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Friday, February 5, 2016

Cocaine Shadows

San Francisco is a city for lazy lovers.  There are many wet, gray days to keep couples curled up beneath the blankets.  A perfect climate to cuddle and enjoy the pleasures of scent and flesh.  We've been talking about everything and nothing all morning.  Kym laughs musically while I burrow my face into her neck and drink in her pheromones.  I think she's gossiping about her coworker.  I ignore that and kiss the soft skin below her ear.  Man, I could linger here all day.  Reality and city life throbs just outside our bedroom door.  The heart of the city beats and demands blood.  So we snuggle beneath the comforter and ignore it...This futon is a protected realm where time never existed.  But when we leave the sanctity of the futon, Hell on Earth intrudes.  

"I'M ON FIRE!" screams Jason from the living room.

Jason got a new basketball game and has been obsessively playing it for two days straight.  He's challenges everyone to play.  It's like penance for knowing him.  Kym keeps babbling through his deranged screams.    

"...she's such a fucking skank it's unbelievable" mocks Kym.  Then, in a high pitched, bubbly voice she giggles, "Teeheehee!  Why thank you sir!"

I look at Kym.  I kinda like that voice.  Especially when she squeaks it out in her new short, blond hairdo.  

But then, her voice drops back down to her usual purr.  She groans, "Ugh!  And just for a fucking quarter tip...You saw her last week at Lucky 13.  Remember babe?  That little whore with the eyebrow ring?"

"Mmmhmm" I mutter into Kym's neck as she caresses the back of my head.

"FROM DOWNTOWN....OH MY GOD!  YES!  YES!  I AM THE GREATEST MAN ALIVE!"  

Something heavy is thrown down the hall where it smashes into a wall.  A galloping thumping sound shakes the house.  

"Jeez" says Kym looking up.  "What's he up to now?"

I shrug.  "He hates the guy downstairs?  A victory dance?  Who cares?"

"He played that stupid game all night.  He was playing when I got up to pee.  That was like 4am" harrumphs Kym.  "He called me a fucktard because I wouldn't play.  What a little shit.  What's a fucktard anyway?"

"A fucking retard.  That's ok.  He called me a pussy, sissy, faggot, freshman fuck when I didn't want to play."

"Puh!  Where's Autumn?  She should deal with his coke and Nintendo binges" complains Kym standing up.  Blankets fall away from her and the cold, winter finds me.  

I sigh.

No.  I don't want to get up yet.  But Kym is annoyed with Jason.  Now she's pacing around looking for a lighter in my Alice In Chains shirt.  I'm in love.  Something about a beautiful girl in your t-shirt is so sexy.  With her bed messed, spiky blond hair, she looks perfect.  But she's leaving the room.  I feel the hangover approaching.  Another day is beginning.

"I mean Jesus fucking Christ!  It's like masturbating all the time!  Cocaine and that stupid Nintendo!" mutters Kym while she gathers things for a shower.  

"Yeah he gets a little obsessed with stuff he likes" I explain rubbing my pounding skull.  Too much alcohol, not enough opiates.

"Hey" giggles Kym giving me a wicked look.  "Can you imagine how Jase was when he discovered whacking off?  I bet he was like a fucking monkey beating his carrot!"

I stare at her.  Kym has one of the crudest and most vile mouths on anyone I have ever known.

"Oh sheesh, relax" she rolls her eyes.  

Then Kym looks down at me seriously.  And I know.  I see exactly what's in her questioning stare.  Hell, I feel it to.  

"You gonna ask him?" she says quietly.  "I'm off today and you know how I wanna spend it."

Oh I know.  We have been good for months but now our arms sport the tale of intravenous drug love.  Madness.  Heroin is back on our minds and deep in our souls.  This Dragon is forever restless.

"I'll go see what's up" I yawn.  Kym smiles and trots off to shower.  

