We decided I should buy a girdle in Brighton Beach. It became part of the plan. Drew’s Yorkshire accent had taken a hit after years in New York. He slid through the specifics with fast, slanted a’s and round Brooklyn o’s. How I would fly it in, how I would meet up with The Guy, how I would get the money, “Don’t tawk to no one, raht luff?” He said for the thousandth time while we walked along the Coney Island pier.

“No, I won’t. I can do this. Don’t worry,” I responded. He continued detailing how we’d call the fugazi travel agent, the I’m just a man with a computer, the guy who would get us a fourteen-day-advance fare for a same-day ticket. I’d heard about this agent, sure, but had never laid eyes on him. Drew saw him once, said he looked like Igor in Young Frankenstein. Abby Normal. We would drop off the cash, folded over and rubberbanded, with the agent’s doorman on the Upper West Side .

“No problem.” I said.

The Coney Island sun is mustard flavored. It’s hot sweep fades the signs advertising sword swallowers and Nathan’s hot dogs, and softens to a cold pastel those painted clowns with gaping holes for faces. Disembodiment photo ops. Splintered reds and blues ran right off the old wooden coasters and onto the boardwalk. Past the black haired Italian boys taking deep pulls off stolen cigarettes, past the Russian women, their calloused feet balanced precariously on tall Lucite shoes, and past the three elderly Jewish ladies in their wide-brimmed hats, unwrapping knish on towels in the sand. Coney Island is a diaspora-layered cake and I felt like I fit right in.

“Vatsa little ting like yous aneeda dees for?” asked the store clerk, as she folded the slick, skin-colored girdle and slid it into a plastic bag. I probably smiled and pretended not to understand. I absolutely didn’t say it was so Drew could tape thousands of ecstasy tablets around my waist, so I could subdue the plastic-wrapped pills underneath a loose shirt and trench coat. It was before the towers fell so you could still just walk right through security with coat, shoes, everything. All we really had to worry about was the dogs, but even then, not really. The odorless pills with their price per square inch made it a pretty easy act of espionage.

 

***

 

A week later, Drew walked me up to the metal detector, kissed me goodbye, saw that I made it past the badges and I descended, a few hours later into the agri-circles and low buildings of Springfield Missouri, my bladder bursting and my adrenaline on volume ten.

It wasn’t as easy as we planned it out on the boardwalk. It wasn’t just in and out, I had to wait. A lot of waiting. For This Guy and That Guy to come up with the cash because I couldn’t give it on the arm and someone was always out of pocket. I acted annoyed when I talked to Drew on the phone, told him I couldn’t wait to get back, but secretly, I loved the urgency. I possessed, or was possessed by, an unprecedented power. It was in me. Rather, it was in my backpack. But I felt it, all brilliant and scary and intoxicating.

I had something people really wanted. I sat still, I occupied a seat, I took up space in the world and they came to me.

In physics, power is the rate at which energy is converted. In politics, power is the ability to exert control. My perceived ability to exert control grew at the rate those tablets converted from tiny white circles, stamped with little stars, into stacks of cash. But power is problematic. Perceived power even more. This was a kind of gratification that eats through rather than inhabits. Like drinking acid. If I felt spare before…the dive into the world of buying and selling drugs pared me down even further, sucked the marrow.

I associated with a s/gr/n/eediness that manifested as a Hunger of insatiable proportions. I stayed up for days doing lines off the cover of a Roxy Music cd, and when I’d finished that, crushing the ecstasy tablets and cutting them up, while I waited for the money, the arm, the pocket; while I waited and wilted. Drew called daily screaming, “Where is my money?” and “Are you high? Don’t fucking lie to me, I know you’re high!”

I made sure I was horizontal when he called to make my voice sound sleepy.

“No, I swear I just woke up. I am not high.”

As if I could actually turn down that level of chemically induced adrenaline before answering the phone and then force my voice to sound tired. But you couldn’t have convinced me of invincibility’s fallibility for a million cocaine-covered dollar bills. I was on fire. I was an arrogant Secretariat with a heart the size of two, so full of pumping blood, I still thought I could outrun the demons pounding their hooves into the dust just twenty lengths behind me.

 

***

 

I was looking for a Klonopin or some Xanax bars when I found Jason lying on the floor of my rented room. Jason had originally introduced me to The Guy and was also my coke dealer. He was short and prematurely balding and he always wore these old green cargo pants full of drugs, full of money. I was on my way around the bed when I tripped over the soft mass of Jason’s leg.

His eyes were pressed wide open, squeezed open instead of shut. Like they were frozen in fear, popping out in cartoonish surprise. A string of clear drool trailed his mouth to the carpet. My knees disappeared and my liver rose up into my throat and lodged itself with a bilious fortitude. “OhmyGodOhmyGod,” I heaved. “OhmyGod.”

I knelt down.

I checked his breathing with my cheek.

I set my hand on his chest and felt the slow rhythm of a heart.

I stood up.

I kicked him a little in the ribcage.

Jasonwakethefuckup. I pushed his leg with my foot. Jasonwakethefuckup.

What I didn’t do was call 911. Aside from the rib kicking, I did absolutely nothing to help him. Even though I thought he was dying on the floor.

