"That's you son!" Dan shouts happily while rubbing my back.
I look up in confusion and hear my name again. In a nauseous daze, I tumble forward past smiling coworkers to the stage. Nightmare, squishy noises fart inside my twisted bowels. It's so cold in the company auditorium and my mind is a vast emptiness. I feel like I'm watching TV while I walk past cheering coworkers. Standing on the stage is my boss, Brad Stone. The person screeching my name like a shrieking harpy is our VP, Lisa Croffer. And as I stagger up the stairs, the antichrist grabs my hand and shakes it. Fucking Don Piper.
"Hell yeah buddy we're gonna kick some ass!" he hoots lifting our arms to the crowd. My poor coworkers have to cheer because they're on the clock and in clear view of upper management and the executive team.
What the fuck is going on? I really should read those damn meeting briefs. Confused, I stand tall and smile like a lunatic to the crowd. I see Sera toasting me with her Cheshire cat coffee mug. I think she's smiling but I only have eyes for her purple bag. Inside that bag are pills. Morphine, oxycodone and percocets. I can't meet my dealer for a couple days because I'm broke. But if I can just reach that fucking bag-
"Our star reps!" roars Brad Stone slapping my back so hard he almost knocks me off the stage. And then he starts chanting "1,000 booths! 1,000 booths!"
The crowd joins in on the chant. I look around wildly. 1,000 what? And then it hits me. Fuck. Don Piper and I have been chosen to sell 1,000 fucking booths for the next convention. You don't do this from your desk. You road trip this bitch to the fucking asshole of America; New Mexico. God fucking damnit. Lisa Croffer makes a speech. When she is done, the workers are all released from the corporate spell. I stumble off in a daze.
"Whoo!" cheers Sera happily as I grab her arm and drag her into my cubicle. "Hooray for you!" she smiles.
I stare at her like she's crazy. "Look, I need those pills. I need to meet with a bunch of upper level assholes and I am not feeling it today. In fact, I think I'm gonna puke."
Sera squints at me from behind her thick glasses. "Hmm" she muses.
"Hey I know our deal Sera! But this is a total emergency! In twenty minutes I have to meet Stone, some other cocksuckers! Plus I have to hang out with Piper! Look!" I demand. "Just give me the damn pills!"
"Alright, alright" she frowns.
I watch her open the morphine and wait patiently as she doles out two pills. I chew them up and dry swallow the mess as she opens the oxycodone. I snatch it from her hands, gulp down four pills and pocket the bottle.
"Hey!" she exclaims.
"I need this today. And the other bottles you have at home for the trip. Sorry but this is way beyond a emergency. This is a tragedy! I need to get well fast. Fuck! Fuck this fucking horsecock fucking bullshit! Goddamn it!"
Sera stares at me while I rant about the executives that pay our salaries with a profanity laced tirade. I chew up some more pills, swallow it with cold coffee and grimace. Poor Sera. I always forget she is totally estranged to junkie culture and our curious traditions. So I smile angelically and add, "Oh and I need to borrow $300."
I was chosen for this trip for two reasons: The company is cheap and I have a penis. Christy Ye is the other rep. She does more work than Don and I combined. But the sales gig is a two person job. Whoever goes to sell booths has to share a room. Supposedly it's because the conference is sold out. But everyone knows how cheap the executive team is with travel budgets when they aren't attending.
"Well one of us shouldn't be going" I point out. "Christy outsells us both. Face it. This is sexism. I'm stuck with you because I have a dick."
"Not as big as this dick, dude" says Don grabbing his crotch. "Besides! Don't sell yourself short buddy! Hah! Get it shrimp dick? Anyways, Christy gets some easy sales because of that ching-chong-chang shit."
I stare at the idiot while admires himself in the elevator door reflection. I am tempted to point out that the ching-chong-chang shit is Mandarin Chinese. It's the most widely spoken language on our planet and represents almost 35% of our customer base. But what's the point? Don fixes his tie and winks at himself.
"You know I'd fuck Christy if she was a little thinner. Actually I'd rather fuck her friend! You know that other Asian bitch that gives her rides to work? Man that chick is fucking hot. Hell, I'd fuck both of those bitches. At the same time!"
