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.