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I've been all over the place lately. At the beginning of the summer I was plowing through the Needles, Names, and Numbers drafts, ultima...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Miller Time

This was gonna go in NNN but I didn't think it was good enough to make the cut. Enjoy!

My burner rings. New message from Mark: “Pullin in now.” Looking down the aisles, it seems as though the coast is clear. Then, as I turn the corner to the front door, I hear it…

“Miller time!”

I roll my eyes and ignore it as I step out of the building. A black sedan waits for me out front. I hop in the back seat. Mark sits in the passenger seat. A stranger is driving. “Alright if I smoke in here?” I ask the stranger. “Yeah dude, I don’t give a fuck. I’m Seth, nice to meet you. Mark told me you were the plug for L around here.” Seth extends his hand to me. He’s fat, wearing a tank top and sporting a backwards new era on his head. I dap him up.

“He told you right, brotha. You wanted two sheets, correct?” I ask him.

“Yes sir. It’s all there.”

Seth slides me a thick wad of Jacksons laced with a couple of Benji’s over the center console while he drives. “He’s good, he wouldn’t fuck ya, I promise.” Mark says to me, peering at me through the rearview mirror. “I know, I know. I just gotta count. Human error, y’know?” I count the bills out quickly. They total to $800, and I slide two sheets over Seth’s center console. We circle the parking lot and Seth drops me back off. “I’ll see you boys later. Mark, give him my number if he doesn’t have it already.” “Alright, thanks kid. I’ll have the rest of that money for ya tomorrow. Peace.” He replies.

I smoke the rest of my cigarette and walk back inside. Shawn is sitting by the front end by the registers, waiting for me, grinning. “Miller time!” He says again, smiling and nudging me on the shoulder. I fake a smile and go about my business, resisting my instinctual urge to run my mouth back at him. Shawn is my new manager. Him and I don’t get along very well, mainly because of the many “smoke breaks” I take every shift, in which I not-so-discreetly sell drugs in the parking lot. In addition to that, I frequently show up to work high, and sometimes stinking of booze from the night before. I get my job done, but my methods are admittedly unorthodox.

Every other manager I’ve ever had left me alone. They never said shit to me as long as I kept it moving. Shawn is different; he’s had it out for me since he started here a month ago. He’s got quite the ego for a fat fuck 30something, barely a notch above me in the retail totem pole. I get it, too a degree. I’m far from a model employee. I understand why someone would suspend me, write me up, even fire me. But Shawn does none of these things. He clearly has a problem with the way I operate around here, but rather than take action, he chooses to express his anger in passive aggressive quips and bad jokes.

You know Miller beer? They have a commercial in which they say it’s “Miller time”, or time to kick back and enjoy a nice Miller, Miller Light, or Miller Highlife. My last name is Miller. Shawn made the incredibly witty and creative connection between my smoke/deal breaks and these commercials, hence him saying “Miller time!” Every time I walk out to have a smoke or make a deal.

I steer clear of Shawn for the most part. We have nothing in common. He’s one of those people that can’t just enjoy a good silence. His god damn mouth never closes, and he’s always blithering on and on about something, no matter how inane or boring it is. He takes jabs at me whenever he gets the chance to. I shrug it off for the most part, but when I’m hungover or feeling ballsy from stimulants, he becomes very grating. Though he is much bigger than me, there are days when I sure would like to hit him.

“Something botherin’ you, big guy? Did I say something to make you angry?” Shawn asks me as I straighten out the aisles.

“Huh? No, why would I be angry, Shawn?” I reply, feigning ignorance.

“Well, you’re just always so quiet, I just thought you might be mad at me or something. That ‘Miller 
Time’ shit doesn’t piss you off, right?”

“Huh? Oh, no! Absolutely not! I think it’s hilarious actually. It’s like, my last name is Miller, like the beer, and it’s Miller time, like the commercials! That’s good shit, haha!”  

“Hehe, I know right?! I knew you could take a joke. Speaking of jokes, you gotta be kidding me with your schedule, right?” Shawn asks.

 I shake my head. “Nope. I can only work Monday to Friday afternoon now.”

“I see. Well, if you’re gonna keep being difficult like this I can’t guarantee you get your hours every week.”

I shrug and smile. “Do what you gotta do, Shawn.”

“What do you do on the weekends, anyway? Besides getting stoned.”  

“I actually got a job as a club promoter.”

“Oh yeah? What do you do?”

“I hand out flyers, send invites, write promotional pieces. Stuff like that.”

“What’s that pay?”

“I do OK.”

“Yeah, you must, since you don’t seem to give a shit when you’re here.”

I roll my eyes, sigh, and open my mouth when he cuts me off.

“I’m just joking, guy! Relax! Miller time!”

Shawn pats me on the back and walks off.

“Fat fuck…” I mumble my breath.

After taxes, I barely clear $400 a week. I made twice that much today in just five minutes. If it wasn’t for direct deposit, I’d probably forget to pick my check up every Thursday. I hustle all week, selling weed, Molly, and tabs to my customers and co-workers. Then I hit the club every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and make a couple hundred off Molly sales. I’ve only been at it for three months and I’ve already put away a few grand.

Shawn cut my Friday hours. I don’t give a shit. All it did was give me an early start on my drinking. As much as I knock it, this job certainly has its uses. It provides a nice paper trail, as I use cash for all purchases and pay bills with the checks that pile up in my account. It’s also remarkably easy, even when I’m hungover, stoned, or both. When I’m on second shift I spend most of my time slacking off in the relatively-empty store, making plays in the parking lot and dicking around on my phone in the breakroom in my down time.

Wilson’s is a small, family-owned chain of pharmacy/grocery stores. Most of their clientele are old people. They shuffle around the store complaining and leaning on their carts like walkers. The pharmacy has a constant line of white-headed angry bags of bones blithering on and on about the litany of meds their doctors pump into them to keep them alive longer than human beings probably should be. It’s not uncommon for one of these old geezers to drop right there in the store and require an ambulance.

