I rolled into Prescott, Arizona one cold winter day without a dime in my pocket. Word on the street about Prescott was that homeless people could exist in the city that brags it’s everybody’s home town. So when I arrived, I told myself, “I’m home!” Next, I went to the Salvation Army took a shower and got some clean clothes. Then I got in line at the United Methodist Church for a free lunch.
Whoever said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” was mistaken. I didn’t have to say a prayer or anything to get what I needed. I talked to guys hanging around and learned that when I needed food, company, a jug of wine, or my heroin fix, Prescott was a good place to be. There were a dozen rehab centers where I could stay if I had insurance. Some took uninsured people like me in and got reimbursed by the state.
I picked a place off the list and went there to apply. I spoke with a counselor who wore a white doctor’s coat, but looked like an addict. He said, “If you don’t have insurance or the ability to pay, you need to prove you’re a resident of Arizona and show proof of your income and debts to stay here.”
“I’ve been living in the mountains for a year. That makes me a resident of Arizona.”
“Do you have a rent receipt?”
Was this guy nuts? “How would I have a receipt living in the mountains?”
He ignored my question. “Can you prove you’re a citizen of the United States?”
“Sure, I was born in Boston.”
“Do you have your birth certificate?”
He didn’t have to ask to know the answer to that. “How many guys carry their birth certificate around?”
“Sorry, if you don’t have it or a utility bill, a business license, paycheck stub, driver’s license, Voter I.D. or an Arizona tax form, you can’t stay here.”
Gazing around the shoddy premises, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay, but it would be cold sleeping in the surrounding hills. “I have none of those. Isn’t there a way I can stay?”
“There are exemptions for pregnant women, single women with kids, and people with HIV. None for run of the mill addicts like you.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Send for your birth certificate; take buprenorphine while waiting for it to arrive.”
“What good will it do?”
“It’ll increase your well-being, and you’ll be less likely to use drugs while waiting.”
I had no intention of not using drugs. I just needed a warm bed and a bite to eat now and then. “It’ll take a week to get my birth certificate. Where am I going to sleep until then?”
“Try the Coalition for Compassion and Justice. They’ll help anybody,” he said in a sneering voice.
To hell with him and his hometown, I’d find a way to get enough money to buy a stash of heroin and be on my way to a more welcoming place.
SMASH, BANG, sounded outside. The snotty counselor jumped up, opened the door and yelled, “You guys break it up.” Then he ran down the hall.
I went behind his desk and yanked open the top drawer to see if he had any cash lying around. Nothing. I opened two more drawers. Nothing but paperwork. Opening the last drawer almost blinded me. It was loaded wth baggies filled with snow white powder, heroin or crank. Either one suited me. I put all the baggies into a large envelope he had sitting on his desk and ran out the door passing the counselor entangled between two men trying to tear one another apart.
Heavy snow fell. I tucked my chin into my jacket. I had the envelope under my shirt to keep it dry. The sun had set an hour past. The sky had a cloud cover, so no moon or stars lit the night. I didn’t have a bed or a place to go to get high on the counselor’s stash.
I carried a thermal blanket in my backpack, so I headed for a small cave I passed on the way into town. Reaching the cave, I wrapped myself in my blanket, took out my works, melted a spoonful of the white powder with a match, shot it up and went to heaven.
I awoke covered in white. Was I dreaming? So much dope was falling from the sky it covered me. Then I felt cold and realized the white stuff was snow. I jumped up to search for the envelope filled with my stash. I found it on the ground. Chewed through plastic bags littered the ground. Then I saw the thieves. How could I get angry at them? They had to live out here in the snow and the cold. I took out the sandwiches I had saved from lunch yesterday and fed it to the stoned Javelinas.