Everyday I wake up earlier. Muscles clench and beg for release. My body feels like a piece of twisted meat hooked up to a battery. Twitching. Twitching like a severed frog leg. Twitching like eyelids as the windpipe is slowly crushed. Twitching like a shuddering sigh as life exits the body.
The edge of Darkness. So futile here. What am I doing? I don't use enough for pleasure. Just enough to be normal. This makes mornings cruel like a dull needle and a collapsed vein.
And I see it. A shiny square of foil with a blob of tar near the edge. Next to it is a pink lighter and Kym's glass straw...the one with blue ribbons blown into the glass. This straw has tasted her lips almost as much as I have.
And I wake up.
Fuck! A dream about being dopesick? And THEN waking up dopesick?! FUCK!
I get out of bed. The ghost follows. Her eyes..a drowning blue. The bathroom light casts radiance and reality upon my sad face in the mirror. Sick. Eroded. The spirits vanish. I piss, wash my face and don't look at the mirror.
In withdrawal, you are not allowed the pleasures of heaven. Even the mercy of the Darkness is beyond you. In withdrawal, you linger at the border of nothing. The saddest place in the Universe. Carved into your flesh from physical addiction. Burned into your soul from memories of being high. Such a sad, pointless life.
It is 5 am. I boil water for coffee and take a blue. I rattle the bottle and the sound is two pills faint. The fluttering heartbeat of a groaning man. Barely half a day. I text The Gargoyle and then curse myself for revealing a weakness. A 5am text for Roxis? Fucking dopesick junkie! I sit at the table and stare at Mycroft the fish while I wait for coffee. The TV is still on from last night. A pop star I never heard of OD'd. They play her awful music. Christ...But then I feel the oxy knead away the morning. I want another pill but not until the train. Train? Am I going to work today?
Really old friend? You're going to try?
I look at my phone. Sunday. The office is closed. I smile, break a pill in half and swallow it with sip of coffee. Then I make toast and scramble two eggs in olive oil.
I have a many, many messages. And I have a good idea what they are about. Reminders that I'm still alive though I barely participate in this dismal puppet show. What happened? Man I was doing good with the taper thanks to Sera. I was becoming whole again. But the slide. This backslide into the blues. It began with one fucking text.
It said: o 30s 4 20.
I like a bargain. That's $5 cheaper so I paid The Gargoyle visit. Been back every week since. As sure as the sinking sun.
I listen to the messages. Skip the work ones, skip the Sera ones. I'm left with nothing. Satisfied, I return to breakfast. My coffee is black with honey and perfect from the press pot Sera left here. The place is spotless. Vacuumed. No dishes in the sink. No messes on counters. But no Sera. Odd. I pick up the phone again and look at my texts.
Though she resisted, Sera finally got a cellphone. The first thing she did was send me a pic of her boobs. Classy. Her theater group talks exclusively through texts so her brain quickly learned to connect the alphanumeric cellphone pad to language. Texting is now her obsession. Clunky at first, she now excels.
For the past month Sera has been talking in an annoying, English accent for her theater group. I'd ask her if how the burrito tastes and she would respond, "Simply ghastly Mr. Higgins!"
Unfortunately, Sera's not shy about performing in public. At Applebee's, I excused myself to sneak-snort some oxy. I come back to, "Mr. Higgins! A young lady has come calling for you sir. Quite common looking I dare say...So I took the liberty to order you a cheeseburger with curly fries."
But as the neighbors know, I'm annoying too. The range of music from Black Flag to Sera playing the Spice Girls video game is a terrible thing. Plus I hate the stompy lady upstairs and her TV. She gets the Scottish National anthem. Bagpipes at 2am. Sera loves house music and techno after a bong hit. When I'm drunk, the redneck comes out. Bluegrass, Lynyrd Skynyrd and old Hank Williams Sr. records. Recently it's been Gorillaz and Audrey Hepburn. Sera cranks 'I Could Have Danced All Night' loud enough to shake the windows one building over.
Madness resides in unit #827. But regular madness. Certainly not junkie madness...
