Bourbon Street, Drug Abuse, Friendship
|The Bourbon Street Blues
New Years Eve, the second most celebrated holiday above Mardi Gras; Christmas it seemed did not pale in comparison. On this cool evening, I find myself walking around Jackson Square awaiting my friends to meet up with me and admiring the famous statue of Andrew Jackson placed so prestigiously in the middle of the court. The cool breeze made a balmy 60 degrees feel even colder. However, this occurrence is not unusual for the town of New Orleans, especially during the month of January where it rarely gets above 63 degrees. I have always been a lover of history and culture, and New Orleans is a treasure trove of both. My friends and I are visiting New Orleans from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, mostly because Rob and I competed in the National Flag Football Championship against the University of Louisiana at New Orleans; even though we lost I still think it was a valiant attempt. We decided to extend our stay for just a couple more days to get a taste of the wild night life of New Orleans we had heard so much about and had to experience for ourselves.
In the distance I could hear the excitement ensuing just a couple streets ahead on the most famous street in New Orleans, I speak of course of Bourbon Street. Walking along St. Ann Street, I met up with Rob, his girlfriend Sarah, and the rest of the “team” as I like to call them, makes us seem official, like the A-Team or maybe even the Justice League. “Come on guys we don't want to miss out on all the action, it is nearly 5:30” Rob emphatically said, while jumping around like some teenage A.D.D experiment, I wanted to suggest something shiny to see his reaction, but figured that was a little juvenile for me. Approaching Bourbon Street, after what seemed like a mile long hike up hill with a caffeine crazed child and his non attentive mother bickering about one thing or another, I was overjoyed to see a bar. The lights and the sounds of the city encapsulated in one ever long time loop. “This is what I have been missing for so long” I thought to myself, peering around corners and tapping my foot to the illustrious beats and melodies of the deep south blues.
“Who the hell is Tanya?” Sarah said with an intentionally heightened voice taking out Rob's cell phone from her purse, and obviously so the rest of us could hear what was being said. “Would you kindly lower your voice, and not air our dirty laundry to our friends?” Rob said while trying to cover Sarah's mouth as to buffer the noise, but to no avail, all that did was infuriate her even more. “Rob, damn it tell me who the hell this hussy is right now or so help me God we are over and I do not mean in the biblical sense!” Sarah's hand raised, coincidentally the same hand which held Rob's cell phone. “O-o-o-h Okay, just don't do anything stupid, that is the only phone I have, if you break it, I will have to wait until we get back to Nebraska to get a replacement.” Rob whimperingly stated, holding his hands out to catch the phone if Sarah would happen to throw it.
“Hmm, lets see, that's 20 minutes, a new record” I thought to myself looking at my watch, pretending to tell the time. Rob and Sarah have been fighting exhaustingly for the past week; Sarah is obsessively insecure and Rob is just a player, all of which is not news to us, but nevertheless, as good friends we always to try to keep the peace between the two so we can live happy and productive lives, not that it lasts long, but for those sweet and priceless 20 minutes, all seems right in the world. “ I am not having this conversation with you right now!” Rob shouted snatching the phone from Sarah's hand. “Okay you guys come on, stop fighting, lets just enjoy New Orleans on our last night here” Shannon said trying to calm Rob and Sarah.
“Shannon, what the hell would you know, miss- I cant get a date to save my life” Sarah said insultingly. “Just because your upset with Rob, does not mean you should take it out on your best friends” I said, trying to redirect Sarah's attention to the main cause of her problems. “Oh this coming from Mr. Justice League Nerd himself huh?” Sarah exclaimed, knowing she crossed a line, but in the moment did not care about anyone, just inflicting as much pain as she could to get a rise out of Rob. “Fine! You know what screw this relationship, screw your feelings, and most of all screw you Sarah!” Rob yelled as he walked away. “Yea that's what I thought, you sissy, can't even stand up to your own girlfriend, that's all the proof I need” Sarah shouted at Rob, but he never did turn back, just started walking faster and faster, until finally he was out of sight.