The world is a predator and this makes me nervous.  I hear hot water from Kym's shower and think of the power bill we never paid.  I think of classes I'm missing to spend time with my girlfriend on her day off...Then I stumble over Jason's boot.  I curse and kick it down the hall.  Each step brings me closer to a new worry.  My aching bones begin to jangle like a clanky, old wind chime.  My soul desires the forbidden glow of good times.  A clear breeze from the poppy field to blow away the weariness of our world.  I walk in the living room.  Jason's wearing the same clothes he drank in last night minus his boot.  One red sock sticks out.  

"Dude!  Check this shit out!" he says without turning around.  "They have huge fucking heads!"

I look and for a moment wonder if I'm having an acid flashback.  The tiny men that dribble and dunk all have enormous skulls.  The sight is so bizarre I sit down and watch.  

"Macrocephaly" I say.

"What?" he asks annoyed.

"Extended circumference of the cranium.  Big head."

"That's what I said dude!  Hey!  You wanna play some big head hoops?"

I don't.  But I need drugs, so I agree.  Then something happens.  My male brain kicks in.  As he gloats, cheats and slaps my big headed players around, I grow competitive.  As he makes for another break away dunk, I reach over and pinch his arm hair.

"Hey!  What are you- YAHHHH!" Jason screams as I yank.

It doesn't help.  He still beats me by twenty points though I flick his ears and kick the controller out of his hands.  When Kym walks in with her bathrobe, Jason has me in a headlock and is demanding I kiss his arm where I ripped out the hair.  I bite him.

"You know" she smiles sitting down on the couch next to us and lighting a cigarette, "all the rumors that you two are homosexuals never bothered me.  I admire how secure your love is.  Couch cuddles while playing your stupid Nintendo...so cute!"

"He was mine first Devil's Daughter!" gloats Jason humping my back and slapping the back of my head.

"Man get off!" I shove as the telephone rings.

"Hang tight boys" she winks while answering the phone.  "Hello?  Oh.  Hold on.  Let me see.  He's spooning his roommate."

I yank the phone from Kym and Jason blows me a kiss.

"Hello?"

Shit.  It's Vince.  I forgot we have a physics presentation we're supposed to be doing.

"Sorry dude" I apologize.  I close my eyes and shudder as more reality dry humps me.  Man, I should have stayed in bed.  "Yeah.  Ok.  Thanks.  I'll be right over."

I hang up.  Kym looks at me and I shrug.  "It's for science.  You have any of those roxi's left?"

"Yeah.  In my purse.  Did you ask him?" demands Kym.

"Ask me what, oh Evil One?" questions Jason but he knows.  "Fire or water?"

"Water" says Kym using the silly code we speak over phones.  Fire is coke, water is smack.

"Nope.  He was too busy checking out these guns" says Jason flexing his Popeye arm.  "And I'm out BABE.  But I'm meeting Rondo later at Kay's.  Wanna come?  Wanna give me a ride BABE?"

Kym sighs and exhales a plume of smoke across the room.  "No.  No I don't.  I'm going to Neiman Marcus for tops."

"What about you?" Jason demands looking at me.

I shrug.  "Science dude.  But I'll meet you at Kay's.  Chinatown right?"

"Yeah by the donut place.  Cool" smiles Jason rolling off the couch.  "C'mon Kym, fuck shopping.  Drink with me.  It's almost 11am."

"Nope.  Shopping and then I'm coming back to do laundry" says Kym pushing a half smoked cigarette into the ashtray.  "But I'll give you a ride.  After you guys get drunk, call me and I'll pick your sorry asses up."

"Deal!" yells Jason throwing his controller in the air.

********

I like roxis.  You can snort them which I do while riding the Muni to my study session.  I just grind them in a plastic bag between two quarters, insert straw and SNORT.  I'm not high when I meet the group, but I am not hurting either.  Good enough because my peers are these super studious Asian and Indian guys.  Beer gets them crazy.  Marijuana is a naughty word.  Only Vince knows I am a shameless addict because he met my roommates.  