Yoplait yogurt is on sale this week. We carry a shitload of different flavors and styles, and people tend to buy it in bulk. As I stock the shelf, I can sense one of the fossils shuffling toward me, jaw agape, weakly pulling oxygen into her skeletal frame. Behind me is a large dolly holding several cases of yogurt. A delicately balanced tower of empty cases sits in front of it. This ancient nuisance could’ve gone around the dolly and gotten to the yogurt, but instead she plows by the tower of boxes, knocking it all over and letting out one of those weak, dry, old people gasps, once octave away from death. She scowls at me as if it’s my fault. I move out of the way and re-stack my cases while she stands in front of the yogurt, squinting through her coke bottle glasses. She stares at the selection for about five minutes before she finally extends one of her awful, warped, shaky, arthritic talons out and picks up a cherry yogurt. She brings it a half inch from her eye and reads the nutrition facts at a rate of two words per minute. A few people come up and stand around, waiting patiently for their chance to get within 500 feet of the yogurt. She finally picks up a stack of three yogurts and shuffles over to her cart and puts them in. As another woman swoops in for her turn, she shuffles briskly back over and restarts this whole Hellish cycle again. She scowls at us all as she finally scuffles away. “Cunt.” I mumble back as I tear a case open.

“Yo yo!” I hear someone say as I bring my empty cases to the back room. It’s my buddy Jimmy. Jimmy’s a few years older than me and shares my love for stimulants. For a while it was Adderall, then Vyvanse, but lately we’ve both been doing a lot of blow. “What’s good?” I ask Jimmy as we enter the back room. We look around to ensure nobody’s eavesdropping as I start tossing my trash down the chute.

“You closing tonight?” Jimmy asks me.

“I’m working ‘till eight, so yeah, basically.” I reply.

“When you going on break?”

“Whenever the fuck I want, haha. Why? Whatcha got?”

“Dude… I got a new connect the other day that gets some of the best shit I ever had. I’m about to go out to my car for break, meet me out there.”

“Word.

I toss my trash and head outside to meet James. “Miller time!” I hear Shawn shout as I pass him. I just keep walking. Jimmy and Middle Man Mike are sitting in the front of Jimmy’s car. “Fuck, Mike’s here too?! Now it’s a party…” I say as I get inside. “What’s good?” Middle Man Mike asks. Jimmy pulls a CD from his visor and puts it on the center console. He pulls a bag from his pocket and holds it up for me and Middle Man Mike to see. Inside are three rock-like chunks of cocaine, one big and the other two small. “There’s like a gram and a half in there, but check it out. Straight rock, dude. It’s fuckin’ fire. You’ll see.” Jimmy says. He takes a 20 dollar bill and folds it the long way, then puts one of the small rocks in the crease. He flattens the bill and uses a lighter to crush it all up into snortable powder. The stuff is shiny, a good sign. The rock breaks up into a pretty decent pile of coke that Jimmy delicately chops into three good sized lines. Middle Man Mike goes first, then me, then Jimmy. I tilt my head back and take a few good whiffs as it hits me. Instant stimulation and euphoria, confidence, alertness, but without the tweaky, heart-racing feel of shitty street coke. This shit is fire, no doubt about it.

“Yo, this is fuckin’ good…” I say, lighting a cigarette.

“Yeah, yeah, it is. You got an extra butt, Harry?” Middle Man Mike asks.

“See, dude? What did I tell ya? I’ll chop up a couple more for us.” Jimmy says.

I give Middle Man Mike a cigarette.

“Thanks, dude. Miller time!” He says, grinning at me.

“Shawn’s such a fucking douche, I can’t stand him.” I reply.

We all do another round of lines. I’m much more motivated now.

“Alright, if you guys want more you’re gonna have to throw in.” Jimmy says as wipes off the CD.

“I’m straight.”  Middle Man Mike says.

“I’ll throw down, I got cash.” I say.

“What’re you doing tonight Harry?” Jimmy asks.

“I got nothin’ going on.”

“You wanna hit the bar or something? Maybe I can introduce you to my guy. He’s looking for new customers.” Jimmy says.

“Yeah, man. I’m down.” I reply.

I toss Jimmy 40 bucks and we meet in the back cooler periodically to do more blow. At eight o’clock I leave, agreeing to meet up with Jimmy in an hour when he gets off. I drop my car off at his place and we take his car to a dive bar across town. Jimmy sips a McDonald’s cup full of Vodka and Mountain Dew as we drive. “Yo, you want any Valium?” He asks me, out of the blue. My ears perk up at the very mention of the V word. I can’t pull my wallet out quickly enough. “Whatcha got, how much you want for ‘em?” I ask. “I get ‘em free, this girl I been seeing hands ‘em out like fuckin’ candy. She’s got a script, I guess. I’ll just give you a couple, I don’t like downers. I wanna stay up, y’know?” Jimmy says. I open my mouth to tell Jimmy how clutch Valium and other benzos are when you’re coming off a stimulant binge, but I hold my tongue, as I want as much free Valium as I can get. As we park on the street he pops open his glove box and gives me the bag with five 10mg Valiums inside. It’s gonna be a good night.

“My fuckin’ job at the plumber’s union just picked up again, fuckin’ finally…” Jimmy says to me as we sit down.

“Word, so no more Wilson’s?” I ask him.

“Nah, nah, I’m gonna stay. I’m thinkin’ I’ll just do a couple part time night shifts during the week. Like five or six to nine or something. It’s an easy check, y’know?”

“Yeah, I hear ya.”

“How’s your thing going?”

“Good, good. I’ve thought about expanding into this shit we got now, but I don’t think I trust myself, know what I’m saying?” I say, tapping my nose with my finger.

“Hahaha, me neither dude. The shit would be gone before I could sell it. Speakin’ of which, let’s go to the bathroom, huh?”

