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Monday, April 25, 2016

Why I Wear Pink Socks

I stare passively at panes of blurry light.  As my eyes focus, I decide I hate alcohol for the 8,000th time.  Why do I drink so much?  Because I'm an alcoholic.  Because it's my day off.  Mystery solved.  I shut my eyes, groan and roll over but it's useless.  Sleep and I never got along.  Time to return to the rutted track.  Time to feel normal.

I keep the drugs in my truck.  Little blue pills.  Not the best spot but considering my wife, probably the safest.  I pocket two pills and ignore Ugly Bob who yowls at me through the windshield.  A quick glance at his bowl shows scattered cat food.  The chickens were here and they stole his breakfast.

"You smell, you're weak and you're an embarrassment to yourself", I tell Ugly Bob.  

Inside, I pour a cup of lukewarm coffee and use a silver dollar to crush a pill into three lines. SNORT.  The first one tickles my brain with electric anticipation.  SNORT.  The second one rights all alcoholic wrongs.  SNORT.  The third one cracks open the door.  Just a peek.  Euphoria.  I swallow the other pill.  In twenty minutes, the phoenix shall rise.

Much better.  I let Ugly Bob inside, pet him for awhile and feed him.  Then I find myself staring at the washing machine.  Hmm.  Our power bill has been huge lately.  I look at the washing robot.  Why does my wife do such tiny loads?  What is this dividing clothes nonsense?  I take the whole basket of clothes and shove it into the machine.  I add soap and punch START.  

That clean, pharmaceutical oxy rush is rippling through my body.  Just enough to make the morning softer.  Serene.  The hangover is long gone and my spirit hovers above the flesh.  Eating sounds pleasant so I fry an egg and make toast.  After I eat, I take the clothes from the washer and place them in the dryer.  Some clothes are pink.  Well that's kinda weird.  But right fucking now, life feels good.  So I go with it.


The high swarms in my mind like tiny bees seeking tasks.  So I clean up the kitchen, put away the dishes and take apart my watch.  Ugly Bob crouches on the table and watches the tiny screws bounce across the table.  I'm disassembling the waterproof housing when my phone buzzes like a disturbed insect.  Ugly Bob and I watch it vibrate across the table.  It is not my wife, so I let the phone goes to voicemail.  The phone display say's it's Rick Cody who leaves a message.  Rick?  Rick and I meet on Thursdays to buy oxycodone.  I put down the watch.


"Heeey..." comes Rick's voice.  "I have a couple questions.  Call me back, buddy."

Ah, Rick.  My socially acceptable friend.  The one the wife likes.  Rick works for the county as an environmental planner.  Everyone loves him and he's thinking of running for city council.  He'd be perfect for it.  But our friendship is just a figment of the moth's dream.  Sure, we meet once a week and have some drinks.  But we're really only there to meet Trina.  She sells us thirty Roxicodone 30mg pills for $500 a pop.  To say Rick and I are great friends is like saying Trina enjoys our company.  Never mind the $1,000 in cash she pockets every week.  The dryer buzzes.  I open it.  The clothes are still damp.  And pink.  I close it and walk away.

"Hey Rick" I say into the phone while studying the shiny watch guts spewed across the table.  "What's up?"

"Hey man.  A little late notice, but how about lunch?"

"Is this about your boat?" I ask.  Boat is our clever code for pills.  

"Nah, I just wanna talk."

Hmm.  I gather the watch pieces into a pile.  My instinct is to push off the lunch.  I have pills to last me to Thursday.  But something is happening...I can feel it.

"Ok" I agree.  "The usual?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I meet Rick at the Harbor Grill.  The same dive where we usually meet our dealer.  The Saturday morning drunks are watching college football teams on TV.  Outside is the endless Pacific Ocean.  A soul defying shade of blue spreads across the planet.  

"Know anything about drug tests?" asks Rick with a faint smile.  

I sigh and watch a family of sunburnt tourists pick a table in the harsh, tropical sunlight.  I look at Rick.  His face is relaxed.  Numb.  I know his other face too.  The one he wears when Trina's running late and our conversation grows stale.

"Not really" I shrug picking up my beer.  All I know is I've failed a bunch of them.  

Rick cracks his neck as a waitress wobbles by with a tray of cheeseburgers.  He stops her with his smile, "When you have moment Lani, can you get us another pitcher?"

