Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bound by blood

I had formulated many good intentions that morning. I truly believed I was going to pay him back that $300. Or was it $250. It was so long ago. It is hard to remember now. He handed me the drugs. The were pre weighed quarter grams and dimes. They were always short on weight which seemed fine because the customers were always short on money. I am not sure how I got set up selling drugs. It seems like a fairly ridiculous proposition to set up a stone cold junkie, let alone a female one, as a person to sell heroin in an open air drug market. The reality was I could always come up with some way to pay my debts.

 I always was running some type of drag because I came to believe my own bullshit was real. I would overcharge or middleman or use the fuck out of my parents because I had the swagger. You owe me BECAUSE. Because my life was fucked. Because I was in pain. Because I had the best in my mind for the people directly around me. Because, Because, Because by this time, I did not know any different. In fact, selling drugs seemed to be a step up in the self esteem. At least I was working for my drugs and my money. I was no longer turning tricks or getting welfare or selling my food stamps (well unless my re-up money came up short). I liked to think of myself as an honest person and I had lost the ability to see what honest was unless it somehow benefitted me.

I learned to lie from my dad. He would lie his fucking ass off. No, I'm not drunk as he staggered into the house. It was his right to drink, you know BECAUSE but it was not something he felt like he could be honest about. Lying to your family. Not only did you drive home drunk but you spent up your money at the bar. He could not be himself. He was always someone and somewhere else. The lying starts to feel like a comfortable pair of shoes. Anything thing else becomes too constricting to have around you. The lies are old and tired and worn yet you become completely unsure how to get anywhere unless they are leading the way. The fear is that the truth is just too painful to accept so you just keep walking until your soles are worn out.

I believed that day I would return the money.

"you have to go to the hospital Daniel" I tell him gently.

He is searching through his bag and tells me "I am not going."

We had been sleeping in a parking garage because it was cold and raining last night. Homeless kids huddled together in piles around the beams that held up the roof to avoid both the rain drops and the cars. As I look at Daniel in the first light, I can see the yellow surrounding his eyes. He has a raging case of Hepatitis A and whatever else he may have contracted on the streets.

"Man I can't find a dry shirt Trace." He leans over and gives me a kiss "I have to piss"

I am freezing. I am well and I am freezing. I am making a few hundred dollars a day selling drugs in the early mornings and I am sleeping in a fucking parking garage. Because. Two habits.

I hear a moaning semi crying noise and I know it is Daniel. I had the Hep before, I knew what happened. I had been laid up in a hotel for almost a month with brown piss and white shit, yellow eyes, and a dope habit .His was much worse. His piss is either brown or full of blood. He might have an infection from holding it all day. Yet another fucking thing. And he won't go to the hospital because they will only give him 10 mg of methadone. I get up, grab his bag and walk over to the side of the garage were he has tears in his eyes from the pain.

"I'm going to do it babe " I tell him "I'm going to fucking do it."

And so a plan was formed. One of these dealers was going to give me a sack and I was going to walk off with it. I was not going to stand there. I was not going to serve people for three hours and get a spare bag or two for all my felonies. I was taking everything and we were going to the hospital. And that was what happened. He laid up in the hospital and shot up in his IVs while I slept in the bushes out somewhere far from the Tenderloin. He sold some of the dope to other patients and I got my mom to send me money to cover some of the costs. I would lay next to the side of a church fixing dope, hiding from everyone until I had the money to repay so someone did not kick my head in over a bag the dealer offered for anyone that would beat my ass. The hospital kicked me out every day. Not because I was a bad influence but because I was not his family. But we were. We were bound by blood and lies and pain. What else makes a family?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Metamorphosis

I sat on the edge of the bed eating my little Debbie's Swiss rolls completely transfixed. I nibbled on the chocolate coating with no expectations that these delicious sweet treats might perk me up for a moment. I haven't eaten in a few days. The host offered me some of her oatmeal and eggs she got from the food pantry but those both require heating or cooking on a hot plate. I am tweaking too hard and my hand would be too unsteady. 

My host begins the process in her elaborate satin robe. Though we are in a dingy little piss in the sink hotel, she has decorated this place to the point I feel I have been transported to another place where beauty still exists. She has wall hangings of orchids and curtains covering the one window with lacy accents. Her sink is surrounded by Japanese dividers and the closet has a forest green futon on the floor so friends can crash there. The bed has a comforter, duvet, shams, and a beauty jar where men can leave tips. 