Jimmy hands me the bag from underneath the neighboring stall and I do a couple of big bumps. Thoroughly energized, I make a beeline out of there. All I can think about is the Jack and coke waiting for me back at the booth. I realize Jimmy isn’t behind me and I turn around. He’s having a tense conversation with some Puerto Rican chick. I sip my drink as I study them, the Puerto Rican chick growing more and more agitated with Jimmy as she pokes her long Latina fingernails into his button-down shirt. Jimmy grabs her hand and pulls it away from him, prompting one of the girl’s friends to get into the fray. “LET GO OF ME!” The girl shrieks. Jimmy, seething with rage, stares her in the eyes for a few seconds before letting go. Some guy intervenes and tries to play Captain Save-A-Ho before Jimmy marches back to the booth.

“Who the fuck was that?” I ask.

“My fuckin’ ex, dude. Cunt…” He says, chugging his drink. He snorts deeply and winces a bit as the drip slides down his throat.

“You wanna go somewhere else?”

“Huh? Nah, nah, fuck that. I’m not leaving just because she’s here.”

“Ok. I’m gonna grab another drink. You want one?”

“Yeah. Get me another Bud.”

I already tipped well on my first drink, so the bar comes right over as soon as he sees my face.
“Jameson and coke and a Budweisser please.” I say, handing him a $20. I sniff and snort as I stand there, the drip seeming to go on forever. I can see my reflection in a piece of glass over the bar. There’s a fairly noticeable spot of powder in my mustache. Fuck! I wipe it with my finger and look back at Jimmy, who is sitting catatonic at the booth, giving a mean death stare to his ex across the bar. I look over at her and find she’s already studying me. She probably saw me wipe my nose. I keep my eyes low and drum my fingers on the bar as I wait for my drink.

When I turn around again I find the booth empty. Jimmy must’ve gone back to do more coke, fucker. I slurp my drink down and he comes back a few minutes later, clearly yacked the fuck out. Gnashing his teeth into his gums, he picks up his Budweisser with shaky hands, draining most of it in a few big gulps.

“Yo, can I get that?” I ask him.

“It’s all gone.”

“All gone?”

“Yup.”

Jimmy pounds the rest of his beer and marches back up to the bar. He’s giving his ex the stink eye the whole time. I don’t know how much coke was left in that bag exactly, but it was quite a bit. I don’t like where this is going. I down my drink and discreetly slip my Valium into my sock. Jimmy comes back to the booth with drinks for each of us.

“Why the fuck does she have to be here, dude?!” Jimmy asks through gritted teeth.

“We can go somewhere else, dude. There’s that fuckin’ sports bar a block away…” I reply.

“Why should I have to fuckin’ leave?! We were here first. She probably heard I was here and just showed up to start shit...”

Jimmy gets louder as the coke and booze take over. I take a deep breath and just keep drinking. 

Jimmy’s ex continues to scowl at him as he scowls right back. Jimmy’s ex’s friend catches her attention and says something that convinces her to leave. She gives Jimmy the finger as she leaves.
“Fucking cunt.” Jimmy mumbles. His mood seems to improve after another round. Suddenly, I feel a burn in my stomach, which I just remembered is empty besides all the booze. The alcohol quickly overpowers my fading coke high and I begin to fiend.

“Yo, you really killed that bag, huh?” I ask Jimmy.

“Yeah. She fuckin’ set me off, I thought I fuckin’ OD’d or something at first, dude. I just dumped the whole fuckin’ thing out on my phone and blew it, haha. My fuckin’ chest was going and everything…” He replies.

“You wanna go in on some more?”

“Yeah, yeah, definitely. Let’s close the tab and I’ll call him.”

I slam a shot of Jameson and we close our tab. Jimmy has his phone pinned between his ear and shoulder as he drinks and drives. “By the way, the least this guy will do is a ball. You wanna just split one?” He asks. “Yeah, sure.” I reply. After much swearing and re-trying, his dealer finally answers. “Yo! What’s good, dude? Nothin. Listen, I need a ball, you good? Alright, yeah, I’ll come through. But yo, could you bag it up separately? I’m splitting it with my boy. I dunno, you don’t have a fuckin’ calculator on your phone? Alright, alright. See you in a few.”

“He’ll do it for 180. You need to hit an ATM?” Jimmy asks me. “Nah, I got it.” I reply. I take a deep breath and rub my thighs as we drive. I light a cigarette in a futile attempt to even out all the whiskey rotting away my stomach lining. “C’mon, mothafucka!!!” Jimmy shouts as we drive, stuck behind someone trying to make a left turn. He punches the steering wheel and mumbles to himself. “Fuck this shit…” He says, throwing it in reverse and aggressively going around them. I don’t say anything and just put on my seatbelt. I don’t wanna poke the bear.

“Yo. This kid is usually chill, but sometimes he can get a little paranoid. He’s got a bunch of warrants and he sounds like he’s been up for a while. We’ll probably be in and out, just let me do the talking.” Jimmy says as we pull into the driveway of a two family home. Jimmy calls his connect and lets him know we’re there. Jimmy leads me to the side of the house. We climb up a small set of stairs and knock on the door. I notice a camera looking down at us on the porch connected to a wire that snakes through a small notch-hole at the top of the door. Looks like this guy doesn’t fuck around.

We hear a deadbolt unlock and the door opens a crack, the chain lock still connected. Jimmy’s connect peers out through the crack. “What’s good?” He asks, his voice deep and gruff. He undoes the chain lock and lets us in. “This is my buddy Harry.” Jimmy says as step inside. “I’m Danny.” The connect says as I dap him up. Danny is a fucking monster, a good three inches taller than me and jacked. A backwards New Era sits on top of his meaty, square shaped head. He wears a Celtics jersey and his arms are covered in tattoos. We stumble through his poorly lit home as he leads us through a cluttered kitchen and hallway. “Watch the wires.” Danny says as we walk. The front door camera wire snakes up walls and through ceilings, comes down and goes under the living room carpet and comes back up, connecting to a laptop that sits on Danny’s coffee table. A flat screen TV is mounted to the wall of the living room playing a random Seinfeld episode. It’s the only source of light in the room. I can see the surveillance setup Danny has going on his laptop screen. It’s black and white but the picture quality is crystal clear. I can clearly see Jimmy’s car parked out front. The screen is split, showing another display from what I assume is another camera. It provides a nice view of the street leading to the house. Jimmy and I take a couch. Before Danny sits down he pulls a pistol from the back of his waistband and clicks the safety back on before putting it down on the table. Danny looks up at the TV and smiles. “It’s the one where Kramer hits the fuckin’ whale with the golf ball.” He says. He watches the TV attentively, rubbing his hands together and licking his lips like, well, a coke head. As we sit in silence Jimmy grows impatient. “Yo! What the fuck?” He asks, motioning his hands towards the table.

