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Monday, March 14, 2016

Sober Face

Being sober is overrated but being insane is permanently fucked.  I am slowly starting to realize this.  So when my pills ran out, I didn't go back to the doctor.  I went through mini-withdrawals followed some by mini-relapses.  Finally, I told my mom what I was up to.  I demanded she hide her pills better.  

"You steal my medicine?" she asked incredulously.  "This is why I'm going to pharmacy every other week?"

"No!  Well, yeah.  You know what mom?  Just hide them better!  Like not in the bathroom!" I shout watching her shuffle away to the chair where she keeps her handbag.  "Or in your purse!"

So I went through IT again.  This time the drop was longer without mom's Percocet parachute.  Wave after wave of sickly withdrawal.  Naively, I thought it would be easier after kicking heroin three or five times.  While the physical part is easier, the great looming Darkness is what razes my soul.  That vast emptiness inside.  My witchy girl with shiny eyes told me a story about it once.  I can't get it out of my head long after I stopped thrashing and drenching my sheets with sweat.  But it's time for change.  It's not the same moon shining down on me at night.  So I go all in.  I announce I'm quitting my shitty job at Petco and sign up for temporary employment testing one week later.  But this fucking hole inside me...

My mom is a lot nicer to me now that she knows my plan is to get the hell out of her house.  I've started drinking myself silly to fill the hole.  Binge drinking is almost strong enough to hold down my screaming ghost.  Though mom is a recovering alcoholic, she finds it easier to process me as a drunk versus a guy with pinhole arms turning blue on her bathroom floor.  She even lets me have a houseguest over.  Nerina can't actually spend the night due to Rule #4, so she sneaks out at dawn.  Nerina is pure sunshine.  An attractive, well adjusted, normal person.  I find her sober views on life baffling yet pleasant.  I met her on my smoke break in the parking lot at Petco.  She works at Kinko's next door and started talking to me though I was branded with my Petco apron.


Nerina is an exotic looking 19 year old half Spanish, half Chinese girl.  She's smart enough to go to university but chose to study nursing at the local community college here in the sprawl.  I don't get it.  Why is she here?  Can't she sense a college anywhere but here would be good?  Plus the five year age difference hurts.  Nerina's too young to go to bars and I feel like a lecher at her underaged drinking parties.  I'm not exactly the optimal choice for Nerina.  Why she's here is a mystery.  I spend most of my time drunk and consider chain smoking fun.  My room reeks of tobacco and spilled beer but Nerina is ok with it.  Sadly, she is emulating my antisocial tendencies.  For some reason, I have this power where people think what I do is desirable behavior.  So she taught herself how to smoke cigarettes and take shots.  It's cute to watch her wince, but I don't get it.  

Nerina props open the window and makes herself comfortable on my childhood bed while I take practice tests online for the temp agency.  She takes a petite sip of whiskey and passes it to me.  I take three gulps and wince at the nasty, burning belch surging up my esophagus.  Then I light another cigarette with the burning one in my hand, blow the ash off my keyboard and start to learn about some horrible thing call PowerPoint.  The reasons why anyone would want to learn this disgust me.  Nerina rolls off the bed and starts digging through my CD rack.

"You wanna listen to anything?" she asks.

"No.  Don't care.  You pick" I respond while speed reading some Satanic shit about 3D graphs.  

"Can I go on AIM?" Nerina yawns.

"Hold on.  I'm starting a practice test" I respond on autopilot as I answer questions about pie chart construction.

"Ok" Nerina smiles.  "Hey, Ron's having a party.  His parents are on vacation.  Wanna go?"

"Who?" I answer annoyed and distracted as my brain solves inane test problems and comes up with a polite way to say No.

"You know, Ron.  From the San Mateo store?  The guy with that cool NIN robot tattoo?  His parents went camping."

"Nah" I say moving into the final section of the test.

"We never do anything!" complains Nerina.

And she's right.  Besides our golden period which included her watching me nod out from prescription drug abuse, all we do is rent DVDs to watch in bed while enjoying rampant alcoholism.  While we don't do much, her arms around the Darkness is enough for me...but I'm no fool.  This is obviously boring for her.  Whatever it is about me she finds intriguing will get old soon enough.  Suddenly, there are two raps on the door.  Ever since I quit drugs and started practicing these tests, my mom has stopped barging into my room to yell at me.  But I still yell at her.

