"I locked the door, shaved my face, made myself comfortable on the toilet seat and shot a little dope."
It's not a rare occasion when a stranger approaches me and tells me about their life, but there was one man I met who I will never forget.
I had just finished my last class and was hurrying to the train station to catch the 12:25. I sat down on the bench, put my headphones in, and zoned out. It was hot outside and the smell of garbage nauseated me, but there wasn't a trash can in sight.
I heard a thick Boston accent, "Hey hun, do you have a ticket?"
I spun around and ripped my headphones out of my ears. I was shocked to see a man behind me.
"I uhh," I paused. "Yeah, why?" I asked startled.
"I don't have any money and I need to go to Jefferson Station. They wouldn't let me on the El because I was fifty five cents short."
He was filthy, wearing cut-off jeans, a tank top that said "California" and a pair of brown Vans that were once white. His eye lids fluttered and he sat down next to me on the bench.
"Sorry," I lied. "I don't have any money."
I looked at his arms, covered in track marks and I wanted to cry.
"It's okay. Where I'm from I never pay to get on public transportation," he said casually with his face in his dirty palms.
"And where are you from?" I asked.
"Boston," he answered. "I didn't pay to get here though."
I looked at him, confused.
He took his face out of his palms and gazed at me with empty eyes,
"I got in line for the Amtrak, pushed past people and said I had to use the bathroom. I located the bathroom in the last car and locked the door, shaved my face, made myself comfortable on the toilet seat and shot a little dope."
"I'm sorry," I said with a blank expression.
"I am too. I wish I never started."
I wanted to cry but I nodded instead.
"What about rehab?" I asked stupidly.
"I want to go," he nodded. "I do, but I can't."
"May I ask why you're here?" I corrected myself. "Like, in Philly."
The train arrived and he stood up.
"It's a goldmine for heroin."
I sat down and looked over my shoulder. I knew he wanted to sit with me but he chose not to.
I showed the attendant my trail-pass and he moved on to the man behind me.
"I already showed you my ticket three stops ago," he lied.
The attendant shook his head: "Yo, don't lie to me man. You need to pay."
"Why do I have to show you twice?" He continued to lie so effortlessly.
The attendant pulled out a walkie-talkie and explained the situation.
The man paced the aisles of the train asking everyone for money or a ticket.
Jefferson Station was next. The train stopped and the man said, "I don't want to get arrested, can someone help me?"
He got off the train and there was someone in a Septa uniform waiting for him. I gave him one last look and turned my head and felt tears rolling down my face.
All I could ask myself was, "Why?" Why did this man feel such pain that he had to jab a needle in to his arm just to feel alive?
I knew he lied and stole, but that wasn't him. It was his addiction. As much as I wanted to pay for his train ticket and get him out of trouble, I knew I couldn't.
I couldn't give this man the required fare so that he could walk away and get his fix. I couldn't live with myself knowing that he could so easily lock the bathroom door, shoot up too much. and die alone.
Although this man will not remember me, I will remember him. He is not a junkie or a low-life, because there is no such thing. An addict is an addict, and addiction is a disease. I won't judge someone for having a disease, this man is someone's son, best friend, etc... he is more than his addiction.