Jason instantly fell in love with him when they met because Vince is so fucking Vince.  He doesn't hide in a leather jacket, band t-shirt or a silly haircut like I do.  Right away we started taking him to Gilman shows because he looks so out of place there.  In a sea of punks with mohawks, Vince stands miles apart from the crowd.  Wearing clothes his mom mails him from Hong Kong and squinting behind thick glasses that turn black in bright light, Vince is our treasure.  When he wades off to the mosh pit in his long sleeved, button up dress shirt you would never know you are looking at a madman.  Vince can handle himself in a fight.  Unlike most of the kids pushing and shoving each other by the stage, Vince truly enjoys violence.  To Vince, violence is a sport to be won.  To watch this nerdy, Asian kid beat the piss out of punk assholes twice his size shows just how diverse the Universe truly is.

"C'mon man" I whine while we walk to the Muni stop, "Just a couple drinks dude!"

"Sorry" Vince says again.  "I need to cite sources.  Like Professor Kelley says, academic references are the cement that hold the argument stable."

"Vince...It's Tuesday."

"Look, I need an A in this lab.  I'm weak in English Lit.  It's going to bring my average down.  I must play my strong hand.  Math and physics.  What about you?"

"Wha?" I muse watching a bird streak across the city skyline.  The day is young.  All I'm thinking about is Kym, beer and getting high.  

"Never mind.  I'll email you the sources so you can check them out" Vince says.  "See you Thursday."

***********

The Muni spews me out somewhere in Chinatown.  I walk vaguely in the direction where Chinese shops bleed into gentrification.  I think I'm lost until I spot Yum Bakery.  Kay's is just down the street between the Greek camera store and the Vietnamese soup place.  I push through the metal door, stomp up the creaky, wooden stairs inhale the warm, nicotine atmosphere of a dive bar.  The narrow hallway is perfect when you can't walk straight.  It has aided me many times during those last call bar exits.  

At the study session, I drank a lot of coffee trying to help those roxis kick in harder.  So I stop at the restroom.  As I walk in, I hear a familiar throat clearing noise from the stall.  I grin.  This male signal intones: 'Hello!  I am having a bowel movement.  Please do not intrude upon my privacy.'  This is especially needed at Kay's where some sadistic bastard broke the stall latch off.  So I stomp loudly towards the stall.  Another polite, throat clearing sound.  Then I kick in the door.

"FUCK!" yells Jason trying to stand and pull up his pants at the same time.  Then he sees me and smiles.  "Oh.  It's you.  Give me a moment dude.  I have something for you."

I nod and walk over to the urinal and piss out four cups of coffee.

Jason's digestive stench of burritos, beer, cocaine and god knows what else is just plain wrong.  But I politely decline to remark upon this while he washes his hands.

"Hygiene is the cornerstone of civilization" Jason remarks while checking out his nostrils in the mirror.  Then he takes out two bags out and a paper square.  He mixes the various powders into one bag.  He crushes it against the sink with a metal button from his leather jacket.  Then Jason pours it into the coke bullet he stole from Kym last night.  

"Here dude."

I accept the bullet and take a hit.  Whoa?  I look at Jason.

"Mostly coke" he grins.  "It's early.  Some club H from Rondo and Kym gave me some MDMA yesterday.  I'm too lazy to divide it up.  Fuck it."

I nod and take another hit.  Smaller this time.  I pass the bullet back and hold onto the sink as rain from Heaven washes down my brainstem and spine...My emptiness is gently filled with peace.    

"Oh and beware dude" nods Jason taking back the bullet.  "Rondo's a little pissy today."


