We Sharpened Our Needles on Stones is truly a different kind of fiction for me. I put myself firmly another’s shoes, to the point of using the first person. The basis for the piece came during my research trip to Thailand and Cambodia, last year.
The afternoon before I was to fly home from Thailand, I met with a group of three men at the Asian Network of People Who Use Drugs; aka: ANPUD– an organization I found on these inter-webs before leaving Seattle. I explained my book project, Crazy Medicine. The ANPUD staff made themselves available to me for an entire afternoon.
Entering the offices of an organization called People Who Use Drugs, I had no idea what to expect. I had explained in advance that I had no moral issues around whatever it was that they did; I just wouldn’t be doing any of it with them. The strongest thing they offered me was coffee.
The three men in the office knew as little about what to expect from me as I did about what to expect from them. Quietly, graciously, each man opened up, sharing personal, political, and organizational stories.
The third to speak began, “I come from middle class family” – a phrase he used several times as he shared his story. He had given me a ruby.
Of course, it took the usual hundreds of revisions to churn out the piece that was finally printed in Spelk. Over the course those hundreds, certain elements of the other men’s stories filtered in, plus my own ideas. But I remain grateful to the ANPUD fellows for their honesty. openness, and willingness.