An old acquaintance from my drug using days, recently reconnected with me after twenty or so years. We’ve swapped the occasional mail and caught up on news.
As always I’ve been more surprised at those who survived than those who died, but I was still saddened to hear of a very old friend, Barry, who died in a surreal and particularly horrible way. In some respects the greatest tragedy lay in Barry’s death generating no sympathy or compassion, just wry acknowledgement that it was a fitting way to go for someone as nasty as he was.
It’s strange the way people develop- in essence I don’t believe that people change that much from when they were very young; aspects of their personality are just enhanced or subsumed.
I can’t remember where I was when I first met Barry but I must have been around sixteen and living in Wellington He was a tall, lean, blond haired young man of a similar age to myself.
Barry had left home when his adoptive parents had turned him into the police for growing and selling marijuana. His parents were good people (I’d met them) and I think that they’d only reported him as they were at wits end as to how to deal with their son: all their other children were strong personalities as well, and there was only do much they could do I guess before the whole family unit corroded.
The thing was, Barry loved money, really loved money, and affected no morality about how he made it.
When we met I was working in brothels and he was doing solo sex work and he wanted us to team up. Although Barry and I were physically attracted to each other and had swapped a few kisses I wasn’t enthusiastic about working with him. We got on very well but I’d noticed that others didn’t- perhaps I saw a side of him others didn’t, the vulnerability and sensitivity of being unwanted and abandoned ( he had at one stage tried to contact his birth mother but she hadn’t wanted any contact with him). Okay he was greedy and amoral, but he was what he was- you mixed with Barry and you took risks, although I never had problems and a side of me always appreciated being around people who were transparent. He wasn’t cruel and he wasn’t a bully, both characteristics which I could never cope with being around- he simply was an arsehole. We shared a flat at one stage, partied, took a lot of drugs and had many adventures both to the good and the bad.
Then he came off his motorcycle and broke his back.
I’d visit him in various spinal units where he was being rehabilitated ( those places are terribly depressing; filled with young men, generally injured through adventure sports and motorcycles and in the prime of their lives, bound to their beds and staring at the hospital ceiling). Myself and friends celebrated his 20th birthday in one such unit and received permission to wheel his bed out into the sunshine. I remember talking to him ( we were both very stoned) and saying that we never would get to have sex now…
However Barry did receive a pay-out for his injury and when he’d finished his rehabilitation and came out of hospital he bought a Jaguar car ( which wasn’t automatic so he needed to use a walking stick to operate the brakes ) a Taser and a pit bull and set up as a drug dealer. Barry took drugs as well as sold them which makes dealing messy and I guess unprofessional – as far as drug dealing can be a profession. He was on large prescriptions for pain killers and tranquillisers so had a constant personal supply and due to his need of catheter/ colostomy bag, things could easily get nasty when he was stoned. At one point he fell asleep in front of a radiator and burned the feet which he had no feeling in, so he didn’t notice until he was severely injured.
We both moved to another city in New Zealand at a similar time and past ties and drug business ensured that we continued to have regular contact. Once he came around to the house I was living in, angry and upset that I’d said something derogatory that gossip had ensured got back to him- so perhaps my opinion mattered to him.
I left New Zealand over twenty five years ago, and it’s taken that long for me to hear of Barry’s death, which I think occurred not that long after I left. By the sound of it Barry continued on the disastrous drug user and unscrupulous drug dealer spiralling trajectory that further eroded his personality, although in my mind we were all pretty awful then, so none of us are really in a position to judge.
I’ll choose to remember the golden haired lean young man with big dreams of money and fast cars that I met so many years ago, rather than the man who overdosed and was eaten by his dog.