Sunday, December 05, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Six: Ignorance Is Not Bliss

There we were: parties, guys, cars, and good times. It was like a long summer. Even in the winter, it didn’t slow us down. We’d just bundle up in our coats and walk down to one of the local pubs.

I'll sleep when I'm dead
Seven days of Saturday
Is all that I need
Got no use for Sunday
'Cause I don't rest in peace
I was born to live
You know I wasn't born to die
But if they party down in heaven
I'll be sure to be on time
Until I'm six feet under
I don't need a bed
Gonna live while I'm alive
I'll sleep when I'm dead
Till they roll me over
And lay my bones to rest
Gonna live while I'm alive
I'll sleep when I'm dead


I recall the first time I caught a buzz. We were just down around the corner at a little pub that only had room for a square bar, some seats around the edges and pool table at the end. We’d sit there and have a few drinks. If I played pool, I’d stick to coke. Playing pool at these little joints was an adventure all in its self. If it was a slow night, you’d stick your quarters on the table and then watch as the people ahead of you played. On a busy night, there was a board we put our names on the and wait our turn.

That night, the table was full, so I sat with the girls and sipped Tequila Sunrises. Finally, the pub was closing and we started walking home the long way. I don’t remember what we were doing, but the next thing I know we were belting out the Star Spangled Banner at the top of our lungs on Main Street. The town was doing some construction on a side road. A tall mound of dirt and gravel was piled up in a little parking lot covered with snow. Becky ran up to the top and started yelling, “I’m the king of the hill!”

Of course, we couldn’t let that challenge pass, so we all grabbed snowballs and started pelting her with them. She returned fire. Then we ran up the hill, grabbed her and we all went rolling.

Then the police car pulled up. “You girls need to get on home.” Yeah, we were known by then. It couldn’t be helped when the police department only had ten men that rotated shifts.

There were also interesting characters in the neighborhood. The house at the end of our street was a “bachelor pad”. Not the kind you’re thinking. Or, maybe it was. It was an old Queen Anne style with a wrap around porch. It was a dump and it was the home of five “bachelors”, all about thirty or forty. It was also a party house. They threw the biggest Halloween parties in the neighborhood.

The inhabitants were: Dave, who owned the house, he inherited it from his mother; Peachy, I don’t know his real name, he was a “Dead Head” and had a nominal job at a T-Shirt printing company that specialized in contraband concert T’s; Peachy’s brother, don’t ask me his name, he was always just “Peachy’s brother”; some guy, whose name I never did get, but who reminds me now of Tim Allen’s neighbor, Mr. Wilson, always wearing a floppy brimmed fishing hat, couldn’t see his face; Chris, who was the only guy that had any thing resembling a real job, a ten year “engagement” with his fiancé and an addiction to valium.

They were also the house that had just about anything you could want: marijuana, shrooms, ludes, valium, whatever. They had it there.

There was the crazy lady across the street from them. Mrs. Something-apolis. She would come out on her front porch, grab hold of one of the posts, lean out with her hand held above her eyes like she was shading them from the sun, and look down the street. Then she would go to the other side and repeat the process. The first time I saw this happening, I turned to my roommate and said, “What’s she doing?”

Tracy said, “Watch this,” and she leaned inside of the house and started flipping the light switch on and off like she was using Morse code. Mrs. Something-apolis went inside and started returning the signal. Tracy went outside, grabbed hold of one of our posts, leaned out and yelled, “Ships Ahoy!”

“Tracy, what the hell are you doing?” I was so embarrassed.

“She’s crazier than a loon,” Tracy was laughing, “she’s always threatening to call Chief Tito on us.”

“Who?”

“Chief Tito. He was the police chief a few years ago, but he dropped dead of a heart attack at his girlfriend’s place just before you came up. She doesn’t even know he’s dead.”

