Drops of rain plummeted to the ground, making the road slick and deadlier than normal. My boiling blood pressure had my foot pressing firmly down on the pedal, to try to keep up with her.
I could tell Scarlett had been drinking, with the way she sped and weaved in and out of traffic. Thankfully, there wasn’t much.
She shouldn’t have been driving, being in the inebriated state she was in. But I was sober, or only on that nasty methadone; otherwise, both of us would have been in some shit.
This had started because I had had enough of her not coming home and decided it was about time. No more staying at Mike’s house; no more being “afraid” of me; no more sex with my so-called, “friend;” no more made-up pregnancies. I was done with it all. It had been two weeks after the accident that “made her terrified of me,” which she used as an alibi repeatedly to stay with Mike. I was tired of that cop-out. I was tired of being alone; tired of sleeping with tears in my eyes; tired of worrying what the hell is going to happen to Us.
Sure, I had Josh there, but I needed someone to genuinely care about me. I needed my beloved back. I didn’t worry about all the lies and mistreatments. I merely wanted my baby to come home and be with me.
That night, I found out where Scarlett was at. She was at a bar with Mike—of course—which was a mile from his house—and also, a bar I would frequent in the future. I surprised the hell out of her while sitting at the bar. I wasn’t allowed in there because I was underage, but I didn’t care. It was time for her to come home and I wasn’t leaving until she did. Instead, she walked out, jumped in her car, and took off, all in a drunken stupor. I hightailed it to my black Blazer across the parking lot and jumped in, thus, the cat and mouse game was on. I didn’t have time to mess with the stereo, but “Highway to the Danger Zone” was on full-blast in my head.
It was a terrible night for a car chase—unless you were a spectator. It had just stopped raining, which made the roads extra slick. I pursued and chased her, zig-zagging around cars in the neighborhood I grew up in; I had the home court advantage.
Scarlett was driving excessively reckless, and sped faster than greased lightning—her being John Travolta, wanting to be pulled over, or die, even; I feared the latter. Being right on her tail the entire time, I had her back, just in case anything happened. But being behind her ended up being the worst place I could be, when all of a sudden she slammed on her brakes.
Those bright candy-red lights I saw in front of me became the glowing eyes of the Devil rocketing towards me. I pushed down on the brake pedal, with both feet, as hard as I could, but rather than coming to an immediate stop, my car slid out of control…
Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech, I closed my eyes—
Not even the crickets chirped.
I slowly moved my head back and forth, shaking it like a dog, then, though I didn’t want to, opened my eyes.
All I could see was the black hood of my car raised up and wrinkled, as if someone had opened it all the way after taking a sledgehammer to it. I couldn’t figure out what happened at first. Then it clicked, Oh Shit. What did I just do?
I felt around my body, which felt okay. Nothing ached. No cuts, no scrapes, or bruises. Thank God for seat belts.
But wait, …
I pulled the handle to open up my door but it wasn’t budging. So I leapt over the leather console and into the passenger seat, then gently opened its unscathed door. Running around the side, then the front of both our cars, I could tell mine was totaled, hers too, perhaps.
The inside lights were on. Oh thank the Lord, she had her seatbelt on.
But she was out.
Unconscious, once again.
“Scarlett?… Baby, are you okay??”
I shook her carefully, then brushed the pieces of hair obscuring her eyes off her sweaty face. Softly petting the side of her head, waiting for her to come to. This all felt too familiar. Why does this keep happening to me? To us?
Suddenly, but slowly, her eyes opened. I exhaled a huge sigh of relief, then smiled. The heartening feeling didn’t last long though…
I knew she wasn’t coming home tonight.
Our relationship, if you’d still call it that, had so many red flags waving, but being overly naive and blinded by my dope sick love for her, I ignored them all. None of them were any match to the flag I held representing my unconditional love for her. But something needed to happen. I couldn’t live like this any longer.
I suppose you could call what happened next… fate?
