Melody and I drove into Santa Fe. It was about midnight. Unaware of the size of the place, by the time I thought I was entering a downtown, I was already leaving the city limits. Taking the first exit, we quickly came upon a funky looking old motel, set back from the highway by a couple hundred yards. The neon sign proclaimed “Raving Ed’s. Motel and Bar.” It seemed like a desert-biker version of the motel from “Psycho”. It was so desert-dark the motel seemed to be floating in the void like an apparition. We decided to park and get out.
Upon entering the lobby, Raving Ed’s wife rushed up to us and gave us a hospitable Southern welcome. She was dressed like a biker-chick, and was in her mid-50s. Dirty blonde hair like a horse’s mane and leathery skin. The lobby reeked of cigarette smoke. Her name was Sharon.
“Boy, you don’t look so hot! You better hunker down for the night. He ain’t plannin’ on doing any more driving tonight, is he?” Sharon aimed the question at Melody.
“I don’t know,” she said in a stiflingly thick accent, and smiled a quaint smile of surrender.
I scanned Sharon’s face longingly, and noticed a fat old biker sitting at a desk at the rear of the room. He was smoking and arranging stacks of money on the desk.
“That’s my husband, Raving Ed.”
“Howd’ya do,” he barked, distracted by the money.
“Can I get you something, dear?,” Sharon asked me.
I looked in her eyes as deeply as I could and tried to telepathically suggest to her the reason behind my suffering. She seemed to take a hint. Drawing closer to me and giving me that quasi-playful look that people get when they talk about drugs in a non-condemning way, she asked me point-blank, “Are you in withdrawal?”
I said yes.
Sharon looked at Melody, who seemed to perk up as she began to understand the conversation.
“Well, lookee here, we might be able to help. Come over here… Ed! Can you take care of him, what’s your name?”
“Can you take care of Remy here?”
I slowly ambled up to Ed’s desk. He looked up at me.
“What do you want, kid? I got some fire here…” and he began to show me his wares, organized systematically in a case. He had little plastic packets of black tar heroin. Each $20 bag was so melted from the heat that it was perfectly flat. Ed showed me some packets that had an un-melted small chunk of heroin in them, and claimed that these were $60.
“The heat around here kind of melts it a little bit, but its fire. I’m telling ya, kid, you could look around Santa Fe all you want, you won’t find better shit than this for a better price. And let me warn you, it’s hot out there. The chance of you running into an undercover or someone trying to burn you is extremely high. Here, you can cop your dope, hang out, and then crash in the motel. Sharon can fix you up some dinner. Ain’t nothing going on around here but here, man.”
I instinctively pulled out my wallet and noticed I only had $40. I knew there was plenty more in my account, but we were in the middle of the desert. I told Ed I wanted a $20 bag. He gave me one and I played with the brown liquid between my fingers. He asked me if I had a rig. I hadn’t even thought of that. Shit.
“Fuck, no I don’t.”
He gave me a syringe, a cooker, a q-tip, and a tourniquet. The syringe was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was seemingly handcrafted from some basic materials and held together with a rubber band. I would find out later that Sharon makes the syringes by hand after taking apart used syringes and soaking them in bleach. The syringes make the rounds at the motel, and Sharon makes sure they never reach the hands of the infected.
I went back to my car to shoot up. Melody waited for me in the lobby. The syringe was so fragile and the needle so thin, it was almost impossible to find a vein. I found one in the crook of my arm and the needle actually bent while going in. I booted the heroin into whatever the needle was making contact with. I knew it wasn’t a vein but I was so sick, I didn’t care. Missing the rush, I stashed the works in a plastic bag that was lying on the passenger seat and threw it in the back of the car. After sitting still for a few minutes, I could barely feel the slightest buzz and warmth from the shot. I walked back into the lobby.
Sharon was in the process of asking Melody what our plans were for the night.
“Now, we have different types of accommodations based on what you guys can afford. If you’re real hard up, you can sleep on the floor in the back. We got a couple back there already. You can sleep outside somewhere if you got a sleeping bag. We got small rooms, with naught but a bed, those go for $10 a night and the rooms with cable TV and bathroom go for $25 a night.”
