Jake B. came into my life around 1993. At the time that I arrived in San Francisco, scores of young adults and teenage run always were arriving on a daily basis from all over the United States. San Francisco was alive with activity at the time. As my boyfriend at the time and I would walk around the city drinking our 40oz bottles of Mickeys in brown paper bags, we saw flyers for big shows we would never see because we were way too strung out. Beer was a cheap and easy socially acceptable way to get the sick off. It never did much except make you feel slightly full and sick to you stomach. It was fine if you were splitting a beer. A full tall can was enough if you were alone.
When the boyfriend and I went our separate ways after a successful methadone detox, I felt like I needed a change of scenery. I needed a new hotel to live in. Plus, I was behind on the rent at the Civic Center. I moved into the horror show known as the Ambassador Hotel. Within a week of my relocation, I became a tweaker injecting speed as much as possible in the same way that I had used heroin. At night, I would wander the hallways in search of drugs and adventure. That was the first place I saw Jake. I didn't meet him. It was more a tuft of curly blonde hair popping out of a room. I knew that he was new in town. All the Tenderloin street kids became familiar with each other through various connections. Here he was- a new Southern bumpkin from Alabama. I felt bad for him as i felt bad for my own situation. Like his hair, he looked like a lamb in the den of lions.
I am not sure when I meet Jake again but he became a regular fixture in my life when I gave up on living inside. I became friendly with all the Polk Street Hustlers. They would come to my shopping cart and hit me up for clean water, syringes, companionship or to share their drugs. I liked three kinds of dope: my dope, your dope, and more dope. Jake could relate to this love of the drugs. He used to tell me how much he hated speed. It always brought out a side of him that was tortured and he would pick at himself. Speed makes you think, think, think while heroin makes you forget the world for a brief moment. He would always ask me "how can you do that shit?" as I would change my clothes over and over in my meth comas. He would try to get me to eat something. One day I was rearranging all my belongs for the umpteenth time. Jake came see me in his Teva sandals and grateful dead shirt. The symbols of San Francisco were there except we were a block away from the hustler alley, another tourist attraction. As he tried to rearrange my things with me, I got increasingly frustrated by his interference. "Quit fucking with me Jake." He backed off. In his Southern accent, he cracked "I'm not trying to fuck with you Tracey. I'm just trying to fuck you". I respected his honesty but that was the last thing on my mind.
Jake had a birthday so he got a piercing in his dick. In my addiction, I did not find dick appealing let alone a huge dick with an enormous piercing. I imagined that freakishly large penis tearing me to shreds. No no no. There were people interested in Jake- the dates were VERY, VERY interested in him. I have rarely seen a hustler pull in money like him. Men in search of encounters would flag him down just to SEE it. He had a reputation as both well endowed and as rough trade. I am not sure many of the dates knew what they were getting themselves into if they took him home. Many time the dates would give him speed to "enhance" the sex. Unfortunately for them, they were more likely to have to pull Jake out of the bathroom where he would be picking at himself than to have sex. Jake would be wandering the area a few days later tore up, skinny, and in search of heroin.
When I went back to heroin after waaay too much time awake. Jake was living at the Hartland hotel. Jake was the kind of driend I needed- he was the kind of person who used a ton of drugs, up to four grams a day some times. I person that uses that much drugs usually doesn't mind putting in money with a person with a lesser habit like me. I could take my little twenty dollars and really come up if he went to his pager connection. We would walk back to his place and hang out. It was nice to be inside for a little while and be normal. Jake had action figures, and books, and seemed much more normal at those moments. He was so stable in fact, he vouched for me for supervised pretrial release for one of the many times I was arrested in my addiction.
I didn't see Jake much while they were filming the movie. He was living with someone. Jake got very depressed and hard to deal with at times. He was a whirlwind of emotions: screaming and crying and crying and screaming to the point that the host might decide to send Jake back into the streets where he felt he belonged at the time.
Years went by, I got clean. I found a message on my message pad. A person named Jake B. called about a job, He was in a program doing well. He would even work as a volunteer. A few months later I saw Jake at Gilman Street which is a drug and alcohol free venue in Berkeley California famous for pun rock shows. Jake was working there as a volunteer. He told me he was going to meetings and staying clean. "I'm tapering off methadone too Tracey." Why, I thought to myself. "How come?" I already knew the reason. People are very judgemental about methadone. Jake felt he was not really clean because other people were telling him he was not because of the methadone. He has been tapering slowly but was starting to have a hard time. He told me about his girlfriend, about going to City College. I wished him well and went my way.
The last time I saw Jake he was slumped down on market street wearing the same sweatshirt from the last time I had seen him. He was dirty and his face had pick marks. He looked defeated, as if life had finally been sucked from him. He had tapered off methadone and relapsed on heroin. I was on my way some where but I told him it would be okay, just get back on. I had hoped the same people who encouraged him to get off would now help him get on.
A few weeks later, a friend told me Jake had died in his room alone. He was been dead in the room for four days when the police had to open the room. Two people from recovery were there, just too late to save him. I was pissed, so pissed at his memorial service. Your judgements killed him. Why couldn't he be clean the way he needed it? Within a few months I got a job at a free methadone clinic, the one Jake had attended because I wanted to be the person that taught others recovery is what makes you better, makes you have a better life. I will never forget him and his memory inspires my work today.