Crack. I had met my new best friend and worst enemy. Fortunately, there were no withdrawals from crack; except the horrible cravings that were something out of a horror film. Like a vampire craves blood and the devil craves souls, I craved crack. It could not be escaped. Not even when I slept; they had taken over my dreams. I’d dream of walking around downtown looking for it and when I did obtain it, I’d wake up, still thinking I had it in my hand, but when I would open it up, it was gone. Nothing was there. Only the sick, incessant craving. Like heroin, it would be the first and last thing I did daily. I had the heroin craving suppressed with methadone, which was good. Otherwise, I’d have two gnarly addictions to take care of. Now, for your information, I was a crack addict, not a crackhead. There is a difference; though, it is a thin line.
Crack quickly drove a hole in my wallet, and my soul. Copping downtown was no problem, since I came to know most of the crackheads down there that lived by the homeless shelter. These were your “crackheads”. “Earrings” was my name to them, due to my gauges, I assumed. I always wished I had a better street name.
I even had a few scams I would get away with whenever I had nothing, or had overdrawn my checking account. My parents had given me a credit card used solely for groceries and emergencies. Instead of buying groceries, I’d use it for crack, but it’s difficult to get cash from a plastic card, unless it read “debit.”
I would walk around any grocery store and search for people with about $30-$40 worth of groceries. When I found my target, I’d go up to them and offer to pay for their groceries with my credit card, if they would give me a $20 bill in return. Thence for them, it was a steal. I’d make up some lame reason about my bank account being overdrawn and the only way to take care of it was with cash, that I didn’t possess.
Crack causes you to do crude things, but people actually bought it. I was ran out of Randall’s and H.E.B. a few instances. I’d also do the same thing with gas—if they got more than $20 worth of gas, I’d offer to pay for it with my card for a crisp $20 bill. Or old and wrinkled, the crackheads didn’t care. It was a hassle sometimes, but it was my hustle. Hustling my own parents is what it was. Stupid, ungrateful, hopeless, piece of shit son, I was.
A few times, I’d simply go into a store, buy something of worth, then pawn it, but I’d never earn more than a third of what I spent. Pawn shops suck. Although, I was highly familiar with them, since I pawned just about everything I had owned for heroin.
My credit card was taken away from me several times by my parents. But after being good for a short while and with a little arguing, I’d have it back. Always.
Crack brought out the worst in me.
I was a disgusting, poor excuse for a human being. It wasn’t me, though. I became whatever the drug had made me.
My dad, I imagined, didn’t see me that way, yet. So, he had bought me a new car for my birthday, after I had totaled the Blazer. He knew the accident wasn’t entirely my fault due to the slick roads, and Scarlett being drunk and dumb. I assumed he figured it would keep me away from the streets and drugs, or he didn’t want to be obligated to take me to work and back every day. Scarlett’s car was okay, thus she sold it to one of our junky connects. With that, and the money she had from a settlement check from a wreck she was in a long time ago, she bought a brand new Honda Civic. This one a dark blue, virtually purple color, instead of that turquoise antique she had.
My new car was one of the best things to happen to me, at the time. Instead of my black Blazer, it was a black Mazda 3 sedan with hardly any miles. His company, that he was president of, must’ve had a good year, which always meant a good year for me, too.
The little car—compared to my other— sure did go fast. I fell in love with it, right away. I was going to take good care of this one. Not be careless and not chase down drunk Scarlett anymore. If she gets drunk and crazy, she’s on her own.
I wish that was the case. I was still crazy in-love with her.
At the video store, the air-conditioning was blasting.
It was beyond scorching outside.
Like living on the surface of the sun.
And the weatherman said it was going to rain…
I had my eyes on the clock waiting for my lunch break. Ordinarily, I’d have some crack rocks on me that I would smoke in the single bathroom in the back office and blow smoke into the tiny ceiling vent. But I was out. On my break I would have to drive downtown to score, then drive back. It was a twenty-minute ride there and back. I also included a couple of minutes for walking about and finding the rock. It came down to about thirty minutes, which, coincidently, was how long my break lasted. I could make it happen, I thought.
