Last week, while on my way home from work, I saw a guy shooting up under one of the freeway overpasses. Granted, I was flying by at high speed, but even so – I can’t even describe the horror I felt seeing him shove a needle in his arm. A totally random event of lives passing each other – I’m pretty sure our split second encounter had greater impact on me than on him. In fact, I doubt he even noticed my startled stare – he was too busy desperately trying to heal himself, so he could feel whole again.
Every time I have driven by that spot in the days since, I have looked for him. It’s so strange – the most startling experiences really change the way we perceive locations. It’s like they are forever marked, and automatically induce heightened expectation and awareness. I haven’t seen him since, but I see his camp. Some trash, and his sleeping bag. Once it was neatly rolled up, another time it was unrolled. I wondered if he was in it. I wondered if he was alive.
I’ve been trying to forget what I saw. But, of course I can’t. Over the years, I have had a few friends and acquaintances die from overdoses. But, I never actually saw them as real junkies, reduced to a desperate, vulnerable, quivering mess of self-injection. I’m sure they reached that point – I just never had to see it. Once again, it made me think of the bubbles we live in. And, as an extension of that, the bubbles we encase others in. On this occasion the “other’s” bubble shredded, and accidentally let me see into it. I’ve been trying to un-see it ever since – to no avail.
I took this photo right before I went home that afternoon. I was so enamored with the way this NZ flax leaf was all crinkled, I decided right there and then that it was going to be my next Vignette shot. In the context of my story, I guess its only significance is that it represents what I let into my protected bubble – things that make me happy. Meanwhile, I’m painfully aware that the orb of humanity’s most exposed looms far larger, and that after the shocking glimpse I got of it, I needed something pretty to focus my violated eyes upon. So there you go, good people – some frivolous eye candy to divert your attention from the real issues. (I wonder how many of these it will take to erase the stark image of intense frailty and relinquishing of all control, I just saw…)