I would not be rude enough as to presume to watch her tuck. That part did not exist to me. I saw nothing masculine about her. I was embarrassed for her that the tricks insisted on the presence of her former self. They humiliated her by fumbling for it under her gowns. She was fabulous to me. After the waxing, plucking, and tucking there would be some fucking for money. These things I understood because I did them myself. She was Vikki with two k s. Don't get it confused. She seemed smaller than me but her personality was much bigger. She wanted me to sit with her for two hours while she got outdoor ready. 

I never minded walking with her. I wondered how she felt about me. I was always tweaking or nodding. I could not have been good company. She was not much of a drug addict either. She came here to be herself and had lost everything  in the process as so many people do. 

"I need to go back to my room Vikki" I said as l headed for the door. 

She went in her make up bag and handed me a clean rig. 

"Just come right back " she said gingerly as she smiled at me. She liked me, my company and I loved her. 

She knew I was getting sick. I couldn't take much more. She kept rigs, condoms, pipes, and other party favors for the dates. Sometimes I had to come down and help hit them. She always tipped me $5. She knew how to keep everyone happy except for herself. 

The only time I hear Ms. Vikki curse was the night she had a dead trick in her room. I awoke to a pounding on the door. 

Bang, Bang, Bang! 

"Get up! Bitch get up!"

I had passed out slummed over on top of some magazines, Cheetos, and a cooker. I had cheese dust all over my face. I was brushing it off. It was dark. I had no curtain so the streetlight filled my room

BANG BANG BANG. Ok seriously who is this. The police aren't this insistent. Fuck. 

I look out the peep hole. Ms Vikki is there with her black bettie page wig leaning to the slightly to the side. I was shocked to sea her undone 

I slide off the three deadbolts. I put extra on so I wouldn't get raped in this shit hole. She grabs my arm and starts dragging me down the hall. 

As she fumbles for her key she tells me in a loud whisper "Bitch I messed  up this time."

I thought she was talking to me but she really was talking to herself which is fine because everyone at the New Pacific Hotel was crazy from something. And there! Ah ha! He was laid out at the end of the bed. I tried not to notice the panties he had on and his hairy body. He still had on his work shirt and necktie. The sleeve was rolled up and the blood was still drying from the needle stick. 

I grab his neck and ask "what did you give him?!" 

She pushes me all the way in and shuts the door as she tells me " I didn't give that man anything. He brought his own stuff. " she is pissed that I assumed she had drugs. I know, the nerve of me when there is a dead trick on the floor. 

I start to slap the shit out of him then I notice he isn't all the way dead. He is slightly ashy but the color is in the beds of his finger nails. I push his body over to the ground. Breathe, chest compressions, AWAKE! I get the gold fucking star. 

She leans down fixes her wig and craddles his face "baby" she tells him "you came back to me!" 

Suddenly I feel myself getting pushed out the door. She is strong, Ms Vikki. The pushed me out the door damnit. I didn't even get to get some of what he had! 

As I walk down the hallway, I realize I did not even lock or shut my door. Some fucking crack cock roach is peeking in there. 

"Fuck off Jimmy" I push him out of the doorway. " I don't have any matches" 
I had been busy saving the day. I felt good for a few minutes and I know Ms Vikki will tip me later. Saving a trick is money in the bank. 

This is a true story only Ms Vikki had another name and she was freaking fabulous 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

In the era of AIDS

What was it like?

“Don’t use that needle after me”, I say “ I think I got that shit”

She smiles and continues “If you go, I want to go too!”

I snap out of a nod and snatch the needle from her hand. She is nineteen and traveling from Oregon or New Orleans. I get them all confused. I am letting her crash with me a few days. She thinks she is in love with me because I am nice to her. She will leave me soon. She just does not know it yet. A pimp might snatch her up. He will sniff out that she left home because she was being molested by her step father. She is eager to please with no boundaries. Or she will hop the next freight train and run off with some squatter boy named Spike that promises better times ahead in the next city.

“You cannot use my rig.” I pat her head like a child “ use this one.”

