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Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Sponsor

I always wake up sad and lost.  All the alcohol and pills that I take to stay sane, crush me come sunrise.  And I always wake up too early.  I should sleep longer.  Let my body and brain heal from this toxic lifestyle.  But I can't.  Come dawn, like demonic clockwork, I have to piss.  I return to bed futilely and try to sleep.  But like shrieking gulls, my thoughts whirl through the room.  My eyes are shut but I can't help peeking at the clock that countdowns my doom.  So I lay there in a layer of mud.  Mud made from cold sorrows and clinging fear.  I think of every horrible possibility in my upcoming day.  From the mundane crap to the tragically insane.  Not having enough cigarettes, being late to my shift, the reality of my pathetic life, etc. etc.  And it builds and builds as the gulls fill the room flapping and screaming.  Fear after fear until I end up with something like dying alone in this room.  Or living painfully with an incurable affliction like AIDs.  So I lay there in my mud.  Sometimes the only thing that makes me feel better is I still own a gun.  I can always put a bullet in my head.

Living at home sucks.

"Of course you can live here!  But remember, my house, my rules.  I have three rules and you need to follow them.  Rule #1 you WILL pay rent.  $200 a month sounds fair considering you're not using that expensive diploma you earned after six years of college!"

"Well mom, I dropped out for a year.  Oh and the whole you know, hospital-jail thing-"

"You just need to apply yourself!  You're not stupid!  Now what else?  Oh, Rule #2 no drugs and no alcohol.  Period!"

I nod.  Mom has let me hang out for almost two weeks.  We both take fistfuls of doctor prescribed medications like antidepressants, opiate painkillers, valium, an array of allergy medicines to make us hyper or sleepy and of course- daily vitamins for health.  We drink Diet Coke all day, watch TV and smoke cigarettes.  No use arguing with this horrible little woman.  Just agree and get on with it.

"And Rule #3!  Are you paying attention?  This one means a lot to me, son.  You have to go to Narcotic Anonymous meetings.  I got some schedules from my AA group by the phone over there.  You need help dear.  I won't support another junkie on my pension.  Disability only covers so much-"

"But mom!  I don't have time to-"

"Make time!  Those meetings keep me-"

"I'm not you!  I have my own life!"

"Not in my house you don't!"

I snarl and ready my response when I realize, mom is right.  And she's twisting me like I'm a ten year old boy again.  So I shut up and go to the meetings.  It's not like I haven't gone before.  But that was court mandated.  To be here, on my own time while lit up on pills is the sound of the Universe laughing.  Fucking twelve step bullshit.  Not much changes in this house but I did notice the cross hanging above the TV.  That's new.  And it's a good crucifix.  The hippie nailed to the wood looks painfully fucked up and cries blood.  You would have to beat the holy living shit out of some miserable fuck to get them to weep blood.  While the Cloaca Maxima was a civil engineering triumph, this 2,000 year old reminder of the Empire's glory makes me respect the ancient Romans even more.

So I got a job.  Petco.  I can walk to work and this is the only reason I applied.  Mom won't share the car with me because of my record.  I tried to explain it was my ex that stole the fucking car but this is like arguing with a tree.  My job sucks.  I work with mostly kids who are still in high school and a handful of older losers like myself.  But they seem to have their shit more figured out than I do.  Like they don't live with their mom.  Petco rotates assistant managers from store to store every month.  I think it's so you don't get too chummy with your boss.  My first boss was Chris.  Nice guy.  But my second boss was Penny.  Penny helped create Rule # 4.

Penny is not beautiful or charming or someone I would want to hang out with socially.  But she has huge breasts and was willing to sleep with me during her monthly store rotation.  So we did.  It was slightly awkward explaining how I don't have a car and live at home but my penis did all the talking.  He smoothed everything over.  We ate at some chain restaurant that specializes in Mexican food for white people.  It was disgusting and overpriced.

