Crackhead

Look out my children…

Watch out my children…

There is a fella called Lucifer with a bag of white powder.

And he do’ want to powder you’ face…

He jus’ want to bring shame and disgrace to de human race.

Trinidadian Calypsonian Ras Shorty I (Deceased)

The craving was consuming her. It was the addiction; it just wouldn’t let her be. Upwards, downwards, sideways, every which way, the huge, jagged spikes of anxiety were ripping her from the inside out. Dry mouth, sweaty palms, poisoned need; the need to feed this insatiable hunger, this monstrous master of her life, tore at her. Like a cancer, the thing spread through her system, decimating her resolve and rendering her defenseless.

Sheila ran from passerby to passerby. “My fren, gimme a dollar to buy somefing to eat,” she lied desperately. Her desperation showed—as did her filthy condition. She didn’t care. She no longer cared about how she looked or what she ate or when. What mattered was calming the beast in her blood, keeping it at bay for as long as possible until it roared again. Sometimes, she acquired the price of a ‘rock’—piece of crack cocaine—in no time at all when she came face to face with people who were confronted with the hugely disquieting possibility that this could be them; that this less-than-human wretch represented one of their worst fears. It was a fear they did not wish to contemplate longer than necessary. They capitulated quickly to Sheila’s whining persistence and hurried away.

There were others who reacted differently. They, too, were frightened of what Sheila had become, but responded to her pathetic desperation with anger; anger that a human being could allow herself to descend into such degradation, such demeaning existence. It wasn’t something they could fathom. When you knew the terrible danger or likely negative outcome associated with a particular course of action, you steered clear of it, they reasoned. It was as simple as that! And if you took the decision to go with the course of action, then you must live with the consequences. Why must other people be made to pay for those purely selfish actions? They didn’t understand the human condition, the vulnerability associated with gullible frailty. They saw things as being black or white, right or wrong, straight or crooked. The limitless and subtle variations of color, sound, light, and rhythms of life escaped their simple perceptions. So, they told Sheila to haul her so-and-so or her mother’s so-and-so away from them to be rid of her.

It was better at night. At night, the living ghouls, the jumbies, the crazies, and the rumheads were out in force. And some of them had money; money which they used to fill their varied wants and needs—wants and needs that were still human despite their sub-human existence. The sexual needs of her male, street peers usually earned Sheila some income. For the price of a rock, or less, she would blow a rumhead or another crackhead in a dark corner of the pretentious-sounding King George the Fifth Park or a long-abandoned house reeking of decay. Her clients always demanded that she perform the deed before she got paid. She always complied. The lurking possibility—which had become a hard reality on several occasions—that she wouldn’t get paid never bothered her. In the beginning, she had tried to negotiate for half the fare before and half after. She never succeeded; her clients were adamant about their terms.

But, more often than not, Sheila got paid. Her clients knew she was one of the very few women who held no qualms about meeting their special needs for reward. She was, after all, one of them – a ‘jumbie’ street whore who catered to the needs of other lost souls. It was a win-win situation for client and service provider alike; Sheila got money for her fixes and her clients were made to feel almost human again. Even with the accumulation of filth on their clothing and bodies, and the rank odors coming from them, Sheila took them in hand and open mouth for a ‘wash and polish’ that buckled their knees and filled Sheila’s mouth with a sharp, slightly salty taste of their seminal discharge. Only then did she get paid. It was a luxury, however, which her clients couldn’t always afford. That meant she sometimes had to resort to some nocturnal skullduggery…

She targeted the street rumheads. They were easier than the others. Once the tell-tale signs of their drunkenness showed, Sheila would watch them with an intense, crackhead eye. She chose them one at a time. Her target had to be way over the top, so drunk that he passed out the moment he laid himself down in the location he had chosen. And Sheila knew all the locations; street persons knew these things. She would follow cautiously, never getting too close to her quarry to alarm him. From the Jeremie Street rum shop—the in-place for the rumheads—to his last stop for the night, the wretched creature would lead Sheila on a fits and starts journey that would often last more than an hour. No matter how close to his final destination, his slow, drunken weaving and frequent, head-bowed-leaning-against-some-object-for-support stops considerably delayed Sheila’s inevitable contact with him. But she was patient; she had to be—even with her need raging inside her.