I check the cap to see if it is sealed and hand her a new syringe. She thinks she is in love with me. She thinks she is hooked on heroin yet gets high off my cottons. I cannot afford to keep her if she gets a real habit. My sugar daddy will not approve unless she is willing to pull another double with me. The dude got to watch her for a split second. It was mostly smoke a mirrors. I cannot let this girl become like me. Because I half way care for her.

I live in the era of AIDS. There is no HIV it seems because It takes people so quickly. No cure no meds. People dying all around me. The coroner  is picking a new person up daily. There are three floors of death here. I got a room on the third floor. I moved in after the last hotel forced me to move after 28 days so I would not get renters' rights. I had my cash in hand provided by my seventy year old benefactor.

 On this floor, one room has a hospital bed. I can see the young Puerto Rican man in there when his dead bolt is on and the door is propped open. After his care giver leaves, the roaches crawl in at night. The bring him crack that I suppose he begs for since he cannot get out of bed. A few rooms down is the mother with her two boys. Well the room is hers but she is out somewhere turning tricks. The boys are eating her donated meals and eating cereal with no milk. I will see the boys again five years later outside on this same block selling crack and her hanging on to one sleeve begging for a hit.

I venture down the hall. The drag queen is half dressed in his nightgown with some type of crusted stain on the satin in the back. She is tweaking through the garbage cans looking to see what treasures are to be had in them. She is always friendly to me and gives me her extra AIDS meals so at least I can eat something. She lives with her part time lover part time hustler. He is a gay for pay bag boy that tricks with the dealer down the hall. He disappears for days at a time but claims to lover her/him whatever identity miss thang has going that day. My next door neighbor is a sex offender with a long rap sheet. I found this out from the couple across the hall. They are married with a young child they will eventually lose to Child protective services.
And her I am. With her. In my room. I made the mistake of sharing needles with my neighbors. I was from Ohio. I was young and na├»ve. I never head about HIV in the Regan Era except to learn that I was immune because my family was Republican and not gay. That was a disease that happened to “other people”. Yet here I am. And I think I got that shit. And she is so stupid, she says she doesn’t care.

“Will you cuddle with me” she mumbles.

I can tell she is high because she is scratching her face.

I whisper to her “Of course I will”  as I pull her on the bed.

I ended up testing negative for HIV and the pimp found her. She died of an OD in 1999.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I woke up in a pool of blood

I woke up one morning in a pool of blood. Well, it wasn't actually morning it was still the middle of the night, I had set off down the hall of my hotel to use the bathtub. I needed a place with bright lights so I could get my hit. I would soak my body in the water. Then I would let it drain out then search for a vein. This was the only time people were not pounding on the door to use the bathroom. It had no toilet but it did have a lock. People would congregate in here in groups of threes and fours to pass the crack pipe in peace. The room was a hot box with no windows and no natural light. The would get spooked and come out in a puff of smoke like an exit from the stages of hell.

I must have been up for a few days or maybe it just felt like this to me. The days blending into night back into days. I was selling heroin at the time. It had seemed like a dream job minus people trying to cut my throat to get me drugs. The dealers used to send out four packages. The Mexican runners had one a piece. Then there was two dope fiends that would serve the others. The deals were made fast and furious. You only had three hours tops to make all your sales before these guys were packing it in to go home. The street dealers had girlfriends and families out in the East Bay.

Anyway I fell asleep or passed out or something. The klonopin didn't help. I woke up in a pool of blood with a needle in my hand. Did I cut my wrist? Did I hit an artery? There is no water in the tub. I cracked my fucking head trying to get out of the tub. I feel it now, the pounding and I'm seeing the droplets lead up to my shoulder. I suppose the beer didn't help either. I wish there was someone to call to help me but I had dead bolted the door. Ha! The irony is not lost here. 

When I reach up to touch my temple, I feel the wound has started forming a scab. I guess I must have reached to empty out the water and hit my head and knocked myself unconscious. I hear a pounding, a pounding in my head. I hear a pounding. 

"Bitch, what the fuck are you doing in there...?" I hear the night manager scream affectionately. He charges people five dollars a head to come in here and smoke their shit.

I pull myself up. The world starts spinning. 

I weakly reply "fuck you Archie. I paid already. Give me five mins." 