"Mmm I love Mexican cuisine!" Penny gushed while wolfing down some baby back rib nachos.  Then we got hammered on cheap cocktails and talked shit about everyone at work.  We drove back to my mom's place as a team and had sex.  It was like watching myself on TV going through the motions.  My penis was the director and called the shots.  I dutifully kissed Penny's erogenous zones and undressed her.  Beneath the work shirt covered in cat hair, there was a lot of Penny.  And she had a lot of tattoos.  Leopard print across her shoulders, giant, wobbly stars on her ribs, some birds and what appears to be two, slightly stretched dolphins around her bellybutton.  


"Wow, you have a lot of tattoos" I say when she notices me staring.

"Yeah.  It's a phase I'm in.  Me and my sister get new ones every time we hang out.  Like this new one on my foot."  She holds up her foot and I see a cherub angel. 

"Cool.  What's it mean?" I ask.

"I dunno" she smiles.  "I just liked it.  You don't have any tattoos?"

"I have one" I admit.  "It's on my chest."

"Well let me check it out" she smiles lifting my shirt off.  There was zero awkwardness.  It was mechanical.  None of that, 'Oh this is too soon' or 'We have to get up and open the store later'.  We just did it.  Twice.

"I have to pee" she whispered getting up and walking buck naked down the hall.  I get dressed and have a smoke on the porch but leave the door cracked open so she knows where I am.  Thinking about it, a lot of the employees have tattoos.  Maybe that's the new thing.  Like instead of dying your hair or getting a piercing, you get some ink injected into your skin forever.  Heh.  Penny peeks through the doorway as she puts on her blue Manager's polo.  

"You know I have a boyfriend right?" she asks slipping through the door to stand next to me.  She's shivering so I give her my jacket.

I had no idea but I nod.  

"Cool.  Can I crash here?  I'm wiped and I have to open tomorrow.  The Humane Society chick will be waiting with all those cute little kitties and puppies.  Hey!  You're on the Opening Team roster!  I'll give you a ride."

"Great" I say flicking the smoke into mom's hydrangea bush.

"Rule #4!" whispered my mom to me as we shuffled out the door hungover for the 9am store opening.  "No house guests!"    

Living with your mom when you're 24 is a bitch.  There is no sanctuary.  My childhood bedroom is a tomb that I seal myself in.  When I returned home, all I owned was one box of personal items and a duffel bag full of clothes.  It was surreal stepping into my childhood bedroom again.  The first thing I did was take down all the posters.  I put all the posters, my box and anything else from the past, in the closet.  Old comic books, plastic airplane models and obsolete video game consoles.  But while I buried the old me, I learned it was not enough.  Too much of the world has changed while I stood perfectly still in a drug haze.

One night I saw a girl
.  She had her hair piled up so people could see the butterfly tattoo on her nape.  The butterfly was hideous but the girl was pretty.  So I smiled at her out of habit.  She looked up at me and smirked.  This was not a kind smirk.  It was a 'Yeah right'-smirk.  We were waiting in line for the ATM and I saw my reflection in the bank window.  The wrapping was familiar.  Same old rotting band t-shirts gathered beneath the wings of a spiked, black leather jacket.  Man, I love this jacket.  It's like a second skin and the weight of the leather reassures me like armor.  But something has changed since I returned home.  My face is different.  Older, wary and puffier.  The face I wear no longer matches this outfit.  So I took the leather jacket and all my old t-shirts and tossed them in the closet.  Discarded husks from a dead beast.  I borrowed my mom's Macy's card and bought ordinary clothes and a very sensible jacket.  When the house heater turns on, sometimes I can smell my leather jacket.  But the closet door remains closed.  Just another symbol of a life gone horribly awry. 

Like my job at Petco.  This is a terrible job.  The only good thing about it is I don't have to be a cashier.  Since I have a college degree, they let me choose between running the fish department or the small animal department.  Small animals include birds.  These poor fucking birds are like looking in the mirror.  Useless, clipped wings keep them prisoner in their cages.  Most of these birds are intelligent and quite aware of their lot in life.  Many are greasy and unkempt and some are completely insane.  Like Champ, the cockatoo with bald patches that gnaws on himself constantly while cryptically whispering, "Picture...picture..."

