Whenever anybody asked me what was wrong I would always begin with, “It’s a long story,” then eventually it became me making up a lot of different stories to save the trouble of trying to explain it. There were a lot of things I needed to do with my adult life. Getting into routines, being on time for class, work, meetings, even just hanging out with people – you know, become an adult, not just some overgrown manchild menaced by vapid insecurities and uncertainties inevitably giving up on running marathons before making it to the starting line. Though no matter how much I knew what I should’ve been doing, I couldn’t really ever do it. If I could count all the alarms I slept through, all the extra steps I added on my way to classes to make them more bearable – I did the same thing with work – there were all the suggestions I received and ignored, all the people who became disposable to me, and all the people I’d become disposable to, I’d be up for days.
Self-sabotage is the most difficult thing to understand and the most intoxicating thing to witness – and I was a circus. But even with all the under the tent, behind the scenes access I had, I could never make sense of how or why I did it with such attention to detail (or lack thereof) that there was no way to climb out of the holes I was digging. I was questioning the meaning of everything and losing my ambition to do anything. The combination was draining. My internal rift between instant gratification versus long-term rewards just grew and grew and before long I ended up going with the quick fixes, cheap solutions and easy outs more often than not. Every step I took in the right direction my shadow made sure to sweep up and I’d walk a mile in the wrong direction before turning around every single time. Somehow I always ended up fucking myself in the ass in front of a mirror and watching it happen twice. The standard coping mechanism of trying to dismiss every let down as meaningless just led to everything feeling pointless. Getting high helped, but only marginally; and the margins started to slide pretty quickly. People began to matter less and less to me over time. As long as I was fucked up enough to put up with each day’s new obstacles, who I was with was of very little consequence to me. The people I cared for phased in and out of my life like the days in a year went by. One after another after another were here then gone while no deep-rooted paths were forged and I felt the distance between myself and others at my core, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. My ex-girlfriends tried to understand and motivate and support me, but it was useless – I was the only one capable of that, and I wasn’t even sure about that much. As much as I needed to work on myself, they were human too and needed a supportive other half. My last girlfriend was oblivious to the things I was doing to my life. I was in my own self destruction and god’s child (my ex) couldn’t see it, instead she was seeking a set of ears to listen to her incessant bragging or her insecure pining for attention. I had to get out. So when I did, I ended up crashing on an old friend’s couch.
“Hey man,” Donnie started, leading like he was a doctor holding a clipboard that told him I only had a week to live, “my parents are dropping by a little later tonight, so, uh.”
I cut him off, “So don’t be here, you’re saying?”
“Well no, I just, I mean, can you make yourself scarce for a couple hours?” He stuttered through.
“Yeah, no I get it. I understand.” Donnie’s parents had read in the newspaper a little while back when I’d been in a car that was pulled over with a couple well-known drug dealers in it. Luckily neither of the guys had their whole stashes on them, and I only had a couple Oxys tucked in my wallet that the cops managed not to find. They did find a bag of weed and a bowl the driver, this girl Karah, had in the car and I took the blame for that so they wouldn’t charge her for it and take her for blood work and hit her with a DUI on top of whatever bullshit transporting charges they were already gonna throw at her. After that happened, I lost favor in a lot of my friends’ parents’ eyes. It was my own fault, but the repercussions were annoying at times.
Donnie stood there running a hand through his greasy, shaggy brown hair staring everywhere but at me. He moved his hand down to his chin, stroking his patchy stubble.
“I’m sorry, dude, you know I…”
I cut him off again, “You don’t have to be sorry Donnie, it isn’t like they hate me because of you or anything. They hate me because of me, so I have to own up to that. I’ll just hit up Mike or Ian or someone and see what they’re up to.”
“I still feel like a dick. I mean, I can give you a ride somewhere if you need one,” he said.
“No, you don’t have to do that. You’ve been generous enough letting me stay here to begin with. I’m sure one of them can pick me up. Worst case scenario I have to walk a few blocks. It’s no big deal.”
