Addicts Almanac – part 4
Tye Doudy is 33 years old and lives in Portland, USA. In this column he takes readers on a journey through extraordinary moments in his life. His true stories read like a diary. He hopes, he says, that others may learn from his mistakes. Tye likes to hear from his readers, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waking up under the Jackson Street Bridge is never a good way to start the day. Looking out from under the meager warmth of the mildew-smelling blankets, I can’t see the sky, only the mud, the beer cans and discarded piles of wet clothing revealed in the sodden half light of early dawn. It is a typical Portland morning in late spring. Cold, slate-grey sheets of rain pound the overpass and the cars rushing overhead. The rhythmic sounds of their passing greet my ears like the waves of a great industrial ocean crashing on blacktop shores.
Zoey sleeps soundly under the molding covers. The sound of her soft breath and the comfort provided by her warmth cause me to linger in the bed, though my mind is drifting to more pressing matters. I have to take a piss and more importantly I need to do my wake-up shot. I grab an empty 40-ounce bottle that is within arms reach, piss in it and throw it as far away from us as I can. Only then do I reach for the bag containing the works and very quietly unwrap the unsavory treasures within. I light two small tea candles, one for light and one to cook up my hit. The sound of the lighter stirs Zoey from her sleep, and blinking at the flame, she stretches and gives me a sad and tired little smile.
It’s been almost a week since we first met here in this darkened urban cave. Almost a week since that first trip to Home Depot and that first sweet score. Almost a week I have been out of jail this time. Almost a week and two more trips to Home Depot. Two more trips to Southeast Portland and two more rides in Julio’s car. It took us only a day to go through those first balloons. I laugh bitterly to myself remembering that I thought they would “last a few days.”
Right. The thing about heroin is, the more you have, the more you need. I lie to myself this way a lot. It is a necessary defense mechanism for a junkie. The truth is just too ugly, so we construct elaborate mythologies for ourselves. We are masterful deceivers. We exist on lies. We manipulate and destroy everyone around us in the name of that great unholy whore dope.
Daily we say it: “gonna kick tomorrow.” That ultimate junkie cliché, and we believe it when we say it. “Just this last shot.” “One more fix.” These are the lies that sustain us. Without this armor of denial we would surely perish by our own hands. The grim truth of this self-imposed life sentence would overwhelm us and carry us to the bottom of the darkest pit.
The people in our lives pull back and fall away with each shred of our credibility. To them we are beyond sick. We cannot be trusted. It’s true; we are lepers in this great and prosperous society. To look upon us is to look upon death itself. So we cook up, tie off, and shoot that lie right into our arms. With this sacrament we are healed. You can’t visibly see the change, and from the outside we appear as shabby and pitiful as ever, but inside — inside we are golden warmth and comfort. In that inner landscape of bliss and satisfaction we take shelter from the world. We take shelter from ourselves and that great deception. We rush ever onward towards our doom knowing we are just one shot away from death and finding out the truth about God.
By the dim light of the candle I arrange the tools of my self destruction before me. The spoon, the needle, and the tiny ball of black tar. These are the sacred and holy devices needed to worship here, here in this death church. This black cathedral of concrete and suffering. From my water bottle I draw the measure of liquid needed and squirt it into the spoon. I remove the last of the heroin from the small square of plastic shopping bag and place it with the water in the cooker. Tying my arm off with a shoelace, I hold the rig in my mouth and complete the ritual. Finding a vein in the darkness is a challenge, and after a few tries and with blood running down my wrist from the misses, I finally see the small burst of red in the tube. Pushing the plunger home, I remove the spike from my pale and wounded flesh and lean back to enjoy the brief respite.
The rush is over quickly, leaving only the absence of discomfort. Not really a high, so to speak, but merely the relief of not being dopesick. After the initial “honeymoon” stages of nodding out and nausea this is all we get. We forever chase those early highs, sucking the fumes of old memories. Inhaling the toxic exhaust of our own burned out potential.
With a sigh, I pull the blankets back up to my chin and close my eyes. Without looking, I can hear the sounds of Zoey preparing her own wake-up hit. I nod briefly and wake a few minutes later when she crawls back into the bed. She curls her small frame close to mine and presses her face to my neck. We sleep like this for a while and for us this is the best we get. These moments make all of it OK. Just for now we can pretend we are not in this place.
Later on it has stopped raining and the absence of sound awakens me. Sunbeams filter in through the fence that covers the opening under the bridge and the interior of the squat is revealed in all of its squalid glory. The same sight I have awoken to for a week now. Dirty needles, used condoms and cigarette butts stepped on and half buried in the mud. We need to get the fuck out of here. This place is death. I need a plan to make some real money. After the three successful trips to Home Depot, Zoey ‘s ID is now burnt, so that’s out. I haven’t called my mother in a long time, and she is usually good for some help if I come up with a good enough story.
By Tye Doudy
Reprinted from Street Roots
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