At my first apartment in Toronto, I had a neighbour I will never forget. His room was impossible to miss. It looked like the containment cell where they kept The Incredible Hulk. The door hung off a single hinge, the wood along the edges smashed into splinters, and had enough filled-in foot-shaped holes that it was now made as much of putty as it was of wood. There was a handle, as well, but it didn’t seem to get much use.
His was the room directly across from the elevator, and so the first thing a new resident would see when moving in. It didn’t make a great first impression.
We met him when my roommate moved in. His mother had come along to help and was already in a panic. This was her eldest son, leaving her protection for the first time. She made the mistake of checking the news to see what kind of neighbourhood we were moving into, and was now convinced that, the next time she saw her son, he would riddled with bullets and heroin needles.
The shattered door didn’t make her feel any better. “That’s a crack den,” she said, pointing at it knowingly. She had learned about them on W5. “They’re all over Toronto. People come over for a crack party, and then they never leave.”
She made us promise never to invite anyone over for crack. It was a bad sign. In the morning she had been worried that we might not stay focused on our studies. Within two hours, she had deteriorated to the point that she accepted it as inevitable that we would become addicted to crack, and just wanted to make sure we were clear on the appropriate etiquette.