Benders

By Reno J. Romero

Memoir

I was sitting with Go at a bar on Main Street where years ago I fucked a girl leaning up against the building. We hadn’t seen each other in over ten years and were catching up over wings and whiskey. Go’s real name is Jerrod. We penned him Go because he had a huge appetite for meth. It was Go who gave me my first taste of speed. I was in the 9th grade. He chopped and railed out two fat lines on a Metallica cassette. I remember him laughing as tears streamed down my face. We stayed up all night riding our bikes through the desert until the sun came up.

Even though everyone still called him Go he’d been clean for years. A couple of runs through rehab and he finally got the obsession out of his head. Go came from a family of addicts. His dad was an alcoholic and his mom had a thing for pills. But it was his older brother Tommy who had it bad. He was addicted to everything. Pot. Tweak. Alcohol. Heroin. Coke. It didn’t matter. If you had it Tommy wanted it.

Years later in the sick stale rooms of rehab I heard an addict ask another addict what was his drug of choice.

“What do you have?” he answered.

That reminded me of Tommy.

In college he got into freebasing and everything went downhill from there. Dropped out. Started dealing. Crawled up and down the halls of rehab. Almost died. One night Go and I were on his balcony smoking a joint when a cab pulled up. On the side of the cab it said San Bernardino.

“No,” Go said. “I bet that’s Tommy.”

Sure enough Tommy got out of the cab. It was the middle of summer and he was wearing a leather jacket and ski gloves. His body language told us he was on a bender. He saw us on the balcony.

“I made it!” he said closing the door. “Hey, give me ten bucks. I don’t have enough for the fare. Twenty if you have it.”

We gathered nine dollars (we’d just spent all our cash on an ounce of weed) and threw it down to him. He counted it twice.

“Hey, it’s only nine dollars! Cheap bastards!”

Tommy was messed up, talking gibberish, and making erratic hand gestures. His eyes were gone, dope-stricken. Apparently, he had it out with the old lady, told her they were done, that he didn’t need to take any of her drama. He went to a bar down the street, got drunk, and called a cab. We got him high and cracked into a bottle of tequila. He said he couldn’t stay because he needed to go a buddy’s house so they could work out a contract because they found a cure for cancer. Me and Go were just looking at each other like fuck. We asked him what the remedy was. He lit a cigarette and examined us for a moment through the smoke.

“Sea water,” he said and headed for the door.

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RENO J. ROMERO was born in the badlands of El Sereno, California. A bona fide Las Vegan, he also lived in the dirty South for three miserable years, where he was introduced to depression, grits, humidity, and sweet tea. A graduate of UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and seedy bars, he enjoys Chinese food, Tamron Hall, the Trickster, and football. He currently writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction from the California desert, living among rattlesnakes, old bones, and biker speed. He's been published in various publications including Falling From the Sky (short story anthology), Celebrity Poets, and Central Speak. He can be reached at [email protected]

36 responses to “Benders”

  1. Thomas Phillips says:

    Reno,

    This is real grit. It reminds me of Elmore Leonard or Hunter Thompson. Vivid and to the point.

    When you said Jerrod’s name was Go, it made me think of that movie, Go. But that made me remember Katie Holmes is in that, which made me think of Tom Cruise jumping on a couch. So now I’m trying to forget about Maverick going crazy on a couch.

    Real subversive of you, man.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Thomas:

      Thanks for reading, Thomas. I like how you went from the movie GO to that silly pecker Maverick. Damn, I remember that ass jumping on the couch and smiling that gross toothy smile. I hate him.

      That whole scene reminded me of a friend who told me me: “I’m in love. I’m just not stupid in love.”

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Dude, the most important thing about racking up is picking the right music to cut it on. Picking good music to listen to is important as well, but the last thing you want to be seeing when you and that dollar bill begin heading towards the CD is the smiling face of Lionel Ritchie.

    Sea water.

    Huh.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Joe!

      You bastard! Lionel Ritchie! Could you imagine snorting the kind glass off that fucker’s lips? Lord have mercy. That’s bad. But, good sir, do you wanna know what’s REAL bad? I like a few tunes Mr. Lionel cranked. Yeah, no shit.

      (I even have his greatest hits boxed up somewhere.)

      Don’t laugh. But I expect you to chastise and ridicule me every chance you get. It’s your duty, Daly.

      Duty.

      Not dookie.

      • Ashley Menchaca (N.O.Lady) says:

        you’re not fooling anyone, moose.
        We all know you love Mr. Ritchie.
        You can’t help it.

        hello?