I feel sick. The pills aren't working fast enough. I debate whether or not to have an episode of severe diarrhea before my my meeting or just hold it, suffer and go home. Don won't shut up. I feel like punching him in his throat as he babbles nonstop. This prick is actually excited about New Mexico. Cocksucker.
"We're gonna kick ass buddy!" Don declares as the elevator arrives. He hold his hand up for a high-five. I stare at him. "C'mon. Don't leave me hanging bro!" demands Don.
I slap the fool's hand and shudder. Inside me, another part dies.
I prepare for the business trip. Pills are excellent for travel. The percocets, oxycodone and lortabs are white and generic pill looking. I mix them in an ibuprofen bottle. Morphine pills are blue so I dig out an old prescription for Meloxicam. I wanted Sera's $300 to go straight into some East coast powder my Russian friend can score. But no such luck. All he had was shitty coke. I pressured him, told him where I was going. Finally got a skinny, half gram of black tar heroin. Personal stash, he kept harping. I'm hoping it's hot, but for $40, I doubt it. Crap thing about tar is you have to cook and inject. I could foil smoke like the old days but with a puny amount, I'd rather bang it. So I buy a diabetics travel kit and add sterilized cotton. I wrap the tar in saran wrap and slip it beneath the Odor-Eater insole of my shoe. I pack my suitcase and fill a garment bag with dress clothes. Done. My plan is to be pilled out and drunk in the daytime. I'll shoot tar at night to sleep. Oh and I also need to sell 1,000 booth spaces.
The convention is pit of despair. We experience a sinking feeling when we walk the floor and notice many of the signs are in Chinese. Our assigned booth is also in a shitty spot behind a pillar. After we sign in, Don wanders away to take a shit leaving me to set the damn thing up. But then again, I'm high. I create a beautiful display that depicts my company's next big show. I get into arranging the cards and info packets as aesthetically as possible. Unlike that fool Don Piper, I am prepared. For the price of one dinner, Christy Ye helped me make promotional material and translated my business card in Chinese. Also, I have a secret agreement with her to split all sales that require a Chinese translator. While I'm doing the meet and greet bullshit, Christy will do the selling in Chinese. It's a good arrangement. We cut out Don because he's such an asshole.
I dip down in the booth and rail 30 mg of oxycodone. I pour some bottled water on my fingers, drip it into my nose and surreptitiously snort the pill residue away. I should do this in the bathroom but the Piper is still MIA. The pills I gobbled, the free Continental breakfast, my large coffee and the oxy get me through the first round of convention attendees. While we lack a Chinese sign, we are not totally lame. I smile and greet people as the opiates fuel my social nature. I score nine sales and thirteen maybes before I have a chance to finish my coffee. The company name still has clout. Finally Don returns.
"I'm gonna have smoke and hit the restroom" I tell him.
"When are you coming back?" Don asks.
I think about pointing out he left me to set up the booth by myself and hid in the bathroom for almost an hour. But then I notice his usual smug douchebag ways are missing. Jesus. Is the Piper actually nervous?
"I need a break Don. Just remember, press the bigger booth spaces first."
I look at Don and it's weird. It's like me without dope. Don's frail looking, sweaty and nervous. "You ok?" I ask.
"Mmhmm" Don mutters looking down.
"Ok..." I shrug walking away.
I have a cigarette and walk back to the room for more pills. I am tempted to do a little shot but the day is new. We still have panels, lunch and other boring crap scheduled. The morphine gives my pill high some serious legs. So I take more. It's gonna be a long day. Then I gulp a few more percocets. Fuck it. My liver is a champ. I walk back out to the convention. The slow, creeping pill wave of the beautiful life warms me. I float towards the escalator. My convention badge IDs me and my company. Some potato-shaped men with unhealthy skin that know my boss, stop me. We swap insincere pleasantries, jaw about my boss Bradley Stone and make vague plans for dinner.
