Whomp… Whomp… My phone vibrates through the break room table as I bite into a cold chicken parm sub I bought at 711. My taste in food is appalling. I will take McDick’s over a home cooked traditional meal any day. I put the sandwich down and check my text messages. “Im back. Lmk if u need.” I don’t recognize the number, but I know it’s Stan. My eyes light up as I hit him back. “That’s great to hear, man. Can I grab a hundo? Working till 8.” Stan is a middle man that cops heroin for me and delivers it for a $20 fee. He lives just down the street from me, though I don’t know where exactly. Other than his name and our mutual enthusiasm for mainlining smack, Stan is a complete mystery to me. I guess you kind of have to be when you’re in his line of work.
Stan completely disappeared about a month ago. I was forced to look elsewhere to find dope. On one desperate night, I took a three hour public transit pilgrimage to buy heroin off a man named Clarence I’d met on the internet. Dark times indeed. Now Stan has returned, and on pay day no less. The Christmas Eve tingle of euphoria that comes before every pickup surges through my veins as I work and check my phone obsessively. At 7:30 he calls me, and I run to the stock room to answer him. “What’s up, brotha? You work over by Wally World, right?” “Yeah, at the pharmacy.” I reply. “Cool. I think I’m just gonna meet you there, alright? I gotta meet another dude that lives out that way. So just meet me at Wal Mart at 8, ok?” “Sounds good, man.” I say as I hang up. I need to buy fresh spikes, so meeting at Wal Mart works out perfectly. The last half hour of my shift ticks by at an agonizingly slow pace as I work.
I toss my work uniform into my backpack and start walking towards Wal Mart at exactly 8:00. “Here now.” I text Stan as I approach the front doors. “Go inside and look at shit. Runnin a lil late.” Stan replies. Stan is rarely late, and I have to pick up a few things anyway, so I don’t sweat it. I buy a case of 100 needles from the pharmacy and pocket a bottle of Loperamide when I inevitably run out of dope. I need deodorant too, so I stuff a stick of Old Spice into my back pocket. I can’t spend my own money on such luxuries, after all. After I pay Stan, my landlord, Verizon wireless, and my credit cards, I’ll barely have money for food and bus fare this week. If I make the minimum payments on my Discover and Capital One cards I’ll have $50 to eat with for the next seven days. This isn’t a huge deal. Stan’s disappearance has kept me off dope (unwillingly) for three weeks, which has undoubtedly lowered my tolerance, which wasn’t all that high to begin with. I’m gonna be doing a lot of puking this weekend, so I won’t have much of a use for food. I see a lot of Mountain Dew and Starburst in my dietary future. Oh well. If I get diabetes, at least I’ll have plenty of fresh needles.
My local Wally World is like a third world marketplace. At any given moment you can hear a baby crying, a couple arguing in a foreign language, or a custody battle taking place over the phone. It’s constantly in a state of chaos, and the employees shuffle around with blank stares and apathetic faces. “15 mins sorry.” Stan texts me as I wander the store. I appreciate Stan’s updates, as most dope dealers have a tendency to tell you they’re five minutes away for hours at a time. I make my way to the electronics section and look around. “Xbox One? How long has that shit been out? Two years? Shit…” I don’t think I’ve played a video game since GTA 5 came out. The only time I even think about them is when I debate selling my old 360 to Gamestop for $20. The new release movie section is loaded with films I’ve never heard of, let alone seen, and reminds me of the brown rock I’ve been living under this last year. I tell Stan to meet me by the magazines as I thumb through an issue of XXL.
Stan finally shows up almost a half hour later. “What’s up, brotha?” He says as he daps me up. He speaks slowly and softly, with a slight rasp from his American Spirit cigarettes. I can see orange syringe caps poking slightly out of his pocket. “Not much, man. It’s been a minute. Where the fuck have you been?” I ask him as we walk. “I just had to disappear for a while...” He mumbles back as we make our way over to the sporting goods section. We find a secluded corner by the bicycles and make the deal. Stan operates with a level of paranoia and caution that some might consider overkill, but I appreciate it. When you’re copping dope on a regular basis, it’s easy to forget that your daily routine can get you a felony conviction.