"I'm practicing for a test WHAT?!" I yell.

"Hi Mrs. S!" chirps Nerina.  


Nerina feels the need to give my mom a nickname.  It confuses my mom but she likes Nerina.  Nerina is normal.  She greets people when she enters a room.  She doesn't stalk in silent, light a cigarette and put her boots up on the dining room table.

"Hello Nerina" smiles my mom.

"What do you want?" I demand.

"Your brother Carl is coming over for dinner" says mom.

"Oh please god no" I hear myself say.

"You stay too Nerina" says my mom.  "We're having lasagne.  Afterwards Carl is gonna fix my shower head.  Maybe you can help your brother?"

"Can't.  We're going to a party" I respond and Nerina hugs my back.

"Yay!" she says.

I sigh and light another cigarette.

**********

"Let me guess" says Carl through a wad of partially chewed lasagne, "you just graduated high school and live at home?"

"Carl, shut the fuck up" I say.

"Oh it's ok.  I like your brother" smiles Nerina.  My mom and I look at each other.  No one likes Carl.

"You like the bony, junkie look right?  Or is it cause he dresses like a vampire faggot?"


"Uhm, I don't know.  He's nice?" answers Nerina who has never smoked pot and thinks the pills I snorted in front of her is OK because they came from a pharmacy.

"Carl, shut up and pass the salad" smiles mom.  "Leave Nerina alone.  She is a nice girl.  Oh and he is sober now Carl.  Congratulate him."

"Sober?" scoffs Carl.  "I can smell the booze on these two from here."

"Hey Carl" I say between lasagne bites, "How's the tribe treating you?"

Carl isn't into drugs but he gambles.  He gambles a lot.  The local tribal casino won an undisclosed sum of money from Carl.  He won't fess up but the land he was eying in Watsonville is no longer discussed.  

"Don't make me beat you in front of your woman.  Mom, pass the parmesan, please."

"Here you go son."

We eat in silence for about two minutes but Carl can't resist.  "Hey, you have any good humus lately?" he smiles at me.  "Say whatever happened to that psycho junkie chick that tried to shoot me?"

"Well, obviously she missed" I respond.  


"She was a looker that one.  Way out of your league but I guess you know that now.  So no more shawarmas for you?"

"Whatever happened to that Watsonville spec house you were saving for?" I ask.

"Didn't pan out" says Carl staring into my eyes with all the malevolence of an older brother who is two seconds away from kicking ass.

The rest of the dinner actually went much easier.  Especially when we slipped out before dessert.

**********

"S'up Ace?" says a drunk Mikey from my old Petco store.  He hold his hand out for a high five.  I sigh and high five a kid who just recently earned the right to die for his country, buy pornography and vote.

"Nerina!" squeals Penny rushing over for a hug.

I like Penny.  One fuck and zero guilt.  Her boyfriend is like me.  Older, clueless and uncomfortable.

"Hey" says Sheldon holding out his hand.

Nerina and I greet revelers, hug and slap hands like primates while slowly making our way in.  Thirty plus teenagers make a swarming, cicada buzz as they shout, pound Zimas, cheap beer and do bong hits.  Nerina is popular and circulates.  I melt into a couch by people I used to work with.  They play Street Fighter 2 on Ron's father's huge TV.

"So your out!" shouts Mikey.

"Audi 5000!" confirms another kid I worked with.

"So what's next yo?" asks Mikey.  The stumbling, screaming teens and sitting in some parent's living room makes me anxious.  Physical withdrawal of opiates hurts but the mental part is the bitch.  I am fiending for the peace of the god.

"Next?" I answer irritated.  Then I shrug, "Testing and job placement."

"Oh dope" says Mikey.  "Hey you wanna beer?"

"Yes please" I answer.  As he gets up I grab his wallet chain and yank him towards me, "You know where to get any tar?  Or oxy?"

"Wha..." he says staring at me googly eyed.  Mikey looks like a little boy in huge denim jeans and a Korn t-shirt.  "Is that like ecstasy?"

"Never mind" I reply letting him go.  


