I left them there. It was ‘Norco’ and a younger friend, huddled in the freezing, out-of-the-wet, door-front area of our Market. Jumped into my little Trax and was about to get going but, couldn’t. Pulled up behind an RV that had pulled-in for the night, ran back into the Sanctuary, off-the-alarm for a couple bags of chips, Kinder eggs and fruity snacks, on-the-alarm again, for a run back out to Norco and his friend. Mug-up, hands reaching for anything and, the offering of just a little something to make the night hours a little less brutal.
They had something that is much more of an escape when the cold grips, to numb the pain of fear and, even utter nothingness. Something more than what I can offer. Far more. More than what I know, more than what I possess.
Norco is not my friend though I care about him deeply. He expresses the epitome of hatred and disrespect toward me. Could it be that I’m seeing something in him of my shadow? Shadows are everywhere on the streets, ego too. Even, here hiding and craving acknowledgement in this BlogPost, the shadow and ego of me.
Fairly normal, how I turn this to being ‘about me’. Norco hates me. A view for self-annihilation is to see myself through his eyes; a horrific paradigm I have visited, more than once, to the denigration of my personhood. It’s a humbling place, the house behind the eyes of an individual who hates, when you’re the object of ‘the’ hatred.
Start to finish it was a cold, wet night. I could hear it on the roof and, when my daughter is away, the heat is off in the house. Most days, arriving before 7am, I’m the first to witness the leftovers of an evening’s thorough unraveling. Paraphernalia everywhere, little baggies, vials and syringes, feces in the big bins, urine fuming from cardboard in corners and leftover bodies under eerily-still blankets. These are my closest friends in the world, save one: Norco.
Norco has called me many names; ones that in jail and on the street would require a pristine follow-up for accounting. He has threatened physical harm toward me and others with knives and fists, he has disrespected this home and family in aggressive, relentless protest. Norco keeps coming back and, I love this guy; he is the one furthest out yet, somehow Norco is the one closest in.
There is a darkness out there that many perceive as being host to the lost ones. These ones, the less I know, are the ones closest to the heart of God. Here, the experience of need is greatest therefore, here is where the meeting is most pure. Norco is there. His story is desperate; out of desperation, suffocated by the pressure of perpetual pain (my ego inflates with the alliteration), God is only just beyond the thinnest of space.
He reached out to me that next morning from within his cocoon of smoke1. A weathered hand for a coffee that I didn’t have ready for him. His hand recoiled to a glass pipe and tinfoil. Eventually, not to his timing, a coffee was made ready for him. Also, not to Norco’s timing, he was asked to get up and gather his things together. Through the smoke, we were as voiceless ghosts, left with no response, over and over again. Our stance is without wavering and favorites, ‘zero tolerance to drug use onsite’. The police were called.
Eventually, Norco would have to move. It could be so much easier. Having to move is a call for Norco back into a story that he prefers to not be in, a state of being, a horrible reality, that is truer than meth. He enters in the truth, his actual place in the context of other stories and expectation to respect other lives with a deep-intoning, defiant noise. ‘GOOOOFS, GOOOFS!’
He swears at the buildings, tantrums at the ground; the elements and molecules are recipient to his hatred, the sounds of hell. The soul of Norco is so close to freedom. Everything is thrown, with head bowed and bellows of disagreement tracing from his oppressed silhouette, he walks away. As his young friend walked by, I mentioned to him to ‘be careful of Norco!’ At which the reply was, ‘Do you want me to knock you out? That’s my good friend you’re talking about.’
I believe that the experience of Norco is of one who is so near to God. Could God be just beyond the margins or where we think He is, beyond the margins of where we think We are? God forbid He is where it looks most uncomfortable to us, a place where We may know the least about. Being near to God is not something that can be attained through effort and muscling nor can it be achieved by doing nothing. All that is needed, is need. What happens then? Love happens.
Tough start; like so many more than need to be are. By 8am I felt ready for a nap. I was out last at the end of the day, alarmed the house and walked the curbside toward my Trax. There, huddled on a longboard by the outhouse, looking as one in opposition to the cold, Norco and his young friend. Consider the nearness, thin places and God’s presence perhaps closer to us, just on the other side of those boundaries we deem margins in our lives.
- Under the blanket is where the meth smoke can be kept and smoked by one or more people. The smoke is concentrated under the blanket. Often, this is the way that victims of an overdose are found, under the blanket.