Thursday, October 05, 2006

No more wacky neighbor.

We'd heard that he left the apartment he was staying in in our building and that he'd been staying a night here, a night there with acquaintances, hanging around the dog park asking for money and/or a place to stay. My friend and I spent Saturday at the street fair wondering if he would come by asking us to bunk on our respective couches, and we both dreaded being a captive audience to his plaintive ramblings. Indeed he had been at the street fair, chatting with some of the maintenance staff. Another neighbor came by in the late afternoon and said that he had given the wacky neighbor twenty dollars just a day or two before, and that he had been a witness to the handing over of Ella, his tiny skittish dog, into the care of another acquaintance.

The next day, Sunday, I got a call from my neighbor during Desperate Housewives. No more wacky neighbor. He killed himself. I'll spare you the gory details, suffice to say that it was not an accidental overdose.

I immediately broke into tears despite the fact that anyone would be hard pressed to state one redeeming quality about this man. After he flooded our building last November, he was taken to Bellevue. We went to visit him on Thanksgiving evening with some leftover pumpkin pie and I took turns with a few other neighbors walking and caring for Ella till his release.

A few months later, when I began to have back problems, he volunteered to walk Tony for us in the afternoons. The first time he came into the apartment, he asked if he could use the bathroom and that's probably the first time he stole drugs from me. The second time was later that day. He called in the late afternoon, complaining of a pain in his foot that bothered him when he ran (my husband had told him earlier that I was a former distance runner) and did I have anything "strong?" I said "sure," thinking about the prescription-strength ibuprofen I had. When he came down and I offered him the Advil, he asked me if I had anything "stronger" and rattled off a list of drugs that were exactly what I had in my bathroom, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Fioreset, Methocarbamol. "Do you have any of those?" he asked. Well, of course I knew I did, but I hadn't yet made the connection that he was as desperate as he would prove to be. I said I didn't have any, and I mentioned the "program" and how did he square taking stuff like that and being in AA? He said as long as he was taking it "for something," like the aching foot, it was ok. Then he asked to use my bathroom again.

My heart sank, literally, I could feel it somewhere down around my crotch, and I almost started to cry right then and there, cause that's when I knew he was in there stealing whatever Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Fioriset and Methocarbamol that I had. He came out, took the namby-pamby anti-inflammatories that I offered him, and went on his way. I walked straight into the bathroom to find that everything vaguely buzz-inducing was gone, including some diuretics.

It was pretty much a downward spiral from there. It would take him eleven months to die this slow death, to put himself in a place from which he'd never climb back out. So many people tried to help him and the help was met with betrayals and even scorn. Of course the mind teems with questions, all the obligatory questions that are asked after someone takes their life, no need to repeat them here, because the answer is always the same: everything and nothing. We could have given him money and places to sleep and food and even the drugs out of our medicine chests, but it wouldn't have been enough and it would have all been too much, he would always be looking for something stronger.

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