“Sorry. You guys wanted a ball, right?” Danny asks us.

“You haven’t bagged it up yet?!” Jimmy asks him.

“I got a little sidetracked. Calm the fuck down, will ya?” Danny says.

“Do ‘em separately. That’s, uh… 1.75 each. You got that dough, Harry?” Jimmy asks me.

“Yeah.” I hand Jimmy my cash.

Danny counts out the money and turns his attention to a massive chunk of coke. It looks like the corner piece of a brick. He puts it on a plastic place mat, picks up a hammer, and smashes off a smaller piece. He licks the coke residue off the hammer and uses a razor blade to cut himself a massive line. “Fuckin’ re-rock…” He grumbles as he gulps down the drip. He whacks the corner piece again, picks up a small rock, and tosses it on his scale. It reads 2.12 grams. He grabs a new rock and tosses it onto the scale. It reads 1.8 “Fuck it, close enough.” He says. He grabs a sandwich bag and puts the rocks inside, holding the bag sideways so it all falls into the corner. He twists the corner up over and over, and ties it in a knot before ripping the corner off the bag. He then takes the other corner of the bag and re-wraps it with a second layer. The knotted bags of coke may be more inconvenient than standard ziplock bags, but they’re much easier to swallow if you run into the cops. He weighs another chunk out and it comes to 1.57. He tosses a few pebbles on and it comes to 1.78.

“There you go, man.” Danny says.

“Thanks.” I reply. Jimmy gets up to leave.

“Where the fuck you going?” Danny asks.

“We’re leaving, dude.” Jimmy says.

“Stick around for a while. I fuckin’ hate having people in and out all the time. It looks sketchy. You guys want a drink? Here…” Danny says. He pulls out a bottle of 151 from underneath the table and pours a little into a solo cup. He offers it to Jimmy first but Jimmy shakes his head.

“Are you shittin’ me? Fuckin’ 151, dude? Do you even have any coke to mix it with?” He asks Danny.

 Danny shakes his head. “Nah. I ran out. Help yourself, I don’t give a fuck.” He hands Jimmy a razor blade as Jimmy rolls up a 20.

“You want any… I forget your name already. Fuck.” Danny says, offering me a cup.

“No worries, it’s Harry. And yeah I’ll have some.” I tell Danny.

“Hahaha, alright! At least one of you’s got balls.” Danny says as he pours me a drink.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m a pussy ‘cause I’m not a fuckin’ alcy like you.” Jimmy says sarcastically.

The smell of the 151 in my cup burns my nose even as I hold it in my lap. I take a deep breath, hold it, and take the drink down in one go. The burning is intense, even for a drunk like me. I slam my fist against my chest and swallow, swallow, swallow, the geyser of vomit I feel coming up in my stomach. I almost choke and gag, but I hold it down. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ, that’ll put some hair on your chest.” I gasp. Danny downs his with little more than a slight wince. I rack myself up a line to even out. Jimmy seems content with staying here for a while provided there’s free coke. Geeked and drunk, my eyes dart around the room. I feel like I really shouldn’t get too fucked up here. Danny seems cool, but why the fuck doesn’t he get a lamp or something?

Danny does a line and picks up the pistol. He holds it pointed away from everybody, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I’ve never seen a dealer that really packs before. Danny frowns and then holds it out, closing his eye and pretending to aim at a shadow person across the room. My heart pounds even harder as I grip the couch cushion, unable to blink. He shakes his head and puts it back down.

“Y’know I hate having that fucking thing?” Danny says.

“Why? You kinda need it, don’tcha?” Jimmy says, pointing to the coke on the table.

Danny shakes his head. “I only got it after those fucking pussies set me up a couple months back.”

“Oh yeah, I remember you telling me about that…” Jimmy says.

“It wasn’t my biggest pickup but it still fuckin’ hurt. Pussies. Whatever happened to using your fucking hands like a man? Now I gotta carry this fucking thing around. You know what this is?!” Danny asks us.

“I dunno, it’s fucking pitch black in here.” Jimmy says, laughing.  

“Smart ass... All this thing can really do is get me more charges. I’m already looking at fuck knows how long for all my other shit. You can’t flush a fucking gun down the toilet…” Danny explains. He guzzles some more booze and does another line.

“You really think you’re quick enough to flush all this shit before they kick your door down?” Jimmy asks.

“Hopefully I’ll be outta here before that becomes a possibility…” Danny says.

“Where you gonna go?” Jimmy asks.

“Fucking anywhere but here, bro. I barely leave this place unless I’m going to meet somebody. I get fuckin’ cabin fever, y’know? And this shit don’t help…” Danny shakes his head and does another line.

“Weren’t you living in New Hampshire for a while? Why the fuck did you come back?” Jimmy asks.

“I didn’t fuckin’ want to! Believe me! But I was running outta money and the kid I was staying with got a new place with his girlfriend. Not many places are gonna rent to a convicted felon with no proof of income. Me and my brother had to pull some shady shit to get me this place.” Danny says.

“You really oughta just turn yourself in, dude. Or like, save up for a wicked good lawyer or somethin’.” Jimmy suggests.

“Pfft… No fuckin’ way. I mean, think about it, I’m a fugitive. They already got me for pushing coke, I got the drug and the fugitive task force lookin’ for me. No fucking lawyer can help me…”  Danny replies.

“So you’re just waiting for them to catch you?” Jimmy asks.

