Friday, November 27, 2015

A first time for everything.

One day, I was sitting next to the Christmas tree in my flannel footie pajamas with Snoopy on them. The next thing I knew, there was a syringe being passed in front of my face.

"Are you ready?" he asked me. What should I say?

In the past hour, I have witnessed my first overdose. The person who injected before me had to get stuck in the shower. He was a tall rocker dude with long hair. He lived out with his parents in a semi rural one story house 45 minutes from the city. He wore motorcycle boots, though he never rode anything except the back of a Honda a few times. He had ripped jeans, a bondage belt, and some type of black t-shirt he got from a concert with the sleeves cut off. His arms were semi developed into muscles. Not from hard work. I am not sure if he ever had a job, but from drumming in various bands around the city. He believed he was going to leave this place one day. He was going to blow this town, forget he ever lived here.

I think we all believed that or secretly wished we could leave Ohio. We didn't want to be living in our parent's house until we got that job that paid for our first shitty apartment. If you didn't go to college, you were expected to work your way up. Go to Taco Bell, go to Kroger. Put in an application, son. Some place where he needed to pull his hair back. Some place where he needed to take out his earrings. He wasn't going to do that. He was going to find a way, anyway to get out of this city. He would go to LA, Atlanta, anywhere but here. Or at least this is what he hoped. Until then, he would be supported by his parents or his girlfriend. They say women can be whores but I saw him get paid for what I assumed must be a big dick and a pretty face. Now that face was blue.

When I pictured an overdose, I imagined someone drifting off into a gentle slumber. I never imagined a person would turn red, then blue, then grip the sides of the coffeetable so hard, they cracked the wood. They were grasping and gasping for their life. I was told later it is called the Death Grip. Some people hold on to things to keep them from smashing their lifeless body on the floor. As he started to slide down, it became clear to all us novice junkies in the room, this was not going to be okay. I hadn't even had my turn yet. This was all of our first time using heroin, with the exception of the people that delivered it to us. They had hung around long enough to help us. They told us to get him in the shower.

As the water poured over this man in his skin tight stretch jeans and boots, I wondered to myself if we are supposed to undress him. Put the cold water on his nuts, we were told. His 6 foot 2 inch frame felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds. Dead weight I suppose. As we dragged him closer to the water, I felt myself question how I got here. A few days ago, I was eating turkey with my family. I was anxious to get outside to take a few puffs of my homemade bowl I crafted out of a diet coke can. Now, I was dealing with a potential murder case. His girlfriend screamed and cried in horror. I suppose she was happy her parents were too drunk downstairs to notice the commotion. Every aspect of this scenario was all fucking bad.

Then , we heard it. That gasp-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Then he wanted to know why in the FUCK he was all wet, angry at us. ANGRY. Isn't that rich? Fucking angry at us. I let my friend and his girlfriend do their hugs as I went back into the bedroom.

I threw myself back down on the floor. Exhaled loudly. What the fuck.

"Are you ready?" he asked me. It was time for me to do my shot.

My heart was beating out of my chest in fear. What could I say really? I was always picked last for the teams in gym class. I was always the kid people crank called on the weekends. No one every saved me a seat in the lunch room. Deep down, I hated myself. Is this the reason I stuck my arm out? No. I wish the reason were that nuanced and complicated. In reality, I just wanted to fucking do it. I was young, I was impulsively. I just wanted to get fucking high. I guess there is a first time for everything. With that fucked up logic, I did what many thought was unthinkable.

"yeah," I told him. "I am ready."

That was that. 25 years ago. Longer ago that many of you have been alive. Everything has changed. Our feelings are the same though. The heroin today is cheaper, more available, and more potent. I hope you make it through this day. I hope you find the strength to find a way to survive what kills so many.
Love Tracey xoxo.

Old Scars

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thank you Blog Readers

We did it. We made it to another Thanksgiving.
We didn't OD and die.
We didn't commit suicide.
We aren't in prison.
We got a third or forth or fifth second chance.
We figured out how to make it to another day.
No matter whether you are:
strung out
hating life
Remember- I love you.
I have been there.
I clawed my way out of that hole.
I hope you are feeling grateful, feeling something
Besides the prick of a syringe
The cold night air
And the desperation of active addiction.

I'm off to make some soup.
In my stove.
In my house.
For my family.
I'm clean today and it feels good.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Commissary Blues

I walked into my cell holding an empty plastic tub and an extra pair of orange pants. The worst part of the kick was spent lying on the cold concrete floor. At various points in the last four days, I prayed for death. This alternated with furious masturbation, the only tool I had to get even a moment of sleep. As I sweated out the last of the delicious toxins that made my life worth living, I felt my legs stick against the surface of the mattress. The fear of moving across the cell to request a shower was real. I wasn't sure if the liquid stool was done evacuating my body with equal force as I had shoved syringes into my skin.