“Oh.” I felt kind of bad about Tracy playing off some woman down the street who wasn’t quite with it. That is, until the day I was walking back from the Wawa down the street. Mrs. Something-apolis was on her front porch sweeping. Lisa and I were walking past her when she stops, looks right at us and says, “Mafia sluts.”

I spit some of my soda out and looked at Lisa, “What did she say?”

“She said, “Mafia sluts.””

Mrs. Something-apolis went on a tirade, “Mafia sluts, Mafia sluts. The Mafia is taking over this town. Chief Tito is going to hear about this,” she grabbed her broom and stomped inside.

We were laughing so damned hard we almost couldn’t walk, bent over with laughter and me trying not to spew my soda all over the place.

Yep. Interesting characters.

There were also interesting places. We went down to the board walk in Atlantic City, walked around, watched the fire works display timed to explode to an orchestra playing big, booming classics, ate Coney Island hot dogs, visited a palmist and rode the carnival rides.

I still remember what the palmist told me. I would be married in two years to a tall, blonde man with green eyes and wearing a blue uniform. I would have two children and a dog.

The only thing she got right was the dog.

We were riding the “Flying Dutchman” which looked like a ship that swung back and forth, going higher and higher. We were the only ones on the ride except for the three little girls in front of us who were about ten. We were flying higher and higher, our butts leaving the seats and the bar across our thighs, keeping us from flying out. The three little girls in front of us started moving around, sitting side ways in their seat, putting their legs outside the bar as we flew higher and higher, sometimes almost vertical.

I started having visions of these little girls flying out of the ride to the boardwalk below. I yelled at them to turn around in their seats and sit down. They either couldn’t hear me or were determined to pay no attention. I yelled again as we flew straight up, our backs to the sky and boardwalk directly below. They still continued to move around and I was becoming very afraid.

As we swooped back towards the boardwalk where the operator was standing, I yelled, “Stop this thing!” He didn’t hear me and we flew forwards. The little girls kept moving around. We swung back, “Stop this thing!”

Becky and Lisa, “Kansas, what’s wrong?” “You feel sick Kansas?” I couldn’t hardly speak I was so scared what I was going to see and I nodded my head towards the girls in front of us, just as we swung back and they started flying up. All three of us had a terrified look on our faces. The ride started swinging back again, pushing them and us back in our seats.

We all started yelling to the guy as we flew by, “Stop this thing!” “Hey, stop the ride!” The ride just swung forward again and we were facing the starry sky. It seemed like we were going on and on forever. We all looked at each other as we started flying backwards and, as we passed the guy again, who had finally turned back towards the ride, we yelled out, “Stop this f*ing thing!” He finally got the picture and started pulling on the levers to slow the ride.

Then we all three started yelling at the little girls, “Sit down. Sit down, dammit!” The little girls finally turned around and sat down in their seats. We finally got off the ride and Becky, being a mom, was lecturing the little girls and asking them where their parents were. Then she turned on the guy and gave him an earful about letting little kids ride without supervision. I won’t repeat her words, but she did call his ancestry and manhood into question and threatened to go to the safety board.

I think he got the picture.

When we left, we were all shaking and then we started laughing a little and recounting our adventures for the day.

Yeah, we had some adventures.

During our parties, we always had an eclectic group of people over. Every sort from the local union guys, working putzes like us, general bums, you name it we had it. Most of the time it was BYOB, bring your own booze. It also meant that some people brought their own drugs.

Usually, it was just marijuana. A few roaches would be passed around and people would take a toke or two and then pass it on.

I remember the first time it happened we were upstairs in Becky’s apartment. I was leaning against one of the counters in the kitchen watching some people sit at the table playing “quarters”. The guy next to me was taking a toke, sucking the smoke in and holding it there for a second or two before blowing it out. Then he turned to me and held the roach out. I looked at it for a second, sort of stunned.