He packed his bong and we passed it back and forth a few times before it was just ash and he said he needed to hop in the shower. I tried texting Mike and Ian to see what they were up to, but didn’t hear anything back. When I heard the water from Donnie’s shower stop I tried calling each of them but neither answered. Not really sure what to do, I decided to shoot Karah a text. She answered right away and was down to hang out, said she’s pick me up in about 20 minutes.
Donnie came back out to the living room wearing this short sleeve navy button down with tan chinos and a light grey pair of low top Adidas. His shaggy hair was flipping out around his ears and his face was clean shaven besides two thin sideburns that ran almost to the button of his earlobes. I could notice the slight double chin he was developing. I was sitting on the futon packing my bowl. I hit it and passed it to Donnie.
“Hey man, so Karah’s gonna be coming by to pick me up in like 20 minutes.”
He looked confused, “Karah? Karah Sable?”
“Why her?” He took a hit from the bowl and handed it back to me.
“Well I tried Mike and Ian but neither of those dicks knows how to answer their phone apparently. What’s it matter? I’ll be scarce, dude.”
“Alright whatever works for you, man. But hey my mom texted me about going for dinner right when they get here and they’re about two minutes out, so I’m gonna be dipping soon to do that. Can you just do me a favor and make the place not smell like weed and hide any of the bud and pieces? You know where the Febreeze is, and there’s that scented powder for the carpet that you can vacuum with to make the place smell good. That should be enough. We’ll probably be headed back here in like an hour so just try to be gone by then. I’m sorry again.” Another apology. “Shit, my mom’s calling, they must be here.” He answered his phone. “Yeah, I’ll be right out just gimme a minute… Oh! No, no, you don’t have to come inside, I’m literally walking out the door now… Alright.. love you too. See you soon. Bye.” He turned to the door, “Alright I’ll see you later then dude. Be safe, I’ll call you when they’re gone and see what’s up.”
“Sounds like a plan. Have fun, see ya dude.” And he was gone.
A minute later Karah called saying she was outside.
“Is there parking out front?” I asked.
“Yeah, now that some SUV moved. Why?”
Since Donnie said I had an hour before he’d be coming back, I decided to invite Karah in for a little.
She came to the door wearing a black top that came down to her chest with a white tank top underneath and jeans with one of the knees blown out with a pair of white Sperrys. She had dirty blonde hair up in a ponytail and thin, dark rimmed glasses and a minimal amount of makeup – if any at all. She was pretty without dolling herself up like a clown. We hugged because I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks, and that was just a brief run in at the bar. The last time before that was around the time we got pulled over.
“I missed you, Stevie,” she said, squeezing herself tight against me.
“I missed you too. How have you been?”
“I’m doing okay, how about you?”
“I’m hangin’ in there, I guess. Same shit different day mostly. Donnie’s been letting me crash here til I get my shit together and my own place set up, so I have that at least.”
“That’s nice of him, after everything that happened and all,” she started. “Do you still fuck around with shit?”
“When I can. Mostly I just smoke weed, take Percocet here and there now because Donnie doesn’t want me bringing other shit into his place.” Early into living here I learned most of my habits would have to be concealed if I wanted to still have a place to sleep, when he walked in on me nodding in and out with a few bags of dope lying around. “What about you?”
“Yeah, I found out this one guy I used to work with is selling. I was gonna see if you wanted to get high, but if you don’t want to here I get it.” Her greenish, brown eyes pulled the worst impulses out of me.
“Well we’ll be here alone for a little while, so we could. I have a couple bags left that I was waiting to do anyway.”
“Oh no, I want you to try this stuff I have now. It’s really good, you can tell it isn’t really stepped on or anything.” And with that she was reaching into a floral wristlet that looked better suited for carrying lipstick and bobby pins than bundles of dope. It was the perfect place to hide shit, though – besides in her bra – I mean, nine times out of ten any cop is gonna be a male and he’s not gonna know a secret pocket inside of that thing from a dildo holder. The perks of being a woman.
