Epidemic- Chapter 10
Today is my daughter’s birthday. She is turning five. It is a Hello Kitty themed party that my good friend and daycare provider has put together. I am so grateful to have found such an amazing friend who loves my daughter so much as to spend the time and money involved in planning this event. Every dollar I have, is spent pumping my veins full of poison. I don’t even have a gift for my baby today. My daughter doesn’t care. She runs into my arms and squeezes me so hard I am forced to comment how strong she has gotten. The truth is she has grown very strong. Her strength however, has been surviving her mother’s abandonment. My abandonment. The guilt of this reality causes my stomach to turn and I force back tears forming in the corner of my eye. My precious Natalia, exclaims how excited she is that I am here and elaborates that I am the best mommy in the whole, wide world. She extends her arms out as far as they will reach and tells me that is how much she loves me. Her arms wrap around me again, as she tells me she loves me like Jesus loves me. Only five years old and she doesn’t know how right she is. I am a horrible mother. Nowhere near the best mommy in the whole wide world, but her love for me remains unconditional.
Eric nudges my right shoulder. I open my eyes. It was a beautiful, deceitful heroin dream. Of course it was. I knew this. Last month was my daughter’s birthday and I already missed it. The details of the dream were merely mimicking the excitement she shows every time she see me now. Every rare occasion I show up. Eric is relentless with his nudging and finally I surrender to his demands that I wake up. Darkness is now upon us and I question how long I have been out. We’re still parked behind the tress in the field. I miss my baby. I hate myself. I need to get high to numb this emotion bubbling to the surface. To my surprise, Eric has prepared us shots while I was nodded out. Nodded out or passed the fuck out? Hours have gone by. Old reliable has not been very reliable at all lately. The thought of poking and prodding at my feet is less appealing than battling the scar tissue formed around him, so I attempt to hit there first. Repeatedly, I smack him begging him to rise to the occasion. Success! God has been merciful this time. As for the first time, in a long time, I hit him right away.
The thick, red blood pours into the barrel of my rig. It is mesmerizing. They were made for each other. Watching the blood mix with the heroin is like witnessing an erotic dance between lovers. They intertwine and the two become one before my eyes. Slowly, I encourage their desire to be together forever and push the plunger on my rig. Forever is short lived, but I know they will dance within me for a few hours and I will be captivated by their show. After all, I am their biggest fan. Eric informs me that was the last of the dope and I know that means he expects me to hustle some cash flow for another bag. Even without his instruction to do so, I am on the same page. Being dope sick is the worst kind of hell and torment and I dread living in the pits of that fiery inferno. As I pull my visor down to utilize the mirror for dolling up my face, he reiterates schemes and plans I don’t want to be a part of.
The gas station hustle is a hit or miss. When I have my make-up on and a little sleep in me, I do just fine. The idea of boosting is still a risk I am unwilling to take. Boosting is stealing new merchandise from a store and then trading it for dope or returning it to the store without a receipt in exchange for store gift cards which can then be traded to the dealer for dope. Before I knew what boosting was, I naively was part of a few returns without receipts in exchange for dope. In all my years, I have avoided a criminal record and I am unwilling to steal. I still hear that convicting voice of God, be it faint and I know that stealing is wrong. In addition, I believe in the scripture therefore I know what I do unto others will be done unto me, but worse. While I have very little left to steal, why would I invite thieves to take the last of it? Every time I mention God, Eric rolls his eyes and tells me I am already a fucking pathetic, piece of shit, lying junkie and asks me what God thinks about that. My response is always the same. Just because I am a fucked up sinner, doesn’t mean I have to engage in all sin. That is like saying it would then be alright to go and kill someone because you are already a thief. His logic is flawed but he refuses to see the logic in my rebuttal.
Besides, if boosting is such a no fail scheme then why is he unwilling to do it? He could easily walk into the store, come out with his boosts and then I could go return the items because I have a driver’s license. And, therein lies my hypocrisy. Believing that this is any less of a crime in the eyes of the law. Worse, in the eyes of God. It is a moot point. There will be no boosting by either of us tonight. The gas station hustle is usually best during the morning commute hours, but we can’t wait that long. Perhaps it is because people have just woken up and are feeling charitable in their good mornings. Thankful to be alive another day, rather than being solicited after their long day of realizing how shitty people really are and not wanting to do anything charitable for them. Whatever the reason, I know that my night time gas station hustle is less likely to prove beneficial.
We pull into the AM/PM and park the car at the pump. Eric is angry and insists on leaning his chair all the way back to nod. Despite my many attempts to explain how that looks suspicious, (especially when people follow me over to my car) he doesn’t give two shits and leans his chair back. When I first started doing this I was extremely timid about approaching strangers for money. Panhandling created feelings of shame and disgust in myself. Now, I am good at it and am able to read people more clearly before I approach them. Single male drivers are the easiest target. I am sexy, seductive and when that doesn’t work, crying usually does. Several people shun me away before I am able to sell my pitch. Despite this repeated let down, I don’t allow it to intimidate my further attempts. A man apologizes and walks past me. Another man hands me $5.00. There is an older woman that I do not approach but apparently has overheard me and she too, hands me $5.00. The man who apologized walking past me comes out of the store and assures me he has put some money on my gas pump. I thank him. This is always an added bonus. My tank is typically near empty and when given the decision of gas or dope, dope always wins.