        • Reno Romero says:

          Breesy:

          I won’t fib, doll. I do like Lionel Ritchie. Hell, I do a very jazzy cover of “Easy” and it brings down the house, yo! It’ll sock your Southern socks off! So there. Deal. But I like songwriters period. Cat Stevens. Lindsey Buckingham. Ray Lamontagne. Carol King. David Gray. Don’t let the metal outfit fool you, Breesy. Daddy likes ALL good music.

  3. dwoz says:

    Sea water.

    but you have to smoke it for the healing properties to work.

  4. Reno Romero says:

    dwoz:

    i’ve smoked everything including sea water. let’s just hope it works.

  5. Somehow I imagine you reading this out loud without even pausing for breath — it has so much energy to it. Which is appropriate for writing about an addict named Go. I agree with Thomas above. I like that nothing’s sugar-coated, nothing’s overdramatized. It is what it is for all its grit.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Thanks, Cynthia. Heck, another story from the desert. At one point all there was to do around these parts (prolly still is, but I don’t run in those circles anymore) was hike (while on acid), ride motorcycles (drunk), smoke, drink beer and do dope. Really. I guess that could be said for Any where, USA. But the entire Victor Valley was high on something and I saw right before my eyes. Take care, Cynthia, and thanks for reading.

  6. reno, reading this was a little like being a part of a junkie’s rant: breathless and agitated and wondering if sea water really could cure all….

    • Reno Romero says:

      robin:

      hey, robin. junkie’s rant you bet. i’ll never forget that day or the countless others that were nothing but weird, dazed, hung over, trippy, and whatnot. Another day in the life of…

      thank you kindly for reading this lil’ sucker. appreciate it.

  7. Robert Vaughan says:

    fuck, yes~!

    • Reno Romero says:

      robert:

      hey, man. fuck is right. that’s what i was thinking when i heard the cure for cancer was sea water. who would have thunk it? shit. thanks for your time, sir.

      rr

  8. Lorna says:

    “Years later in the sick stale rooms of rehab I heard an addict ask another addict what was his drug of choice.

    “What do you have?” he answered.”

    Sadly enough, this reminds me of my oldest brother. Sigh. At least I made it out before investing too many years.

    Thanks for the honest writing and detail, Reno.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Lorna:

      Hello. Unfortunately, it seems we all know someBODY that has suffered from substance abuse. This, breaks my heart. Sorry to hear about your brother and I hope his days are better now. There’s nothing funny about addiction. Nothing at all. I’ve had one too many friends lose careers, themselves, their families, etc, to addiction. I’ve been to too many funerals for those who just didn’t make it out.

      It’s sad all day long. All life long. Anyhow…

      Thanks for reading, Lorna. Take care out there.

      Always,
      Reno Romero

  9. dwoz says:

    Call me crazy, but I really enjoy the taste of alcohol. I don’t drink for the drunk buzz, but for that first initial lightness. After that, just getting drunk is no fun at all.

    My kids, however, when they sample my little shot of irish whiskey, wonder what kind of insane I am, for drinking what is to them indistinguishable from nail polish remover.

    • Reno Romero says:

      dwoz:

      you’re not crazy. some people love that stuff. the way it smells, the way it tastes, all that. i’m just one that doesn’t. irish whisky will give you a nice head change. hell, even a big head change. now, if someone will invent some booze that tastes like orange julius i’ll be game, move back to vegas, and do it all over again.

      wait.

      no i won’t.

      but you can.

  10. Ashley Menchaca (N.O.Lady) says:

    This story is funny and sad and in some ways, familiar.

    How are those guys now? Doing any better?

    • Reno Romero says:

      Brees:

      All is well in the CA desert. This story happened a but ago. Times have changed. Found money lost money. New jobs. Divorces. new addresses. You know.

      Jerrod (Go) is fine.

      So is Tamron Hall.

      Thanks for reading, NOL.

      Hello?

      Lugging Sprite and Cheeseburgers Across the Universe,
      Moose

  11. J.M. Blaine says:

    I have this thing
    about writing
    in that I have to sense
    the writer is telling
    me the truth
    not necessarily
    what is true
    but that to him
    it is the truth
    Not smooth.
    Got to have the grit.

    You sir
    got the grit.

    • Reno Romero says:

      11:

      Hello, sir, and greetings from the desert. How are you? Thanks for the compliment and taking out the time to barrel through my latest novel. This story was triggered from some old noted I had lingering around in a shoe box. So don’t just chuck out your shoe boxes all willy nilly. You may have some gems in there. You betcha.

      Children of the Damned,
      Reno

  12. Meg Worden says:

    I love this, Reno. Reading it felt like doing lines.
    And it’s as close as I’m going to get so thanks for that.
    And for your incredible writing.
    Yes.
    Always a treat.

