Read Needle Too Online

Authors: Craig Goodman

Needle Too (10 page)

“Perry called the restaurant this morning and told me to fire you for being such an incorrigible junky.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I said after thinking about it for a moment.

“Why are you so surprised? He’s your fucking friend. You didn’t think he knew what you were up to?”

“No. I didn’t think he knew what incorrigible meant.”

“Well he does, and I’m afraid we’re gonna have to do something about this.”

“Don’t worry, Randy—everything’s fine. I had a momentary slip-up a few weeks ago but it’s behind me now,” I told him, assuming he was already aware of the impromptu bit of bathing in Bridgeport.

“Yeah, I heard about that from Megan right after it happened and decided to keep my mouth shut. But listen, right now you’ve got an opportunity in Florida and I think you should take it. If you still want this shitty job afterwards it’s yours, but for now just go down south, stay with Perry for a while and try to get your shit together. And enjoy yourself a little. He’s near Fort Myers and it’s almost winter! Hang out on the fucking beach for a bit! Bang a few babes—
non-stripper types
. I think it’ll be good for you to get out of the area for a while. Listen, if we were talking about going down to Miami or South Beach I’d have some serious reservations, but Perry seems pretty convinced of the fact that there’s no dope to be found in Lehigh Acres.”

“Oh, by this point I’m sure he’s looked under every fucking rock!”

“Here—take this,” he said as he handed me an envelope with a bus ticket to Florida and a check for $500.

“I’m not sure I’m down with any of this,” I thought to myself out loud.

“I think at this point you may be out of options.”

He was right. With less than a bundle of some pretty potent dope, about $75 and a closet full of ten-year-old clothes I was just about out of everything
including
a job. But still, I wasn’t entirely convinced of the merits of fleeing to Florida, because at the same time I knew it would be a lot easier to stroll into the bathroom, get loaded and decide to be the maligned and misunderstood victim. Tapping into a vein and activating that junky survival mechanism was always the
easiest
option and that was, of course, my first instinct because I’d been doing it for years. In fact, aside from a few isolated, cowardly and disingenuous moments spent on the brink of dopesickness and at the edge of a toilet, I’d never entertained a
serious
notion about getting clean. But things were decidedly different now. Before—despite the obscene drug
consumption and horrific living conditions—I’d always remained absurdly confident, steadfast in my ambitions and forever focused on that pot of gold at the other end of the musical rainbow, while the heroin only seemed to propel my flight of fancy. Now, however, the heroin was no longer fuel for a grand journey but just a comforting distraction aboard a flawed flying machine grounded in abject failure and chemical complacency. Of course, I knew I’d be unable to continue on like this indefinitely, and though I’d occasionally address the fact it was really just a toothless brand of self-serving lip service as I’d periodically hold the problem against the light just to prove I knew it existed, before kicking the can down the road because I could always start my diet
tomorrow
. And although a HUGE part of me was still
fiercely
resisting the notion of Florida, during one of those rare and remarkably fleeting moments of clarity I realized I didn’t have a choice. Indeed, I was now like a species threatened with extinction and forced to adapt in order to ensure its very survival.

“Who’s Ethel Ward?” I asked Randy as I noticed the name scrawled upon the check.

“Perry’s grandmother.”

“Well don’t make it out to her! She’s just gonna blow it on weed!”

“As long as it isn’t dope I’ll consider the money well spent.”

With more fear and trepidation than I can convey, on the following Saturday morning I prepared for the journey to Florida which I would embark upon a little later that day. Then, at around 10 a.m., I grabbed a backpack and my old dilapidated duffle bag, stuffed it with some old clothes and fled Glenbrook Road without looking back or even leaving a note for my mother, but I’d be lying to suggest I wasn’t at all curious about how long it would take her to realize I was missing. Before heading down south, however, I decided to bid farewell to the strippers of Stamford and even more importantly, the methadone dealers of Manhattan.

After I said my goodbyes to the girls and everyone else at the café, I took an express train into the city and arrived at the Harlem train station at around 12:30. I then descended the staircase and of course—since it was Saturday—the methadone was flowing like an orange river down 125
th
Street. Without breaking stride I spent $50 on two 80-milligram bottles and then immediately turned around and headed back to the Stamford-bound side of the platform without even THINKING about scoring dope as if that was something to be proud of which, of course, it wasn’t because I still had four bags in my pocket. And incidentally, although I was embarking on a journey to sobriety, I wasn’t the flush-it-down-the-toilet type—so as soon as I made it to the bus station in Stamford I darted into the men’s room, filled a bottle cap with water and a couple of bags of that potent dope and got loaded. I then exited the bathroom, but not before making sure the methadone was securely in my backpack. I wouldn’t even want to consider the nightmare of making it all the way to Florida and then discovering that the meth was lost somewhere along the way.

A double-dose of this dope was too much to still maintain any semblance of sobriety, but I was unconcerned about appearances. This was apparently my farewell tour, my final hurrah, my grand finale, my very last walk on the wild side and I wanted it to count for something. Besides, I was looking at about a day-and-a-half of riding on a Greyhound bus and wanted to nod as much of it away as possible.

I immediately made my way to the southbound bus where passenger baggage was being stowed away beneath it, and as my own was placed among the many colorful cases it stood out because it looked like it belonged to a fucking junky. I then boarded the bus, took a seat, closed my eyes and as the vehicle departed the station the heroin overwhelmed me and I thought of nothing other than the hum of transportation. Of course, I certainly wasn’t thinking about the hum itself, its origin, or what mechanisms were in play and contributing to that steady, warm,
sound. It’s simply all that I was bothering to be conscious of. It was all that I wanted to be aware of. It was all that I needed to know or didn’t need to know at that particular time…

A gaseous release, a deflation of sorts and a thudding stop—and then some stirring.

