I am sat in the apartment with William, Susan and Eva. Susan is sucking on a Marlboro as she says “That was a close one” and Eva is touching up her lip gloss in a compact mirror, legs crossed, flicking a strand of dirty blonde hair off of her sweat glistening brow, hand trembling slightly as always from the crystal meth she has been smoking and she – um-hmmm’s – in agreement barely taking her attention from her lips, the compact, the gloss.
“I don’t feel so good,” William offers before staring off into space again and I am shivering slightly, not so sure why I am cold and staying quiet for now wondering if it would be prudent to go fix up a shot so close to the incident, then absently wondering if there is an established protocol in such situations.
A CRASH! interrupts my thoughts and the glasses on the old oak table we are sat around jump and tumble, sending Coke splashing in all directions and I look around to see Susan looking startled, Eva with one eye on the floor the other still checking out her reflection and William no longer at the table. With a groan he gets up from underneath, his right cheek and eye an ugly red color from where he caught the corner of the table as he blacked out and collapsed out of his seat.
“You fucker! What’ya do that for?” he moans raising a hand to his eye and staring at me accusingly with the good eye and I turn my palms up and say “What?” and he spits “You hit me in the fucking face!” as Eva laughs loudly and inappropriately at William's pratfall. Susan shoots her a dirty look and says “You fell off your chair and hit the table sweetie; you blacked out.”
“I busted my face up good. It hurts.”
“Yeah, you did”
“Fuck. Michelle is gonna kill me!”
I laugh a little. “Michelle’s gonna kill me. “
“I just fell off the chair, huh? The last thing I remember is… “ He drifts off.
“Just tell her what happened. It’ll be cool.” offers Eva, and William thinks about it for a second and says “No fucking way, she’d freak out… Uh, I’d better go home...”
Driving William home we stop by a McDonalds drive-thru and I convince him to eat something “It’ll make ya feel better” and reluctantly he orders a cheeseburger which he chews at morosely as we head towards his place on Normandie Avenue. As we pass Western he starts to vomit violently out of the window, splashing the inside as well as the outside of the door, but I suppose I can’t be too mad with him considering the circumstances.
At 2224 North Normandie Ave we pull up and I offer an apologetic “Here we are” rousing him out of his stupor. William opens the door with a sick stained handle and staggers out onto the sidewalk.
“Don’t fall asleep when you get in,” I tell him “Drink some coffee, do something for the next couple of hours but don’t sleep. Sleep would be bad right now.” He just nods and turns to head towards his apartment.
“Hey” I yell after him “I’m real sorry, you know?” and he half raises his hand in some kind of response as he walks unsteadily to the house. I pull away heading towards Fairfax and an oldies radio station plays Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing Big Girls Don’t Cry. It’s Friday night, and I’m not really sure why but I start to get the urge to sob. I try to swallow the feeling down inside of myself but it sticks in my throat like wadded cotton wool and the need to vent becomes so big that it feels like a physical pain in my chest. I need to get high. Higher. As high as I possibly can. I need to cook down all of the drugs in the world into an evil dark brown goo and shoot it all straight into my heart and maybe then – maybe – I will feel like a human being again.
“He’s not breathing! Jesus Susan he’s fucking DEAD! I FUCKING KILLEDHIMHESDEADIFUCKINGKILLEDHIM!!!” and Susan is screaming “JUST CALM DOWN….shit, Eva! Close the door the whole fucking office can hear this… OK listen, do you know CPR?”
I am standing over William, he looks dead, surely he can’t come back after this? His face is red; I have been slapping him around ever since he took his shot and started turning blue. After the third blow he simply slid off of the couch and onto the floor, limp.
“No, I don’t know CPR you stupid cunt! How the fuck would I know CPR?”
“Fuck! Pinch his nose and breathe into his mouth! Inflate his lungs. Then pump his chest …. Fuck, is it 5 times? Ten maybe?”
“Fuck me! Just guess, you stupid junkie bitch!”
“OK… 5 times, then repeat. Listen I’m hanging up! We’re leaving right now! Eva, we’re going-”
“Hurry the fuck up!”
And then the line goes dead. Dead. Oh Jesus. Susan works at least half an hour's drive from here. If I don’t do something we’re either gonna have to call the cops or dispose of the body and run. I start to vomit. I didn’t know fear could make you vomit. It is hot and it burns and it lands on my shoes and the floor and some of it splashes onto William. It came so suddenly that I didn’t even have time to direct it away from him. Great. I’ve killed him and puked on his body. I imagine the headline DEGENERATE DRUG FIEND KILLS FRIEND, BEATS HIM, VOMITS ON THE CORPSE.
I think I see a flicker from William. Maybe it is just a twitching nerve. The death twitch. But it happened right after the puke splashed on his face. Maybe it was related. Maybe there’s still some life in him.
