Today I awoke to a glorious sky. It was 6am, the sun was halfway up and the feint hum of traffic was a constant below. I opened the apartment window and the delights of the city wafted in on a breeze. All the flowers from all the gardens from all of Lyon had released their scents.The café on the corner opened it’s shutters and set out its chairs for another day of business. I was up for business myself.
For the last four days I’ve been solely on methadone... not out of choice, but because this city is dry. 4 days is the longest I have been without dope in three and a half years. I don’t feel bad for that... I just feel bad for the wait. It’s been 4 days of piss-stained stairwells, broken promises, unanswered phones and last trains home. Where I come from this doesn’t happen. Where I come from heroin is a 24/7 shop with no shutters. In London, if you’ve got the money and you want to kill yourself, you can. There’s little wait and there’s rarely disappointment. I would hate to be suicidal anywhere else.
Anyhow, I was up with the sun this morning as I was on a promised promise... “Get your arse to Croix Rousse for 10am sharp... it’s sure, sure SURE!!” Normally when I receive a message like this it is genuine... it means the dealer has the gear in his pocket. I hoped so, because not only had I no gear, but due to this little drought I had almost drunk up my entire supply of methadone. Apart from the dose I swallowed early yesterday evening, I had just one left and after that.... well, I didn’t even want to think of it. So my meeting today was more important than usual... It was to score methadone and heroin, to buy my well-being.
I arrived at Croix Rouse just before ten and made the short walk to a pre-arranged spot. On arriving I was horrified... there must have been 15 or 20 junkies circling or lurking around the block of flats where the meet was... half of them dope sick. This is a residential area... people live here with their children and they quickly notice a strange group of sniffling, filthy and poorly dressed adults hanging around. What’s worse is, as no-one is sure from where the dealer will appear, we are all constantly up and down, searching in every direction imaginable for a sight of him. Whilst tyring to act inconspicuous we do ourselves no favours. The only direction we don’t look is up... God has yet to drop a bag out the sky. I distanced myself from this bunch and went and sat alone at a nearby bus stop.
At 10.30 I received a text. “I’m there... I’m there.. 10 minutes...” At 11.00 I was still waiting... at 11.15 the same. Finally, at 11.20 there was some movement. I watched as one be one the circling junkies slid out from nowhere and filed slowly into the flats. Someone must have gotten the call... our man must be here. I crossed over and went in with the rabble, past the elevator and through the door to the fire escape. Imagine the scene: 20 junkies sitting hushed in a stairwell, the dark only lit up by burning cigarettes and the screens of our cell phones. Suddenly my own screen lit up: ‘30 secs’. I let everyone know and we got our money ready. After 8 minutes and 3 unanswered calls the bottom door opened, the light flicked on and someone came running up the stairs. We all stood up ready... but it wasn’t him! Rather, it was a motorcycle courier using the backstairs instead of the lift. He slipped through us suspiciously. “That’s police!" I said to one of the junkies... "That was the police!” He just shook his head... “Calm down... it’s just a courier. We’ll be gone soon!” Well, courier or not I was not comfortable with this... it was just too hot. And not even for us... we were clean... it was the dealer who arranged this that would have all the problems...it’s he who would be in possession of the gear.
I tried to phone the dealer twice more and then I made my decision to up and leave. One other addict decided to part with me. On the way back down the stairs I mentioned Methadone. By pure chance this guy had two bottles of 100ml in his pocket. I bought them both. We left the darkened stairwell and headed out. Just as we were leaving someone was coming in... he stopped us. “What are you doing here?” I didn’t answer. The addict alongside me said something about waiting for a friend. “Who? What floor?” From that question and the way my entrance from the building had been blocked I knew this was more than just a nosey neighbour. “Do you know who I am?” the man asked raising his head slightly “I am the police” he finished, now poking at his chest and grinning. With that he had his ID produced and then strapped an orange police band across his left bicep. Four others entered in behind him and rushed into the stairwell.