“White Plains,”
suddenly says a voice from somewhere on some sort of a system as the half-hour jaunt to Westchester County took but a minute.

Without opening my eyes I try to pull myself up just a little from my nod—just a degree or two—but I can’t, and instead descend further within it.

Then a moment later about an hour has elapsed:

“New York City, Port Authority Bus Terminal,”
says the same voice on the same system as the bus seems to be going up a slope until it makes a stop, a few turns, continues on for a bit longer and then slows to a halt.

“Please exit the bus for any additional transfers, and thanks for riding with Greyhound.”

I have about an hour-and-a-half before embarking on the next leg of my journey, so I exit the bus, find a desolate little corner of the enormous terminal and then suddenly another sixty minutes have passed me by. I squint up at the clock and realize my transfer is now departing in twenty minutes, so I’m careful to jump into my time machine for just a second or two and then open my eyes as familiar-looking passengers are getting ready to board the next bus.

I grab my backpack, walk through the doors of the terminal and the smell of carbon monoxide assaults my nose and pokes at my brain. I then show my ticket to someone and am permitted aboard the
shiny silver bus as I once again take a seat toward the back, but this time far enough away from the comfort station to miss the whiff each time the door opens.

“Newark, New Jersey,”
the bus operator suddenly says as I open my paper cuts to confirm the fact—
though I could just as easily be on Mars
.

“Chesapeake House.”

By this point I’m buried so deep within my nod that I’m having trouble climbing out even for just a second to pull my head forward, look out the window and get some idea of what the fuck Chesapeake House is. But I just can’t do it. I can’t seem to keep my neck straight and my head upright. Thankfully, an old man is sitting next to me.

“Excuse me, sir,” I try to say through a dry mouth as I lean a little to my right. “Where are we?”

“Florida!” he snaps at me like someone who frowns upon sloppy dope fiends. It’s either that or he’s just a really nasty asshole, and though I don’t typically put up with really nasty assholes when in the midst of being a really nasty junky, I’m WAY too mangled to respond appropriately. And though I have no idea where we are, I
know
we’re not in fucking Florida. After all, I may be more doped-up than the average commuter as I deliberately push myself to the brink of an overdose—
but I’m not stupid, you know
.

The old man is so disgusted with me that he decides to take another seat in another row and my feelings are hurt, but I suck it up and decide to shelve my curiosity and go back to where I was before curiosity kills the fucking cat.

11

“Richmond—Richmond, Virginia…Please transfer in Richmond and thanks for choosing Greyhound.”

The bus arrives in Richmond at 12:30 a.m., and by this point my head has cleared a bit and for just a moment I exploit the open window of opportunity
and
sobriety by reflecting on the old, drug smuggling janitor—just before slamming the fucker shut and booting the second half of my last gasp in the bathroom he never cleaned.

I am as fucked-up as ever and still conscious enough to tell the tale…sort of…not really, but I know I need to get seated quickly because in about 30 seconds my limbs will no longer work properly. As a matter of fact, at any moment my steps will resemble the belabored gait of an elderly invalid by the very thing that makes me feel good about myself. A few laborious paces further and I fall into a seat and…the clock suddenly strikes 4 a.m. as the nasty old man whacks me in the shoulder with his cane while he waddles by with his own debilitating affliction.

It’s apparently time to hit the road again and I’m still
gravely
affected by the dope, but can somehow fake semi-normalcy (I think) and make it over to the Greyhound ticket-checkers without them feeling compelled to alert emergency personnel. I board a new bus with a new driver and for a moment I’m a little concerned that during the transfer my duffle bag luggage might have been mistaken for duffle bag garbage—but just
a little
. After all, the medication is in my backpack and with the very last vestiges of my stash now surging through my system—a bottle of green tea filled with orange meth is clearly my most cherished possession.

I’m deep in it now for the last time…
I think
. And I’m way the fuck down there—even further down than before because this second
massive blast is piggy-backing what was still lingering around from the first massive blast.

Somebody sits next to me. I think I smell cologne, so it’s probably a man. I don’t trust men who wear cologne. I think they’re hiding something…
like a dirty ass
. And I never know what a man who wears cologne is thinking. In fact, I think men who wear cologne are suspicious, but I am ambivalent about women who wear perfume. But I don’t like perfume that smells like flowers, I like perfume that smells like candy—and I will never shake a man’s hand with flowers, especially if I’m eating candy at the zoo because that only makes the otters angry.

“And look: Now I’ve got a man with a marble because I’m taking names and making numbers so the chickens don’t sleep through the fire drill.”

“What’d you say?” I’m asked by someone somewhere.

I think I may be talking shit
.

“Oh, nothing,” I tell the person seated beside me, and without opening my eyes I pretend to be dreaming as I will now make a concerted effort to keep my fucking mouth shut. “Because I don’t wanna wake up the hookers before the horse race.”

12

Is it really black, or just a dark shade of blue? I can’t tell, but I know there’s no disguising
this
damage. Broken in two places there’s no question I’ll be humiliated at camp tomorrow because of course, Elmer’s Glue can’t fix
everything
. But shit, I would rather
her punch me square in the face because although that damage would have also been pretty obvious, I wouldn’t feel as self-conscious about it. I’d just have to come up with a less humiliating lie to tell my teammates and counselor—
like I’d gotten beaten up by a girl
—and aside from a little ribbing that would pretty much be the end of it. But I’m gonna be completely embarrassed tomorrow, and I know we would’ve DESTROYED them because we’re the goddamned YANKEES! Well of course—
they’re
still
gonna destroy them, but there’s no way I’m gonna be able to play with it in
this
condition.

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