There was no elaboration as to how much was put on the pump. However, when the pump stops, I gasp at the generous $20.00. The gentleman is long gone for me to reiterate a sincere thank you. A woman tells me to get a job. Another woman doesn’t even acknowledge me, pretending not to hear me at all. There is a man pumping gas across the way, who asks me to walk over to him. He explains he is a pastor and has a backseat full of bread for the food bank and wonders if I am hungry and would like some. Really God? A man, a pastor no less and he is offering me bread! If I wasn’t so high, I might allow for that conviction to affect me longer than the short acknowledgement and dismissal of coincidence I give it. In addition, the pastor walks over with me to my gas pump and sticks his card in. He grabs the pump and sticks the nozzle into my gas tank. He continues to speak to me while the numbers on the pump, quickly escalate. How much is he putting in? When is he going to be done? A year ago this kind of generosity would leave me feeling gracious. Now I am just excited my tank is being fed but want him to leave me alone. I feel ashamed again. His tone is respectful, loving and lacks any judgment, as he sees Eric leaned back and nodded out in the car.
The pump stops and I realize that the pastor wasn’t there to put $5 or $10 bucks in. Instead he filled my tank up! Eric sits up and shouts at me to hurry the fuck up and to quit flirting like the whore that I am. I am mortified. There was no flirting, this was a man of God and he has just done the most generous thing for us and now he has witnessed Eric calling me a whore. Surely the pastor can see the drugs in my eyes? He must know what I am out here doing? He pays no mind to Eric, hands me a card to the church donation location, gives me several loaves of bread and a Costco size boxed of assorted muffins and informs me that they have bread and food donations every week and to please not be a stranger to accepting them.
Eric sits up again and shouts lets get the fuck out of here. The pastor, in a pleasant, low voice acknowledges Eric. Apologizing for taking up too much of our time! He pats me on my shoulder before walking back to his car and driving off. There are no words to express my complete anger and disgust with Eric’s embarrassing and ungrateful behavior. There is no reason to even attempt explaining this experience to Eric. This reminder that God is still with me, even in the darkest corners of my own, personal hell. My gas tank is completely full for the first time in as long as I can remember. There is $65 dollars in my pocket. Eric sits his seat up and repeats his broken record of insults, while I buckle myself in. As I pull out of the AM/PM to get back onto the main road, I hear it. The exhaust of the black Honda is taunting me again. Only this time, he is stopped at the same light directly behind me.
Not this again! How are these people constantly on my ass? This is impossible! The light turns and I floor it, weaving in and out of traffic. I can see in my rear view mirror that there are three cars maneuvering to mimic my lead. Most likely, the red Honda and white Toyota have joined their black Honda leader. Seriously God, who are these people? Eric is screaming at me to make left turns and right turns, until we are on the main strip in Burlington. Without saying a single word to me, Eric flees my car on foot! He slams the door and runs into the Jack-n-the-Box parking lot and disappears behind the fast food joint! Oh my God! Where is he going? Did he really just abandon me, leaving me to fight off the three vehicles pursuing this chase alone?
Where did the Honda’s disappear to? It is dark out and the headlights are hard to distinguish. Eric’s actions have distracted me and now I am unaware as to what predicament I have been left in. Despite the fact that Eric has pulled this kind of crap on me before, I am in complete shock that he has fled my vehicle. Traffic is moving and I have no choice but to move with it. Angie’s apartment is not far from here and I decide to head in her direction. Of all the places Eric might have gone, I know he detests her and won’t likely show up there. Rage is boiling within me as I let out a series of angry screams and punch my steering wheel repeatedly in a psychotic manner. He breaks my sanity. I allow him to. The Hondas and Toyota don’t appear to be following me anymore. Perhaps they are chasing Eric now but I never saw them take off.
As suspected, Angie is home and her apartment is full of meth and tar heads. Eric is not one of them. Quickly, I dart to the back bedroom, winded and paranoid. I explain what has just happened. Elaborating the details of the home invasion plan and the cars following me ever since it was foiled, (no pun intended). Angie laughs at my little foil pun and breaks out a gram of delicious, black tar heroin. My mouth salivates with anticipation. She is a smoker. In fact, like most users who don’t bang, she detests needles. Angie appears very generous, as she places a large chunk of dark on the foil and passes it to me but I know she is a user and is always looking for something in return. Of course, tonight I am looking for shelter and to get high, so I allow her to believe she is manipulating me with dope.
