Surreal: Noun, French, 1920s. Above Reality
This past Sunday I found myself discussing the Massachusetts heroin crisis over breakfast in a sugar shack on a maple tree farm with a retired lawyer, a school teacher, and a Boston tour guide.
This is why I write nonfiction.
In the past 4 months alone, 185 people have died due to heroin overdoses, largely in Western Mass--the governor has called a state of public health emergency. And the three men around me are having this intelligent conversation about it: First responders are carrying anti-overdose drugs now. What kind of drug would that be? Like a charcoal that would absorb the opioid? Wouldn't being on heroin be too much of a rush? No, of course not--it's more of a mellow-me-out than a pick-me-up. How hard is your life that you need a mellow-me-out? What does that say about the rural society within the state, because I'd much rather a pick-me-up than a mellow-me-out. And my only contribution to the conversation is: "I saw my first crack vial this year!" Because an artist from Philadelphia had collected the little tubes with red and green and yellow caps from around her neighborhood and made jewelry out them, which were at the time displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the contemporary wing, overlooking the zen garden.
How this happened--how I ended up participating in a lively debate concerning drugs on a farm where I had just learned that 40 gallons of sap boiled down only creates 1 gallon of maple syrup; that the sweetness of the syrup is dependent on last summer's photosynthesis; that warm spring days with freezing spring nights help the sap flow freer--I just don't know. It was one of several well informed conversations that day, from transgendered children in elementary school to that downed flight in the Pacific to the four lost towns thanks to the Quabbin Reservoir to the etymology of the word "lapidary." And at least three times, someone turned to me and said, Now here's a story to write about, although no one said so about our discussion of heroin at the breakfast table. (Whether this reflects a bizarre nostalgie de boue or a disconcerting fascination with a twisted bucolic nature on my part, I couldn't say. Odds are I was just taken aback at discussing injection spots over pancakes.)
At times like these, I can't help but feel like I'm a passenger on a journey of life of which I enjoy but have no control over. Wax into whichever religious beliefs and politics govern your personal ethics here, but there is something truly Humorous, capital H, about what happens when you no longer have control of the wheel. For all of the clawing and the fighting your way to the top all of the time, a good look around you can reveal quite the funny thing.