Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Hustler

As I was walking down the street, on an ordinary morning, the ordinary turned into something quit different.

I was walking down the sidewalk, dodging all inquiries from pan handlers and Jehovah's Witness. The last thing I wanted was to browse and edition of the Watchtower. I was quiet sure I was going to hell anyways. I already felt like I was there. I was bundled up on this chilly San Francisco morning. Everything in my world seemed to be in the right place, at the right time, at the right moment. I was not sick, always a plus. I was not high- I could actually see the world around me. My backpack was full of food, a jacket, and another outfit. I had a place to return that evening. The world was full of possibilities.

I would have barely noticed him. I generally ignore his type. He was about my height. His clothes were nice but not flashy. He had a nice baseball cap, slightly pointed off in another direction. His pants were non descript but fit in a way that made a girl say Thank YOU. He was walking and talking with another woman. I normally would have paid him no attention until our eyes met. Then, I knew, he was a hustler.

The girl he was with was nothing but a hustle. He was a predator, a master of his domain. The woman did not want a friend, she wanted a savage. She wanted a man to pull her by her hair and tell her what to do. He had her, he had her friend. He had bounced around the whole circle. He was going to go where the money took him. She would put her head against his chest at night but the heart that was beating in there made a sound for no one except new money. She was lost and he had found. She was willing, he was taking so it all worked out in the end. He met her loneliness with his desire to be left the fuck alone. Now, he was walking with her. She was talking while he was scanning the landscape for opportunities because he was a hustler.

His eyes met with mine. Those big brown eyes. Those lashes that waves to me like fingers inviting me in. He tried to see past me, see through me. He tried to tell me with a single glance that I needed to get with him. He would leave this bitch at the fucking corner, drop her shit, and bounce if only I would look in his direction. I could smell the fear in him. I could see it in the air that morning like the fog, the tension was thick for that moment. For at that very moment, I knew this man would never be satisfied again. Because he saw himself in me. He saw a chick moving through the world. He saw the hustle and the struggle and he marveled at it my existence. Because he knew, I was just like him- a hustler.

Our eyes locked. He almost hit the god damn stop sign. Whack! His bitch dropped her tall can into the street. He needs to take her to the methadone clinic but she can barely walk.

"What are you looking at?" she asks me as she stoops to retrieve her liquid gold

"Not much..." I reply "not much at all". She is too dumb to realize she is being insulted.

As I pass by this scene, I decide to keep stepping. There is money to be made on a day like today. Everything is coming together. I am not to sick, not too high, and I have a place to stay tonight. I just met the man of my dreams right now. Another future ex husband in the making! No time for love, I got to make my rounds. The life of a hustler- never knowing where you are going, never satisfied with where you have been.

Dedicated to JF. 
In our madness, we feel weakness. 
Our true strength is concealed.
Like a Jack in Box, popping like the sizzle of a rock,
Like your boy, it's a chore,
Jacking like a rabbit on hop,
Bouncing from place to place. 

I made it to another birthday! Yay! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Possibilites

"Who the fuck would ever want me?" I lean with my back against the wall. I am feeling keenly sorry for myself today. That happens after I have had a few beers. Alcohol brings out an intensely ugly side of me. I either end up crying or trying to stab my friends once I reach an undetermined threshold. It is almost as if every bad thought I ever had about myself is released within a few drinks. It ferments deep inside my guts and is regurgitated for all to hear. I have no shortage of opinions when I have been drinking, either. For the most part, heroin makes me subdued. I become drawn inside myself like an intense ball. I curl up in such a way that I can ignore reality as it passes before me. Alcohol is my second drug of choice and my first addiction. I have been short on cash so now I am on a bender.

I feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I push them down with a gulp of my malt liquor. "I just don't understand, man " I utter to my companion. He is half asleep, half passed out. We are pan handling across from the strip clubs down past the financial district. I clench my 40 ounce a little tighter. I am on my own here. He is a pissy squatter kid, content to drink whiskey in the morning, pass out in the afternoon, then smoke a rock at night to get him going on more booze. He has vegan boots, dreaded hair, crusty facial piercings that haven't quite healed. I grip my brown paper bag with a purpose. I need some drugs. The last time I got this drunk, I was throwing bottles across the Sub Galley trying to hit someone in the head. As the glass shattered, all I felt was angry at life. Fuck all this shit. Fuck my life. I am two 40ozs into an afternoon and I need some drugs. The booze isn't working anymore. The concrete is hard, I am broke and angry and the day is just getting started.

