Epidemic- Chapter 23
Are you kidding me right now? My face matches Eric’s face of pure panic and without any sense of logical reasoning, I too pat myself down frantically, as if it will somehow produce the car keys. This cannot be happening. If the heroin would allow for me to feel any kind of real emotion, I would be in tears right now. In fact, despite how numb I am, I can actually feel them welling up in my eyes. Our entire night has been spent lurking in shadows, crawling through fields and trespassing through yards and now I fear we will spend the dawn hours that are nearing, doing the same.
Eric’s face turns to a mischievous grin, as he slowly produces the keys from his pocket. He dangles them and sways them back and forth, like a hypnotist might do with his watch. This was all a game. He hadn’t lost the car keys. He simply takes pleasure in upsetting me and saw an opportunity to induce fear and hurt, so he took it. He tosses the keys at my face without warning and I raise my arm to shield me from impact. I can’t believe it. Why can’t I believe it? This is not anything new. This is Eric. This is a vicious cycle of my putting up with his relentless torment and abuse.
He wants me to scream at him. He needs me to start a fight. How else can he justify leaving me so that he can go to Tara’s house with some bullshit ass concoction that will put the entire blame on me for not showing up or responding? An elaborate tale of us fighting and my pulling off the road and insisting that he exit my vehicle on foot, leaving him to walk for hours to get to her house. How else, would he rationalize this as my fault and walk off into the night sincerely believing he is completely justified in doing so. Of course, he is going to provoke me to scream, argue and fight with him. He needs me to give him an excuse to go trade his alleged stolen iPhone for dope and get him off the hook for our absence tonight with Tara.
Naturally, I don’t realize any of this until I am driving away towards Angie’s because he has ran off abandoning me in the night. Alone and out of money and dope, the tears begin to stream down my cheeks. I replay the events of tonight over and over through my speculating mind. The low fuel light comes on and I am reminded of one more thing I need to obtain to survive another day out here on these cold, dark and hopeless streets of pure agony and hell.
Once I arrive to Angie’s she greets me at the door with her judgmental eyes and irritated tongue lashing about my involvement with Eric. She is relentless with her retelling of all of the events she can recall of my being deliberately naive and ignorant with my own justifications for putting up with him. In addition, she notices the Nike tread mark on my cheek and won’t allow me to make any excuses or fabricate any illusions as to how that tread ended up on my face. While she is unsure of the exact details of how I obtained this evidence of abuse, she is certain that it came about in a domestic dispute and the perpetrator of that abuse was Eric.
Angie invites me to sit on her bed and asks if I need a change of clothes. I inform her that I have clothes out in my car and she suggest that I go get a change and shower to get warm and cleaned up. After I comply with her suggestion, we sit on her bed and she loads a foil with a decent size piece of tar. She doesn’t offer me to smoke out with her but it is implied by her engaging in this activity in front of me that she will pass me the foil. While everything she has said about Eric using me and only being around me because he needs something from me is accurate, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the realization that she is equally guilty in her association with me.
She passes the foil to me and as I put the tooter to my mouth to inhale the smoke, I wait for her to change the subject to what it is that she needs from me that will justify her getting me high without putting in on it, (supplying dope/money to match). Heroin is different than meth. You can find yourself privilege to meth rotations frequently, without being expected to do anything. People load the pipe and pass it around like they would a bowl of weed, (marijuana). It’s more social than heroin. When someone is smoking heroin with you, they risk running out and being sick. No one risks that without believing you are going to somehow be a part of helping them get more or are yourself going to break out a chunk of tar and match what they have offered.
As expected, while I am taking a moderate pull, (hit) from the foil, Angie asks me if I can give her a ride to make a few moves. Her car is broken down and she needs to do a few things. It is the first of the month and she has received her food stamp benefits and there is someone willing to trade dope for money on the card. My eyes widen. With all the chaos that has ensued, I had not realized it was the first of the month and I too, have food stamps. When you trade your food stamps for dope you get .50 cents on the dollar. So $200 gets you $100, (gram) of dope. This is a monthly get out of hustle free card for me. Eric clearly did not realize the date or he would have never exited the vehicle because unlike Angie, I not only receive food stamps, I am collecting $300 cash, (welfare). Translation, I don’t need to make deals, I have cash baby. Today just got a whole lot better.