We exchange cards and I float away thinking how disgusting people are. I key the info into my phone because I won't remember anything after one hour. Back at the booth I can't help but notice it's empty. What the fuck? Where's Don? I man the booth for another hour before he sheepishly returns. Says he feels sick. Asshole. At the convention lunch, Don decides to leave because it's Chinese themed. He wants Burger King. Once again, I am alone. But really, really high. I make twelve sales at lunch and eight maybes. My skull is humming. Don never comes back for the panels. I squeeze out some more sales and then kill it in the afternoon. I look at our sales board. I have 217 confirmed sales and 32 maybes. At least 70 of my sales are because of Christy's help. Don has 18 confirmed sales and 44 maybes. I feel good as I go back to the room to shower. While 1,000 is our goal, realistically if we can sell more than 700 slots, the sales team in the office should be able to handle the rest. I open the door and see Don splayed out on his bed watching TV. He's still wearing his ugly, green dress shirt and olive pants. A pale, deflated gecko that limply holds a can of Pepsi on it's belly.
"217 confirmed kills!" I smile at him removing my jacket and hanging it in the closet. "Get up Don. We have dinner. Stone's old buddies. I think we can unload at least two big booths. Like their aero division and the military one. If not, we gotta push for six little ones."
"I don't know" says Don in a oddly hushed voice. "I feel...sleepy."
"What? C'mon man! It's company credit card schmoozing. Eat a steak! Get drunk!"
"I had this headache" says Don slowly still staring at the TV, "and I didn't have any aspirin. So I took some of yours."
My mind pings instantly to Don's problem. He's wasted. Wasted on my fucking pills.
"Wait" I say closing my eyes to drive away the anger. "You went in my bag?! What the fuck Don? You should have asked me."
"Yeah. It was a bad call. But..." Don sighs.
I wait for him to finish but he goes back to TV land. He's watching a grown man ride a little kid dirt-bike up and down a skate ramp.
"Don!" I say loudly. "What'd you take? That's not all ibuprofen in there. What shape were the pills?"
"I don't know. Tylenol shaped? I took two" shrugs Don.
And I relax. He took two lortabs. So only 20 mg of hydrocodone. Not a hospital problem but now Don's fucking useless. Well, more useless than before. I leave him to his stupor and get ready for dinner.
Dinner is pretty much what I expected. My schmoozing targets suck down large amounts of alcohol and only offer up some feeble maybes. Oh well. Brad Stone will have to press this sale. His friends just wanted free dinner. But I did my due diligence. I walk back to our room.
Today, I have been stretched to the max. I stop at a vending machine and buy a Pepsi. I open the can, take a sip and dump the rest in a planter. I just need the bottom to cook dope in. I whistle as I walk back and mentally picture the shot. I watch myself carefully go through the steps to prepare it. I'll saw the bottom of this can off with hotel scissors and use my lighter to cook. I have needles and sterilized cotton. The complimentary hairdryer cord in the bathroom will make a fine tie to constrict my blood vessels. And know exactly which vein I'm gonna hit. Top of my forearm. A spot I've been saving for a night like this. I open the door. Inside, Don is already passed out so I don't have to talk to him. I go into the bathroom and turn my vision into reality.
I walk down stone stairs into a familiar room. Kym reclines sideways on a couch with her feet propped up. She looks up from her Architectural Digest magazine and arches her eyebrows at me.
"Hey" she says softly.
I am pleasantly surprised because Kym usually wears jeans or a miniskirt with a t-shirt. But now she looks like a traveler from a land far, far away land. Only her face, hands and feet are bare. The rest of her is covered in an ankle length, long sleeved dress. Beneath the dress she wears a pair of bright, poppy-red, long pants. It is one of her Sunday family dresses. Sunset colors ranging from newly blossomed pinks to stormy grays are arranged in geometric patterns. Arabic designs in gold thread nestle diamonds with exploding stars all over her body. Interspersed in the psychedelic patterns are tiny white flowers and indigo drops of rain. Her pink hair and neck are hidden in a dark, purple veil.
"Wow" I smile. "You look...well, you look amazing. I mean you always look-"
"You ok?" she interrupts frowning at me.
"Yeah. Of course" I say looking around. I have never actually been in this room before. It looks like a cave with a nice couch. Light pours from an unknown source above. Silvery tree roots dangle before my face. And my college girlfriend is dressed in...
"You promised!" shrieks Kym pointing at me. She stands up and the loose garments float in the air. A terrible wind fills my skull.
