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I looked like I always did that day, just as I had the day before and the day before. Torn up, soot stained Levi's cut into long shorts, a collared shirt with buttons and rolled up sleeves, no shoes. Dirty fingers and dirty toes. It was early spring in the south. I was partaking in my usual pass-time of standing on the corner outside shops and asking strangers for money. I needed things that I couldn't afford.
He walked up to me, looked down through his bent wire frame glasses, and simply declared: "You're fucking trashy."
It had startled me. I jumped, looked up at the six foot six monster staring down at me. Nobody ever boldly dared to insult me in public. They only whispered in hushed tones that they assumed I couldn't hear or walked around me like I had some contagious disease. I've been told that something about the way I was made me intimidating. I'm not like that anymore though. He's the reason why.
He was big; he was scary. He was just standing and looking at me from behind those damned glasses that would become the pinnacle of everything that made me crawl in my skin, everything that ever made me and makes me relapse.
I came barely to his shoulders, more like mid-chest when he stood up straight. His hands were long and calloused, sinewy and corded; his eyes were dark and hard behind the pieces of glass that perpetually hid their true meaning. Everything about him was stupidly appealing to me.
"Why are you still here?" He brushed his hair back with one of those impossibly strong hands but didn't move otherwise. For a moment I though I saw bruises on the insides of his sallow arms. I didn't know what to say. My mind was blank.
I couldn't say anything; so he repeated himself with the addition of "You've been at this for a while now."
Then I found it in myself to get angry about it. What business was it to anyone but me? He was probably just being a white knight for someone who I asked for money, trying to make me leave but too cowardly to do it on their own. I'd already sacrificed all my pride and dignity doing this. The last thing I needed was someone trying to bring me down more than I'd already done to myself.
"I'm begging for money so I can buy drugs. Who gives a fuck?"
I turned to walk away but I felt a massive hand touching my shoulder. I almost expected it to hurt. I stiffened up but he tightened his grip a little and turned me around. "No, don't. I think I like you." And that was it. After that he never fully walked out of my life.
The next day I woke up next to him; upon taking stock of my surroundings through bleary eyes and a foggy head I found things to be not quite as expected.
There was no bed and there was no awkward nakedness with clothing scattered in hard to find places. I was curled up against him, fully clothed, in the front seat of a car with gray upholstery and hard angles everywhere. It looked a lot like my car, only there was a Chevrolet crown emblazoned on the wood grain. A Caprice. I should have remembered that. I spent a painful minute or two recollecting exactly what had happened and why my head was reeling and working in slow motion. I was still fucked up, that was for sure.
With a cursory glance I learned that yes, those were small bruises up down and around his delicately pale forearms. They were track marks if I'd ever seen them, and I had.
I started piecing together what I did and why I was here from the little I remembered. I remembered walking across the parking lot quickly to keep up with his long gait, hopping in the primer gray death trap that, for some reason, made my eyes sparkle like I was thirteen again. I had been enamoured with this car, in all its cheaply spray painted, trailer park glory.
The roughly head shaped dents in the fender with possible blood staining made it even more attractive to me. When he got in and slammed the door shut I noticed how ratty his jeans were. Unwashed, but not dirty. Did he even have a place to live?
I remembered we left, Master of Puppets crackling over the roar of the broken exhaust, and he drove me to where he needed to go. Where we needed to go. His man, now my man. I was excited. It had been years since I had a bag.
I didn’t care what I had to do to get it from him, a stranger, even if it meant the inevitable. I reached in my pocket and found all of the money I’d started with, possibly more. Turns out I just needed to be polite company for now, but I was ready for anything. Truth be told I sort of wanted it. Had anything happened? God I hoped so. Aside from apparently letting him put a needle in my arm. No wonder I was wrecked. I would never do that on my own.
“Good morning sunshine. You look like shit.”
I sat up and turned in the seat to face him. It seemed like a blur, though I was likely moving at incredibly slow speeds. I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before. The minute chips missing from the glass lenses, the dark and deep circles around his eyes, how ashen and drained the color of him was: his lips looked like a dead person’s. But I also noticed how there was a spark of life behind the dark, myopic eyes. I always mistook it for curiosity.
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing really came out.
