I am AWAKE. I feel like Godzilla. Every nerve ending is on ice; tingling flurries rowing upwards and downwards over my entire body. My eyes are wide and alert looking around the apartment with a new respect for how confused my life has been recently. There’s sketches and empty bottles of wine strewn about the floor. Some papers are stained violet from spilled drinks in attempts of walking drunk to get to the toilet before puke hit said drawings. A new set of paintings has begun from these doodles, a new project. Maybe I’ll call it Paper Dolls and Meth Filters. Don’t know yet, it’s a working title.
This place…oh, god it’s a travesty of unhappy housekeeping. I drank so much. I touch my head gently. I’m so far gone from a normal hangover that I feel nothing at all. There’s no headache, no nausea, not even the alcohol shits. It must have been all that weed I smoked. What was it called again?
Oh yeah, The Funk.
Jesus God! That had to be the best pot ever. A half a pound and I didn’t stop drinking until the bag was gone. That was three weeks ago. I’ve been binging for little under a month on the most potent weed I have ever smoked…and the wine, of course.
I’ve eaten bologna, I think. Maybe some ravioli? It’s not exactly a blur because I know I spent my time productively. But I’m not all here. Have I ever been?
Damn it, I don’t think so.
Rising from bed I see the sun intruding through the windows. It’s gonna be another hot ass day. Well, as long as I’ve got smokes and a little bit of pot to tide me over I’ll be alright.
Who would dare call right now?! Do they not understand that a living, breathing, albeit lazy person lives here? Or it’s one of those bastard friends of mine wanting me to do something, to go somewhere. Not today. NO! I need twenty-four hours to compose myself. A whole day for me and mine.
I hurry to the bathroom and the beige rotary phone sits in the sink and answered with a rushed, “Yeah-Hello?”
Shit, it’s Phyllis the apartment manager, “Hi, yeah, it’s me…Suzy Lee.”
“Sooo….I was just calling to let you know that Graham’ll be coming by to pick up the rent.”
I’m relieved. Graham may very well be her husband, but I think he’s been crushing on me for a minute. He’s always really nice and I and I caught him looking at my boobs one time when he came to fix the lights, “Oh, okay. What time you think?”
“Not really sure, he’s working nights now.”
“Right on. I’ll be here all day so he can come by anytime.”
“Uh, no offense, but you can call and tell him that.” She’s growing impatient with me. I can hear her fuchsia nails tapping on her desk right beside the table calendar drawn with neon marker of everyone’s birthdays. Little balloons and party hats in green highlighter ink; It’s enough to make a person sick.
“Okay.” I won’t.
“Bye.” I hang up.
Well, that was pleasant.
I feel shaky. My hands are like jittering humming birds. I bristle out of my clothes and stand in the bathtub turning on the cold water. I rejoiced in my hangover-less world a bit too soon.
I sense evil under my skin writhing up my spine. This painful shaking anxiety clasps my brain stem and I’ve seized.
Falling down I bang my knee on the corner of the bathtub. I don’t feel it. I don’t feel anything except the nervous convulsions my muscles twitter to. My arms, my hands, refuse to still and my legs are weak and twitching. It’s the fucking withdrawal. It’s begun.
I shut off the water and slowly climb out of the tub. I’m too fragile to stand on my own and so I fall directly upon the tiled floor. Oh God, I want to die. Rip my skin from the tissue. I realize I’m sweating and covered in freezing water. Some ibuprofen and a nap won’t fix this. I’ve got to get some real deal-BUNG BUNG-Buffalo Sioux medicine. I wobble to lean against the toilet and vomit. It feels so early in the morning. Hurling wine and…oh god…yep, ravioli until bile touches my lips. I wipe them clean…
…whatever I’m doing it’s like a stumble-fall-crawl to the sofa. I must look like a lobster fighting not to be put in the pot of boiling water. I ascend from the floor as my nails dig into the polyester flowers and wiggle unto the cushion. I lay like a dead fish until my head stops buzzing and I can sit normally.
