"KYM! PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR!"
The frustration of standing on the wrong side of a locked door is a familiar feeling these days. The combination of Kym turning 21, Jason dealing coke and the madness of city life makes for some volatile fucking nights. Plus I can't beat her in a foot race. She ran track in high school so when she pulls a runner, those damn long legs of hers leave me gasping for air far off in the distance.
"I FUCKING LOVE YOU!"
It is a beautiful Sunday morning in the Mission District. The city's stunning Victorian architecture frames the sky. Cottony white clouds tumble through bright, blue spaces. I look up at our house. Sometime's she'll stand by the window and flip me off. But today the curtains are closed. Only the smiley face some fucker burned into the curtain stares back at me.
"GODDAMNIT KYM OPEN THE DOOR!"
It poured last night while we fought. Sheets of rain silhouetted her tall figure as she screamed loud enough for the bouncers and cops to get involved. But now the air smells fresh and clean. From the city buildings with their ancient Roman facades to the streets and sidewalks, everything shines in the glory of Sunday morning. It is one of those rare, magical moments where the city is silent. No sound of traffic horns or sirens echoing off buildings. Only bird songs and the peal of far away church bells. Most of my neighbors are in church, but a few wander by on errands. No one is in a hurry. Everything is in the right place.
Everything but me. I am definitely on the wrong side of the door.
"I'M SORRY! PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR!"
I hate being this guy. The fool standing outside yelling. The spectacle people watch for a moment before they turn to their children and remind them how impolite it is to stare at idiots. I'm wearing business man gray dress pants from Goodwill, no shirt and my crazy black hair looks like I received a heavy duty, electrical shock.
I wave my leather jacket at the house and yell some more.
"C'MON! LET'S GO TO BED! THIS IS CRAZY!"
A dull, thudding thump of bass music and the crunch of tires pulls up behind me. A car. I stop waving my jacket and turn around.
"Are you wearing makeup?" asks Caesar. His black eyes always seem malevolent and predatory. Like searching for weakness to exploit.
"No!" I say. Then I think about it. "Maybe?"
I start to walk off but have no where to go. I don't have any money, my door is locked and the neighborhood psycho just pulled up. I reach for a cigarette. I don't even have those.
"You can't stand here yelling man. These are good people. They work hard all week. They don't need to hear this shit. Where's your shirt?"
"I don't know."
Caesar stares at me as if lost in thought. Then he lights a joint and inhales. The scent is pungent and aromatic. Smoke curls from his nostrils. "Get in."
I look at my door one last time. No one sees. No one cares. I walk around the car and think of running. Maybe I could make it to the corner and hide in The Lex Club. But instinctively, I know this would do no good. I climb in the car.
"Here", he hands me the joint and slowly pulls out onto the street.
Caesar doesn't speak as he drives. Zippered in my jacket is my hangover cure. An oxy I stole from Kym. Asking Caesar if I can rail it in his car does not seem like a good idea so I chew it while looking out the window.
I have no idea where we are going as he winds his way through the neighborhood. Though I've been here for a couple years, there's a lot I haven't seen. We pass the joint back and forth in silence. No music. No talking. Just the sound of tires on asphalt as he winds through quiet streets and unfamiliar alleys. The weed relaxes me just enough to feel intensely paranoid yet no longer afraid for my life.
Caesar pulls into an alley and parks behind a dumpster. There is a ton of gangland graffiti on these walls. Mostly Norte XIV and some sort of roll call. But nestled low amongst the territorial pissing of gangsters is a: DevL. And I know whatever happens I will live. I realize how superstitious Dev has made me and smile. Fuck, these days I need all the help I can get.
"Come" orders Caesar walking through the alley between a Mexican laundromat and Korean pawn shop. Then he looks at me and frowns, "Put on your fucking jacket man."
By the laundromat is a tiny restaurant I would have never seen driving by. There are two tables are on the sidewalk and a menu board. Inside is a counter, a stove and a Mexican lady making tortillas. Caesar talks with her in Spanish. She seems submissive and wary of him like a lot of people in the neighborhood. We take a sidewalk table. She brings us chips, three types of salsa and two Coronas. Caesar lights another joint. He doesn't offer it to me.
But as I sit in my chair, I feel as the oxy slithering across my bones. It's enough to feel normal, but not nearly enough to feel good.
"Do you have a smoke?" I ask.
"No. I quit smoking in San Quentin" he says blowing weed in my face. "You look like shit. Queer, faggot shit."
"No offense. Your girl is hot but I guess that's what the freaky white girls like" he shrugs crushing lime into his beer.
I look at myself in the napkin holder. My eyes are smeared with eyeliner. I wipe my hand across my lips and see lipstick. Was this from kissing Kym? Or did she put lipstick on me? I don't know. The weed and oxycodone lightly bless me but my body is attuned to stronger substances these days. Maybe beer will help. I pick up the bottle and chug it down in three big swallows. Caesar watches me. His expression is one of mild disdain.
