Here are three stories from my youth that shaped my view on illegal drugs:
– I lived with a group of related families in a compound. See, my father and his cousins rented rooms in this big house like apartments. We were surrounded by a nice concrete wall, and relatively protected from the insidious elements of the street. But, as in the example given by the condition called cancer, not all diseases are caused by outside factors.
My father has a cousin who fell to the temptations of DRAGS. I used to see him loitering around, whiling away the afternoon. He made no conversation, and avoided all of us. He made himself a pariah within the family. My parents already told me of the firm grip this evil had on his mind, but no details. My first encounter with this was smell. One afternoon, while playing on the stairs of the big house, I sensed a fragrant smell which I was sure came from a burning something. Even though it was sweet, I looked around for the source, knowing it could not have been from the person making kutsinta next door, which stinks, and because we have been drilled by our parents and Batibot to watch out for fire. I didn’t find anything, just my uncle relaxing in the backyard. What he was doing in that mosquito-infested, boring lot filled with broken bottles and fluorescent bulbs, I don’t know. It was certainly weird for me, and I crept out of that scene fast.
– Many years later, we set up a corner store using my OFW aunts’ funds. Another aunt also provided the labor, as the custodian, clerk, supplier and accountant. We cousins helped whenever we could. A measure of her success was the incidences of neighbors making the store their personal pawnshop. A few strange things they gave as collateral were: a laboratory microscope, complete with carrying case, a pair of rubber shoes, a SEGA Game Gear, and a Tamagochi. Others were more creative. They bought whole black pepper (pamintang buo) in clear plastic packets, then threw away the peppers. Some bought cigarettes by the stick (tingi), then insisted on us giving them the palara or the foil enclosed with the wrapper. A few enterprising ones bought Serg’s chocolate bars (because the chocolate didn’t stick to the foil,maybe it adds flavor?).
– Eventually when we moved away to the suburbs, I stayed behind with some cousins because our schools are closer there than at our homes. We slept in the store, sometimes, really late because we got to close the store first. And to avoid antagonizing the neighbors, we continued being the pawnshop like our aunt, who went abroad again. The same shenanigans continued. Once, a neighbor went to us with a package, with a request that we hold on to it, while he did some errands. A few minutes went by and a police mobile cruised slowly down the road. On hindsight, even if I don’t have the slightest idea what the package contained, I thought we were very lucky they were not found.