And now she's holding her cross. I'm worn out from speaking and ready to inject whatever she has for me on the table. She notices me staring at the syringes and says, “The dark material is Opana and the other three are for me. You have literally no clue how much preparation it takes to prepare that shit.”
“Well, I've never slammed before,” I say. "So I'd probably need some help, so I don't hit a muscle or waste your drugs. By the way, I'm going to leave the apartment for most of the day so that I can get some exercise with my bike. Do you think I could borrow that mask that's inside of your car?”
“Yeah, that's fine. Just take care of yourself. We can meet at Amnesia later tonight and I'll give you a ride back. Just be careful. It's getting wild out there. You can take a crowbar or a rifle from out of my trunk if you want.” She pulls the tiny orange cup from off one of the syringes and says, “Grab the nylon rope beside the bed and I'll fix you up.”
Her eyes follow me as I leave the kitchen and head to the main apartment room. Before I grab the rope, I put on my black pants and slide into a plain purple tee-shirt. The rain outside looks black like ink, but it's an effect from all the dust and debris in the polluted air. I return to the kitchen and walk in on Jodeci pulling a syringe out of her neck. She takes the rope from my hands and uses it as a tourniquet for my arm.
“What exactly happened last night?” I ask.
She pauses, holding a different syringe, and thrusts it into one of my more noticeable veins.
“We fucked like we were putting together a Rubik’s cube. The Suboxone made you sick after we finished and I held back your hair while you puked. Eventually, you fell asleep and I disinfected your body with a wet cloth. I watched you shiver and moan while your eyes were rattling beneath your eyelids. It was fascinating yet horrifying. You should know that I prayed for you and a few minutes after that you had seemed to calm down. You probably don't believe me, but it fucking happened, and that was God trying to get to you. I know that you don't believe in him now, but I think at some point in your life you will understand and have the strength to turn yourself over to him... It destroys me to know that we have so little time left together. After I drop you off in Ohio, I'll have your name tattooed on the inside of my bottom lip so that I can kiss you with my upper lip every day. I'll always fucking pray for you, Elliott. I promise.”
“Don't. Don't pray for me. Can't believe that I fucked a Jesus freak. Can't believe, that I fucked a girl with thousands of dollars’ worth of heroin in the trunk of her car.”
The syringe blends the drug with my blood. She pushes half of it inside, pulls up again, and then bangs it all into me. It's like fucking. Pornographic yet romantic. Prurient, delicate, like balancing on a thin wire between two cliffs.
It doesn't take too long for it to hit me and I'm certainly not used to being immediately thrown into a heavy nod like this, but I'm fine once the initial anxiety and stigma of injecting dissipates. The needle exits my arm and Jodeci wipes the bloody spot away with another antiseptic swab. My bones have vanished and my soul is bursting into a radiant supernova, exploding, tunneling, revolving. It feels unending but I know it'll be over in less than an hour. If I could live in this high for the rest of my life (if only I could), I would be able to forget every tormenting memory (every single one of them) as if it never meant anything to me.
“Holy... Holy shit. Feels like, Martha Argerich's interpretation, of Liszt's Rhapsodies. Can't remember which one, but my fingers are attempting to play it right now. Can you hear it too?”
“No, I can't. I'm sorry. And I'm not so sure I know what you're talking about. Is it, is that like, piano music? That what you're talking about? Do you think you could hum it for me?”
My ability to speak is gone, so I talk to her through the tapping of my fingers on the table. If people could hear the music in my head maybe they would understand me and I'd never have to use my voice again. They'd just know. Sheet music is spread out behind my closed eyelids, streaming infinite rivers of vibrant notes. The drug inside of me is draping over me with ash but I don't mind. Every sound echoes and lingers from a distance for what seems like forever. Then it vanishes and gets replaced by another torrent of sounds. Kyle's wind-chimes made of seashells. Paint dripping from a prehistoric cave. Bed sheets curling with cold flesh. The tip of my fingers tracing Nigel's skin. Connor tuning his bass guitar and the crackle his mouth makes as he licks his lips. Please don't blame yourself for this. If anything, I'm the one that should be blamed. Elliott, are you listening to me? I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I'm such a monster. A complex Moroccan string instrument being plucked and dropped. Then all forty-eight pieces of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier blast through my blood vessels before the nod begins to vanish. What a joke. I see why people get addicted to banging drugs. There's no way I'll ever allow myself to do that again.