So fish it is.  Running the aquatic system is a pleasant distraction and I am good at this.  But it drives mom crazy.  In her mind, a college degree means I can walk into any office building, receive a big bag of money and a rewarding career.  She makes this her topic of conversation every time she sees me.  So I start to steal her pills to get away.  Mixed with my chronically fucked up knee pills, I eat a lot of painkillers.  No where near a good heroin head bob, but my skull empties into the void.  And I am sure mom knows I'm in her stash because she keeps moving them.  But as long as mom gets uninterrupted TV at night, she is willing to forgive a lot.  Plus I still go to the NA meetings.  That was where I met Debra.

"No sponsor?  I never see your name on the lists" she remarked to me after the meeting broke up and we all wandered away to our lives.

"Nah" I shrug smiling.  "I think people do whatever they want to do regardless of any sponsor or meetings."

"Very cynical" she says walking next to me.  "I agree though.  NA has good points about missing a lot in life because you're only half there.  But if you don't care...?  Oh, by the way I'm Debra."

We formally introduce ourselves and shake hands.  But we already know each other's names because of the meetings.  So I go with the flow and float out into the cosmos.  This is how things happen.  Casually, we decide to go out for coffee.  Coffee and cigarettes are a few of the drugs NA doesn't shit upon.  Talking with Debra is a breath of fresh air in my pent up, loser life.  But our chemistry is strange.  Every opposite fact that should work against us being chummy makes us click.  But maybe that's because of NA.  One nice thing about NA is you just throw it all out there.  It's like taking a mental crap in front of strangers.  And it's ok because whatever shit you fell ass backwards into, the room has already smelled thirteen times.  We sip coffee and talk.

Debra and I actually went to the same high school but she graduated six years ahead of me.  An older woman.  From her drab, formal clothing I can tell she works in an office somewhere.  She has streaks of gray swirled in with her mousey blonde hairdo and makes no attempt to hide this.  I instantly love that about her.  Even in her bland office outfit, you can see her belly is flat and her form is pleasantly curved.  Something about the way Debra carries herself through the NA bullshit.  Sighing through her nose and looking up at the ceiling whenever God or Jesus was dragged into the discussions.  I noticed her right away.  Most people in NA blindly believe what they are told and share.  And who can blame them?  If I wasn't so fucking jaded maybe I could let my brain wrap around Salvation.  But I don't believe.  And I like chewing Percocets while people cry during circle discussion.  The Believers and Unbelievers are the two tribes in NA meetings.  In the 7:30pm NA Meetings held at Escuela Senior Center, the Believers are the majority.   And good for them.

"I was put away for awhile" I admit vaguely while sipping house coffee.  "Heroin, coke, pills.  Also crack, weed and booze but that was just for fun.  I finished school.  I live my mom and work at Petco.  Which reminds me, I gotta call home to say I don't need a ride."

"Oh...?" her brown eyes twinkle in amusement like a cat watching a bold mouse creep out into the open.

"Um, sorry.  Not like that!" I blush.  "I meant, I'll just take a bus home.  I didn't mean-"

"Oh relax.  NA is the closest thing I have to a social life these days" she sighs.  "Let me enjoy our coffee time ok?  Go make your call."

Her smile is predatory.  And I instantly pick up on that.  I meet her probing stare and nod back.

"Ok.  Be right back."

I look at my watch.  9:08pm.  This is a perfect time to call because my mom won't pick up the phone when she's watching TV.  I leave a message on the machine.  Then I go in the restroom and snort oxycodone out my coke bullet.  I'm checking my nostrils as a man comes in to wash his hands.  He stares hard at me like I'm a freak.  For a moment, I wonder if I'm going to punch him.  Then I realize...I'm really fucking high.  Maybe it's my social nerves.  It's been awhile since I've been with someone I'm trying to impress.  But this guy has a right to stare because I am high and openly displaying this fact.  While he washed his hands, I stood in the front of the mirror wetting my fingers, jamming them in my nose and then licking them.  The water helps my nasal veins absorb the narcotics while I lick my fingers because I don't want to waste any of that precious oxy.  The man leaves.  The face in the mirror looks back at me and winks.  I make my way back to my seat.