Danny shrugs. “Yeah. I got this place for another eight months unless they get me first. Then hopefully I’ll have enough loot saved up to get to a different state. Once I get outta here I should be golden, I just can’t come back. I got a friend that lives out in Cali that I could probably stay with. I dunno if he’s tryina harbor a fuckin’ fugitive though...”

“Sounds like you need a fuckin’ plane to Cuba or something dude, haha.” Danny says.

“I actually was looking on the darknet for fake passports and shit. I got a pretty good Cali ID from the Silk Road before it got shut down. I don’t trust the fuckin’ new sites they got now. Silk Road was already wicked shady.” Danny says.

“You got fuckin’ drugs shipped to your house and shit?!” Jimmy asks, stunned.

“I only ever got the ID. I got all the connects I need around here. But my boy was getting ounces of Molly through there for a while.” Danny replies.

“You need a connect for Acid? This kid pushes sheets of that shit.” Jimmy says, pointing his thumb at me. I laugh and nod.

“Haha, Acid?! Nah. I don’t fuck with that shit. I got too much shit going on to be tripping balls…” Danny says.

We hang out for a while watching TV until just after midnight. Danny wraps up the coke, leaving only a small pile for himself and cutting off the free samples. Jimmy takes the hint and we get up to leave. “Thanks dude, we gotta go.” He says.

“Alright. Remember, no getting high in my fucking driveway, I’m serious.” Danny says.

“Nice meeting you, man.” I say with a wave.

“He wasn’t that bad.” I say to Jimmy as we drive away. “That’s ‘cause we caught him on a good night. Every time I go over there he’s fuckin’ doing lines and drinking that 151, dude. One time I went over there and he wouldn’t serve me for a fucking hour. He kept thinking there was cops outside. He’d go to bag up my shit, right, and then he’d fucking stop and look out the window. Then he’d put all his shit away and tell me to pretend we’re just hanging out. He’d open the laptop, right, and he’d swear he was seeing cops coming down the street to kick his door in. I saw the screens, dude, and there was nothing there. He was outta his fuckin’ tree. And what the fuck was I gonna do, y’know? You saw how fucking big he was. I’ve seen him fight, dude, he’s a beast… But his coke is the best I’ve ever had. And if you catch him on a night like tonight he hooks you the fuck up.” Jimmy replies. “Yeah dude, after all these smokes and 151 my throat should be on fire. I don’t feel shit.”

Jimmy drops me off at 1 AM and I find myself faced with an important decision. This bag of coke is burning a hole in my pocket. It feels more like a chunk of drywall wrapped in plastic than the usual sacks of powder I get. I transfer the coke from the corner bag to one of my own small ziplock pill pouches, and put it in my desk drawer, opting to pop a Valium instead. Man, I fucking love Valium. Without it I’d be lying here in my bed, out of dopamine, unable to sleep and questioning every bad thing I’ve ever done in my life. I chug a few glasses of water, take the Valium, and get into bed. It isn’t long before my empty stomach breaks it down and it begins to unwind my entire body. My breathing slows, my muscles relax, and my feet and legs stop moving. My brain slows to a complete stop as my eyelids drift shut and I’m spared the crippling depression and regret that comes with a night on Cocaine.

I get up at 10:30 AM rejuvenated, blow my nose, and have some coke for breakfast. I arrive at work just before my shift starts at noon with some extra pep in my step. The Cocaine will provide me with the motivation I need to stay busy while Shawn closes the store tonight. A half hour into my shift Mark texts me saying he’s about to come through with some money he owes me. It’s too early for me to take a smoke break, and since he’s just dropping off some cash, I tell him to come in and give it to me.

“What’s up, kid?” Mark asks as he comes down my aisle. “Hey! What’s goin’ on, man?” I reply. As we dap each other up and Mark slides me my money I hear footsteps passing the end of the aisle. “Miller time!” Shawn shouts through cupped hands, pointing at an imaginary watch on his dumb fat wrist as he walks by. “The fuck was that about?” Mark asks me. “Nothing. You need help finding anything let me know.” I reply.

 After I dump my trash I run back to the cooler and shut the door. I take the wad of cash from my pocket and start counting it up. 400 even, just as Mark promised.

“Miller time…” I whisper to myself.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Other Thing

Three weeks ago…

I sit in the waiting room at my Suboxone clinic with the other dregs of society. A big dude in his late 20’s sits next to me on a bench with his girlfriend. You can tell she’s been doing the right thing with her immaculate white arms and healthy, natural, skin tone. Her and her boyfriend share a set of earbuds as we all wait for our doctors who are, as per fuckin’ usual, behind schedule.

I’ve been on this shit for… God, six months now? It’s kept me clean, but it hasn’t been without its drawbacks. When I started on 16mg a day, I was a different person. Volatile, short-tempered, lethargic, possessed with a nearly psychotic rage that made me even more reclusive and angry than usual. I wasn’t thinking about getting high anymore, but I was always bitter about something. I was having arguments in my head with friends over trivial things that hadn’t even happened yet, watching them play out like fucked up movies that my imagination brought to life in vivid detail. I had to jump down.

8mg a day was much more manageable. My temper wasn’t flaring up anymore, but I felt like I’d been neutered, and I still felt the numbing effects of the drug a little too strongly. Don’t get me wrong, there are few things I love more than numbing out the world around me with drugs, but without the euphoria that comes with the numbness, it’s just feels weird. I’d wake up without a hard-on every morning. Not that I was crushing pussy when I was on or off dope, but it still fucked with my mood and made me feel like an old man. I jumped down to 4mg.

4mg seemed to be the magic number. I felt reinvigorated. I had some night sweats and a bit of trouble sleeping during the first week, but it was worth it to feel like a fucking human being again. And I still had the safety net of the Naloxone beneath me. As much as I’ve talked shit about Subs so far, they have given me the longest stretch of clean time I’ve ever had since I picked up the needle.