I walk past this spot many years later. I am harder now than I was in 1992. My hair is straight, my hips are wider, my tattoos are better, my hygiene is on point. It is funny how the main things I learned in rehab started with the correct way to wash my hands and ended with how to make my bed. You would have thought I was a child again. I am alone again. I do most things alone. I walk alone, I go to meetings alone, I go to meetings alone, I eat alone, and that is entirely okay with me. I have friends but I am not ashamed of my own company. When I moved into sober living, I brought a lifetime of baggage. Slowly, patiently, I unpack my resentments.

The club is hot inside. They have all ages days that cost $6-10 to see bands all day. At first, I couldn't be around anyone that was drinking. I would smell the beer and my mouth would start to water. But I remember who I am. Some people can have a drink or smoke pot after quitting hard drugs. We call that "punk rock clean". I am not one of those people. I have tried it. TRUST ME. I tried it. My brain instantly announces it's desire for MORE. Like seriously fuck this shit, where is the REST of it.

I come in between two bands. I am late and early at the same time. The show will go on all night.

"There is no where to sit..." I mumble to myself. Then there was the offer that would change my life.
He pointed to his knee. He said "You can sit on my lap."

This was not a creeper offer. Or even overly sexual in nature. We had been friends, this man and I. We had gone out to eat. We had even seen the movie "Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street" together in the movie theatre. Normally, I would cringe at such a suggestion. My life was filled with older dudes from recovery that were constantly searching for a vulnerability in my boundaries. This was not just about a seat. It was about taking a risk. I was afraid, I was too chubby, or too old, or undesirable to anyone except the most broken of individuals. That moment, I was none of those things. I was at home.

When he put his arm halfway around me, I felt a spark like electricity of sorts. And that was that. There was no kiss that evening. I wasn't even sure if he would call me. But I was excited at the possibilities.
The 28th will be 14 years 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Body Remembers

"I guess you have a few years now" he says.

The thin white guy in the black hoodie and grey jeans walks a feet from me. We are both waiting at a cross walk. I am standing underneath the All Star Doughnuts sign. I walked on this side of the street to not interrupt the crack changing hands a few doors down. The Honduran man gave me a nod. He is selling rocks with flip flops on. Not shower shoes from jail but white socks and slip ons. My bag is heavy with syringes, cookers, water, and ties. I am transporting them from place to place. 

This guy, I knew this guy. Well, he was on a first name basis with me on a few occasions. A blue eyed girl selling chivah in the Ells is not someone you would miss after you passed her. My mouth overflowing with balloons and disease, cash shoved up in my pussy for the re-up. I was scared standing out there. My habit pushed me to the limit of existence slinging Quarters and Dimes in the open air. I have seen him with that chick who looks all normal but turns tricks for crack. By normal, I mean she can still go in the mall and steal things without security following her around. I doubt she really turns tricks for crack anyway. She still has her teeth. Her ex boyfriend was probably just saying that shit that day he knocked her ass into the street. No one calls that domestic violence here. It is just another fight over drugs.

I remember her friend.  He walks two paces behind her. He can't catch up. It is clearly HER money and she feels kind enough to let him in on her bags. This guy is a comfort man. He swoops in to comfort the wayward ladies of the drug game. He gets bags of frozen peas for their black eyes. He will hold their purse while they turn dates. He is man enough to admit that he has no hustle. He is strong enough to not steal from his friends. I've seen this man before.

I answer him "yeah I have been clean for sixteen years now."

I step off the curb. I need to get away from this place. I feel my heart pounding in my chest- that anxiety. I hear the blood pulsing through my ears. I have a bag full of syringes and cookers and cottons and ties. They are not for me. They are for people like him. I brought myself to a place again. A place within myself. I see the landscape laid out before me. Suddenly, I feel afraid of everything around me. The Pot Clubs, the whinos, the massage parlors, and the tracks of hair pulled on on the sidewalk.