Plus, the manager on duty was that new kid, grooming to become a manager. If I was late and he said anything, I’d be like, “Hey, whatever, fuck you.” I did have seniority on him. Done deal. Sounded legit in my crack head mind.
At long last, both hands on the common, classroom clock pointed straight up. I looked at my minor manager, who nodded at me, giving me the overly-due “go-ahead,” and I was gone. Josh was out “spanging” in the heat, so I thought to bring him along, that way he could sit in some air-conditioning and recharge his batteries. I was certain he’d be down for a blast of rock, as well. I spotted his tall, goofy ass over at the intersection next to an H.E.B.
The damn cars behind me couldn’t wait two seconds for Josh to get in the car. It did take him an unusual amount of time, he had to gently place each of his belongings inside, one by one, which included his backpack, jacket, water jug, and his cardboard signs that read “Hungry Hungry Hobo” and “Will take verbal abuse for $1.” He’d usually make good money with both of them, but more with the latter. Sometimes, he’d hit twenty dollars in an hour. Which was a lot more than I got paid.
“Any good bites today?” I asked as he threw his bag in the back and eventually sat his ass down on the brand-new car seat. The scent of him wafted around the inside. Sweaty B.O. I placed the car in gear and off we went, with the windows down to air out the odor. Also to give the finger at the cars behind us.
“Not really, man. I’m thinking of making a new sign that just says, ‘Need money for dope.’”
I considered his idea, shook my head and laughed at the absurdity of it. “Yeah, that’ll get you tons of dolla’ bills, son.” I chuckle again. “Make sure you write ‘Please,’ now.”
He smiled, “Is that what I’m missing? I knew something wasn’t right. So what’s the plan, Stan?”
“Dude, you smell like shit.” I had to tell him. I didn’t get it. He wasn’t homeless anymore so why did he reek that way.
“I had to throw on my spanging clothes so I look poor and withouts a home,” he paused, “Plus it’s hot as balls outside. I’m ova here sweatin’ like a whore in church. I ain’t got no air-conditioned, cushy, job like yous got.” He spoke, not too eloquently, with a Brooklyn dialect that he must’ve picked up from ‘the streets’ or someplace. “I spange, that’s my job.”
“You don’t have a job,” I replied, giving him a snarky look implying maybe it’s time he got one so he could help with rent. “And, you don’t speak well.”
That last one was a low blow, but he didn’t care, we were constantly giving each other shit, back and forth. We were roommates and pretty much brothers, by now. He just replied back with a “fuck you.” Though, it sounded more like “fack” than “fuck.” New York wannabe.
Josh was a year younger than I, but he had a voice and look that was older. Like age wasn’t based on how old you were, but how experienced. He definitely had that on me. “That’s what the streets do to you, man,” he’d tell me. I’d be familiar with these streets, soon enough.
Downtown, we parked the car in my normal parking spot, on the side of a bar on 7th street. No one ever parked there because it was a 15-minute parking spot and nobody was going to visit a bar for only fifteen minutes. But it was plenty of time for us to get our dope, then peace out.
I was already sixteen minutes into my break—I forgot to add in the traffic to my timing estimate. I was more than likely going to be late, but I said ‘Oh well,’ and started walking.
We got to the homeless shelter, where all the crackheads and dealers hung out. Down there you could get nearly anything you wanted. If they didn’t have something, they knew where to find it, as long as you hooked them up. You always had to give them a little bit for hooking you up; that is, if they’re smokers. That’s why I seldom went to the dirty smokers. I went straight to the dealers, who would commonly wear a white shirt. They didn’t care about getting high, only making money and hooking you up so you would bring back your business. Plus, if you went through smokers, you would risk getting ripped off. I’ve been sold plaster, glue, wax, you name it. But now, I knew better.
