I thought he was stealing my hubcaps. Looking out my bedroom window last Saturday afternoon, I saw a guy, bleached-blond hair and dirty clothes, squatting on my front pavement checking out my hubcaps. He pulled out his cellphone and dialed.“Dude,” I could hear him say. “I’m at Salmon and Pratt, where ya at?”
He then started to sway. As he fell back into my gate, it was apparent he wasn’t stealing my hubcaps or hanging ten. But he was nodding out.
I’ve lived in Bridesburg for five years and love our home, our neighbors, and our community. As I went outside, he got up and stumbled across the street into an empty parking lot that has been a popular place for shooting up. We stopped walking our dog there because there was one too many needles.
Moments later, a car pulled up, and Seedy Drug Dealer No. 2 in a Miami Vice episode got out, looking at his cellphone like he’s following a GPS guide.
He walked along my fence and checked out my back alleyway. He scoped out my backyard. I was ready to tell him there is really nothing left for him to steal, because two junkies took our bicycles last August and then our ladder and porch cushions got lifted as well.
He dialed his phone and barked into it. “Hey, motherf&*$er, it’s Julio. I have your s*&^! Do you want it or not? I’m at Salmon and Pratt!”
He pulled a baggie out of his pocket with two needles and what looked like a piece of beige rock candy.
Julio didn’t even look at me as I sat on the third set of porch furniture we’ve bought, the other two sets having been involuntarily “donated” to those suffering from the disease called addiction that gives them the gall to take our possessions and hock them for cash so they can buy beige rock candy from guys like Julio. (It’s funny, those suffering from cancer never robbed me so they could get chemo treatments.)
Julio then leaned back on my gate, his backside pressed against our Memorial Day patriotic bunting, and proceeded to spit a hocker on my lawn.
It was then that I grabbed the bat behind the front door. This bat goes all the way back to 1988, when I played softball with the Bridesburg Cougars. Many rowhouse dwellers have a bat behind their front door and bedroom doors. We call them burglar alarms. With my burglar alarm resting on my shoulder, I walked over to Julio like Lenny Dykstra used to walk up to home plate at the Vet.
“Hey, Julio,” I said as I came up behind him. “When Slim Shady comes back, I’m gonna start swinging this bat. Now get the f&^% off my property.” After Julio spit again, he drove off.
With my heart racing and temper flaring, I posted on Facebook about the incident with a shot of the guy nodding out near our cars. It was raw and honest and full of rage that our neighborhoods are getting worse due to the heroin epidemic. Someone has to fight back against these dealers and users. On Saturday, that somebody was me.
Yes, I called them junkies. A word in the dictionary that reads, “Slang term for a drug addict, that uses a needle to ingest heroin. Junk is slang for heroin.”
And I meant to use the word junkie. As in, “The junkies took my parents’ air conditioner out of their window and scrapped it for cash.”
As in, “The junkies won’t let you into the Wawa until you give them money.”
As in, “The junkies took all the Amazon and UPS packages that were delivered for Christmas, stolen from our porches and doors.”
As in, “I can’t take my kid to the park because the junkies are shooting up near the playground and living behind the ball fields.”
I don’t know about your neighborhoods, but the River Wards and the Lower Northeast are under attack. The addicts are robbing, stealing, nodding out, and overdosing everywhere.
My Facebook post went viral and the majority of people who live in my neighborhood backed me up 1,000 percent. It was when a few addicts in recovery took offense to my using the word junkie. I think they wanted me to use the words saint or misunderstood hero.
They shared my post over 1,000 times and posted a picture of our home and address on Facebook with the directive to “go swing a bat at her.”
They called me a racist for calling the dealer by his name. They bashed the community of Bridesburg for having way too many American flags out on our houses.
Enraged that I called the addict on my pavement a mean name, they shot back a hundred times harder calling me fat, ugly, stupid, white trash, racist, and Republican.
I arrived home on Sunday night to find a group of people at our house. It turns out they were supporters: wives of police officers, neighbors and friends who wanted to protect me. The next morning, I saw a pickup truck parked where Julio tried to deal heroin. It was 4:30 a.m. The driver rolled down the window and flashed a badge. He was a retired Philly cop who lives in Somerton. He read my post and all the threats that came with it. He had stood watch all night, making sure we were not attacked.
I tried to offer him coffee, make him a pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich. He declined. He did, however, accept a Wawa gift card.
“Don’t worry,” he quipped. “I won’t give it to the junkies.”
Patty-Pat Kozlowski is a lifelong resident of the River Wards. She’s running for state representative in the 177th District and hopes to start a softball team in Harrisburg. email@example.com