Instant Vertigo

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:12

    It doesn't feel like I'm making a big decision. I just lie on the bed with a slightly nervous stomach while he fixes everything. I'm anxiously resigned to the fact that this is about to happen. There are no thoughts of consequences, no thought, just sweet/sour nothing.

    The first needle stings because I expect it to. Examine the hole in my arm with curious detachment. Trickle of blood. He shows me how to press down on it and raise my arm above my head, to let the drug fall down my spine. It hits my head, instant vertigo. Stomach weak, have to sit down.

    What does it feel like? Like heroin. Frankly, a little disappointing. I grew up with Trainspotting, which claimed, "Take your best orgasm and multiply it by 1000, and you're still not even close." Simply not true. I felt lied to, cheated of the paradise I subconsciously expected. Vomited a lot. Tried to read a book, but the letters kept choosing to dissolve. Listened to Mercury Rev's See You on the Other Side over and over. Lying in bed with the lights on, not sleeping but slipping off into these deep uncontrollable trance tangents, on wordless journeys while you just lie there, possessed and powerless.

    Our relationship changed. We went from lovers to drug buddies. The human element was gone, hollowed out by the heroin, which we soon ran out of, until his roommate Dara bought more for us. She's a professional junkie, too, not a dabbler. She has a connection whose stuff doesn't make you sick, and coke also. She has no veins left, so when she shoots up (like she does five to six times a day), she has to spend about 20 minutes jabbing herself in a hand, looking for an entrance, hand all bloody.

    My boyfriend was an amateur compared to her. Dara shot me up gently, blowing on my arm first, just like a nurse. She gave me my first speedball and we went to see Election. I didn't notice the movie. We got back and my boyfriend was there. He shot me up but missed my vein, my arm swelled up, it hurt and, cruelest of all, I wasn't even high.

    We drifted apart. And yet I kept going over to their house. We had ourselves a little under-21 shooting gallery, chasing death and unable to buy beer. I was the innocent one, so spared any of the dirty business involved. I would just show up with my money. And it would be done, and I'd sit there for hours, looking at my notebook, wanting to write but lacking the will, falling into some crater. It was boring, but at least I didn't care. For wiping away messy emotions, it does its job real efficiently.

    School started getting skipped, but it was only community college. I wore longsleeved shirts exclusively. I had an 8 a.m. class, ironically Health, which I only went to a few times, and when I did go I was always late. I missed the day she talked about drugs. I came to class high one day, nodded off, and while floating above was still able to hear her ask me to stay after class one day.

    "Is something wrong?"

    I'm trying to stand upright despite the fact that both of my legs fell asleep, that my face is all red with indentations.

    "I've been having personal problems."

    She was sympathetic. "If you ever want to talk about it."

    Totally, now if you'll excuse me, I have to go vomit.

    Summer came. I graduated, traveled, partied. If anyone asked I would say, "Heroin, how overrated. They make you think it's going to be this big dramatic thing, this life-changing decision, when in reality you just end up in bed scratching yourself." Summer went.

    Back in Seattle, bored and depressed, enrolled at University of Washington, an ugly college. The few cute students ruin it with their clothes or their conversation. Seattle is just not a cool city, it's a rainy pit full of people mired in their tired little defensive rituals. It's totally disconnected from the rest of the world. Everyone just gives up. I just gave up.

    Dara, having just returned from her travels in Central America, wasted no time in resuming her habit. I joined her. The needle had stopped hurting. I didn't feel good, but I felt nothing, which seemed preferable to feeling bad.

    It didn't matter that there was nothing to do. When we got all dressed up and they turned us away at all the clubs, and we ended up nodding off at a bitchy all-night restaurant, it didn't matter. We would have been the same anywhere. It became a routine. Me and Dara would take a bus to go buy half a gram of heroin and a quarter of coke, go back to her place and shoot speedballs in one-hour intervals all night long. Maybe go out for pho, which we would just look at instead of eating, then get in bed and nod off. Next morning, after the alarm and before we got out of bed, we would greet the day with a huge shot and go out to face the world. Then go home and crash, useless for a day or two.

    Coming down from speedballs was hard. I forgot about homework, lay in bed unable to get up, with a bag of Almond Joys, just sleeping all day and all night. Waking up, wondering if there was any reason to get out of bed, realizing there wasn't, eating an Almond Joy and going back to sleep.

    I went into hardcore Brian Wilson mode. I cashed a paycheck and spent the whole thing on candy. I was high at the drugstore with Dara and filled my arms with candy, cradled the candy, dropped it on the counter and brought it home in a big bag. Drugs, sleep and candy. And biographies of Miles Davis I got from the school library, because there's something comforting in reading about someone else fucking up when you're fucking up.

    Unconsciousness was nice, but I had no life besides artificial pleasures, which are increasingly hard on my system and stringing me out even further. And then it's Halloween. I wake up with Dara and buy a shot. Mikele, a promoter kid I know, is taking us out 'cause he wants me to write about him. There's a huge party we're supposed to hit up, Carl Cox and Josh Wink and DJ Dan are supposed to spin and it's about as big as Seattle events get (5000 pathetic and doomed people instead of 1000 pathetic and doomed people).

    I've been in bed all day when Mikele calls me, tells me the party's canceled but we're getting into, the only passably trendy club in Seattle, and I should come over right away. His friend, dressed in typical tweaker black uniform, is screwing 2-foot-high stacks onto his shoes.

    "Dara was here," Mikele tells me, "and she was on heroin," pronouncing the word with disbelief.

    "I know," I say. "It's terrible."

    We were putting on makeup when the glass dealer arrived. Glass being like the most pure form of methamphetamine, highly valued by crystal users, of which Seattle has its share, it's like truffles for tweakers. We each did heat-rails, and I smoked a bit with the dealer. I didn't mean to get so wired, but glass is ridiculously potent?one line and there's no chance of you sleeping for at least 48 hours. The apartment is suddenly way too small. Everything is suddenly way more important.

    Dara shows up, with peacock feathers, and instantly clashes with the environment. She locks herself with all her stuff in the bathroom. I knock and she let me in, sitting on the toilet jabbing at herself, needles on the sink and spoon and lighter and cotton, and it was just a real shocking, afterschool-special-type of wake-up. It was the first time in a while that I saw someone else on heroin when I wasn't. And it's really sad, they're just so cranky and befuddled, like a little child. We're all spun and Dara's so slow, we're all putting on our costumes at a furious pace and getting phone calls that the rave is canceled and making phone calls to club people to make sure we get in, while Dara absently puts on peacock feathers. There is a fog between her and the rest of the world. Whenever someone says something to her, she comes back with a defensive, bitchy remark even if the original comment was innocuous. Junkies create conflicts when there is no conflict, happy to justify their original negative suspicions.

    It was a weird night. Dara bailed with the car at a house party, stranding us, and we were gay-bashed by a gang of drunken Samoans, but that's another story. The glass kept me up for three nights, near the end of which I so completely tweaked out I saw shadows that weren't there.

    I haven't seen Dara since. She called me once, after I paged her, her voice all fuzzy with drugs and her answers all noncommittal. It was all surface, there was no connection. My position in her life, drug buddy, had been refilled, and that is exactly how it is and has to be.