The West Is Dying And There’s Nowhere To Go But The Sea
After coffee the day stretched out before me, impossibly long, like a desert I’d die in trying to cross. I wished I didn’t have a month sober. If I didn’t have a month sober going down to pill corner would be fine, just another day, but I did so getting drugs would represent a major failure.
I pulled on my pants and put on my hat.
As I walked a woman I thought I loved texted me from Illinois. She had moved and gotten sober. Now she was doing great all the time. She was on a handful of psych meds and going to 12 Step meetings. It was a race to see who would start dating first but I knew she’d win because she was much more attractive than me.
“How’re you doing?” that was her.
“Fine. Have you started dating again?” I knew not to ask how she was doing because it was always “Great!”
“Yes!” she wrote, and stabbed in a picture of a bouquet.
I thought angry thoughts. I thought what’d you ever bring to the table besides that body, she never read anything or wrote anything and her paintings weren’t that good. I guessed I had loved her for years but I didn’t know, maybe she was only a reason for getting high, maybe I needed someone to forget and she happened to be that person.
But then I loved her again, I loved my princess and now she was dating and since she was sober chances were this boyfriend would be permanent, because that’s what happens when 40 year old women who are still pretty get a boyfriend, they marry him. It had happened enough that I knew.
I let the text thread die.
At pill corner no one had anything.
“You got anything small?” I said. They never knew what I meant.
“Any Vicodins, Percocets, like 5 mgs?”
“I got heroin.”
“I have Xanax.”
“All I got are 80s.”
An 80 mg oxycodone is a pill they give people with terminal disease who have already been on painkillers for a long time. It’s a hospice drug. An 80 mg for a normal person is suicide, like taking 16 Percocets at once. If you don’t puke it up you’ll stop breathing.
Or maybe Illinois girl was my muse. A muse is somewhere for a lonely person to put all their emotions, like a UPS guy filling up a truck. I take all those pent up feelings that need to go somewhere and put them in the truck, I write them down and the truck drives away. Plenty of metaphors there about sore backs, flat tires, packages I can’t lift. Stupid shit.
As he gave me the pill we coughed Covid in each other’s faces. Maybe. The air was smoky. It was fire season. Down in Las Vegas the lie of ample water was crushing the South West and in San Francisco the fog was burning off. And every time I did drugs I knew there wasn’t much brain left either, that it too would soon be a cinder.
“Take care, bro.”
Since I was on foot I could go to a bar. I wouldn’t drink and drive anymore because I’d nearly killed some DoorDash motherfucker on an electric scooter, and anyhow driving around the Tenderloin was dangerous, people walked in front of traffic as a way to end their addiction to fentanyl, at least that’s how it seemed.
I decided on the old merchant marine bar. They didn’t open until 4 but it took a while to get there, a couple bus rides. My fingers found the switchblade I carry and as I rode I opened and closed it inside my pocket, and my fingers found the round green pill, the size of a gem, a topaz, and I thought about it sitting there waiting for me.
At the bar I looked at the Jewish bartender. She was obviously Jewish to me as I am also Jewish. She was pretty and her shirt revealed her midriff which was pale and flat and reminded me of the low-hanging paunch beneath my layers of clothes that I hate so much. I drank 2 shots of tequila too fast and then I wanted something better and went to the bathroom.
You’d think 80 milligrams would be a big pill but it was the size of an aspirin. I decided I’d have to cut it into 8 slivers. There was also a 50/50 chance it was actually fake, fentanyl instead of oxycodone, which would make me extremely sick.
I wasn’t drunk enough to try the operation on the toilet paper holder. So I held off and went back to the bar and tried not to look at the bartender’s naval.
In my life I had good friends I didn’t see that often and one very good friend I used to see a lot, but her life had gotten busier and so I didn’t see her much anymore either. She was another woman on a short list of ex-girlfriends I could’ve married. I was grateful I still had her as a friend but I missed hanging out with her and when I got drunk sometimes I got angry about it. I was always angry at myself but when drunk it turned into being angry at other people. I drank two tequila sunrises for the sugar and the 80 milligram started heating up like a little sun in my pocket. But I still held off. Instead I texted my good friend even though I knew she was busy.
“Will you come get me? I took a fentanyl,” I lied. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
She got back to me pretty fast.
“I’m working on my thesis.”
“?” I said.
I told her where and she came and got me in her fucked up Prius with the Bernie Sanders sticker. She didn’t know how wholesome she was.
“Hi,” I said.
“Do we need to go to the ER?!”
“I’m not really sick.”
“How much did you take?”
“I didn’t take anything,” I said. “Are you hungry?”
“You aren’t hungry?”
“Do you realize how much work I have to do?”
“You should get a medal,” I said.
She knew I wasn’t doing well. Lying was as close as I could come to asking her for help.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Golden Boy Pizza. Thanks.”
We went and got cheese slices and sat in Washington Park because she was afraid of Covid. The sun had gone down already and it was cold. The pizza was cold too. And I was not a golden boy, not to her, not to anyone. I was almost old. But at least the 80 mg oxycodone stopped yelling at me. It was just one more thing with potential that would probably never happen.