After the holidays were done and over with, people started taking down all their colorful, blinking lights. All the joy and cheer, which I hadn’t experienced since I was a kid, were now burnt out. If I thought about snowmen and houses decked out in lights, I felt the sickness wash over me. It was probably psychosomatic, but I had stayed away from both.
We were kicked out of what was now my Dad’s house, and were living in our brand-new one-bedroom, one-bath apartment.
It was a fairly big space for the two of us, giving us plenty of room to experiment and play around with floor plans using the furniture we already had and the stuff we had wanted. This meant a trip to the amazing IKEA.
We went on a mini-shopping spree in the maze of IKEA buying a tan, fabric couch and a few tables. After, we brought everything we had owned and just bought to our new apartment with a teal roof.
We had to take a separate vital trip to Houston that wasn’t solely for drugs, for once. The trip was to grab some furniture Scarlett had at her parent’s house, which included a queen-sized bed with frame and an olive-green couch.
At long last, I had the chance to meet her parents. Ever since Scarlett had stayed with my parents, I had wanted to meet hers. But that had changed since they knew we had been busted by her brother who had surely told them. Yet, when I met them and talked for a minute, they never said anything about it. That had been fine with me, if they wanted to keep it to themselves. I tried to avoid them as much as I could after that.
We had been busted while the three of us had been down in Rockport to see Scarlett’s younger brother. It was a short detour on our way to grab my car.
On our detour, we stopped to stay the night at her younger, punk rock brother and his lovely wife’s place. We had been there for about two hours when Scarlett had caught me on the hall.
“Hey, babe. You want to get outta here?” she asked.
I knew what she was getting at. She wanted to get high and make love again. I didn’t hesitate a second before I said, “Yes!”
We were going to find a cheap motel and do our thing there. However, there was one thing stopping us. One skinny problem.
If we were going to mess around in a room, we didn’t want Owen in there watching. I was not down with that. I also wasn’t going to pay for another room, so we did what we had thought was the next best thing.
We convinced Owen to stay the night on her brother’s couch. He was pissed, I could tell, but everyone else had understood. We wanted some alone time.
After some bitching from Owen, he gave up and stayed the night there, while Scarlett and I stayed at some cheap motel. Everything was fine that night. Until…
Ring… Ring… Ring..
It was Scarlett’s phone.
We hadn’t even begun to make love when the damn phone started ringing. I could even hear a male’s voice on the other end yelling at Scarlett.
“Who the hell is that?” I asked.
“Shhh!” She shooshed me, while she held up her right index finger.
Did she really just shoosh me?
“Okay, I’m really sorry. We’ll come get him now,” she said, then put the phone back on the bedside table made of cheap wood.
“Fuck!” she yelled.
It had taken me by surprise, making me jump. I then had to ask, “Great, what did he do?”
I could feel the anger in her voice. “Well, apparently, he was nodding off in front of everyone, like an idiot, while his syringe was sticking out of his pocket.”
She spoke quickly, but had slowed down to try to hold back her tears that were dying to come out.
“Dumbass. I knew that was a mistake. We should have taken it from him.”
“I don’t think he would have given it up, even if he had no dope. It was hard enough getting him to stay there,” I said.
“I’m just so pissed. My brother is gonna tell my parents, who’s trust I had just gotten m back and now…” She trailed off as she started to cry into my chest, tears dripping onto my shirt.
I held her, saying it was going to be fine and it will blow over soon.
Then, it hit me.
I then told her my genius idea that no one else could’ve thought of: Saying it was his and that we didn’t know about it.
Then, she shot me down. “Uhh, no. My brother is not stupid.” She shook her head. “He knows how much of an addict I am.”
And with that, we went back and picked Owen up and brought him to the motel.
Hostility was fuming throughout the old motel room after that. Owen, so high, and trying to argue with the dumbest shit, annoying the hell out of us. We cut him off from our dope for the trip. The next day, we drove to Corpus, picked up my black Blazer, then headed north, back home. That was one of the longest, most annoying drives I have ever experienced.
After that mess, it was just the two of us, working and slamming dope. Scarlett had a job at an animal clinic, while I had a one at a widely-known commercial video store. A job that I had wanted ever since my caring dad used to take me to the old SuperStar Video in our up-and-coming neighborhood, years ago.
I loved it.
I would gladly volunteer to do the short inventory weekly and always did what was asked of me. I considered myself a well-functioning heroin addict.
Though, at the time, the place was starting to go out of business on account of Netflix taking over. But the dying company did have a plan to get back all the customers they had lost. We sold online accounts that worked just like Netflix originally did, bringing movies and games right to your door. I was also made the Top Online salesman for two months straight. I was doing great, job wise, but was still battling a wicked heroin addiction.
