Man I haven't seen Jessica for a year. After the dorms, she went back to Israel for her compulsory army service in the IDF. She had casually mentioned this once or twice. And this was the same friend who introduced me to Mr. Maru and the psychedelic, heroin culture that grew from the city's music and art scenes. She used to walk around the dorms under her purple umbrella while tripping on mescaline. I love this crazy girl. When I heard she was back in town, I arranged to meet her. My enthusiasm made Kym go into a snail shell. I instantly knew I was in some sort of trouble. But Jessica was only in town for two nights, and I had to catch up with my crazy goth friend who ended up toting a machine gun in the Israel Defense Force.
I knew Jason in the dorms, so he knew Jessica. Pretty much everyone in that party circle remembered the trippy girl with ropey black hair who walked everywhere beneath her umbrella. But Kym just sort of landed in San Francisco. She was on a day pass from rehab, went to a wedding, destroyed my relationship with the girl everyone thought I would marry.
Then she moved into my apartment. Typical boy meets girl love story.
"You'll totally like her,” I promise. "She's fun and weird and uh yeah. Fun," I finish lamely.
Why was this so awkward? I just want to see an old friend. But I can feel the room heating up. There is a palatable nature to my girlfriend's displeasure. An intense tangible thing stalks the air between us. I smile weakly.
"I have to close Union tonight. Where are you guys going after the show?" Kym asks quietly.
"Well after the show she wants to check out the strip club next door to the Warfield. After that I’m not 100% sure. Maybe Catalyst?"
"Oh a strip club. Yeah she sounds fun," deadpans Kym, "Guns, titties, and umbrellas. Fun, fun, fun. Call me from wherever you end up."
Jessica borrowed her cousin's truck and pulls up at our place right as Kym walks down the stairs for work. Kym walks right by her without a word.
"Good start" elbows Jason.
The Primus show was crazy. The cartoon heavy metal bass bounces around my brain like a bat lit on fire. Jason and I do a lot of coke but Jessica only smokes weed. And no more heroin. Jason makes a big deal how he doesn’t need any H either. Tough guy. So I solo bag snort. The new bags are heavy and I feel the weight of the night sky on me after my two test bumps. But I do a third one just to make sure the gods aren’t messing with me. Jason and Jessica smoke another blunt as my eyes roll back into my skull for a moment. NOD...Ah yes, the gods have found me. I wake up and see Jessica watching me. I see hunger in her expression...but she merely smiles.
"No smack in the Holy Land," she shrugs, "A lot more psychedelics than you would imagine though."
Jessica is tan and no longer paints her face vampire white or smears mascara across her eyes. Now she has a natural glow from her life under the sun. She sits up straight and seems more alert and serious. Jason is enthralled and does his best to impress. Buying drinks, opening doors, saying his usual clever things but with far less cynicism..I wish Kym was here to see him trying to impress. It’s so cute.
Jessica makes up for her lack of substance abuse with binge drinking. She pounds shots and slams beers with reckless abandon. She is definitely making the most of her time off. She says the IDF is mostly guard duty and security training. Pretty boring but they do get to practice with machine guns and real grenades which she thoroughly enjoys. As Jason moves in, I drop out of the conversation and leave them to talk. I try and count all the pills, lines, shots and joints I have had today, but can't. Oh well. Jessica slides me another drink as she scoots in closer to Jason in the booth. I take a sip of the drink. Fuck. Some foul concoction of whiskey, soda and various liqueurs. Oh well. I pound it.
Now the problem with cocaine is it lets you drink a lot. I mean A LOT. Yet, you feel fine. You feel good. Happy. But then you light a cigarette...and it's like lighting a M-80 in your skull. Though you sit still, a panicky sickness grabs you from your intestines to the brain. Your spirit suddenly starts toilet swirling around the room. WHOOSH! WHOOSH! WHOOSH! Gasping for air, breaking out in a stinky sweat and knowing very soon you will either puke, shit or have the shits while puking -not fun.
I will myself to calmness. It doesn't work. I know I am goth pale and sweaty. And to top it off, I will experience this in a public restroom. I stand up, clutching the table as it wildly shoots out from underneath me. Damn thing! I steady myself and then sit right back down.
Fuck...That was intense.
"You ok?" asks Jason, watching me. Jessica looks over.
"Yeah. Just need to use the restroom.”
I wade across a swaying floor past a laser light show of thumping bass music, mirrored ceilings and breasts..? I stare up, gobsmacked. Flashing rainbow disco lights illuminate a gyrating stripper. She looks amused at my surprise and thrusts her gold-lamé crotch at me. Jesus. How did I get here?
The restroom is crowded, so I wait. It feels like a claustrophobic, tiled cube. Restrooms need music. I hear men piss, fart, talk and crap. This makes me ill. The scent of cologne and feces is overwhelming. I swoon again. Stagger and bump into a guy that shoves me. Then the room violently swirls to the LEFT! My gut protests. I see a sink and puke in it. Someone says something but I am a noisy projectile vomiter. Sink to urinal and then onto the floor. Beans, rice, carne asada and salsa mixed with alcohol. Christ what a stench! The restroom is no longer crowded. I splash some water on my pale face and wobble back to the table where I sip on a beer and pretend that didn’t just happen.