"You're good?" she asks.

"Oh yeah...I'm good" I grin and realize my smile is a little too demented.

Debra looks at me.  She knows.  I can tell because her eyes just swarmed over my artificial happiness.  What am I thinking?  Of course she can tell!  I met in her NA for fuck's sake.  Or maybe I missed some powder on my nose.  But whatever just happened, much like a first date fart, Debra pretends all is well.

"Hm.  Let's see" she frowns looking up, "For me it's cocaine and alcohol.  Maybe a slight thing with Valium...Hmmm.  But honestly that was just to get more out of booze after doing coke.  I'm not court mandated but it's the only reason I'm in NA.  I'm doing this is for my son, Tyler.  He'll be four
 in September."

My brain registers this.  This is the first woman I've ever been attracted to with a child.  After 24 rotations around the sun, my outlook on the people of my planet slowly expands.

"Fucking CPS..." Debra mutters as she exhales into the stained glass light fixture above our booth.

"CPS?  What's that?" I ask.

"Child Protective Services" she sighs.  Her eyes grow distant as she continues.  "I gotta a few DUI's.  Did some time at Elmwood.  My husband has custody and so...that's me.  My lawyer thinks NA looks good for the custody hearings."

"You're married?" I ask trying to sound casual.

"On paper.  My husband is...well, he's an asshole.  His parents pays for all the legal fees to keep this nightmare going.  I AM Tyler's mother.  Every molecule in my body was created for this purpose.  I need to be with Tyler and he needs to be with me.  So now I go to fucking religious gatherings to build up the slim chance I can see him on a holiday or maybe his birthday.  You know, the day I gave birth to him."

Debra closes her eyes.  "Sorry.  Never mind my problems!" she fake laughs while wiping away a tear.  "But you?  Heroin?  You're so young!"

I cringe because that fact is evident to anyone looking at us.  "Oh I'm done with that.  I'm only in NA because my-" and I catch myself.  I don't want to say 'mom' anymore to Debra.  Having coffee with a mother who went to jail for coke while I try and defend my loser, living at home status is awkward.  I clear my throat and continue, "Well, I'm in NA for my living situation.  It sucks. But like life, it's only temporary."

She smiles at me and then looks out the window.  Her eyes travel thousands of miles away from our table.  I feel like a fool.  Then she looks back at me.  Like a sunbeam urging me to grow.

"So your not in NA because you're in danger of slipping back into heroin?"

"No.  Heroin is behind me.  I had a conversation with...with someone who helped me see the road ahead."

"Oh?  Well, good.  I'm not afraid of my past" she says crushing out her smoke.  "I know what I did.  And I know why I'm in NA.  If anything, my drug use is like Buddhism.  Enjoy today.  NA is bullshit and just a way to move on."

"Really?" I ask.  I like the philosophy but not sure how it applies to people with insane substance abuse issues.  Quite possibly people like me and Debra.

"Yeah.  Really" she says leaning back and stretching out one arm across the top of the booth.  "Like tonight.  It's barely nine.  I haven't had a drink in four months.  Not even a glass of wine."

I look at Debra.  The formal gray, knee-length skirt, white blouse and gray dress jacket can't contain the spirit.  Her languid pose highlights a body that would be fun to know.  Her dark brown eyes urge me to the edge of the cliff.  They dare me to jump.  I like her eyes and the familiar madness behind her look, so I lean forward and ask,  "Are you hungry?"

"Food..?" she muses while looking at me with just a hint of a smile.  "Nope."

"How about a drink?" I ask.  Then I wince.  Jesus.  What am I thinking?

"Thought you'd never ask" she replies standing up without a smile. Her cigarette still smolders in the ashtray as she walks out the door.  I crush out our smokes, pay the bill and laugh.  The spirit is a funny thing.

