I wake up early for work. I kill the buzzer two two digits before the alarm. Body feels ok. Sleepy but normal. All the shit I snorted, swallowed or slammed the night before still lurks in my blood. In fact, I feel so good, I would love to drift back sleep. This bed is so cozy on work days. It's dark and warm with the pumping blood of two humans who share a life together. I smell her scent, her shampoo, traces of yesterday's perfume and I want to fall back into my pillow and be content with life. But schedules, money and addiction are demanding masters. They wait for my sacrifices like marble faced gods that preside over my Fate. I barely get 10 minutes with my arm around my wife. Soon, I can feel the nausea building for my daily vomit. It's still far enough away that I'm comfortable just laying here in the dark. But time to move on. So I yawn, pat my wife's ass good bye and walk on down the hall. My mind is already plotting my day. When? What? How much?
When as in, When am I going to get high? What as in, What am I am going to take? How much, as in do I take enough to stave of sickness or enough to feel high? Like wayward stars in distant universes, these thoughts spiral towards my alien, inhuman existence. And I know these stars well. Let them come.
I go in the bathroom on the kid's side of the house. It is early enough that they are in their deep, untroubled slumbers. They sleep the restful, innocent sleep of creatures that thrive on the planet Earth. I sleep like a rotting thing half buried in the tidal flat mud. A briny creature, oozing liquid, repulsive and unclean. But after you have kids, you understand this is now their world. Let them take it and run under the sun like the silly creatures they are.
I seal myself in the bathroom. The first round of sickness hits. Explosive diarrhea. Yes, being a junkie is so sexy in the morning but I forgot to tell you why I am hiding on the kid's side. The fucking cat stalks the other side of the house and will start yowling. As opiate withdrawal approaches and the liquid shoots out of my body like a disease, I begin to shake. Saliva pours out of my mouth as I prepare to vomit. But I save this rude noise for the cat on the other side of the house and grimly swallow back the urge. Now the When, What and How much thoughts collide into my body like meteors slamming new craters into the moon. Decide! Your body is shutting down...
And it is. I can feel it shutting down with each step. I try and remember what it is like to not feel this way. But I can't. This insane hunger to live in my skull and blot out the rays of our life giving star. I splash water on my face for that oh so rare clarity. As I walk over, the cat hears me and starts yowling from the window so I let him in. He is an ugly white cat with a crooked tail and nicked ear cruelly named Handsome Bob by the wife.
"Fuck you Bob" I yawn as he saunters inside to eat.
"Maow" croaks Bob. Even his greeting is disgusting and offends me when I am sober.
"You are so fucking ugly Bob" I point out as I open a can of stinky cat food for him.
The rank, fishy smell reminds me of my daily routine. I go in the bathroom, clasp my hands behind my back like a sailor on deck and vomit. Thin, yellow gastric juice mixed with all the saliva I produce at night. There is no such thing as a discreet puke which I why I chose this side of the house. Let them slumber in peace. I am a large man with large guts that make large, disgusting sounds when expelling stomach contents.
I turn on the shower to numb the noise of my gurgling pukes and prepare my disguise. Oh yeah motherfuckers. Now I can definitely feel them. Tiny winged creatures chase me from across the nightmares and into this world. They trail me in the house screaming and surround me in numbers. When the crowd grows, they pounce on me and latch onto my limbs and spine with cruel, hooked claws. They gather in force to weigh me down. Not just physically but my brain slows down too. The clarity is gone and I feel myself disintegrating. A familiar feeling of not belonging in this world. The Priestess called this 'ghosting'. Spend too much time in the other side and your grip on reality slips away. I blot out these dark thoughts as the demons crawl across my flesh. I strip and climb into the shower. Let water bless this cursed body.
Water. It is my element. The sight and sound of water soothes me. I can stare at fish tanks for hours and feel myself unwind. When I go swimming and surfing it feels like I am returning home. But these days, the water is harsh to me. The shower burns like Hell and the sea is as cold as the grave. When I get this way I know I have strayed far from the natural path of an Earth creature. I live too far inside my broken mind where there is only an endless loop. Am I high? Get high. Am I high? Get high. But this high I chase like is like a dog chasing the moon. Pleasures too beautiful to comprehend and far too distant to ever catch. I shower quickly as the steam triggers dry heaves.
As a matter of habit, I avoid mirrors. The thing that looks back is often deranged and sad. Perhaps I have grown so accustomed to the Mask it has replaced me? And if I tear it away, am I still inside somewhere? Or is there just a dry skull? I let my eyes un-focus as I stare into the mirror. I am definitely ghosting away. The moths gather and try to rip the fluttering creature free from my body but I am still alive. I grab the sink as the morning swoons beneath my unsteady feet. The unpleasant feeling passes and I open my eyes. The thing in the mirror is still there. I see a stranger's face. I no longer recognize the dull, blank eyes that stare back. A dead man silently regards me. I comb his hair, make him presentable for the day. As I hide myself beneath the Mask, I address the man.
Who the fuck are you? A creature of shame! Dragging all that poison and misery behind you like a dark streak across the hearts of people that waste their fucking humanity caring about you! The best parts of your world are spinning by with you too fucking weak to care. I don't like you...I sigh and dress the creature.