He reached around on the dashboard and under the seat until he found a charred piece of tin foil with a pool of melted brown in the center and a bic pen that'd been cut in half. Out of habit, I handed him the lighter that was in my pocket and he sparked it beneath the melted puddle of scag, took an amazingly deep hit, and didn't even cringe.
“Let’s go get coffee. I’m sure you’ll like it,” he purred, breathing out white smoke.
He handed me the works and I followed suit, stifling a little cough at the all too familiar taste of burnt sugar and chemicals. It started to hit me as I held it in: my eyelids got heavy and my toes started to go numb.
“If you look at me like that I’m sure I will, too,” I trailed off, watching the smoke drift up past my eyes, unable to find a good word to address him by.
“Trent. Ketter. Whatever you like.” He reached out and carefully took the foil. I'd forgot I had it.
As he turned his gaze away to look out the window the sunshine caught in his glasses and shone white for a moment, blocking out his only inviting trait. I felt that tinge of fear creep up inside me again, but pushed it away. I wanted it so badly, even though I didn’t know what it was at the time.
‘I think I’ll go with Schatzie.”
He took another hit and repeated it back to himself softly. A genuine smile revealed unique teeth, slightly yellowed from too much tar and tannin. It made my sluggish heart race.
“I know what that means, Bengelchen,” a pause. “What’s making you so nervous?”
Before my brain could sensor it I confessed. The drugs were taking hold. “I’m still trying to figure out why I have all of my clothes on.”
He took a deep hit and grinned, grabbed me by the wrists and pushed me back against the door. And as the acrid smoke curled from his lungs into mine everything melted into something warm and soft. It was like being wrapped in god’s warmest blanket, only interrupted by the gentle pinpricks of his teeth at my lip.
The next distinct memory I can recall is creeping up on a house in the pitch black. We'd been traveling in comfortable silence for the last twenty minutes or so. I had absolutely no idea where we were. It loomed in the dim headlights, looking more rundown by the slowly creeping foot and thought to myself, "god, he knows his way in the dark." This was one of those elusive spots that one can not find if one has not already been there, I was sure of it. The house was on some dirt road, lost in the backwaters of Indian River County.
It was dirty and rundown, a century house that hadn't been lived in for a better part of the century; boarded windows and a patched roof completed its neglected character. It was a cracker house, some lost relic of old Florida: narrow and long. From a first glance one could tell that it only contained three or four rooms, not counting the wide porch which stood high off the ground on cinder blocks.
He drove right up to the front steps, headlights shining with full intensity into the flaking clapboard which looked like it used to be white.
The windows slid shut and he killed the engine. Wisps of oil smoke rose out of the hood and danced in the headlights before he pushed the knob back into the dash, pulled the keys out of the ignition and opened the heavy door with squeaky hinges. I followed his lead and slammed the car door shut behind me, trailed behind him up the creaky, splintered wooden steps and went inside. It was nearly pitch black until he sparked a lighter to life and dipped it into the open mouth of an old, gilded gas lantern.
It crackled, then cast yellow light across a sparsely furnished, surprisingly neat room. There was an antique looking table immediately in front of the door surrounded by matching chairs, a genuine looking fireplace behind that, and a dark hallway to the right. Right before the hallway was a set of matching couches arranged in the corner beneath two unbroken windows.
"Do you like it?" He'd turned to face me, but I'd hardly noticed. I was consumed with taking in my surroundings. A squeeze of my hand caught my attention and he lead me toward the hallway, brightening its features with each step.
"How did you find this?" I asked, only as a formality, mildly curious. I was far more concerned with his hand lightly gripping my fingers. It was sending little jolts of electricity into my spine.
"I tried to get lost one day. I liked it so I decided to stay lost." He set the lamp on the counter and pushed open the door on the left. It creaked open into a rather large bedroom and I stuck my head through the threshold to see. Rugs scattered the floor and a sizeable nest of a bed in the far corner.
"Oh," I looked back to the other door and figured it was the bath. From the corner of my eye I noticed a book shelf stacked top to bottom with dog-eared volumes in an array of cloth and leather bindings. "You did this all by yourself?"
"It was mainly like this when I found it. The table was already set." I frowned at the morbidity of that thought, but didn't get to express my thoughts on the matter. He swing the door shut and headed back to the main room. "Tour's over."
"Well, what now?"
