There was that painting of Jesus Christ on the wall, the white people’s version with the flowing hair and the blue eyes. There was the faint smell of dead grandmother, even though I really can’t recall if she was actually dead or not. Empty cans and bottles everywhere, covering every non-floor surface available. Air conditioner in the window, it cranked and cranked, chilled us to our sad bones all summer long. Cigarette filters, pulled apart, stained brown. Bent spoons with black soot on the bottoms, the soot so black it eventually started turning white again.
Shooting drugs for recreational purposes isn’t as cool as you might assume. The ritual is exciting, the waiting is enchanting. Watching your (once-upon-a-time) best friend cook a spoonful of dope, it’s… well, it’s pretty amazing. Because you always think about drinking malt liquor on the bleachers together.
“Dude. DUDE!! We’re gonna graduating from 8th grade in… 3 and a half hours.”
“I know, dude. I’m so fucking drunk.”
“Dude. I know. This is cool. Let’s puke on Mr. Lederer.”
But Mr. Lederer was never around when we started shooting dope together, there was nothing to graduate from, we were well into our twenties. Ming would usually cook it, mostly because I just loved watching it. And maybe somewhat because that way made me feel like less of a participant.
When I was seven, and still when I was seventeen, I always said: “I’m never gonna shoot heroin. That shit killed my parents.” And I was almost right, I mean… I really held out for a long time. Never tried it until I was… 23? Or maybe 24? It was brief, mind you, but it did happen. There was that whole summer of needles and drugs. I liked shooting morphine better, felt like a healthy compromise.
That room, that “apartment” used to belong to Ming’s grandmother. She was never nice to me, even though me and Ming were best friends when we were young rapscallions. And then that bad summer happened, and I was living there. Maybe it wasn’t even summer? I really can’t remember. It was probably fall/winter. But that room definitely smelled and tasted like death. And I was never sure if it was the old lady’s death I was tasting, or my own. I probably enjoyed that. Maybe that’s why I did it. Shooting drugs is a lifestyle that can engulf you pretty quickly. Which is maybe why I was in and out within a few months. Saw exactly where it was going, and it scared me eventually. So I stopped as abruptly as I had started. My good buddy, and many other friends… these people got sucked in pretty badly. I miss a lot of those people.
Anyway. When heroin makes you vomit, it’s probably the worst vomit you’ve ever tasted. And all the goodness can turn into fear before you get time to even understand this little shift in your perception. One minute… laying on a couch, laughing in a near-sleep state. Next minute… “Am I about to die? Am I overdosing?” Sometimes that thing in your body that makes you breathe whether you think about it or not, sometimes shooting dope can make that thing stop working.
But the weirdest part is THE PAST colliding with the RIGHT NOW, all the while having terrible ideas about THE FUTURE. Once, we were little goofy white kids who started a suburban street gang, walking down quiet tree-lined roads with baseball bats and 40s of Old English. Before there was a dead grandma’s apartment, there was an old brick garage, there were the two of us sneaking menthol cigarettes when we were 11. We were once… a lot of things. And then some of us were junkies. Some of us are still junkies. Some of us have truly lost our minds. Some of us will never be okay. And some of us are… and some of us are really sad about the way our friends never knew where to draw the line. Some of us loved the idea of dangling above the mouths of monsters, but some of us always knew that this was not going to be the long-term plan of action. So… despite having plenty more work to do, some of us turned out okay, relatively speaking.
I guess I just wrote this because I had an encounter with some Jehovah’s Witnesses yesterday, an encounter which provoked a thought about a friend whose birthday I missed a week ago. Because we don’t talk anymore. Because he never grew out of being all of the things we used to be. My old buddy, Ming. He graduated 8th grade… and that’s about it. Despite him being a firm believer in Christ, he turned out far more fucked up than me. I keep thinking about that painting of Jesus and the smell of death and the cold cold air and the cigarette filters and the hypodermic needles hidden everywhere. My friend says he’s better, and I know he’s not shooting dope (I don’t think so anyway) but I don’t talk to him. Because I’m scared of being too close to all of those memories again. I hope he’s okay. I’m definitely okay. Yeah. I just hope everyone is okay.
And I realise after writing all of this, I want to be clear that I don’t advocate the use of heroin. That shit kills people, one way or another. If anyone wants to do drug experiments, I think it’s much better to stick to the psychedelics and stuff. As always, I thought of something, and I wrote about it as “true to myself” as I could. I don’t really regret doing bad drugs, but I think most people would regret it. So. Sorry to get all serious there, but I wanted to be understood.
Aryan Jesus still creeps me out. Doesn’t he creep you out?