I was already starting to nod. Whatever high the heroin provided for me was teaming up with my exhaustion from driving. Every fifteen minutes or so, a surge of consciousness would electrify me and I would frantically grasp for my phone and my wallet, thinking that I might have dropped them somewhere. I gave them to Melody. At a certain point, Sharon kind of ushered us into one of the expensive rooms. I was so out-of-it that I just passed out on the bed, fully clothed, almost as soon as we entered.
When I woke up, Melody was gone. Everything quiet. The desert sun was blasting through the windows, telling me it was probably nine or ten A.M. I rose up from the beds, my eyes dry and crusty from sleeping with my contacts in, my clothes wrinkled. I immediately checked my pockets. Nothing. My belt was missing, but my shoes were still on. After panicking for a minute, I saw my wallet and phone neatly placed on the table next to the TV. No doubt Melody or Sharon did this after I passed out. The next item of panic was the status of my car. I threw open the door and the brightness of the sun stunned me. After adjusting to the light, I looked at the parking lot in front of the lobby. My car was still there, where I parked it. I walked up to it and noticed the doors were locked, the headlights were off. My heart began to calm down. I looked around for Melody or signs of her, but there were none. All of a sudden, the misery of my situation became tangible. I fought back a tear and began concentrating on the physical feelings I was experiencing. Something about the sun’s heat and this desert landscape put me in an extremely deep melancholy. Everything about the air seemed to be telling me I was improperly adapted to the climate, like a fish out of water. Goosebumps completely covered my body despite the heat and my nose was running.
I walked up to the lobby to see if Melody was in there. I saw Ed still sitting at the desk, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper.
“Good morning,” I grunted.
“Hey there,” Ed gave me a sly look, as though inferring what I was up to last night. “Feeling better?”
“Feeling worse,” I said. I realized there was still $20 in my wallet, even though I hadn’t paid the price of the room yet. “Hey, Ed, can I get another $20 bag? I just need a wake up before I drive out to an ATM.”
“There’s an ATM in the back,” he said and points to the hallway. I bought the heroin and rushed back to my room to do it. Once again, trying to squeeze the liquid black tar from the bag onto the cooker, and then fighting with the makeshift syringe, made it seem like I was losing money and hardly getting a buzz on. However, I had no other options, and I was undoubtedly dopesick. After doing the heroin, I walked back to the lobby and poured myself some coffee.
“Let me show you the back,” Ed said, and started down the dark hallway. I walked into a room about the size of a large garage. The room was subdivided with a cheap looking partition. Apparently, the room was some kind of record store. Shelves lined the walls and were filled with all manner of dusty CDS, cassettes, and vinyl. Things had peeled off stickers, broken jewel cases. Browsing the shelves, I couldn’t find a single album I recognized.
“All of the stuff is from local musicians. In fact, anyone can just put their music here and, if its sold, they get a share of the profit. However, as you can see, we haven’t been selling anything in quite a while. We still put on shows every now and then, and people sleep here all the time.”
I walked around the partition and saw a couple of Asians in their twenties sleeping on the floor. Next to one of them was a geology textbook sprawled open.
The walls were completely covered with stickers, posters, merchandise from bands I had never heard of. Dust was swirling in the air as Ed and I walked back towards the lobby.
That night, Ed and Sharon gave a party in the music room. I’d never seen such a bizarre collection of characters that just seemed to melt out of the woodwork. The Asian couple finally woke up and was joined by a few more Asians. When I spoke to them, I noticed that the only one of them who had an accent was the young man sleeping next to the geology textbook. The rest were apparently born or spent a considerable amount of time in the U.S. They were all Japanese. I had a suspicion that the girls had grown up part of the Indian Reservations around Santa Fe, that the Asian immigrants that built the railroads were somehow clumped together with the Indians.