As far as Sera's concerned, I'm on the taper. She doles out oxy and morphine for me on a schedule. I'm surprised she hasn't noticed how sickly I've become. But she's focused on her musical. A huge time commitment. I've hung out with the junior college cast and was pleasantly surprised. Most work and just do it for fun. A bunch of washed up drama lovers having a good time.
I love Sera. She is a good person, very warm and loving. Definitely one of the good souls in our world. But she can't sing. Probably tone deaf too. What she lacks in execution she makes up with enthusiasm. It's a little hard to sit through. Like watching someone with a beautiful smile run full speed into a metal pole.
My phone chirps. The Gargoyle. Discreet and to the point:
Y. B hr 2:15.
Under my bed by the nightstand is a small safe. Inside I keep my ID's, cash and a .357 snub nose revolver. Looking at it reminds me how much life has changed. I never had a gun in college. I'm not even a gun nut. If I liked guns, I would never chosen this piece. It's not a fun, target shooting gun. It's a come into my house and die kind of a gun. I take out some cash.
This purchase should last me for the week if I limit the times I get high. Fuck, I am on the tightrope these days. To keep moving across the chasm, I need enough to stay sane. I don't want to fall. As you age, the plunge is so much farther. And the pleasure is so much higher. Stretching across the fabric of my life. Eclipsing goals and dreams. I always want to reach up and touch the stars...
So I try and limit being high to the nighttime.
It's 5:30 am. I snort the other half of the oxy. Liar.
Fuck it, I'm getting more today. Time to put my dope-clock to work. I grab my VPN login and enter my office network. First I need something plausible. Illness? Overdone. Travel? Not cleared. I go with Personal. I type an email that blanket thanks unknown people that might have known about my personal issues. I generically hint that my situation is bleak but improving. And thank you for understanding! Then I reply to a ton of emails just to time and date stamp my dedication. Up early on Sunday morning! Working for the Man!
When I'm done I listen to Sera's voicemails. My memory is shit these days. I missed her play she because I said I was working...Certainly not holed up in my apartment snorting oxycodone and playing video games. That would be pathetic.
Sera left me my ration of pills near the answering machine. There is a note reminding me of one last show. Sunday at 1:00pm. Wow. What a piece of work I am. I don't even remember constructing these lies to the one person who actually gives a shit about me. I look by the pills. Two oxy 15 mg and two morphine ER pills. A day's ration for my taper.
I swallow them and throw away her note.
"I don't know. Pills just don't do it" I say while scratching my arms.
I'm in the backroom of the bowling alley arcade. I can hear children playing video games and skeeball as we smoke cigarettes and watch lesbian porn.
"So shoot it" says The Gargoyle watching TV.
He is a rat faced little fucker. I look at his name tag. It says Larry. I don't think I have ever called him anything. Certainly not Larry. He doesn't look like a fucking Larry. Usually I'm in and out. But today, The Gargoyle has coke. I get a taste to see if I want any. He sits in his office chair and I sit on a box of bleach. Two young women with plastic looking bodies make noisy love on the screen.
"You can shoot oxy?" I ask.
"I don't know. I meant dope" he says dreamily. I look at him.
The Gargoyle is high as a motherfucker. We have never talked this much. Usually he just counts the money and grunts.
"I have tar and some needles if you want to shoot...Oh yeah. Cutting back right?"
"Trying. Fuck this is good coke. How much for an 8ball?"
"No egg-balls" says The Gargoyle. "$45 a gram. It's cut but better than the shit you get from the spics."
I look at him. He doesn't know what a 8ball is. More of his foreign face peeks through. His sleeves are rolled up and on his forearms I see tracks. He always takes the drugs from his pockets but he always sits at the desk. Doesn't matter if he's talking to you, playing Nintendo or watching porn. Not the best spot to see his little TV.
He's protecting the desk.
"$45? Can I get 3 for $120? Oh and you got a smoke? I'm out."
The Gargoyle looks up at me. We both know I've been here longer than necessary. Business can be wrapped up in two minutes. Bags, count cash, grunt, Bye. Anything more is social.
He grunts, opens the desk and takes out a bottle of vodka, some crackers and a can of sardines. He passes me his pack of Player's cigarettes and a lighter. He gets up and leaves the room. The desk is wide open. Well, this is a treat. I lean back and wait.
