Monday, May 28, 2012

BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY

A bit of fiction, January 2012

“Insufflation of a euphoric depressant." A properly formal way to die, he thought, as he carefully printed the words on the Kate Spade writing tablet she had left behind for some reason. Yellow-and-white paper. Heavy stock. Nice touch. It added to the dignity of the moment. Then he got to chopping, being careful to keep his shirt and suit coat sleeves clear of the rock.

His kit was in the bedroom all ready to go — he'd even bought a new spoon for the occasion, part of the Paradise flatware collection from Towle Living. They both loved that shit the first and last time they went daydreaming about a gift registry at Macy's — just six weeks ago, that was, a Saturday afternoon trip that had him believing this was actually going to happen, they were going to be That Couple; she wasn't going to go all capricious on his ass and flit off into her own personal cone of silence. He was right for the next several days, right all the way up to the moment she refused to look him in the eye and told him he'd been right to be wary of her, the only way she really knew how to say goodbye.

He went back to Macy's the next day and plunked down $140 for the 77-piece flatware collection, spoon not sold separately but he didn't give a shit. It was so going to be worth the investment. Much classier than the Code Red can bottom he'd been using to boil up the black tar that always seemed to be floating around the apartment complex these days — fucking vinegar-smelling shit with God-knows-what in it besides heroin, but as long as it gave him the nods he needed everything was copacetic.

But when he texted his dealer last night for a couple grams to christen his new spoon and make his peace, he got the no-go — no tar this time, baby, china white was in town, an especially happy happenstance. He'd come to terms with the needle in the past month, even gotten to like the fetish of seeing the blood blossom curling into the barrel just before the plunge into euphoric oblivion, but for him, almost nothing was finer than snogging. It made him feel like a rock god. It didn't make him feel like a fucking junky.

So here he was now, two grams of whiter-than-white powder on the mirror, fancy-ass spoon for a fancy-ass wedding that was never going to happen tucked away in the now empty bedroom in his fancy-ass Dopp kit, the one he bought on a whim when every door in his mind was wide open, no heroin needed, and her sunshine poured in to illuminate rooms he never knew existed.

Happiness. He'd actually told his friends he was happy, that his search for someone cool was over and he was off the market, done. What in fuck's name had he been thinking, anyway? Couldn't blame it on smack; he'd stopped doing it the day she told him she loved him — actually, she couldn't get the words out, so he said it for her in a half-questioning voice and she nodded in what he thought was grateful assent.

"You love me, Boogie," he asked/said that early-summer day, teasing her with the nickname he'd stuck on her — "Boogie Wonderla," a handle she got after messing up while trying to type her favorite disco song on Facebook. Her real name was Nikki — he loved saying it out loud, said it two dozen times a day, mostly in a delighted whisper — but in lighter moments she was Boogie, and the look on her face when the L-word was broached made her nickname seem more appropriate.

She had fixed him with a shy gaze when he said it, the gold flecks in her eyes as bright and sparkly as the real thing, and when she nodded — a tiny up-and-down of her head — he understood all the hackneyed crap about how the cogs of belonging click into place when the right person loves you. He finally felt like he belonged to someone, to some place, to some greater thing than the moment. Goddamn, but that was fine. Finer than fucking, finer than snogging, finer than the powder now laid out in three long rails before him, a Holy Trinity to take away the sins of his world.

He realized with no surprise that his hands and the debit card had worked automatically while he remembered and mused. She'd always had the effortless ability to pull away all other thoughts zipping through that big brain of his. In that way she was very much like heroin — a feeling drug if ever there was one, a drug that took away active thoughts and brought him to the core of his emotions. Like heroin, she made him feel warm. Unlike heroin, she never made him vomit, and he only nodded off on her in the quiet of their room, after love expressed in words and so-sweet, too-sweet deeds.

He knew now — too late, of course — that he'd been pushing her instead of guiding her, using his personality to overwhelm her into doing things that she really wasn't ready to do. Within a week of the love convo they were talking about moving in together, and when she gently balked he bristled in fear and she immediately backed down and agreed with him — moving in together was a wonderful idea — and even as the niggling doubt settled into the back of his brain like a black tumor he still felt the sunshine flood his heart.