The contents of my coffee table tell any visitor everything they need to know about me:
A long horizontal statue of an African nude made from alabaster. I named her Head Shot. There is my metal pipe the Tin Man, scattered tobacco and empty tubes waiting to be filled. The box in which my weed accouterments rest in. When it’s closed, it looks like a simple wooden box with a wolf howling at the moon depicted on top. Open, one can see a sewing needle, a flexible wire coated in resin, and a credit card that belongs to Clay.
But there’s a surprise for me here. One bottle of blackberry merlot has gone unfinished.
My belly turns over at the thought, but I’ve got to have it. Like old parchment soaks ink, it seems to dissolve in my greedy mouth. My tastebuds scream in delight, but we know the sad truth of it and it’s that I’m going to be sick either way.
Unless I get some weed in me.
As quickly as I can with aching joints, I reach for the box and open it only to be disappointed.
Looks like I’m heading out in this summer heat with D.T.’s. Fan-fucking-tastic.
In ancient Egypt, they worshipped the sun under the name of Ra. Well…fuck Ra and fuck the sun. Fuck it’s orbit and everything to do with the whole goddamned operation. We’re all just specks of stardust and bags of salt water walking around on a rock floating in an infinite universe that’s always expanding and with all that going on we still must deal with swamp heat. If there is or ever was a God, he could’ve been like, “They got enough shit going on, let’s make the weather nice at least.” But no, He/She didn’t because gods and goddesses are not made of fluffy sweets and marshmallows. They’re made of FUCK IT ALL LET THEM BURN, DIE, KILL THEMSELVES.
And as I drag my happy ass down Lonesome Maple Lane, I smoke a cigarette in hatred and sweat. It’s so hot that mirages of water puddles have formed in the middle of the road. These houses that surround me are oppressive with their rugged windows and looming, darkened porches. I hate going this way. I don’t even know what made me take this short cut. I could have gone down Jefferson and been at Old Man Harry’s in less than two. But oh no, my laziness dictated we not cross Petite Rouge due to the afternoon traffic. I don’t think I could handle the sound of it anyway.
The air is thicker the closer I walk to the river and my lungs feel like they’ve been poisoned. I do something I very rarely do and stop to squash my cigarette beneath my boot.
Before I can think of what’s going on, there’s a dog latched on my ankle. It’s teeth nearly penetrate my jeans when I hear, “HEY! Whad ur duin’ on mah lawn?” The well sized mutt with it’s ill groomed brown fur is going insane as a barrel bellied man swings his ratty screen door open.
“I’m not in your yard! The sidewalk is public fucking domain! Call this little shit off!” I yell. Oh god, I’m going to puke. My heart is thumping and blood is pumping through to my brain in scarlet waves, “SHIT!” The fucker’s teeth cut through my jeans as I tried to shake him off.
Bending down, I do the only thing I can think off. I keep the leg he’s got perfectly still and while he’s busy, I take one of his own legs in my grasp. With the butt of my palm and jab his joint as hard as I can. In a matter of seconds, he’s limping back to the fat man whimpering like a child. I didn’t even hear the bone crack, just that cry.
“You’re paying his vet bill, you bitch!” He screams out from a bloated, wet mouth.
“The hell I am. You’re fucking dog attacked me.”
From the corner of my eye, I see a man in a white button up tucked into khakis running across the street. His green and blue stripped tie is held in place by a gold clip in the shape of Thor’s hammer, “Are you alright, Miss?”
I’m so out of it. I pull up my jeans and see a tiny trickle of blood running down into my boot, “Yeah, I think it’s superficial.”
The well dressed man points a finger at the dog’s owner, “Buford, you’ve been warned numerous times about that monster. You either have it put it down or I’ll do it myself.”