Of course, I do not allow for Angie to know that I have cash on my card that I can withdraw from any ATM at this very moment but I rejoice with her about how I also have food stamps and ask if she knows anyone else who wants to make the trade? It is not exciting to walk around with a dealer while they pack groceries into their cart; however, the hand shake in the parking lot that produces a bag of delicious tar in exchange for doing so is well worth the grocery store stroll. Like Angie, I am unwilling to part with the entire amount allotted to me in food stamps because I also need food money for the month. Knowing this, she asks how much I am wiling to trade with and I confess I can part with $200 as well.
The mood has changed and we both find ourselves smiling and laughing together. She texts her dealer to see if he wants to make a trade with me too and double his grocery list. If not, we know several dealers and it will be no more than a couple hours before I find someone willing to make the trade. Angie throws some Tech N9ne on and we dance around the room while putting on our makeup and doing our hair. In truth, I think Angie has a lesbian or at least bi-curious crush on me. I catch her watching me several times in the mirror and she has given me that vibe before. While I am no stranger to appreciating a female in all her beauty, Angie is manly and has facial hair. Her voice is deep and masculine and I have zero attraction to her beastly demeanor. In fact, the numbers may be less than zero, we’re talking in the negatives towards any chance of my ever seeing her as attractive enough to be curious with. Her dealer texts that he is willing to trade with me too and we high five each other and grab our purses and head out the door. Angie and I are high and happy and nothing is going to bring us down. Of course, we didn’t expect to be sitting in a grocery store parking lot for two hours waiting for homeboy. The mood changes.
Two hours of smoking cigarettes, sharing laughs about what an ass Eric is and singing along with my favorite hip hop album of all time, T.I.’s Paper Trail, has been great but both Angie and I are annoyed that her dealer isn’t here. She has text him several times and his responses have been everything from on my way to need a few more minutes. The life of a junkie waiting on a dealer is not fun. Two hours sitting in a grocery store parking lot is a long and arduous experience. It’s crazy how two hours can fly by and feel like nothing more than a blink of an eye, when you are high and loving life. Of course, the opposing side of that coin is when two hours stretch into what feels like an eternity. Each second of every minute drags on. You find yourself checking the clock and expressing your disbelief that only a minute has passed by when it felt like at least ten have occurred. As much as you want to call or text the dealer again, you can’t. No one wants to do business with you when you’re a cluck blowing up their phone and interrogating them about why they are not there yet.
In fact, I believe if you behave like a cluck, it gives the dealer more power over you. They know they can get away with cutting your dope, not making weight, (giving you less than what you pay for) and of course, that you will wait, so they can take as long as they want and know you will be there. I think we entered the cluck zone about three phone calls and seventeen text messages ago. While we continue to wait, Angie and I discuss other ideas for getting money. Like Eric, Angie is not a stranger to participating in schemes that I want no part of, especially now that the generator plan went the way it did. Angie is a booster. A booster is someone who goes into department stores and steals anything they can that can be traded for dope or returned to the store. Most stores won’t give you cash without a receipt, but will instead, issue you a gift card for the amount of merchandise you return.
Some dealers will take gift cards like they do food stamps. Meaning, they will give you fifty cents on the dollar. If you have a gift card that a dealer doesn’t want, you can always sell them for less to unsuspecting customers outside of the store that you have the card for. They are unsuspecting because they aren’t part of the drug world and don’t realize the reason you are willing to part with a $100 gift card for $75 is because you first stole the merchandise before returning it to get the card. It’s easy for them to believe that your made up family member gave you something from that store as a gift that you didn’t care for so you had to return it without a receipt and that’s why you have the gift card. I mean, you couldn’t tell them you didn’t like the gift to get the receipt because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings, right? Hey, if all else fails, there are certain grocery stores that will buy your gift cards for a reduced amount.