I have known a few girls who turned tricks for food in here. I suppose I wouldn't suck any one's pussy for a candy bar but I would sell my soul for a packet of kool aid type drink. The water here comes out at a minuscule drip from a faucet that is located directly over the shitter. That can't be healthy. When the dry heaves hit me, I wish I had anything besides an empty stomach. My skeletal frame forces itself forward as nothing but foam comes out of my mouth. Fuck this shit. 

The first night, everyone exchanges a "what are you in for." I am being moved out of the "kick tank" and into the main jail. I am no longer as sick as my fellow junkies and helplessly seizing alcoholic sisters. I am free to be shackled at the ankle. I walk a few inches at a time, careful not to pinch my legs. The deputy rolls his eyes at me as if to say "hurry the fuck up". Oh well. I can't walk any faster with this hotly bandaged abscess on my thigh. Hopefully, changing the bandages once a day will be enough to salvage my limb. You can't expect much more from jail health. "This isn't a country club..." the deputy tells me. Yeah, I know asshole. 

As I walk into the main jail, I feel the breeze blow in from the sally port. That smell of recycled air. Women begin gathering at the railing, seeing who has come for a visit. They are sizing me up to see what I can offer them. Drugs? no. The chick in my cell was smoking crack she pulled out of her pussy the first night. Crack, pipe, lighter, the works was up the same place where each of her five kids came out. The drug life ain't glamorous baby, the told herself as her cell mates looked on. She was obligated to share but I could care less about partaking that night. I was high as a kite when they arrested me. I was a greedy bitch, fixing on the nod when the cops rolled up on me. My friend and I both got swooped up. 

"TRACEY..." I see a white girl I know from the street calling to me from the upper tier. I certainly have no desire to be her friend. She promised to send some drugs back inside when she was released. Here she is- back again. Someone will surely touch her up over her debt. Just a matter of time. 

I walk over to my bunk. I am fortunate enough to get a lower one. I open up my locker just in time to here them call for commissary. What the fuck. It is Wednesday- commissary over here is WEDNESDAY. I have nothing coming here. My mom sent a $10 money order to be here by Friday. I will get an indigent bag from commissary. Two envelopes, a pencil, and three jolly ranchers known as "suckies". There will be no spread of ramen and cheetos. No chocolate to mask my pain. I could get a loan known as a "two for one". I get one today and I pay back two. Such limited options. I throw myself down on my bed. I don't have the energy to make it. Five days ago, I was wrapped up in the warm blanket known as heroin. Now, I am sprawled out on my cold, hard cot. Ain't life a bitch? I throw my sweatshirt over my eyes. I pray for just a few minutes of rest. This will be my life for the next six months.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"As Grimey As I Need to Be"

I stopped looking at the world through rose colored glasses many years ago. After the first time you see a 13 year old girl/boy turning tricks for drugs, you world view is never the same. In the early stages, I would ask questions. What happened to you? Who did this to you? Who created this monster? In the later years, I bore witness to it. I bit my tongue in silence as the warm blood pooled in my mouth.

I knew how things like this happened. When I was first getting introduced to drugs, just some weed and booze laced with the occasional T3, I had a friend who introduced me to the darker side. No, not substances but a world that existed beyond the world in which I lived a comfortable existence. I remember his mom telling him "I need my Kools and my 40z. I don't care how you get it". She meant that literally. She did not care. In fact, she must have known her youngest son sometimes turned to prostitution. How else does a 13 year old come home with $40 and a cartoon of cigarettes. She drank herself into a foamy glass of denial while her son sat on hard benches waiting for men to approach him. Teachers, bus drivers, lawyers, and coaches cruised by looking at him, wondering if they should approach. I never went with him. I only knew what happened when he relayed the stories a few years later while we passed the pipe. I only knew that there would be no food in the house that night unless he found someone to buy it for them. I only knew that a family cannot live on nicotine and alcohol alone.

As the cars breeze by, I see the faces. I see the dreams destroyed. The car seats that get brushed aside for a quick blowjob in the car. I see the shadow of the wife in the passenger seat. Her hair brush sits next to the stick shift, waiting for the next time the wind catches her curls the wrong way. I see the sweaty faces of men, their eyes like high beams as the scan the side of the road for a willing, yet inexpensive companion.

"This is the life I chose," he tells me "I get as grimey as I need to be, sweetheart." He counts his money as he walk into the store to get a pack of smokes for his mother.

I shake my head. No. I am not one of these people. I have morals. I won't do x,y,z. Until I do them.
There is a saying among old dope fiends- are you dedicated to the cause? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get the things you need? Are you will to trade your self respect in for powders, rocks, and dollars. Self respect is a vague concept out here. Powders, rocks, and dollars- these are things I can hold in my hand. What is a few moments of agony in exchange for a night filled with blurry glory? I am not sure I can pay all these prices. When I see the working girl with her arm abscessed to the bone, I wonder to myself what is really sold here? Is it sex or the illusion of normalcy? How does one wake up for work at 6:00am and say to oneself "I think I am going to roll down to the sketchiest part of town to get sex. This one, anyone will do".