At last! It was a run-down, long-abandoned, four-room wooden structure measuring less than four hundred square feet, once called home by a family or successive families, but which now housed humanity’s dregs. Sheila had to hurry now. She didn’t want to lose him among the other occupants she felt sure must be in the dark anonymity of this house. The man gained access from beneath the house. He had to bend himself at the waist. The house was not built on high-enough pillars to allow anybody taller than five feet to stand upright beneath its rotting floorboards. Two decaying pieces had been broken off from two floorboards to create sufficient space for a single person to pass through easily. The drunk banged his head a couple of times against one of the floor posts before going through. Sheila was right behind him. She put her head through the opening but didn’t go in immediately. She had to allow her eyes to adjust to the almost-Stygian conditions so she could identify her man, and sidestep the other bodies to get to him.

As she suspected, there were several warm bodies in there. They slept on cardboard, bare, dirty flooring, and an old mattress which had been left in the house by the last set of occupants. The place was indescribably filthy. Old cans, bottles, cigarette butts, used Styrofoam plates, used Kentucky Chicken boxes, used condoms, and used sanitary pads were littered indiscriminately. The overpowering stench of rot and decay mingled with the stench of human feces and unwashed bodies was mind-boggling. But the occupants—as did Sheila—didn’t mind. They lived on another level where the abnormal had assumed normal status; where the bizarre no longer shocked sensibilities that had become numb to such things; where society’s veneer had been stripped to reveal base, tormented souls uninhibited by the mores that kept the rest of society in line.

Some muttering and cursing followed the drunk’s erratic passage through the disorderly pile of human refuse. The man headed for a smaller room. Most of the space in the living room area, where he had entered, was already taken up; he needed more space so he could stretch himself full length to avoid muscle-cramping when he woke up in the morning. Sheila was barely three feet behind him. Her eyes had already adjusted to the darkness so she could make out the living forms on the floor. She avoided them easily. Then, in the act of stepping over another body, she stopped for a split second to ascertain what she had seen. She was right. What she initially thought was one body was actually a pair of bodies locked tight in copulation; their irregular movement was what had caught her attention. Only then did she become aware of the muted grunting coming from the shadowy figures on the floor. She couldn’t determine whether they were a man and a woman, two men, or two women. She didn’t care. She stepped over them.

Sheila’s quarry had already lurched into the smaller room. There were two other persons asleep there; no more than two feet separated them. The new occupant selected a spot approximately three feet away and lowered himself to the floor before stretching full length, face up, on the cold, hard surface. In less than thirty seconds, he was snoring his drunkenness to the world. Sheila let another four or five minutes go by. She wanted him to settle in his sleep so nothing would awaken him later. She had to be patient. That was part of her routine, part of the craft she practiced for more years than she could remember. After counting the seconds in her head, Sheila lay down beside the man. She wanted anybody coming into the room to think they were a couple. Then she felt one side pocket, the one closer to her, then the other. The cloth was soaked with urine. The drunk had gushed in his pants the minute sleep claimed him. Sheila felt some coins in the other pocket. She got those out and turned the man on his side so she could check for back pockets. There was one but it contained nothing. She got up quietly and exited the house the same way she had entered.

Beneath the light of a street lamp, Sheila checked the coins—only two dollars and sixty-eight cents. Not enough! She hurried back to the Jeremie Street area. It was not yet eleven, there might be a chance to strike it lucky with at least one or two more drunks. They were in plentiful supply but time was always against her; she couldn’t do more than two or three a night. And, more times than she cared for, the pickings were not worth the effort. But, that was the nature of the game, when time and circumstance conspired against you; when you couldn’t even muster the cost of a single hit; when the demons in your head were at their screaming worst, and you had to suffer the agony of their torment.

