Wasted by Cocaine: I still see him every now and then but, he avoids me like the plague. Maybe, there is a little bit of pride left in him, as disheveled, gaunt and toothless as he is.
About a year ago I was in one of my favourite watering holes, Rhona’s on Red Hills Road chatting absolute nonsense and X-rated trivialities with acquaintances when I saw him glancing at me. As I turned to direct my stare at him he looked away. Why was this ‘crazy’ man stealing glances at me, I asked myself.
Then, just before he left he said, ‘Mark Wignall, yu remember me from Aunt C?’ Then he turned and strode out. As the pieces of my memory began to quickly come together I rushed out of the bar but by then he had disappeared into one of the lanes nearby.
I asked questions when I returned. And it all came back to me. I can remember the wide smile of pride on the face of Aunt C, someone I befriended in the late 1980’s as Harry, her proud nephew was awarded his PhD in an advanced field of molecular biology.
A graduate of Calabar, he had asked me to edit the draft of his thesis and, in between trying to wend my foolish way through scientific jargon that was way above my head, we were always jesting about the sports rivalry between my old school, KC and his school, Calabar.
His mother had abandoned him at a young age and her sister, Aunt C took him in and raised him. Aunt C’s only child had disappointed her because he was openly gay so a lot of her energy was spent on Harry especially as her son eventually succumbed to the ravages of AIDS.
We drank wine on the day Harry secured his PhD and the rich future ahead of him. A month after, some Belgian scientists heard of him and began to collaborate with him on an experimental drug they were working on.
He was on the verge of moving to Brussels when he met Synthia. In quick time, he told me he was in love with her and she moved in with him in his Havendale apartment.
Then he came home early one day, opened the door and saw her and another man naked in their living room. He was never the same after that. Professors at UWI tried with him, counsellors urged him not to let the woman define him. Nothing seemed to work. Then the cocaine habit developed and grew until he cared only about ingesting more and more.
When I first met him he was handsome, a sturdy 175 lbs, and the world was his oyster. Nothing could stop him. And then in 2017, I saw a man barely 135 lbs, dressed in dirty rags and with just a few teeth left in his mouth. Brought down to degradation by unrequited love and a destructive coke habit.
As Aunt C saw her dreams for him evaporating, it was too much for her and she died of a massive stroke. Harry still walks on Red Hills Road and mutters gibberish to himself as his mind continues to fall apart.