Her blue eyes flash and emotions surge over me. Anger swirls with disappointment. An endless sadness chokes the air. I am drowning. I struggle to breathe while my heart begins to violently thump in my chest. I look up. And up. And up. I am falling. Blue eyes and Persian patterns spin madly above as the Darkness covers my eyes.
Then someone slaps me. And they slap me again and again and-
My eyes open. I'm on the floor of the bathroom. Don stands over me grinning. "C'mon dude! Continental breakfast! All the good pastries go fast! And we gotta man the booth."
"Wha-?" I manage to croak out.
"What do you mean what? Up dude! And clean up the fucking tub heheh. Man, Carnelli messed your shit up!" laughs Don.
What the fuck? Did I nod out? Maybe that tar was fire. I file a mental note about the importance of test shots. Panicked, I look at my arm. But I managed to pull out the needle before I passed out. I can see the torn apart Pepsi can in the garbage and cover it wth a towel. Man, it reeks in here. Then I see it. The bathtub is splashed with puke.
"C'mon!" urges Don. "Shower! And for god's sake man, clean your company comped dinner up."
I try to stand but thump sideways against other dimensions. They violently slam me back and jelly wobble the room. My skull violently throbs and shakes my tunnel vision. When I close my eyes I see a cyclone of moths filling the starry night. And I fall to my knees. Nope. Body is not under my control. My brain is filled with roaring voices...I'm gonna pass out again. Jesus! Why is it so fucking bright in here?
"Almost mine!' giggles the moths. I swipe at them and fall flat on my face.
"Damn dude" sighs Don. "Is this the diabetes thing? Ok, man. I'll help you up."
"Wait?" I ask. "What? Diabetes?"
"I saw your kit. My aunt that raised me had one too. Wine used to mess her up. You guys aren't supposed to drink! Don't you read the pamphlets? Think of your blood sugar dude!"
I think if I had cocaine I could stand up. But I keep this thought to myself and groan. I am really messed up. I must have poured a lot of booze on the pills. Oh and the 'diabetes' thing too. Jesus. Moths. And I remember. Was I really that close? I reach up my hand and Don pulls me to my feet. The bathroom swivels on glittery, diamond points. The sink mirror reflects a chaotic vortex of almost maybes. Like, maybe I'm alive because of fucking Piper? Really? Jesus. I'm totally gonna puke. I need to get in the shower to minimize the mess.
"No. Not diabetes. Just sick. Or something..." I say gasping for air. I don't need the diabetic thing to get around work...or hell, maybe it's not so bad. I could use it to explain bruised arms.
"Oh" says Don. "Maybe you got what I had yesterday. I had the trots something nasty! Liquid brownies! And my head was killing me dude. I thought it was nerves but that's silly right?"
I hold the sink to stand. I look at Don and nod. "Yeah. Maybe a stomach virus or something."
"Totally!" agrees Don. "It was probably that fucking airport food right? I knew that sandwich tasted funky."
I agree and push Don out of the bathroom. I puke and dry heave in the shower. Thoughts of a thick line of powdered oxycodone keeps me sane while I use my feet to squish half-digested food through the shower drain. When I'm done, I feel ok. Oxy is an amazing drug for hangovers. Don showers after me and by the time he's dressed, we are way too late for the free Continental breakfast. Nothing but raisin toast scraps at this point. So I offer to pay for bagels and coffee if he brings some back to the room. Then I pass out.
In the end, our sales were just under 600. Not a dismal failure, but nobody congratulated us back at the office. Don ran the booth most of the last day. We were pretty much even in sales. I should have had more but was too fucked up to use my brain for anything more challenging than grinning weakly. After that insane bathroom nod, my spirit was spent. The ghost tried to rip free from my body and when Don woke me up, it spent the rest of the trip sulking. Like a child, I meekly followed Don Piper through the rest of the conference and then back home. I slept in the cab, the airport and the airplane. I only woke up when Don smacked me to my senses to get up and move. Sera picked us up at the airport. We dropped Don off at his condo and she came back to my place and ordered a pizza. Through closed eyes, I smelled marijuana, sausage and mushrooms but Sera ate by herself. I caught up on twelve hours of sleep. When I woke up, I crawled into the bathroom and shot up the rest of the tar. Sera was gone. On Monday, I called in sick.