Heroin Homeless Heroine
A girl who I had met on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin.
Soft spoken, shy, dirty, a broken confusion hiding an extremely pretty 20 year old girl. With her smile so electric that it could melt diamonds. With a subtle refined grace that could have only come from a better place.
I was sitting on my usual bench. A bench in which I would people watch for hours. Watching their evening antics that are so frequently known to occur on Madison's infamous State Street. A place where I could be found just about every evening between the hours of 6p.m. thru 3a.m. A place that made me forget things like my couch and the scheduled sports, sitcoms, and dramas that used to suck the life out of me.
So here on my bench on a typical early spring evening I sat and watched the people go by. Kosmo, a whacked out lunatic who did one too many hits of acid (LSD) prior to performing what was to be his last show playing guitar for a reputable local band in the early 80's. This cat belonged in the asylum for his own good, yet he wasn't because ultimately he was harmless to society. Watching Kosmo ride up and down that street on his bike that was decorated like its own miniature carnival on wheels. Watching Kosmo himself was worth the price of admission. Just one of so many characters that made sitting on that bench so very worthwhile, simply for its entertainment value.
Again, sitting on my bench on that typical early spring evening? I hear a voice so soft that I had to ask her to repeat herself. "Can you spare a dollar so I can get something to eat?". I have just met Megan. A beautiful diamond in the rough hiding in a mismatch of ragged over-sized clothes that made her look 100lbs more than the 5'4" 100lbs that she actually was. Face smudged with some unknown grime, from some unknown place, with her green eyes shining though it all. Shivering she was, even when blanketed by all those layers of clothes. I handed her a dollar and she disappeared.
The next night was the same routine. Kosmo mumbling at anybody and everybody he passed while cruising up and down the street on his festive wheels. The dozen or so other street characters performing their antics as was the routine. Still a bit chilly for spring, everybody walking by with a bit of extra bounce in their step to keep warm. Scanner Dan providing the reports from the Fire and Police Departments. Spooky singing angry drunken pirate songs on a 5 string guitar that was missing 2 strings. Spooky being his own story that I will share in the future.
Again, I hear that sweet little faint voice. Like she didn't even remember speaking to me the night before. "Can you spare a dollar so I can get something to eat?" as if it was a broken record. Except this night she was without the layers of clothing. Just some gym shorts and a dago wife beater t-shirt.
I saw the tracks on her arms, behind her knees, and along her ankles.
I have personally never done heroin. Yet, I am very street wise indeed. A complete contrast to what was my own silver spoon upbringing. I knew 'tracks' when I had seen them. Tonight she was shivering from the cold. Yet she still showed herself as she did the night before. Dirty face with those eyes piercing through, albeit looking extremely tired with her exhausted smile this night.
I asked her to sit. She did. We sat together for a few moments just watching the street scene roll by. I looked at her, and she at me. Again, "Can you spare a dollar so I can get something to eat?". I was about to make the deal that would be continuous for the next two years.
I answered "I will give you 2 dollars if you march yourself into that Taco Bell, (which was right behind my bench) and buy 3 - $.59c tacos and bring them out here so I can watch you eat them". She got up and walked away without a dime. She wasn't ready for me yet.
The next evening, me on my bench, she again approaches me. Still in the same shorts and t-shirt the weather being a bit warmer this evening she still had this cold look to her while she was wrapped up in her own arms. Still those tracks remained prevalent. "I could use those Tacos right now if you are willing sir?". I handed her the $2 without question, without instruction, without expectations. As I turned to watch her walk away. Feeling a happy relief to see her walk into that Taco Bell.
She came out with 3 tacos in a plastic sack. Sat down next to me, still shivering she said "Thank You Sir!". I nodded and smiled. I watched her eat those tacos like she hadn't eaten in a week. Me struggling with the thought of whether such a frail little girl could actually go a week without anything to eat. She ate them up as I told her "I will be right back." Making a quick dash into the convenient store across the street to buy a couple of bottles of orange juice. Happy to see that she was still on the bench munching away at those tacos as I returned to the bench.
Handing her one of the bottles of juice? I announced "My name is Murphy" and she replied with "Thank you sir, my name is Megan" as we then silently sipped away at those bottles of orange juice. She took both empty bottles and disposed of them in a nearby trash bin, and returned to the bench.. Again, a quiet 5 minutes past before she spoke up and asked 'Why me?" I simply shrugged an I do not know shrug and she left it at that. Again silence.
