Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Water's Edge

There is a moment in every day when we chose to either succumb to the incredible mystery that is life without drugs or inflict self injury in the form resistance against our truths. I don’t know if I was born with the desire to use drugs. I don’t know if I evolved into an individual that needed solace in the chemical expression of happiness. I just know that once I began ingesting them, my life changed forever. I can never put the cork back in the bottle. I can never unsee the horrors unveiled in the life of drug user living on the streets of any major city. I can only strive to find a way to balance the past, the present, and plan for a future I want to live in.
“Why didn’t you meet me for lunch that day?” I asked.  I push my food around on the plate. There is always an awkward moment when I first meet people when I am not sure who they think I am. Am I an addict to them? A mom? An aging woman stuck with many of the same interests as a twenty year old. Despite many years of recovery, I still find a slow emergence of the true nature of who I am. It is as if I was born with a mask on. When one face is revealed to me, I peel it away only to find another. I am never settled, always a restless individual in search of the next thing that can heal the wounds left over from ten years of active addiction.
He takes a drink of his soda. “I was too embarrassed then.” He starts pushing his food around, too. We are both feeling anxious for different reasons. He is casually dressed in a crisp t-shirt and jeans with just a tiny bit of sag in them. The tattoo across his throat is colorful and well done. There are no noticeable scars on his arms, thanks to the good sense to quit before he got too far behind in the game. His hat hides overgrown brown locks. The first thing I noticed about him was his brown eyes. They are different from my own but seem to be the kind that easily gives away the presence of opioids with the distinctive pinned pupils. He describes them as “brown like tar”, the kind that nearly killed us both.  I can tell he is not really hungry. He is dying for a cigarette as I force myself to finish my food. That routine smoke is a powerful draw to the space just outside the restaurant. He adjusts his watch in a nervous tic to signal he is paying attention.
“I was working a few blocks from you at the time,” he explains “I was using up to $300 dollars worth of pills some days. I had a great job that I fucked up. I switched to heroin because it was so much cheaper. Not sure what else there is to say…”
He has lots more to say. He is just feeling me out, unsure if he can trust me. It isn’t every day you meet someone off the internet that you stood up two years ago. The big difference is that he quit that drug after overdosing on the city bus. The driver was forced to call for an ambulance to revive him. I could tell within a few sentences we would become friends. There is just that Ohioan way of telling a story that I appreciated. We grow up restrained. We neither beg nor extol our accomplishments. We have a polite way of telling someone we think they are stupid. We like our chili sweet. We like our nights filled with fireflies. We like solitude instead of explaining our feelings. We also like to downplay a crisis.
“How does it feel to not use drugs for so long?” he drops an innocent enough question that sticks with me for the rest of the afternoon. How does it feel? Feelings are not reality. Feelings are just an expression of my current mental state. Today, I feel angry at myself. Despite a multitude of things I should be doing to improve my situation, I have spent the past eight months muddled in the stagnation that comes when a person completely disconnects from their support system. It wasn’t a drastic change. It happened incrementally over a period of years. “I am just too busy to…” and “I don’t really like” put bricks into the walls that surround me. There are problems with these walks. While they may keep me safe, I am also terribly alone. Socialization becomes a burden. I hate it. I miss it. I am confused by my own choices in the matter.
Where does one find a new friend? The idea is laughable. I am not a toddler on the playground. I am a woman pushing into the realm of the middle age. I will do a google search on my break to find a solution. In between strange rashes and unusual animal friends, there should be some insightful dialogue on the friend making process. Yet I have read information on selecting a ripe cantaloupe with no success. A friend seems much more serious of a process. The unfortunate truth is that in the long stretch of what I call my recovery, my friends have either moved away from the costly area in which I live, died of both natural and unnatural causes, or relapsed never to be seen again. This is part of the reason why I don’t find the rooms of 12 step to be a reliable source of new friends. There is an  increased likelihood that I will just be bringing that next person into my life that will eventually leave me. Despite working the steps, seven years of therapy, and the ability to at least construct a halfway decent relationship foundation, I fear a person leaving more than I fear being alone.
I turn the bathwater to the only setting I enjoy- scalding hot. If the water doesn’t leave me looking like a lobster on a hot stove, I am not having it. I would throw in a few bath bombs however the risk of a urinary tract infection overrules the happiness caused by fizzy pink bubbles. I can never forget that weekend I was laid up with some 100% cranberry juice with no sugar added and a pillow between my knees after a long soak. I am cool off that, I tell myself as I sink just far enough in the water not to get my hair wet. I started using henna based dye when I noticed my hair might actually be thinning after age forty. In addition, those greys are slowly creeping into the unmanageable phase. It won’t be long now before I have to make the decision. Do I continue to rage against the dyeing of the light or let this mane go into salt and pepper. Maintaining the MILF status I desperate cling to in the presence of obvious markers of aging.
I remain relieved to be in the generation where sending nudes involved postage stamps and discreet photo options. I cringe at the thought that I will soon be advising my daughter and sons on the finer points of both sexuality and impulse control. Being naked of requires a level of trust for me now. Long gone are the days when I could rip my clothes off at any time under the right set of circumstances. I have accumulated enough life experience to understand that “privacy” is a luxury most of us will never experience. Nothing in our world is truly private. Yet the mystery of the mystery of the human body holds a few lasting secrets. Underneath whatever garments I use to sign my individual preferences, lies the precious vessel I have endlessly abused.  
There is a certain vulnerability when taking your clothes off as an adult. A vulnerability that I am hyper aware of because my clothes were once an imaginary barrier between the flesh and violence. When I would get a place to clean up, it was generally a “bird bath”, when the head is stuck under the sink and body parts get brief seconds to touch the water. I did not want to leave any part exposed for more than a few seconds. A bath was only taken when I was entrenched in a safe location.


I close my eyes to drown out the sounds from the next room, I feel myself slipping back into another time. Dissociation is what my therapist called it. I’ve used it to protect myself from pain. My body might be here. My mind escapes to an entirely new location. I was told it was part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I just know it as part of who I am.  A subtle reminder can shift me into another place, another time. I hear each individual drop of as it slowly joins the pool that I hope will swallow me up. My freshly painted toes peak out at the end of the bathtub. The veins are popping out from the heat of the water. I feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into a cloud of my own making. If I only had the courage to slip underneath the smooth to hide my screams.