We started off to find Rob, hoping that at least Shannon and I could talk to him and calm him down, but all we found were empty streets, everyone else was at the New Years Eve celebration, a place we had hoped to be by now. Passing by the Preservation Hall, where all the great Jazz musicians are immortalized and as it turns out one of Rob's favorite spots. After searching for about 20 minutes the team and I found Rob, laying on the ground, looking like he just got run over by a John Deere tractor. “Oh my god, Rob are you okay?” Sarah cried out running towards him in her red satin high heel shoes, all we could hear was click clack click clack on the pavement. “I am so sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you, please speak to me” Sarah begged, but all that was heard was a low whisper, faint and fading. Kneeling down beside him we all tried to listen carefully to what he began to say “two men” Rob exasperatingly stated “ two men stuck me with two needles and took my wallet and my phone.” As Rob finished, I looked around hoping to see someone who might be able to help. “I remember reading something about this online” I began to say, trying to explain that muggings are different in New Orleans than they are in Nebraska, and how the local law enforcement do not take kindly to tourists,especially when they are young and drunk.
Moments later I spotted a police officer patroling the streets, running up to him, short of breath I said, “my friend needs a doctor, he has been drugged and mugged” all I got in response was a laugh. “Officer, I am serious, please help my friend” I begged, looking at the discontent ensuing within the eyes of the policeman. Raising his hat from his eyes he asked “Where are you from boy?” Thinking it sounded too cliché, I answered “Nebraska, Sir.” A half-grin came across the officers face, “Well if you don't mind, there are more serious crimes that need my attention, I think a lowly tourist rates pretty low on my give a damn meter tonight, Son” the police officer said tipping his hat in farewell, like some cheesy John Wayne western. “That man is not the Duke” I thought to myself in that geeky and nerdy way I do.
I ran up behind the police officer pleading one more time for the life of Rob “Please Sir, you have to do something, he might not make it.” The officer turned around, looked me up and down, stared me straight in the eye and said “there are 10 more cases like his at Tulane University Hospital, they are calling him, The Bourbon Street Druggist because he goes around mugging people at gun point, stealing their wallet and cell phones, then drugging them with some contaminated substance.” Standing on the sidewalk, both in shock and trying to absorb all the information the officer had told me, I started to fear for Rob's life, “if the substance is so contaminated, what effects could they have on Rob's body?” I thought to myself, hoping what I feared next would not come to true. Running back to Shannon, Sarah and Rob, I begin to tell them what the officer had told me. “We need to get him to the hospital, NOW! Not in 5 minutes, NOW!” Sarah said through the tears streaming down her face, obviously guilt stricken over what he said to Rob just prior to this incident occurring.
“Okay, I think there is a bus stop at this corner, lets take it to Tulane University Hospital” I said trying to help the girls get Rob off the cold ground. “Let me fucking go!” Rob said aggressively, shoving our hands off him, “I can fucking do it myself, I am not a child.” Something was obviously wrong with Rob, he was not an aggressive person, nor would he ever deny the help of a friend. As the bus came to a stop, the double doors opened and as we were boarding the bus “is your friend okay?” the driver asked with concern on his face. “No he is ill, is there any way we could get to Tulane University Hospital quickly?” I explained, hoping that the bus driver would heed my warning and get us to the hospital soon. Driving what seemed to be over the speed limit, the driver assured me that we would get Rob to the hospital rather quickly seeing as we were the only passengers on his route for the time being. Checking behind me I noticed Sarah trying to coddle Rob and ease his pain, I could not help but wonder what was going through her mind. “Get your fucking hands off me bitch, its your fault I am like this” Rob shouted pushing Sarah away from him, sweating profusely and breathing heavily. “You don't mean that Rob, do you?” Sarah asked tearfully. “Your damn right I do!” Rob answered, falling backwards into his seat from what could only be described as exhaustion.