I looked around and around, but couldn’t detect any of my normal dudes. There wasn’t even anybody wearing a white shirt. Josh and I spread out walking around the block on 7th and Red River.
We both met up empty-handed. Until I spotted someone that looked familiar. A voluptuous woman, I remembered from a few weeks ago.
“Hey, yeah, there’s somebody I’ve gone through before.” I stared and pointed at her walking down the hill towards the shelter and us. “Big lady in the blue shirt.”
Josh looked up to where I was pointing, eyes squinted with his right hand blocking out the sun. “Ahh yeah. I dunno man, she look kinda sketchy.”
I understood what he meant. It was just something about her, but I asked anyway, “Why, cuz she’s black?”
“Fuck you,” he laughed. “Nah man, just call it my streets smarts.”
Always with his ‘streets’ crap. “Yeah, okay… racist.” I said, then ignored him and started walking toward her.
She noticed me pointing at her and must’ve recognized me because she raised her head then smiled. I could see her missing teeth from a block away. I decided to stop walking and make her come to us, therefore we stopped at the end of the block. I looked up at the building we leaned up against. A church. It’s always gotta be a church.
We had to wait a minute for her to cross the four-lane road, but there wasn’t much traffic. The notorious five ‘o clock rush wasn’t for a couple of hours. She ran across the street once it was clear. I had gotten a ticket once for jaywalking, but when it came to the homeless, they could do whatever they want and get away with it.
“Whassup girl, you remember me?”
She looked me up and down then smiled showing only her two front teeth. It was all she had, it looked like. “Sho’ do. Earrings right?”
I was surprised she remembered my name, but then again it wasn’t hard to forget once you looked at me. I loved my gauges. I had got them pierced, then gauged immediately the same night with Scarlett. It would’ve hurt like hell had it not been for the dope we slammed before. We even got matching tattoos on our wrists of a treble clef and bass clef. I thank God it wasn’t her name.
“You got it. Say, you got any work?”
“Already.” She continued to look around, checking to see if we brought any heat with us. Meaning, if we were undercover and cops were watching. We were two white boys, so I couldn’t blame her. Though, with Josh’s homeless smell, she should’ve known already.”Wut you lookin’ fo’?”
She took her hands out of her pocket and picked two rocks out of her mouth. She definitely wasn’t a dealer. All the crackheads down there stashed rocks in their mouths in between their gums and bottom lip, like tobacco dip. It was gross, but you take what you can get. And that’s exactly what we were doing since we couldn’t find a legitimate dealer.
We made the quick, inconspicuous exchange then took off in different directions. She headed back up the hill while we headed back to my car. I had about five minutes until I was going to be late, but I said one of my favorite addict statements, ‘Fuck it.’
In the car, I started the engine and got us on the road while Josh started getting everything ready for us to get high. Exactly like my Blazer, I had found a stash spot in my new car. I can find at least one good spot in every car. It’s just a matter of continuous experimenting and taking things apart. Meth was good for that, as long as you didn’t overdue it and take things apart to the point where you don’t remember where everything went. Classic meth mannerisms.
We had two decent sized rocks. Josh broke one in half and loaded it into the crack stem, which was a straight piece of glass with Brillo inside to act as a filter. You can buy the stems at any Mexican Podunk gas station. It’s a glass stem that usually has a rose or flower inside of it, then you can buy the wire-mesh Brillo at any grocery store. Some gas stations will give you both, if they knew you, and ask for “a pack.”
We got on the highway where we were less conspicuous and Josh took the wheel while I proceeded to get high. Every time I smoked this shit, I always return to the first time I got high with that random guy from the gas station. “Tap the flame to the rock back and forth, inhale slowly, then hold it in. Once you can’t hold it any longer, blow it out through your nose.”
I took back the wheel, holding in the dirty smoke, then exhaled, waiting for the instant euphoria to kick in.
Then felt a teeny bit high.