"Sure guys!" smiles the waitress.  Rick is the kind of person that knows everyone's name.  He's forever bumping into folks and asking them about their families or their jobs or whatever the hell people talk about.  


"What happened?" I ask him.

"I don't know" smiles Rick wistfully.  "I mean, I have an idea but I think I'm fucked.  They made me take a piss test yesterday.  Heard a lot of words like: zero-tolerance, county policy and random screening.  It's bullshit."

"Go to your doctor and get a prescription-"

"Hah!  We think alike" laughs Rick.  "I went right after I pissed and waited four hours.  Back pain.  Thing is, I was on more than a 100mg of oxy when I tested and my doc wouldn't even give me hydros.  She starts with ibuprofen or naproxen."

"Naproxen?" I say with disgust.  "What are you gonna do?  Appeal?"

"I read my contract.  Baring a miracle, they totally got me" says Rick.  "If my fucking brain had been working, I would have quit."

I think about this.  Yeah.  You get your references and the time you put in counts.  Get fired and the last thing you want is a prospective employer calling.  Sure there are laws but junkies seldom sue after getting slandered for failing drug tests.  Rick looks at me seriously.

"I've been slipping.  I know it.  Stupid little things.  Drove my Land Rover for a week before noticing the oil cap on the windshield.  And work?  I take my liberties.  Shit, looking back, I was just giving them more rope to hang me."

"You've been there for what?  Three years?"

"Four" nods Rick solemnly taking a gulp of beer.

"Appeal!" I urge.  "What can it hurt?  Say you need some time to sort stuff out.  Your professional record is good right?"

"Solid" shrugs Rick.  "Most county people don't give two fucks about anything but their pension.  I started the commission to halt coastal development.  I started beach clean up days for school kids.  I did good."    

"So appeal."

"Nah" smiles Rick looking at me like a child.  "All we have is our reputation.  Do I want to be labelled an addict?"

I sigh because it's all true.  I surreptitiously chew a pill while the waitress brings us mahimahi sandwiches.  The semblance of a solid, forthright work history is more important than being competent.  Rick is both.  But he also needs his 200-300mg of oxycodone a day to avoid spiraling into hell.  His magnetic personality and gregarious nature would collapse into manic depression, burning incontinence, sleep depravity and endless agony.  


I know this because history is circular.  

"We on for next Thursday?" I ask and instantly regret it.  Thursday is when we meet our dealer.  Regular as church.  But Rick is wolfing down his sandwich and seems unfazed.  


He nods, "Of course."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


In the end, my wife came home and discovered my watch and laundry attempt.

"What is this bullshit?" she demanded.  "I told you to pay the guy at the watch place.  And you're lucky I like pink bras.  Separate colors!  Remember?"

No.  I don't recall that.  But time passes.  Like Rick, I am noticing subtle changes in life that illustrate drugs are bad.  Yesterday, I had to re-park my car after I opened the door during a windy day and it smashed into a coworker's BMW.  I had a boss meeting at work about leaving early.  At first I was indignant.  But hell, it's true.  Roxicodone says leaving early is ok.  Fuck it.  I just do what every other motherfucker in the office wants to do. 


Rick moved back to New Jersey.  From social media, I watched him lose his wife and pass his post office exams.  Maybe he'll do good there.  I wonder if he misses his old life?  I wonder how much he pays for oxy?  But we never talk again.  Rick disappears into the digital Darkness.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday night tacos at Los Portales.  Our family tradition.

"Is this your sophisticated lesbian look?" asks my wife.  Her eyes sparkle mischievously at me.

"What?" I ask confused.  I smile like a fool because I'm high and realize I'm missing something obvious.  

"Daddy's wearing pink socks!" laughs my daughter.

I look down.  I'm dressed like a man who doesn't have a chance.  Sensible shoes, pink socks, black jeans and an octopus t-shirt that says, 'Who Wants A Hug?'.  Jesus.  Did I really wear this today?  I don't remember...but it was casual Friday.  Wow.

"Finish up guys.  Movie starts at 8:15" smiles my wife.  Our daughters start wolfing down their nachos and quesadillas.  "What time is it?" she asks me.

But I don't know.  My socks are pink and my watch is broken.