I belch as a cloud slides by and sunshine pours down upon us. I take Kym's sunglasses out of my jacket. Oval shaped, white framed girlie sunglasses. I put them on as the oxy assures me everything is gonna be alright.
"You don't give fuck do you?" says Caesar.
I am thankful for the sunglasses because he is watching me. It makes me edgy. Caesar takes a last hit from his joint and flicks the roach. It flutters like a moth into the street and lays smoldering on the whims of the wind.
The lady puts another beer in front of me and I realize I'm starving. When did I last eat? Man, nothing like freshly fried tortilla chips and verde salsa. I start shoveling food into my mouth.
"I saw you sleeping in your girl's car two nights ago. Windows open. You're lucky no one jacked you."
I have no idea what he is talking about. But it does sound like something I would do.
"That shit is gonna kill you" says Caesar as the lady comes back with bowls of soup, tortillas and a salad made of cilantro, lettuce, onions and limes.
Now I know what he is talking about. All my neighbors know our house is heroin house. The noisy, junkie white kids.
"Everyone dies" I say sniffing the soup. I regret the words the instant they leave my mouth.
Caesar scoffs. "Only a culo that has never fought for his life would say stupid shit like that."
I watch him dump his salad in his soup and eat it with tortillas.
"What you doing these days? Snorting or shooting?"
Instead of just opening my mouth I think about this. Caesar sells heroin. His people sell heroin. All the tar in the city goes through these people. You can't snort tar. The club heroin we snort is not from Caesar.
"Smoke it. Foil."
"Yeah?" he growls. I can tell he doesn't believe me. "Good. Don't start shooting. Seen too many people go lights fucking out on that road. Like Lorenzo. Remember?"
Fat dude with a lazy eye. Slow talker and always sweet on Kym. I nod.
"Good man. Trustworthy. That's huge. But he got a habit. Had to retire."
I put down my spoon.
"Your homeboy. The clubs and coke...that's a good thing. Smart to stay out of heroin game. People just drop out you know?"
I watch him as he wipes his face with a napkin. It's one of those moments when I look at my life and shudder. How dark everything has become. How far away I have strayed from the person I used to think was me. Sitting here with an ex-con sipping soup is a prime example how fucked life gets real fast.
The lady comes back and starts to put more chips on the table. Caesar looks at her and YELLS. The sudden noise shatters any semblance that this is a normal meal. She quickly removes the chips and pushes herself into the farthest corner of the restaurant and wipes plates. Like the lady, I look away from his terrible eyes. Eyes that reflect only dark, primal violence. No feelings inside. Not human.
"Tell Jason it went up. He'll know. $300 a week. He can keep going to La Llorna if he's too much of a pussy to pick up at my house."
I nod. Hard to imagine Jason in Caesar's world. Jason's so fucking goofy and nice. When the new Zelda came out, he said he was on a quest and stayed home for a week eating mushrooms and playing Nintendo. To think of him dropping off money at a Mexican bar is a dark thought indeed.
"Need something?" asks Caesar mildly.
My mind races. More food, another beer? What is he talking about?
"What do you mean 'what'? You fucking dumb?"
He reaches into his pants and my heart explodes. Any trace of oxy calmness flees my body like it knows...but all Caesar does is pull out a tiny, rolled up yellow balloon. He tosses it on the table.
"Take it. You can owe me later. Now go."
I get up, grab the balloon and leave. I walk in a direction I think is my house. My hearts races ahead of me like so many other times with Caesar. But he is a like an animal. If I run, he will chase me. So I walk.
When I see the park I figure out where I am and head home. I walk up the stairs and try the door. It's open. I walk down the hall and look in my room. Kym lays on the futon with her arms around my pillow hugging it.
"Babe I'm sick. I can't find my oxy and Jason's gone. I wanna feel better."
"I have some tar."
Kym animates instantly and flies down the hall for foil. I follow her to the living room and toss her the balloon while I take off my jacket.
"Where did you go?" Kym asks as she frantically unravels the balloon.
"Nowhere" I say sitting next to her.
I put my arm around her but she is rigid and all business. She tears a piece free and puts it on foil.
"Do you know what happened to my shirt?" I ask.
"You gave it to me after I ripped my top."
"Oh? How did you-"
"Fighting that bitch. Babe we can't do so much coke ok? We haven't slept for...what is today?"
"Oh shit I missed work. We haven't slept for three days."
"Why did you lock me out-" I start to ask.
"Wait-" she commands as she heats the foil.
The hissing little dragon tumbles down the silvery slide. She breathes the dragon's breath as his journey sizzles to an end. Kym leans back and I watch her eyelids flutter. As she exhales, barely any vinegar smoke leaves her.
"Fuck...it's good babe. Have some. Do it with me..."
And I do. It hits so hard I don't realize Kym took the straw out of my hand until I open my eyes and see it between her lips.
She falls into my arms and all I know is love. We sleep. And we dream.
Another day slips by unnoticed.