Would there be some sort of gang war? In the movies there are always gang wars. She thought this was hilarious. Well, would the police catch the guy who shot him? That was just as funny. Well what then? What happens now? "Nothing happens now," she said.

When I moved away she called me a few times and I would call her to tell her Merry Christmas and stuff like that, then we just lost touch with each other. Last I heard she had gotten clean. I hope that that's true. Like me, I always thought that she was way too great to live the way she lived.

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