Jessica is gone and Jason holds his finger out at me like he is trying to coax a parakeet to land on it. I look at him like he's insane.
"It’s a bump, dude. You ok?"
I look at his finger. There is a tiny hill of coke on it. I nod and snort it. Icicles stab my brain and I feel tiny creatures gnawing at the roots of my eyeballs. The coke wrenches me back into the room. My heart THUMP THUMP THUMPS in time with the horrible bass music.
"Jase?" I ask.
"When did we come here?"
"Just got here like twenty minutes ago. After Primus. Remember?"
"Sure,” I say, concerned about the black part of my brain. "Where are we?"
I look around for the first time. I have never been in here before. Too many mirrors and guys in suits. All the metal is ridiculously shiny, and the bass heavy songs scream at my psyche. There is stuff I am forgetting...Jessica comes back with shots. She slides one to me and I think, Please God no.
I look at Kym for support and realize, Fuck! I forgot to call Kym.
Try getting quarters in a strip club. It's a bitch. They worry you'll do something obnoxious with them. The cocktail waitress doesn't make change and struts off. I stare at her weird ass with the g-string slicing through the shifting butt cheeks as she walks off. The bartender looks at me like I asked him to blend dead mice with tomato juice before he turns his back on me. I walk along the bar. People have left quarters as tips. I look around. Everybody's watching two skinny Asian strippers spin like pinwheels on opposite poles so I just start grabbing coins.
Outside I use the pay phone to call Kym's work but it's closed and she has already locked up and left. I call our house. Either she's not there yet or she’s not answering. In a fit of paranoia Jason took apart our answering machine looking for the "cop bug" and has yet to put it back together. So I can't leave a message.
I go back to the club entrance and the bouncer stops me with a heavy, solid hand straight into my throat. I make a Gack! noise and stumble backwards. I look at him. Barely 5'5 but built like a stone wall. Little tough guys hate me because I'm tall and make them look like cranky little gremlins.
"Oh you the clown swiping change from the bar. Nah man. You ain't coming back in."
He stares at me hard, hoping I do something dumb. And I do. I appeal to his sense of logic.
"Ok. But my friends are in there. Let me explain to them my predicament so they understand—"
"Shut the fuck up! And back the fuck off."
And I don't even see it. Hell, maybe I just fell down. Suddenly I am looking at the wheels of a parked car. I get up slowly as the sky tilts and tumbles recklessly past me. The bouncer stands on his tiny square of carpet territory with a slight smile. The worse part is the change I stole bounced off into the street where traffic zips by.
I am less than two miles from home. But instinctively, I know I'll never get there in my condition. So I hang onto a light pole and signal cabs. All I have to do is stand up straight, look mildly sober and wave. Luck and the fortitude of cocaine is with me. A nice Indian man pulls up and drives me home. I somehow remain conscious during the whole trip. I'm so wasted he yells at me as I stagger off. I gave him my wallet rather than deal with math. He gives it back. I give him a $5 tip and say Thanks.
My door is locked. I thump on it.
"Go away!" says Kym.
"C'mon! Let me in!"
"Go party with your fucking friends!"
She screams obscenities at me for a few minutes and I hear glass shattering. Probably one of Jason's beers thrown at the front door. But I just rest my weary head against the wood. I can feel Kym's violent energy within. This is comforting and I pass out.
I wake up and hear Jason and Jessica giggling. Each of them grasps one of my arms. They drag me inside to the couch where they unceremoniously dump me next to Kym. I am so wasted, dizzy and sick all I can do is groan, but they ignore me. Two stumbling drunks, leaning on each other, bumping their heads to whisper and share laughter.
"That's her? Hey, I passed her today on the stairs right? Aww she's so pretty! How the hell did Severson ever get a girl like that?" asks Jessica, as they both burst out laughing.
I try and curse them but nothing comes out. Jason affectionately kicks me as they walks by. I hear them stumble down the hall into his room. The door shuts and I hear his stereo thump to life as music softly pulses through the gloom.
In the darkness I can sense Kym near me. The myrrh, the coffee grounds and amber perfume that make up her scent. But she is so still. Concerned, I pull my head up to look at her. Kym is sitting with her head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth slightly open. Her arms and legs splay out from her pink pajamas. It looks like her spirit exploded into the sky leaving her body behind. She is completely nodded the fuck out. Must have been a big shot and for a big reason. Kym fears heavy nods. She once told me when the Darkness comes, you drown in the silence.
I can see a thin trail of blood obeying gravity's wish as it winds down her forearm, across her wrist and palm only to dwindle and dry on her fingertip. At least she got the needle out out before the dreamworld took her. I do not like this image. I find Kym’s bloodstained hand and hold it.
It is still warm and that is all I need to know.