Meeting the Dragon

December 2006—Three Years Before Her Death

Houston, TX

We waited in the car until my girlfriend came back with the proper paraphernalia we needed for the night. It was a night I’d been anticipating since the idea was brought up by my girlfriend, Scarlett. I would find out what it was like to feel what Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, Layne Staley, Janis Joplin, and many others had been feeling before they died. I had never smoked it, nor snorted it. This would be the first time I try heroin. And we were going to do it the right way too, by shooting it. Right into the bloodstream.

The Houston heat hammered down on the car like a breath from hell. It bounced off the streets, causing an illusion of flickering images. It was one of those days where a hat or bandana wasn’t a bad idea — a day when the perspiration leaked from every pore in my forehead, cheeks and bridge of my nose. I regretted not rolling down the window before she ran into the store. Owen and I sat in her mint-colored Honda Civic, while my girlfriend, Scarlett, ran into Walgreens to grab syringes — or rigs, as she called them.

This wasn’t her first taste with what we were getting into. She had years under her belt of coming to this same Walgreens to buy rigs to shoot dope.

Scarlett and I had met each other in Kerrville, Texas, while living in halfway houses, or sober living. I had been out of rehab for two months, living in my men’s sober house, when she came from the same treatment center and moved into the Women’s house next door. It wasn’t long after hanging out with my friends and I that we started dating.

Owen was a long-time friend I had known since middle school, who had a Xanax problem. My sponsor and I had given him an intervention which brought him to rehab. Initially, he wasn’t supposed to be with us, but we needed him.

Back then, when I had been sober for five months, I’d never thought I’d be doing what we were about to do. I would throw all of what I had worked hard for away. It was worth it, I felt, because It would bring me closer to my darling and beautiful, Scarlett.

After leaving the drugstore, she was already phone in hand, talking to her dealer. She had called him earlier during the three-hour trip, driving here from my hometown of Austin, Texas, to make sure he was available and ready.

Many other dealers would make you wait for hours, or were so geeked out, they made you drive to a dozen different places before you finally met with them.

Not this guy.

You called him, gave him an estimated time of arrival, and then you met him on his street, while he was “taking a walk” or “walking the dog.”

You were in and out.

I loved dealers like that.

I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent solely playing the waiting game.

I’ve heard for every ten years one spends using dope, seven of those years are spent waiting.

I believe it.

With some dealers, if they tell you they’ll be there in five minutes, that meant they’ll be there in about an hour.

If the dealer doesn’t know you well enough, they could leave you waiting all night, never meeting up with you.

While you’re getting sicker by the minute, cursing the dealer for making you wait so long, leading to tears being shed because you know they possess the one thing that will ease all the pain and suffering you’re feeling.

Waiting, while you are dope sick, is not fun.

At all.

It’s good to have a go-to guy or girl who knows and trusts you. Even though in this game, you can’t trust anybody.

Not even yourself.

Outside, there was a lack of night sky due to Houston’s pollution floating stagnant in midair. However, the temperature had dropped, putting out a nice chill. Goosebumps littered my arms.

Scarlett silently pulled the car over in a dark, secluded spot. Ever since we met with her dealer, making the quick exchange, my heart had been pulsating to a quick cadence like I was preparing for a war behind the gates of my ribcage, not knowing what I was in for.

I watched with careful eyes as she stuck a piece of the sticky, black tar onto the spoon we had stolen from a pizza buffet. Scarlett’s eyes were in complete concentration while adding water to the spoon then using a pink lighter to light the bottom like a mini-stove.

I recognized the sound of popping bubbles as it put out an odorous smell of vinegar.

I had loved and missed that smell.

She only lit the bottom of the spoon for a few seconds before she stirred the mixture with the end of the syringe, making sure all the dope melted. I couldn’t tell if it was, or not, until she spoke.

“This is it, guys. Just gotta suck it up into the rig first,” she said as she threw a tiny cotton ball into the brown mix then sucked it into the syringe after placing the needle on the cotton.

The cotton acted like a filter, so nothing else got into the rig. She held it up, eyes fixated, with a smile across her face, and pushed the air out, then flicked it twice.

“Okay,… who’s first?” she asked in her cute voice she would use with me when we called each by our pet names.

She flashed her eyes at mine and raised her eyebrows.

I smiled, feeling giddy then looked back at Owen in the back seat.

“Go ahead, man,” he said, being just as nervous and excited as I was.

I turned back to face Scarlett, heart pounding, and not saying a word, she did.

“Let me see your arm.”

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