We sat down on the futon in the middle of the living room and she pulled out a few bags that were rubber banded together.
“Are you snorting yours?” I asked, curious about how much she’d been doing dope since the incident. She was one of the very few people I knew who’d ever touched heroin without letting it swallow them whole. Usually, she snorted it, but there were a couple times when I’d been with her and she shot it.
“Yeah, I haven’t shot it in a while. Are you snorting yours?”
“Yeah, I never really shot it that much.” I was part of that few I knew who’d been able to touch the drug without letting it entirely consume their lives. Although I always had made myself sound like I was doing better than I actually was, I hadn’t really gotten addicted to the point where I had to worry about scoring all the time to keep from getting dopesick.
“Okay, well that’s good. I’m glad you’re at least keeping your shit together enough that you don’t need to shoot it. I heard that Jon and Munk have been really bad ever since everything happened.”
Jon was a friend of ours who went to a different high school than Karah and me but came around the same social circles as us at the same times. When the car got pulled over he got pegged for having a pistol and a little bit of speed on him. Munk was this guy we knew through Jon who sold a lot of dope who we really only hung out with for drugs. They caught him with eight bags on him. As Karah and I got to talking, she told me that she was going to take some driving classes as well as drug and alcohol classes but was able to use her ARD so that once she did whatever recommended (community service, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, whatever) and paid her fines, it would all be expunged from her record.
I emptied the ticket Karah handed me and chopped it up real fine and snorted it, escaping the hell of compromise. It wasn’t the right way, but I’ve seen alcoholics wake up shaking their way to the kitchen to hit the bottle just to stay sane. I’ve seen housewives go on rampages when their Xanax prescription ran out before their refill came in. A vice is still a vice – legal or not. The experiment of prohibition proved we will always find our fixes, the only difference would be whether it was taxed or not. Then the War on Drugs came along because the criminal justice system could make more money jailing anybody who gave into vices the government couldn’t make money off of.
I looked at Karah through pinholes, “Thank you for that bag. This shit is really good.”
“You don’t have to thank me, it’s nice to get to see you again.”
“‘To get to see’ me again,” I chuckled a little bit, “you say that like it’s this big privilege.”
“Well, it is. I like hanging out with you. And I haven’t seen you in forever.”
Her eyes met mine and my natural instincts were to kiss her. As I leaned in, I saw the bowl that I packed before Donnie left and instead of kissing Karah, I reached for that.”
“Do you wanna smoke a little? Me and Donnie only each it once before he left so it’s still good for a little while.”
“Yeah sure,” she said. I felt like she noticed me leaning in more than I should’ve been for the bowl. We smoked mostly in silence besides coughs.
I broke the silence, “I’m gonna throw some music on,” and I got up and went over to my stereo system, one of the only things of mine that I brought with me when I moved in. “I have the newest Circa Survive CD in already, are you cool with that?”
“Of course. Let it play, DJ.” So I turned it on and we went back to smoking without saying anything, just listening to the music.
While the music bumped, Anthony Green sang along as the song came to an end.
I’m playing dead until there’s nothing left, Immediately, I feel relief from dragging this vessel around.
As the song faded out, Karah asked me, “So, how’s living with Donnie?”
“It’s been pretty nice. He’s been cool for the most part, I just have to hide the dope from him because he doesn’t want me doing it here – which makes sense.”
“Yeah,” she laughed.
“But yeah besides that, I’m lucky he’s had my back, you know?”
“Mhm, you guys used to be pretty close too. He was always cool whenever I was around and you guys were hanging out,” she said as I hit the bowl and found it was all ashes. I leaned over to put it on the coffee table as she said, “and with a handsome, vulnerable stud at his door needing a place to stay, how could he say no?”
“Oh, I’ve had to blow him almost every night I’ve been here, so believe me he’s taking advantage of the vulnerable thing.” She started laughing and her bangs slipped in front of her glasses, so I reached over to move them out of her face. I saw this twinkle in her eye when I reached over and felt pressure I hadn’t felt in awhile. Then I was leaning in again with my fingers lightly placed on her jawline to pull her in and we kissed. And we kept kissing, slowly at first as I pulled her body on top of mine and wrapped my arms around her and she used her hands to play with my hair and grab the back of my neck.
