To Hell and Back

The bus smells like piss and desperation. I have stepped on this pile of scrap metal to be given temporary relief from the halfway house everyday for the past six months.  This is welcomed  after four and a half years of being locked in a nine by twelve cell. But today is different.  I will not be taking this ride back later tonight. Today I am finally free after a relatively long prison bid. I do not seem to mind anything that usually repulses me or maybe I just do not give a fuck anymore. God knows I have been through a lot and now I am crawling out of the other side.

I do not care that my mother would not drive in Newark because she cannot be inconvenienced to make the trip or be faced with the overpowering poverty. She excuses her avoidance by saying she is too old to drive into a city now.  I do not care that everything I own, my entire life for the past five years, is crammed into large clear plastic garbage bags which I have under my feet on the city bus. The locals know what this means, they must see it a couple of times a month. Some smile and wish me luck, others pull their children closer to get them away from me. I think of the bags as my designer luggage, a present from the New Jersey Department of Correction. I feel nothing but excitement and relief to finally be going anywhere other than the hell I have lived in for five long terrifying years.

A man on the bus is staring at me.  I notice this and my prison mentality tells me to aggressively ask him, “What the fuck are you looking at?”

I do not break eye contact. I am ready for his reaction and am trying to see if he is going to turn this confrontation into something more. He nods his head at me and gets out of his seat to move closer. He sits down across the aisle and asks me if I need any “boy or girl” which is the new code for coke or heroin. I tell him I am good, which I am. Today I was released from prison, well technically a DOC run halfway house. I am thirty-five years old and must meet with my parole officer in three hours. This is the first time in my life that when someone has offered me a substance that would dull the anxiety, I am feeling that I did not jump at the opportunity. It was not always this way. I have been through hell and back. I am still crawling out of the wreckage of my life’s turbulence.

Six years ago, my hands tremble and I am on the verge of shitting my pants as I frantically tear open small, folded wax bags and dump the brownish powder into a Snapple cap I have placed on the center console of my SUV. I do this efficiently and quickly with care not to spill the contents, for that would be a disaster on par with September 11th. My legs and stomach are cramping, and I keep telling myself to hold on, just one more minute. Like the world’s saddest cheerleader giving hope to the team’s most pathetic athlete.

I dump the last bag into the cap and take the disposable syringe which by now is bent and worn, more like something you would find in a medical waste container at a biohazard dump than in a doctor’s office. I put the needle into the water bottle using my teeth to pull the plunger up. Watching the water fill the plaster tube with intensity. I push the plunger and spray the water over the powder in the cap, use the top of the plunger to stir the solution, drop a piece of cotton into the brownish liquid. I drew the solution into the syringe using my mouth to pull the plunger back, my eyes fixated on the iced tea colored solution filling the syringe. I find a vein which still seems to be working in my left forearm and stab into my skin several times until I hear that familiar pop of the needle piercing vein. I draw back and watch the show. Blood rushes into the syringe in a thin stream twirling through and mixing with the poison I am about to inject into my body. I push the plunger down and pull it back, drawing more blood into the solution. I continuously do this as the plunger goes deeper and deeper injecting more and more heroin into my bloodstream. The cramping and anxiousness fade almost immediately as a warm rush of intoxication shrouds me in this moment. I untie the rubber tourniquet from my arm and start my car. Everything is right where it should be for the moment, delicately balance and ready to tip.

For this one moment I forget that I am losing everything in my life that is worth living for.  Giving everything away for these fleeting moments of chemically induced pleasure.  The anarchy of my existence is beginning to kill me, and the craziest part is I do not care, in fact I encourage it. I know if I keep this up, I am going to die, therefore I never stop when the ones I once loved so much beg me to. I want to die because life has become so miserably grey through the cloudy haze I have been living. I never imagined it would get back to the vivid colorful days of my past. No one said suicide had to be quick, I am just prolonging the event, savoring my misery. Like a true 90’s child I am being truly melodramatic about it. 

I drive to my mother’s house to pick up some money before she goes on vacation. Since I was fired from my last job, I have been getting an allowance from a trust fund left to me after my father’s death which is now controlled by my mother. It was never really like this before I had started using. I graduated college, got a great job in forensics with a major insurance carrier and thought I was doing the right thing. On the outside I looked like I had everything together, but something inside me was empty.  There was a void that I tried to fill with anything I thought would do the trick. Nothing seemed to fix me.

