Instead of enjoying the sun at the park with my friends today, I spent the first day of my two-week spring break speaking with a group of heroin addicts in preparation for a photojournalism essay I will be creating this week.
After wandering around lost for a while, I asked some passersby if they knew of the place where I needed to go. They were headed the same way, and told me to follow them, after making sure I knew what exactly went on there. When we arrived, there was a lot of curiosity and some confusion about my presence, but everyone was welcoming and some were eager to talk.
I spent a good hour with a longtime heroin user who was getting on in his years. In fractured English he told me about his life: one of being surrounded by heroin at a young age in his home country, of drugs bought and sold, of dealing with racism as an immigrant in Denmark, of never getting to see his family, of being looked upon with contempt, of recovery and relapse, of aging and just getting by. Never more have I regretted not understanding Danish than I did then, because I knew there was so much more he couldn’t express through our language barrier. The things I did understand were just shards of the full story.
In a concrete shelter masked in graffiti and littered with used tinfoil and cotton balls, I watched him smoke heroin he’d bought with his pension. He told me that no one in his group really knew how to find happiness.
I have a lot of work to do. I’ll be going back tomorrow morning.