Buford. Of course that would be his name, the slob. He scratches his flabbiness and walks with bowlegs back in the hole from which he crawled from taking his crying canine with him.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
He shifts and reaches in his pocket, “Well, if you find that there’s any permanent damage, give me a call.” He hands me a card.
“Philip Van Der Blud, attorney at law?”
His hand brushes mine, “Call me if you need anything.”
Jesus Christ. Here I am shaking from withdrawal and being burned alive, standing here bleeding and he’s hitting on me, “Uh, yeah…thanks.”
He turns away and I’m left bewildered but in a hurry.
Old Man Harry is sitting on his porch in a broken down metal lawn chair in very short denim shorts with ripped fringe. As usual his shirt is draped over the back of the chair and his sunburnt belly bounces as he laughs at a joke I can’t hear. Fake gold chains nestle in his wiry curling white chest hair. His glaucoma eyes spot me as I come walking up through the yard, “Hey, hey there, Suzy Lee. What pleasure brings this siren to my humble domicile?”
I sniffle as I sit on the step below him and lean against the column, “I was wondering if ya had any smoke?”
He frowns, “I’m waiting on my fella now. Should be here in the next couple hours. You want a brew?”
“Sure.” I sigh lighting a cigarette.
“Ladonna, run upstairs and get our most honored guest a beer, huh?” He asks his girlfriend of unknown years.
She stands all to five foot three with a gut that rivals Harry’s and rubs it, “Alright, but you gonna owe me.” She sounds like she’s been smoking since she came from the womb.
Harry snorts, “Be glad I still keep your ass ‘round since I caught you in my pills.” He looks at me with wiggling nose hair, “It’s because I love her so much.”
‘Yeah, and you’re her pimp.’ I think, but I smile big, “That’s so sweet.”
“Sweet ain’t got nothing to do with him, honey tits.” She says as she disappears in the house. I can hear the stairs creaking beneath her weight as she gains higher altitude.
Harry goes straight to staring down my shirt, “So, uh, when you going to be…of age?”
Okay, so I’ve been older than eighteen for some time, but he doesn’t know that and I keep it that way. If he knew my real age he’d start touching me when I come over and a lot of girls are fine with it, but I’d be down one great cannabis connection, “In a couple years.”
“Well, you just come and see me on your birthday. We’ll party, just you and me, yeah?”
I force myself to nod. My grin is vacant, “Sure.”
He adjusts himself and I can see his boner outlined through the denim, “Yeah, it’ll be a great night. Get some beer, a little tye stick. I might even let you watch a couple dirty movies.” He chuckles grossly, “Are you a virgin, Suzy Lee?”
He asks me every single time I come over, “Nope.”
“A bit broken in, huh?”
I shrug, “I guess so, don’t really know what you mean.”
“How many lovers have you had?”
I try not to blush because any girlish habits makes him worse, “A couple.”
“Mhmm, bet you’re dirty.”
“Harry!” Ladonna is there with a hand on her hip, “Ain’t nobody dirtier than me.” She hands me the beer and sits on his lap as if to claim him. Her narrow red ringed eyes scan me, “She wouldn’t even know how to handle a cock like yours.”
No, I couldn’t and neither would I want to. I imagine oozing, puss filled lesions covering his dick and I gag.
“What’s a matter?” He asks.
“Nothing.” I cough out, “I’ve just been feeling a little bad today. Looking for smoke.” I open the can and drink it as quickly as I can. I’ve never been one for beer, but I’ve never been one to refuse free alcohol.
“The county’s practically dry. It’s taken me weeks to get this guy to come off some. In fact, I wouldn’t even sell you the shit he’s bringing. It’s middies at best, know what I mean?”
“Yeah.” I place the drained can beside his flip-flop, “I’ve got to get going. It’s too hot out here.”
“Be careful and, uh, don’t forget what I was talking ‘bout. Your birthday?”
“Yeah, no, I won’t forget.” I never do.