In the heart of industrialized Baltimore, a ring of people in blood-stained white clothes hold onto each other’s shoulders and chant to God for the death of all police officers and political figureheads. They fall onto one another, adjust themselves to their knees and swing their hands at the sky. It gently rains upon us, but all of us know the clouds have yet to truly darken.
Trumpeters and trombonists march on sidewalks while children bruise their drums. Is this a parade or a ceremony for a religious cult? The musicians spiral around the people in prayer. As I continue to pedal further down the city, more of these white-clothed men and women fight against riot police with crowbars and massive rocks. There's more of us than there are of the enforcers, but their weapons are much more forceful and extreme. Some of the others lay on the sidewalks holding each other in a bloody mess, holding onto their mangled faces. A rubber bullet is lodged into the jaw of a young woman. Teenagers scream as pepper-spray gnaws at their eyes. Others lay beaten, barely breathing, bleeding from a bullet wound, or simply dead.
A group of naked people fuck in the mud next to a burning bank. I pedal to the opposite side of the road to rub at my cock and voyeuristically study their intensified motions. Warm maggots and trash from demolished dumpsters coat their skin and slide from one body and to the other. It rains harder. They grow even more frenetic. Heaps of rotting meat and spoiled milk are thrown around by bleeding hands that later clinch dirty breasts and swollen cocks. A man uses some of the mud to lubricate his own ass before he's fucked by a tall hooded man, his skinny penis digging into cement, bruised, yet still hard, his urethra sprouting a few drops of crimson blood.
When I stop imagining the sexual aspect of it, I'm able to see them as a single being, a swamp monster, which is sucking in all the hateful energy of the city and using it to build an ultimate weapon. It's not necessarily hideous or beautiful. It's definitely spiritual to them, an extreme cry to the Earth, and possibly one of the most bizarre things ever I've captured with my defective eyes. Now I'm tightly hugging myself and rocking back and forth. Out of breath. I to calm down and pedal away from the mess.
Not everything is on fire. I ride my bike through aisles of toilet paper and cough medicine before stopping at the main pharmacy, the door gone and windows busted. Mostly the shelves are bare but I'm not sure people are stocking up on anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and antidepressants. I jump over the counter and trip over a passed out cybergoth chick who's holding a box of Fentanyl patches.
I knock down everything that means nothing to me. I stumble upon the Trilafon, pull off my backpack, unzip it and stuff in as many bottles as I can. I'm done with taking Zyprexa and Latuda. I stuff the highest dose of Seroquel into my backpack along with Celexa and Alprazolam. Might as well snag a bunch of Clozaril while I'm at it. I'm not feeling as anxious now that I know I'll have enough medication to last me five months.
A few hipster junkies look like they're making their way over to the pharmacy, so I slip on the hand-painted wolf mask that Jodeci gave me and sneak out of their view through the pregnancy prevention aisle. I watch as they make lewd jokes. All I can do is hope they're just joking and not going to take advantage of the cybergoth chick because I can't risk having them trying to take my pills from me.
I tighten the rubber cord on my mask and focus on the rain dripping from my skin. All these people have formed into gray shadows, breaking from their physical form and back into a fading gust of ash, but their awkward human form comes back… just to vanish again and again... Should have taken the medication while I was in the pharmacy and I should have helped should have fucking helped her that woman but you didn't you fucking SHOULD HAVE HELPED HER and you didn't because you're HORRIBLE ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE THE WORST, but I'm a coward fucking coward COWARD, and I'm a selfish, selfish so selfish fucking coward selfish shit you fucking feral demon. Should have done something, done something, fucking anything!