There I was, free to do what I wanted with no one to tell me otherwise. Then I started thinking about my job and the fact that our policy was to do random UAs (urinary analysis). I didn’t know anyone that had it done to them, but I kept thinking that, if it happened to me, this would ruin my job and it would put my name on a black list forever. Our business was pretty insular. Everybody who had experience had worked with some one, somewhere. There were no secrets in our business and when you work for companies that dealt in drugs, particularly narcotics for terminally ill patients and cancer victims, a drug issue would knock you out of the business forever.

Add to that the deep seated fear of becoming like those kids my parents were always talking about and I was determined not to do it. Besides that, I really didn’t know that much about marijuana and I thought ALL drugs were addictive.

So, I just smiled at the guy and said, “No thanks.”

He looked a little confused and pushed the joint towards me a little more, “You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Thanks anyway.” We were taught to be polite.

He just shrugged his shoulders and looked for someone else to pass it to.

A little while later, some of the guys were harassing me, “Kansas. You didn’t want a smoke? C’mon, one puff won’t kill you.”

“No, really. Thanks anyway.” I laughed and pushed Timmy’s hand away gently, pushing him towards Peachy, “You guys go on and share it.”

They all laughed and Timmy said, “Whatever floats your boat.”

Yeah, whatever floated by boat and it wasn’t drugs. I remember going down stairs later wondering if this was going to be a repeat of high school. No more party invites for Kansas. She’s un-cool.

But, the party invites didn’t stop. Kansas was cool in her own right, no drugs or alcohol induced puking required. After a few more episodes and offers, it was pretty much understood that I didn’t participate and they stopped offering. I even recall one incident where a new addition to our group was trying to get me to do it. He was being really insistent and I was starting to get really uncomfortable with how insistent he was. Timmy walked over and took the roach out of his hand and said, “Dude, Kansas doesn’t do this stuff, so leave here alone.” The guy shrugged his shoulders, Timmy took a puff and handed the joint back to him and the guy walked away.

“Thanks, Timmy.”

“Hey, no problem,” and he went back to join the rest of the party.

Cool. No drugs required.

Tracy had started dating a guy named Michael. He had a cast on his leg because he had a knee replacement. He had cancer on the knee and this was a last ditch effort to save his leg. He was only twenty-six and it was his third surgery. He was a really nice guy. I honestly couldn’t figure out sometimes how he had ended up with Tracy. She could be a royal b* sometimes to the guy.

I was still dating here and there. One night Tracy came home from work and said that she and Michael were going to the little club around the corner. They were going to meet a friend of Michael’s who was recently divorced and had just taken up residence in one of the little flop apartments above the local liquor store. She asked me if I would come along and make it a foursome.

What the hell. I didn’t have anything planned so I drove over with Tracy and we met the guys there. We sat at the end of the bar with our backs to the half wall and talked and laughed. He was a nice guy. He was working construction because he had just gotten out of the Navy. He was still torn up about his divorce and I understood we were just hanging out for the night.

While we were sitting at the bar, three guys at the opposite end starting throwing ice across the bar at two guys who were standing behind us. I guess they knew them. Some of the ice was falling short of its target and hitting us. Mike and Joe both looked down the bar and said, “Hey, guys. You’re hitting the ladies. Would you mind?” The guys looked away a little sheepishly and it seemed to have died down.

A few minutes later, ice started flying our way again. Joe got up, walked down the bar and had a quiet conversation with the guys. As he was walking back, one of the guys said, “F* you.” Joe stopped for a minute and I thought I was going to see a bar room fight. I was really worried since it was three of them, plus maybe their two buddies behind us, Mike was on crutches and that just left Joe.

I called out to Joe, “Hey, Joe. C’mon. Tracy and I want to go to the diner.” There was a nice little diner we always went to after the bar that was owned by a Greek family. They made the best cheese bread and cinnamon bread. The club was dead anyway and I thought we could avoid a fight over stupid juvenile behavior.