Cloaked as a responsible citizen, I make six-grain wheat toast. I open the peanut butter and spread it across warm bread as the demons slowly twist my spine on their frozen, steel rack. The pain is intense. As intense as the longing for that last taste of euphoria long since passed. I can remember feeling good. Being good. I am good...
The physical pain, shitting and puking reminds me who is Master. Ok. The When is now. The What is oxycodone. How much is just a little. Just enough to get to work and last a few hours in a mildly deranged, yet functional state. I rail a couple pills, sip coffee and munch toast as Handsome Bob rubs against me. I pet him and go check my nostrils. The man stares back. Sober, groomed and prepared. We leave.
My car needed an oil change several thousand miles ago. I have to pump the brakes to get them to work. Much like my body, the car is improperly maintained and breaking down bit by bit. I see two homeless men walking towards McDonalds.
"Could be anyone" whispers the Priestess in the vast emptiness of my mind. And I remember. Somewhere in the Darkness, as I lay deep in my nod, there was that dream.
I was on top of a narrow train that sped through a deserted mall. Empty stores, shuttered bars and nothing but decay and ruin. The train raced towards an enormous black hole. I knew if I entered the dark star my life would end for only annihilation exists inside. So I looked down. The scope of the distance from this insane height gives me vertigo and I swoon and fall in the dream. At the last second I grab an iron pipe and dangle above the madness. I am strong enough to pull myself up but I hesitate.
"It is a long way down. But you will survive. You always do" says the Priestess from the Darkness.
But I can't decide. Stuck between two worlds I freeze...swaying over impossible, industrial heights. A paralyzed, useless thing. And then I wake up. Just in time for work. I click off the alarm and lay there wishing my life was different.
Waiting to enter the highway, I pass a McDonald's and know the Priestess is right. I get it. Fuck I get it. I slowly inch past the McDonald's. It's packed. Kids love this place but we only take them as a rare treat because we love our children. And oddly enough, every time I enter a McDonald's parking lot my heart races and my body grows tense. This place triggers memories of buying dope. How many bags or how many pills did I score at the McDonald's on the corner of Haight and Stanyan Street? I still habitually look for parking spots where I can see cars come and go. Like my dealer or the cops. And these sick thoughts twist into my family life and no...No I can't do it anymore.
It is time to quit. Again. The thought sickens me so I instantly calm myself with The Cruel Truth. I am a slave. So I'll just quit for awhile. Enough to get sober. Enough to kick physical addiction. Enough to make it OK to get high every fucking now and then. Soon. But responsibly right?
Much like my mind, the office is crumbling around me. I am too tired and too focused on getting high to comprehend the changes. Sometimes I complain to my wife who lives in the real world. She says, "Why don't you look for another job then?"
So I get high. I forget and no longer care. Then I wake up, curse my life, shit and puke and start another hazy day. And the haze is peppered with pills as milestones. Hurray it is 10 am! Pills!
But no more. Right? No more.
The day is long and mysterious as I dream walk through it. I am not sure how much this Mask protects me anymore. I have written off most of my duties and barely pretend to function. If I'm high and confronted I can still talk like a puppet. But in my experience the herd mentality of the office will soon turn on me if it hasn't already. This is fucked. My pretty little world is peeling apart and I can hear the ancient voice warning me, "The Darkness..."
I need a taper plan. I look at my Company Calendar and see all the days I have already taken off to be high by myself. Yes, all the fun of a family vacation days off spent alone, nodded out in front of the computer watching old television shows. Lovely. With a weekend I can weasel maybe four days? Barely enough and I will come off limping and half-mad but change is needed. A rapid, burning, cleansing change.
After work, I drive home in a fugue. The meat puppet pilots the car home mechanically pumping the brakes and steering carefully through afternoon traffic. It is a beautiful day. Sunny weather used to mean I would hit the beach with my longboard. Surf for an hour before I went home. Now I sit in an air conditioned vehicle, pray the brakes hold and curse the fucking sun. Too bright, too hot. I plan my taper. Maybe do one more pick up for the taper.
In my experience a taper sucks. It prolongs the Hell of withdrawal. But then again, the come down is a little lighter. Hmm. I think about this as I take another couple pills to slap back the little demons who are now crawling out of the car seats to hook my flesh and stab ice into my spine. I don't feel bad about taking some pills because I know soon I will be in Hell. Plus these will make my ride home more pleasant. The dopesick stomach cramps can wait. Yes, a taper is just what I need.
At home it is quiet because I left work early to celebrate my impending sobriety. I rail some oxy and look at the calendar. No that week would be terrible, maybe the next one? Nope a holiday weekend...Hmmm. I am sliding down the hole and slowly not caring again but I pick a week that is three weeks away. I put a red dot on the day to initiate Hell. Actually looking at it, planning it out like this I think I will need at least two more pick ups. And since I am picking up, I take another pill, snort it and open a beer. I sit in front of my computer as the demons melt away and the stardust covers me again. Two more hours until life happens. So two more hours to enjoy enjoying.
The computer blinks as it loads a page and for a second I see the Fiend in the warped reflection. It smiles. I smile back. I do a quick pill count. I like what I see and take another one. Then I go back to watching The Sopranos.