Friday, February 14, 2014
White Wisps Of Smoke
I watched him making the concoction there that night. While the world outside was in darkness and most slept in their beds preparing for the work day ahead, we sat in the yellow light of the studio.
We called it the studio, supposedly it was a space to make art and create things that existed in our souls, but he just cooked and shot up and got high and imagined he was an artist.
I had stopped drawing years before- right when school began and thoughts and words and self doubt clogged my mind and amputated my hands. I could no longer hold a pen and let the lines come. He was an artist when he wasn’t using or trying to find a vein or scheming and manipulating to get another bag, another hit, to end the sickness- but addiction was a full time job and art came in rare moments- mostly a thing of the past now, a memory he held onto, an image he projected of himself on himself.
I hoped too for a day my artist would return- the thick chested, tattooed man who had drawn me erotic mermaids. All I saw in front of me in that yellow lit room was a man much too skinny for his frame. A man with pale green and black bruises over his arms and legs and a paranoid glaze obscuring his bright blue eyes.
He had taken to wearing the dark blue suit I had bought him years ago for his first court date- only now he looked like an emaciated teenager in his father’s clothes, playing dress up in the middle of the night when the rest of the world outside slept in their beds.
I sat with him now in the yellow lit studio. With clear and focused attention he mixed a small amount of white powdered cocaine with baking soda and water in a metal spoon. He lit the spoon from below, the same way he cooked his sticky tar heroin. He let it all melt together and bubble around the edges and in a few moments the watery mixture evaporated, leaving a few hard little white ‘rocks.’ He picked them up tenderly and placed them in a four inch narrow glass vial. On one end of the vial was a piece of steel wool which created a filter. He tilted his head back a little and lit the filter/rock end and sucked on the tube like a straw.
I watched as thick whips of white smoke traveled up the vial and towards his mouth. He inhaled for as long as he possibly could, filled his chest with all that smoke and then held it inside even longer. He closed his eyes and then leaned in towards me. I opened my mouth and he breathed into me, giving me all those white wisps.
“Hold it in” he said.
I looked at him and waited until my body screamed for air, but then I couldn’t even hear it. The room was ringing.
I wanted more.
I took a shower and called for him to bring me a ‘hit’ in the shower. I sat on the ground, hot water pouring over my stomach and legs. He came in and pushed the shower curtain aside. I opened my mouth and he lit the filtered end. Inhaling, inhaling, inhaling, holding, holding, holding, release and riiiinnnnnnggggggggggg.
I could feel each droplet tapping my skin. Slapping my breasts and pink nipples, my hips and arms.
I wanted more.
Then he miraculously fell asleep. He never slept anymore but in those early morning hours I found myself alone in the yellow lit studio. I watched him for a moment on the bed which we hardly shared, awash with the neon glow of our television (which he needed like soothing lullabies).
The small plastic baggie of cocaine was half full and on the coffee table. I had not paid attention to the exact amounts he had used to cook- so I added a little of this and that. I tried several different batches, adding various amounts of cocaine to baking soda ratios and smoked all of them.
Then the light started to creep through the edges of the thick drapes. The baggie was empty and I started looked for crumbs that had scattered over the table and carpet. I picked up what I could find carefully and cooked it too.
I went into the windowless bathroom sometime around six. The face in the mirror startled me. It was dead and pale green and the eyes looked both shocked and dull at the same time.
Was this me?
“This is me,” I realized.
I looked into those eyes- brown, absolutely lifeless. I stared and had no words for this woman.
And then I remembered him on the bed. My addict. My once-lover. My child, my burden, my chain. My dealer, my demise. What would he say? What would he do when he discovered the empty baggie? He had never hit me, had never ever come close, but that morning I wondered. Would be kick my ass?
I sat on the couch, each minute pushing harder and harder on my shoulders. Every moment like another rock on my chest as the sun rose and I waited for his body to ache, for the pain of reality to shock him into wakefulness. Then he would open his eyes and remember himself and his life and his veins and the itch and the sickness and he would know that it was time for a fix.
And when he did open those paranoid blue eyes he saw me on the couch, pale green and full of terror.
“I cooked it all last night. All the coke is gone.”
“All of it?”
I nodded and he looked at me in disbelief. He didn’t touch me, but made me drive to the bank and get $80. Then he took the car and drove to the beach flats and looked for the short Latin guys on the corner. I stayed at home but I could imagine it all. It was a mechanical script and I knew all the players, each actor- what they said and how they moved and where they would be. I had taken that drive a thousand times. I had done this play each day for years.
Only this morning, I had joined them. In those few dark hours alone in the yellow room, I had inhaled something of them and now I knew what it was like, that dark pulling, pulling, ringing and pulling. It had my ankles. Like that ridiculous foot deep riptide which had almost taken me into the surf fifteen years before, I knew the haunting power of those white wisps of smoke. I knew what it could do. I knew it was too strong and I told myself I would never touch it again.
That day I went to school. When I came home I found what I expected. He was in the yellow studio. I could feel him mixing up a batch. He didn’t come out to greet me and I stayed in the living room, but I could feel the bubbles on the outside of the spoon, could smell it through the door, could almost hear the riiinggg.
I knew it was back there and it was calling to me. Like thick thorny vines that had wrapped themselves around my arms and legs and heart, I could feel its pull.
IT wanted me back there. IT was singing, so lovely.
I stayed in bed, I kept the door closed. I opened my books and read through the soft thudding in the back of my chest, part of me wanted to answer.
By the next day the singing was lighter and then the day after it was gone. I never touched it again, but that was the day I teetered on the edge. A few more puffs and I might buried myself in the WANT- in that dark hole I had lost him to.
Just a few more puffs- I might have never emerged.