By Renata Youngblood.
I had a good conversation with my meth-addict neighbor the other day.
You see, something switched in me when there was yet-another raid next door last Thursday. I’ve seen the tweakers come and go for a while and at times it bothered me, but for the most part I felt only a compassionate sadness for the lives wasted in addiction. I’m even guilty of finding humor in some of the characters we’ve witness showing up in broad daylight barely able to walk to the door of this partially painted, infinitely haunted, next door monstrosity.
But something definitely switched inside me at 5 am last Thursday when I was up with my hungry baby and heard the visiting tweakers rifling through their car right in front of my house.
Plastic baggies and jingling keys. A very unlikely couple; an overweight Hispanic male with trousers hanging off his ass and the skinniest Asian girl I’d ever seen in a pseudo hipster outfit with a faded striped shirt and leggings all dirtied at the knees. They may as well have been in my driveway or on my front porch for it felt like a violation of the tweakers rights. The line that I had drawn between their vampiric activities and my 4 month old baby had been crossed so I did the thing my neighbors have told me to do since we first bought our home here in this quiet, secluded and partially posh neighborhood: I called the cops.
I’ll be honest, it pained me to do it. I am of a more cynical mind sometimes in regards to those who are here to ‘serve and protect’ mostly because I hate guns and I would prefer that they stay as far away from my windows as possible. But as I saw the tweaker parade continue through out this Thursday I was grateful I called. And when I saw the multiple cop cars pull around and surround my neighbors house that day I thought “maybe this will be the end of this.” I know it won’t be though.
I know that all that commotion with guns drawn and sad, damaged humans hand-cuffed sitting on the curb in front of my house would only lead to a few quiet days and then the visitors would begin again.
It occurred to me that I have two options here: 1) I could become one of my other neighbors who spend their days peeking out their windows and calling the PVE police department 4 times a day and whispering in the shadows about the miscreants and speculations or 2) I could go have a conversation with my neighbor.
The more I thought about it the more this made sense. I know his name. We have a good rapport. He’s a really sweet guy, in fact.
So on Friday in the late afternoon I walked to the porch next door with my sweet baby in my arms and knocked on the door.
I said I wanted to talk about the switch that had taken place in me since the mayhem of the day before took place. As he started to explain, I stopped him, asking him to please hear me out first.
I told him that I was an orphan at age 16 and I slipped through the cracks of my narrow minded community and I had no family to fall back on and I lost most of my friends and I was judged and rumored about and taken for a bad kid even though the only wrong I had done was being born to the wrong parents who didn’t stick around to raise me.
I told him that I want him to know this so that he can understand why I’m coming to talk to him instead of hiding away like all the other neighbors just hoping he’ll disappear one day. I am not afraid of him or his friends because I know them.
I’ve seen them since my own innocence was lost, and I learned that they are not bad people just unfortunately scarred and damaged and not as lucky as I was to have the music that saved me from what could have been a very different life.
Having survived an unimaginable adolescence by working really hard to get to where I am today, with an incredible husband and a beautiful baby boy, I said to my neighbor “as your neighbor and friend, I am telling you that living next door to THIS is my worst nightmare.”
I said that every time I see his shady tweaker friends come and go I am reminded of a life I hope my child will never have to witness. And though I don’t want my child to grow up in a bubble sheltered from the world, I don’t want him to be subjected to this right outside our front door.
“And worst of all,” I said, “you’re bringing the cops with their guns drawn right outside my windows. How would that make you feel? If this was your baby and your neighbors activities brought guns to your house, how would that make you feel?”
And you know what happened? My kind and damaged neighbor told me he is so sorry. He said he’s been trying to get clean for 15 years and he’s still trying and all of his friends that come and go are trying to get clean too but it’s hard.
And I told him I understand.
He promised me he would set a curfew and not allow people over past 11 pm any more. He invited me in to his house to witness that there are no drugs or labs or farms in there — I took his word on that one.
I told him that if he needs any help finding programs or support to get clean I’d be happy to look in to things for him. We connected in the only way two people with completely different lives could connect; completely open-heartedly without judgment or expectations. I wasn’t hoping he would be someone else and he didn’t see me as anyone other than a friend. I don’t know if this will remedy the situation entirely, but I feel much better after our talk. I felt an alliance form and a line erased.
The mother bear in me went back to sleep for a while and I’m no longer peeking out of my shades at night.
Renata Youngblood has been writing songs all over the place for a very long time. Though she was originally trained classically on piano she picked up the acoustic guitar in her lonely teen years and never put it back down. She writes songs that are inspired by people she observes, the earth, injustices, family, love, and of course, pain. Renata really loves sad songs. She says they make her feel very good. Renata often shows up at Jen Pastiloff’s retreats to sing.