Returning from a trip, I came back one night to a big house all to myself in the middle of Winter in Montreal, many years ago. The family was still on a different continent. I put my passport, money and other valuables spread out on the dinner table by the kitchen, along with baggages nearby. After some dinner and TV, I turned on the house security system and went to bed with my bedroom door locked. I was very tired. This was the end of a 24 hour journey across the planet.
I woke up at 4am. I was jet lagged. I went downstairs and noticed the lights on the alarm system control panel were flashing. I started to worry. I went to the phone on the kitchen counter and saw on the call display that the alarm company had called in the middle of the night, as did a family friend. My money, passport and valuables remained untouched on the dinner table by the kitchen. I opened the blinds of the large window/door that lead to the backyard, and noticed a lot of footsteps in the snow. This meant that there must have been one or more people that came to the backyard and tried to come into the house through the back door.
I immediately thought of my music studio in the basement. I ran downstairs, went into the room where I had all of my equipment. Nothing was touched. I then thought to go to the large TV room in the basement. I walked in and before me, was the home intruder in the flesh. It was a dark, thin person, sitting on one of the couches. He was asleep.
The Intruder in the Basement
Somebody had broken into my family home that night while I was asleep, and was taking a nap on one of the couches in the basement. I didn’t recognize him at first, but when I looked closer, I realized it was Coco, a family friend that once lived with us in this very house for a while before he went on to college. “Coco” is the name I’m giving him because he liked to use coconut hair oil. He had the thickest head of hair I had ever seen, but the price was the ever present scent of coconut. This night I hadn’t recognized him at first because he was incredibly thin and looked like a train wreck. I knew a lot about his drug abuse history, but this was a new extreme.
I woke him up, asking “What the hell are you doing in my house?”
Instantly he got into his story. He was supposed to meet another friend nearby, but that friend didn’t show. It was -20 degrees celsius outside, it was too late to catch any bus, he didn’t have any cash so he decided to come to my house. Nobody opened the door when he rang the bell, all the doors were locked, so instead of dying in the cold he broke the window to the basement door and let himself in.
The alarm system was activated so the alarm rang. He said he had knocked on my bedroom door but I didn’t respond. When the police came, he explained to them that he lived here, and that he had lost his keys. The police believed him and left. Coco told me that he could have broken into my bedroom and stuck a needle in me, rob my family home, but instead, he decided to leave my belongings untouched and wait until I awoke.
Coco’s story made sense to me, though I wondered what if he had killed me or something, keeping me locked in my bedroom where I was actually sleeping through this whole thing? The police were gullible enough to believe this actual intruder’s story was true? Yes. In any case, he used to be the best and only friend I had for a short period years ago. I wouldn’t have wanted him to freeze outside, so I said it was okay and gave him a hug.
So we went upstairs and sat in the kitchen, I offered him some food. He said he couldn’t eat. He was a heroin addict and he would just throw it all up. I knew about his heroin addiction, but he then told me about how he had been homeless. He told me how I didn’t know pain and suffering until I woke up one day next to a garbage bin in an alley. He told me about how he would try to sleep in bus stations and write at night.
I asked Coco: “Why don’t you just call your parents back home, and ask them to send you a ticket?”
“Rizwan, I couldn’t take the two days it would take to travel there, without heroin.”
That astounded me. His addiction was so intense that he would prefer to be sleeping among garbage, homeless, than be back in his home country, safe and sound with his parents… but sober.
Adventures in Babysitting a Heroin Addict
I told him I could let him stay for two weeks only since my family was returning eventually. He didn’t want me to tell my family that he had broken in and was staying with me. It was known to everyone that he was into some dangerous business.
The next few weeks were weird. I couldn’t allow him to be alone at the house, while I went to my classes at Concordia University. Sometimes I’d give him money. He would go downtown, hang around in malls, until the time I told him he could come home. Either I’d already be home by then, or we’d meet. I would give him food, we’d hang out and talk sometimes, or I’d work on music as he would watch TV. This was a far cry from when we were friends, doing things like going to my first rock concert ever, Pink Floyd.
One night as we chilled in my music studio, Coco took half of an ecstasy pill he had. He told me this would calm him down, help him cope since he didn’t have much heroin. He asked me to play something on the keyboard, that would blow his mind.
I chose a sound on my synthesizer, pressed record on my multi track recorder, and began improvising a musical piece on the keyboard. I played this 3-5 minutes piece that I made up on the spot, and he was loving it. By the end he asked: “Have you done ecstasy? Oh My God! You must have! Otherwise you wouldn’t have played the way you did… It as amazing… you knew exactly what I wanted to hear.”
I said: “No, I’ve never done ecstasy man!”
I ended up entitling that musical piece ‘Abyss’. I still listen to it sometimes.
We had hung out once at a pool hall during this time. We met up and started playing, but then Coco needed some time in the bathroom. After he returned, he said:
“You know what I was doing in the bathroom, don’t you?”
I replied: “Yup…”.
He kept telling me that he needed the drug just to feel normal, otherwise he would be in agony.
We continued playing pool, but all of a sudden, as he stood, he vomited a bit. I learnt this was not so unusual with heroin addicts, but it was embarrassing while at the pool hall. The bartender had noticed.
Run Like a Cheetah
My family came back eventually, and Coco left before they did. We later found out that he stole a credit card we had received in the mail and used it.
The last time I saw him, I was sitting on the passenger side of my friend’s car as we rode on st-Catherine street in downtown Montreal. The friend I was with, is the same friend that Coco was allegedly supposed to meet on the night he broke into my home. Coco also owed him money.
Upon seeing Coco walking from behind, I rolled down the window and yelled in a “gangsta” accent for fun:
“Yo! Where’s my money???”
Coco didn’t bother to turn around to see who asked that question to whom, he just started running like a cheetah.
This was funny at the time, but I realized later the fear Coco must have felt. He owed money to so many people, probably dangerous ones too. He lied, he stole, he did whatever he could to live another day. The person that yelled could have had a gun as far as he was concerned. But if he had turned around, he would have seen two friends smiling at him in a car.
Eventually Coco went ‘back home’ and cleaned up his act. It’s been many years since that night he broke into the house. I haven’t seen him since he ran like a cheetah but I wish him the best.
If one may take anything from this story: Stay the hell away from heroin!