While I have never boosted anything, I have returned merchandise to get the gift cards. Angie doesn’t have a valid ID or driver’s license, so she proposes she will go get the goods and then I can return them and whatever we get we split 50/50. At first, she attempts to propose splitting it 70/30, claiming that I won’t get in as much trouble if we are caught. Of course, I know that is bullshit and call her on it, so she agrees to a fair trade. We can’t boost right now because it is a couple hours before the stores open and we are still counting on her dealer showing up to do the trade. For a brief moment, I contemplate telling her I have cash but I quickly dismiss the thought and opt to wait it out a little bit longer. Then the realization hits me that I am lying to her and using her too. Using her for companionship, a place to stay warm and for her dope connection. Suddenly, my ability to maintain my claim of innocence among lying, using, thieving drug addicts, is gone. I’ve become the company I keep.
My heart sinks a little with this self-revelation. My moral compass is headed south. Everything I believed about myself has been shaken. Things I swore I’d never do have now become second nature. The thought crosses my mind that by speaking about the things I would never be apart of that perhaps God accepted my challenge and is testing me. This thought is followed by another thought that perhaps it was Satan who accepted my challenge, knowing the decisions I would make and is now taunting God with how low I would fall. Either way it’s happened. I’ve fallen from God’s good graces and embrace the hell I am living in.
Angie breaks my silence by offering me an opportunity to move into her apartment with her and become her partner in crime. While the having a place to shower sounds appealing, I am not willing to participate in most of what she is wanting to do. Of course, returning items for gift cards is technically wrong but somehow I justify in my own mind that I am not the one stealing. I know it’s stealing but much like when I smoked heroin and judged myself against the junkies shooting it, as if I was better than them because I hadn’t sunken to their level, I rationalize I haven’t sunken to the level of walking out of stores with merchandise under my hoodie. In truth, I fear by living with her, it wouldn’t be long before I sunk to that level.
Finally, her dealer pulls up, hops in my car but has changed the conditions of the trade. He doesn’t want to go shopping, he simply wants us to hand our cards over for dope. Both of us have more on our cards that we want to keep for food and I of course, have cash on the card too, so I politely inform him that I can’t and apologize but our deal is off. Angie shoots me a piercing look. She can’t believe I would refuse the trade and fears it will upset him because he will have wasted his time driving here. Never mind the fact that it has now been nearly three hours of our time wasted sitting in this damn parking lot. My mind begins to speculate that this may have always been the deal she made with the him and thought I would just go along with it, so she appears to be the liar to her dealer. Perhaps, that wasn’t the case at all and she doesn’t want to part with her card and was hoping I would be willing to part with mine?
Angie explains that she has another $150 in food stamps on the card, so she would expect more dope for the trade. The dealer concurs, as she dials the number on speaker phone, to verify the balance on her card. She asks me if I would be willing to take her shopping with my card in exchange for a piece of that dope. Perfect. Of course, I would be willing to do that. In fact, I would much prefer to go shopping with her than this random dude. The dealer asks if I want the $75 piece of tar to be in a separate bag, considering he has to reweigh it because he had a gram ($100) ready for the trade set up between him and I. Angie interjects that he doesn’t have to and I cut her off and instruct him that I would prefer that he do that. Again, Angie shoots me a glaring look.
After he exits the vehicle, Angie asks me why I did that. Clearly, she intended on having possession of the dope and breaking me off whatever she felt fitting and now I have ensured I have a full $75 worth of dope for the $150 in groceries I am willing to part with. She rants on about how she feels she deserves more because she got me high and I am staying at her house. I laugh and call her out on being stingy and putting expectations on what she had done for me voluntarily without putting conditions on the terms. Anger takes over me and I continue to tell her that if she really wants to be a bitch about it, I could refuse to take her shopping and drive off with both the dope and my money. She threatens she would beat my ass, if I chose to do so and I laugh and inform her that I have cut a bitch for less.
She looks at me with a confused but nervous stare, as if trying to decipher the meaning to the words I have just spoken. Naturally, I have not cut a bitch before but she doesn’t know that and I play up the story by elaborating that she can relax it’s not like I killed the bitch. We break out two separate foils and load our own pieces. After we are high and feeling alive, I suggest we go shopping, considering we have been in this parking lot for hours. The sun is rising and I want to get back to her apartment before the real world awakens around me. As we make our way to the automated doors, my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number and hesitate to answer it but Angie encourages me to do so. It’s Eric. He is excited and speaking a mile a minute. He has the generator stashed in the bushes up the road and he needs me to come get him.