So now I’m sitting here in my usual routine. My visits with Dr. Faust are typically quick and easy. I’ve been up front with him about the side effects I’ve experienced and he’s been supportive in my decision to gradually decrease my dose. I’ve never dropped dirty, and we’re pretty cordial with one another. He’s the third doctor I’ve had at this same clinic. Addiction is a booming industry, and they’ve been opening new locations and bringing on more doctors to keep up with demand. He comes out of his office and into the cramped waiting room.

“Caroline?”

The girl next to me gets up off the bench and follows Dr. Faust into his office. I check my phone. It’s 1:15, my appointment was booked for one o’clock. I have nothing better to do, but still, it’s irritating.

“You been on this shit a long time?” Caroline’s boyfriend asks me as he wraps up his earbuds.

“’Bout six months now.” I reply.

“Is it workin’ for ya?”

“Yeah, I been clean the whole time. Coming here every fuckin’ week gets old, but it’s kept me on track.”

“I hear ya. I was on ‘em twice, but they didn’t keep me totally clean, y’know? I’m just here to support my girl. I’m doing AA now, it’s working pretty well for me.”

“Oh yeah? That’s good.”

“I’m Ray, by the way.”

“Harry, nice to meet you brotha.”

“Yeah, I tried drinking and doing subs, smoking weed and doing subs, but I just can’t fuckin’ handle drugs, man. It always ends with me on a run doin’ fuckin’ speedballs in some shithole by myself.”

“I hear that. I been bringing my dosage down gradually, I wanna get down to a really low dose and then maintain for a while. I just don’t want a monster Sub habit, y’know? I hear they’re a real bitch to get off of.”

“You’re doin’ it right then, man. Just stick to whatever works for you, y’know? I mean I do the 12 steps, I been to detox three times, rehab twice, Methadone, you name it. But the one thing I learned is that there’s no definitive way to do it. I only know what works for me.”

“Yeah, definitely. I feel like sometimes people make the mistake of thinking everybody’s like them, and that their way is the only way…”

“Yup.”

Caroline emerges from the office with her script. She gives Ray a nod and he gets up from the bench and they leave the clinic. Doctor Faust comes back out into the waiting room.

“Harry?”

“Hey, how ya doin?”

“Good, good, follow me…”

I walk into Dr. Faust’s office expecting the usual. “Sorry about the wait Harry, we brought on a new receptionist who didn’t know about our walk-in policy so we’ve been really behind schedule today.” 
Dr. Faust begins.

“It’s OK, no big deal.” I lie.

“So how’ve you been? Everything going smoothly?”

“Yup, just maintaining.”

“That’s good to hear. Let me just bring up your urine here and I’ll get you on your way.”

I zone out and look out the window while Dr. Faust goes through the arduous task of bringing up my lab-grade drug test. For a solid three or four minutes he clicks and types away until he finally brings up the results. His brow furrows and his expression shifts to frustration.

“What happened this week?” He asks flatly.

“What do you mean?” I reply.

Dr. Faust sighs. “Your levels are… non-existent this week. Negative. It’s like you didn’t even have the thing in your mouth at all this week.”

The news sandbags me. My mouth dries up. I become tongue-tied. I dosed my Suboxone every day this week. I didn’t consume any narcotics either. And yet, there on the screen, my urine is completely clean of all drugs. There must’ve been some kind of mistake, but I’m completely unprepared for the news.

“I… I uh… I’m sorry, but I have no idea what happened. I took it every day, I last dosed at 9:30 yesterday morning…”

Dr. Faust sighs again and shakes his head. “If you lie to me, Harry, there’s nothing I can do to help you. Now, you’re obviously doing something differently this week, because your urine came up completely clean. I don’t know what you’ve been up to, but when I see things like this, I worry that you’ve been putting my clinic and my practice at risk. You know I prescribe one of the most prohibited substances in the country, and I don’t take things like this lightly…”

I start to get angry. Spare me the god damn riot act. I get four fucking strips a week, if I wanted to go to all this trouble to flip Subs on the street there’s plenty of cash only doctors out there that’ll give me 60 strips a month with piss tests every 180 days…

But I keep my cool. “Look, I know what this looks like, but I honestly have no idea what happened here. I’ve been doing the right thing and if it was as simple as me fessing up to using again, I’d fess up, but that just isn’t what happened. And I don’t fault you for not believing me, but I’m not admitting to something I didn’t do.”

“Ok, Harry. I’m gonna have to ask you to sign this. I’m out of town next week so you’re gonna drop your sample off and get your script, but the week after that I wanna see your levels back up again or I’ll be forced to drop you as a patient. I don’t want to have to do that, but I can’t have this.”

I sign my first write up and calmly walk out of the door, angry as I am. Flipping out and acting like an angry, guilty, junky is not gonna help my already flimsy case. I get three write-ups per calendar year, so it isn’t really the end of the world. But today’s appointment has shown me that every piss test in this fucking place is like playing Russian roulette. If I can get booted out for doing the right thing, there’s no telling when I could get kicked out and left to fend for myself with Suboxone withdrawals, which I’m told are worse than dope withdrawals. It makes me anxious to say the least.

Two weeks later…

I didn’t sleep much last night. The news from my last visit has been sitting in the pit of my stomach like a rock for the last two weeks. I haven’t told anyone but my counselor about it because of how fucking stupid the whole thing sounds. Clean or not, I’m still a junky, still a professional liar out of necessity. I don’t blame Dr. Faust for not believing me. I made my choices and earned my awful reputation. But to have it thrown in my face when I’m actually trying to do good for once is disheartening and very frustrating.

“Harry?”

I follow Dr. Faust into his office again. “Alright Harry, so I’ve got your levels here, and…”

“Better than last time I saw you, I hope!?” I say nervously.

Dr. Faust lets out another one of his fucking sighs. I wanna kick a hole in his stupid piece of shit Ikea desk and storm out of this place. But I hold it together, because I’m physically addicted to that little notepad of his which keeps my balls in a permanent vice. There’s a lot at stake here, and if I fuck it up with my temper I’ll be shooting up again in three days, if that.

“Well, they are definitely better than last time. But they’re still not where I’d say they need to be. Now, when you come in here and give me a negative sample, I can’t do anything with that. I can’t help you. But you’ve definitely got it in your system this time, so I’m willing to work with you.”