E.l. has a real nice little shotgun house off of Dakota Drive. A nice paved path winding up a brick front porch, but from halfway down the block by the Legion I see Lisa Marie standing on the porch yelling and waving her flashy French tips around. E.l. is walking away towards a guy running backward. Shit, man. E.l. has a fucking machete. I bend over with my hands on my knees, “Gah, I need this shit in my life.”
I stroll up on the sly and Lisa Marie waves me in while she’s screaming, “They gonna call the cops, E.l.! They gonna call em!”
“FUCK!” I hear as I sit uncomfortably on their bean bag chair. E.l. comes in sweating like a madman with rage burned in his bulging veins. Lisa Marie follows him in closing the screen door, “How much you need?”
“You do it, baby.” E.I. is pacing back and forth.
Disappointing, she always shorts me, but fuck it. She sits down and shakes her head while she gets a big plastic bag full of pot from under the couch cushion, “Shit’s been crazy ‘round here. Our electrics out and that guy kept talkin’ while E.I. was on the phone with them tryin’ to straighten it out.”
“That sucks.” I say watching her measure it in a cup on an electronic scale.
E.I. is messing with his phone, “It’s those voice operation bullshit. There’s no real people anymore. Just fucking ‘droids.” He turns on the speaker filling the room with elevator music. Smooooove jazz.
“The day’s been crappy for everyone. I got attacked by a dog on the way over here. It was so fucked.”
“There was a big problem like that in my hometown, Bandieville.” Lisa Marie is tying it up.
“Is that in Chateau County, Virginia?” I laugh, “I watched a documentary about a family that comes from there. The, uh, The Vulnerable, Vile Ventures of Bandieville, Virginia.”
“…please press seven…”
She laughs, “I got the hell outta there the minute those guys came out from Nashville wantin’ to do that video.”
“You’re a Venture?”
“Carli Bo is my mom, Moll Venture is my aunt…”
“…please wait for an available operator to assist you…”
“Wow, you’re real Appalachian royalty.”
She shrugs, “I don’t want no cameras here lookin’ at what I do, what we do.” I agree with a salute and she tosses the bag on the table, “There’s ten.”
I reach in my pocket and find…lint. My other has my key, “Shit, I forgot my money. Keep this on ice and I’ll be right back.”
“…please hold for an available operator to take your call…”
I’m dripping revulsion walking all the way across town to Duque Federal Credit Union. It’s only five dollars to keep it open. I haven’t been to the main branch since last week when they fucked me over ten bucks and I had words with the clerk.
I bet I look like a burnt out version of myself, hair wild and loopy eyes. They think I’m a dope fiend, a junkie. I am, but I’ve never been nothing but nice and quiet to them and they screw me because I skirt around their frame of reality. I’ve noticed the repugnance on their unmolested faces. Tellers always act like you’re intruding on their precious time and I hate that shit. You’re in public service, put a smile on your face, and fake it like you do remorse when a celebrity dies.
I open the first glass door and feel the sudden rush of freezing unmoving air-conditioning. It smells like carpet deodorizer and cologne walking through the second door into the lobby. Making my way through the obstacle course of waiting rope and greet a red haired filly with her name typed on her titty tag, “How may I help you today?”
“Yeah, I’d like to get thirty dollars out of my account.” I hand her my I.D. and bank card. She examines them like I’m a criminal.
While she types one button at a time on her keyboard I overhear the girl at the booth next to me talking with a gruff voice, “Yep, ‘most got far’d from work ‘cause sum bitch said I’s snortin’ pills in the bathroom. I was, but she was too with me! So I ratted her out an’ guess who got fired?”
The animosity from that single ramble of inane stupidity makes me snap. My stomach churns and I feel about as strong as a passed out badger, “Your the reason my mother is DEAD!”
All talking and movement stops and all eyes are on me.
“Eh…excuse me?” She’s looking at me. Her junkie panic has set in and her neck retreats a bobbling head.
