The other night at the Blongding Event for DC Bloggers, we all sat around and swapped some of the funnier stories from our life experiences, as well as stories about some of the freakazoids who seem to haunt some people's blogs and their comment sections. For example, one blogger talked about a guy who developed 'an attraction' to her (in as much as one can do this by only reading a person's blog) and let her know his goal was to make her his girlfriend. She said that besides being totally uninterested to begin with, the tipping point was when he told her he'd "battled the dragon."
(For the uninitiated [i.e. those of us who have stayed away from the drug culture], that's someone who once was addicted to heroin or some other illegal or illicit drug, but who is now sober.)
That reminded me of a story from my mission. (I spent 18 months in the late 80s and early 90s volunteering as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons.)
I was assigned to work in Vienna at the time. Prior to arriving in Austria, I'd spent a year living and working in the D.C. area. Before that, I spent 17 years living a pretty sheltered life in lily-white, no drugs or drinking here (wink wink) Utah. Oh sure, I'd seen people smoke cigarettes and drink beer. I'd even seen my next door neighbor falling down drunk when she came over to yell at me and my siblings for not playing with her daughter. Lovely. Other than that, though, I'd never seen anyone use drugs. Heck, I'd never even seen a real live prostitute, for that matter. Anyway--all that to say, I was a greenhorn.
Back to Vienna. There I am in Wien, Du Stadt Meiner Traume, plugging along as a missionary. Pounding the streets, knocking on doors, handing out Books of Mormon, taking in the sites as we rushed by them on the U-bahn and the Schnellzug. Sometimes, members of the church would refer us to their friends and such was the case with Angela. Her friend, Sybil, asked us to visit her. Angela and Sybil had grown up together in Vorarlberg--Austria's western most province bordering Switzerland--and had followed each other to Vienna to live the big city life, as many young people from rural provinces are wont to do. Angela was a model whose beauty rivaled that of Jane Seymour.
The other thing that made Angela special was, she was a heroin addict. Yeah. True story.
We'd meet with her in her dingy little studio apartment in the Karlsplatz every few days. I was so naive about drugs, I thought on the days she was peppy and alert, she was actually drug free and on the days she was droopy and incoherent, she was stoned out of her mind. Just the opposite, in fact.
One day, we were talking with her in her apartment and there was a knock on the door. Turned out to be her dealer who was delivering her fix for that day. She paid for her heroin, brought it back into the apartment, poured it in a spoon, cooked it up, put it in a syringe, and shot up. All while my companion (the other missionary I was assigned to work with) and I SAT THERE AND WATCHED. And all I'm thinking is, "Wow! Cool!"
I look back on that now and shake my head and laugh. I mean, there we were, two fresh-faced Mormon missionaries watching someone we cared about shoot up! I don't know that it ever occurred to us that we'd been in the same room while a drug transaction took place. It never occurred to us that being there could get us into trouble. It never even occurred to us that perhaps the Karlsplatz and its surrounding environs wasn't the best place for two female, American missionaries to be at all. But there you have it: my singular encounter with the dragon.
As for Angela, we tried as best we could to help her, but we knew we were ill-equipped and unqualified to do more for her than just visit and be her friends. I have no idea what ended up happening to her. It wouldn't surprise me if she died of an overdose or contracted HIV/AIDS from sharing a needle and died that way. Either way, she was a beautiful young woman and seeing her addicted to drugs was always so sad and ultimately such a waste.
One of these days, I'll tell you the story about the prostitutes who came out at night and worked the corner just below our apartment in the Kreuzgasse. Somewhere I have pictures of that.