“This shit is fucked up, man… People say they’re your boy and they got you whenever, and then they go and stab you in the back…” Stan mumbles he pulls two gallons of water off the shelf. I’m dehydrated, so my veins are constricted. I grab a Gatorade so they’ll be nice and ready by the time I get home. “Yeah, I know how that goes, man.” I reply. “Yeah, but you know, I just try to take it in stride…” He says, almost sounding like he believes it. He looks tired, but not in the usual way heroin addicts look tired. This lifestyle has beaten him down.
“Got my piss test tomorrow morning.” Stan says as he puts the two gallons of water on the conveyer belt. “Oh yeah? Looks like you’ll be ready.” Stan just nods. I go to swipe my card to pay for my Gatorade when he interjects. “I got you, dude. Don’t worry about it.” The cashier rings all our shit up together and Stan peels off a $20 from the big wad of cash from his pocket. “Welcome to Wal Marrrrttttt…” An old woman can be heard saying as we walk out the door. “Can you believe that shit? 80 years old working at fucking Wally World….” Stan says as he lights a cigarette. “No shit. It’s fuckin sad, man.” I reply. “Sorry I was late, by the way. Lost my license on some dumb shit. Had to take the fuckin’ bus…” I roll my eyes. “I know how that goes, man. That fucking thing is never on time. I’m about to take it home. I might just say fuck it and walk.” Stan nods. “It is wicked nice out tonight.” “Yeah, summer’s finally here. It just sucks hiding my arms, y’know? I bruise wicked easily, even if I hit it clean with a fresh spike. And if I’m shooting coke? Fucking forget about it…” “Fuckin’ tell me about it dude… That’s why I don’t shoot coke anymore. Once I start I can’t stop. What I don’t get is how people still smoke crack…” Stan says. “Yeah, crystal kinda made crack obsolete, didn’t it? You can’t get any of that, right?” I ask Stan. “What, meth!? Nah…” He says, insulted I’d ask for such a thing. “I figured as much. Sometimes I think I’m the only one in this fucking state that likes tweaking every now and then.” I say, chuckling. Stan gets serious for a moment. “That shit is fucking poison, man. You’ll lose your god damn mind shooting that shit.”
“You see that car wash?” Stan asks me, pointing across the street. “Yeah, what about it?” “My boy I get my work from, his uncle used to sell coke outta there. No small time shit, either. Keys. Feds came in and raided it, found 20 bricks, a couple guns, and a hundred grand. It was like ten years ago.” “Huh. Sounds like some Stringer Bell shit.” I reply with a smile. “You fuck with The Wire?” “Of course. That and The Sopranos are like my favorite shows ever. Shit, The Sopranos has been off the air for like ten years, and I still miss it.” “Yeah, The Sopranos was a classic show, man. I remember back in the day me and my boys would get together, blow some 30’s, and watch it every Sunday. Not so much anymore, though…” Stan says, trailing off as we finally reach the bus stop. “Alright brotha, I’m going the other way. Let me know how you like this shit, as usual.” Stan says, dapping me up and walking across the street. “Will do, man. Be safe. Good luck with your piss test!”
My bus isn’t set to come for another 20 minutes. This bag of dope is burning a hole in my pocket, so I decide to walk the rest of the way. By the time I get back to my apartment my veins are out and starving. I grab a Q-tip from the bathroom, a bottle cap from an empty 40, a glass of water, and get to work. As much as I want to dive right in, I must do a test shot first. If I underestimate the potency of the dope, I could die, which is a waste of perfectly good heroin. I let out a long, shivering sigh as I pull the needle out of my arm and fall back into the couch. God, I’ve missed this. Now that I’ve gauged potency, it’s time to really get nice. I do another small shot, which gives me just the push I need to melt into my couch.
