Kelly and her awful pink Corolla are nowhere to be found as I pull into the Wilson’s pharmacy parking lot. My shift starts at noon, and it’s 11:45. Fuck. I turn the car off and sit there, stewing and smoking and sipping my black coffee. Caffeine, what a shitty drug. No matter how many turbo shots I dump into this giant cup of bitter laxative, it hardly compares to the powerful euphoria of good stimulants like cocaine or crystal meth. Kelly told me she was gonna meet me here before work and sell me ten 30 milligram Adderall. Adderall is one of my favorite drugs, but I rarely have access to it. Uppers aren’t too popular in my area. When I’m on Adderall it’s like I’m a normal, functioning, happy human being. I actually have the drive to do things, the confidence to believe I can do them, and the sex drive of a chimpanzee. I can actually focus on tasks and actually give a fuck about doing them properly and to the best of my ability. The one drawback is that once I start taking it, I am incapable of stopping. Like most sources of pleasure in life, I have a tendency to use it until I ruin everything.
Another car pulls in next to me as I pout. The girl driving it makes eye contact with me for a split second, and I divert my gaze in a panic. I am such a fucking worm. I have ripped off drug dealers for thousands of dollars, gone to the hood to cop heroin, ordered crystal meth off the internet, been arrested, injected cotton water into my bloodstream, and ingested reckless quantities of acid. I have woken up on the floor with a needle in my arm, only to be angry that I didn’t die. God forbid I show a little backbone and get laid once in a while. Heroin neutering me certainly hasn’t helped this recent, lengthy dry spell, but I’ve been clean for two weeks following my arrest, and I feel like I’m 14 again. It was fun at first, but the constant random erections and perverted thoughts are starting to get annoying now.
This girl doesn’t appear to have legitimate business to carry out inside of Wilson’s. She’s fiddling with something on her center console, and as much as I feel like a creep, I can’t look away. She takes off her sweatshirt and I begin to grow suspicious. “Relax you fucking junky, not everyone’s a fuck-up like you.” She lowers her head, and slowly brings it back up. Though her car door blocks the action, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on, and I’m not happy about it. My heartrate picks up as I enjoy the show through my side mirror. As she wraps the seatbelt around her arm, I begin to wonder if the universe is fucking with me. She slaps her arm, and it looks like she registers successfully first try. She slumps back in the seat and her eyelids slowly lower in ecstasy. The seatbelt slowly unwinds back to its natural position. I need to say something.
“PARDON ME, MADAM! I COULDN’T HELP BUT NOTICE WE BOTH SHARE A PASSION FOR INTRAVENOUS DRUG USE!”
“HEY! HEY! WAIT! I’M NOT A COP, I SWEAR TO GOD, DON’T BE SCARED. I LOVE HEROIN TOO. MAYBE WE COULD DO HEROIN TOGETHER, OR MAYBE YOU COULD HELP ME FIND SOME HEROIN? HEROIN.”
As my retarded daydream scenarios play out, she drives away. “God damn it, where the fuck is Kelly?!” I shout, and throw my phone on the floor. Seconds later, my phone vibrates. “U still need those?” Kelly asks in a text. “Yup. At wilson’s now.” “K. Be there in 10.” It’s 12:00 now, but I don’t really give a shit about being late. Me showing up 15 minutes late and high on amphetamine is better than me showing up sober and miserable. Kelly pulls in next to me and comes out of her car holding her purse and a red bull. “You get a monthly prescription for 60 tablets of pharmaceutical speed, why are you even bothering with a red bull? That’s like me taking a perc 5 for shit’s and gigs…” I am an insufferable prick when I’m kept waiting for my drugs. I shouldn’t be lashing out like this. Kelly is a nice girl, and her selling me her pharma-grade speed is very generous. Biting the hand that feeds me will get me nowhere. “Hey! Sorry I’m late, my professor wanted to talk to me after class, and it was a lab day…” She says as she pulls out her bottle of pills. Kelly is in veterinary school. “I should ask her if she has access to ketamine. That shit is never around, I could make some serious cash…” When you’ve gone far enough down the rabbit hole, people are no longer people, but tools, defined by who can get you what and who you can manipulate to get what you want. Doing things just because they’re the right or nice thing to do is a foreign concept that I’m only just beginning to relearn. The little scumbag on my shoulder is persistent, but for once, I ignore him.
Kelly takes my fifty dollars and leaves. I get right down to business and crush my 30 mg football into a fine powder. I put the pill on the middle of a $20 bill, and fold it up so that no powder can escape the creases on the top and sides. I then proceed to rub a lighter over the bill until it’s sufficiently crushed. You’d be surprised how much abuse American currency can take without ripping. I dump the pink powder out onto my smart phone and chop it up into four fat lines. I gak them up greedily, gulping down the sweet, sugary, drip in clumps as it slides down my throat. Now I’m ready for work.