***********

Kay's is a tiny hole.  Maybe six people, shoulder to shoulder can sit at the bar.  Four tables with three seats each make up the rest.  Decent beers on tap and thick, red paint covers hundreds of years of alcoholic debauchery.  Though it is way too small to have a band, hundreds of old flyers are pasted behind the bar.  Mostly Fillmore flyers of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and other San Francisco hippie bands from the 60's.  But if you stare long enough like I do when I'm on acid, you find some real gems.  Like an old Red Hot Chili Pepper flyer advertising a free show at my school.  They don't have any tattoos and Hillel is alive.  

Kay is actually a male biker.  He's married to a Chinese lady.  She shouts at him in Chinese and does most of the bartending.  She also pretends she doesn't understand English when people ask for girly drinks.  Anything beyond beer and shots invites her cold face.  Kay looks like a neanderthal hillbilly.  Long ass beard, greasy overalls and missing some teeth.  Mostly he just watches TV.  The TV is always on PBS.  Jason thinks Kay does dope but his arms are clean.  Melo thinks he fried his brain out in the hippie days.  I agree with that one.  Kay only comes alive when drunks are fighting or if you mess with his wife.  Dents in the red, wood paneled walls are a testament that size does matter.  The people Kay throws into the walls are not allowed back.  This is why Melo can't drink here anymore.  

Rondo sips his cocktail, grimaces in disgust and looks over when I sit down.

"Hey man!" he cries in recognition standing up.  Rondo is a hugger so I hug him.

"Yeah?" asks the Chinese lady curtly.

"Uh, lets see.  Anchor Steam draft please."

"Can I get another one of these?  But add an egg white.  And it's lemon.  LEMON!  Not lime!" complains Rondo.  He looks at me.  "Gin fizz!  How hard is it to make a fucking gin fizz?"        

Kay speaks.  "No eggs in the drinks son.  This ain't the 13."  

Kay says something in Chinese and his wife nods.  The plastic green bulb is replaced with a plastic yellow bulb which she squirts into Rondo's drink.  Jason sits back down and points to his empty beer glass.  She nods.  Rondo rubs his face and shakes his head.

"This, this and this" he says pointing to the two beers and whatever cocktail she made him.  The lady nods and takes the twenty Rondo drops on the bar.

"Thanks dude" I smile holding up my glass.  "Salud!"

"Salud!" echoes Rondo and Jason and we clink glasses.  

"So how you been man?" I ask.  "How's Cammy?"

Rondo frowns.

"It's over.  I'm done.  Cammy's done.  The Temple of Fuck is done.  Maybe I'll move to Oregon" he says rapidly while streaking his hands through his hair.  

I look at Jason who shrugs innocently.  I know Kym will quiz me later so I ask obvious questions.

"Wait...what?  What about Cammy?  You guys are getting married next summer right?  Cammy told Kym you're tying the knot in France."

"Nope.  I asked her to leave.  She's a cheater.  I don't think she left though.  I think I have to leave.  I don't know.  Like, I know she's around!  But I never see her.  Weird right?  Hey!" he suddenly wheels around in his chair and points at me.  "You gotta a cigarette?"

Rondo has a rim of white powder beneath each nostril.  Jason = Cocaine.  It's the good stuff.  Not the Mexican mixed variety.  I feel really fucking good right now.  Rondo = Heroin.  Powder variety.  Top shelf.  Man, I want to hug Rondo because he hurts.   Poor guy.  Kym = MDMA.  And all of this absorbs through the vessels in my nose and straight up to the old brain.   But it tastes horrible.  MDMA is awful to snort.  

"Yeah man.  Have a smoke" I smile giving him a cigarette and lighting one myself.  I exhale, look at him and ask, "What happened dude?"

Rondo just stares at the smoke curling off the tip of the cigarette.  He takes a puff and spews smoke like it's a cigar.  Rondo doesn't smoke cigarettes.

"MOTHERFUCKER!" he suddenly screams punching the bar.

Kay looks over but doesn't move.  

"Easy" cautions Jason.  "Just get out it dude.  What happened man?"