“You and your goddamn pill heads killed my mother! People die every day in pain because of your fucking selfishness and greed!”
“Is there a problem, here?” My teller has returned with a straighter back.
“No!” I’m so sharp I feel like a razor blade, “Just give me my cash.”
“We can’t have you in the bank if you come in here to make a disturbance to our other patrons.”
“Patrons? That’s a pretty big word for you…Kinzie. They teach you that in training? I want to speak to your manager.”
“I am this regional bank’s manager. Maeve, get Todd out here.” She’s got level eyes on me, “You’re no longer allowed to do transactions in this building. You can go to our secondary location on Myrtlebank Street.” She pushes my I.D., bank card, money, and receipt beneath the glass partition.
I snatch it up and turn around to be greeted by a burly security guard, “Seriously? It’s like, five fucking feet to the door.”
“Job’s a job, Ma’am.” And he follows me and even opens it for me.
I swear to what the hell ever is holy, I better not see that woman ever again. Fucking junkies…
“Wait a second!”
I turn around and I can’t believe what I’m fucking seeing. I see her up close and personal, her black mascara smeared. Even with heels on I didn’t realize how short she was, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean nothing…”
She seemed sincere but my rage was fueled by ignorance and I screamed, “NO! You don’t get to apologize! I wouldn’t even accept if I could.”
She’s bowing like a doe.
“You’re coming with me!”
“Okay.” She says clambering behind me with her stick legs marching along in wedge heels. I take the long way around to Bernard’s by way of crossing St. Germaine Street at the light, the traffic loose and fragmented and her trailing me and with every clank of her heels hitting the pavement seemed make my head throb towards explosion. Bridge View Val-U was playing 108.9 The Classiks a.m. and ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ blared over their speakers.
“I laike this song.” She slurred.
As we turn down the alley beside Val-U and the furniture rental store, a man runs up to her, “Hey, Crista. Waz up, girl?”
“I’m following her.” She points a short claw to me.
She shrugs heavy faux fur shoulders, “I don’t know, Toad.”
First Bufurd, now Toad.. He’s a not wholly a man with a good ten o’clock shadow and bruised eyes, “I’ll come with yea.”
Here we stroll, the Mistress of Junkies with her two loyal subjects in tow, down Main Street Port Alex, across Pike Street, and land ourselves in Bernard’s parking lot. The sun is so fucking hot and I’ve got sweat rolling down tickling folds I never knew I had and my belly churns over and over. The suburbans hurry along in who are we kidding jogging suits and tennis shoes. Those cougars in brown leather boots and everyone looks pissed as a totally unbothered resting bitch face permeates.
“Would you like a cigarette?” I ask, digging in my back pocket.
“Aw, that’d be great.” Her eyes are shadowed. He smiles toking on his own cigarette.
I take a cigarette out of its pack and light it. I rapture in the essence of smoke and heat and for a moment I’m suspended from my ailments, but the globe always comes crashing down and after one hit I toss it to the ground and smother it with my boot. Moist tobacco sticks to the ground and the entire bottom of my sole, “It’s too bad, I just run out.”
And hell, my mom isn’t even dead.
There’s a tan Escalade parked in front of E.I. and Lisa Marie’s house and that bodes ill for me. I always get nervous like I’m about to walk right into a bust or a sting or I’m being recorded. I don’t know. I never know and that’s what gives me the jitters.
I go up ready to knock on the screen but E.I. is there waiting to let me in. The first thing I see is a very dark girl sitting on the floor in short-shorts exposing an entire backside of cellulite. Her black hair is in a spindly ponytail complete with a fine mustache spotting her flat face.
I sit at the end of the table rooting around for ten bucks and lay out a twenty instead. That leaves me five for a bottle of wine and five for a pack of smokes. Lisa Marie recalibrates the bag she pre-made while E.I. does introductions, “This is my friend, Keilly. She’s got some nice lemonade moonshine for sale.”