She got up almost 20 minutes later announcing that she had to go now, breaking the silence. She left, and I wondered if I would see her again.
The next evening rolls around and I am at my bench at 6pm like clockwork. 6:15, no Megan. 6:30, no Megan. 6:45 here she comes bouncing down the street in a pair of clean jeans, with a clean sweatshirt, with a clean face, a bounce in her step, and she wasn't shivering even when the weather again returned with a chill in the air that evening. "Hi Murphy!" "Hi Megan!"
She did not ask for money so she could get some food. What she did ask is whether I had figured out the "Why Me?" question from the night before. No response from me other than pulling 2 bucks out of my wallet, handing it to her, and stating "You know the drill". Yet this time while she scampered into the Taco Bell, I scampered across the street to that convenient store to get those 2 bottles of orange juice. Meeting her back at the bench with her sack of 3 tacos and my 2 bottles of OJ, like it was choreographed.
"So tell me Murphy, Why Me!?", and all I could say was "Instincts".
She opened up a bit more about herself. But not until I asked her to confirm my suspicion about those track on her arms and legs. "You're pretty smart Murphy, most people don't care to look at me for any longer than it takes for them to look away from me." she chuckled with relief now. Like she just let the cat out of the bag that she had kept in for all too long. She was admitting her troubles to a stranger. Admitting them in a fashion left me as no stranger at all. She broke down in tears.
"Wrong people at the wrong time, doing the wrong things Murphy" is how she explained it. She did not blame it away on any other reason than what she just described. She took ownership of her situation, and she told me that she only wished for "better people at a better time doing better things". I could only offer my sincerest help whenever she needed it.
However, I stressed that "My help will not come in any form beyond those 2 dollars, that bottle of orange juice, and my ear" She responded "Thank you so very much sir, I mean Murphy, but on some nights can I get a bottle of milk instead?, the orange juice can sometimes be a little rough on my stomach, if you know what I mean?" as she then passed gas to put an accent on her stated concern about her stomach. We both laughed uncontrollably for about 5 minutes before I finally was able to say "Yes Megan, just tell me milk or orange juice when I hand you those 2 dollars from now on"
And so it went for for the next 2yrs. Watching her peaks and valleys being dictated by her Heroin dependency. Yet I swear, 6 out of 7 nights she was there to meet me at my bench at 6pm every evening. Usually staying for an hour at least, many times longer, as she sat, ate, and talked with me like I was the only one who she was able to talk to openly and honestly with. Frequently asking me "Why Me" with my standard reply being "Instincts". Followed by her rolling her eyes in disbelief.
She learned about me, and I about her. Not really any different were we. Just that my addictions (Cocaine) were in the past, and her addiction to Heroin was very much alive and kicking. Age separated us by 20 years. Yet her level of maturity and my level of immaturity, left us pretty evenly matched. I knew how to kick a habit, and she wanted to know how. How could one conjure up the strength to defeat something that has a stranglehold on one?
My approach was to never tell her what she needed to do. I simply shared examples of the process I went through. And I provided suggestions that she could either take or leave as she saw fit to. For I know that people will always do what they want to do when it comes right down to it. So my approach was to provide suggestions, subtle hints, and stories that acted as subliminal examples of how I managed to kick my own addictions. I never told her what to do.
Two whole years of the same old routine night after night. It turned out that I was slowly becoming a mentor to a lot of the street punks. Punks referred to me by Megan who had gained an appreciative trust in me simply because I was the only person that she was able to consistently depend on at that point in her life.
The bench was getting busy, and crowded. But the time spent with Megan each evening was reserved for simply for us, as we shewed the others away when shared our time together. Even if it was just for the 10 minutes it took her to eat those tacos.
It was maybe the most entertaining summer in my life with all these youngsters seeking me out, to share my ear, insights, and suggestions. I never told them what they needed to do. They knew.
Then the weather turned to cold again. Mid winter left me unable to see some of these freezing kids left overnight on the street struggling to survive. My living room began to look like a camp from a Grateful Dead parking lot. I can do this.