How long have I been in this place? An hour? A day? Time has completely escaped me. He said he had a clawfoot tub. He promised me I could seclude myself in here. A wounded little girl now has adult problems. As I slid the deadbolt, I felt a slight sigh get caught in my throat. Maybe I can rest. I gently strip off the top layer of clothing, the layer that I want the world to see. The next layer reveals my secret. The fabric of my shirt is crusted against the weeping sore that scabbed in unison with the undergarment that doubles as a bra. When I bend over to pull of my socks, I notice the shoulder that once supported my ample chest is giving way at the lack of womanly assets. I have nothing in the space that surrounds my heart with the exception of the memory hurried kisses once given by young men who called me baby.


I sit down on the toilet in an effort to balance myself. I feel myself spinning with regrets. It isn’t often I get to inventory the physical damage I have caused to myself. As I pull off my other crusty sock, I wonder when will this finally end. I place my ear against the door. I want to know FOR SURE that he isn’t going to be coming in. I can hear the rattling noise of a sleeping tiger, waiting on the futon for me to return. He couldn’t stay awake long enough to collect on his end of the bargain. That’s okay. I slipped him a xanax so he should be out for awhile. I look up at the florescent lights on the ceiling as I have the pleasure of releasing my belt in peace. My jeans are as tight as the shoelace I had wrapped around my arm. I wiggle out of them in the hope that I can feel human again. I move the condensation aside on the mirror hanging on the back of the door to reveal what remains of me. The body of a tired of woman and eyes that have seen far too many things. I dislodge my panties as I prepare myself for the baptism that can wash away my frequent sins.  


I feel everything and nothing at the same time. I'm too tired for the five different kinds of body wash he left for me. It was almost human. A gesture of manufactured affection. Really, he just wanted to  make sure I was “clean”. As I lie back, contemplating my next hit, I think about home. I think about a time when I was wanted for something besides the feeble body resting below my neck. I think about Saturday morning cartoons in footed pajamas, flannel sheets, and my special towel. No one made me a junkie. Yet, here I am. I am going to fall asleep here, pretend for a second that my life is normal. Until it is time to put back on my dirty shell and start all over again.
There is no such place as this concept of rock bottom. There is always much, much lower. I can assure you of this because I have visited this place many times. Waking up in a pool of self loathing. Curling up in a ball of fear. This is the spiritual death that comes when we turn our life over to the desperation that is the life of active drug use. That slow walk to the pawn shop as that thing we would never part with become visualized in terms of a half grams. The deep breath we take as we fumble with the crisp bills inside our mother’s wallet. The slight nod we give ourself as we step off the curb in the direction of that trick waiting on the corner. The slow realization that the “NEVER” has now become the reality of the every day.


There is a new kind of never that comes when survival is based around the world of those we always called normal. These creatures are fucked up too.


“Hey, I was wondering if you had a minute…” a woman’s voice trails off as she gently taps my arm. I can clearly see she has been crying. The moisture still clings to her eyelashes. The redness in her face is unmistakable.
Without her even finishing her statement, I already know what she is going to tell me. I have heard it a hundred times before. Women and men in their 40’s or 50’s meekly pulling me aside to discuss the addiction issues of their adult children. The parents are always extremely apologetic. They don’t want to “bother me”. They just want five minutes with someone they think could understand them. They want someone to feel their frustration, to look into their eyes. They want someone to tell them that there is still hope. They want to believe that the son or daughter that has stolen from them won’t die somewhere with a needle hanging out of their arm. That the child they sent to rehab four times will miraculously get it on the fifth trip. That the three month chip their son showed them will mean sleep will be easier now, that things will “get better”. I can’t promise these things. I can only listen.
Who am I to tell these people what will work? I try to be present. I try not to lose myself in their experiences. A son lost, a girlfriend strung out, missing pills, losing hope, a last trip to rehab, a lost cause, a hundred thousand dollars spent, a trip to jail, and twenty seven days sober might be what I hear in the course of one day. I need you.
“Mommy, I need you…” I hear someone calling me from the kitchen.
I step away from my phone and into the kitchen.
Kelan reaches up his arms “Mommy,” he says “pick me up!”
As I pull him closer so he can grab this or that in the pantry, I realize that my life is a gift. Sharing my life is also a gift. I grab a fruit snack and never want to put him down. I want to be here. In this moment, in this place in time, I feel a comfort in knowing that whether I am helping my kids or helping a family, my life has meaning. Where once the only thing I had to contribute “what’s between my legs”, I know I am worth so much more. That gives me peace.

Here is a pic of me and one of my friends doing rad shit.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Things I would Like You to Know

Twenty years ago, I was sitting alone in my dingy hotel room wondering what the fuck I was going to do with my life. This was captured in "Black Tar Heroin:The Dark End of the Street". I was using cocaine, speed, and heroin on a daily basis with booze and benzos sprinkled in there for effect. I was using money my mom sent my to pay my rent ($30 a day or $150 a week) while I sold drugs on the street for low level Mexican cartel guys to support my habit. It was dangerous. I was withering away as pretty much all my free time was spent digging for veins in my feet, hands, or stomach. Up to an hour per hit 4-6 times a day. My boyfriend had left me in search of greener (browner?) pastures. I was fucked up and alone. My last chance at quitting was methadone, which I had messed up by shooting dope on top of my dose instead of giving it a chance. I quit the clinic at 50-60mg (not sure the exact dosage as I was on a blind dose). That was Dec 1997.

I quit all drugs when I was 27, almost 28 years old. I am not sure how old you are but I suspect most of the people reading this are around that age give or take. I went to jail where I kicked cold turkey. Then I did the in custody program stuff for 2 and a half months. The main thing I found beneficial from that was the 12 step meetings that came into the facility. Then, I went to a parolee rehab for 3 1/2 months. Once the system wouldn't pay for me anymore, I had to get the fuck out. Period. I had lined up a place at the Salvation Army Sober Living facility. I had a job working at a market research place. I was volunteering at an outpatient women's clinic for people who had been sexually exploited. I also attending one weekly group there.

I don't think any of this is new ground if you follow me. I am running through the details to let y'all know there is nothing particularly remarkable about my story. I had a LOT of help. I was very determined. And honestly, I was just DONE. When I made up my mind that I wanted to stop, I did the damn thing. You may be questioning yourself and your choices at this very moment. Just like I did in the months leading up to my last hit. It's a tough place to be in. My "bottom" was lower than most but the pain is all too familiar.

