Reporting on drugs
This is a conversation with someone like you. They’ll walk across City Campus on any given day. You will not know who they are, and they will not know you. They’re not new to the University, but neither have they been here long. I did not ask their name, and they did not give it. No name, no face, no identity. For this moment only, we were not strangers, but I also knew nothing of them.
They grew up out of Auckland. Two parents, loving and stable for the most part. Finished schooling as most of us did and came to Auckland to pursue a dream. Covid hit properly at the end of 2021, and life got tough. Work was hard to find, the world got smaller, and the problems larger. So, like all of us, they found a way to cope. Unlike the rest of us, perhaps, they already had people in their group involved with drugs. All they had to do was ask for a bit of help, and they would be passed up the chain. Problems, costs, and events just came one after the other. They reached the very limits of what they could do. One day it got too much, and they made the call.
They’re coy on exactly how much of any substance they might move at any given time, claiming it depends on “availability, demand, what’s going on in my life,” which sounds very similar to any small business. Apparently, it is mostly party pills that are sold and “ a bit of weed here and there, with other stuff on the side.” The average price per pill is reportedly about $40. They could sell cheaper, apparently, if the gangs got involved. But that’s too much for our self-described “small-time” dealer. They could make more from “harder” narcotics as well but that’s off the table.
Genuinely, they believe they don’t cause harm. “People come, they get something to make them and their friends have a better night, and then they’re back again later.” These pills were legal up to 2008, and that does not seem to have been long enough to shake them from the ethos. Some people interviewed outside the conversation enjoy the hallucinations. The pills bring a euphoric high, increased sociability, as well as nausea and a chance of seizures. For some, a night out just is not fun enough for them, and they need something else. Beyond alcohol, because that seems a societal standard at this point, people want drugs.
They would never use their own drugs, but they get some from a friend when they want. “Keeping work away from fun, yeah?” It can be a stressful life sometimes: they’ve got constant worries, their heart jumps a little when exchanging, and they still have to manage Uni work. They know the maximum sentence is life but figure they’ll probably get three years of “Home-D or something.” I thought it best not to mention the courts will only give one year, and at three years, it is a jail sentence. And a jail sentence early in life can turn into an eventual life sentence later.
All that it would take for them to stop is a “real job” once they finish their degree. Leave the whole world behind them and start with something new. They will not be putting it on their CV, so they tell me. They might continue to use it from time to time if only to help with stress and relaxation. But they see nothing wrong with it. It is how they cope.
It was at this point that they threatened to end the conversation. I was being too nosy for their liking. Their choices were none of my business. So we swapped topics and considered a hypothetical situation where it was possible to make your life on selling drugs alone, where they could live a life free of all the constraints that other professions bring. And I got laughed at. Quite loudly, in fact.
Because it is important to remember that for some, dealing is a way of life. When you’re moving, you have to do so knowing that someone might ask to see what’s in your bag. You have to know in that moment whether you could get away or whether that’s the end. Your job is up, and “you’re fired.” But unlike other jobs, you can not shift, try a different employer, profession maybe. The government “sends you to the big house,” you do your stay, and you come out. Then, if it’s your life, you probably go right back to the old job. It is why, they tell me, it is important to get out, and make sure you have a goal for the end. This is just their student job.
And then I asked, if they had been their friend, who brought them to this life, would they have brought someone else into this life? The answer was simply, “Nah, probably not.” It seems to be a hard life, but one that trains you to believe it is the only option for the moment. They went quiet, very quiet, and told me a story. It was long-winded, and there were a lot of mostly irrelevant details, but the main core was that they saw someone, sitting on Queen St, that they felt looked so close to someone they’d sold to before, that they couldn’t sell for a week. Every time they thought about it, they saw someone else lying on the street.
In the end, they decided that it was the customer’s choice to buy. That they should not hold themself accountable for the choices that other people make around them. There’s “100 people like me, near me,” they say, and if they don’t sell, then someone else will be prepared to fill in the gap. In the end, it’s the choice to keep moving yourself forwards too.
We commiserated for a moment. Strangers preparing to make ourselves estranged again. Said our goodbyes. Thanked each other for speaking, for listening. We hope never to meet each other face-to-face in our current roles. And that was it. You, one of the readers, spoke to me here, and have your story here now. All the rest of us will go on with our days and you will continue this story, whether we know it or not.