Making our way into the ER doors, I start to explain to the admissions clerk the severity of Rob case, and urgently requesting a doctor “Ma'am please, I have reason to believe that The Bourbon Street Druggist is behind my friends condition” I started to explain, but all I got was rejected and a clip board of paper requesting medical history and insurance information. “Please fill these out and the doctor will be with you shortly” the admissions clerk said nasally. As I sat in the chair filling out the paper work as fast as I could, I started to notice Rob's arm twitching uncontrollably. “What the fuck are we doing here, damn it! I don't want to be here, I want to go home!” Rob shouted standing up rather abruptly throwing the ER chair across the room. I stood up trying to shield Shannon and Sarah from the wrath of Rob, when from behind I could see the ER doctor blast through the doors, “Sir, are you okay? It's all going to be okay now, we can treat you, if you just come with me” the doctor said calmly and politely. “Fuck that!” Rob said trying to break free of the two security guards holding him down. I hated seeing Rob in this condition, non-compliance and aggressive outbursts are two obvious signs of drug abuse.
“I am sorry, if your friend does not wish to comply, I fear there is nothing we can do for him here. If you take him back to where you are staying, give him plenty of liquids and these pills, he should be fine in a couple of hours” the doctor explained handing me a green bottle with little yellow pills inside. “Thank you doctor for you help, come on Rob, lets get you home” I said weakly, trying to mask my emotions from the rest of the team. It was the same driver whose bus we boarded again, and on the ride back to St. Anne Hotel, I began to tear up, partially from stress, but more so because of watching Rob and how these drugs are effecting him, it is a very draining process, but one I will never forget, I don't think any of us will forget this night. “So what do we do now?” both Sarah and Shannon ask in unison. Holding the pill bottle in my hand, rolling it around my fingertips, “all we can do is just wait for the effects to wear off, and pray for the best” I said staring off and gazing at the star filled sky, hoping for a miracle. As we reached our hotel room, the team and I put Rob in bed, gave him his pills and watched as he drifted off to sleep, hopefully detoxing in his sleep. Shannon passed out on the floor curled up in ball cuddling her teddy bear, Sarah fell asleep on the couch next to Rob's bed, and as I lay in my bed, looking up at the ceiling, I slowly start to close my eyes, hoping for a better tomorrow.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of retching and vomiting coming from the bathroom, I rolled over to find Rob out of bed, I looked at the clock, it read “7:30” I was sure the worst was over. “Rob, how are feeling this morning?” I asked knocking on the door “How do I sound?” Rob sarcastically replied, I knew by that tone, he was on the road to recovery. I grinned as I sat with my back propped against the bathroom door. “I don't want to leave yet” Shannon whined, in that characteristic way of hers while packing her suitcase, knowing that it annoyed the hell out of all of us. “I know, I don't want to leave either, but school will be starting again soon and we have had quite an adventure already” I said packing my suitcase. After folding my final shirt and zipping my suitcase, I turned around for split second to check on Rob, but all I could see was his head in his hand, probably from the detox, but I was sure he had a heavy heart. I looked around to see if I could find Sarah, but I did not even see her suitcase. “Shannon, have you seen Sarah?” I asked concernedly. A look of sadness brushed across Shannon's face, with a heavy sigh she replied “She left already.” I didn't want to know what that meant.
“She's gone man, I really fucked up this time” Rob said, as he took his head away from his hand the tears began to flow, I had never seen Rob cry before. “Rob, you didn't do anything wrong” I said, it was delaying the inevitable. “I should have never cheated man, I don't know what I was thinking” Rob started pounding his fist into his hand. “Hey listen to me, it was a mistake, we all make them, you guys were having a huge fight at the time, and we all do things we are not proud of when we are upset” I explained, trying to be non-judgmental and a good friend, though feeling like one of our school counselors, trying to fix everyone's problems. “Lets go home” Rob suggested as we gathered our bags and checked out. Making our way to the shuttle bus on the way to Baton Rouge Metro Airport, I looked around hoping to see Sarah come from some angle, but there was no sign of her anywhere. Boarding the plane, something in the distance caught my eye and for a split second I could still hear the sounds of the city ringing in my ears, the trumpets and banjos, the tambourines and the drums, making harmonious music and forever residing in the time loop of my mind. I looked around one final time hoping to see Sarah, but my heart sank when she did not appear, I knew now more than ever just how much Rob was going to need me, and as the plane ascended and we embarked on our journey home, I began to contemplate how I was going to put the pieces of a broken man back together, him and his bourbon street blues.