Joe came on back and put his jacket on, helped me with mine and we walked out of the bar. Tracy said she was riding with Michael and suggested that Joe ride with me in my little two seater Fiero. As we were getting in the cars, we could hear a train coming. The club sat directly on the other side of the tracks from the main road. Tracy and Mike took off as Joe finished folding himself into my car. Right about then, I noticed the three guys from the bar come out and get into their little compact car with two doors. I didn’t say anything to Joe, but he watched them get in their car and then told me to drive on.

As we started driving out of the parking lot, the car with the three guys drove up besides us and started yelling, “Pussy! Asshole!” They were flipping us off.

Joe said, “Roll down your window.” The car was on my side and the passenger seemed awful close hanging out the window.

“No way. Let’s just drive on to the diner,” and I pushed the accelerator down, turning out of the parking lot on to the side road leading up to the railroad crossing. The car pulled along side of us as we drove and continued to yell out their window. At the same time, the crossing guard started coming down and the lights were flashing. Oh, shit.

Right about then I started thinking what a pain in the ass it was that Mike and Tracy had left us back in the parking lot to catch up. Three guys to one and I was sure it was going to be nasty. Joe said, “Roll down your window.”

“No!”

“Roll down your window!”

I rolled down the window and Joe yelled out, “Pull the f* over and get out! Pull the f* over!” He had his arm reaching across me, pointing his finger at them.

More yelling and we were getting close to the railroad crossing. I was looking down the tracks to see if we could make it. “Stop the car.”

“No, dammit. There’s three of them and one of you.”

“I said, stop the car,” as he was opening the door.

Shit! I stomped on the breaks and brought the car to a screeching halt. The other car came to a halt about fifteen feet ahead of us and on the left. There were no other cars around and the train was starting to fly by. I kept thinking that I would just throw the car in reverse and go get one of the bouncers or something. Joe jumped out of the car and was rounding the hood.

The first guy got out of the passenger side of the car and met Joe about halfway between the cars. It seemed like Joe didn’t even break stride. He sent a left to the guys gut and a right cross to his face. The guy stumbled back and sideways, hitting the front fender of the car and sliding down. About then I noticed the driver was rounding the hood of his car and charging on Joe who quickly turned, blocked the guys left handed swing with his right arm, hit him in the solar plexus with a left and then sent a right hook into his chin.

The guy literally left his feet, flew backwards, and hit the ground. Just like in the movies. Joe turns around just as the third guy was getting out of the back of the car. It was a coup so he was holding the passenger side seat forward, his right foot just outside of the car. Joe pointed to him, “Get out. Get out of the car!”

The guy froze, looked at Joe, holding his right hand up, said, “No…no. That’s okay dude,” and he scooted back into the car, letting the seat fly back.

The first guy was rolling on the ground, moaning, “My nose. Dude, you broke my f*ing nose!” The second guy was unconscious I think. The train finished rolling by. Joe got in the car and said, “Let’s go.”

I was setting there with my mouth open, hands on the steering wheel and shaking like a leaf. I had been pretty damn sure I was going to see Joe get the crap beat out of him by these three big guys. Not that he was small, but they were definitely bigger. “C’mon, let’s go. The train’s gone now.”

I put the car in gear and started rolling past the guys on the ground slowly. When we got out on the main road, I was finally able to speak, “Um...Joe, where’d you learn to do that?”

H was smoking a cigarette and flipping the ashes out the window. He turned with a little half smile on his face and said, “I was the middle weight boxing champion in the Navy.”

Ooooooohhh.

We went to the diner, had coffee, gave Tracy an earful for leaving us back there and laughed a little bit over the third guy. He was definitely not getting out of the car.

I never did see Joe again. I heard from Tracy he was trying to get back together with his wife. They had two kids and I don’t really blame him.

We had some good times and some interesting times. But they were coming to a close. Something was changing in our little group.

Drugs. Not just marijuana.