Maybe you aren't ready to stop. You know what? I totally get that too.That was also me. I 100% refused rehab when I was 26. I knew it was a waste of time so I didn't bother to drain resources. My family was pissed. The judge was pissed. I just was not in a place to stop. So I didn't. I respect you. I respect your choices. I just want you to be safe. Fentanyl has changed the game completely. No one who partakes in what they call "hard" drugs is immune from the potential risks of fentanyl in the national drug supply. When fentanyl showed up in the crack here in the bay area, I felt immeasurably sad because it seemed like our harm reduction efforts were too little too late. I digress.

The point of this really is to say I believe in you. You are smart. You are inherently a good person. Drug use doesn't define who you are inside. If you decide you want to quit, you CAN and WILL. If you continue to use, be safe. Preserve your health as much as possible. Trust me- you will need that body of yours one day. You want it in good running order.

Maybe I am a sentimental old lady writing these posts. I really want you to live and have a shot at the things I never thought I would see in life. Graduating college (twice), having kids, having friends, finding love, writing a book, waking up every day satisfied that I did not die. There was a time that all I wished for was to never wake up.

Anyway, this is the time of year when I think of you. The person in the picture, ready for change.






Monday, November 27, 2017

The Dandelion Boy



Before I knew what it meant to be happy, I knew what it was like to have a feeling of dread.


There might have been a “happy” in the time before my current memories. I could be lurking in the shadows underneath the scars created by a metric ton of heroin and an ocean of booze. That “happy” was not verbal, it was not a thing that could be summarized in words. That happy was an innocent notion of life, a belief that all things were possible. That happy involved sandboxes. That happy involved walking barefoot. That happy was lovingly handing over a flower. Happy was before consciousness. my father informed me that a dandelion was a weed. Up until that point, I had believed. I had believed I was holding the ability to make my dreams come true right in the palm of my hand simply by scattering parts of the “flower” in the cooling breeze of fall.


There are a thousand poems to describe what beauty means. None of them adequately describe you. I reach out to hold your hand. You interlock our fingers, provide a supportive squeeze. The way you turn the coffee around when you hand it to me so the opening faces my direction. If I have a hair out of place, you are there to push it in the correct direction. You find a way to brush off a stray eyelash before it painful greets my eyes, fully open to soak in the vision that is you.


I had a crush on a porcelain young man. He was tall with translucent blonde hair that crawled down his neck like a vine, sticking to the edge of the collar of his shirt. His broad shoulders were the perfect place to rest my tired mind. His hands were big and soft. He had fingernails that were meticulously manicured by a biting action that was occasionally used on necks. His stomach was taunt. His legs were covered with sores. I will get to this later.


I had a crush on him, yes I can admit it. I pursued him in my own awkward way. Not to seduce him. I had no skills in that area, unless money was involved. He had none. I just wanted to know what it would be like to be next to him, in his presence. It wasn’t hard but it was impossible to achieve. He was mostly gay. I was mostly straight. We would sit on his futon, commiserating on lovers that scorned us both.


“I have AIDS,” he told me. Everyone called it THE AIDS in my sphere of influence. It wasn’t HIV or even the virus. That was much later when the AZT became part of our vernacular. Right now, it was the AIDS.  But he actually had the thing, a thing a girl from Ohio could not really understand. What does that even mean, my eyes must have said to him. “It means I am a lost cause…” He handed me my syringe.


I am the patron saint of lost causes. I am a lost cause myself. In this place, in the moment, can’t we just be here. NO no no. I am not sure what you are thinking but no. “I am dying…” and he is almost dead. The room smelled like a combination of litter box and death. It was no larger than 6 feet by 8 feet. Not much larger than a jail cell. A divider was used to separate the futon from the mattress on the floor. This provided some illusion of different spaces. Computers were stacked on top of each other. Each a project that was/would never be finished. Take things apart, put them back together (correctly) was the idea. To sell them, he told me. I nodded without completely understanding him. How much time was left, I wondered to myself. I selfishly wanted some of that time. He came around his divider in a silky bathrobe. I saw his legs that day. I wanted to touch them. He told me I needed gloves. “To touch you?” Really, that’s what we believed. I cannot touch your legs without gloves. I didn’t. I couldn’t. I left.


I am sitting on my bed shooting heroin now. I am sitting on my bed sticking myself, cross eyed from lack of sleep. The vein on the back of my arm keeps rolling. I tie a shoelace around it to hold it still. Someone is pounding on my door or is that the blood behind my eyes. I can’t see a thing until my swollen eyes slowly part. I am on the floor. I didn’t die this time or the last time or the time before that time.


If I give you anything you ask for does that mean “I love you too”? “ Friendship is an undefined thing, two bodies trying to sleep while our legs twitch. Maybe you should see a doctor. “I already have…” is always the answer. “There is nothing they can do for me” is never an answer I can accept. One day I’m not so beautiful. I’ll be stuffed with tubes and covered with wires sitting in a diaper. Maybe I would rather die like this Tracey. I’ll try to understand.


Things I don’t want hear go in one ear and out the other. I shake the pillow, knocking off the truth.








Friday, November 24, 2017

The Junkbox and the Holiday Season: A survival Guide

Whether you are sober, actively using, or in between this can be a tough time of year for us. So many expectations and forced interactions are upon us. Here are some basics:

1. If you are actively using, plan ahead. Yes, I know that sounds impossible but actually plan ahead. As a person who been ripped off AND dope sick on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, you don't want this to be you. Get a few sub strips as a backup. Dopeboys take holidays too (dirty mfers). I strongly suggest not trying out new dope on these actual days. Nothing spoils the season like ODing in the family bathroom. Get naloxone as a present to yourself.

2. If you are feeling suicidal, tell someone. Call a hotline. Find some online meditations on youtube. Listen to podcasts. Go to a support group for the social element. Even if you feel they are judgy and full of shit, getting out can be a good thing. Set up a tune appt with your provider if the season generally does you in. Keep a journal.