I feel the chills roll up my spine. I cracked my head and I am fucking dope sick. I never got the hit. Another start to another fucked up day. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Guest Post- Camron

December 2012
The generic dun dun duns of some pop star from senior year of high school fills my eardrums. It reminds me of a happier time. A time when if I at least didn't have direction in life, I felt some misguided sense of purpose. Even if it was only to push her against a parked car, pants sagging that half-assed, wannabe-gangster sag I tried to rock back in the day, kissing her with everything I had. And a little something extra borrowed from tomorrow, thanks to the mixture of cocaine and oxycodone slowly filling me with its indescribable euphoria. 

May 2013
I'm dope sick. Again. Why do I do this to myself? Do I enjoy lying to everyone who cares about me? No. Not in the slightest. Do I think about the fact that I've overdosed twice? Sometimes. Do I remember that time at old john's in the Windsor where I was more concerned about getting off - my goddamn veins not giving up even the slightest hint of that telltale ruby red plume - than calling 911 for the chick dying next to me? Yeah, but that's the thing about heroin. And cocaine. And methamphetamine. Substances that I draw up into a hypodermic needle on a near daily basis are excellent at helping me ignore how far I've fallen. 

August 2012
I sit up, wiping the sleep from my eyes, noticing that I'm already sniffling - one of the signs of the lack of opiates in my body. I just need one shot. Then I'll tell dad I need to get help. I won't hustle the sick fiend who I middleman for, for a quick forty bucks. I won't boost from target or the Microsoft store or from Apple. I won't rip and run and slang dope or coke or crystal. I won't try and organize a robbery of my dealer. I won't cop a Glock in the point because I'm scared that S from Jones and Eddy is serious about murdering my family over a deal gone wrong. I'll go back to the economics textbooks I sold back at Vassar for five Murder bags. Their crystalline off-white powder interior being the only salvation for the shitstorm that was brewing around me. Tomorrow, I will do all of that. Tomorrow, I will start on the long road to redemption. But today? Today man, I'm just trying to get high. 

January 2009
My tango with narcotics started early. Things were a bit different for me, though. I wasn't your typical addict. Although I didn't take things to excess - in the beginning at least, I did feel the need to try every goddamn substance at least once. I remember the late afternoon when I bought cocaine for the first time. D and S standing by me, nervously excited to watch their close friend try yack. Funny thing is, I hated it.

 I'd tried opiates before, buying Vicodin off one of the hipster kids at my high school. Spacey, is the only word that can aptly describe how I felt. No nodding, no euphoria, just boredom. Maybe opiates weren't my thing? Hah. Sadly, I wouldn't let myself off that easily. Next up was oxycontin around January of '10. It was a school night. I remember chopping the pumpkin colored pill into squares. Popping one. Then a second. Then the third. Then the final fourth. Fifteen minutes later I was flying. I told myself words that still haunt me, "this is how I'm supposed to feel... forever." 

I managed to get through high school on the honor roll, landing acceptances at top universities across the country. All the while, more and more oxycodone found its way into my system. First through my mouth and later up my nose. I found that I did better work on oxy. I was a more enjoyable person to be around. My parents commented on my more motivated nature. Teachers and friends doted. After leaving my girlfriend of two plus years after a weekend of MDMA use, I went for anyone who came my way. Pint of that good sailor. Four 30's up the nose. A Xanax bar or two, and I was no longer in control of my own decisions. Things went well for a time, until I began noticing that more and more days out of the week I found myself driving over to T's place for the $100, then $200, and later $400 purchases. Then came the cocaine. I don't remember most of the summer of 2011 - it's mostly a drug-addled haze, save for a few brief spurts of sobriety - the lucidity being before my morning dose, or in the wee hours of the night, some unknown stranger snoring away on my chest. M? S? Who the fuck even knew. I burned through the graduation money fast. $2,000 - gone in a week and a half. Soon after, I began moving cocaine and marijuana for a dealer that lived down the street - J. With a mixture of marijuana and cocaine sales filling my days, I barely noticed that I was drifting away from my friends who didn't use, along with - something any addict can relate to - the use of my drugs of choice to self medicate depression. I'd been hanging with this chick C - a little older than me, blonde, striking as all hell. She'd dropped her man and moved to me oh so goddamn fast. So fast, that I got caught up in the raw sexuality of it all - the fierce passion of seeing someone older than you, that I didn't pick up on the fact that roles could be switched in an instant. I could easily become that dropped man - and oh indeed I did. Fast forward two weeks, and I'm slamming the bathroom door in the face of one of my best friends - J - as I crush down six blues on the edge of the sink. Insufflating the powdered oxycodone long and hard - making sure every bit of opiate pleasure reached my brain, 'cause Lord knows I needed it. I wanted to forget. I wanted to not feel. 