I forgot how much I love Adderall. I also forgot what it feels like to give a shit. Life seems manageable now. My impending court case is a challenge, but I now feel as though it will be a learning experience for me. It’s gonna suck, but I will get through it, I’m sure of that. I stock shelves and help customers quickly and courteously. I take another half pill on my lunch break and google whether or not it’s safe to shoot up Adderall. Turns out it isn’t. Gotta love Erowid.
As great as I feel now, I know I am living on borrowed time. Knowing me, these eight and a half remaining Adderall will last me another two to three days max. When I run out I will be dehydrated, emaciated, depressed, and fiending for heroin. I made a promise to my lawyer and father that I’d cut the shit and stay clean. They didn’t say anything about Adderall and benzos, though, as the little scumbag on my shoulder was quick to point out to me. Benzos are absolutely vital to cushion my fall when I come crashing back down to reality. Only trouble is, I don’t know anybody with benzos.
But I know a guy who knows a guy.
“Aw shit, you know this one, right?!” Middle Man Mike says as we drive to the projects. “Oxy Cotton” by Lil’ Wyte blares through the stereo. I know this song and its subject matter all too well. “Of course, dude! This is a classic!” I reply. “Dude, back in the day, this was my shit. I used to ride around selling 80’s blasting this shit in my system. WATCHA WANT, WATCHA NEED, HIT ME UP I GOTCHA MANE! WHATCHA WANT, WATCHA NEED, HIT ME UP I GOTCHA MANE!” Middle Man Mike is a grizzled veteran of the drug war. He enlisted during the heyday of prescription opiates, when OC 80’s were not only plentiful, but injectable as well. Middle Man Mike quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a wholesale supplier with connections to the pill mills down in Florida. What’s more impressive is that he did all of this while he was still in high school. I’ve done my share of dirt, but Middle Man Mike’s stories make me look like a fucking boy scout. Every time we hang out I listen to his war stories with childlike wonder and wide-eyed attentiveness.
Middle Man Mike’s downfall came fast and hard. A task force was created. Statements were made. People went to jail. The pill traffic slowed down, but Middle Man Mike’s habit did not. Like so many of his comrades, he found himself switching from Oxy to heroin out of desperation. Middle Man Mike blew his entire fortune on dope. I can certainly relate to him in that regard. A monthly injection of Vivitrol is the only thing that keeps the monkey off his back these days. Having retired from serious drug dealing, he now makes a meager living helping people score drugs and getting alcohol runs for minors.
“I’m surprised you don’t know Leslie. She used to work a register at Wilson’s, back when I still worked there too. They fired her for showing up hammered.” Middle Man Mike says. I’m surprised I don’t know Leslie either. The only people I really talk to at work are the druggies. Everyone else kinda sucks. “Yeah, I’m sure I’ll remember her when I see her.” “She’s fucking tapped, dude. I smoked crack with her once while we were on break. It was wicked funny, we kept leaving and coming back in like every five minutes to smoke more, Lisa was pissed!” “So what does she do these for? Like how many milligrams are they?” Middle Man Mike smiles. “They’re ten milli’s. I used to grab ‘em off her before I got my script. She was all fucked up and was like ‘How much should I charge for these?’ so I told her two bucks. She could easily get double that, but she’s retarded.” I figure I might as well stock up. A man with a court date can never have too much Valium.
The entire fourth floor of the project apartments stinks of stale air and cigarettes. The cheap red carpet lining the hallway is riddled with mystery stains. “Denise?! Denise, please, open the god damn door!” A man down the hall shouts at a door. He sighs and jiggles the stubborn handle to no avail. “Son of a bitch!” The man starts pounding and kicking at the door. Middle Man Mike shoots me a “yikes!” look as he knocks on the door to Leslie’s apartment. “Mikey!” Leslie says as she opens the door. Leslie is frail, and looks to be in her late 40’s or early 50’s. Her skin is freckled and tan, the kind of leathery tan that screams skin cancer. Her wide and wrinkled eyes suggest she’s seen some shit. She hugs Middle Man Mike, and I see a crack pipe in her hand. “Hey, Leslie! This is my friend Harry…” Middle Man Mike says awkwardly. “Hi Harry! Wait a minute, didn’t I work with you at Wilson’s?” She asks me. “I think so, you look familiar…” I reply. “I thought I recognized you! Come on in guys!” Leslie says as we step into her apartment.