Instead, I grabbed my sunglasses with the red lenses, and because it was an emergency, and I was sure he would understand, I searched his pockets and stole what he was holding before I ran downstairs and vomited in the kitchen sink.

I didn’t want Jason to die.

But worse, I didn’t want to ruin this feeling, I didn’t want to admit defeat, I didn’t want to get caught, I didn’t want to disappoint Drew, myself, I didn’t want to stop.

When I stepped outside to sit on the concrete step that led to the parking lot of that low-rent, low-key-location apartment building, and I dipped my little finger into the baggie I’d lifted from Jason’s pocket, the air swelled. It became a swirling torrent of thick black dust and I was deafened by dissolution, by the malevolent thunder of forty-eight hooves.



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Meg Worden is a mother, master of complications and manifestor of abundance. She has been a columnist for the Lovely County Citizen in Eureka Springs AR and placed first for Ascent Magazine’s text writing contest in 2008. Meg believes a sense of humor is far more important than a sense of direction and knows for a fact she can laugh wildly amidst severest woe. Currently Meg is living in Portland, OR where she stays up late at night working on her memoir project about the two years she spent in Federal Prison. Find her at megworden.com

22 responses to “I Bought a Girdle in Brighton Beach”

  1. New Orleans Lady says:

    Wow. Just, wow.
    My heart was racing with yours.

    Great piece.

  2. Solar says:

    I missed your writing. You are such a brave genius and I will follow you ’til the ends of the earth.

  3. zoe bee says:

    effing bloody amazing! welcome to our weird little family. zb

  4. Joe Daly says:

    Amazing.

    Welcome aboard with a capital W. This was awesome.

    Reminded me of walking through the Dallas airport with a similar package in my boot, only to reach my destination and find the cargo reduced to dust, my sock a bright gold, and a very loopy feeling overtaking me, accompanied by the sense of no longer caring what had just happened.

    Great piece!

  5. Ballsy stuff, Meg. Refreshingly heartless. Yes, please, more of this. Also, “I was looking for a Kolopin bar” would be a great first line for a novel. Mostly because, as a reader, there are only three possible internal responses:

    1. There are Klonopin bars? What the fuck else do I not know about?
    2. Oh, god, I really want a Klonopin, too. Please, please find it. And write down the address.
    3. Hmm, I could have sworn I saw a bottle with that name on it in grandma’s medicine cabinet. Maybe I should go check that out right this minute.

    Agree with your definition of power in physics, but not in politics. In politics, power is the ability to make a statistically significant number of people doubt their best and most human stance on any given issue.

    • Meg Worden says:

      This just made me laugh so hard I spit espresso on my computer screen. Thanks for that, and for reading. And, yes…your definition of political power rings far more accurate than mine.
      Have to go lick the precious caffeine off my computer now, before I call my grandma.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Sean-

      Hoping that an enterprising sort stumbles upon your response and the light goes on re: Klonopin Bars, I would also like to see:

      -Klonopin Flakes (with a swarthy little penguin on the cover of the box)
      -Klon-o-Pice Frozen Fruit Treats
      -Crest Tartar- with Klonopin
      -New Extra Strength Hydrocodone- with Klonopin
      -Burger King Toy Story 3 Super Meals- with Klonopin!

  6. Simon Smithson says:

    Meg,

    Goddamn it.

    I would have been terrified.

    Sweating like a pig, eyes popping out of head, terrified. All the while thinking prisonrapeprisonrapeOhGodI’veseenOzandAdebisiisrapecrazyevenonagooddayfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK.

    So I’m impressed. Even though, really, and I don’t want to get all holier-than-thou or any of that shit, I’m conflicted about saying I’m impressed by something that revolves around the resale of a large quantity of drugs.

    I liked the way you talked about the light on Coney Island, especially, and I’m so intrigued by the discrepancy there seems to be between this piece and the demons therein and your yoga/manifestation biography (although you did say you were complicated…)

    Welcome to TNB!

  7. kristen says:

    Wow. Intense. Your descriptions are unique and immediate.

    Also, I chime in w/ the ‘welcome aboard.’

    Oh, and I love this from your bio: “Meg believes a sense of humor is far more important than a sense of direction.”

    Right on.

    • Meg Worden says:

      Thank you, Kristen! Can you relate to the sense of direction thing? Geez, I can get lost walking out my front door… I just wish my husband felt the same way about the humor when I have to call him for help…..”But I’m funny and that makes it ok, right?”
      Um, no.
      I guess the bio is just another desperate attempt to secure a little validation. Thanks for the props, girl. Maybe we should go for a drive and when we get lost we can belly laugh till tears fall off our faces. Just thinking about that makes me smiley.

  8. lincoln catlett says:

    Megz, quite a nice piece of clank!!!! i really enjoyed letting my mind go back to the ol so forgotten olden days, keep making it happen, want to see more!!

    • Meg Worden says:

      Link, you are one hot little diaper terrorist and don’t you forget it. Lemme take you out and get you some applesauce or something…

  9. Irene Zion says:

    Meg,

    This is terrifyingly honest writing.
    Horrifyingly straightforward.
    You are one brave woman to write this way.

  10. Meg Worden says:

    Thank you, Irene. This means a lot coming from you with your own brave and amazing, heartfelt writing. Wow. Thanks.

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