There must be a hundred tooters stashed throughout the room, but it takes a few minutes for us to locate one. The small group that has smelt out the tar and planted themselves in the bedroom, all watch me eagerly awaiting their turn in the rotation. The tar slides down the foil, as I suck the smoke up through the hollowed out pen. The smell alone, is intoxicating and the taste is indescribable. You have to be cautious when you inhale the smoke. If you suck too hard, you will pull the chunk of tar right off the foil into the tooter and piss everyone off with your amateurism. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been victim of this embarrassing antic before. There is debate about the smell of heroin burning in the night, but I have always loved its aroma and delight in it. I hold my smoke in for as long as I can. There was a time when I initially started smoking H, when the first pull would almost certainly cause me to vomit. It never detoured me from taking another pull from the foil. A rush of opiate endorphins hits my blood stream and my head feels light, like a feather.
Smoking H is different than smoking meth. With meth you don’t want to hold the clouds of smoke in because of the rumors of it stopping your heart. With heroin you want to hold the smoke in, or even swallow the smoke and let it marinate within you. Smoking meth produces enormous clouds of billowing smoke, but with heroin there should be very little smoke escaping your lips. Angie rips the foil from a tweaker who doesn’t seem to grasp this reality. A huge ball of smoke hits the air, as he immediately releases a giant pull from the foil. She ostracizes him and warns that if he does that shit again, she will not allow for him to remain in the rotation. It is already extremely rude that he has taken the monster size hit he has from the foil when he has put nothing in on it and there are six of us sitting in the circle. For him to release the smoke like that, was a big no-no. In addition, he has charred the tracks.
After the rotation has enjoyed a couple pulls each from the foil, Angie instructs everyone to move to the living room. She wants to have a private discussion with me about what I have just told her. The crowd is high and happy now and comply with her demands to get out. Angie closes the door to the bedroom and with the appearance of sincere concern, asks me if I am alright. She expresses her absolutely disgust and hatred for Eric, while she loads another foil for our own personal smoke out. Smoking H is better than nothing, but now that I am a junkie. It pales in comparison to my intravenous preference. Angie knows this. She must be able to read it on my face. I watch as she breaks off a point from what is left of the gram. She is reluctant, as she hands it to me and asks that I do it in the bathroom so she doesn’t have to witness it. As much as she despises needles, she has expressed repeatedly her curiosity about them and I absolutely refuse to help her bang for the first time. I wouldn’t wish these chains on my worst enemy.
While I prep my shot in the neighboring bathroom, Angie asks what seems like, tens of thousands of questions regarding the events of the last few days. She gives her two senses when she sees fit and speculates her ideas of who these people are and what they are looking to do with me. There is no doubt in her mind that Eric is directly involved, as she reiterates her disgust in his treatment of me and her disbelief that he would hop out of my car and disappear into the night. Repeatedly, I stab up and down my arms but cannot hit a vein. It is even more difficult to do so when Angie continuously asks me if I am done yet and why is it taking me so long. She conveys to me that she doesn’t understand why if it is so fucking impossible to hit a vein, I insist on using needles. Of course, she doesn’t bang so there are no words to explain and even if there were, I don’t want to further ignite the spark of curiosity she has about trying it herself.
Our conversation is interrupted with a knock at the door. The tweaker who fucked up rotation earlier, is telling Angie that some dude named Marcos is at her front door. Angie tells me she will be right back and I welcome her absence, as I rush to hit a vein, any vein! She closes the bathroom door that I had kept cracked for discussion, on her way out of the bedroom. With complete privacy and full concentration, I run my hand under scalding hot water in an attempt to raise the veins. The veins on the top of my hand are tired and uncooperative. The veins in the palm of my hand, however, are untouched. They are as equally painful to hit as the veins in my feet and I use them as a last resort. The hot water has caused the tiny, blue tint of a vein to surface at the base of my palm by my thumb. I cringe at the thought of poking my dull rig into my hand, but do it just as the bedroom door opens. Pain shoots throughout my hand, as blood fills the barrel of my rig. Angie calls out to me and informs me her friend Marcos is in the room with her. Flushing the toilet seems like a viable way to hide my bathroom shenanigans, so I flush and acknowledge that I will be out in a minute. Quickly, I disassemble my rig and wash it out under the running water from the faucet. I throw my junkie kit back into my purse, wash the blood from my hand and join Angie and Marcos in the bedroom.
My eyes are heavy and my body begs to sit down. Angie introduces Marcos and the weight lifts from my eyes. Marcos looks very familiar, but I don’t think we have met before. My eyes widen in terror. Marcos is the driver of the black Honda! Oh my God! Is Angie in on it too? Is that why despite her hatred for needles, she broke me off a shot? To make damn sure I was high and disoriented! This shit is good, even panicked and terrified, I am fighting the will to nod! Marcos’s eyes are dark and expressionless. Angie is rambling on and on but I have not heard a word she has said, as Marcos’s eyes are locked on mine. His face is stone cold and he has yet to say anything. My mind is racing but I cannot find the courage to speak. Another knock at the bedroom door, disrupts Angie’s ramblings. There is someone else at the front door and Angie leaves me in the bedroom, alone with Marcos! The room is silent. His eyes are fixated on mine. Overwhelmed with emotion and thought, I open my mouth to speak but I am cut off before my words are able to articulate their speech, as Angie returns to the room. My eyes divert to her entrance. She looks angry, as she slams the door into the wall. Eric follows behind Angie. He is wearing a big smile on his face.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.