“You guys can have a seat!” Leslie says as we enter her kitchen. Sitting at the kitchen table is an older man with long grey hair tied back in a ponytail. He doesn’t acknowledge Middle Man Mike and I as he searches his arm for a vein. His concentration is intense as he slaps his arm and stretches the skin of his track-covered limb for a new injection site. Leslie takes a big hit of crack at the kitchen counter. “Rick, don’t be rude, say hi!” She barks at the man at the table. Rick mumbles something back, but it is unintelligible with the belt in his mouth. “Don’t mind him, he’s a fuckin’ asshole.” Leslie says as she looks through her impressive collection of prescription bottles on the counter. She finds the bottle of Valium and turns to me. “Alright, so how many did ya want?” “They’re two a pop, right? Gimme twenty.” I reply. “I just filled my script. I’ll give you all 30 for 50. I got some Roxies too if you’re into them.” I shake my head. “No Roxies for me, I’ll do the whole script for 50, though.” Leslie nods and hands me the bottle of pills. I scrape at the label just enough to tear her name off the bottle and stick the label under the table. Leslie preps another hit of crack. “You want a hit, Mikey? For old time sake?” She asks Middle Man Mike, laughing. Rick seems to have found a vein and is nodding hard at the table. Middle Man Mike stands up eagerly and takes the crack pipe from Leslie. He takes a huge rip, his eyes bulge, and he pumps his fists. “God damn! Holy shit, I haven’t done this shit in a wicked long time. Holy shit…” He says between gulps of air. “You want any?” Leslie asks me. “No thanks.” I’m not above smoking crack; I’ve just never had much of an interest in it. If I’m going to chase a rush, I’m going with heroin, since it will actually keep me high for a few hours rather than a few minutes. Plus, with all the Adderall I’ve taken today, I’m already stimulated enough. “You guys want a beer?” Leslie says as she pulls two Natty Ices from her otherwise empty fridge. I take one, light a smoke, and get comfortable in my creaky wooden chair. I know I’m not leaving ‘till the crack is gone.
Middle Man Mike isn’t the type to stop smoking crack when there’s no more crack. I gave him $10 to set this deal up, and I don’t know how much cash he has on him currently. Given our environment, I assume we wouldn’t have to travel far to score some more. As Leslie takes a rip, I can hear a baby crying. Leslie doesn’t acknowledge it, and I assume it must be coming from a neighboring apartment. She passes the pipe back to Middle Man Mike, who passes it back to her as the crying grows louder. It gets so loud, in fact, that Rick awakens from his nod. “Jesus Fucking Christ! Are you deaf?!” He shouts at Leslie as he rubs his forehead. Leslie sighs, rolls her eyes, and goes into the other room. She returns with a crying baby over her shoulder. “Shhhh… It’s OK… Are you hungry?” She whispers to the baby as she opens up the empty cabinets above and below the kitchen counter. “Shit… You sure you don’t want any Roxies? I got fuckin’ Xanax, I got… I got Vyvanse and subs too!” She asks me, sounding a bit more desperate this time. “Don’t you go selling my fucking subs now!” Rick growls at her. “Well then what the fuck do you want me to do, Rick?! Huh?! We got no fuckin’ food, I used up all my WIC, my EBT doesn’t get filled ‘till next month…” The baby begins to cry again as Leslie raises her voice. “Shhhh… It’s alright, sweetie. Shhhh….” I can’t do this. I dump two Valium and an Adderall out into my palm and gulp them down without a second thought. Watching kids get caught up in this awful lifestyle always fucks me up. “YOU GOT YOUR FUCKING CHECK THIS MONTH, WE NEED FOOD FOR JAMES! OH WAIT, LEMME GUESS, YOU BLEW THE WHOLE FUCKING THING ON DOPE ALREADY?!” Leslie screams. “You just got 50 bucks from him for your Valium! I’m not stupid, don’t try and pull this shit with me!” Rick replies. He balls his fist and slams it against the table in opi-rage. As all this plays out, Middle Man Mike helps himself to more crack. I stand up. “Let’s go, man.” I say to him. He looks at me in confusion. “Why? They’re not gonna…” I cut him off. “Let’s go. I gotta take care of some shit. Please.” As the kid wails, all I want to do is get the fuck out of here. Middle Man Mike senses this and we leave without saying goodbye. Leslie and Rick can be heard arguing all the way down the hall as we approach the elevator.
I chain smoke in silence as we drive back to my apartment. “Yo, have you heard Luca Brasi 2?! I been listening to it nonstop lately…” Middle Man Mike says as he fucks with his phone and drives. “Nah, haven’t heard it… That was fucked up, man.” I mumble. Middle Man Mike nods his head quickly. “Dude, I told you, she’s fucking tapped. She’s a crackhead. But she’s a good connect as far as pills and shit go.” “I’m talking about her fucking kid, man. It’s just not fair, y’know?” Middle Man Mike shrugs. “Yeah, I guess that was pretty fucked up. What’re ya gonna do though, right? Check this out dude…” Middle Man Mike pulls Leslie’s bag of crack from his pocket and laughs. “When did you grab that?!” I ask, shocked. “I’m a ninja, dude. She’s probably going apeshit trying to find it now.” Middle Man Mike lets out a loud, cracked-out cackle as we drive. “It’s for the best. She’s someone’s mother, she shouldn’t be smoking crack.”