We frantically drive across town, time slipping away as we hit red light after red light, desperately trying to make it to our connection on time. Bobby’s converse tennis shoe slams into the gas pedal as rubber grinds into hot asphalt, the car’s screaming back wheels fishtail out of control. We have five minutes to cover ten minutes worth of miles. Time is falling into an abyss of no return. Once abundant, our precious heroin is now an elusive ghost we chase but never seem to catch. There is no dope to be found on the festering streets due to a massive police action throughout the city. The Mayor wants drug addicts eradicated and cutting off their supply was part one of his plan. Junkies everywhere are lying in a state of dope sickness, willing to do anything for a fix, just one lousy fix. We managed to find the last connection still in business and he wouldn’t wait around for a fistful of deadbeat addicts to show up. Time was a priceless commodity we couldn’t waste. Time was like fresh water to the parched throats of dying men trapped in the middle of the desert. Bobby’s screaming at other drivers as his face turns red from wanton rage. Roberto “The Gimp” is hanging on to his Rosary Beads, praying to his sweet baby Jesus to get us to the dealer in time. I’m sitting next to Bobby wondering how the fuck I ended up in this life, a life so far out of control that I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to. The deep rumble of the car’s engine shatters the serene sound of rustling trees in Dolores Park as we burn by at 72 miles an hour. Cigarette smoke spins and twists out the window as withdrawal symptoms start eating away at every nerve ending in my body. It’s as if someone was taking needle nose pliers and twisting my flesh from head to toe. Bobby throws up out the window, bile sprays all over the side of his freshly waxed car. We’re all going to hell and this may well be the trip that gets us there.
Street signs and parked cars go by in a Technicolor blur as my eyes water and my vision starts to twist in daylight’s glare. My sense of smell suddenly comes back with a vengeance and everything smells like urine and human stench. I feel sick to my stomach. I have to stick it out so I think about how good the heroin will feel when it enters my opiate starved body. I hold out for the high, being so manically obsessed with relieving my pain that nothing else matters. I had been reduced to a sniveling animal, swallowed up by addiction like Jonah and the whale. My mind is spinning in a thousand directions, aching and overloaded with emotion. Nightmare upon nightmare rose to the surface of my consciousness, covering up what was left of my sanity, with a blanket of red death. I wanted to slam my fists through the windshield just to feel something other than the pain I was in. Death would have been a welcome respite to the madness I felt at that moment in time.
Thirty seconds and we were closing in on our designated target. In a matter of moments we see his car, a brand new gold Cadillac. Not seeing us, he starts to get into his car figuring we were a no show, which was typical of junkies. I yell at Bobby to cut him off, which Bobby manically does, nearly taking the bumper off of a car in the next lane. We make it with four seconds to spare. I jump from the car, having found renewed energy, knowing I’m that much closer to my fix. He motioned for me to get in his car and we take a drive. Bobby and “The Gimp” knew I wouldn’t burn them so they stayed put waiting for my return. Blood rushed through my veins, my heart pounding at both the prospect of getting loaded and the possibility of getting busted. After a quick exchange of cash for product, he drops me off a block away. He warns me that a winter was coming to the streets, a winter that would freeze out every stinking lowlife junkie that didn’t have a solid line on their dope. He tells me the end was near and I had better think about cleaning up, at least getting on Methadone. I thank him for the advice and shuffle back towards Bobby’s car. The agony of withdrawal burns within my chest.
The drive back was a little less frantic, since we didn’t want to get pulled over which risked a search of the car. Bobby wanted to pull over and shoot up in the bathroom of the Café Flore but I talked him out of it. After stopping at a corner store and getting cigarettes, alcohol and junk food, we sped off to my place. Bobby parked the car in the driveway and the three of us hustled up the thirty nine steps to my front door. After fighting for what seemed like an hour with the front door lock, we were in. My hands were shaking violently.
In a carefully orchestrated series of movements, comparable to a well choreographed ballet troop, we assembled the various items needed to get loaded. Bobby washes out three cups for water and fills them up, while “The Gimp rolled up little balls of cotton to use for filtering impurities out of the black tar heroin we had. I rip open a bag of fresh syringes and lay three out on my desk. Within forty five seconds the three of us were ready, assembled around the old desk. It was time to pay the devil his due.
I was now in my own world, Bobby and “The Gimp’ merely background noise like the traffic and sounds of the city outside my windows. I add a few drops of water into a worn spoon, watching the sticky tar forming an oily layer on the liquid’s surface. I light a match. The wooden match crackles and sparks, breaking the silence with the sound of its ignition. My hands shake as I hold it under the spoon. Soon the air fills with the sickly sweet smell of cooking heroin, causing me to gag on its alluring yet deathly scent. Large brown bubbles worked their way up to the surface, popping and hissing as the oily chunk disappeared into the mixture. Carefully, I drop the cotton ball into the squalid liquid, watching it absorb the gooey substance. The needle carefully found its way into the ball’s center as I slowly draw up the dark liquid. I hold the syringe to the light, cautiously tapping out the air bubbles. Satisfied, I place the needle on the table and take a deep breath. Tying myself off, I furiously pump my fists, forcing veins to the surface of the skin. My eyes rove across the epidermal landscape seeking out that perfect vein that would guarantee a straight shot up the mainline. Like a surgeon looking for that perfect place to make an incision, I spy the spider-like lines that cross my arms. Satisfied that I’d found the ideal candidate, I slide the needle into a vein. Time came to a crashing halt as the camera in my mind does a 360 degree pan shot of the room. Nothing else matters as the darkness falls.
As I draw back on the plunger, a faint trickle of crimson fills the syringe, swirling in a manic dance with the heroin. I take another deep breath, release the tie from around my upper arm and slowly push down on the plunger. After eighteen seconds the rush starts to work its way from my stomach outward. It’s as if I was suddenly lifted up on a blanket of euphoria and placed in a womb of childhood bliss. The nightmarish thoughts that ate away at my sanity just moments ago fade like a setting summer sun. Nerves that once felt like they’d been marinated in battery acid are now soothed into a state of absolute calm. All is well in the carnival sideshow that is my mind. A god-like euphoria washes over me like cool water on a scalding hot afternoon. I feel like I could do anything. I am a god again. The haggard expression on my face has melted into a blank canvas, a canvas of endless possibilities. I look in the mirror and see a man from better times, the man I used to be, not the torn up junkie I am. I fall into an endless dream of glass walls that shatter with the touch of my hand, their shards turning into diamonds that shine like stars. I fall through the troubles of my life without care. I am in that realm of the sacred high. For a moment, I walk with the gods.