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Monday, September 7, 2015

Tell Me a Story

Jason sits on the floor in front of the Mexican prayer candles.  Four burn on the coffee table and one illuminates the hallway.  You can buy these candles at any store in the Mission.  They burn forever and have psychedelic portraits of martyrs and deities painted on them.  Burning brightly in the darkness, they are an amazing thing to stare at.  

They shut off our power again.  Paying is Jason's task.  Every month he is supposed to take our combined cash to the office downtown.  It's literally half a block from his job at the bakery.  And Jason swears he has done this...So the real question is When?  The answer might not conform to the due date printed on the bill.  

But I leave him alone.  Though the lights are off, we are high which is better than electricity.  Besides, Jason is a master at trade.  He can pawn the TV and while you curse for two or three days he always returns.  He returns with cocaine, heroin, cash and a new TV.  Often better than the one he stole.  Now that we've bitched about the lights, I know it will resolve itself.  The gnomes in his head are already plotting.  

Besides, being in the dark is not so bad.  We huddle together like monkeys in the forest canopy as the sun sets behind some distant mountain.  We have long conversations about nothing.  Kym and I definitely sleep better without a TV to stare at and Jason tones down his personality to match the gloom.  It's relaxing.

We are a happy family.  Jason brings us cocaine and best of all heroin.  I add psychedelics to the household and weed.  My chemist friend's closet is full of cloned, hybrid marijuana strains.  I can score MDMA and oxycodone at school.  Kym brings order.  Since her arrival, the bathroom and kitchen are no longer disgusting places to tread fearfully.  Her presence means food in the fridge, toilet paper and soap in the bathroom and coffee and cigarettes to start your day.  

Tonight she brought home leftover sandwiches from the farmer's market in the Ferry Building.  Kym trades coffee drinks for food.  She even got a paper bag of freshly fried garlic potato chips with sea salt and pepper.  Gorged on roasted turkey and ham we all sit and stare at the cartoon glow of Mexican saints beneath dancing candlelight.  

Marijuana is constantly smoked in this house.  It's there as a gift.  Usually a big bud on the communal coffee table with scissors, papers, Kym's glass pipe or my bong.  When Jason is home, you will get coke.  As a coke dealer, he always has it and often we get to taste before it's cut.  And heroin.  We all love heroin.  Lately that one has been taking center stage.  We snort it, smoke it and Kym thinks Jason shoots it...fuck I hope not.  

The oxy pills are growing in popularity which I can get through school friends.  As a middleman, I could take a cut but never do.  Kym fucks my brains out and Jason gives me coke.  I pass my savings on to them.  Oxy is a wonderful hangover cure and excellent for coming off psychedelics.  Kym takes them at work and I have started doing this too.  MDMA is mostly a Kym thing.  She prefers it over coke when going out.  Jason and I gobble psychedelics and enjoy the weird.  Kym...not so much.  But she will drive us around when we're tripping and babysit us.

The bong has a joint Kym rolled shoved into the stem.  As it burns, we do some lines of coke.  Jason rattles his vicodin pills for the "injury" he got at the bakery.  He admitted to us he just sorta stumbled into a rack of rolls like a fool.  But his boss saw.  So Jase played the hurt card.  The problem with people like Jason is they actually read the Employee Handbook before signing.  Rather than risk a drug test he would fail, Jason instantly cited wet kitchen conditions and demanded an ambulance.  While nothing was broken, his "injury" was documented and he got vicodin and temporary disability checks.  These checks and the time off helped launch his cocaine career.  

"Best thing that ever happened to me" sighs Jason popping a vicodin.

He shares these with us, but I prefer the oxy.  Vicodin is a lazy, TV watching drug.  If anything, I miss the fresh bagels he used to bring home more than the vicodin.  I wonder if the days of fresh baked goods is over?
           
As if reading my mind, Kym asks, "Do you still work at the bakery?"

"I think so" shrugs Jason.  "But my disability wears off next week."

"You gonna limp in again and do your act?" asks Kym as she nestles into me on the couch after passing the bong to Jason.  

"Nah.  Three time's the limit.  I'm gonna call on Monday and tell them I'm still sore.  Maybe they can extend my disability another week.  I'm over the bakery.  Make way more dealing in clubs."

Kym takes a cigarette I had behind my ear and lights it off a candle.  She takes a drag and hands it to me.  

"Why don't you tell them you're sore but WANT to get off pills?" says Kym.  "If you're lucky, they'll give you a taper program."

Jason stares at Kym.  "And...?"