If you wanna hang out, you've gotta take her out: Cocaine
If you wanna get down, get down on the ground: Cocaine

She's alright,
She's alright,
She's alright,
COCAINE


I knew Lisa Beth did more than marijuana. She was constantly talking about going down to “the cap”. That was what they called Camden, NJ. Camden was actually one of the “armpits” that my dad referred to when he said New Jersey was an armpit. Not someplace you wanted to go after dark. I also noticed that, during the parties, some of the people would disappear up to the attic bedroom and not come down for a while. At first I thought it was just to smoke marijuana, particularly when Becky’s daughter was home on the weekends instead of staying with her grandmother.

One night during the week, Lisa Beth came over. We were sitting around watching a movie up at Becky and Lisa’s. We decided to order some hot wings from the little place about a half-mile down the road, The Derby. It was a dive, but they had the best hot wings and had dollar pitcher nights on Thirsty Thursday. The first time I ever had their “Screamin’ Eagle” wings, they were so hot, my tongue went number, my lips were burning, my eyes were watering and my nose was running. Every time I breathed out it felt like I was breathing fire. I had to eat about two dozen celery sticks before I felt better.

Lisa Beth said she would buy if I ran her down in my car. I did and she went in while I waited outside. Finally, after about fifteen minutes she came back out, got in the car and said, “Drive, Kansas.”

Ok. Whatever. As we drove back to the apartment, I noticed that a police car was following us and he followed us all the way back to the house. I was really getting nervous, thinking I had done something to get pulled over. I drove the speed limit the whole way, pulled into my parking spot and he drove on by. We got up in the house and Lisa Beth put the wings down and pulled a little brown plastic packet out of her pocket, showing it to Becky, “Look what Iiii goooot.”

My friend Lisa had a pained expression on her face, Becky was looking embarrassed because she was being found out and I felt the blood rushing to my head. My face got hot. I was pissed, “What the f*?! You had me drive you down there to buy drugs? What the f* is wrong with you?”

Lisa Beth was looking at me with a confused look on her face, “Chill, Kansas. It’s cool.”

“No, G*d dammit, it’s not cool. Did you notice the f*ing cop that followed us all the way back to the house, you stupid b*?”

Now she was getting irritated, “Pshaw. He wouldn’t have done anything. It was on me, anyway.”

I might have been from Kansas, but my dad was a cop and I knew the rules, “What are you, stupid? They’d tow my car away and I’d be in jail right beside you.”

“Nothing happened.”

“You’re G*d damn right nothing happened and it isn’t happening again. You got that?” I stomped down stairs and slammed the door to my apartment.

Sometime around mid-night, Lisa Beth was knocking on my door, “Kansaaas. I’m sorry Kaanssaas. Can you give me a ride home?” It was raining out and her boyfriend hadn’t come back for her. She lived about ten miles away from us. She had some big brass balls to be knocking on my door for a ride. I told her to go back upstairs and get Becky to give her a ride. “They’re all asleep. I want to go home.”

Sorry. I guess you’re going to have to walk.

We didn’t have a very good relationship after that.

Lisa and Becky were also having problems. Becky’s ex-husband was starting to come back around and he was a mean drunk. I don’t think, if Becky hadn’t been doing the cocaine, that she would have taken him back. They had several fights and, when Lisa tried to interfere, he punched her in the face. Lisa told Becky that it was either Butch (Becky’s ex), or her. Becky told Lisa to “chill out” and Lisa moved out. She moved in with a woman friend of ours down the street who was about thirty and had a little four year-old boy named Victor.

Our group was splintering. I had met some friends that were doing the country and western scene and Lisa and I were going out with them to a little joint about fifteen miles down the road called “The Silver Rose”. It had a wooden floor, saw dust and a live band. A DJ between sets would play country and mix it with the most current hip-hop or rock music. It was a nice little place.

Tracy was still hanging out with Michael. They were going to parties with Michael’s friends. I didn’t realize that these parties included some “recreational cocaine” use. One night, after coming home from the little country and western place, I walked in and Tracy and Mike were sitting in front of the couch on the floor with the big coffee table in front them. They had a little square compact mirror sitting on the table and two rolled up dollar bills. There was nothing on the mirror at that time, but I was not completely stupid.