We were led outside where there were two more policemen... standing either side of our dealer! I could only imagine they had caught him in full possession... his sullen face and drooped head told me that. Out in the forecourt we were soon joined by the rest of the rotten bunch and just as 15 minutes ago junkies had slid from nowhere out the shadows, now the police done the same. There was soon at least one policier to each addict. We were made to strip down to the waist and remove our hats, shoes and socks. Whilst doing this another police man walked the sorry line of jaundiced, hollow cheeked, scarred and bruised junkies and left with a handful of ragged ID cards and passports. We were told to empty our pockets and lay the contents on the little wall where we were standing. It was here that I remembered I had just bought 2 bottles of methadone. Fuck! I seriously considered just ripping them open and swallowing the contents. I was going to be arrested (it’s a class A drug) so I might as well make sure I’m not ill as well. But I didn’t do that... instead I took them from my trousers and laid them on the wall... the wall that had just turned into a chemists top-shelf! Along it now was a booty of drug paraphernalia and every possible prescribeable drug . There were bottles and strips of pills, amps of morphine, packets and boxes of syringes. There were tourniquets, blackened spoons, pen-knives and razor blades. In fact, there was everything EXCEPT heroin.
After a moment a policier confronted me. “Where did you get this from?” he demanded holding up the two little bottles of methadone
“It’s mine... I get it on prescription.” I replied.
“Where’s your prescription? Can I see it?”
“I don’t have it on me.”
“You do know that this is a class A stupifiant without a prescription, don’t you?”
I nodded, “Yes, excuse me.”
“Who is your doctor?” he asked. I gave my GP’s name, address and number. The policeman went away.
We were all properly searched and then ordered to get dressed. On being questioned everyone said they were “waiting for a friend” though no-one could remember this friends name, address or telephone number. When they asked me I told them what they already knew: I was here to score heroin. They asked me off whom and I said I only know him as ‘D’ (this wasn’t true).“Is that “D”” a policeman asked pointing at the dealer. “No... that’s not him.” I replied. I can only imagine that my broken french and little bit of honesty had helped me, because after a moment of conferring I was suddenly hit in the stomach by my passport, handed back my two bottles of methadone and told to “Fuck off!” I left at a quick trot with about ten others. Our dealer was kept behind.
We were all in shock... me especially. How I left & with the methadone was unbelievable. The other addicts all agreed I had been extremely fortunate. We walked on quickly... we just wanted to get away from this place. 5 mins down the road my phone rings: “It’s me... I’m ready!” Well, we couldn’t believe it... only minutes ago 'D' was being held by police and now he was ready to serve us!? We were sure it was a police set-up to catch us in possession. Even thinking this, not one of us backed out of the deal... we all still took our chances. We met 'D' five minutes from the same block of flats we had just been searched in and we all left untroubled with our orders. As we made our way back down to the Metro the other half of the rag-tag junkie army were making their way up, joking and laughing about the police. We let them know that ‘D’ was waiting and everything seemed in order. By now we were laughing and joking too.
And it is a joke... because 20 police men had been surveying us. They had watched us circle about for nearly 2 hours and had probably listened to our phone calls. They knew who our dealer was and had followed him. If they would have waited five minutes longer they would have got us all on possession charges & the dealer on trafficking... bang to rights. Instead they busted us with nothing to bust... and how they never caught the dealer in possession remains a mystery! So it’s a joke... it’s a waste of junkie time, a waste of police time and a waste of god knows how much public money. What the neighbours must have thought as they saw us refill our pockets and bags with drugs and needles and then be set free I cannot even imagine. I wonder if they saw it as effective community policing or not?
And so it was, I arrived home a little before 1pm, though a little later than planned. I was still half expecting the police to jump out and nab me as I exited the metro... but no, their brains couldn’t follow a smacked-up drug dealer through a block of flats, so there’s no way they’d be able to organise an arrest through the maze of the underground system. Instead, I was once again left to my own devices... to enjoy the tranquillity of the afternoon. I did what I had to do and I laid down on the sofa. I closed my eyes and opened my ears to the noises of the day. I listened to distant sounds and voices... to the chipping away and shouts of workmen. I listened to the afternoon screams of school children and to the echoes of high heeled shoes . I let this day wash over me as I sunk in & out of a self-induced sleep. Today I had been lucky - it had been a close one, but I had made it home with my gear, my methadone and free of any drug convictions. This means I can still get a US visa... that I can continue to dream New York dreams. It means that I can still make good on certain promises.... that I can still one day visit my homie sKILLz and kiss the Brooklyn Dogs.
Best wishes everyone & stay safe, Shane.