July 2011
"So I know this is out of the blue, but I'm near your house and my hand is bleeding like a motherfucker from dicing tuna - what's up?" That was the first time I'd texted F. I'd been drinking and doing pills, showing up loaded out of my mind at K's, where Camron, the great and boastful chef, had promised to cook the girls dinner. Halfway through a brown sugar crusted pot roast with tuna tartar on the side I nearly sliced my thumb clean off. It hurt something vicious. I howled in pain, reaching with my good hand into my coin pocket - hoping, praying, that I'd feel something blue and round. No dice. "Fuck this," I mumbled quietly, my voice filled with vitriolic hate, as I served the girls their food and turned to leave without even as much as a goodbye. Farah talked me through bandaging up my hand. A date to hang out was set. However, rule one of addiction - no matter how good your intentions may be, the drugs always come first. I would end up lying to, hurting, and utterly fucking up beyond any semblance of fixture a relationship that meant the world to me. 

January 2013
The pop music again fills my ears. This time accompanied by a crescendo of heavy bass. Building, building, building. My emotions are running wild. And it drops. It's an auditory orgasm. I look at the date the Kaskade track was released. 2011. My heart sinks. One of my biggest regrets is losing my interest in music. Only in the throes of withdrawal does music sound this fantastic. I switch the song to some of that good Oakland rap. The thick, deep voice of some soul wholly unknown to me fills my eardrums. I am calmed by the lyrics - guns, moving weight, pushing dope, coke, crystal, gang banging, somehow it makes what I do day in and day out that much more... okay? Allowed? Innocent? Any one of these words could fit the bill of what my addict mind hopes to achieve by listening to a song that glorifies this pain. And yet, on I go. One foot after the other. A Jackson rolled up tight in my right hand, on my way to get right. 

December 2011
2am. I was supposed to be home long ago. I don't care. It's her and I. We're listening to Adele's "someone like you" - foreshadowing what's to come, perhaps? We kiss and kiss and goddamnit if we don't kiss some more. I look into those dark brown eyes, pushing her hair out of the way, taking in her beauty. I tell her I love her and at this moment, with an opiate addiction and my life going to hell fast, I know more than anything that I mean it. I want to get clean for her. We part ways and I drive to T's for more pills. I cry driving home, tempted to throw the pills out the window, but without the willpower to actually do it. Another failed attempt at taking the steps necessary to get clean. Distraught, I park, go into my room, and pass out into opiated bliss. 

June 2012
I walk down minna to sixth street. A gram of shit sludge heroin palmed in my hand, a bag of needles in the other. I tread lightly over the worn cement - stepping over the multitude of bodies strewn about. Men and women living in a world wholly lost upon the rest of San Francisco. A sight to be pitied by the upper class of pacific heights. I take a seat on the aged cement next to a haggard looking middle aged woman digging for a vein fruitlessly. She curses under her breath as the needle becomes duller and duller. I know that she's just gonna end up sticking the needle into her thigh muscle and pushing gingerly down on the plunger. Muscling, as it's known. I'm not at that point yet. If I ever get there, I'll stop, I tell myself knowing full well it's an utter lie. I drop the sticky black chunk into the metal cooker, squirting water on top - finally heating the mixture until melted and mixed with the water. Black sludge indeed. I drop a balled up piece of cotton into the mix and finally insert my needle, drawing up the obsidian black mixture into my rig - motions practiced many a time prior. I effortlessly slide the spike into my forearm. I draw back and smile as the hot, red blood shoots up the needle's neck, streaking the black with flecks of crimson. I slam the plunger down, oblivious to any legitimate worry of an overdose. One, two, three, four, tingle. tingle. My face is flushed and I feel pins and needles everywhere. It's better than sex. I feel like I've been dipped in syrup. All worries and fears are erased. As I stand up and begin to walk away a harsh, bright light shines on me. I try to run inside the Auburn SRO, but these cops are quick as all hell. Within seconds I'm forced against the wall by some cop on the Tenderloin beat. Bracelets slapped on. Crunch. I wince as they're slapped on extra tight. Nothing even remotely resembling a worry enters my mind. With all the narcotics I'd purchased now flowing freely through my bloodstream there is no way I could possibly be taken down to 850 Bryant St. and arrested. After a few minutes of being searched and questioned, I'm released. 