Throughout the chanting of raised fists under the soggy weather I feel the need to cry beneath my mask, which I do quietly as otherwise it would crown me as the king of all things pathetic. I get back onto my bike and pedal for eight miles until I reach a metro station protected by a glass rotunda. Everything looks silver through it. The rain hitting against it makes me afraid the rotunda will shatter and all of the glass will rip my body to shreds, but the more I focus on it the more I feel comforted by the thought of a brutal death. God, how pleasurable that would be, and if it were to happen, it should happen right now, right now, come on, go ahead and shatter, but it doesn't, and I'm still alive, still breathing, warm rage curling through my bloodstream, the voices just as sickened as I am, the mask over my face, Jodeci's cross, Jesus Christ, fucker, fucker, fuck fuck.
Some skater kid uses a bench as a ramp and does the same trick on it for half an hour before finally sitting down with his spray-painted hot pink skateboard clenched to his chest. A charming homeless man sits next to me and gnaws at a foul-smelling bagel with horseradish caked to his fingers. Every once in a while, he looks at me, stops chewing and sticks out his bottom lip. Then he turns away and keeps eating. This freaks me out and forces me to grip tighter on my bike like it's my weapon of choice. God, and what if he goes for it? The bike has gone through too much. Whatever. He's probably just as paranoid as me. Eventually, my homeless friend finishes his bagel, licks his fingers clean, and falls asleep on my shoulder. His long and wet hair drips under my shirt and makes my left nipple tingle. Weird.
The train arrives and exhaust fumes consume the air. I wake up my homeless friend and point at the train. He nods his head and follows me inside. The guts of the bus are swollen; loose bolts, graffiti on the pumpkin orange walls, cut up seats exposing fuzzy cotton and coil springs that bounce in such a surreal and animated way. The skater kid stands next to the door as the train begins to shift. I keep a good hand on my bike while my homeless friend adjusts himself into the seat beside me. The cooked banana peel scent of his grimy boxers continues to irritate me.
“Hey,” A girl in the mask says. “You, with the fancy bike... What do you want to be when you grow up?”
She catches me off guard and I look around to see if there's anyone else on the train with a road racer. I fall deeper into my seat and answer, “I'd like to, uhm, become a foreign language teacher or teach classes on anthropology. And what about you? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Oh. Thought you'd never ask. That's easy. I'm going to be a famous YouTube unboxing star. You know, those people who make videos of themselves opening boxes and then they reveal the product inside of it. You can make tons of money just doing something as pointless as that. And I'd also like to become a poet, a urologist, and take care of dogs. My brother wants to be a famous baseball player.”
For some strange reason, I decide to form a lie. “My boyfriend is a baseball player. Your brother probably knows him, but I don't want to wake him up or anything.”
“You're fine,” she laughs while slapping at her kneecaps. “How about you two? What do you guys want to be when you grow up?”
The skater kid brushes his light hair back with his hands and stretches out his arms, which reveals these tattoos of nude anime girls yielding massive claymore swords. He scratches his forehead and answers nonchalantly, “I want to be the Harvey Milk of atmospheric black metal.”
I pull off the wet wolf mask, push it to the bottom of my backpack and sort out my medication before I shamefully toss a handful of pills towards the back of my throat. The girl and the skater kid crudely gaze at me while the homeless man picks at a scab on his right eyelid. He licks at the blood on his fingers and says, “I'm Jesus Christ and I'm already an adult, but I'd also like to see this tainted empire collapse and for my sheep to build me a silver sanctuary on top of this rotting shit hole. Send all these sinners straight to Hell. Straight to fucking Hell. All these God damn atheist kids should all be murdered. I'm Jesus Christ, that's right, I'll kill every fucking non-believer that I meet.”
“But you're not Jesus Christ,” the skater kid argues. “If you were Jesus Christ, then you wouldn't have chicken bones slipping from out of your pockets and you wouldn't have track marks all over your neck and arms. Plus, Jesus never existed. There's a documentary about it on Netflix. Seriously, man. I'll give you my user-name and password and you can watch it.”