Scarlett and I had been talking about getting on Methadone, synthetic heroin to help people get off the bad stuff. Even though, Methadone was much more worse for you than dope. The withdrawal was ten times harder to quit than the regular dope we were shooting. However, we didn’t really have the money, or the will, to stop right that second. It was then, when I came across a good amount of money…
At work, we had a kid about my age come in from another store to train to become a manager. He had the correct uniform on with iron pants and shirt tucked in. All he was missing was a goofy tie. I already didn’t like him from the start. How this kid was becoming a manager before me, after I had been busting my ass and didn’t receive any type of pay-raise or promotion. However, one fine day, I did hear our manager talking to him, explaining in secret, how the safe worked. The little, midnight-black safe, hidden underneath the gray cabinets up front, which didn’t have any camera watching it.
I heard our manager say the password was simply “BEWARE.” That was interesting to know. But the thing about the safe is once you enter the elementary code, you had to wait ten minutes for it to open, as another security mechanism. And then it would beep every minute until the ten minutes were up, then finally it would open. I didn’t think much of it because there were always at least three of us on the clock, at a time. It became a distant pipe dream, so I forgot all about it.
Meanwhile one day, I was getting ready for work when I could sense that something was wrong with Scarlett. She was in the bathroom for a long time. I was worried about her, then she finally came out, pale as the living dead.
“Something isn’t right…. I need to see a doctor… I think.”
I didn’t know what to do. Someone had already called into work, sick, so I had to be there. But then the woman I loved was in a crisis. What was I going to do? I was doing great at my job and couldn’t afford to lose it. I was in a panic—almost as much as she was—when she told me she could take care of it and for me to go to work. And so I unwillingly did what she told me.
I came back from work, worrying all night, to find her lying on the couch holding her stomach right below her belly button. I knew it before she said anything.
She had a miscarriage.
Apparently, the baby had been growing in her Fallopian tube, something called an ectopic pregnancy. It had to have been from all the dope we were doing.
I was upset.
We were starting to plan things around having that baby. We had even talked about marriage and had even brought that up to my parents. They were not on our side about that; although, they didn’t know about the baby yet.
On the other hand, it was a godsend. There was no way we could’ve taken care of a baby in or out of the state we were in. Especially, a baby born after Scarlett had been shooting dope during a good deal of the pregnancy.
Days after that, were spent with her on the couch, rubbing her empty stomach.
It was the end of the world for her.
I had never been put in such a difficult position; I didn’t know what to do that could cheer her up.
I loved her to death, but couldn’t fix her.
I was so codependent with Scarlett.
I wasn’t just addicted to heroin and the needle, I was addicted to her.
I had figured out the strongest drug that exists for a human is another human being. That was so unbelievable true, it hurt.
The miscarriage brought a wave of sorrow throughout our life together. It seemed like our pink cloud of love was dissipating. It also ignited a red candle of anger within her. Suddenly, we were exchanging hurtful words at each other, nearly every day.
Over the dumbest things, too.
Sometimes she would actually get physical with me. I usually took my anger out on this clock that we had. I would punch the shit out of it, crushing the face, and shattering the glass. I don’t know how times I bought that same clock.
I even had to keep an eye on her every second, in case she tried to do some of our dope without me. I watched her every move, and I’m sure she did the same with me. I loved her, but trust was slowly slipping away.
At a department store, we ran into one of my friends from high school, Mike. He was a year older than I was, so he was the same age as Scarlett. He had developed a heroin habit from smoking it and was now on Suboxone, an opiate blocker made to help get off heroin. It was a miracle drug, but was impossible to get without a doctor. I told him to come over whenever and hang out. I figured him and Scarlett could hang out while I was working, so she wasn’t bored. Plus, they were both about to turn 21, so they could go to bars together. This was one of the worst mistakes I made as a young naive addict.
So Mike came over a few times and kicked it with Scarlett and I. He had relapsed, of course, and began shooting dope with us. He brought over something new for us to do, as well. A big ‘ol bag of cocaine. Scarlett had shot coke before but Mike and I hadn’t, and were curious to try it.
I had snorted so much cocaine in and out of high school, I thought it wouldn’t be much different from that, so I thought it as no big deal.
Growing up with no self-confidence and the inability to have a conversation with a complete stranger, cocaine was great. It acted like powdered courage that you could snort, then almost magically, you became more personable, energetic, and talkative. That’s what I loved about it, but it had been doing a number on my nasal cavities. My nose bled from time to time and would hurt profusely at others. I figured IV’ing would be a nice, easier, and cleaner way of doing it.
Even though I was making my own heroin shots by now, Scarlett made me the cocaine shot because I didn’t know how much to do initially. After I tied off, she even shot me up, and once I saw the last of the clear liquid enter my vein, POW!