I breeze by the corner store in a frantic push to move towards freedom. I see the 300 pound mother gasping for air in between sucking down a Newport. Her man is there to push the stroller. He has a baseball cap, some sunburned arms. His face is sagging down as low as his pants. As I peek at the child, I notice the sippy cup full of soda as I cross the rest of the street. Could he have been my baby daddy when I was 22 years dumb? Reality is a little too real right now. I need to get the fuck out of here.

The train will take me out of the city but the past remains inside of me. I see it in the concrete. I smell it like a sizzle of chore boy in the air. My hands smell like vinegar from hugging the lady just a little too long at the exchange. What can I say, I am clean but not cured. My body remembers this life. The problem is not that I am uncomfortable here. The problem is that I feel right at home. I bid farewell to the streets but my body remembers this life.

Some people ask me- how do I do it? I just don't fucking use. A needle has never fallen from the sky and into my arms. I have never picked one up. I dealt with the PAWS, I dealt with the shame, I dealt with being a junkie whore liar freak that everyone hated. And I just didn't use. I told the truth, I told some lies. I forgave myself for lying. And I didn't use. I fucked a stranger. I fucked myself over. I learned to cry again. I learned to feel again. And I just don't fucking use. And I am secure with this.

I may not know where my life is going but I am clear about where I have been. My body remembers this life.

This is by my work. The tweakers tear up the garbage cans looking for gold. The story takes place on my way home from work. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All that I got

I turned the key to my empty room. The sparse existence is highlighted by the silence. The Tenderloin seems so quiet today. I barely hear the pipes being scraped in the distance. Fall is rapidly approaching. There is a cool breeze that goes through both of my windows. I put the milk on the ledge last night. It stayed just the right temperature for my coffee this morning. I use the hot tap water for my flavored blend. Nothing like clumps of sugar and chunks of instant brew. 

I set my keys on the nightstand. My room contains a bed, a broken nightstand with a drawer missing, and a chair I use as a stand for my boom box. I got it of a dope fiend for $20. It literally was a steal. I take off my shoes and flop on my bed. My legs hurt. These abscess scars do not like the heat. The skin seems to pull against the muscle as if to remind me I am just a junkie. I let out a sigh. All the pain of the world is exhaled in this very moment. I need to find some peace. 

There is no where I can go to run from myself anymore. I am out of cons, out of hustle, and completely out of time. I am sleeping with all my money crammed between this mattress so I do not get robbed. This is just the reality of trying to make it day by day. 

I feel a sense of lonliness but I am comfortable being alone. I am done taking hostages. I am done walking down the street two steps behind a man eating the last of my slice of pizza and we spend all of my money on a bag that won't get either of us well. I am done playing the love game and having a battle of the minds with an unarmed opponent. I am just fucking done. 

I grab my stuffed alien pillow and curl up in a ball. Everything hurts today. That is just part of how I live. The difference is I am done using drugs. I got six months clean today. At least that is something. Some days not using is all that I got and that is enough. 

May 27, 2000. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day

I wake up with crust in my eyes. They used to say it was "sleep" in your eyes. This is some kind of crust. It is a combination of dirt, sunburn, and dust from living in filthy place. I am sure not ever taking my contacts out does not help either. I reach for my beer. It is warm and tastes like piss. You have to be careful in places like this because you might actually drink some piss. There is no working bathroom in this squat. In most abandoned buildings, you can at least piss in the toilet. Most of them still flush if you pour water in the back. I am sleeping in a cargo elevator way in the back of the building so no one can find me though. There is a bucket outside the door I can slide open to go but I need to get out of here.

 I barricaded myself in here with that chick from New York. I wanted to share a sleeping bag and she wanted to share my dope. Her name is Tami or Terry or some shit. I forget. These girls all start to look the same to me. They come out to San Francisco, get strung out, and get rescued with a plane ticket home and a bed in rehab. She has only been here a few weeks. She still has freckles. She was kissing me last night but I am not that into her. That angelic face sleeping next to me. The face tells me I could have her, have everything about her. She was already asking me about turning dates. I move her head back over so she can use her backpack for a pillow.

The things I used to do are lost to me. I remember when I used to get up, brush my teeth, eat breakfast while I watched the news. I always was concerned about the weather. I had to know how to style my hair. I wore lipstick and eyeliner every day. I cared what the world though of me. Now, my hair is half dreaded in the back. I am covered in dirt, the kind of dirt that penetrates layers of clothes. The only color I have on my face is various layers of sunburn. I was lucky to find this place last night. The cops might come at any time in a place like this. Jail is unthinkable as I have a dope habit. I saved myself a little wake up in a rig in my shoe. If I move this chick softly enough, I won't have to tell her no.

