Requiem for an island addict | Guest column

by Edwin Wordsworth

Orcas Island

It’s 8:30 a.m. Stage Junkie basks in the opioid sunshine. His dirty clothes hang draped over an impossibly thin frame. I am here to take out the trash. He is here to be a kind of Village Green scarecrow. I catch sight of him loading up under the stairwell to Portofino’s. He spies me relocating dog waste from the lawn.

Occasionally, when he is obstructing the doorway to my supply room, I will move nearer to him, looking for signs of life, like the rising and falling of his chest, and shouting, “Are you with us, man?” I am a walking, talking, trash-relocating buzzkill. He shifts and groans. He says, “Excuse me,” but I cannot. His voice is meek. His eyes are retreating in their sockets, away from the light and toward his spongy, heroin-addled addict’s brain. The lines around his mouth and nose are deep. What doesn’t fit in his shopping totes are held in the bags beneath his eyes.

I wonder, what is my responsibility to this young man? Am I to scare him off this public stage each and every morning so that those more deserving may use it? Shall I keep an arsenal of Narcan in my vehicle with the rest of my maintenance supplies? Should I wash his feet with my hair? One hundred and thirty human beings sing a last, gurgled death-rattle every day as they prepare to leave this world and move to the next. That’s one dead addict every 11 minutes and seven addicts per every episode of “Game of Thrones,” on average. I’ve never seen a single episode.

Earlier this month, I watched a backpacked, 20-something nodding off whilst keeping perfect smartphone-scanning form, if but for a slight swaying in the breeze. I saw another conspicuous user situated half in, half out of his driver’s side door, in the parking lot of the senior center, only a dozen yards from the back gate of his dope dealer’s Tudor abode. “Yo, man, are you with us?” Nothing. The paramedics were on the scene in minutes. The sound of the siren awakened the sleeping prince. Officially, as it turns out, he was “just extremely tired.” He hadn’t broken any law by taking an opioid-induced cat nap on private property. Business as usual.

My empathy muscle is atrophying. I cannot hide my disappointment. Whenceforth should my disgust be directed? Toward the pile of corpses that grows each day, like a garbage mountain somewhere else to which I contribute? To Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family and their constituents for the manufacture, distribution and sale of these illicit substances? To the physicians who have for years overprescribed opioids to those claiming to suffer chronic pains? To the whole of American decadence? Maybe it’s me, a citizen with the right to vote, the ability to take up arms against this sea of troubles or to act independently to help my fellow man. Maybe this is a plague of divine origination, or maybe it is a culling of the herd.