“What the hell is this?”

“Nothing to get upset about, Kans-ass.”

“Bullshit. You know how I feel about that crap.” I had made it abundantly clear after the Lisa Beth episode. Anybody wanted to do that they could go someplace else. Smoking a joint was one thing, but snorting coke was another.

She was getting a little pissy and Mike was looking embarrassed, “I pay half the rent around here and I’ll do what I want.”

“Yeah? I pay half the rent around here and if you want me to keep doing it, you won’t bring that shit up in here.” She got pissed and stomped off.

It wasn’t long before I figured out why they called Camden “the cap”. This referred to the miniature, brown plastic zip lock bags that were also referred to as “bullet bags”, or “bullets”. They were about one inch by one inch, just big enough to contain enough cocaine to take a snort off of each nostril then they could be disposed of. “The cap” was a play off of the gangster term for “popping a cap” in somebody, or shooting someone. Since the coke came in “bullet bags”, getting some was “going to the cap”.

I knew that really wasn’t the end of the situation, but I hadn’t figured out what to do. Tracy was estranged from her parents and her sister was even more messed up than she was. Any friends that might have influence on her were turning into coke-heads, too.

I was really disappointed about Michael. In some ways, I did feel sorry for him. During this time, he had had his left leg amputated above the knee and was getting a prosthesis. His previous surgery to remove the cancer and replace his knee hadn’t worked. The cancer had come back. I think I realized even then that this was his way of dealing with it. I tried to talk to him about it, but he kept telling me that this whole thing was no big deal. It was just at some parties and stuff.

I was twenty-three and really didn’t have a clue what to do. I didn’t know how I could stop this thing. I had realized even then that coke was a really bad deal. I could see some of the guys from down the street were a bunch of losers and no accounts that did more drugs than they worked to get money. I had a bad feeling about it.

A few weeks later, we had another big fight about it. I was sweeping the living room floor when I saw two of these “bullet bags” come out from underneath the couch. I was instantly furious about it and confronted Tracy when she came home.

“They’re not mine.”

“Bullshit. If they aren’t yours, who the hell do they belong to?”

“They’re not mine!”

“Dammit, Tracy. This shit will f* your life up.” She stomped off again.

Two nights later I heard them drive up in Michael’s car. I was laying in my bedroom reading and I heard them outside yelling. Tracy finally came in and stomped to her room. The next morning I came out and, sitting on the kitchen table, was Michael’s prosthetic leg. I was really shocked. Tracy finally came out of her room, “What’s this?” I asked.

“Michael’s leg.”

“No shit. What’s it doing on our table?”

“I had a fight with Michael last night and I took it.”

Holy shit. “Are you going to give it back?”

“No.”

“What? Tracy….”

“You want to give it back to him, you do it. I don’t want to see him again.”

I called Michael up and told him he could come and get his leg. Tracy was gone for the day. He finally came over. It felt really strange to be giving him his leg back on our front porch. He told me that he had told Tracy his mom had convinced him to go into rehab and he wanted Tracy to go in with him. She refused and told him that she didn’t have a problem. When he insisted that she did, that’s when they had an argument.

I tried to talk to Tracy, but she was still in denial.

It just kept spiraling downward from there. Two weeks later she had lost her job. Our rent was due and she didn’t have any money. I wasn’t making very much money. About eight and a half dollars per hour which wasn’t all that much when you had to pay rent, utilities, car payment and insurance. As a matter of fact, one paycheck would barely cover half of our rent.

I called our landlord and asked him for an extension. We’d lived there for just over two years and had recently renewed our lease. He allowed it, but was very irritated. I assured him I would have the remaining amount to him in two weeks. Tracy found another job a week later, but would have to work for three weeks before she got her first pay heck. I had to pay the entire amount out of my next check, which left nothing for a car payment and the utilities. Tracy swore she would pay me back out of her next check.