With these simple rules. 1) No more than 6 per night. 2) 2 of those 6 spaces were reserved for Megan, and Spooky. 3) the next 4 spaces were based on a 1st come 1st served basis 4) Anybody so wasted was not going to be admitted (except for Spooky and Megan) 5) Everybody could have whatever they wanted from the refrigerator as long as it was milk, bread, bologna, or peanut butter & Jelly. Anything other than that in the refrigerator was mine to eat, not theirs. (I mean really, I wasn't there to run a drugged up version of a Hilton Hotel.) 6) showers were to be taken at night or not at all since the morning shower was reserved for me before I left for work, and kicked their butts back into the street. Nobody was allowed in the apartment, not even Megan or Spooky, while I was at work. 7) No Swearing, because I actually hate profanity 8) Clean your dishes 9) Only one load of laundry per week 10) Give me your hug of thanks and receive my "good day" wishes before you leave each morning.
I had never experienced one incident of disrespect to these simple rules that allowed them to get their asses out from the cold. March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. The day I was to be liberated from these little snakes. When I told them that the season of giving would come to an end. That was met with a few groans indeed. Knowing that March & April in Madison Wisconsin could still be pretty brutal with the wet, cold, clammy weather. The Murphy Hotel to be closed until October 31st next fall. Yes, Halloween for a reason. A new season for these scary little monsters.
So this was a day in day out rinse and repeat routine for 3 years at my comfy little apartment over looking Lake Monona in Downtown Madison Wisconsin.
Yet after year 2, things changed. It was April 21st, my birthday, and for the 1st time in 2yrs Megan had not met me at my bench on State Street for 3 days in a row and I was getting concerned. Day 4, no Megan. Day 5 no Megan. Day 6 I started asking if anybody had seen Megan. Day 7 no Megan, and nobody has seen her. I was seriously worried.
She had been making strides in her Heroin habit. Feeding it 3-4 times a week instead of daily. She was waking up to some of my suggestions. Yet I feared a relapse of the worst kind. Fearing that one relapse that may have killed her. So I had started asking some of the street cops who I had befriended over the years. Those cops knowing, and appreciating what I was attempting to do for some the the most problematic kids on the streets. Yet they had no news of Megan either. At least now I knew she wasn't dead, or they, the cops would have told me.
But she was gone and nobody knew where. So for months I worried, wondered, and asked about Megan's whereabouts. Constantly getting the same unknown answer. It was leaving me with a hallow feeling that not even Spooky could fill. I worried, wondered, and needed to know. I hate not knowing.
October 31st 2004, I get an e-mail like it was a knock on the door from one of the kids seeking shelter on the 1st day they knew that the Hotel Murphy was open for the season.
Yes, that e-mail was from Megan. What a relief. Yet I was really kind of mad too. Until I read the e-mail message. A message in which I hold today still stored in my hotmail account. A message in which I will now share word for word.
"Sir, I sincerely apologize for my abrupt disappearance. I know you have wondered and worried, which hurts me to know that I am the cause of such pain on a man who never deserved such. I took your suggestions at heart Murphy. It took a long time for them to sink in. Always encouraged by your confident, consistent delivery, of your experiences, beliefs, suggestions. How you believed in me with your instincts. How I love, and miss your instincts."
I had to take one of your suggestions for all the right reasons, at the most appropriate time. You see Sir, I had gotten pregnant last spring. Just learning of it the day before you were set to kick us out for your St. Patricks Day Liberation Party. I took your own expressed experiences and put them into play. How you told me how you kicked your own addiction by having separated yourself from the influences. How you joined forces with your best friend who had the same addiction as you. How you had to get away from those who would never cure themselves. How you would have never conquered your own demons if you remained playing with the demons.
Murphy, once I learned I was pregnant? I got scared! I did not want my child to be born with Heroin running through their veins. So I called my parents, and they arranged a flight to get me back home (Upstate New York) so I could be with my best friend, and my family, to help pull me through what you so subtly got started for me. My cure.
I owe you my life Mr. Murphy, Sir. Yet I can not give it to you. For all you wanted from me was to have my life back. And now I do. I have gone through rehab. I have delivered the healthiest little girl I could have ever dreamed of. You would love her Murphy, she has my sparkle in her eyes, and that 'diamond melting smile' that you always made me blush over.
So attached I share a picture of my 1 month old daughter who was a month premature at birth. She, like you Sir, have been my savior and my reason. I will never touch Heroin again.
Her name is Madison Murphy Morrison.
The only way I could show you how much you've meant to me. The only worthy way in which I can rightfully thank you and pay tribute to the caring friendship in which you share, and have shared with me
© 2012 Murphy