3. If you are on MAT, find out what days the clinic is closed. What is the takehome schedule? What will your insurance do in terms of refills? Don't assume the clinic is closed/open because of the holidays. Do not assume your insurance will fill your meds a day early. I have seen folks plan elaborate trips without pre arranging medication requests only to end up going empty handed and quickly very very sick when their meds ran out. (This goes for psych meds, any kind of meds).

4. Do Not Feel obligated to buy things you cannot afford.

5. Do Not feel obligated to hang out with people who treat you like garbage. Who knows, maybe you can even pick up some extra shifts at a seasonal job. A great excuse not to come around AND moneys.

6. Always have an escape plan. How can I get out of here and back to safety? If everyone is drunk, can I get home. If I am too sick to deal, how am I aborting this mission? Do your homework.

7. Is there something good about this time of year you can focus on? Make a favorite dish, go to a favorite spot, watch ELF in your flannel pajamas. Make the cat wear a funny hat and take pictures. Put a jingle bell around the dog. Drink hot chocolate with marshmallows. It's your life, grab it and enjoy it while you can.

8. BE SAFE. Despite how you may be feeling, someone loves you. Feelings are not fact. Feelings will pass. If you have to use anonymous forums, crisis lines, and a copious amount of pumpkin pie to make it to the next day, we love you. We understand.


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Saturday, November 18, 2017

A lesson in gratitude for this writer

Last night was the holiday party for the clients from my job. One of the programs is designed for Trans Women of Color, many of whom are HIV positive. On Friday nights, the group assembles in the conference room of agency located on a strip where I spent much of my time as an actively using addict. We had a special holiday dinner for the ladies- turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, and peach cobbler.The ladies really enjoyed themselves, we had gifts and leftovers available. It was a brief respite from whatever goes on in the outside world. 

 On my break, my coworker and I decided to get some air. Out front of the building, we heard some noise coming from the corner. In true former street people style, we decided to investigate. There was a cluster of people getting high half way down the block in the alley. While that wasn't my alley, the alley where I lived, this whole area was fairly familiar territory. The coworker and I decided we would deliver whatever excess food was available out to the alley so they could make plates. I had been on the receiving end of many meals like this. If I had to chose between money for food or money for dope, food lost out every single time. If it was for little debbie, I am not sure I would have survived my early twenties. That and home run fruit pies.

When we rolled our cart out, it was very clear we had interrupted folks doing what they do. I could see a woman poking with her uncapped syringe in light of the street light. Another two people had the flame of the pipe going. One of pretty much laid the fuck out. A decent mix of what the drug life has to offer.  I was stepping out of my current reality, back into a land that time forgot. I think we were feeling good about being able to feed a few people. That moment was pretty brief.  A few minutes after we walked away, the same folks  are now fighting over their share of the food. I didn't expect that, mostly because I have been living indoors for too too long to understand the realities of that life.

I do remember arguing for twenty minutes over two dollars. I walked up on a person trying to cook up their dope outside when they had owed me two dollars. "The cops are going to come- you are fronting me off" MOTHERFUCKER I DON'T CARE. You owe me two dollars. You need to give me two dollars RIGHT NOW or that hefty cotton. "Okay Okay" (mumble fucking bitch mumble).

What kind of existence is this when human beings are fighting over food? Drugs, poverty, violence, humiliation are the daily staples there. Do I cry, get angry, pull the covers over my head when I get home. I think I remember what the life was like. When I see it completely in my face, I realize I have forgotten so much of it.  While I made it out, that same bear trap is currently holding , or for the escaped, ripping legs off victims over single day.

As I was walking back to the train station, my friend thought it would be cute to sneak up behind me, touching my hand. In a past life, I might have tried to stab him. Last night, I was just happy to have someone walk me towards home.

My son and I were eating out on the sidewalk last weekend cause streets are for the people.




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Day I tried to Kill Myself

The day I tried to kill myself was like any other day. I didn't wake up thinking this is the day I want to die. I didn't put my affairs in order. I didn't have a special meal. I said no special goodbyes. The day I tried to kill myself was like any other ordinary day in the 365 days of that year.

There is a certain finality about knowing you are dependent on a substance. Be it heroin or coke or alcohol or speed or benzos. Or in my case, all of the above. When it finally sinks in that you will never escape the grip of addiction, it is a sad fucking day. My brain truly betrayed me. It lied to me saying this would never COULD never happen to me. Yet it did. When I looked at the decaying state of what used to be my young body, I did not feel a thing. I could not feel a thing. I just knew I would never escape.

The day I tried to kill myself, I did not cry. I did not falter in any way. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do. I did not want to feel that psychic pain any longer. If the right eye offends thee, pluck it out. I could not pull myself out of the stew of sorrow, my mind would drift off hoping I would never come back to this place. There was no one to help me, no one to stop me. I tried to kill myself. I survived. I clawed my way back from death. In dying, I realized I wanted to live.

The holiday season is a complete nightmare for current and former drug users. There are doing to be many moments in the coming weeks where you are going to think to yourself "fuck this". You know what- that is 100%. Your feelings are valid. Pace yourself. The shame train is a long ride from now until new years day. You are not alone.

I have to tell you this- as bad as this feels and it is going to SUCK- it will pass. For most you, active drug addiction is going to pass. You are going to move to something different. Please realize that there are folks out there that care for you. It might not be your family. There is some one. Be gentle with yourself. I spent a few different holiday seasons sleeping on top of a cardboard box in the rain. Yet here I am clicking away on my keyboard next to my snoring dog. I just want you to know that I see you. I am thinking of you. Don't die- I need the company.

xoxo Tracey

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The drug using sex worker and "me too"

I was a sex worker. When I say “Me too” does that count? Am I a good enough victim in that narrative. When you are a sex worker, the vast majority of people don’t believe you can be raped. When you are a sex worker, the people you are supposed to turn to for support are the same people pushing their badge to the side trying to get freebies. I got dropped off on the side of the road in the middle of the warehouse district because I said “take me to jail” rather than providing “something as a public service”

When you are a drug dependent sex worker, the landscape is even more bleak. Taken to jail on a friday for a misdeameanor case when there is no court until Monday as a form of punishment. Sitting in a pool of your own vomit with no medical care available since you have not been processed. No regular bed, just a bench in a holding tank for two days. Just anyone can come up and grab my pussy because you “can’t rape the willing”. Watching the connection scurry everyone away because he EXPECTS he is going to get his dick sucked despite the fact I clearly came with my money. Being brought to the dopeman by male “friends”, not realizing I had been sold out. At least he had the decency to wait down stairs to see if I had a clean rig when “it” was done.