"And you get more disability AND pills for the taper.  Duh."

Jason stares at Kym and then slowly smiles.  

"You are the Devil's Daughter.  Why do I even try and compete with you when it comes to deceit?  That's like something a responsible adult would ask."

Kym shrugs and takes back the smoke.

Jason pulls out some colorful balloon balls of tar and we start unraveling them.  Crazy to think how people die and kill each other for these little balloons of black crud and how Jason just tosses them on the table like no big deal.  A moth flutters by as I peel a red balloon.  It bounces off my ear and in a clear voice it sings, "Wait!"

Startled, I look around.  Kym is giggling at something Jason said as she folds some foil for smoking.  Neither heard the moth.  Heard?  I think about all the acid I have been taking.  Moths do not talk.

We do two rounds.  Mediocre stuff.  But even crappy heroin is heroin.  By the time we start smoking cigarettes, life is serene.  The room is hushed and the shadows begin to shift as each lungful of tobacco brings the dragon on heavier and heavier.  

"Man I want to watch Northern Exposure" whines Kym as she draws up her knees and sighs.

"Life without TV is not so tragic" I say tracing my fingers down her knobby spine. I linger at her bra, she smiles and elbows me.  

But it does suck missing Northern Exposure.  The TV is like our primitive fire pit we gather round at the end of the day.  Stare into the flames and zone out on some sitcom about Cicely, Alaska.
There's no beer but we have rum.  Without power, all of Kym's Odwalla orange juice is going bad so we make drinks.  

"That necklace" says Jason who attempts to dignify himself after he just got caught staring at Kym's chest, "is that like an antique or something?"  

He smirks at me and pretends to be serious as Kym lifts up her ancient, silver medallion.

"This?  Oh there's a good story here" Kym says leaning over the candle until her face is illuminated like an evening star.  "My grandmother taught me this story.  Probably the first time this has ever been told in English."

Kym raises her eyebrows at us and lifts the silver necklace off and holds it above the flames.  She is dressed all in black.  A form fitting, long black skirt with a matching long sleeve turtleneck.  A black scarf is tied over pink hair.  Her face and hands glow like ivory as her outfit keeps melting into the shifting candlelight.  

"Look" she commands.  "Mithra!  He is sacrificing a bull.  But look at the blood."

Detailed in the silver but worn smooth from time, you can barely make out sticks with circles falling from the bill's neck.  Beneath it, a crowd of faceless people all reach up.

"Flowers.  The bull bleeds flowers.  And this is why.  The city was plagued by the 1,000 sons of the Night goddess Nyx.  The Oneiroi.  They caused sorrow and destruction to the inhabitants of the city.  They slip into a dreamer's body and cause pain.  Pain leads to madness.  Horrible crimes were committed and the city crumbled.  Buildings burned, laws and gods were forgotten, families were murdered."

Kym pulls the necklace back over her head and moves closer to the flame to light a smoke.  As she draws fire into the cigarette, her eyes slip into the dream.  She releases her breath and the flame illuminates the room for a moment.  Shadows shatter as the moths crowd closer to hear.

"Why?  Because Nyx was jealous!  Her temple in the city was small, plain and untended.  People fear the night.  The goddess was left to wander alone in her dusty ruins.  When night falls and Lady Darkness arrives, she draws her veil of stars over the tired city" says Kym as she pulls her scarf down.  The material swallows her pink hair in Darkness and only the moon glow of her face is left as she stares into the candles with her wide blue eyes.  

"The temple of ocean goddess Thalassa was huge and prosperous.  The city's power lay in trade so native sons and foreigners alike gave her their coin.  And Mithra...well Mithra was the spread down to the Romans.  The Mithraic mysteries were known from the baker boy who tends the night fires to the future Emperors of Rome.  This was a cosmopolitan place.  Gods from all over the world were worshipped here.  Temples both large and common were plentiful.  Plentiful for all but Lady Night."

"I love this shit" smiles Jason as he lights a joint.  "When I'm high you're better than TV."

"Almost a compliment" says Kym.  

Jason passes me the joint and I can't help it.  When she tells stories, her sexuality oozes from her persona.  I pass her a lungful in a kiss just to feel her lips.

"Ok.  Ok" mutters Jason.  "You can do that later.  More story!"