There is another dude off in the corner, he was probably jacking off last night watching us kiss. You run into all kinds of freaks in these places. This one seemed fairly harmless. He was coming off a four day coke run. Poor guy picked up his face, his arms. His face looked like hamburger when went finally passed out. he bought us both beers and let us sleep in his squat if he could watch us. That never happened. He passed out before we even took off our shoes.

I wipe off my arm. It feels so cold in this empty warehouse. I took a pen and marked the last working vein I had so I would be able to find it later. X marks the spot. I have to get out of this place before I get all fucked up today.

It is Mother's Day. I need to call home. I got one of those calling cards. I need to find a pay phone. I WILL call my mom, I tell myself. She will cry. I know it. She hasn't seen me in over a year. What can I say to her really. I need to come up with a story What lie can I invent this time? She will ask me if I can come home for my brother's wedding. I will find every way possible to refuse. No one wants a junkie around- why do that to them? The only person who wants me is Tami or Terry or whatever her name is sleeping in the elevator. Would I bring dope on the plane on detox at the reception. Any possible scenario is all bad. I no longer feel comfortable in company of strangers. As sick as it is, I feel as if I belong here. I just can't go.

I wipe the sleep from my eyes. It isn't sleep. It is tears. For the first time in six months, I am finally crying. People said it would happen to me. They said not to mess with dope. But here I am. I pull the needle out of my arm. That will dry up my tears. Heroin has a way of doing that. I feel the numbness creep over me. There is not warmth. There is no fear. There is no desperation anymore. I simply do not care anymore. I close my eyes as the dope washes over me. I had something to do but I forget what it was now.

My mother believed in me when I did not believe in myself. We had eleven years together rebuilding our relationship after I cleaned up. I know she was proud of me. She was proud of the person that I became. She has inspired me to help others, including those that some people might consider hopeless cases. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

I'm on a mission

"Dude, what the fucking fuck are you talking about?!" I yell as I try to lift up his head. 

He is mumbling again. I know that mumble. We are sitting outside the playground. There is a gated fence along the perimeter but children never play here. I am slumped against the gate. It is hot out. My cut off Dickies are sticking to my legs with junkie sweat mixed with crusted blood droplets and some left over puss on my sock from when my abscess busted. 
I took the gauze off. I have became an expert on my own surgeries. I took the area and stuck in a brand new clean needle to suck out the puss. It was a small one anyway. It didn't stink. It didn't require a trip to the clinic. But now on a hot fucking day I have to wear socks. I can't let bum piss from the curb splatter on my wound. I like my leg. I want to keep it. In fact, let me get out some alcohol wipes right now and wipe that bad boy down. 
"Tracey?! Did I make it to the clinic?!" He mumbles some more. 

Don't even bother to try to get up now, dumbfuck. Of course he got his dose. It is two in the afternoon. The dosing window is closed. He was supposed to meet me here to hit a lick. This mother fucker sucked on two klonopins and washed down a phenergan . Jesus fucking Christ men are useless. He knew I needed money. Now he is here sucking his own dick. He can't get his head out of his lap. 

I'm hot. My glasses are starting to fog up. I take a sip of my 40oz. My milwalkees best is getting warm. Fuck. I need money. I'd sell my ass if I wasn't so fucking haggard at the moment. Not that it has ever stopped dates. I guess I have been so sexually attractive passed out on the sidewalk, the dates used to shake me and wake me up. I have turned a new leaf though. My man said no hooking. 

This isn't him though. This is my homey. His one eye floats to the side when he is twisted. This wall eyed fish fuck is high and I am sick. 

"I'm leaving you dude." I shake him as I stand up. "I gotta bounce. I can't babysit you."  

My leg hurts. I need more that a few Tylenol threes. I need a god damned hit. I hestitate for a split second. I hate leaving him like this but I can't wait. The drug dealers go inside by dark and I live outside. I need to drag my ass down to the dope track. I drag my leg. I got a gangster lean and a purse full of rigs. Let's do this. I am on a mission.