So smart I got life lessons dripping out my asshole (also: charm); pay me (…?)
Expressive art. Self-deprecating humor. The ninth painting of ten in my series, “The Weak End.” If you’re at all familiar with my work, you’ve already read everything that I could possibly say about this painting or the two days over which I worked on it.
I do, however, have a new (almost-finished) painting that will be featured here soon. In presenting it, there are three stories that I’ll want to share. Were I to include them all in a single entry, it’d be a little overwhelming. So…
The true story of my afternoon on April 28, 2012.
We met in a treatment facility that we had both transferred to from others. It was from her previous rehab that she knew Bill. He wasn’t a patient of theirs, he was an employee. He had clean time. (Emphasis on had). He started using yesterday.
J had a habit of not counting his money until he was back in his car. We didn’t have any money, but if we could find someone to throw in a hundred, we could pad the twenties with small bills to make it look like as much as three. We called Bill and he met us with a hundred dollars cash.
We had shorted J before but only by twenty or thirty and we’d always eventually (sort of) paid in full. In any case, we bought from him everyday. We were junkies; he knew we weren’t going anywhere.
I made the call and with her by my side and Bill in the backseat, we met up with J. As soon as we made the hand-off, I put the car in gear and drove off as quickly as I could without raising suspicion – but it’d only be a matter of time before he sat down and counted that money. He called within a minute. I had (I thought, slyly) taken a residential street so that he wouldn’t see us in traffic, but before I knew it, he was there. He slid around us, cut off our path, and was out of the car. I floored it in reverse, struggling to keep the car from backing into any of the others parked on the narrow street. He chased after us and almost grabbed hold of me through the window when I swung the car out into the intersection and into drive. His girlfriend had taken the wheel when he got out and she picked him up. They were right on us immediately and we proceeded to play bumper cars across the streets of Delray Beach, running every red light, driving on the wrong side of the roads. Our car was already beat up but his was really nice. Or had been earlier that day anyway.
As soon as J was back in the car, he was back on the phone. As we swerved around and into each other, I tried to reason with him. “It’s only two hundred dollars. Report the damage as a hit and run and turn it in to your insurance. This isn’t worth it.”
“This car isn’t insured or registered. It’s not even my plate. You owe me a lot of money – and the dope – and I’m beating the shit out of you.”
“I’ll get you money later in the week but I’m not giving the drugs back so you might as well give up now.”
I got us to the on ramp for I-95, but our car was old and slow. We didn’t stand a chance at outrunning him. Smashing the fuck out of his car hadn’t deterred him so I had to get creative. I swerved around other cars, trying to lead J into an accident that might actually slow him down.
“I’m gonna flip your car and kill you,” he said.
“That’s the only way you’re getting the drugs back. Chalk it up as a loss and give up before it gets any worse.” I was pretty bold for someone shaking so badly.
I tried a new technique: slamming on the brakes to take us from 90 mph to a dead stop in the middle of the interstate – counting on the cars around us to prevent J from doing the same. After a couple stalemates, where he pulled onto the shoulder up ahead to wait, knowing we had no option but to start driving again, I started to lose hope. How had we not passed a cop yet? How many other drivers must have called this demolition derby in by now? It was only a matter of time before this all ended very badly – one way or another. And my fucking fuel light was on.
“My boys are getting on at Lantana and are gonna light you the fuck up. You and your girl are as good as dead.”
I guess he didn’t notice that we also had Bill in the back seat. (Quite an experience for someone so freshly off the wagon, huh?)
Eventually, somehow, I was able to lose him. After an exit, I tore across two lanes and into the grass back toward the off-ramp at the last possible second when I’d be able to do so and J wouldn’t without losing sight of us for long enough for us to turn and leave him guessing which way we had gone.
J didn’t follow and when I got to the first red light that I wouldn’t be running that afternoon, I eased into a stop with a police car right next to me. My headlight was dragging on the street in front of the car. The front bumper was partially detached and the back bumper was smashed in. The light turned green and the distance between us and the cop increased until I was able to exhale.
And then I laughed. We all laughed. A lot. It wasn’t funny but it was amazing in its way. As fucked up as all of it is in hindsight, in that moment we were triumphant and I was a hero. (Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but it felt that way). We had no right to be alive. It defied all logic that we were driving away, unscathed and with heroin. I dropped Bill off at his car and drove back to the trailer park where she and I were renting a windowless room with no door to the outside. I left the car at the opposite end of the park and we got out to walk. We lived at the entrance of the park and J’s house was only a mile down the road; I didn’t want to run the risk were he to go out looking for us.
We walked into the trailer, into our room, shut the door, and shot up. I don’t remember anything that happened after that, but the next day, we packed our shit to leave for Miami.
“The Weak End” series:
- 4-Hydroxybutanoic Acid Talent Show
- Portraits of God, Nothing, and Fear
- Valuable Feedback
- Satellite Photography
- Friday Afternoons Spent in Mental Health Treatment Facilities
- Diminishing Returns
- No One Will Spit On Me and I Hate It
- So Smart I Got Life Lessons Dripping Out My Asshole
- Hard Feelings
- 11×13″ prints of this piece are for sale in my webstore.