March 23rd, 2007
Well fuck! I think I may have a problem. My generosity coupled with a poor grasp of the word ‘NO’ is going to give me difficulties. There is this guy named Jerry, who is grinding me… hard. He arrived last week and, as everyone else new to these parts, without tobacco. What became the occasional request for a smoke has become a regularity. As I’ve written on this topic before, Jerry has spoken of impending monies coming his way. He initially told me of how he had helped out ‘buddies’ up in the dorms with tobacco. I suspect that in doing so he was trying to infer that, despite his need from me, he usually has the shoe on the other foot. He’s my peer, ‘don’t you know?’ But, save for his current tobacco dilemma buddies up in the main dorm are getting him back tonight. Well, that was last week. No sooner had he established this narrative, he returned from gym that night without being reimbursed. Oh well, having already broke the ‘bumming’ ice, he was one day closer to canteen and ‘would I mind shooting him another smoke.’ After all, what goes around, comes around. It’s not like he hasn’t been the one to help out a buddy in red. Peers! I say.
So come canteen, he had effectively run me down to my last smoke. Failing his buddies reimbursing his generosity, he has now taken to filling my ears with how he’s anticipating a tax return, PST and GST cheques and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. First of all, he is wearing red. I’ve only been here 68 days now but I gather that the colour of his wardrobe means he is in jail. While I doubt he’s here because he failed to file his tax return, I also question if the reason he’s my peer has anything to do with having a job at all. At least one with a taxable income anyways. I mean, come on! Most of the guys here are crack or meth addicts. ‘Fall downs’ as they are referred to. Guys who’ve messed up to such an extent that they’ve nobody on the outs who can lend a hand or, more specifically, lend some money. But thank God for the government monies imminently coming their way for all the hard work they’ve done smoking crack! I’ve simply heard too many stories from too many guys to not just wax over as the latest tale gets spun. It’s delivered often in attempts to build a bond. Absolution from being pegged as a grinder through ‘sharing.’ But it’s increasingly apparent that it is purely for the sake of getting the smoke. As for the next smoke, we’ll cross that bridge or spin the next yarn as we come to it. So shortsighted is the vision with such a game, but Jerry just takes it that much further. His energy and his look do nothing for me. I simply was being helpful in the course of feeling him out, but now I’m thinking that I’m getting felt up!
As last week’s canteen drew nearer, I showed Jerry incrementally greater reluctance to fulfil his requests for help as I was trying to establish without saying so much that I can’t be his steady grind. Thankfully canteen arrived, as his ability to take my broad hinting was nil. A fair number of the guys here come to me on Tuesday, and especially Wednesday for similar aid as it is but they don’t go to the well with abandon. Abusing the willingness to help can be a fine line.
Going outside for a smoke on Tuesday and Wednesday is more of an exercise in averting the wanting eyes of those looking for the last pull of your cigarette than smoking the thing itself. It can become uncomfortable, really. You begin to go to the farther reaches of the smoking pit and develop a hard look to yourself just to have one on your own. But this just compels the needy to have to make greater efforts to get what they seek. Like taking more footsteps to approach you and scaling the wall that you erect in obvious defence of what you don’t wish to share. Desperation, or inability to establish any willpower, obliterates any and all decorum for these tobacco-less souls.
Now it must be said that Jerry did reimburse me six tailor made cigarettes come canteen, so I couldn’t begrudge him that. But what I managed to see in him and his approach has got me leery. Like I say, his energy seems off to me. I feel as though he is keeping his eye on me and I don’t care for it. I don’t see much to go on with him given his disregard of boundaries most others would respect. It just seems one-dimensional. He’s hurting for tobacco and I have tobacco. Our common bond is that we both wear red. That’s it. Beyond this, his stories of money or returned favours are purely to help ease my grip on what is mine, and what he desires. It certainly is not a means to furthering our bond. No camaraderie has, or will be struck upon with such dalliance. Having not gotten the gist of my subtle coaching over my dwindling reserves only compels me to freeze him out. He did, as I say, return to me some smokes but as I had given him tailor mades, he had to return to me the same. I didn’t tell him that was what I expected and the cost of them is far more expensive than the already prohibitive cost of a pouch of tobacco. Especially on our wages. And only more so for a new guy who talks of incoming monies that haven’t arrived yet.
So the egg with the flat end creeps over to its rounded edge once more. Everyone has tobacco, debts are honoured, everything is good… or ought to be. Yesterday afternoon I ask Jerry in passing, “how’s it going?” To which he replies,“not bad.” I counter, “better with tobacco, eh?” And his response is that he’s almost out already! Seems he had a few others he needed to repay. Lord only knows at $7.75/pack, how many packs his $14.10/week salary can afford, but after giving me 30% of the pack he had in his hand, I’d venture to say not more than the pack I saw in his hand. I don’t know. It’s this ability in rudimentary math that I picked up somewhere along the way! This set alarm bells to ringing in my head. We’re talking about the day AFTER canteen. The rate at which he’s hit me up for help tells me he carries at least a ‘pack-a-day’ habit. And this is to say nothing of the help he’s sought from others. With the fingers I exercise my math skills upon outnumbering the remaining smokes in Jerry’s pack I can see he can’t afford it. His consumption outstrips his means. If I don’t conjure up an ability to shut down this notion of his (that I’m his sugar daddy), I’ll be his, well… sugar daddy. That much I can’t afford!