I nod in and out for a solid hour before I prep my next shot. I probably shouldn’t be re-dosing so soon, but fuck it, right? Best case scenario, I get high as fuck. Worst case scenario, I get to sleep forever. I decide to get a little theatrical as I slip my earbuds in and put on some Emancipator. Sometimes I like to choreograph my heroin use. I mix up my shot and draw it up into my spike as the song builds, register as usual, then… wait. Just as the bass drops and the song reaches its climax, I push down on the plunger. When synced perfectly, it makes for an incredibly euphoric experience. I grab a cigarette off the coffee table as I fall back into the couch, but the nod overwhelms me before I can even light it.
My music is cut off abruptly as Jack calls my cell phone. I try to blink out of the nod, only to be sucked right back in. I slap myself in the face and answer the call. “Hello…?” I answer, high as fuck. “What’s good? You tryna chill?” He replies. I look at the clock. It’s 11 PM. I forgot Jack works second shift now. I told him we’d chill when he got off. Guess I got a little distracted. “Yeah, yeah, come through.” I mumble into the phone. “Word, see you in 20 minutes.” He replies as I hang up. “Fuck.” I look down at my arms. The tracks are minimal and won’t bruise until tomorrow. I stumble to the kitchen sink and splash cold water on my face in a futile attempt to escape the nod. I put on a pot of coffee as well. Under no circumstance can Jack find out I do heroin now. I lean against the kitchen counter to support myself, almost cracking my head off it as I begin to slip. I pour a big cup of black coffee into my mug and stick it in the freezer for a minute, guzzling it down as I take it out. I repeat this process and pour myself a third cup to sip warm. I sit down on the couch and make a mental note not to scratch myself too much in his presence.
“What’s good?” Jack asks as he sits down next to me. “What’s up…” I mumble back slowly. “Little late for coffee, isn’t it?” Jack asks as he pulls a bag of weed out of his pocket. “Hehe, yeah. I’m wicked fucking tired, man. Work was fuckin’ brutal today…” Just when I thought I was out, the nod pulls me back in. Jack punches my arm and I jolt awake. “Shit, sorry man…” I say as I reach for my cigarettes. “The fuck do you mean work was brutal? You don’t have a real job.” Jack says, snickering as he breaks up bud on the coffee table. “Go fuck yourself…” I reply, chuckling as I exhale. “I was drinking a little too.” “You got beer?” Jack asks, nodding at the refrigerator. “Shit.” “Nah, sorry, I was on my last one when you called. I woulda grabbed something, I forgot you were coming through.” I lie with a disturbing amount of ease. “It’s cool. I need papers, though, you got any?” “Yeah, one sec…” I say as I get up and head to my room. I grab the papers from my nightstand and make a quick trip to the bathroom to splash more water on my face. I feel something in my stomach and turn the faucet on full blast to drown the noise. Coffee, Gatorade, and stomach bile rocket out of my gullet and into the toilet. I dry heave for a few seconds before staggering back to my feet. I swish some mouthwash and splash more water in my face. “Pull it together motherfucker…”
This joint will be my downfall, and I know it, but my hands are tied. Turning down free weed will raise suspicion. I have to smoke. Jack punches me in the arm again. “Huh?! The fuck!?” I gasp, disoriented. “You’re nodding out on me like a fucking dope fiend.” Jack says, laughing as he passes me the joint. “Shit, man. I’m sorry…” I start scratching my neck fiendishly as I hit the joint. This must be how dogs feel when you scratch behind their ears. I realize I’m probably enjoying it a little too much and stop. I finish my third coffee and am finally feeling lucid again when the joint reaches the roach. “You want anymore?” Jack says as he exhales. I shake my head. “All yours, dude.” Jack stamps the joint out in the ash tray and puts it in the bag with his weed. “Alright man, I’m gonna take off. Try not to fucking OD on me tonight.” He says jokingly as he stands up. “Ouch.” “Hehe, go fuck yourself. See you later.” I say as he leaves.
I can see why Stan’s so tired now.