None of these stories matter though. Or do they? No one wants to talk to us about them. But I do. No one wants to care about a dope fiend who nearly got murdered when she fought off her rapists. We aren't disposable. Because I am not them, she is not me, I am not that addicted. I am a “me too”. I am a good victim. Sex workers are us. People on tinder, fucking for a free dinner.


Hate mail in 3, 2, 1...


Thursday, November 2, 2017

The time I almost lost my leg

"Shooting up dope with grape crush wasn't all that cool..." I told the doctor in matter of fact tone  "in fact, it was downright foolish" I don't know why I was trying to let the doctor know I wasn't completely unaware of the situation I got myself in.

Before he pulled back the makeshift bandage, I began to brace myself for the smell. I pulled up my leggings which were currently sticking to the gauze by means of dried puss that had formed an organic bacterial glue. I knew it was all bad underneath there, I just could not gauge how bad. My lower leg was no longer swollen. I had been smart enough to trade a cotton for a bottle of antibiotics. That wound- the wound was not healing.

The doctor started to examine the area "Can I cut this off?" He waved over his assistant, a person I assumed was a nurse. He was pointing to my sock which was equally encrusted to my skin. There was no way to extricate it without pulling off scabs. As he poured cold saline on my leg to loosen the fabric from the gaping hole, I leaned all the way back.

I had to be high to come here. Not Just high. REALLY fucking high. The pain was excruciating. I felt the throbbing before I even opened my eyes in the morning. My leg, twice it's size, red and swollen last week contained a two inch by four inch sized gaping hole that looked like a cross between a cheese pizza and snot. I casually stuck a clean syringe in there to draw out the puss. I gave up at five full trips to the abscess of sorrow. I could gently stick my fingers between the bones, afraid of what would happen if I went even further.

My daydreaming ended as he pulled the sock away from my receptive flesh. I felt a painful yet satisfying pop. Instantly, the room smelled like rotten garbage on a hot day "Basin please", he requested a place for my liquids to drain besides for the floor. As I looked up a the ceiling, I felt a sense of relief wash over me, I knew I was finally safe. I didn't have a place to stay tonight. I didn't have a fucking dollar to my name. I didn't have a sense of where my next fix was coming from. I just knew I was  going to not die. Right now, that was enough. The pain of knowing the truth had kept me from getting help. This would be a metaphor for my entire life.

When I left the clinic a few hours later, I had some saline, gauze, two types of antibiotics, 30 Tylenol #3 with codeine (sorry liver), and a tiny bit of hope. I curled in a ball and took a much needed nap.



Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Junkie Rockstar I've Been Striving to Be- Guest Post by Anee

How did i get here? How did this happen to ME? How did i end up walking down market street with all of my belongings in my high school varsity swim bag essentially homeless? well, i’m a junkie who couldn’t stay sober.
i kept getting high in my sober living and they kicked me out when all the spoons went missing. then i kept nodding out during the house meeting to discuss said missing spoons. apparently i don’t have a very good poker face.... i needed to find that residential hotel i had heard about. i think i saw it on craigslist. i knew this was coming for a while now so i’ve been prepared....it feels like everyone is looking at me. do they all know? i’m torn, a part of me is excited. i’m finally free. no one to answer to. i can do what i want when i want. i can use in the open. leave my shit out if i want. no more hiding and faking this sobriety bullshit. and let’s be clear, it IS bullshit. i am finally the junkie rockstar i’ve been striving to be. then the other part, the part that was on the varsity swim team. the part that asked her parents for help 5 weeks ago. the part that would never have believed this could happen to her. that part is scared. scared shitless and wants her fucking mom.
so i find the SRO. i pay the $140 for the week. i’m safe for now. free. the guy shows me to my room. we walk in and i set all my stuff on the bed. the blankets look gross. i don’t care. i’m not out walking up and down market street anymore. that’s all that matters. i’ve never done this and i don’t know how it works? is it ok to sleep on them? this is a hotel after all. he gives me a key to the women showers too. i’m not going there now. it’s late. i know enough to stay in my room and not fucking come out. there's a bed and a sink in this room. that's it. it smells like cigarettes and pee. the sink actually looks like it has pee in it. i guess they don’t call them piss in the sink hotels for nothing. jesus christ i’m so fucking scared.
Obviously the next step is to get high. i leave my stuff in my new room and call my connect. a short bart ride later and i’m well again. i’m desperate not to be so lonely and scared so i call one of my new friends that i had met in rehab who i know has relapsed. we meet up outside. he asks if they can puncture in my room. at first i don’t understand what he’s talking about. i’m a solo user. i’m so full of shame. i don’t know much but i know enough to be embarrassed and hide everything.... puncture? OOOOHHHH. i get it. no one has taught me the lingo. so after a quick hesitation i figure it out and we all go upstairs. they do their thing and i do mine. it’s weird. it’s like the quintessential junkie moment. the one you see in all the movies. me and my two junkie friends picking at our faces, fighting over stolen drugs, nodding out. everything you assume it looks like, it does. down to me secretly taking an extra OC and then helping them look for it and accusing them of stealing from me. classic junkie move. and to be honest, THEY’RE the junkies. not me. i’m not the one shooting up in some random hotel room. this is MY hotel room.... goddamn i’m fucking delusional. i’m not THAT bad off yet. i’ve still got this under control.
After a few hours of that they leave. i have to go to bed. i still have a job to go to in the morning and i can’t be too fucked. so they leave and it’s just me. i’m so lonely and so scared and so broke. there’s not much i can do. i walk to walgreens just to be around some other humans. i figure i will buy some candy or something. i see a tiny black and white TV for $10. i buy that so i’ll have some company. i go upstairs and look around. it’s getting a little loud and scary out in the halls. i’m pretty sure i hear some fighting. maybe it’s fucking. who knows. either way it doesn’t sound happy. how the fuck did i end up here?