The whistle of a train came screaming into my ears and continued to ring incessantly.
I could feel my eyeballs widen and open up like they wanted to come out.
My heart started thumping faster and faster until my vision started to blur.
Next thing I know, I’m in the bathroom trying to puke.
Hugging the toilet, staring into the shallow water, I could see a lady’s face looking back at me. I heaved and heaved but nothing was coming out, so I sat down on the blue carpet that wrapped around the toilet. I sat there for a few minutes to get my head straight. Jesus, what a rush.
After a few minutes, the ringing started to fade, but my heart rate was still through the roof and off into the dark sky. I grabbed my phone, looking through all my contacts for people I could talk to. It was about two or three in the morning so nobody was answering. Except my sponsor, ironically.
I ended up having an hour long conversation with him, lying, saying I was still sober and was up late because Scarlett was sick, due to the miscarriage. I don’t think he believed a single word I told him, but like a good friend, he stayed on the line. That’s what sponsors do, I guess.
I came back inside and found Mike hugging the toilet. Apparently, he experienced the same intense rush that I did and was loving on the porcelain lady.
I wanted another shot.
A few days later, I was at work doing my weekly inventory when two of my coworkers had called in sick. I believe they were legitimate because there was a bug going around. With all these sick people coming in and touching all of our movies, we were all bound to get sick sooner or later.
It was just me and my manager, Slim. Slim wasn’t his real name, just a nickname for how tall and skinny he was. I don’t remember his real name. We were cool with each other, and I respected him since he had a Smashing Pumpkins tattoo on his back. I still love that band. You could tell he was a nineties rocker back in the day.
It was about noon—lunchtime—when he came up to me.
“Hey J, I’m gonna go to the back and take my lunch. You got everything up here?”
“Of course, man.”
This was my chance to ask. To possibly make my drug-addict pipe dream a reality. We got half-hour lunches but I didn’t know if he would spend the whole time back there or not.
“Say man, how long you gonna be in the back?”
He looked around with his eyes. “I dunno, probably the whole break.”
Score. This was it. Then he came back with, “Why?”
I panicked for a second then said the first thing that came to my head, “Oh, um… Just in case I need you for something. Need to know where I can find ya’.”
That was a stupid response, but I hoped to God that he bought it.
“Oh, alright… Well, see ya in thirty.”
We had no guests inside the store, so once he closed that backdoor, I made a beeline towards the black beauty.
The medium-sized safe underneath the desk drawer didn’t have one camera on it. I think a camera used to be, but someone had the same idea I had and moved it. Maybe it was me and I was too fucked up to remember.
I don’t know.
There was a quiet beep for each number or letter I punched-in with my index finger.
B. E. W. A. R. E.
The countdown started from ten minutes.
That was it. No turning back now.
After one minute, it beeped, then after the next, it beeped again. By this time we had a few guests in the store looking around and one couple was ready to check out. BEEP. I checked them out with no problem, completely ignoring the beeping in the background as if it was a normal, everyday thing. BEEP. After every beep, I’d look over to the back door, wishing to God that Slim wouldn’t come out. BEEP. The anticipation was killing me. I needed a shot, but that could wait. Only five more to go.
Four more minutes. My hands started to shake.
Another customer to check out. Deep breaths, “I got this.”
Customer is gone. Just one more browsing the horror section.
I loved horror movies.
I loved when customers had a question about a horror movie or needed a request for a good one. Prom Night 2, believe it or not, is really good. Screw the first one.
One more minute. My heart was bumping harder than a Cadillac Escalade with two 12 inch Rockford Fosgate subwoofers. I felt a warm drip fall down the side of my face. I looked down at my hands still shaking. I started to bite my cuticles from my right hand thumb—something I did when I felt anxious or bored. Then there it was, BEEP. The last one.
I reached down, pulled the lever and opened it up.
There wasn’t much in there. A couple stacks of twenties, tens, fives, and ones. I must’ve played it out too much in my head. For some reason, I was expecting to see shiny gold bars or something. It was kind of disappointing; nonetheless, I took it all, leaving only the small stack of one dollar bills.
I pocketed everything, then shut the door. I then got a paper towel, doused it with cleaner and wiped the whole safe down. I couldn’t leave any fingerprints or evidence. I, then, planned to go home for my lunch break and tell my baby the good news. Just had to wait for Slim to come out and not say anything about anything. There were still cameras that he could watch from the back. So there was still a chance I could have been busted. I just had to keep cool, calm and collected.
Once Slim came out of the back, I played it as cool as can be, hands in my pockets, acting like nothing happened. He asked if we had any guests, which told me that he must not have watched the cameras at all, because we had a few. So I told him. He then put his elbows up on the counter, cupping his face with his skinny, pale hand.
“You can take your break now.”.