    Roxy Music’s Stranded was my go-to cd case. With Marilyn cole sprawled all soaking wet in a red dress across some rocks. I think Lionel Richie would have gotten me sober a lot sooner.

  13. Reno Romero says:

    Meg:

    Hey, Meg, good to see you here. Lines…you know I never was into speed/coke I tried coke for the first time when I was 14. I remember my mind exploding and everything being THE BEST! But for some reason it just wasn’t my cup o’tea. Same went for speed. The CA high desert was and still is ground zero for speed. I’d go down to LA with my friends (mid-80s) and people down there didn’t know what it was. They snorted coke, ate a steak 20 minutes later. I’d have my cousins up for days and they’d be pissed: “I wanna go to bed, dude…”

    Ha.

    No sleeping on the good gacks. No steaks either.

    Lionel Ritchie probably would have worked as a great equalizer. Yeah, his mawkish tunes would have put a damper on any tweaky night. But Roxy Music? Bring it.

    Thanks, Meg. You’re the best.

    Okie Doke,
    Reno J.

  14. Matt says:

    Hoo boy.

    When I first moved to Riverside, ever native Inland Empire resident I met either had a speed story of their or knew someone who did, even if it was just about spending the high school weekends getting ripped on cheap crank and drag racing the San Berdoo backcountry roads. Chemical hell on wheels running between all the vinyards and orange groves. Tales like this make we think we should compile ’em, make a “Crank Diaries” book or something.

    I’ve spent a large chunk of my life immersed in sea water. By Tommy’s logic, I should be motherfucking cancerproof.

    • Reno Romero says:

      Matt:

      The High Desert is the speed mecca. We were cooking and snorting that shit years before it made the headlines. We gave it to the Inland Empire as a gift. Then we gave it to all of America and that’s when pics of people with rotting teeth showed up on TV; people running down the street butt-naked because spiders were crawling all over them. Yummy! It’s good to know you’ve got your share of sea water. I no longer have to worry about you know, Matt. Ok, my man, take care and thanks for chiming in.

  15. Zara Potts says:

    D,
    Just say no to drugs.

    Just say yes to Reno.

    Love seeing your posts.
    X Z

  16. Reno Romero says:

    Z:

    Yes, you’re right: say NO to drugs.

    Say, yes to me? Well….

    Well, if there ever was a time to say yes to me it’s now.

    But that’s a whole other post entirely.

    Thanks, Z.

    Now, get your buns to the States!

  17. Simon Smithson says:

    A friend lost his license at 161, a club over here famous for being a coke-hole and full of the drugged-up, loved-up house music lovers.

    A year later, he found it there, again. It had become the go-to card for people racking up.

    As he said, for a year, people had been getting off their face. On his face.

    • Reno J. Romero says:

      simon:

      ha! a whole year later? wild. yeah, i’ve used credit cards, DLs, whatever to get what needs to be getting. Hey: what’s one to do? Later, gator, and thanks for reading.

  18. Zoe Brock says:

    We use to rack up on a Captain and Tennille album. After that coke was always referred to The Captain in my crew….

    “What did you do last night?”

    “Followed Captains orders.”

    Nice one Reno. Short, sweet and sour too. Me likee.

    • Joe Daly says:

      You can always tell what CDs we used for the rackery- they all have a crack right in the middle of the plastic. I wish I had a Captain and Tennille one back in the day. But I usually opted for AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses.

      Now the only thing I rack is my morning oatmeal. Although to be fair, if I could find a way to snort key lime pie cheese cake, you’d never get me out of the house.

      • Reno J. Romero says:

        daly:

        oh, shit more insider info: cracked cases. great detail. yes, indeed. i don’t do oatmeal, but do hearty meals that consist of all things pig and eggs. could you imagine the divine euphoria of snorting key lime pie cheesecake? i can’t.

    • Reno J. Romero says:

      Zoe!

      Wow, Zoe, it’s been a while, eh? Hope you’re doing great (which I know you are). Captain and Tennille, huh? Shit. Too funny. Well, it seems to me that cassettes/CD cases not only keep the good music safe but also serve as great launching pads to get your tweak on. Or racking on. Thanks for your time, Zoe.

  19. James D. Irwin says:

    Kept forgetting to read this— had my memory jogged by seeing your face up at the top of the page again. That’s my next stop.

    I’ve never really experienced drugs in a big or serious way, although I know folks who have.

    I prefer pie.

    And reading you writing.

  20. Reno Romero says:

    James:

    Hey, man. I prefer pie, too. Way. Especially chocolate pie. Thanks for reading.

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