The Japanese girls also told me that they were detoxing from their own opiate addictions. Representatives from different tribes around New Mexico would come to Santa Fe and Raving Ed’s to sell handmade items and herbs. Sometimes they sold mushrooms and peyote, that they use for religious purposes, and the legendary opium that they grow in the wilds. The girls were taking a combination of powders and herbs that I had never seen before, and tapering down on an opium milk drink that the Indians and the girls produced. I felt too high-strung to relate to these girls, to really hang with them. For once, my East Coast heritage forsook me, and I was ashamed of spending most of my life in the city. The girls shone like beacons of beauty in that claustrophobic den of filth and degradation.
I can’t remember if one of the girls told me this, or I just suspected it. At the time, I was thoroughly out-of-it. Whatever high I was getting from the dope was not the main reason for this. I had lost so much sleep since leaving New York with Melody that my perception of reality began to slip away.
The party unfolded like a dream. I chatted with the ethereally serene Japanese about their preferred method of black tar consumption – letting the melted fluid just drip down their anuses while they prop themselves upside down – and the legendary opium that the Indians have been growing in the wilds of New Mexico. With Albuquerque being the only big city by a long shot, New Mexico is an open prairie that skirts the badlands of Mexico and eventually reaches the cold peaks of the Rockies.
Another character who seemed to be particularly interested in me was this anemic, skinny white kid who stuck out among the crowd like the sore thumb he was. He was a crack-head who looked about 19 or 20 but was actually in his mid-Thirties. His attitude was that of an excited teenager, trying to make friends at a rock show. He kept pushing his music on me. Apparently, ten years ago this scene was really happening, and, consequently, most of the music in the room was from that time period. Todd (let’s call him) showed me the place where his CDs were, all somewhat professional looking but obviously from another time period. I looked at the blurry pictures of him and noticed more than anything else how much healthier he looked back then. The whole place seemed to be one decaying body, sagging and infected from all the drugs, booze, drifters, and violence that permeated the midnight aspect of the place. The patrons of the party careened around like spinning tops in slow motion, shooting up smack or meth in the dark corners, their shadowy forms hulking over their drug of choice. Ed kept the back room for the heavier druggies, and the front room for the occasional meth bumps and weed smoking.
Other than Todd and the Japanese, the only other people I had any kind of intelligent conversation with at the party was Ed and Sharon. They always rose up to the occasion of playing the hospitable hostesses. Ed told me more about his drug operation. He sold a variety of drugs, and meth was extremely popular among this crew, black tar a close second. Ed warned me about looking for heroin about town and let me know that he always had the goods. He told me not to shoot dope or do anything obvious in my car whilst parked in front. Sharon intervened and warned me about Todd, who they considered a leech. “The crack is just ruining him. It doesn’t work for him at all, but he’ll never realize that…” Sharon intoned over the music blasting from the speakers. “We don’t even want him here…”
As I moved throughout the crowd, I noticed the Japanese girls eyeing me. When I told them I am a musician from New York, they perked up and became interested in what my music sounded like. A long-haired Hispanic kid, wearing typical ‘90s punk rock fashion, sidled up to us and took part in the conversation. I didn’t know what to say.
“I play all kinds of music…Mainly heavy stuff, melodic but experimental…I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to describe.”
“Here,” the punk kid said and handed me an acoustic guitar. I awkwardly played a little bit of some kind of slow dirge riff that didn’t seem to go over too well. He picked up the guitar and flat out told me I was no good.
“I’m much better on drums,” I said.
“Really? You got a drum set?” he asked.
“Yeah, it’s disassembled, all over the place at the moment…”
“That’s great, man, maybe sometime you can set it up here for a jam.”
He played some fast metal stuff on the guitar and told me it’s all about the interaction between the fast picking and palm muting. I felt embarrassed by my poor performance and already felt the esteem from my Japanese admirers start to diminish, as though they began to realize I wasn’t a celebrity, a rock star, just another junkie loser who washed up here at the motel. The girls told me about some band, probably out of Albuquerque, that they loved. Apparently, they would go crazy if they ever could hear that music live at the motel. I got the sense that they lived here, never really experienced anywhere else.
All the time during the party, I was getting more tired, more out-of-it by the minute. At a certain point, I decided to hit up the ATM and buy more of the shitty heroin from Ed. He was more than happy to keep ripping me off, pulling those godawful bags out of his suitcase like he was some kind of criminal kingpin. I retired to my car, shot the dope, and got the hell out of there.