We go to an old Navy bar.  I knew it existed growing up, but I was underaged.  Now the Soviet Union has collapsed.  The Berlin wall has fallen.  The US military presence in this town is diminished so there are more corporate suits in the bar than sailors.  But it's still a festive place.  A lot of macho shit like horse saddles and fighter jet cockpits decorate the space.  Pretty much every stupid, drunken thing a sailor or frat boy would steal and nail to a wall is here.  Traffic signs, underwear, animal heads and license plates from all 50 states surround the patrons who meander around pool tables doing shots and eating buffalo wings.  A fifteen foot Wonder Woman statue straddles the bar.  We sit beneath her crotch.

Debra can drink.  Either my presence has let her off her self-imposed leash or she is an accomplished liar.  Either way, Debra proceeds to drink.  It's Tuesday Tea Day.  Long Islands for $4.  She orders a pitcher of beer and Long Island Ice Teas.  My pill buzz is wearing very thin by this point but as a junkie, I carry emergency drugs on me for situations like this.  I sip politely and make conversation.  Her life sucks.  My life sucks.  We drink.

Between drinks, I surreptitiously eat my mom's Percocets and rail a 30 mg Roxi on a toilet stall.  My opiate buzz makes me fall behind Debra who methodically slams her Long Islands and swigs glasses beer.  I nurse my Long Island and ignore the draft beer.  The oxy makes me talkative.  I admit I like being the fish guy at Petco even though I'm wasting my college degree.

"I like, stand in front of the tanks" I grin like a fool, "and hold up my arms.  The fish rise up like I am their god."

"Does that make you hard?" she asks seriously before collapsing into giggles.  She reaches out and touches my thigh and I can feel the fish rise.

Debra tells me about her job.

"Catalog design is as fucking boring as it sounds" she grimaces swallowing half a glass of beer in a gulp.  "And tomorrow morning at 8:30 am I will be there with my smile.  Pretending to care about vacuum cleaner bag positioning for the money shot.  Oh, not what you're thinking!"

She laughs but I wasn't listening.  Some bad joke.  I am thinking about my pills.  I have three Percocets and two oxycodones.  Debra is drunk and touching me with every laugh.  I get it.  But the question is do I have enough pills to survive crashing at her house when I have work tomorrow?  I really don't want to sneak home to resupply myself with pills.  Maybe I'll pretend to be a decent sort who wouldn't take advantage of an inebriated NA friend-

"You know I was thinking about the Buddha" she says through unsteady eyes that laugh at me.  "Like live for today?  The moment!  You know?"

"Sure" I smile and finish my drink.

Debra swirls her finger over her head and yells "Another round for me and my sponsor!"   She is laughing maniacally as another round of drinks appear beneath Wonder Woman's crotch.  The Long Island is ice cold and pleasant on my opiate palate.

"So coke" she breathes into my ear leaning against me.  "You do coke?  We can stop by my girl's condo and hook up!  C'mon!  Let's have some fun."

Who am I to argue this logic?  We toast our friendship between heroic, fiberglass legs wrapped in star bangled boots and slam drinks.  I try to pay but find Debra has a tab here.  We wander out into the night.  I insist on driving when she falls over trying to get the keys out of her purse.  I help her up and we kiss beneath the fluorescent sky of the parking lot.  Her lips seal our bad behavior in a protective bubble.  Finally, sanctuary for what I am.  Fuck it.

"I had nine drinks and you had four" Debra slurs as she slumps into the passenger seat.  "But you're fucking high right?  You're not shooting shit are you?"

"No!" I assure her starting up the car without a valid driver's license.  "I take only doctor prescribed pain medication!" I laugh as I peel out onto the road.

"Too bad" she mumbles leaning her head towards the open window to gulp cold night air.  "I mean not too bad you're not shooting H!  I mean too bad you don't have any needles.  You ever shoot coke?  Man, I love shooting coke at the mall and going shopping!"

I don't know what to say to that one so I nod and pilot her commuter car into the traffic.  We drive to an apartment complex a few miles away.  I wait in the car and chew another Percocet while I smoke and fuck with her car stereo.  Madonna's Greatest Hits CD and the radio.  I end up listening to NPR where they talk about SETI.  Reminds of things I used to actually care about.  I sigh and wonder, What am I doing here?  This is lame right?  But fifteen minutes later, Debra wobbles back out barefoot, smoking and carrying her high heels slung over her shoulder.