i push the bed in front of the door. no one is getting in here. i turn on my sad tv. i wash my face in the pissy sink and climb into the bed with the blankets that have god knows what on them and cry. this is what my life has become. what the fuck? i lay there for hours scared and bored and lonely. just listening to the chaos outside. i put a pillow over my head and the blankets over that. do you think this room is haunted? it must be. GREAT. now i have to worry about that too. it's too late to walk the streets and I’m sick enough to have to leave. i made a mistake. this isn’t how my life is supposed to turn out. this isn’t supposed to be me. I’m supposed to be filming educational hair videos in fucking london right now. but instead i’m in a crack hotel cut off from everyone i love. thanks heroin. i can’t call my dad or stepmom. they made it quite clear they were done. my get out of jail free card was used 5 weeks ago. it's now 2am. i can’t take this anymore. my mom always said i could call her anytime no matter what. i know that she’ll let me come home. she always does. i do it. i call my mom at 2am. she answers immediately.
“hello?” she says in a sleepy voice.

i’m silent for a minute. i can’t believe i actually called her. “hi mom. it’s me.”
i can hear her wake up. this is the call she’s feared. “honey are you ok?”
“no. no mom. no i am not ok. i’m scared and i’m alone. can i come home?” i start sobbing. “please mommy just let me come home.”
silence. she sighs.
“i can’t let you come home honey. i can’t let you come into this house until you are sober. i love you so much and i’m so sorry but i can’t” i know this is breaking her heart to say to me. i know she wishes more than thousand wishes she could let me come home and fix me.
“WHY? MOM I AM SCARED AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ANYMORE PLEASE”
silence
“i can’t. but i can stay on the phone with you. what are you doing?”
i’m crying so hard i can barely get the words out. it’s not working. she’s not going to let me. doesn’t she know what’s going on? doesn’t she fucking care? HOW IS THIS NOT WORKING THIS TIME WHAT THE FUCK? i’m crying so hard i have hiccups i choke out “i’m watching tv. will and grace”
“hold on. i’ll put that on too and it will be like we’re watching it together, ok?’
she puts it on. we stay on the phone for about an hour just watching the show together. we don’t really talk. it’s the first time she’s ever told me no. after i’ve calmed down we get off the phone. we say our i love yous and what not. i fall asleep. when i wake up in the morning i know that i’m on my own. it’s just me. no one is going to help me anymore. i’m the only one who can do this. i want to do this. but not today. probably not tomorrow either. but soon. i know what to do. i know there’s people out there that are happy. there’s people out there who don’t hate themselves. hate the way their skin feels on their body. shit, i just spent 5 weeks with some of them. they came into the program bringing meetings to spread the message. i’ve even got some of their numbers. i’m gonna call them. not today though. not yet.



Anee did get sober.
She is living out her rockstar dreams as a stay at home mother in the desert.
She looks stunning in a caftan.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Chill.

 I see my breath. I'm surrounded by the chill in air. The frost clings to the blades of grass like the memory of the last day I touched your hand. I was distracted by your dirty fingernails, bitten down to the beds. I wore your sweater yesterday. It smelled faintly of flowers. It reminds me of you. The wool irritates me, just like our petty arguments. The forty pounds you lost and gained and lost the last time you relapsed made just enough room.

 There is a gnawing inside my chest. My heart is pounding to get outside. The ribs spread to form a bony prison, keeping me from you. My lungs fill without my consent. I don't want to spend another day wondering where you are- this ache known our separation. I'll hate myself for another sleepless night.

There is a chill in the air. I am spending another night sweating. Sticking to the sheets like unwrapped  candy to the sidewalk on a hot summer day. I am sweet and easily discarded. Two users in love.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fall

I have been traveling a lot, trying to use my personal story to help others. I'm typing this on my phone so forgive me in advance . 


It's fall now. My kids need me to be home. I need to catch up on carepackages, apply for funding, and just focus on keeping my mind right. I'm not going to lie to kick it, for whatever reason, the winter months give me a wave of depression. My mother really loved the holidays. She would do the whole house with decorations. She had decorative sweaters, decorative jewelry and pins. I have never embraced anything as much as she embraced the holiday season.  


Winter as a homeless junkie sucked beyond measure. The SF Bay Area in my specific corridor doesn't really get "seasons" per se. It's more 10 days of heat, dry, cold/foggy, and rain. The rain when you live outside is inescapable. There are only so many sheltered spots in my general area. Those are highly coveted and physically defended. The average person might stay awake on rocks or tweak to avoid laying in a puddle at night. Remember- it isn't JUST a puddle. It's a combo of the oil and piss runoff that has accumulated in the dry season. The shelters were whack- curfew by sevenish only to be kicked out in the early early morning. That's if they aren't full. 


I'm old now. I'm an old retired junkie. But I can clearly remember shivering in the cold rain, unable to accumulate enough money for a fix. No place to sit, no place to stay, no prospects. Those memories keep me sober but they also make me insane. I left that life and three people took my place. The water wheel of addiction flows like the dope on the streets. 


You are probably alone reading this. I'm alone too. Alone in my hotel at a conference. I'm trying to learn about new ways to help people that use drugs, people like us. We deserve help. We deserve to be safe. We deserve love. 


Be safe my friends. I'll get a story to you when I return. 



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Walking with my Co Worker

I was walking through the Tenderloin today with one of my co-workers, another person who used to use drugs. I try to run my thoughts through the "is this appropriate filter" but that filter fails when I traverse certain blocks. Here is where I used to sleep outside. This is where the male hustlers used to pick up dates. This is the door well where I sat frozen for few hours after I shot up MDMA mixed with LSD. This is where my ex boyfriend carved A + T in a heart. That boyfriend died of AIDS. This is where I had someone overdose me on meth to try to rape me. I later pressed charges but the statute of limitations on sexual assault was two years at the time. Here is where I turned a trick for twenty dollars then lied to my boyfriend about it (so he wouldn't have to turn a trick). Here is where I used to sell drugs. This is were I used to beg for them when I was dope sick. These were the hotels that kicked me out when my boyfriend used to beat me up. This is the last place I used drugs.  Ok, I didn't actualy tell him all that. Some of it though, for sure.

The Tenderloin tour was nothing but tender. I am how ever strange, grateful it all happened. I appreciate every thing I have today. From clean sheets, to use of the limb they said I might need amputated, to people that love me. People ACTUALLY love me. Not because I have the bag but because I am a good person. I like to pet all the animals. Eat curry. Drink tea that is hot. I have THREE sets of sheets because I can. I like to wear whimsical socks because it makes me smile. I survived all that shit I mentioned. I am happy to have made it out alive.

