One day, I was sitting next to the Christmas tree in my flannel footie pajamas with Snoopy on them. The next thing I knew, there was a syringe being passed in front of my face.
"Are you ready?" he asked me. What should I say?
In the past hour, I have witnessed my first overdose. The person who injected before me had to get stuck in the shower. He was a tall rocker dude with long hair. He lived out with his parents in a semi rural one story house 45 minutes from the city. He wore motorcycle boots, though he never rode anything except the back of a Honda a few times. He had ripped jeans, a bondage belt, and some type of black t-shirt he got from a concert with the sleeves cut off. His arms were semi developed into muscles. Not from hard work. I am not sure if he ever had a job, but from drumming in various bands around the city. He believed he was going to leave this place one day. He was going to blow this town, forget he ever lived here.
I think we all believed that or secretly wished we could leave Ohio. We didn't want to be living in our parent's house until we got that job that paid for our first shitty apartment. If you didn't go to college, you were expected to work your way up. Go to Taco Bell, go to Kroger. Put in an application, son. Some place where he needed to pull his hair back. Some place where he needed to take out his earrings. He wasn't going to do that. He was going to find a way, anyway to get out of this city. He would go to LA, Atlanta, anywhere but here. Or at least this is what he hoped. Until then, he would be supported by his parents or his girlfriend. They say women can be whores but I saw him get paid for what I assumed must be a big dick and a pretty face. Now that face was blue.
When I pictured an overdose, I imagined someone drifting off into a gentle slumber. I never imagined a person would turn red, then blue, then grip the sides of the coffeetable so hard, they cracked the wood. They were grasping and gasping for their life. I was told later it is called the Death Grip. Some people hold on to things to keep them from smashing their lifeless body on the floor. As he started to slide down, it became clear to all us novice junkies in the room, this was not going to be okay. I hadn't even had my turn yet. This was all of our first time using heroin, with the exception of the people that delivered it to us. They had hung around long enough to help us. They told us to get him in the shower.
As the water poured over this man in his skin tight stretch jeans and boots, I wondered to myself if we are supposed to undress him. Put the cold water on his nuts, we were told. His 6 foot 2 inch frame felt as if it weighed a thousand pounds. Dead weight I suppose. As we dragged him closer to the water, I felt myself question how I got here. A few days ago, I was eating turkey with my family. I was anxious to get outside to take a few puffs of my homemade bowl I crafted out of a diet coke can. Now, I was dealing with a potential murder case. His girlfriend screamed and cried in horror. I suppose she was happy her parents were too drunk downstairs to notice the commotion. Every aspect of this scenario was all fucking bad.
Then , we heard it. That gasp-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Then he wanted to know why in the FUCK he was all wet, angry at us. ANGRY. Isn't that rich? Fucking angry at us. I let my friend and his girlfriend do their hugs as I went back into the bedroom.
I threw myself back down on the floor. Exhaled loudly. What the fuck.
"Are you ready?" he asked me. It was time for me to do my shot.
My heart was beating out of my chest in fear. What could I say really? I was always picked last for the teams in gym class. I was always the kid people crank called on the weekends. No one every saved me a seat in the lunch room. Deep down, I hated myself. Is this the reason I stuck my arm out? No. I wish the reason were that nuanced and complicated. In reality, I just wanted to fucking do it. I was young, I was impulsively. I just wanted to get fucking high. I guess there is a first time for everything. With that fucked up logic, I did what many thought was unthinkable.
"yeah," I told him. "I am ready."
That was that. 25 years ago. Longer ago that many of you have been alive. Everything has changed. Our feelings are the same though. The heroin today is cheaper, more available, and more potent. I hope you make it through this day. I hope you find the strength to find a way to survive what kills so many.
Love Tracey xoxo.