"Nyx grew bitter.  In her sorrow she was visited by her eldest daughter Miseria.  Miseria described the jeweled statues, rooms of gold and marble cisterns full of crabs and fish in Thalassa's temple.  She spoke of all night revelries in the ivory halls of Mithra.  In the silent shadows of her decaying temple, the goddess Nyx wept.  But when her daughter left, misery turns to rage.  She called for her 1,000 sons of sorrow. The Oneiroi.  From the womb of the Earth, the smiling sons entered the city and slipped into the hearts of dreamers.  The Madness and Terror began."

And Kym stops as Jason prepares more foil.  The oval of her face nestled in the blackness of the scarf follows his movements.  Her high cheek bones and glittering eyes remind me of her desert blood.  Her smooth white hands appear and the Dragon is worshipped.  Another hit to push away the pains of tomorrow...candlelight is captured like starlight in the foil.  Kym's eyes close briefly and flutter as the god takes her.  She sags and I catch her.  As if the price of this night is still unpaid, Kym's eyes open.  She sits up, gathers the scarf closer to her face and though her voice is barely a whisper, she continues.

"Parents forsake their children.  Family honor crumbles to dust.  Commerce slows as everyone heeds the Night.  Nyx walks proud.  The city no longer cares about the day.  Only the pleasures of the night.  The Oneiroi run like a plague through the people and the city begins to die."

Jason leans closer to hear and Kym moves into my lap and melts in my arms.  I hold her limp form as she looks up and continues.  Her voice a whispery growl.

"Mithra sees his great city washing away in the sea of Nyx.  The balance is gone.  It has always been wrong and now he must change it or all shall be lost.  Like the sun that grows wheat for his people to eat bread, the stars must be honored too.  Mithra gathers his priests.  Nyx is to be honored in every temple.  All must acknowledge the Night.  Her likeness and altars are to burn in every place of worship.  And they do this.  Nyx is spread throughout the city and grows even more loved" sighs Kym.  

I can feel her nodding.  Slipping into the dream.

"But her 1,000 sons still run wild.  She tries to call them back but they enjoy the pain of mortality.  They delight in the fevered dreams and screaming madness.  So Mithra calls the Flower God from his cave.  This flower gift is so powerful, it can soothe the Oneiroi.  The Flower God lives in the lands of Nyx.  Nyx embraces him as a lover for his love is the pleasure of all gods.  So the Oneiroi return the the Darkness.  But the vengeful sons wait.  They know the gift of the Flower God is a cursed thing to mortals..."

"Wait.  Your grandma talked about opium?" asks Jason.

"No.  When I heard the story as a kid it made no sense.  But as I grew older I made the flowers poppies.  Maybe that is what the story meant.  I don't know.  But her story is now my story."

"So it's like science triumphing over supernatural beliefs" I say as Kym lines my arms perfectly in the gloom.  "Like a cautionary tale about opiates?"

"No.  That's not even close" sighs Kym in a dreamy voice.                     

"Hey what time period would you have liked to live in?" asks Jason exhaling a plume of smoke across the candlelight.

"Ancient Rome" I answer immediately.  "Like when Trajan was Emperor."

"Roaring 20's.  Paris", smiles Kym striking a silly, dramatic pose.

"Boring!" says Jason.  "I wish I could have partied with Motley Crue."

I stare at Jason knowing he can't see me in the gloom when I lean back on the couch.  So I move forward so my perplexed face enters the circle of candlelight.

"That's the stupidest thing you ever have said.  You ARE old enough to have done that!"

"No dude!" complains Jason.  "We were still in high school when they peaked!  Like now I could party with them but I already missed their golden age!  The cocaine, heroin, whiskey, g-string age!"

"We have cocaine and heroin here" laughs Kym.  "You can borrow one of my g-strings if you want."

"You shit on Rondo when he played his Pearl Jam CD but you want to wear makeup, girl's underwear and listen to Motley Crue?"

"Motley Crue IS heroin dude.  No one admits it, but everyone parties with it."

"Yeah..." says Kym looking at me slyly, "You have a Dr. Feelgood tape."

"It's uh, not mine..." 

"What about you?" asks Jason.

"Yeah tell us something babe" smiles Kym squeezing my thigh.

"Like what?  I'm studying acceleration rates to better understand gravity."

"No!" barks Jason.  "Boring!  Tell us a story."

"A story?"

"Yeah babe.  Tell us something from your mysterious past" she says in a dramatic voice and then giggles.

"Let me think."

I lean forward as Kym drops back to stretch out on the couch.  Jason kicks out his legs and lays down on the floor.  Both of their faces slip from the pools of candlelight and are swallowed by the gloom.  Only the glow from their cigarette tips whispers that they ever existed.  

"Ok.  Let me tell you a story..."