I love you ppl. I was traveling, not ignoring you. I was eating way too many sea creatures in Boston.

Recent articles about me/harm reduction

Glamour

CNN

Friday, September 22, 2017

When You Overdose...

When you overdose...There will be nothing left for US. I promise I will hug your mother. I'll check on her too or at least I think I will. Your friends are all going to tell stories- good ones and not so good ones. They're angry. We don't understand. We're sad. My sweater won't smell like you for long. It will fade- like the memory of the last time i saw your face. Don't worry, someone will adopt your dog. Did you think about them? When your boyfriend/girlfriend starts fucking someone new, I'll assure them that enough time has passed. What was filled with love is now just there passing time- until the grief subsides.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Best You Can Hope For

"I want him to crawl inside my skin..." I reach for my Arizona Ice Tea. I feel like I swallowed sand paper or razor blades. I went to the free clinic yesterday. They told me I had a two for one infection- strep throat and an abscess. Trying to wash down these horse pills known as antibiotics on an empty stomach is just too fucking much.

My girl is nodding next to me. She looks pretty tonight. Her hair is pulled back into a pony tail, a scarf covers up her exposed skin. Her dress is a sort of black crushed velvet, tight at the waist. Her sugar daddy liked to show her off. She wipes her makeup and lipstick off with some alcohol pads. Our dealer met her in the lobby of the hotel. He knew EXACTLY what time she was going to return. I think he still had hopes she would date him again. She promised me she would never be that desperate. A one time thing is what she told me. I almost believed her.

We put all of our money together on a gram and a hotel room for the night, leaving nothing but a healthy rinse for the morning. She promised me if I went to the doctor she would "take care of me" for the day. I didn't have much to contribute but I could hit her in the neck. That made me valuable. "Blow Blow" I insisted. I wiped away the trickle of blood before it reached the scarf. She needed that for the next date.  I can feel the fever breaking as I sweat underneath my thermal, hoodie, and a wife beater to tuck in my non existent lady bits. We have the window up, the door barricaded shut. Neither one of feels safe in  this place so we pushed the dresser against the door. A couple of xanax later, it will be night night time.

She passes me her other Little Debbie swiss roll she grabbed from the corner store. "dude," she tells me "what the fuck are you even saying?" I am semi delirious from the fever I've had from two days. That plus finally getting well has made the dope hit me hard. I snuggle up even tighter against her. I know she isn't into chicks really but I know she doesn't mind either. We both did that double awhile back. The guy just wanted to watch us kiss while he jacked off, or so he said. I closed my eyes. I didn't want to see it. I just could not that day. She handled everything.

The chocolate is like paste in my sore mouth and throat. "I want some one to crawl inside my skin," I repeated "I want a man to touch my face when he kisses me. I want someone to kiss my scars. I want someone to tell me I'm okay." I halfway laughed at the benzos were kicking in. What I was saying was completely ridiculous. I kicked my shoes off the bed. As the thumped on the floor, I heard the TINK of my empty beer bottle hitting the floor. "I want a him to pull me next to him. Kiss my shoulders, you know, romantic shit."

She started laughing "Kiss your shoulders?" She shook her head. I could feel the motion making my head gently knock against the wall. It was getting heavy now. The pills, all of them, were making their way through my bloodstream. "Bitch you want shoulder kisses? Of all the things- shoulder kisses?" She actually giggled like we were normal for a moment.

I cut her off "YEAH" I said defensively "shoulder fucking kisses." SOME PRETTY WOMAN SHIT she said under her breath.

Her voice starts to trail off "the best you can hope for..." She never answers.

When I open my eyes in the morning, there is 20 units waiting for me. I never saw her again.

I saw them give up on life support and wrap a sheet around this person on Wednesday. No one should ever die alone like this. 


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Social Isolation and Overdose.

I got a message this week from someone who I've never met. That isn't unusual. I get lots of messages and I try to answer all of them. What was unusual was more the content of the message. Essentially the person said I was the only person outside of his dealer that knew he was using heroin. They knew nothing about me really except they thought I might be a person who would care.

That fucked me up family. NO ONE KNOWS you are using heroin except your dealer? That person is at SUCH high risk of dying alone from a fentanyl overdose. It made my heart hurt. Also, thinking about the feeling of keeping a secret like that from everyone in your life. So much stigma attached to heroin use. You can go to any club on any weekend and see people freely blowing lines of coke. Heroin makes a person a social outcast where people feel it is necessary to hide the valuables. This person works, is attractive (from what I can see in pics. I'm not trying to look too hard), has so many "things going for them". Oh, and they use heroin.

I thought about you, dear readers. How many of you have no one to talk to except folk you chat with on the internets (yes I said internets)? We are socially isolated and afraid. In that situation, drugs are a logical conclusion. The drugs are a solution of sorts that create a whole new set of problems. In looking at what we can do to reduce overdoses and increase the health of people who use drugs, it is becoming clearly to me that addressing social isolation needs to be a part of that strategy. I don't know the answers but I know we desperately need connection besides for the connection.

I love you friends.

I won an award this week for my public service. 
This is a pic from my flight with my bff. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fuck Love

"Fuck love," I told him "I don't need love when I have drugs." I rolled back over.

I could feel his leg shaking on the bed, a combination of anger and betrayal.
"Why did you do that Tracey," he gently turned me towards him "why would you let someone take my check?" I turned my back to him again. I don't feel like talking anymore. My sugar daddy came through with the $200 I begged/borrowed/lied for. I was celebrating- can't you tell?

I was high. High as fuck. The type of high where there really was no point in asking me anything that involved reality. The truth was not going to come out of my mouth. I didn't take his check, I reasoned to myself. I didn't profit in any way. Someone else took it so what did it matter to me...

He started getting louder "why didn't it matter to you?" He asked as if I cared "Because it wasn't YOURS. Because I thought we still meant something to each other?" That was his first mistake. Caring about me. Thinking I had the capacity to get beyond my pettiness.

He was the most beautiful man I had ever dated. I don't mean handsome. I mean he was fucking beautiful as in even the most homophobic of men would concede "that's a handsome man." Heroin had brought us together, a relationship forged in desperation. We would stay the night in seedy hotels, where the floor would move from bugs at night. We clung to each other for some sort of security. Eventually, that security turned romantic, as romantic as I had ever experienced. He bought me a gift once and would save me a wake up. I don't know if it gets more romantic than that.