“I don’t know what else to do, I’m sorry. I dosed before I came in these last two weeks! I’m trying, I’m really trying to do the right thing and I just…”

“Do you drink a lot of coffee?”

“A cup or two a day.”

“Alright. So I’m thinking that since coffee is a diuretic, it’s making you flush the Suboxone from your system more quickly…”

Dr. Faust launches into a scientific breakdown as to why coffee might be fucking up my samples. I yes him to death, though I don’t understand a god damn word of it. “So, I’m thinking that if you can skip the coffee before you come in and drop your sample, your levels will come up as a result.”

“Ok.” I reply. I get Fridays off, and rarely if ever drink coffee before my test. I get stage fright like a motherfucker, and have extreme difficulty with pissing on command. I usually wake up on Fridays and hold my morning piss in agony until my appointment. But I guess I’ll humor Dr. Faust here if it lets me keep my script that much longer.

“Alright. Also, next week Dr. Carrol is gonna be coming back and you’re going to be seeing her again. I’ll be bringing her up to speed with everything before she sees you, but if you have any questions or discrepancies I’ll be right across the hall to clear things up, ok?”

“Alright. Thank you.”

I walk out to my car still angry. After being nauseous over this bullshit for two weeks, I expected to finally get it resolved today. The silver lining here is that Dr. Carrol never had an issue with my levels and didn’t assume the worst in me like Dr. Faust did in the past. Still, I’m anxious. I decide that no matter where the piss roulette takes me next week, I’m gonna ask to jump down to 2mg a day. If I get whacked again I can start tapering off this shit for good. The stress that it’s given me could drive me back to the needle just as easily as anything else.

One week later…

With Dr. Carrol returning and playing catch-up with her old patients, things are running behind schedule again. I finally see her a half hour after our scheduled appointment time. It’s almost as if I never stopped seeing her.

“So, you’re taking 4mg a day now, that’s working well for you?” She says.

“Yup, I actually wanted to jump down to 2mg this week if that’s ok.” I reply.

“Oh! That’s absolutely fine! Let me just edit your prescription here… Congratulations on jumping down, it looks like you’ve been decreasing your dose gradually and doing everything right. You must be proud to have made it this far!”

“Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.”

“You really should be proud of yourself, Harry. While Suboxone is a wonderful tool to maintain and reduce cravings, it isn’t without its drawbacks. Let me just check your labs and you’ll be on your way, alright?”

“Yup, sure.”

“Alright, and your levels look perfectly fine for a half a day. Here’s your script, see you next week!”

This time, I’m the one that sighs. I feel like I just took a ten pound shit. Something tells me that the Faust regime has passed and once again I can live peacefully knowing that if I do the right thing I can expect good in return. I chuckle slightly in relief as I pull out of the parking lot.

I stop by my place and head over to my parents’ house to give my Dad a ride to chemo. He’s been fighting Lymphoma since ’96, a walking talking medical journal entry. He’s seen shit that puts my best stories to shame, though he’s ashamed to admit to it most of the time. Sometimes if he’s been drinking I can weasel a few tales out of him, but like he always says: “I can’t stand glorifying that shit.”

“You see your doctor today?” He asks me as he gets in the car.

“Yeah.” I reply.

“So, how’s that shit working for you?”

“Good. I jumped down to two milligrams a day today.”

“Did ya? You trying to get off the shit now?”

“Nah, nah, not necessarily. I just wanna be at a really low maintenance dose. When I was at a higher dosage, I had some fucked up side effects that were driving me crazy. I like the reduced cravings and the blocking effects, but there’s a lot of other shit that comes with it that I could really do without.”

“Such as…?”

“My temper would flare up. I’d wake up after a full night’s sleep still groggy. And it uh… Well, there were other things about it that made me wanna drop the shit completely.”

“I can imagine. I was never on ‘em for that long, just enough to detox from the Oxies and Fentanyl. And I only did that shit ‘cause I had such easy access to it, y’know? The stimulants were always my poison. I could drop the opiates no problem.”

“Yeah…”

“I know you might see that shit like it’s a fuckin’ ball and chain. Going down there, pissing, getting scrutinized every week. I know it’s a pain in the ass. You might not admit it to me, but I know how your brain tries to trick ya when you’ve got the gene. But I’m proud of ya, seriously. You’re doing the right thing. You’re really playing Russian roulette every time you pick that fucking needle up, I hope you know that. I mean, not that I can preach, but in my day, you knew what you were fuckin’ getting. I never used a needle, but from what I hear, these days, even the fucking pills are cut with that Fentanyl…”

“I know, I know. It has been helping me. I just feel apathetic, I guess. Like I’m going through the motions. I miss the excitement. The money, the rush. Shit like that.”

“Hehe, right. You’re romanticizing it. I’ve been guilty of the same shit. Especially if I’ve had a few. But you can’t tell me you miss the fuckin’ paranoia. The bullshit. Is this guy gonna come through for me, is that guy gonna squeal on me, am I being fuckin’ followed?”

“I try and remind myself of that shit. It wasn’t as good as I make it out to be, deep down I know that, but I get bored with shit so easily…”

“Yeah, I know, trust me. Word to the wise? Try getting out there again. Go find a nice broad, get laid. Preferably one that won’t get you back into your old ways, hehe.”

“Yeah, you’re right…”

“I know ya brush it off, but I’m serious! You got the looks! You been off the H for a long time now, you gotta be craving it like a mothafucka!”

“Yeah, I just don’t know. Without coke or ecstasy as a crutch I don’t know what to do! I’m so fuckin’ shy, awkward…”

“Hehe… I don’t mean to laugh at ya, it’s just that you remind me so much of myself sometimes. I was the exact same way. Nobody ever expected me to be into the shit I was into. It can work to your advantage, as I’m sure you already know. But I want you to keep your nose clean, no more of that shit. Selling or buying."

“I couldn’t do it if I wanted to. I’m living fucking paycheck to paycheck as is.”