"Everything" mutters Rondo.  "Everything.  First off porn is a bitch to get into.  I should have stayed a musician!  I'm gonna eat it on those fucking loans.  I'm gonna lose the building.  I should have listened to my mom!  I should have sub-divided it and made apartments!  Fuck artist space!  Fuck fetish pornography!  I'm surrounded by assholes!  And Cammy is a whore!"

"Tell him what happened" urges Jason.  

"What happened?" he cries sucking down his drink in one gulp and wincing.  "Bleah!  Jesus Christ this is awful!  What happened?!  I'll tell you what happened.  In tape review, I say Cammy fucking Bautista!  It makes me feel sick to think about it!  He wasn't even wearing a condom!  Hey!  You!  Another round!"

"Bautista?" I ask.

"He's a cock model.  We do mostly fetish stuff.  Masks, bondage, humiliation.  A lot of girl on girl.  Bautista is a waiter at Bravos.  Also a fitness trainer.  Good body so perfect for the fantasy nude scenes.  Cammy does girl on girl and though it hurts me" says Rondo grabbing my beer and taking a swing, "it is for our art.  But fucking Bautista is not for art!  She fucked Bautista because CAMMY'S A WHORE!"

"Easy" cautions Kay looking over at us.  I nod at him.

"Well dude" says Jason lighting a smoke, "no offense but Temple of Fuck is a porn company.  Don't you wanna fuck some of those bitches?  I know I do.  Doesn't this shit just sorta go with the territory?"

"No you asshole!  Cammy's my fucking fiancée!  That goddamn Rico Suave motherfucker!" yells Rondo thumping the table violently.

Jason and I are in jeans and black leather jackets.  Jason has a collapsed, blue mohawk and I have shaggy, shoulder length hair.  Rondo looks like one of the drones from the Financial District.  A perfect haircut, tiny smart guy glasses, dress slacks, oxfords and a blue dress shirt.  But he also looks coked out his mind.  His eyes bulge out of his skull like a cartoon.  Kay steps forward to deal but only I notice.  I look up pleasantly and smile.  Though I have two full beers, I call out, "Another round please."      

Rondo stops ranting and looks at me and then Jason.  For a second, it looks like he's gonna cry.  

"You guys have always been so nice to me" he snivels.

"Of course brother" smiles Jason grabbing the back of Rondo's shoulder with his huge hand and vigorously massaging it.  "Always.  That's what friends do."

"I'm scared" Rondo says looking at the bar.  "Things are slipping away.  My girl, the loans and even the business.  I'm gonna lose it all!  Fuck I should leave now!  I think I wanna make cakes next.  Yeah, a bakery!  Start over!"

When the next round arrives, Rondo pulls out another twenty.  Jason looks at me and winks.  More free drinks.  Though Rondo wears a long sleeve shirt, I have a feeling I know what his arms look like.  The man is so damn skinny.  Dark rings under his eyes and sunken cheeks.  All the people I know who try opiates walk this road.  We all fall into the holes we dig in our arms before we wake up.  And after we wake up, regardless of whatever bullshit we say, we start digging those fucking holes again.  I rub my arm and think of Kym.  Jesus.    

"Wait.  What do you mean the business?" frowns Jason.  "Temple of Fuck is always busy.  You rent space.  I saw your ad in the Guardian.  Artist space.  Long term, short term, hourly rates.  Call Rondo."

"Yeah well I met some guys last week" says Rondo lowering his voice and taking another useless puff on the cigarette.  

"I keep the gate locked downstairs.  You need to buzz in.  But they knew the code!  They just walked in.  Older dude was white.  Like a business man.  Young dude was in Adidas.  Total fucking guido.  Said they represent the neighborhood watch!  And guess what?  They want to work out a insurance plan for Temple of Fuck.  And they know I sell shit.  They knew about the cash rentals!"

