One of these addictive customers is particularly lucrative. He’s a fella up in The Heights who for whatever reason of his own making has been barred from the Methadone clinic closest to where he lives. He requires shuttling clear across town, three exits along the 401… Twenty sum odd dollars goin’, twenty some odd coming back. Not so oddly enough, this represents a nice bump on one’s daily sheet, the take, what we measure our days by. Not odd at all is that the ol’ Meth Head’s come to be known as the Jackpot.
Brian’s fine with this. He takes a takes a taxi often enough, that being every day he remembers he needs his juice. Often enough to know a lot, if not all us day drivers. I’m sure there are those he’d rather not have call him the Jackpot, those drivers so fearful or perhaps those who so despise this program. Me? I think Brian gets a bit of a laugh, a break from his agonizing anxiety when I roll up, he jumps in and I say, “good morning... JACKPOT!” I think Brian and I share a bit of a self effacing humor over our predicaments; I think Brian gets along with me as we kind of do speak a similar language.
I hadn’t had Brian for a few weeks longer than I would have expected. Long enough that I had started asking other drivers whether they’d had him in their car recently. I wouldn’t say I worry, but after even a couple of trips with the same folks a few times... OK I do start to worry a bit about my favourite little drug addicts. My favourite? It’s not Brian, I’ll likely get around to telling’ a story about her, some day. Let’s just say, it was a nice relief to see Brian today. I mean after all, who’d want the opportunity for a Jackpot to dry up?
Perhaps it was on account it being the first day of the year, but Brian was especially reflective today, “…I have to make some changes”. Indeed… “You certainly do Brian.” Maybe it was the fact that he had a disgustingly pusy, agonizingly sore and growing abscess on his arm where he'd poked himself over and over again with a makeshift syringe fashioned from a broken then sharpened Bic pen; you know, to ease his pain and suffering. Maybe it was just, as he said, after a while ya just do so much Meth you get absolutely sick… Who knows, maybe that pusy abscess and today's sick feelings will save Brian… one day.
These trips with Brian have started to follow a clear bit of of programming, a familiar script. On the trips out we tend to talk of old glory n’ gory days. Stories told boldly, to get a chuckle out of “…oh the troubles we’ve seen”, got up to, created and waded through; the trips back, I guess we’re meant to discuss the results. Today it was the messes we’ve made with, my kid, his kids, his grandkids, our families. Tis the season after all. I asked Brian of the state of his relationship with his kids, as of say, today. Not good. They keep trying and he keeps failing, often appearing to them as a still flailing just banged-up the minute before they arrive incoherently babbling dick-head. Daddy’s at it again, won’t ever stop, he mustn't love us, why bother… we don’t need this shit any longer. I reminded Brian, he’s got a monkey on his back that’s strong than life itself, that he’d happily go as far as kill himself to get smacked up, so, fucking up his relationship with his kids… ain’t nothing. It was a good trip.
As we got close to the turnoff to his place Brain raised a particularly sticky problem he’d been having, guilt. It’s quite often that drug addicts do have one of those “duh moments”. He whined on about how he’s trapped in the typical circle… banging to relieve his guilt, guilty over having banged. He asked me, “…what do you do? How’d you get over the guilt? What can I do…?” I scratched my head over this one and said the only honest answer I could come up with… “Brian, I haven’t gotten over the guilt, and haven’t a fucking clue how one could…”
I dropped off a good kid at one of the big building block apartments over on Leroy Grant. He was getting off an early shift from an OK job he’d just done well, he thought, on little over an hour’s sleep, you know Happy New Year. At the door was an anxious mom and her little girl, sniffling in tears, Cassy. They’d called another cab company, I told ‘em to hop on in, I’d take them to… Kingston General. “What’s your name?” Cassy… “…does someone have a little pain?” Distracted, her mom explained that Cassy was just finishing up another round of Kemo. She’d done great and was in remission, but had a fever which required yet another, after so many other visits to the hospital. I wasn’t sure if Cassy was hurting or sad that this visit had interrupted a visit she was having with a buddy upstairs… “...maybe we’ll go to Sharon’s place after the hospital…”
“What you get for Christmas Cassy?” I promised her I’d channel all my powerful New York City drivin’ skilz to get her to the doctor's quick as a bunny, a crazed bunny... then proceed, like the dork I am, we proceeded to hit every damned red light. “I got an underwater camera.” “Have you tested it in the bathtub by taking a picture of your toes?” …got a little chuckle, tossed at me from behind; a nice feeling chuckle from a scared little girl in my backseat who… is being put through just too damned much than …a little girl might like. Cassy wished me a little whispered Happy New Year as her mother paid the fare and herded her wee little thing in a familiar fashion, out of CAR 29 and into the Emergency Room Entrance... again.
Brian and I sat in the cab while I waited for my next fare. He was thinking that maybe moving from an apartment where six of the thirteen tenants are users might be a good idea for the new year. He told me how happy he was that just last night he’d turned down his girl friends offer to smoke a rock ‘cause he just needed to do some healing, needed to find out if he was really sick, or just “hung over” from banging day after day after day… I finally gave Brian a non-answer, “…you know Brian, you’re not ever going to get over that guilt. That monkey is never going to stop crawlin’ and clawing all over you.” At the risk of skirting along side some kind of, or gettin' all up n' religious, I suggested, maybe you're going to have to find a bigger monkey, one that can maim it, or maybe tame it, train it to do something more useful than handing him the sharpened Bic pen again. Maybe ya just gotta suck it the fuck up Brian. Or, maybe you’ll hit your own damned Jackpot one day… I mean, who knows… I just did... twice.