There were moments, hours, days, weeks of near-perfect bliss. She found her voice and used it to great effect, insisting there would never be another, that love has rung their bells and she was not going anywhere, ever. Great gulps of time passed where he honestly couldn't remember the person he used to be. He dug out an old Kris Kristofferson CD and sang one line of one song, over and over:

"Teaching me that yesterday was something that I never thought of trying … "

But she didn't want to be his teacher or his memory eraser. He gradually noticed she stopped being insistent about this Great Love. A mild disagreement was a big argument in her mind; she prefaced conversations by saying she didn't want to bicker. Then it was about control; she didn't want to be controlled, though he'd be goddamned if he could figure out how he was controlling her. She was the one driving everything in the relationship.

He made the mistake then of getting angry and accusing her of being capricious, of not knowing what the hell she was talking about. He saw a determined set to her face as she denied it. And then they went to Macy's, holding hands and laughing and looking at the things their friends would get them when they got married.

That night in bed, her lovely face relaxed in slumber next to his, he heard his soul speak: She will break your heart, dude. She will not mean to but she will.

His fault, all of it. He embraced that fact as his friends told him that she was a selfish bitch who deserved to have her stuff set on fire and rolled into the middle of the freeway. They'd been decent enough in the wake of the break, sitting shiva with his non-Jewish ass, feeding him the anger they felt at her, hoping it would settle into his brain and bring him hate. And it did. He banished them from his life without a thought to the decades they had known each other, because they were taking his side and he knew better. He'd taken his one chance at happiness and, in his wide-eyed, gee-whiz zeal, had caused it to flee. Good intentions, bad execution. If they were here now they would smack the smack off the mirror and get him to the hospital. Thank God they weren't here.

He knew now what he should have done — how he should he gone in with a light touch, how he should have paid more attention to the introvert inside her. Should-haves were worthless now. He'd already spent too much time rehashing what was already ash. He needed to stop that, right now.

Bad trip down memory lane. He gave a silent curse at one teardrop that had escaped his left eye and splashed onto the powder as he chopped without thinking; with a flick of the card he sent that wet wad onto the carpet. He hated to waste it but he would never use it. There was no way he was getting all this up his nose. The Father, sure, and maybe The Son, but The Holy Ghostpowder was overkill. Even without the tear-clotted chunk he was looking at close to 1,800 mgs, more than 20 times his personal best, probably 10 times what he needed right now.

"Diacetylmorphine," he said in his best Hail Mary rosary voice. "Diacetylmorphine." He liked the way the six syllables rolled from his mouth -- "die-ah-SEE-till-MORE-feen." It almost sounded British, like something you'd order with blonde tea and a scone. He was partial to cinnamon scones because she was; BN — Before Nikki — he'd always thought of them as chewy, weirdly shaped biscuits with not enough flavor for the effort. Those dog days now over and dead, and with him firmly rooted in AN time, he kinda wanted a scone right now. But that would start some serious waterworks and he didn't want to waste any more emotion or any more product.

He had rejoined the ranks of the smackheads a week after she left. He only waited that long because his connection was out of town with his girlfriend — motherfucker, being happy in a time of tumult, how dare he? — and he'd made up for the lack of heroin with daily helpings of tequila and bourbon and a couple-three-four Ativan. It didn't do the trick but it kept him in a stupor, and that in turn kept him off the freeway bridge he could see from his living-room window. Too messy. Too much chance of jumping onto the hood of a minivan driven by some mom, her 2.3 kids fucked up for life because heartbreak boy couldn't do the decent thing and keep his final moments to himself.

He gave one more scan of the note on the nice Kate Spade paper:

"This person suffered from insufflation of a euphoric depressant. Then she left. I know what I'm doing." He wanted to add a postscript after his signature but nothing else came to mind and he'd be damned if he quoted Neil Young or some such shit, like Cobain did before blowing his brains out.

"All about the Hamiltons, baby," he said, pulling a 10-spot from his wallet and rolling it into a tight tube. As he leaned down and hovered the tip of the homemade straw over the start of the first line, he thought about Nikki and how much she was the embodiment of Yeats' words, about how everything that's lovely is a brief, dreamy, kind delight.

"Here's to you, beautiful," he murmured, half to her memory and half to the powder. He made it through The Father and halfway through The Son before falling face-first into the Holy Ghostpowder.

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