It's over now. Over the day we sipped that first dose of methadone at the clinic. It was if we both woke up only to say "not you". Except I was regretting that decision. Except I was still in love with him. Except I was chipping again and he was fucking other women. When he didn't come back to the room we shared, I did care if someone took his check. I didn't care about anything. Not caring was my escape. He didn't see the eyeliner that was running into the pillow case from the tears in my eyes. I just wanted him to leave me her to die in dramatic strung out fashion. I proved myself to be the junkie I knew I was right? let me wallow in this a little deeper.

As the door slammed, my heart closed too. Fuck love, I told myself, as I mixed myself another shot- just because.

Recent things I have been in or written:
Bustle

The dopeypodcast

An article for work it health







Sunday, August 27, 2017

"What's the worst thing you've ever done for drugs?"

"What's the worst thing you've ever done for drugs?" he asked me.
 He took another bite of his food. I feel like I am being interviewed for a job I'll never get. If I tell the truth, he is sure to reject me. If I lie, I suppose he will know. I'm not sure how a casual late lunch/pre dinner with a person I met through Instagram has turned into an interrogation of sorts. It's not a date, more of an initiation. Can I meet the standard qualifications to fit into role. It's as if I wouldn't want to be in any club that would have me as a member but social isolation is also a mother fucker.

The truth is flexible. You don't have to lie. You can simply chose to omit the truth. Did you quit using? The correct answer is yes I did (but I started back again). Did you rip me off? The correct answer is no (but my boy did and we split the difference). Do you love me? The answer is always yes. I just happen to love/d drugs more.

He presses me again, not satisfied to hear my opinions on the decor, the neighbor, or the passersby we watch from our window seat. "What do you think is THE worst thing you have ever done for drugs?" When he reaches across the table for the salt, I notice a bump on his hand. It is the type of angry bump one gets from shooting tar into a vein  that is completely unreceptive. The infection has taken off part of the ink from his tattoo. Is this old? Is it new? I can't tell exactly.  He is overdressed for this occasion. San Francisco doesn't require a t-shirt and a flannel and a jacket and a beanie. Despite the fan twirling overhead, I can see the sweat starting to accumulate on his forehead. I can tell he wants to brush it away with our extra napkins.

I take a bite of my increasingly cold food. I hate eating in front of anyone. I feel like eating is an embarrassing private habit. I pull down my shirt to make sure no flesh is poking out on the side above my skirt. I keep pressing my hair behind my ear. I am becoming increasingly anxious from the copious amount of caffeine I ingested earlier. "Um, I would suppose it would be sex for drugs or money."

He laughs out loud, as if I have made a fart joke or something outrageously hilarious. "That's it? I thought coming from you there would be something more original" he quickly salts his food "I mean women give that shit up for a dinner on tinder these days."

I can't decide if I am supposed to be offended by his lack of empathy or laugh. "Well, that is something I don't really like to talk about..." I take a bite of my food, spilling the contents of my taco back on my plate. It sounded like an addiction related dick measuring contest was about to pop off. Instead, we are both trying to feel each other out with small talk about music and why coke tastes better in a bottle.

What IS the worst thing I've ever done for drugs, I think to myself. What does WORST even mean? Have I begged for drugs? Yes. I used to pan handle. I used to go the open air drug market to beg for "uno por gratis". I've spent hundreds of dollars with you. Can you help me out? I'm sick. That falls on deaf ears more times then not. Hundreds? Thousands? I've put a whole life of dreams up my arm. The cost? PRICELESS. Have I scammed for drugs? My whole life is an elaborate con I've played on myself. Of course I have scammed people for drugs. In fact, I've even worked for drugs. Imagine that. I worked a retail job getting yelled at by customers while I saved my pennies up to cop a few Percs when they were available. Who knew it would lead to begging people for their rinse. Do I want to explain these things to another person? Not really, not ever if I can help it.

As I choke down the rest of my food, I notice a restlessness. There is general sense of urgency on his part to end our lunch. As he takes a swig of his "apple juice" from his bag, I get the sense that it wasn't a test to see if he could understand me. It was a test to see if I could understand him. Did I completely miss something here? He throws his napkin down and stands up. It is time to go. NOW.

As we step out in the approaching night air, I turn my head to him. "I didn't get a chance to ask you the same question. What's the worst thing you've done for drugs..." he quickly hugs me as if to say this interaction is over.

He tilts his head to me "I'm not sure yet..."  he half smiles "have a good evening." As he pulls his backpack over his shoulder, I can't help but catch a glimpse of his reflection as he walks away.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Friends and Cats and Other Alternatives to Dope

THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA.

Ok, thanks for letting me get that out of the way. So- you want to quit dope? Or maybe you don't. You want to cut back? Or maybe you just want to be safer? (fuck I hope so). I don't know what your goals are dear reader. I just know you have to have something positive going on in your life outside of powders or brown sticky substances.

There is a scene in the movie "Black Tar Heroin" when I was doing laundry. I asked the filmmaker when I got sober, why am I doing laundry. Pretty much anyone who knew me knew I would pick up clothes from the street, a thrift store, or just wear the same damn outfit for a month before I would bother to do laundry. He told me "all you ever did was get high- we needed footage of you doing something else". I cringed for a minute. Then I realized what he was saying was true. My whole life revolved around the obsession and compulsion to use drugs. The obsession in that drugs were pretty much all I ever thought about 24/7. Getting drugs, using drugs, and getting money for drugs were my top three. The compulsion in that I would use drugs even when I didn't want to use them. It was like I had these plans to do other things I would still end up alone with a needle in my arm.

I don't know the magic formula. Maybe you will stop on your own. Maybe rehab. Maybe you will start smoking weed and forget opioids. Maybe Subs or methadone or whatever will do the trick. I just don't know what works for each person. What I do know is that having positive things in your life is going to help you. For me, it is hanging out with my cats/dog. I like to walk around and look at graffiti. I hang out with my best friend at least once a week. I go to a job I like. I go to meetings periodically, mostly for the social aspect of them. I volunteer to help other. I get tattooed by friends. I just try to be in the moment.

Do your thing friends. Don't let your thing do you.