He comes back with two shot glasses, a plate of pickles and a bottle of mustard. He opens the sardines, plops a hunk on a cracker, squirts mustard on it and gives it to me with a pickle. Then he makes one for himself.
"$125 for three" says The Gargoyle.
I nod in agreement.
He pours us each a shot of vodka, we clink glasses and he gulps it down. I follow and we eat. A cycle begins. We no longer watch the sad lesbians pantomime pleasure. We talk. He is from Russia but came over as a teen. Oddly enough, my druggy appetite that craves Pepsi and candy finds this combination of sardines, pickles, crackers and vodka harmonious and wholesome.
"Larry?" I ask looking at the name tag.
"Leopold" he says quietly after we take another drink.
"You" he points at me with his smoke, "you're rich. You spend $1,000? Maybe $1,500 a month here?"
I take the bottle, pour myself a shot and break protocol on purpose. Maybe I should have stuck with The Gargoyle and the grunting. Not sure I like Leopold.
"But you have a wife. Kids?"
He stares at me. Open, rude and somewhat hostile but hell, he's Russian. He no longer makes a move to pour or make crackers.
"Well Leopold, I gotta go" I announce looking at my watch. I put my jacket back on and smile at him.
"What time is it?" asks Leopold. "No! Don't look at watch. So what time is it?"
I can see his computer clock out of the corner of my eye.
"Hmm" he grunts as he pulls three bags of coke from his pocket. I give him more cash. He counts and grunts again.
"Thanks" I turn to leave.
"You want dope? Or next week?"
I look at him and he grins. That rodent, yellow-toothed gargoyle grin. This is why you don't text your weaknesses at 5 am.
"Just tar? Any powder?" I ask.
"Now tar. My cousin coming is out with powder next week. More coke too. Same quality."
"Coming out from where? East coast? New York?"
"That girl. The redhead with the big ass, she doesn't know you inject right?" asks Leopold quietly. "Her name is...? Sera?"
"Text me for powder" I say as I zip up my jacket. "Thanks for the vodka."
Fucker. He always had a sleazy vibe but the creepy, intrusive thing is new. It was a mistake to come here in a suit. It was a mistake to bring Sera here.
It's complicated. We are not a couple but we are usually together. A weekend without Sera is noticeable. Every time she gets a boyfriend she cheats on them until the relationship collapses. And she is ALWAYS there for me. Her musical has run three weekends and I missed them all.
Or have I? Mildly drunk and buzzed on coke I come up with a plan. The plan has two enemies. Time and circumstance. I use my house key and take another bump of coke. The plan is solid. Let's do this.
I haven't had coke for years. The clarity and power it imparts...why did I stop? I enter the cab and give him the address to a florist I already called to make sure they're open.
"Red roses. Babies breath. No ferns. One dozen please."
The elderly Asian woman expertly trims and arranges while the cab waits out front. I pay and leave a tip because coke makes me appreciative. This lady is an artist. The bouquet is beautiful and the tiny white flowers look like stars surrounding a scarlet nebula.
"De Anza College. Wherever their auditorium is. Like for musicals and plays. You know it?"
"Yeah" answers the driver, "what's playing today?"
"I have no idea."
We arrive and I pay. As I walk across the campus I know I'm too late. I see a sparse crowd milling around out front. People in Victorian period costumes mingle with the crowd. I recognize a guy from one of the bar sessions dressed in a old fashioned tuxedo.
"Hi. Is Sera around?"
"Oh hey man!" he says recognizing me. He looks at the flowers and sadly shakes his head. "Left after the show."
I text Sera some bullshit how I am done and would like to meet up but she doesn't respond. The cab takes me home. Sera has a key and comes and goes as she pleases but the place is empty. Quiet. I drop the flowers near the answering machine and turn on the TV to swallow the lonely, still air. I take out my purchases, sit at my glass table and start crushing pills with a silver dollar. I chop coke into the oxy with my driver's license. The cocaine is new and I am glad because I have had this moment hundreds of times. Rotting euphoria.
My cellphone rings and I grab it. Caller ID says it's Rosie, so I ignore.
I'll try Sera again later.