“And you know I wish I could help you with that.”

“Please. I wouldn’t take it anyway. You got your own problems, I’m my own man. I’m just saying. Shit used to be so easy. I wish I made better choices. I’d be in a much better place right now.”

“I tell ya, kid. I feel like these days I’m serving a karma sentence or something. All the shit I did back in the day, well… Not even back in the day, ten or so years ago, I feel like I’m paying for it tenfold now. My fucking doctor now is scared to give me my Vicodin. It figures, y’know? Once I actually need the hard drugs I can’t even get ‘em anymore. I’m a cancer patient, for fuck’s sake! They bring me in for pill counts and piss tests, treated like a criminal when I finally gave all that shit up…”

“That’s fucked up…”

“Look, I know I fucked up a lot as a parent. I’m still making up for it to this day. But one thing, the only thing, I ever prided myself on is that I always told you shit straight up. I’m not gonna promise you it’ll get better, but if you fall back into that shit, it can’t get better. Not to mention it’d kill your mother and I if, God forbid…”

“I know, Dad. I know…”

“Alright, pal. Take care of yourself, thanks for the ride.”

I drop my Dad off and go to pick up my script. It seems like no matter what time of day I go to Walgreen’s there’s always a fucking line of at least three people in front of me and another couple in the drive-thru. As I get in line I see a guy that looks to be a few years older than me with spiky, slicked-back hair dyed red. He sits next to a withered middle-aged blonde woman. My junky sense tingles before they even say a word. The red haired guy looks pensive and anxious. The woman looks dead. She probably isn’t nearly as old as she looks. The junk takes off weight and puts on years. I get a knot in my stomach as I wait for my subs and eavesdrop on their conversation.

The guy at the head of the line, a very thin, frail looking man with a thin mustache gets his script and approaches the woman and the red haired guy. He looks almost like John Waters, the cult film director from the 70’s.

“Hey, Danny! How ya doin’?!” The woman croaks, her voice tinged from years of Newports, narcotics, and bottom shelf swill. Not that I’m looking down at her. I see people like her and the red head and feel like I’m looking into the fucking future sometimes.

“Good, good, I got a job at the scrap metal yard downtown.” Danny replies.

“Oh? That’s great! This is my friend Jason.” The woman says, pointing to the red head.

“Hey man, how’s it going…” Jason says, keeping his voice low. The woman doesn’t seem to give a fuck about keeping a low profile. Danny takes the third chair next to them and sits down.

“So, Danny, you still living with your father!?” The woman asks.

“Yeah, yeah, I actually got him out front waiting for me.” Danny says.

“Oh, ok, good. You think you could get me a job doing something over there? I need something more than EBT and section eight, know what I’m saying?”

“I would, Lisa, I really would. But there’s no fuckin money in that shit. I only got the gig ‘cause my uncle runs the place. Otherwise I’d be shit outta luck.”

“Oh, alright, no big deal. How the fuck you doin’ with the other thing?” Lisa asks bluntly.

The other thing. That’s what my buddy Pat used to call it when he was working with me at Wilson’s. I was so fucking na├»ve back then. Acid, ecstasy, weed, and booze were all I needed to get away from it all. Not that I had much to get away from to begin with. I hadn’t even started sniffing coke yet. Those were the days…

“Fine, fine! I’m doing great.” Danny says.

“That’s not what I heard, Danny. Don’t you fuckin’ lie to me now. What reason do you have to fucking lie to me, huh? Who am I gonna tell?!” Lisa demands, growing louder and louder with every word. Danny is clearly embarrassed. I feel for him.

“Well, uh, y’know… Here and there! Here and there, that’s it. It’s not a fuckin’ every day thing no more, I swear. Anyways, I gotta go. My father’s waiting for me.”

“Alright, Danny. You know I didn’t mean nothin’ by that, I just wanna see you do good, y’know? Gimme a hug…”

Danny gives Lisa a hug and leaves. The red head sits there with his head in his hand, clearly embarrassed. “How much longer?!” I hear him whisper to Lisa as I finally get my turn in line. “Hold on, lemme call him, he’s usually on point. I need a fuckin’ cigarette.” Lisa replies as she clicks away on a Trac phone.

I verify my address, identity, and phone number before the pharmacist gives me my highly coveted two Suboxone strips. It’s not like it’s a major hassle to pick the shit up, but I get bored with routines, unless of course the routine involves scrounging up money to get high with. I’ll be the first to admit I’m hard to please. I can be a real negative Ned sometimes, if you’ll excuse my language.

The plight of Lisa, Danny, and the red head leaves a bad taste in my mouth that rivals the n-bome mixed with orange Pledge taste of my Suboxone dose. I know I’ve been doing the right thing, but seeing people going through it really fucks me up. If I had been there to get needles and not pick up my subs I would’ve probably bummed a smoke for them and propositioned them for their connection. But I didn’t, so I guess that's a good sign?

The doubt comes flooding back as I drive home. I decide to take the long way. When I first got on those fucking strips I knew they were a Band-aid, but am I really ready to jump off this soon? God, what a flip-flopping piece of shit I am. This morning I was hell bent on getting off the shit and putting all of this behind me, then I see a couple of junkies commiserating at the pharmacy and all of a sudden I have cold feet?! I’m a relapse waiting to happen. What fucking chance do I have without that Naloxone safety net that’s been keeping in me in line these past few months?

I pull up to a red light slowly and take a deep breath. It’s been a year since I admitted I needed help with this shit. It hasn’t been easy to say the least. In some areas I’ve made leaps and bounds, in others I’m still right where I’ve started. But one of the few things I’ve picked up over the course of this fucked up journey is that my brain is my worst enemy. It’s one of my Dad’s mantras, and I’ve heard it in one form or another from my counselor and countless speakers at AA and NA meetings. So I throw on some Disco Biscuits and turn it up until it’s all I can hear. I drown that fucking brain of mine out until it slowly fades out. As I focus on the road I slowly let go and just live in the moment.


I feel like I just took a ten pound shit.