Something was wrong though. I could tell when I tasted the smoke and it tasted different. Maybe it was just me and somehow I had messed up the hit, so I let Josh take a blast.
He warily took the stem and loaded his own bowl. Doing everything right, he barely felt anything at all.
“What the hell, man?” I said angrily
We both looked at each other as if we were exchanging thoughts telepathically.
Then, it hit.
It was as if someone held a lighter up to my forehead, then with a hammer, started pounding a nail into it. I glanced over at Josh, with his face cringed in pain and his hand holding the sides of his head. I don’t know what the hell this shit was. It was like we had been duped by buying plaster then smoked it. But it wasn’t plaster. The rock looked real and tasted like cocaine.
“Oh my God, what is happening?!!” yelled Josh.
“I don’t know but I’m turning around and finding that bitch.”
I pulled off at the first exit I could find then proceeded the opposite way down the highway. The thought of work never even crossed my mind. I was in pain and wanted to kill that bitch who sold that shit to us. I also thought buying some good stuff would help alleviate the pain.
The severe, burning headache was slowly dissipating the closer we got to the shelter. Thank God. I had never experienced anything like that before. it was almost as bad as cotton fever. Cotton fever happens when a microscopic cotton strand gets into the syringe, therefore entering your blood stream, making you extremely sick. It is worse than withdrawal. Fortunately, it only lasts an hour or so. At least in my experience. It happens when you use a dirty piece of cotton to use as the filter when cooking up dope. Right now, we had one thing on our minds: What the hell did we just smoke?
We parked my car illegally in a handicap spot. I didn’t care. I wanted to locate that bitch and ruin her, or something. I didn’t know what I was going to do besides find out what the hell she sold us. We looked around, up and down the hill she was last on, but couldn’t find her. However, I did notice one of my homies, FM, in a white shirt.
I ran to the closest ATM—they were everywhere—and put in my card, asking for forty more dollars. FM saw us at the ATM, and started walking our way.
“Yo sup Earring? Josh… ?Whatch’all need?”
“Just a forty. Hey do you know this fat chick with a blue shirt, only two teeth,” I pointed to my teeth showing him with teeth she still had left.
He looked around rapidly while saying he didn’t know the girl. Of course he didn’t, they never rat on each other. That’s why he answered so quickly, without even thinking about it. Our anger, or at least mine, had faded away, by then. I just wanted to get back in the car and smoke that real shit we had now.
Once again, we are on the highway headed back to work. I was going to be an hour late. I checked my phone which had four missed calls, all from the video store. I ignored them and thought I would just say I had a flat on the way to my house and accidentally left my phone there. That would suffice. But before Josh and I could get high, we had a new problem: the residue from that nasty shit could still be in the stem. Now, we had to stop by the store to buy at least a new Brillo. We could easily clean the stem. But the Brillo was likely contaminated and done for.
After Josh ran into a Randall’s and came out with new Brillo, we were finally on our way back. At this rate, I might as well not even go back to work. My shift would be over in less than two hours. I figured I would just get high and stick to my story. It seemed foolproof.
We were a couple of blocks away when Josh handed me the loaded bowl and took the wheel. Ahhhh at last. I took one hit, blew it out and felt amazing. I asked Josh for another piece to smoke then he could have two hits while I went into work. So he packed me another bowl.
“Careful man, this one’s a blast.”
I was ready for it, “Bring it on.”
I lit the end of the stem, tapping it back and forth, while slowly inhaling. I held it in as long as I could, then blew out.
That’s when everything went dark…
I remember coming to seeing Josh’s ghost-white face staring at me, with his eyes bulging out. He looked terrified. Then darkness again.
I came back to. This time I saw Scarlett’s face staring at me in complete horror. I looked out the window and saw we were parked somewhere. I didn’t know where.
I glanced up at the sky, seeing rain clouds pushing their way through like black town cars during a funeral service. Then everything went blank again. My last thought…
I guess it was going to rain after all.