Inspired I run around the house and find a vase. There are dead flowers in it. The water has evaporated. Susan got it when we moved in here and like everything else it was ignored as we just sat around and shot drugs. It withered and died, like her cat. Ernie. We heard his meows for days. Maybe weeks. Stupefied by the heroin we injected we ignored the whines, the passage of time became blurred until I found him dead under the sink one morning. I think he starved. Maybe he died of thirst. To avoid one of Susan’s periodic psychological breakdowns I simply threw the cats body over the balcony to the rocks of the Hollywood hills below us for the coyotes to eat. She never once inquired as to where her pet of 7 years had vanished to and I never brought it up.
I fill up the vase with water and walked over to William.
“You’d better wake up cocksucker,” I tell him, my hands shaking with fear, adrenaline, “Please wake up-“ and I dump the water all over him.
Like Lazarus William shakes and twitches. He gasps and coughs and starts to heave. I drop the vase to the floor and it shatters into a million pieces with a crash that sounds like all of the hearts in the world exploding at once.
“Oh Jesus!” William gasps, “Where am I?”
“You’re alive. You’re fucking alive!” I gasp hardly believing it.
“I brought you back to life!”
William just shoots me a dirty look. I try and think of the right thing to say.
“I need a shot,” I tell him, “I need one really fucking bad.”
Then I hear a key scraping in the lock and the door bursts open.
“OH JESUS!” Susan cries, staggering in, dressed in her work clothes, “He’s alive? Oh thank Christ!”
“I told you” Eva says, following her. She looks like a meth-whore, even in her cheap attempt at office attire. Susan – the head of finances at a chain of Laundromats - got Eva the job as her assistant in an attempt to get more money coming into the house since she landed here and started mooching drugs. In an attempt at making herself useful, Eva lets me fuck her whenever I like and she lets Susan fuck her too, but with the amount of drugs we consume neither of us can manage that very often. Anyway, I have no doubt that Susan and Eva will both be fired soon. Somebody will open Susan’s desk and find her works and her drugs. Or someone will realize that Susan has been creaming money off the top and hiding it with fancy account keeping. It is a matter of time, and I fear what will happen to all of us when that happens.
“Oh Jesus fucking Christ, what am I doing here?” William moans and I sadly wonder the same thing as I help him to his feet.
William is here to write songs with me. The band is stalling badly and I am blocked. The songs I have for him to work on are pitiful, piss poor imitations of better songs by better bands. My creativity is gone. My days are totally focused on the scrabble to maintain the flow of drugs that enters the apartment. I have no time to create. I have no drive to create. The misery inside of me is so great, so tangible that the only way to deal with it is constant sedation. I only agreed to this because I am embarrassed to admit to my erstwhile best friend in Los Angeles that I have become the hopeless fuck up that he warned me I would become if I started shooting drugs and didn’t break off my relationship with Susan.
“She may be smart and be able to pull in money right now,” he told me, “but she’s fucking crazy. That girl doesn’t want a boyfriend. She wants someone do die with her.”
And he was right. I suppose I wanted to see what dying felt like. But now I was stuck, horribly alive and horribly alone. So I kept to our songwriting date so prove something to William that I already knew was a preposterous lie. To prove that I was OK.
“I’m gonna get high before we start,” I tell him, “You don’t mind do you?"
“Nope,” he tells me, then, “Do you have a little spare?”
We’re in a band. We share drugs. William smokes heroin on occasion but is basically a good-natured cokehead. But I suppose he wants to connect with me a little before we start.
“Sure “I tell him, “But I’ve only got a little. Do you mind shooting it instead?”
“I don’t do that –“
“Come on, man! I only have a tiny bit until Susan gets home… You wont even feel it if you smoke it. Don’t worry, I’ll make it a tiny shot. You’ll get high, nothing more. I’ll be careful.”
“Michelle would kill me if she knew I’d shot up. She didn’t even want me coming over here.”
Now, that hurt. Fuck Michelle I silently fume.
“Look, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ve done this a million times. You’re doing it ONCE. You’re my friend. Nothing bad will happen.”
“Well, I suppose…”
“Trust me.” I tell him, as I start to prepare the shots, and tell him to wrap my belt around his arm.
Tony O'Neill © 2006.
In a previous life Tony O’Neill played keyboards for bands and artists as diverse as Kenickie, Marc Almond and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. After moving to Los Angeles his promising career was derailed by heroin addiction, quickie marriages and crack abuse. While kicking methadone he started writing about his experiences on the periphery of the Hollywood Dream and he has been writing ever since. His autobiographical novel DIGGING THE VEIN will be published in Feb 2006 by Contemporary Press, in the US and Canada. Wrecking Ball Press plan to release a UK edition Summer 2006. He lives in New York where he works a variety of odd jobs and writes.
More details can be found at http://www.tonyoneill.net/