December 2011
"Why can't you fuck me like you don't love me?" I'm baffled at the statement. My mind races. My heart pumps. What do I say back? I'm sorry? The tears begin to flow, hot and salty. The backsliding begins slowly, seductively, kinda like good heroin. Within a week of being back at school I'm quickly burning through the cash I left San Francisco with. I fucked up this time. Not that I haven't in the past, but I asked her to mail me a Schedule I substance across state lines - a felony. F's parents punish her harshly. When I get the call concerning what went down I'm in E's room at Vassar trying to bargain my way toward some cheap Adderal. When F hangs up on me I feel both nothing and everything. I'm bawling. My relationship is done. What's left to do? I call the oxy man. Nothing. I wish it didn't have to come to this, but I remember down to the dot what I did that night. I bought heroin and injected it. The 18th of January 2012. $140 for a gram in upstate New York. I snorted five of the glassine bags. Nothing. I still felt like shit. I googled to see if the local Rite Aid was open. I knew what I was going to. I pounded a bottle of water and hit the gym for a few minutes to get my veins nice and plump. I robotically made my way over to the pharmacy. Handing a one dollar bill to the pharmacist and mumbling something about needing them for my insulin shots. The cashier knew what I was planning on doing. I showed her my ID - battered from all the pills I used to crush under it. 18+ and I was good to go. No one except an IV drug user knows the shame of walking out of a pharmacy after purchasing a pack of syringes. At first, I tried to hide what I was doing by also purchasing diabetic equipment, but after awhile I just didn't care who knew. My arms bore the marks of an intravenous addict. Everything was going to hell, fast. 

February 2014
I look at my arms. Pock marked with what the years have left - lumps galore. I have been injecting heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, MDMA, and Dilaudid for the past two years. I was supposed to be graduating from Vassar College next year. What the fuck happened to my life

This is an unfinished work that has yet to be edited and is in the process of becoming a published novel circa sometime in 2015. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Guest Post "Hidden Alleys, Frozen City"

“It’ll change you forever,” they said.  “This job makes you cynical.”  Heard it often when I first started.  Cops say the same thing.  

It’s true, my job has changed me fundamentally and forever, only it hasn’t made me a cynic.  I hope it never will.  Sure, I’ve seen the ugly side of humanity.  Daily.  But that is why I signed up, to trudge along the darker streets of my city among those who find themselves hurt, sick, alone, afraid, beaten, shotdown… But humans aren’t irrevocably evil.  I’d rather believe people, as a whole, are fundamentally good, and beautiful… sometimes tragically so.  Yes, we have the ability to inflictastonishing pain unto others and, especially, ourselves.  But this has only caused me to see how triumphant we can be at the end of it all.  

We are some tough motherfuckers.  The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.  We can find ourselves at the very definition of slimy bottom, having nothing, feeling nothing, seemingly wanting nothing, and rise, slowly, steadily, out of the quagmire of hopelessness.  It is at our worst that we show our best.  

Losing hope is easy.  I’m sure I could do it.  Go about my day, doing what I can, detach, go home, come back to work 2 days later, rinse, repeat.   I can look at the troupe of kids in the crumbling two flat amidst squalor and irrevocable poverty and whisper “you never had a chance.”  I can look at that young lost girl form the suburbs, the scarred landscape of her forearms, and whisper “you chose to be like this.”  I can look at that man under the Lake Street tracks, wet and frostbit and hungry and alone, and look away, maybe even get a little annoyed: “it’s nobody’s fault but yours.  I can ignore the person, I can ignore the story,I can ignore the truth.  Fuck that.  Not me.

