I have offended the local drug dealers. Not in a ‘my house is going to get torched and I’m in hiding, fearing for my life ’kind of way. Or at least I hope not. More that they don’t say ‘good morning’ to me anymore.
Before, they would all greet me when they saw me out walking the dog.
They’d wave as we passed in the street barely missing a beat as they’d turn to the man anxiously shifting from one foot to another, waiting beneath the streetlight that marks their spot. The handoff’s not even hidden, the tension in the air only broken by my insane dog running up to see if they have any treats.
The summer was busy. A near-endless stream of mostly lads, sat under the light, checking their phone, the relief palpable when they, the drug dealers, come swinging out their back gate, all swagger and disdain, handoff, and swing home. The young lads started to look a bit worse for wear as the summer rolled on. Their skin a little paler, their clothes a little more grubby. They weren’t here to buy a bit of dope.
It’s seeing the Reynolds boy that breaks me. Transparent grey skin, eyes sunk so deep they were hardly there. Walking past with my dog, recognising each other, it’s the flash of shame on his face, his clothes unclean, hands jangling in pockets, head shrinking back into his hoodie. He stands eyes down, dancing from foot to foot until the dealer appears.
‘Morning’ she shouts, giving me a little wave but before turning back to the job in hand.
I can’t look. Memories of the Reynolds boy, a tiny frail dot of a thing sat on the seats in front of me at the school play, him watching his big sisters on stage, singing along with my kids. Those same sisters who would come round for tea, dragging their little brother along, quite as a mouse in the noisy gabble of all those girls.
I barge through the back gate, silence my only protest to the situation.
But I’m never very good at being silent. In my head, on long walks with the dog, I compose angry rants to the drug dealers.
‘Does your mum know what you do for a living?’
‘Is your gran proud’?
‘How would you feel if it was your brother, your sister, your friend?’
I know should feel sorry for the dealers, sure that their life is not going on as they planned. But I can’t. They look so smug, expensive clothes, smiling like it’s all normal. Like they are pulling one over us, with their politeness.
Instead, I say nothing, it all raging up inside me. The powerlessness of it all, the cruelty.
In the end, I snap. Two young lads, fourteen maybe, waiting under the lamp post.
‘They’re just kids,’ I hiss at my husband. He shushes me, always a risky move.
‘They’re behind us.’
He means the drug dealers. But I don’t care, I think about that sweet wee Reynolds boy, looking so unwell. That look in his eyes.
‘Bloody drug dealers’ I snap. It’s pathetic really. But I feel I need to out them. To name what it is that’s going on. No longer hiding the pretence of the situation under the niceties of a morning greeting.
Nothing changes. The deals still go on. The only difference is now my morning walks are greeted with sly indifference.
No one says good morning now.