I had the perfect junkie set-up. I worked in the arcade section of a theme park. All transactions were done in cash from the canvas apron around my waist. I could skim off my till everyday without my monster corporate employer ever having a clue. By the time my shift was over I would be dopesick, and I’d drive home with a running nose to give the cash directly to my dealer and roommate for my daily packets.
Will was an ordinary drug dealer with an extraordinary wit, calves like tree trunks tattooed with angry dragons. His girlfriend also lived with us and was the weirdest of all because she was a normal person who wore khakis and worked in a drug store. I slept in the second room on an air mattress with my best buddy Ron, ex of my sister who got me the job at the theme park and had also just come out of the closet. Ron and I spent all our stolen money on dope and lived off ramen noodles and Newports.
Damon got out of jail shortly after I moved in with Will. We spent a few nights together–high, of course. Damon’s mother decided to move the family to the West Coast to get Damon away from the bad elements, like Will and his other criminal friends. The last I remember is the two of us standing by my car, Damon squinting in the early morning light. I gave him my sunglasses after I kissed him goodbye.
The next weekend I drove to the coastal city a few hours away to visit some old friends who had moved there from our original hick town. While there, I got romantically involved with another disaster – a DJ with a great sense of humor and a broken past.
I also discovered that packets sold for twenty dollars each there, which was five dollars more than where I was from. The packets were miserably small and stepped on. The poor junkies were really getting ripped-off. It just wasn’t fair.
Somehow I finagled my way into hooking up with Will’s excellent Puerto Rican connect and, just like that, I stopped going to work at the theme park and moved. I had a new business opportunity, so I left Will’s apartment, drove to the coast and malingered in a house full of ravers in a never-ending party.
H was not a big thing when I first arrived. I think because it was so crappy and expensive it was impossible to get hooked. Some kids used it occasionally while they were coming off a roll or something, but now I had the real deal, and the heroin addiction spread like a pestilence.
A few times a week I would make a road trip and bring fingers of H to the coast, break it up, and sell it in the local clubs in the historic district and to my circle of raver friends, which kept growing as more people found out about me.
How many of those initiates went on to become full-blown junkies?
I would say the majority did, at least for a period of time. Whoever I was dating, I would change them too. It was just like forming a coven of vampires. I went around creating these junkies that had to give up their life in the light of day to feed their ever-increasing thirst.
I don’t know how many kids I got hooked on my stuff or how many people I shot up for their first time. I always joked that if all else failed I’d become an excellent phlebotomist.
As a dealer, I felt a twisted sense of validation. I wasn’t Damon’s dope assistant. I was in control now, and being a creature of low-self esteem and romantic notions, I enjoyed the power the heroin gave me. The junkies were at my bidding and I felt like a boss.
Of course, I eventually went bankrupt. Supporting my habit as well as my new DJ boyfriend’s brought us into debt with my connect, who was stupid enough to front me – nice suburban white girl that I was.
I went back, defeated, to recover at my parent’s. They welcomed me home, still not suspecting a thing (either that or they were in complete denial). I cleaned up for awhile, but this is nowhere near the end of my addiction story. This was just the beginning.
Damon and I still kept in touch. Sometimes he would send me Valium in the mail in exchange for other items, like a gun, for example, which was also sent through the US Postal Service.
Damon had a new girlfriend, but he always told me I was his “real girl.” One night he called me, but I didn’t pick up. I don’t know why, I just listened to his low, sedated voice as he left a flirtatious message on my answering machine.
A day or two later, his mom called to tell me he was dead.
Through the months and years, I heard about kids dying – friends and ex-customers – beautiful, pierced-up, pink-haired angels who should have been loved by the world. Recently, I’ve discovered through the social media grapevine more who have passed away, dropping off here and there, losing the fight one by one. Some of them I know are still fighting. I see them in selfies with gray skin and hollow eyes. A few I suspect are serving prison time. At least those have the chance to get clean, and I always fantasize about running into them now that we’re all grown up.
Then there are the ones you feel have disappeared from this plane of existence. There’s a faint sense of loss – an empty space. They are the only ones in your generation not on Facebook, the ones who when you call their parents to find out where they live shout at you that they don’t exist.
Every now and then, Damon shows up in my dreams. Immaculate, white glowing skin, fully nude for some reason, and still twenty years old. He’s sweet and happy, his inner turmoil erased, and even my mom loves him and wants to make him lunch.
I don’t dream of Leif often, so I like to think he’s still alive. Maybe he’s in Rikers or a rehab. I try not to think that, with his reckless usage, it’s very possible that he’s in the ground.
Sometimes I find myself at Corey’s house, another of my ex’s who overdosed, chatting like the good old buddies we always were. “How did I get here?” I ask him. He doesn’t know, but we don’t care.
Then there’s Will. Yep, he’s dead too. I dreamed I was in a food court and I saw him walking toward me. I stood up from a table of concocted dream-friends and said, “It’s you! They told me you were dead!” We hugged for a long time and I was so happy he was okay and that we both were clean and that now we could be friends like normal people.
My body is still traumatized by my years of addiction, still always afraid of getting dopesick. I never stop feeling naked and cold. I never stop feeling uneasy. Those people should still be here. I feel their ghosts standing behind me. They are always near, whispering in my ear, living through me. I’m the one who made it out alive. Do they hate me? After being the one to introduce to the drug that would fuck up their lives? I wait for my turn. Surely, karma will have its way.
But then ask myself – do I blame Damon and the others for giving me that first shot?
No, I don’t. And because of that, I have learned to stop blaming myself.
We were stupid kids living in a society that held no meaning or hope for us, and I love all of them still – the ones who introduced me to heroin and the ones I passed it along to. But they only exist in my dream realm now. My esoteric side likes to believe they are spirits coming to make sure I know they’re okay, that they are watching over me. My rational side tells me their visits are a device my brain uses to help me cope with the tragedy of it all. But it doesn’t matter. I don’t need or want an explanation.
All I know is that I’m happy when my dead boyfriends come to visit. I don’t feel so all alone out here – a survivor in a world of people who have no idea what I’ve done or what I’ve been through. The stigma of addiction prevents me from ever sharing my secrets with anyone other than the dead.
I wonder who I’ll see tonight…