Most of us will jump at the opportunity to tell people all the nasty grizzly bloody fiery “cool” stuff we see.  Fine.  You get used to it, and most simply wear it like another badge.  You deal with it in whatever way you deem fit, you tell whomever will listen or you run 5 miles or you golf or you drink or whatever.  

The look, however, I can’t seem to shake.  That look.  I’ve looked in the eyes of many people I’ve just Narcan’d back to life and the results are almost always the same: confusion, then effusive gratitude, then a timid request to turn up the heat, and then… something in their eyes I can’t quite describe.  Fear?  Shame?  Hopelessness?  Frustration?  Pain?  I don’t know.  But that look cuts deep.  It goes into you and through you.  And I know, unlike other times when someone got beat up or can’t breathe or is having a heart attack or got shot or hit by a car – there’s nothing I can do.  Turn up the heat, get them an extra blanket, wish them luck.

The war vet, riding the down-sloping funnel that PTSD can be, using his prescription meds to treat not so much his shattered knees and back, but his broken mind instead.  He had the look.  So did his frustrated but ever-caring mother.  By the 4th time wemeet were on a first-name basis.  The 6th time I finally don’t have enough time or enough Narcan or enough luck to make any difference, and the peace he so sought in this world I can onlyhope he finds in the next.

It’s not just ODs.  Pinned eyes or not, that look is everywhere here.  

The 16-yr old girl bouncing between mom and dad’s abusive homes, numbing her pain with anything she could get her hands on since the age of 13… definitely had the look.  And, what canI do?  To correct her tailspin she needs many things.  Expensive things.  She needs honest doctors. Sympathetic social workers.  A treatment program designed to treat her very unique needs.  A support network to at least mimic a parent’s warm embrace.  But, in this moment, looking into her big, dark, lost, watery eyes… what can I do?  Turn up the heat, get her an extra blanket, wish her luck, and hope we never get on a first-name basis.

I chose this.  This is my city, my home.  Not a lot of people I grew up with ever got out.  Most of those that did get outSTAYED the fuck out.  I jumped back in.  I like the stink of it.  But, if I’m to continue roaming these dark alleys and pretending like “that look” doesn’t haunt me, then I have to believe that some will beat it, that it can be conquered.  I refuse to get cynical.  That would mean giving up.  I have to believe in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit, that those in seemingly inescapable pain will find salvation, not in a needle or in a church but within themselves.  I have to believe in the fight.   

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Empty Part 2

I saw a girl walking at the train station with her back pack. Her hair was pulled back in an extra tight pony tail. You could see the ligaments and tendons slowly writhing underneath the skin around her neck. She had different rings of sunburn. As if you could tell her age by the patterns laid out on her flesh. She had on a long sleeved t-shirt. He Levis were cinched tightly around her waist. They were probably pants she shared with her boyfriend. She walks through the train station on her way to find him.

She doesn't notice me. I am just an observer watching life go past me. I am headed in another direction. I am on my way home. But we were in the same place. I feel the anxiety creeping up on me. My feet start to sweat inside my shoes. As I brush against the turnstiles, I feel the heaviness in my chest. I feel the breaths becoming labored. My autonomic systems are no longer in alignment. I feel hot as the redness enters my cheeks. The panic sets in as I walk further to the escalator. Can I make it to my destination. I forget how to put one foot in front of the other. I am freezing in a public space. The tingling starts in my arms. The numbness reaches my face.

Can everyone see that I don't belong here. When I look into people's faces, they look so strange. They look like animals or characters from a horror film. Like demons with no faces sent to torment me. I just want the door to open. I walk by the yellow line. I imagine being hit by the train. My thoughts are no longer my own. I exhale. The sadness creeps into my consciousness. The door slowly opens. I made it on the train.

I have everything that should make me feel happy. Yet some days I just feel empty. Some days, I am just struggling to get through the day. These thoughts intrude upon my daily my life. The food become flavorless and my mouth has a bitter taste. Yet I manage. And so I continue on. I ride the train. I feel the hot tears suppressed for the words I never got to share with you. I feel the tightness in my throat as I choke on endless apologies.