After losing my job I had access to a portion of an inheritance which was meant to pay for graduate school or renovations on my house. The things responsible normal people use large sums of money for. When I blew through fifty-grand in two months, I was told that I am no longer trusted with my inheritance. I cannot say I blame them, but I really wish I still had it at this moment. It would make things so much less embarrassing for me. I could just kill myself without having any interaction with my family. I hate having them see me like this.

I pull into my mother’s driveway and see my stepfather outside on a ladder hanging Christmas lights on the edge of the roof line. I throw my half-smoked cigarette onto the street as a I get out of my car.  They hate the fact I smoke. They have been yelling at me to quit since my sister gave me my first one when I was 12, at this point I am twenty-eight. It is not going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

I walk up the long driveway, about halfway my stepfather waves at meet and then turns back to his project.  We have never really spoken much, so this is a typical welcome home from him.  I walk past him and say, “Hey Bruce, lights look good man.” 

Bruce has been married to mother since I was nine. He is a retired police officer and still looks the part. He dons a mustache and has a shaved head. He carries himself with a silence that comes across to some as intimidating but to me he just seems like an asshole. He does not say anything in response to my greeting, other than a slight grunt in acknowledgment. I walk into the house through the garage. I wipe my feet on the mat, knowing I should take my shoes of, but fuck it.  I walk into the kitchen and yell, “Mom? I’m here.” 

My mother comes bustling around the corner out of the hallway and smiles at me. My mother is a tiny woman, standing maybe five feet two inches tall. She looks younger than she really is and has the energy to match. She is wearing a pair of slacks and a blouse, full makeup and hair perfectly styled.  It is a Sunday, so ask her where she is going? She looks at me confused and says, “Nowhere, why do you ask?” 

I just shrug and then she hugs me. She tells me I look good and that she likes my shirt. I know she is lying. I look like shit or at least I should. I have not gotten more than two hours of chemically induced rest in a row for as long as I can remember. I look down at the shirt I am wearing and realize she bought it for me a week ago, I tell her this and she smiles.  She says, “I guess I have good taste.” 

I do not laugh or smile, I do not feel like playing this game right now. I just want to get my allowance and leave. I am embarrassed to be getting an allowance from my mother as old as I am, but not embarrassed enough to prevent me from doing so. Let us face the fact, I need the money and she knows that. I tell her I need to pay rent and pay my bills, which I have not done in three months. My landlord is beginning to send me letters and become a big dick about things. Ever since he heard I was in rehab he and his bible-thumping slut of a wife have become real dick heads. What would Jesus do? I am not sure, but I do know just because your tenant is a junky does not mean he is going to murder you and your plastic smile wearing wife. And if he was in fact going to sneak into your overpriced place of residence while you were sleeping and bludgeon you to death in your bed, being a confrontational asshole is not a surefire way of deterring this scenario. It might, in fact, precipitate the act to occur. 

My mother rummages through her purse and takes out a bank envelope.  She hands it to me and asks if it will be enough to hold me over the two weeks she is going to be away.  I stuff it into my pocket and say “Yeah, it’ll be fine Mom don’t worry.” 

I do not count it, but I know no matter how much is in there I will be broke again within a day or so. I do not care about tomorrow. I just need immediate gratification today.

My mother keeps looking at me with eyes that tell me she knows what I am doing and that it kills her. She is terrified that I am going to die any day.  The truth is I assume the same thing, almost encourage it at this point.  I know the loss of her favorite child would quite literally destroy her. I know I am her favorite because before I was a disaster, she slipped up during a Christmas dinner with my sisters and I present and admitted I was her favorite child in front of everyone. My sisters had always known, I never really cared. I have always been a little bit of a problem when compared to my sisters, but my mother always liked me more than them.  I think it was the fact I am the only boy and that I was a “project” for her.  She did not do a great job completing the project, but I am still living.  So, it can be said that she did a decent job.

Most times I feel like a zombie. I feel nothing but anger and hate. Anger at everyone and hate towards myself, it is a terrible existence, but I keep living it because I am too much of a coward to do what needs to be done to get out. I will be driving to pick up drugs and looking at other people on the highway thinking to myself how are they functioning without dope? This infuriates me and makes me hate everyone that is not living the hell I am. I really have not felt much else since my father died, so I use that as my excuse to constantly get loaded. 