And I thought they were piss jugs, “Wish I could buy some.”
“How mush you got?” She motions with a head bob and flicker of acrylic nail.
“After this, I got ten, but five is for smokes.”
“I give you jug for five.” She already has it in hand pushing it to me. I take it quickly and it’s heavier than what it looked like all the way over there.
“Thanks!” I dig out a fiver and she takes it shoving it in her bra.
Lisa Marie sends me on my way, “It’s good shit, man. You’ll love it.”
It’s dark by the time I reach my trusty apartment with its crooked golden eight swaying back and forth. It’s a bit drafty in the hall for being so warm out and I don’t think the government agency that owns this piece of shit would care much if we had air-conditioning during one hundred and three degree weather.
The sloshing jug of moonshine was so awkward to carry all those blocks and it made it harder to look inconspicuous. Smoking a cigarette lugging around a gallon of what was for sure not any milk known to man.
I unlock my door and heave a sigh of relief as I place the moonshine on the kitchen counter. I close that thick walnut door listening to it latch in the dark silence when I hear a click and light comes flooding the room, “Dutchie, damn it! I told you to stop breaking in!”
I turn slowly around and see that it’s Graham, the collector. My heart slows down, “Shit, you fucking scared me.”
I can smell his cologne from ten feet away and his jeans are bit snug. His face is a handsome rugged like a forester or a carpenter, “Sorry, but Phyllis was pretty insistent I come by and get the rent and you know how she gets.”
I let out an easy laugh moving towards the counters by the refrigerator (that has barely worked since I first moved in four years ago), “ Yeah, I don’t really like messing with her much.” I flip on the light and stand on my very tip toes to reach the ceramic pig on the top shelf, “Can you fetch this for me?”
“Fetch?” He shortens the distance between us with a chuckle about him, “You’re so cute. How old are you anyway?”
Is he gauging right now?
“I’m old enough.”
“I bet you are.” He winks and gets the piggy bank down and gives it to me and his hand brushes against my breast.
My muscles tense as I unplug the fragile beast and get a random assortment of fives. It’s only twenty dollars for rent here, I shouldn’t bitch so much, “Here you go.”
Graham doesn’t take it. He has a swaggering stance as he looks down at me from a six feet four stature, “You know, you are a damn pretty girl.” He strokes my cheek.
I put on my most sincere smile, “I like it rough you couldn’t handle me.”
His body contorts to that of a demon with such a smug smirk slathering his chin, “I like it kinky.” In a motion so swiftly, he grabs the back of my hair and pulls. I drop the pig and I can hear it break, but I can do nothing. Graham has me in a tight hold kissing me. His tongue invading my mouth tasting like cotton candy of all things. And he’s a smoker too.
A hand roams over my chest as he talks, “You like that? You a dirty girl? Huh? You a dirty girl?” He’s nipping at my neck which prickles at his touch.
“Stop…” I’m completely paralyzed by fear that I can barely get the word out.
He is touching me lower and lower until his calloused fingers finds their target. His grasp isn’t particularly harsh but they’re not graceful either. He’s had practice doing this, controlling women. Which makes me both pleased and frightened.
I squirm away with the money held out. I can’t say anything. My tongue is tied up in knots. I feel like total shit and I just want this creep out of here so I can get drunk and forget today ever happened in the first place!
He’s slick as he goes about it in the silence. He grabs his wallet and cooly sets a fifty on the counter. He takes the money in my hand, kisses my forehead, and says, “Thanks, baby girl. I’m a have a hard on for you for weeks.”
I feel like I’ve been bathed in grease.
I don’t watch him leave. I just see the piggy bank that I’ve had since I was ten scattered in unforgivable pieces. Shattered beyond repair. The face of Ulysses S. Grant staring blankly at me.
I hate with such a hate and blinded by that hate, I don’t even remember opening the moonshine…