 The girl that walked passed me at the train station. I saw myself and it made me panic. I should have recognized myself. I could be in the same place but I kept moving on.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The House On the Bluff

"Don't come back to this house until you get my Newports!!!" she calls.
The door slams.
My friend bolts from the porch "Let's get the fuck out of here."

I can hear the dogs barking inside. All thirteen of them. In the driveway is a broken down Cadillac. This house is very similar to this car. You could tell at one time it was top of the line. Upstairs, there are bedrooms with crushed red velvet wallpaper. Inside the rooms there is a custom made two piece round bed. It was plush and fascinating to me. I could only imagine what it looked like in it's prime. Now it was covered in burn holes from someone sleeping in bed. There were awkward Louis the XVI looking furniture covered in dog hair. The dogs had to be released in shifts as some of them did not get along. There was a fat old cat with a ripped ear. He only came around occasionally. He gave you a sideways stare as if to say you know these people are crazy right?

My friend could not wait to get out of the house. The living room was populated with familial strife. The geriatric father had his position on one part of the couch. He still was half owner of the house despite the fact that he and the mother had long since separated. She was seated in her chair surrounded by her three dogs and empty 40s of Milwaukee's Best. She had kept up the trappings of a previous generation with her teased blonde  hair and her cigarette case. She was thirty years his junior. He must have plucked her up as a wide eyed young girl and turned her into a bitter old maid. She held court from her chair at the bottom of the stairs. He sat next to her dutifully. She was completely dependant on his government checks. He was completely dependant on her hostile companionship.

She had a new man now- a young one. So young in fact, he used to date her daughter. The boyfriend was a young parolee full of rage. He was the type to wear tinted glasses so you could not see what he was really thinking in those darting eyes. He has a handful of large silver and turquoise rings, the type that cut a lady's face when he hit her in the mouth. The Cadillac was left immobile after his last domestic dispute with the mother. He had put his fist through the windshield to hit her in the face for daring to go to the store without his permission. The old car had once been a shiny gift from her husband. Now it was a relic of good love gone bad.

My friend never wanted me to go inside. This place was so different from my house. My house was filled with dysfunctional silence and suppressed emotions. In this place, everything was out in the open. We were going off to smoke weed. I am not sure why we bothered to go to the park across the street. We could have easily done the same thing in the house, although we might have had to share with the boyfriend.

We were both so young. I had just moved out of my parents house at 17. I had told my mother essentially if I did not get out of there, I could not be held responsible for what might happen. My anger towards my father was boiling over to the point I fantasized daily about causing his death. His drinking was unbearable to me. My years of embarrassment had turned to rage. My friend was 13 or 14 but he seemed like a grown up person to me. He seemed so sophisticated compared to me. I was a country bumpkin who had never been anywhere or done anything. Yet we had so many things in common, especially our utter inability to function in the world.

We sat in the park that day. We made promises to each other that we never kept. We met up many years later. I had become like his mother, in some ways like my own mother. I had just left my own abuser. My ex had told me I was fat. I was stupid. I was lazy. I was never going to do shit. I was never going to be shit without him. He got my name tattooed on his neck. He loved me and he left me. What does a person do when everyone they love betrays them? They no longer trust themselves or their decisions. I was about to make my own choices, they may be some poor ones but at least I knew they were my own

"Are you sure you want to do this?" my friend asked.

I was determined "of course I want to do it!"

No one was home except for the dogs. We sat in the kitchen and he prepped the shot. His using had advanced to the next level of using drugs I also needed to step up my game. I needed to catch up. It felt so strange to be back in the same place. I had tried to stop and be a good girl friend. I have even gone six months without drinking. But that got me nothing but alone.

He was putting together some pills. Vicodin? Percs? Yes. We were bored and stupid. We also shared the same needle which had been shared with at least five other people before us. And so I had him shoot me up in the kitchen with drugs I barely felt because I did not have the courage to do it myself. I wanted to feel something and nothing at the same time.

I was back in the same place yet something about me was different. Life had made me harder. But some things never changed like this place. The people had changed, a little. The boyfriend no longer walked the Earth. His obituary was right above the mother's head. As she sipped her beer she drowned the memory of the fact that her son had killed him in this very place. A lot of things went on while I was gone.

We were all searching for something in life. It would not be long until my childhood friend and I found it in the bottom of the spoon.