We kept making out, her tongue wrapping mine up, my hands running through her hair and unbuttoning her shirt and her hands unbuttoning mine. I started kissing her neck that smelled of lilacs and lavender mixed with cigarettes and could feel her breathing heavily in my ear. We took a second to take our shirts off and in that second I was lost in her gorgeous face and perfect skin. I never expected Karah to be interested in me like this – she was this angelic being with a soft face and a dangerous smile, the kind that makes you want to rob banks to decorate her with thousands of dollars worth of diamonds, and I was just a well of untapped potential that in all likelihood didn’t even exist – the potential, I mean.
I unhooked her bra with one hand with the other holding her by the small of her back. I kissed her from her lips down to her neck, from her collarbone to her chest as she tugged on my hair and started to moan. Her hand started reaching down for my jeans until she grabbed me through them. She quickly unbuttoned and unzipped my jeans and pulled them down and got down on her knees with me sitting up right on the couch and put me in her mouth. I ran my hands through her hair, slowly moving her head up and down as I did. I tilted her head up and we made eye contact, and I nearly came as her eyes stared through me so I pulled her mouth off me and pulled her hand to guide her back up onto the couch where I unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans and took them off and started kissing her mouth again. Then I kept moving down to her breasts and slowly moved down until my head was in between her thighs. Her breathing kept getting heavier and heavier until she pulled me up by my hear and whispered in my ear, “I want to sit on your face while I suck your dick.” So I laid down on the futon and she got on top of me, my tongue found its warm home as she slid me into her mouth.
While all this is happening I completely forget I’m not in my own house, that it’s Donnie’s place and that he and his parents are supposed to be coming back here at some point this evening, and I especially forgot that I wasn’t supposed to be there when they came. I forgot all this, that is, until I was mostly naked on his futon and the door flew open.
Right before this happened I told Karah I was about to finish and just when I was about to I felt her mouth pull off my dick and her body leaped off of me, her hands quickly covering her body. I was confused about it until I realized Donnie’s parents just walked in on me 69ing with this girl on their son’s couch. There in the perfect little moment, entered Sylvia and Thomas to see a druggie shooting his cum all over their son’s futon and floor while a naked girl jumped off his face, heroin bags, a rolled up one dollar bill, and a bowl out in the open for them to see.
They don’t script movies this well.
Flash to the parking lot of this dirt cheap, fleabag motel mostly used for selling and doing drugs and for lower-middle class people to have affairs. Just off in the distance an illuminated Cracker Barrel sign is the moon. I’m here with Karah. We both took some Xanax to keep ourselves from getting sick and then decided to rob this dealer who was staying here because we were broke and knew he had money and drugs. We were there for the money, getting his shit was just an added bonus. The part of our minds that would usually dismiss something so bold (risky, brazen, etc.) was so distracted by the pills that we’d made it to this parking lot. None of it made sense – the progression it took to get here, the serious relationship Karah and I had gotten into so quickly, the dwindling safety net I had, gone, this helpless feeling that wasn’t going anywhere – and accepting that and living with it was easier than trying to get it to make sense anymore.
“Okay, you have the masks and gloves right?” I asked Karah.
“Of course, they’re in the trunk sweetie,” somehow she was still able to sound adorable when we were about to burst through this 30 something year old guy’s motel room with guns and ski masks. maybe that was why I came to like her so much, that ability to bring some beauty into this ugly life.
The ugly things we do to get by.
We sat in the car with the guns on our laps and the ski masks resting on the tops of our heads and we looked at each other and kissed one more time before putting the masks on all the way and running into room 6. The last seconds of normalcy we had before we’d climbed the ladder to robbing someone with weapons to get money and dope, I can feel this moment slipping further and further from my memory with each hour that goes by.