Two weeks went by. Tracy was going out every night, down to the Derby. She would come back late at night, through the back door that went directly into her room. Some nights there would be somebody knocking on the back door after she came home and a guy’s voice could be heard. Different men’s voices. She immediately started missing days at work on her new job and was fired.

The next month came and she did not have the rent again. The little check she got was just enough to pay for her part of the utilities. She asked me for my part. I was reluctant to give it to her because it seemed like all her money was getting used up at the bar. She promised me that she would pay the bill so I gave in. It seemed easier than just arguing with her.

I called the landlord again and told him that Tracy was still out of a job and would he give me another extension on the rent until I could pay the other half. He was getting very angry, but told me I could have one more and then he expected the rent to be on time. I had another argument with Tracy about the drugs and the jobs.

She told me that she could control it and she’d get another job. Two weeks later she had another job, but not in time to pay the second half of the rent. I had to pay it again out of my check, which left no money for the car payment again. They were starting to call me and send me letters. The next week, our phone got shut off.

I had another argument with Tracy about the money. She said she had only been paying my part and half of her own each time because she didn’t have all the money. Then she tried to play a guilt game on me and insisted that the problem was the long distant phone calls that I was making to my family. At first, I thought that might be the case, but them I realized that, when we were figuring out the bills, I was always paying for my calls.

I told her that she had better keep this job because I couldn’t pay the rent by myself anymore. Three days later she was fired. She came in late the first two days and then I heard from a friend of ours that worked at the plant that she was caught snorting coke in the women’s restroom.

I asked her how the hell she was going to pay the rent and the utilities and the six hundred dollars she owed me. She started yelling that I had never paid her for the deposit (which she had put down when she got the apartment with her original roommate) and she was not going to pay me back. I was two payments behind on my car. I told her that I didn’t owe her any money. She jumped up from the table and threatened to hit me.

I remember the crazed look that was in her eyes. They were wide and non-blinking. I knew that she’d been snorting some coke. “You do it and I’ll have your ass thrown in jail right after I rip your f*ing head off and cram it up your ass.” I was shaking and I couldn’t tell if it was because I was angry or scared. We were facing off about three feet from each other across the living room. About that time, Becky came down to find out what all of the yelling was about. “What the hell is going on?!”

“Nothing.” Tracy ground out. Then she seemed to come to her senses some and backed off.

“I could hear you two all the way up in my bedroom.”

“It’s not “nothing”. Tracy’s all f*’d up. We’re behind on the bills and they’re going to repossess my f*ing car. How the hell am I going to pay next month’s rent?”

“F* you, Kansas.” This from Tracy who was starting to get agitated again.

“No. F* you. Get your shit together or I’m leaving here.”

“You can’t. We have a lease for another nine months.”

“I don’t really give a shit. You don’t have a job by next week and a plan for some f*ing rehab, I’m writing him a thirty days’ notice to break the lease and I’m out of here.” I stomped off down the street to Lisa’s place where I spent the night after griping with Lisa about Becky and Tracy’s screwed up drug situation. Donna, Lisa’s current roommate, told me that I could come and stay with them. They didn’t have any extra rooms, but I could sleep on the couch or Donna would put Victor in her room with her and I could have his room, which was about a nine by nine cube, just big enough for a bed. I told them that I might have to take them up on the offer.

I went home that night and Tracy was gone out again.

The next day, I was at work and the repo guys came to the office. First they told the receptionist that they were “detectives”. When the receptionist called me, I was scared that something had happened to Tracy or she had done something and I was going to be questioned by the police. It was almost a relief that they were there to repossess the car. I went out and took all my stuff out of it and handed them the keys. By then, I was three months behind on the payments and I knew I could never catch it back up.

Of course, now I know I could have done a lot of different things to keep that from happening, but then, I was young and stupid and trying to make it on my own. I didn’t want to call my parents for help and I knew they really couldn’t do it anyway.

