All I want is a cheeseburger

He speaks through intermittent teeth and even those don't look well. His dark-skinned body doubled over itself as he lay on West Burnside in downtown Portland, Oregon. His words fall on the deaf ears of those skirting around his presence. "We love tragedy on TV," a friend told me the other day. "But not in person."

Here is a person whose addiction to methamphetamines has taken away his teeth, dignity and everything else society values. I stop and dismount my bicycle to speak with him further. "Could you give me some money for a cheeseburger," he replies in a voice that is barely audible over the roar of cars speeding along this main thoroughfare. Drugs have aged this man who looks 40 going on 70. I wish I could help him.

"If you are hungry I have an apple you can have," I say. "I can't eat apples 'cause of my teeth," he retorts. He opens his mouth to expose only two teeth along his bottom jaw. Methamphetamine de-calcifies one's teeth, which over time, causes teeth to fall out.

Somehow I knew he wanted the money for drugs. He would spend it on a teener of meth the moment I rode away as the light turns green. I knew his hunger for food was less than his craving for drugs. I knew his addiction to meth was greater than his need for sustenance. Lucky for me my addictions to sex and strong drink are more socially appealing and even revered in some sectors of the populace. Am I that different from is this shriveled man or is he just me to a greater degree?

All I have is a dollar and I give it to him knowing what it will be used for; knowing he is one dollar closer to getting that fix. But the air is cool and sleeping outside is no fun. Get high tonight buddy. This one's on me.