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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jump Around

Maybe I need to cool it with the drinking.  You know, take a few days off.  Give myself a break.  My fucking head was pounding all morning.  Of course, it feels better now.  I'm four beers deep.  And switching to wine - yay!  My mind is soft and wet again.

Once I start, it's like I can't control myself.  I do the dumbest shit.  I make fucked-up choices.  I disappear from my responsibilities and the people who care about me.  But I am always thirsty.

Perhaps I should cut back on the drugs.  Just a little.  Too much blow.  My nose is wrecked.  I am a maniac when I am high.  But I love this feeling.  I am so clever.  I can almost watch my thoughts whiz by.  I only grasp portions of what I'm thinking.  I have too many ideas anyway.

Every morning is death.  But I know I can't be dying.  That only happens once, and I keep waking up.  This must be something else.  I guess it's just my life.  And my life is shit.

These diversions own me.  I hate the way that sounds, but it's true.  I am like a nervous rabbit, chewing on everything.  I can't tell the difference between a carrot and an electrical wire.


Living in the basement was kind of neat.  I could hear everything that went on in the rest of the building.  Come evening, I listened to the sounds of progress occurring elsewhere in the house.  Footsteps on the stairs, telephones ringing, toilets flushing.  These noises made me feel connected to other people, especially as I slipped into the monotony of my chemical romance.

Michael was a young man who lived in the apartment on the first floor.  He had a girlfriend when he first moved in.  Sometimes, I would hear them having sex.  Or fighting.  Eventually, she stopped coming around, so I guessed they broke up.  I preferred that he was alone.  I was between boyfriends and extremely lonely.

I asked my second floor neighbor about Michael.
"Do yourself a favor, kid."  Eddie said.  "Steer clear of that one."
I paid no attention to this advice.

Michael was a deejay and party promoter.  He left the house at night and came back in the morning.  I couldn't understand how this was a real career.  It seemed more like fun than work.

I met Michael for the first time in the front hallway of our building.  Some of his mail was in my slot, so I rang the buzzer.  I waited for someone to answer.

"Who's there?" asked a voice.
"Hey, it's Mary.  I live downstairs."
"What is it?"
"Checks.  Lots of them, I think."

He opened the door slightly, and I saw his sweet, young face.  He couldn't have been more than 25.  Given my insecurities and lack of direction, I felt quite old. Like maybe I should be taking care of him.  I was almost 30, I guess.

"Thanks," he offered, leaning against a wall in the foyer.  "I have a bunny, you know."
I didn't know.
"Cool," I said.

He pulled the door a bit wider, just enough for me to see a little beige animal, hopping across the carpet.  It nibbled anxiously on the page of a magazine left on the floor.

"Her name is Jewel.  Actually, it's Luna."
He paused for a moment, purposefully recalling a story to mind.

"But I went to sleep one night and forgot what I'd named her.  After I woke up, I just started calling her Jewel.  When I finally remembered about Luna, it was too late.  I already wrote Jewel on her dish."
He pointed to a metal bowl inside a glass aquarium on the coffee table.  He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"She's nice," I crouched down and murmured to her as if she were a cat.  When she didn't respond, I felt foolish and stood back up.
"I have to go inside," Michael decided.  "So you need to get out of here."

As he shut the door, I smelled the faint whiff of cooked cocaine.
I knew it, I thought to myself.  It felt like I'd just won a prize.

*******

Michael's alarm clock went off at close to 6 pm.  I could hear him padding around quietly from room to room, as I drank and snorted my brains away in my underground lair.  I wondered if he was up there, getting high.  Probably.  I became obsessed with his existence.

I tried to hurry home from work so I could maybe bump into him before he set about to smoking his rock.  Most evenings, he ignored the doorbell as well as my knocking.

I climbed the inside flight of steps that separated our two living spaces.  I sat at the top of the landing where I kept my record collection, listening quietly for sounds of life.  All I heard was the popping and crackle from inside his glass burner, the endless flick of a lighter.  Sometimes, he coughed.

"Hey, Michael  Let me in," I suggested from my side of the door.
"I can't right now.  It's not a good time."
"I have a present for Jewel."
A soggy manila envelope filled with leftover strawberries from a breakfast conference at my job.
"I don't need your help," he replied.
"C'mon.  Just take these, then."

He unlocked the deadbolt and tried to release the door.  It resisted.  There was a big pile of laundry in the way.  He slid his hand through the narrow opening.
"Give it," he whispered.
I did.
The door closed, and he secured it shut again.

*******

Within a week, we were smoking crack together regularly.  We smoked and smoked and smoked, everything we had.  We drove into Flushing to buy more and returned to his flat.  When that was gone, we got back in the car and scored again.  More driving, additional purchases.  Ultimately, we remained in the vehicle until the sad morning reminded me that I had to take a shower and go back to work.  I called in sick.  A lot.

"I was in rehab, you know," Michael announced during one of our marathon visits.
I didn't know.
"It was my mom's idea.  She thought I had a problem."
"Did you?" I asked.
"Maybe."

It never dawned on me.  I felt kinda bad.  His poor family.  And there we were, sharing a stem.  His had snapped in half, and I hated taking turns.  Like I said, I felt bad.

Michael tried to put the glove on me one night for rent money.  We were sitting in his front room, filling our lungs with garbage.  He faced the window, and I looked toward the wall.  Places, everyone.

I didn't want to lend him any dough.  I knew I wouldn't get it back.
"I don't have that kind of cash," I told him.  It wasn't a lie.
"How 'bout a few bucks for carrots?" he asked.
Jewel stumbled across his sneakers and chewed on a shoelace.
I felt relieved that he wasn't mad.  I didn't want him to make me go away.

"Do you wanna fuck?" Michael asked.
"Yeah," the word slipped from my broken lips when I exhaled.
Neither of us moved from our spots on the couch.  It seemed like we stayed there forever.

Hours later, I happened to glance at the floor next to the radiator.  I noticed Jewel, laying on the rug.  Her body was stretched out stiffly, an extension cord in her mouth.  Her eyes were open, unblinking.

"Look," I pointed to the lifeless rabbit.
"Don't touch her," he replied.  "She's asleep."

*******

Several weeks later, Michael died in his car.  He was on his way to work.  But first, he went to cop some dope.  His heart stopped, right there in the parking lot of the venue.  It was a sweet sixteen party.  My landlord told me.

Michael's mother and another lady cleaned out the apartment.  I could hear them crying as they packed all of his shit into garbage bags and hauled them away.  I hid in the basement closet when they rapped on my door.

"We know you're in there.  Please talk to us," one of the women pleaded.
I was afraid and far too high to carry on a conversation about their dead boy.

The next morning, I saw Jewel's empty fish tank on the curb by the driveway.  When I got home later on, it was gone.  Just like Michael.

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