I drove through Espanola, looking for the dope that I heard the place was soaked in. I found a motel that was near the center of town. Oddly, the downtown area centered around a drainage canal that was large enough to serve as another sidewalk. The streets were empty. The only other people around were extremely down-and-out looking Mexican women, sitting on the side of dry stone fountains, watching their children play with demolished piñata pieces on the ground. They looked abysmal and I stayed away from them.
At the motel, I noticed a group of elderly people that would convene in the parking lot. They were all pill freaks. In fact, the whole motel catered to them. Faces strewn with makeup and breasts sagging for all to see, absolutely craved their daily dose of benzos and opiate pills like a heroin addict does his fix. I don’t know why these women weren’t in a nursing home, they were so demented and frail. They performed sexual favors for pills in the parking lot. The scene at night was absolutely unbearable. Somehow I got acquainted with one of these women, her name was Sandra. She was addicted to benzos and I used her friendship as a way of procuring some unknown pills for myself. Sandra was so desperate for attention, she actually forced herself bodily on me one night after ingesting her usual dosage of pills.
I was sitting on the bed waiting for the pills to arrive. Sandra, out of nowhere, jumped on top of me and began ripping her clothing off. She pulled my hand away from me and slammed it into her vagina. When I touched the wiry flesh, she immediately came and a deluge of urine streamed out of her, soaking me all over. She was beside herself, convulsing on top of me like an epileptic. I rolled off the bed and vomited into the toilet.
This hotel is fucking cursed, I told myself. I got to my car overlooking the drainage canal, and passed out.
When I came to, the first thing I saw was a baggie of syringes sitting on the passenger seat, looking like, “Let’s go man!” My right arm was splayed out over the controls. I noticed the window was partly down. I had the sickening sense that someone had been in the car with me. I started the engine and started driving back towards Santa Fe.
As I got closer to Santa Fe, I started picking up the local radio stations. The one I found was some kind of community station run by teenagers. The big hit that they seemed to play over and over again was by the same band the Japanese girls told me about. Acoustic guitars, tribal drums, harmonizing vocals. To me, it sounded like the musicians were trying really hard to say, “Hey, we’re humble, laid-back guys, sitting on the porch, unpretentiously. Not to say that we aren’t fucking rich.”
After the song, a girl’s voice came over the radio. She sounded no older than maybe ten or eleven. Her voice was somber, and the volume was much higher than the music just playing.
“This is an emergency radio broadcast. Because of a mysterious and potentially significant geological phenomenon detected taking place among the Earth’s mantle directly under Santa Fe, all residents are advised to take these precautionary measures. First of all, please move any large, heavy, especially metallic, items from your car, garage or yard to the approximate center of your house. This is to minimize the magnetic force’s damage to your property. Once this is done, please stay indoors and do not leave your homes.”
When I got to the house, I forced myself to move everything from the car – assorted musical instruments, records, books, clothing. As I was doing this, I saw a yellow VW bug drive by and take a picture. I turned the radio back on. Apparently, the car driving by was an employee of the station, who was going around commenting on the status of the preparations. I heard them commenting on my own labor.
“Here at MOON we would like to thank one considerate resident of Rancho Viejo for his cooperation. So far, he’s moved more stuff into his house than anyone else here in Santa! Congratulations, and good luck, sir. Would you like to make a comment?”
I turned around. There was no one there. But the last question seemed to come from somewhere very close, closer than the radio speakers.
“You are doing a great job! An excellent example for the city! You should be so proud! Wouldn’t you like to say something for the rest of us to hear??”
“Well...I am a drummer, so I know about vibrations. The world is like a drum, the closer you hit it to the center, the stronger, clearer vibration you get. So I am applying that theory to what I am doing here.”
“Wow…what an amazing idea! If only everyone could be like you…What’s your name?”
“Well, Remy, you have done a great job tonight! You’ve gotten a great head start on preparing. Now the rest of us just have to catch up!”