She seems less drunk as she slides in, digs around her bag and comes up with a nail file.  She scoops me a hit and I hit it.  BAM.  Cocaine.  Been awhile old friend, I muse as the intensity of the Andes mountain range clears my fuzzy outlook on life.  I sit up straighter and start the car.  Coke is way better than coffee.

Debra's place reminds me where I tread.  Before this moment, my life was purely a party.  Now I walk past children's toys and a wall of framed pictures of a child named Tyler.  No band posters proclaiming your allegiance to some silly fashionable lifestyle.  A few, framed reproductions  by Monet and a collection of houseplants.  The coffee table surface is made of glass.  She dumps the coke on it and proceeds to chop it up with her driver's license.  We do lines with a rolled up five dollar bill.

"Whew!" she snorts pinching her eyes shut and grimacing after a comet trail of coke.  "So?  So?  So whaddya think?"

"Think?" I wonder as the icicles stab my optic nerves and spread numb rivers of silver into my brain.  "Well I'm allergic to milk.  I think if I snort too much of this coke I'll get the shits."

"Oh c'mon!  It's not that bad!  Yeah it's cut but not Mexican cut!"

I think about my old roommate and all the good coke I enjoyed effortlessly and realize this world just keeps turning.  Memories fade and new experiences rotate towards me.  So I I just shrug and do another line.  "Mnnrrr!" I grimace whipping my head up.

When Debra pulls a box of wine out of her pantry, the night grows super blurry.  I watch the news as she showers.  All those people living their shitty existences all across the globe while I chain smoke.  Debra appears in a bathrobe.  She kills the TV and turns on her stereo.  Journey's 'Faithfully' drowns out the world.  She sits next to me and we kiss.  The energy between us is a desperate thing grown from the Darkness.  But we are alone.  All we have is this moment.  Debra does an awkward, air drum solo, we drown in drunken kisses and have sex.  As we do this, I can't help but to think Debra is far away.  And so am I.

The next morning I wake up nude in the harsh light of the day.  A cat I never noticed before sits on the coffee table and watches me cautiously.  Debra snores peacefully on the floor below the couch with her robe wadded up under head like a pillow.  Her hair spills over her face and she is beautiful.  But in the beauty is a soul that has seen more than 30 winters.  The lines around her mouth and eyes are etched in marble.  Debra navigates a life I can't comprehend.  The sunlight stabbing through her blinds illuminates stretch marks around her flat belly where a baby once grew.  Her curled foot with chipped, red toenail paint points at a Thomas the Train sippy cup.

I rub my face.  While the chemical angst of morning is familiar, this morning is world's different than yesterday morning.  As I sit up, I knock over a toy car that lands on Debra.  She rolls over, groans and covers her body with her robe.

"Shit.  What time is it?" she grumbles.

Time?  Oh yeah.  Our society obligations.  I cover my crotch with my t-shirt and look at my watch.  "Fuck.  It's almost 11."

We both make awkward calls to our employers as Debra microwaves coffee.  Vague promises.  Flus.  Maybe be in later?  When the deed is done we sit in the gloom and stare at the TV which is turned off.  The instant coffee and tastes horrible.  We share a plate of scrambled eggs and toast.  We are quiet because once the sun rose, all the naked, drunken, coked out freedom skulked away.  But I learned the cat's name.

"Oh stop pouting Bodhi" chides Debra opening up a can of something that reeks of dead creatures from the sea.  Bodhi half heartedly nibbles at it.

I think of my life waiting for me when I walk out this door.  Questions from mom as I know my boss Penny called the house.  But I do have two oxycodones left.  I could just drift into work and bypass home.  But I would feel terrible by lunch break when the dopesickness hits.  I think I feel it now but we did a lot of coke and I'm definitely still drunk from that awful box wine.  

"You going to work?" I ask.