That evening, Lisa drove me home from work. I was in an almost state of shock and couldn’t cry. My whole life was crashing down around me. I kept thinking back to the words my dad had said in front of Perkins when he told me I could come home whenever I wanted and then I had vowed to myself that I would never make that phone call. Yet, there I was, contemplating that very thing.

After Lisa parked, I walked up to the house and into our apartment. It was late afternoon and the kitchen seemed dark so I reached over and flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. Then I went into the other room and flipped that switch. Nothing happened. I realized that our electricity was shut off.

There I was, no car, no phone, no electricity and probably not going to be able to pay the rent again. In which case, the landlord had threatened to serve us with an eviction notice if it was late again.

I walked back down to Lisa’s and told her what had happened. I felt totally defeated at that point. Donna came home and immediately told me I could move in with them. She and Lisa moved Victor’s stuff out of his room while I went down and got my few belongings; and they were very few. My clothes, my guitar, my sketch materials, my alarm clock; basically everything I had come to New Jersey with except my car.

I also took the big iron bedstead, carrying it the fifty feet down the road to Lisa and Donna’s and put it into the little nine by nine room where I would live for about nine months.

I wrote the landlord a letter telling him that I had left the apartment, consider it a thirty days’ notice to break my part of the lease. I told him I would make arrangements to pay my part of the last month’s rent. Tracy continued to live there until the sheriff came to throw here out. No electricity, no water, no nothing. There would be days I drove by with Lisa and she would be sitting on the porch with some really unsavory people, drinking heavily. After she was thrown out, she went back to her parents who finally convinced her to go into rehab or they would throw her out.

The last time I saw her, she was sober for five years and the mother of two children.

Me, I laid down that night on the big iron bedstead and cried, trying to figure out how I had come to this. But I was also thankful that I had friends like Lisa and Donna who would take me in. I still had my job and a way to work. I still had friends that cared about me.

It wasn’t the end. Not by a long shot. I had learned a very hard lesson. From that day forward I refused to associate with anyone that did drugs. I didn’t go to parties that had drugs even if it was marijuana. I didn’t care if I was “un-cool”. Drugs were “un-cool”. If I was someplace where the drugs came out, I would make my excuses and go. I would not go back to those places.

Drugs had messed up my life and turned some once decent people into complete screw-ups. I was not “cool” with them anymore.

I was heading into a new “cool”. An “Urban Cowboy” cool. Rodeos, cowboys, line dancing and some crazy nights and long road trips with some new friends.

Blame it all on my roots
I showed up in boots
And ruined your black tie affair
The last one to know
The last one to show
I was the last one
You thought you'd see there
And I saw the surprise
And the fear in his eyes
When I took his glass of champagne
And I toasted you
Said, honey, we may be through
But you'll never hear me complain

'Cause I've got friends in low places
Where the whiskey drowns
And the beer chases my blues away
And I'll be okay
I'm not big on social graces
Think I'll slip on down to the oasis
Oh, I've got friends in low places


Oh, yeah.

Ding, ding.

Round two.

2 comments:

MichaelH121 said...

I rarely even drink let alone engage in any substance taking.

Never did like beer. Have a double shot of Single Malt once in a while or some Amaretto in me coffee. Other than that nada.

I tend to enjoy my brain cells and being in control of myself.

As for line dancing or any kind of dancing for that matter I don't have the feet for dancing.

And stealing someone's leg. That is cold. Heartless. it may have been for a good reason but not taking someone's leg.

I am gonna post a poem at my blog. Wrote it while watching a storm. Then get back to the book.

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

My limit for associating with people is alcohol and pot. If I see anything else, coke, crank, x, whatever, I leave. Even though I think everything should be legalized, that doesn't mean I think anyone would be anything more than an idiot for taking them, and end up trying to drag good people down with them. And I despise good-people-dragger-downers.