When I leave my mother’s, I drive back to my place and count the money in my driveway before I go inside.  She gave me $2,000.00. I know I should give this to my landlord who is looking at me through his window as I sit in my parking spot.  As I walk past, I turn and put on a fake smile and wave to him, what it really means is “Go fuck yourself, Jeff.” 

I unlock my front door, kick off my shoes and climb the stairs to my sprawling apartment.  I live in a converted barn, which does not sound cool, but it really is.  The place is aside with a gigantic loft with these fabricated metal spiral stairs leading to it.  The roofline is pitched on different angles and reflected inside my place.  The ceiling is at least fifteen feet high pitched on radical slants running this way and that.  There are small stairs cases all over leading to different areas of the house and there is an old, outdated bathroom which somehow has come back in style.  My daughter has her own bedroom and I have a massive master bedroom.  Neither are occupied anymore. I have been sleeping on my couch most nights and my daughter has not come to visit in months. Her mother knows what I am so she will not allow me visitation with my little girl.  It is probably for the best anyway. 

I go to my refrigerator and open a beer; I sit down on the couch and light a cigarette.  I sit there watching television and eventually nod out burning a hole in the arm of my couch with the cigarette in my hand. When I become lucid again, I decide to do another shot so I set it up, inject it, and eventually pass out again.

When I wake up it is 6 in the morning and I am out of heroin, so I call my guy, but he doesn’t answer. I scrape whatever residue is left behind on all the empty bags lying around my place, which is a surprisingly large amount, and shoot it.  I try to fall back asleep but cannot seem t stop my mind from racing.  Eventually, my phone lights up with a message and I see my dealer is ready. I make an order and go to meet him.

I park in a municipal building parking lot near the falls in Paterson as I wait the ever-popular five minutes for the guy to meet me with my order.  Five minutes is drug dealer language for an hour maybe longer. This morning he only made me wait fifteen minutes.  He jumps in my car on the passenger side and we drive around the block as he counts the money and gives me the correlated amount of heroin. I drop him off up the block and drive off. I stop in a Burger King parking lot about three blocks away to get right. I push and it hits me hard this time. I decided to wait a minute or so before driving. I end up nodding out and wake up an hour later with my car running and my head on the steering wheel. I shook it off and told myself that it was not an overdose. I drive back home and sit down on the couch and watch television and eat junk food until something gives me an excuse not to. 

The money runs out in three days. 

When I wake up the birds are chirping, and the sun is breaking through the windows illuminating small specs of dust floating in the stillness of the house. I feel terrible.  My skin feels too tight, my stomach turns and cramps. My legs are restless, and I cannot stop stretching them and kicking around the sheets of my bed. I feel like death and know only one way to fix this.  I need to get right.  I look around for my pins and dope I saved from last night.  I go through the process as fast as possible and hit.  I feel better almost instantaneously. I need to go cop today but am broke so I start thinking of ways to make money quick. I have stolen and sold most of my mother’s jewelry all ready, so that is not an option. I think of other resources at my disposal and decide I have none. 

I drive to a shopping center at the base of my parents’ gated community for coffee and breakfast. It is raining so hard the windshield wipers do not clear the rain fast enough. I walk out of the deli and see a car I know pull in and up to the ATM at the bank. I cannot believe my eyes. Several days prior to this a drug dealer I knew took two hundred dollars from me to get me heroin and never delivered. I had been calling him ever since with no answer or returned text. Now here the mother fucker is getting money from the ATM!

I ran to my car in the rain, threw my sandwich on the front seat and grabbed a small bat I had in my car from my daughter’s softball games. I ran up to the car while the driver was pushing numbers into the keypad at the machine and yelled, “Yo bro, you owe me something.” 

He froze in his seat, arm extended out the window, and began to stammer.  I interrupt him and say, “Give me the fucking money now.” 

He handed over two hundred dollars and I ran to my car and peeled out. Feeling vindicated for the moment, I drove directly to Paterson and met my dealer in a parking lot by the falls.  I got high in the parking lot and then drove home.  When I drive past the shopping center, I do a double take at the police cars parked by the bank and the person standing there pointing around the lot giving a statement.  It was the same guy who I had just taken the money from.  I never thought this piece of shit would call the cops; he was a junky drug dealer. 

All I know is that I am fucked…

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