"Oh" she shrugs.  Debra sit two seats away from me this morning.  "That would be the right thing to do I suppose."

Her response is noncommittal and I think I should just leave but she shakes her head and starts crying again.  "I hate them all!  Watch!  I'll get drug tested and fail!  But the worst part is...we did all the fucking coke!"

True, we did all the fucking coke but I have no idea what she is ranting about.  However, I am no stranger to pain, so I go over and put a hand on her shoulder.  She leans into me.

"I can't go into work like this!" she moans.  "What am I gonna do?"

When she cries, Debra looks so old and frail.  I have no idea what she is so worried about.  We go to our crap jobs and slog through another day.  But her eyes are fragile...

"I have two oxys.  We can rail them and you take me to my house.  I can get more."

"What?" she sniffles.  "Rail?"

"Yeah.  Crush.  Snort.  Here..."

I take a quarter and smash two pills.  I chop it up with her driver's license as the cat watches.  Her picture in the ID has makeup and looks composed.  You have to love girls.  My ID has a homeless guy with a two day old patchy beard sneering.  I give myself the bigger piles and explain this ain't coke.  We do little lines and wait for maximum blood absorption.  But in twenty minutes Debrah has a good idea about my habit.

"Jesus this is sweet" she declares through clear, brown eyes.  "Ok.  Let's get some more.  You know for work.  What is this shit called?"

"Oxycodone.  It has no aspirin shit in it like Vicoden.  So you can snort pure, medical grade opiate."

"Oh my god, it feels so GOOD.  I feel awake and alive and happier than I have felt in years.  Is it like heroin?" she asks.

"No" I sigh remembering the Darkness.  "No.  Not even.  But let's not go there."

She drives me home and I rush in with a mission.  "Oh hey mom!  Just need some stuff and going to work!"

"But!  But!" she complains as I dart into the bathroom to steal her pills.  I flush the toilet and pop into my room to grab my oxycodone.  "But your boss called you!  Penny!  That girl that spent the night!"

"Yeah I gotta go" I assured her rushing down the porch and back into Debra's car.

"Hey!  Who's that lady?" complains mom as we peel away.

We get more coke and order a pizza.  Safe inside, we ignore life happening outside the apartment windows.  "Finally a break" sighs Debrah splayed out on the floor.  She has discovered the oxy/coke combo and enjoys.  "So tired of the everyday bullshit!"  And we go on another apartment bender with Bodhi the cat.  Cheap coke and box wine is one thing but Debra quickly gains a taste for oxy.  My oxy.

"How can we get more?" she complains after I tell her I'm out.  Jesus it's only 6pm.  We are coked out of our skulls and going nuts.  Debra is an 8ball snorter a night while gulping box wine.  She has cleaned the apartment twice while I stared at TV and ripped cheese off the pizza to eat bread.

"But where can we get more oxycodone?" Debra asks me for the thousandth time while coke sprinkles from her nostrils.

I shrug.  "I have a bad knee.  My mom has spinal injuries.  I guess you need a serious doctor thing."

"Like what?" she asks.  I look at her.  Debra's brain is working and planning.

"I don't know.  Chronic, fucked up pain?"

"Ok I have migraines.  Maybe I'll give it a try because this shit is amazing.  Especially with coke!  When can you get more?" her eyes widened.

Did this relationship fizzle because of our age difference?  Or was it because when she turned her laser focus on my oxycodone habit?  I still think about her arms around me and how good it feels to be in the same boat with another cosmic drifter.  But I stopped taking her calls.  I stopped going out for coffee.  I did my NA time and continued at Petco.  But one day I woke up.  I can't be in my childhood home when the dark wings come beating through the endless night for me.  I borrowed the Macy's card again and bought two suits.  I slowed down my usage until my brain started working again.  The temp agency was kind and pushed me towards the buildings that hire fools like me.  But the emptiness is still here inside me.  There is not enough to fill it.

******

"Hello?  Hellloooo?" says Iona.

I listen for something.  For what?

"Heloooo" she sighs.  "Ok.  Good bye."


Click.