Jesus, what I am thinking?  But I look around for familiar eyes.  Pin-point pupil euphoria.  Holes in arms.  Because of my age, young males feel the need to come up and introduce themselves to me.  This annoys me to no end.  Then there is a hullabaloo.  There always is when alcohol is served to underaged drinkers.

"You fucking bitch!  You got cum on my dad's shirt!" screams a shirtless Ron.  Ah, the host.  I do remember Ron.  He's an asshole.

A crying girl runs out and is encircled by other females who coo at the injustice.  Ron, the guy with the cool robot NIN tattoo is ridiculously drunk.  Beet-faced and screaming about his dad's Calvin Klein shirt.  Eventually he shuts the fuck up and starts playing Nintendo.  Later, three guys get in a scrap over a stolen bottle of cinnamon schnapps.  Man, I hate the fucking suburbs.  When I am asked to go on a beer run, I pull Nerina over.

"Nerina, we gotta go."

"Ok" she shrugs.  "Where?"

And I thought of this.  I can't say I want to leave because I hate everyone.  Socially, this is unacceptable.  "Let's go get ice cream at Stanley’s Sweets."

"But you're lactose intolerant!"

"No problem.  I'll get a cookie or a brownie.  Honestly, I don't care about the food.  I wanna go look at the sea.  And the new moon."

"New moon?"

"Yeah Nerina.  It's just a sliver tonight.  It takes 27 days for the moon to make the Earth trip.  So this is a celestial occurrence.  And my stars will be out tonight."

"Your stars?"

"Yeah.  Old friends.  Let me tell you about them."

"Well...ok" she shrugs though a group of her friends who smirk.  In regards to Nerina's happiness, they know more about me than I know about myself.

*********

We are the annoying couple that slips in five minutes before the guy can lock the door.  But he is a pro.  Though, he hates us, he smiles and says, "Hi!  What can I get you?"

"Mmm" muses Nerina, "mint chocolate chip on a waffle cone."

"And you?" says the guy with one eye on the clock as he locks the door behind us and flips the Open sign to Close.

"Peanut butter cookie."

Nerina pays which is odd, but I go with it.  She puts up with a lot but usually insists on gallant gestures like she'll wait at a door for it to be opened.  She expects all meals, coffee or treats paid by the male.  Or me.  So I pay.  We walk out to the view.  The wind howls over the concrete platform erected over the sea.  Trash, dust, leaves and the ocean spray swirls in the maelstrom.  The weather has turned ugly from the ten minutes we were in the ice cream shop.  When we walked in it was calm and dark.  Now the wind screams and the ocean rages.

"Ahhh!" shrieks Nerina jumping back as a wave smashes into the cliff.  Seawater blasts up the rock face and sprays us like severed artery.   

"Damn" I say peering down.  Ridiculously huge swells march towards the shore.  It's like watching three story structures suddenly rise up in the dark sea and shatter against the cliffs.  We step back to avoid the spray and feel the shudder beneath our feet.

"Are we safe here?  I don't feel safe" says Nerina edging back off the lookout towards the street.

I look at the sky and it is calm.  The sliver of the moon shines in an expanse of exploding suns.  Starlight travels so far to be here at this moment.  I look at Nerina.  "It's ok.  Just a winter swell.  A fucking big one though."

"You know I can feel it" says Nerina staring at the sea that slams against the cliff we stand on.  "Sorry if this dramatic but..."

I look at her and instantly know.  How could it not end like this?

"I meant to tell you this morning.  I got accepted to UCLA.  I'm starting next semester."

"Oh yeah?" I sigh.  

I wonder where my mom hid those Percocets?  Probably her closet.  Her clever shoe shelf where she used to hide bottles of alcohol.  To have a chance of getting a little buzz, I have to get home before she goes to bed.  Oh well.  This won't take long.  It already ended.  The Milky Way shines above.  A glowing path for all things endless.

"Yeah.  Sorry.  It's just...I have been thinking and I need to-" she babbles.

"Don't worry" I say as the world once again crumbles at my feet.  Falling into my hole is a familiar sensation.

"I'm so sorry!" she says as tears come.  We hold each other and she sobs.  "I mean I LOVE you.  I really do!  But...I have to go do this and-"

"Hey, it's ok" I hug her inhaling the scent from her hair one last time.  I close my eyes trying to remember Nerina as the sky and earth suck her away from me.  When we leave, I look at the sea.  

It is calm.