By the time I meandered back to the table he was already setting up his ritual for the night in the dim shadows. It was every couple hours, like clockwork. I sat across from him and waited patiently before he handed me a little square of foil. I fished a couple of matching blue circles out of my case and dropped them to the wood in front of me, started to break them into a fine powder.
When I looked back he was watching me intently through the bottom half of his glasses. "Let's talk. I'd like to know you."
He started to roll up his sleeve, talking through the syringe gripped between his teeth. "That way you won't feel awkward when I ask you to hold this for me," he said, nodding his head at himself.
I reached across the table and plucked it from his widening smile. "You've been inside me. You've put this inside me. I don't think anything can be awkward anymore." I stopped to gauge his reaction. Unconscious delight was creeping back into his features, leaving tiny creases at the corners of his eyes. I wondered then how old he actually was.
"So you've shot before and sleep with strangers who give you drugs," he deduced. "I won't lie: I've done it."
"Else we wouldn't be here." I sparked up and took a deep hit, watching the powdered pharmaceutical slide down the aluminum like a slug leaving a black trail. He was busy cooking his own in a primordial, muddy soup. "So, Trent is your real name?"
"Yes, Jill." I looked up at him sharply at that. How could he possibly remember me saying when I had no recollection of it at all? "I have a good memory,” he paused. “You don't usually do this much, do you?"
I opened my eyes and realized I was nodding out already. "I take what I get. Sometimes it's a couple, sometimes it's ten."
"I'm no good for you," his eyes wrinkled a little. I was captivated by the happy face but I was starting to want to see a different emotion. I knew the H made any and all bad feelings go away, but at least I feigned them around people. He took a deep breath and pulled the needle out of his arm. I hadn't even realized it was there. "Do you even care?"
Did I even care. I tried to think about it but kept hitting dead ends. The part where I could think about important things had already passed me by. I figured I'd be truthful: "You're worse than me. But you haven't told me to leave." What else could I possibly say to be offensive and off-putting? My sarcastic superego couldn't bridge the gap between itself and my subconscious. "And I don't know your ulterior motive yet. So no."
"Well," he faltered as if actually lost in thought. "I don't think I actually have any motives."
I'd known from a very early age, see maybe eleven? that this was what I was going to waste the rest of my life on. I knew it, I wanted it, and by god nobody was going to stop me. I didn't even tell anyone at the time. What a smart child I was. Somewhere deep down inside I knew what I've learned now, that nobody can be trusted when it comes to drugs. Not a single soul. They make you crazy and greedy and mean, and that's the truth. But that doesn't really matter to me a single bit.
I locked myself in my room late after everyone had gone to sleep and dumped them out on my table. Twenty? Impressive. More than enough to take my virginity and rape me of my innocence a few times. They were those round white ones, 512's. Only five milligrams of god's warmest blanket pressed into a concoction with enough Tylenol to kill a horse. I know I'd have to take at least two. That gave me ten nights of bliss to lay on the floor with my eyes closed and see white clouds and lucid dreams.
Gently, tentatively, I breathed in a felt the acrid powder bloom into my unspoiled nasal cavity. It sort of stung, it tasted bad. I'm pretty sure I breathed in too hard and got some straight in my lungs. But most of it ended up in my sinuses. It's a very unique feeling that I'm sure at least someone here is familiar with. And the other most of it was inside my nose or dripping down the back of my throat. My heart beat raced. This was it! This was fantastic! Finally I was complete as a human being.
Quickly, before it starts to set in! I took a chug of water and popped another half under my tongue. Crushed the other half as fine as possible and scraped it together neatly so as to not waste a single speck of dust that might contain the magical mystery chemical that I needed.
I'm sure I was starting to feel lightheaded because at least ten minutes had gone by through all of this, but I failed to notice because I was so caught up in the ritual. What did I do about the powder already clogging my nose? Nothing, I guess.
The sublingual infuse. Genius. With a winning combination like that how could I lose. I started timidly at first. I broke one in half and crushed the white crescent into powder beneath a dollar bill. I stuck the other half under my tongue and waited. The taste was fantastic and horrible. All like chemicals and the sweet sweet taste of opiate that I have learned to hold dear. How do you know if you're doing it right? You don't. It's all trial and error. And thankfully my fourteen year alter ego was a quick learner.
The Tip Jar