Seventeen years clean. How can I forget all the things I have seen? How can I bleach my memories to forget about the minister who picked up teenage boys off the street? He would ask them to pray before he paid to suck their cock. How can I forget about the mother who sold her daughter or the father who used to come shoot dope with me and his son. I just don't know, readers. Seventeen years clean and I just can't forget. So I write. I reflect. I remember the moral ambiguity and the depravity that was my daily life.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Until that next time

I hear my children screaming in the other room. What are they fighting about now, I wonder to myself. It could be something as serious as who gets to sit INSIDE the fort or something as insignificant as why did you move my shoe. As I check I them, I quickly adjust the blanket that drapes the tent like structure they have created by stringing together a robe, a blanket, and the corner of a bunk bed. I admire their creativity, although I have to take points off for the overall durability. I pat my son's head as I walk back to my spot on the couch.

The IKEA cover is slightly worn now. We switched it last year. Apparently, tan isn't a good color when you have cats and kids. Who knew?  I had never bought a couch before. The only thing I knew about couches was dragging them up from the curb with the hope that they didn't have bed bugs or scabies. My parents had the nearly the exact same furniture my entire life. Ethan Allen furniture was accented by a la-Z- boy recliner. You knew you had reached the lower middle class when your family got a lazy boy to sit in front of the television. There, in the throne, the paterfamilias could sit and cheer their teams. College football was a staple on Saturday, the NFL on Sunday. In other words, I had an ordinary life. Just like my kids have now.

I dragged the la-Z-Boy up to my apartment. Well, Eric actually helped me drag it up. I had slowly been downgrading over the past two years. I started out with a few nice pieces of furniture and a room mate. Now, I was living in what amounted to a shooting gallery. I had embarrassed my parents again. This time, with a DUI. It was almost a rite of passage in my family to get arrested. It seemed like we all had done it, much to the dismay of my mother. Unlike my siblings, I was still experiencing the prolonged adolescence that started when I took those vicodin my senior year in high school. I was dragging a recliner up from the street, a perfect place to "nod and chill". There would be no football in my apartment, no trappings of success. I had no phone, no tv; just a radio, a few CDs, and a large metal trashcan to puke in that was left by the workmen who had prepped the apartment for a new renter. Next to Jane's Addiction, the Velvet Underground, and Motorhead was a paycheck stub that was gone before it hit the bank, the remnants were left at the bottom of a spoon.

If you would have told me I would have ended up a junkie at 21 years old,  I would have thought you had lost your mind. I was the type of lady who didn't even want you to blow pot smoke in my direction at 15. I was voted "least likely to get laid" at my high school. I got a 31 on my ACT. I was going places in life, right? I have to remind myself. I push myself back into my chair and take a sip of my beer. Hell, I didn't even lose my virginity until I was 17. I was in love with a freckly ginger who carved "Tracey, I wanna be your dog" into his leg with a razor blade to prove he loved me. I guess he didn't. He dumped me a few months later. Everyone fucking leaves. You know the drill. I had so much to live for but I never wanted to live my life alone. The beer is starting to kick in, helping me keep the sick off.

Where am I going to night? How will I eat? How can I see my mother with these bruises on my arms. Exactly, I can't. I just can't do that to her. I will find something, anything. I will eat food left on tables at taco bell or find some left over pizza over when the bars close. Next time, I promise myself I won't spend all my money on my drugs. Next time, things are going to be different. Until the next time.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Poem by Martha Frankel


You want to cloak yourself in your fury, but its too sharp
Like wind on the beach against a bad sunburn
So instead your first layer is the toddler he was,
Grape jelly smeared across his smiling face
Blonde hair sticky and damp
His grandma laughing beside him

You scream his name
And remember him as A Mutant Turtle, A Pirate, Batman
A sword always at the ready
You hold onto that, breathing in the smell of him
The sharpness, before that other smell, that smell of decay, of deceit
That sword, how you wish he could've used it

You’re still seething but next you add on the boy he was on the field
All sinew and charm and goofiness
You’ve forgotten that he was once goofy!
Before the lying, before the stealing, before his mother grabbed him from behind and wouldn’t let go, screaming into the night
Before the lying
Before the stealing
That boy, in his dirt-stained uniform
You wrap yourself in that

You add a layer of grace, for the times it seemed like he would find it
Might find it, please, let him find it, let him know 
A minute of peace in the center of his swirling madness 
The days he dropped the lies and the attitude and admitted
He was scared
You wrap yourself in that

And then it is time to walk out the door
But you know there is something else, and you run back to find it
Your wife calls from the door— “Hurry, we’ll be late!”
You don’t even know what it is you root for in the drawer
Past the tie clips and the golf T’s and buttons and paper clips
Past the coins that say II and VI and X, not even the heaviest, XXVI
Not those, but the cheap white plastic one that says 1 Day
You put that in your left breast pocket, like the sword it is
And go to bury your son