“Thanks,” I said, and turned the radio off. I locked my car and walked inside. So far, everything outside was peaceful as the sun was getting brighter and the day beginning to unfold. I crashed on the couch, pulled a blanket over my sweating body, and turned on the TV. Images of snow and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival flitted across the screen. I browsed several news channels and couldn’t find anything about the geological phenomenon.
Out of nowhere, my phone made a crackling sound. The noise sounded like the lo-fi combination of breathing and stepping over dead leaves. I stared at my phone.
“Remy?” the girls voice from the radio station, again.“Are you there?”
Staring at my phone in horror, I tried making as little noise as possible. Delicately I picked the phone up and held the receiver to my ear. The faintest sound of breathing. I clicked through all the menus and controls, but couldn’t find any answer or origin of the sound. I experimented with muting the phone, turning Bluetooth off, even turning my phone off. Just when I thought that had done the trick...
And then, “Remy, I know you’re there, all alone, sitting on your couch.”
I remained absolutely frozen. The TV blared on.
“I know your TV is still on. You know, everyone has been instructed to turn off all their electronic devices, to minimize the effects of the seismic occurrence. Anything running on electricity, and especially over a network, will potentially exacerbate whatever magnetic forces are building up below the Earth’s crust.”
The idea of sitting here all day and all night, withdrawing, without a TV or a computer to keep myself from going crazy, was unacceptable. However, the fear of incurring the wrath of this radio station made me turn everything off. I turned my phone back on. Nothing I did to my phone seemed to make any difference. It was like the voice was running through all the power lines, the phone lines, everything capable of creating static. And yet, at the same time, I could almost envision these teenage girls, sitting in a recording studio somewhere in Santa Fe.
“Are you there?” Now, it was just me and the voice. Acting out of some hidden instinct, I pulled the car keys out of my jeans pocket and pulled each individual key off the chain, separating them on the table as far apart as possible. Each time a key lost the metallic contact it had with another one, I felt a kind of surge run through me, as though I was simultaneously purging my body of loose electrical currents. As I paced the house, turning off anything electrical, I could feel some kind of momentum, or energy, leaving my body. It was an altogether different sort of withdrawal, but unpleasant nonetheless.
“Remy, you are doing such a great job today. You should feel really good about yourself. If only everyone could be as helpful in counteracting this…” The voice was interrupted by the alarm system beeping throughout the house, letting me know it was disconnected. I stared at the windows lining the roof of the house, expecting at any moment to see a face staring back at me.
“Is there something wrong, Remy? Are you going to be playing music for us tonight, during the storm.”
“I’m tired, I’m just going to nap on this couch. Umm…good luck with everything, have a nice day,” I replied in an attempt to end the conversation once and for all.
“It’s Ok, if you want to be left alone.”
Complete silence, interrupted by the periodical beeping of the deactivated alarm system.
“Remy, I am standing by your car right now, looking in. I can see your Nirvana CDs. I’m right by your front door, if you want, but only if you want, I’ll come inside.” The voice belonged to a different girl who sounded older, maybe late 20s.
Feverishly, I shook my hand, and said, “No” over and over again.
“I can see the syringes in your car….How long have you been using?”
I tried to keep my mouth shut, but the voice in my brain kept answering – “I’m clean.”
“How long have you been clean?”
“Four days.” The truth.
“What were you shooting up?”
Silence again. I could sense the voice’s mute disapproval. All of the good cheer and congratulations were gone. The voice was coming from somewhere in my head. I threw the phone into a closet and slammed the door. But, purely mentally, I was powerless to do anything but invite it back. I could easily control the voice from my vocal cords, but the voice in my head, no matter how hard I tried, just kept going, answering all the questions as truthfully as memory could serve.
The interrogation continued. I unwillingly gave all the details of my drug use, how much money was spent, who I bought from, the effects addiction has had on my life, my relationships, my parents. As soon as I would mention something, the voice would jump on that and not let it go until I revealed everything about it. Drug addiction, fear, self-esteem, ex-girlfriends, misery – all of these things that had been brewing in my consciousness for years were pouring out of my mind like diarrhea. The voice was a sickness, a mortal sickness enveloping my entire world, and I was the symptom.