"Man I get that all the time from the Mexicans" laughs Jason.  "They're just looking for an angle.  Just buy whatever they're selling.  Well, buy it every now and then.  Gives you space to ignore them.  What'd these guys want?"

Rondo looks at Jason like he's insane.  "They want my cash rents Jason!  These aren't Mexicans!  Aren't you listening?!  The old guy is scary as fuck!  He told me that the stereotypes of certain, Italian subcultures are bullshit.  Then he laughed and tapped his nose!  A fucking message Jase!  He told me to think about MY life.  Told me to come up with a plan that works for me and they'd be back to talk.  And he knows where I live!  He knows my address dude!  Said he'd drop by for coffee sometime and he asked me about Cammy!  What the fuck right?"

"I don't know" I say mildly trying to get Rondo to tone it down.  "Sounds kinda-"

"Crazy?  Yeah it is crazy" Rondo says nodding his head vigorously.  "Thats why I wanted meet you guys here.  I think my place is bugged!"

"How much coke do you do these days?" asks Jason quietly.  "No offense, but I know you buy from Anton.  Those guys are shitty.  They might be fucking with you."

"What are talking about?" yells Rondo.  "Anton is Serbian.  You're the fucking dago in the room RUSCA!"

"Rondo!  C'mon!" I exclaim as the room amps up.  

I see Jason's eyes.  The friendly shine is gone and he's looking for his opening.  When Jason senses things are going bad, he tends to punch.  

"You know Jason would never do that shit!" I say trying to catch the madman's eyes.  Rondo is panting like a trapped beast.  He looks at me.  A sad, imploring and helpless look.

"I don't know anything for sure anymore" he says standing up.  Jason hops off his barstool.  I see the Chinese lady drop back as Kay steps forward.  I stay on my barstool.

"C'mon Rondo" I smile.  The heavy, heroin, cocaine and MDMA euphoria pours out my words and into his eyes.  "We're your friends.  You and Jase have known each other since high school.  I saw that picture of you guys at Junior Winter Ball.  You held hands like homos while your dates sulked off on the side with their corsages.  Jason brought his skateboard and you had your parrot."

"Buddy bird was a good boy god rest his soul" sniffs Rondo.

"Remember he pooped on Carla?" asks Jason still looking wary.

"Yeah.  And I remember how pissed off Tammy was we took a limo to McDonalds for dinner."

Rondo looks at me and then Jason.  The black circles beneath his eyes are deep and the madness vibrating behind his eyeballs is a fragile thing.

"Fuck!  I'm sorry guys" he says defeated.  

"You're my brother" says Jason honestly.  

"I know.  Fuck, I know!.  I just...just gotta.  I gotta go" says Rondo shaking his head.

He throws down more cash, puts on his jacket and walks out.  The Chinese lady moves forward but Jason smoothly palms the money.  Kay steps back into the shadows of past band glory and goes back to TV.  I have two full beers in front of me and Jason has one.  He sits back down.  He looks at me sadly.

"My brother is fucked up.  Seeing shadows crazy.  Man that fucking Cammy" he says shaking his head.  

Cammy?  I want to say cocaine but just drink my beer.  Jason shows me the cash Rondo threw down.  A crumpled, hundred dollar bill.  Jason leans back and lights a cigarette.  Peeking through his leather jacket is the Fishbone logo.  The bones make me nervous as I hear the metal door downstairs slam as Rondo exits into the city.  

We drink in silence.  My buzz is dulled from the adrenaline and sadness.  Three people walk in and the Chinese lady stops watching us nervously to serve them.  I look at Jason and he loads the bullet beneath the bar.  We each take a hit.  My blood tells me this time, it's mostly coke.  I feel very alive and hyper alert.  I chug beer and smoke.  I think about asking me for my cut of Rondo's heroin but Jason feels this and looks over.

"Let's get some donuts at Yum.  We can call Kym from the payphone.  Donuts, tonights dinner and the good times are on Rondo" Jason sighs.