All of that paled into insignificance when she had the money. The acquisition of the means to temporarily free herself from her earthly hell and float in sweet, disembodied pleasure gave Sheila a small rush of anticipation. The sight, feel, and smell of the dollar coins or the paper notes was like a precursor shot which, though much-diluted, stimulated her system with a nice feeling. The smaller-denomination coins— those less than twenty-five cents in value—were always discarded. She had learned long ago that her suppliers did not appreciate the small stuff. Several years ago, when one of them had disgustedly flung a handful of her  coins back at her, she had patiently recovered them from off the ground and taken them to another supplier—with the same result. She had got the message quickly.

In the end, it was worth it. When, trembling with impatient anticipation, she placed the small rock or two into her pipe, applied the flame from a cheap lighter to the bowl of the instrument and feverishly inhaled the fumes from the molten drug through the pipe’s stem into her system, nothing else mattered; nothing else except the instant high feeding the pleasure center of her brain and blasting the euphoric effects through her entire body. Lying full length, face up on the ground in some deserted area, or on the floor of an abandoned building, mouth open in a soundless scream of pleasure, glazed, wide-open eyes staring with focused inattention at the nothingness that her surroundings had become, Sheila would soar goddess-like above her scummy reality into a better place.

It was a fleeting thing, as transient as the half-formed thoughts of barely-remembered things that sometimes nagged at her, but it was worth it. Even when, barely a few seconds later, her drug-inspired wings fell off and she plummeted back to earth with a jarring thud to begin the hopeless cycle yet again, she felt it was worth it.

Sheila’s resignation was complete. Nothing else mattered except the next fix; not lowering her skinny backside to defecate—sometimes in plain view of disgusted passersby—in the George the Fifth Park area; not the shocked innocence of a six-year old child pointing at her and exclaiming “Mummy, look at a lady poopin’ dere!”; not her dirty, unkempt appearance as she begged outside supermarkets and restaurants; not lying on some filthy sidewalk to sleep off the bad after-effects of her demanding crack-god. If she was ever aware of what she had become, she never showed it; she never felt bothered by the hard, hostile stares from people who lived above her hole in the ground.

Another day begins in Sheila’s life. It’s a day when she meets Sasha and does her usual “gimme-a-dollar-to-buy-somefing-to-eat” thing. And Sasha fixes her with a look of withering disdain before doing her seductive, man-pulse-accelerating trademark walk with her well-sculpted backside away from Sheila.

Sasha’s entire body is exquisitely sculpted. She knows it and revels in it. At twenty-three, her light brown, silky-smooth complexion, almond-shaped eyes set in a very pretty face, firm, thirty-six inch breasts crowned by a pair of puffy coronae and thick, protuberant nipples, belly deliciously firmed by regular exercise at the gym, curvy hips, and a pair of long, unblemished legs arouse fantasies of raw, animal passion from the men who ogle her on the street. A far cry from the filthy wretch who tried to spoil her day.

Not yet in the prime of her life, Sasha thinks she can have anything and anyone she wants. She seems destined for the good life—a life of love, wealth, happiness, and endless pleasure. She is wrong! Tonight, she will begin her descent into Sheila’s world. Tonight, standing naked in front of her full-length mirror, she admires her gorgeous body with its gently perfumed, pubic hair meticulously coiffed into the shape of a heart, before dressing for her date with her friend Elaine. Tonight, Elaine will persuade her to try a rock or two. More mind-blowing than any orgasm you’ve ever had, she will say. And you can stop whenever you want, her friend will slip in the old lie to reassure her. Tonight, Sasha will become hooked on crack. Tonight, she will begin her journey into hell. She will become just another crackhead.

Author’s note: Sheila’s character is based on a real homeless person who frequents the streets of Castries.

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