The outside passes like bruising knuckles against a marble tombstone. My mother’s voice is beating at the back of my head and she's preaching her casually cold remarks in the likes of you virus, you scum, you ruined everything, look at me when I'm talking to you, do you know what you've done wrong, did you ever think of how that would make ME feel, While her words echo on, I watch as the homeless man talks to himself, muttering “Well... Yeah, well...” on repeat his voice box sounding cemented with brown rust and dirty as a penny. There's no way I'll ever allow myself to fall that far down the spiral of insanity.
“Hell yeah,” The skater kid says to me. “I'm on medication, too. Xanax. Abilify. Some antidepressant, but I can't remember the name of it. If I don't take it, I get this agonizing motion sickness. The loony bins said I was Bipolar, but I say fuck that noise. What do you have?”
My eyes rivet in fear and pulsate as I answer, “Schizophrenia. I'm... Schizophrenic. So, do you like Emperor? Have you heard any of their albums?”
The kid ignores me and starts ranting as if I had answered his question before he had ever asked it. At first, I'm puzzled and lost, but then I understand, because sometimes I wallow in the conversations inside my head and get disoriented. Maybe he's the same way. There's also the possibility he's talking to me about something else and I'm having auditory hallucinations. Either way, it doesn't matter. I nod my head and keep talking.
At some point, he drops his skateboard and says, “You're not making any sense. I asked you what kind of bike you have, and you answered 'totally,' and then I asked you where you're going and you said 'damn.'”
“Are you, are you sure about that? Because I don't remember saying the word 'totally' or 'damn,' but maybe you're right.”
His eyes gawk at me like a crow eying its helpless prey. I'm suddenly paranoid and attempting to decipher what the fuck is going on. What if he's a government agent who's trying to confirm my identity? What if I'm not even on the train and I'm still asleep at Jodeci's apartment?
“I'm supposed to meet with a friend at a club called Amnesia,” I say.
“My mother works there,” the masked girl says. “But it's not a club. It's a gallery for performance artists. People get offended if you call it a club, you know. I'll give you directions as to where it is whenever we get off at the next stop.”
The rail grinds with vehement sparks as the wheels come to a furrowed halt. Exhaust smoke and wet fog settle through the cab as the doors slide open and the fluorescent exit sign beacons. I turn my head to the girl to ask her for directions. “You see that tree with the sparkling white lights on it?” No. How can anyone see through this jungle of debris? “And then once you reach the tree you'll have to go straight until you see this vegan bakery and then you'll do this,” she explains while drawing a zigzag in the air with her skinny fingers. “Okay? And then go straight for six miles and it'll be somewhere on the left.” I shrug, eyebrows raised to the sky, and then I scratch at the left side of my head.
Night sky pacifies the storm and leaves the roads aching. It was only a few hours ago I saw hundreds of people rallying together. their faces doused with mud, but now the city is hollow.
A soft glow in the fog from Amnesia's beaming sign reveals itself to me after hours of getting lost. A pale man with light gray hair and swollen veins drooping from his face stares at me with orphic black eyes. He clenches a purple boom box against his chest and lo-fi Mande funk music on a cassette tape breathes from out of the speakers. I notice him tapping his feet to the swing of the brass instruments and hand drums.
He opens the door for me and kneels down next to the replicated statue of David while I continue through the hallway and into the main dining room. It's not as crowded as the night before; there's maybe a dozen or so people, both men and women of various ages drinking absinthe at their tables, and even a few fat hairy men in kilts laying on the floor. I spot Jodeci at the bar, wearing a tan long sleeve turtleneck shirt and skintight black leather jeans, twirling a shot glass of Everclear around before tossing it down the back of her throat. She suddenly jumps from off the barstool, notices me glaring at her, and calmly approaches me with silver glitter spattered across her face. I ignore her and bite down on my bleeding bottom lip while she pulls out a seat beside me. “Hey,” she says. “You look pretty beat. The city must have done a number on you.”