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Whenever I hear about someone close to me OD’ing and dying, I ask myself a series of questions. How much did they want to die? Were they suicidal? Was it 100% intentional, or maybe just 93%? Did they have no idea what they were doing and they just wanted to be something different from whatever else they were at that moment? Were they murdered, and perhaps for good reason?

When taking drugs of this caliber – drugs that show you death’s light – there is always some part of you that wants to die. If you are using to the point where the world starts to look and sound different, maybe you enter a dream-like state where images of strange figures, or apparitions in the atmosphere flutter around you, and then you wake up on a different planet embodied in some unknown form, no longer human — if you are using drugs like this, from an empirical perspective, I would say your desire to die is abnormally high. Not in a way that might imply true physical death, but in a state where you want to feel more dead than alive.

That’s my experience of it anyway. I knew I wanted to die. I knew exactly how much I could take that would make me die. And, I also knew how to make myself feel like I was dead without actually dying. I like the idea of dying. I wanted to know death. Common, but not irrelevant.

Most days, I didn’t actually want to die. I had made a decision when I was 25 that I would never allow myself to get to the point where suicide was the best option, despite moments when it felt like it. On this particular day, I did want to die, but I intended to keep the promise I would not die by suicide, no matter what the day presented to me. 

Let’s see. How does one start creating this concoction?  There was a dollar-store lockbox under my bed. The bed was a beautiful, handmade craftsman style captain’s bed with four great big drawers underneath. I bought it off a poet I met through a Craigslist ad – fantastic writer. I wish I could share her name so you could read her poems about seasons, doubt, and the moments a marriage becomes destabilized. I bought the bed because it was the perfect height to look out my bedroom window and see the Chrysler building seven miles across the East River. I could have easily jumped out the window if I wanted to die by crushing my skull into the pavement in front my good neighbors. Or just see what jumping out the window might feel like. Like the late great Townes van Zandt did one day, when he gently leaned out the back of a fourth story window. But it was clear, I definitely did not want to die like that. If I was going to die, I was going to die my way. Which was not truly death, but a glimpse of death. These were the grumblings of my suicidal inner monologue anyway.

I was very scientific about drugs then. A phlebotomist, pharmacologist, and psychiatric nurse. When people get obsessive and overly technical about recreational hobbies, I tend to think that they’re a little too smart for their own good. They’re overlooking a better way of spending their time. That’s what a cop would have said. I was too smart for my own good.

The meth was in crystal form, the ketamine was in a clear sterilized liquid vial, the LSD was in a dark vial with an eye-dropper, the fentalogs were scattered around the drawer, and the DMT was in a tightly sealed, high-quality junk baggie.

I would periodically buy insulin syringes from the pharmacy. Buying syringes was not something I did often with great intention, but at that point they were scattered everywhere around the room, most of them used, dried blood clogging their spikes after being washed and used two, three times, dulled by who knows whose skin. Of course, I had a few clean spikes tucked neatly in the commercial plastic bag they originally came in, along with some cotton balls and rubbing alcohol. I had really figured this shit out – this junkie shit. I was too old to be doing it. I wanted to do it when I read Junkie as a kid, but it took me a decade to get there.

I should have known better but things weren’t going well. I wasn’t right in the head. Where was Valerie? Or rather, there she was, scattered among the needles in the same drawer as the lockbox. My arms were covered with bruises and I was buying makeup – foundation, and powders to cover up the bruises. The makeup was in the drawer too. In fact, a great big bag of toner, lipstick, eye-shadow, mascara, etc., and a blond wig that my ex-girlfriend gave me – me, Valerie – as a parting gift.

Valerie wasn’t much of anyone. She belonged to Jules. I made her for Jules. Jules was real, and he was in love with Valerie, but Valerie would walk between worlds and she only really came to life to make fun of Jules — make fun of the way he loved her, and then take his money.

I wouldn’t say that I was 100% suicidal as I began the process of dissolving the crystal. But, I thought I was going to die soon because of something else. Or at least I was going to undergo a transition that would be something like death.

It was a sunny Saturday morning in early August. I had an appointment at the STD clinic on Monday, and an appointment with my shrink on Tuesday. Everything was all lined up to be already dead. A mule too sick and weak to carry a pack, which might as well have been death to me because during the preceding 18 months while I was doing the other twenty grams of meth, all I wanted was sex. I wanted sex, and I wanted people to want me for sex when I was on meth – anyone and everyone.

I was looking at the bloody needles, the makeup, these items that had accumulated around my bedroom that were left there by derelict addicts who needed a warm bed to sleep in and a shower. I had fucked so many people and I could only remember one name – Crystal Piss. She was the last one and I gave her that name because she hosed piss out of her fat dick all over my beautiful bed. In that moment, stirring the crystal with a q-tip in a plastic cup, I was pretty sure I recall her saying that she was HIV positive. I don’t think I had sex with her, but I was looking at these bloody syringes, the makeup, her toy gun that looked like a real pocket pistol, and I began to think emphatically: I must go to the sex clinic right away.

I wanted to get married, have a nice life in the country, maybe get a laid back teaching or landscaping gig, and write. That’s all. But if I was HIV+ then plans would change. I would be there in my apartment, seven miles from the Chrysler building, receiving checks and healthcare from the state, presumed gay, but most likely just metaphorically castrated. Asexual. I didn’t think I would want to have sex with anyone if I was HIV+ because I wouldn’t want to do meth if I was doing the regular doctor visits recommended for HIV+ junkie patients. I never had sex with a man unless I was on meth. In retrospect, I maybe never wanted to have sex with a man at all. When I was on meth, I wanted to fuck myself, and I wanted someone else to want to fuck me too.

So I was looking at this sloppy captain’s drawer with my ex-girlfriend’s makeup and wig. Dried blood clogging used syringes lying next to fentalogs, and thinking two things: I have to get rid of everything in this drawer, and I potentially might as well be dead.

I am already dead. I started saying that. I said it for months. It comforted me to say it. Whenever I felt the trauma of the previous eighteen months, I’d say I am already dead to myself and it would be like a little shot of fentalog to relieve my anxiety.

I put the meth in the small plastic cup that came with my jewelry scale. I didn’t weigh it. It looked like the amount I liked to do when I wanted to get as high as possible without severe negative effects during the high. Dangerously high blood pressure, dehydration, constipation, urinary retention – I knew how to avoid all that shit by then. One night around Christmas, I called the ambulance three times because I thought I was having a heart attack. Each time the EMTs came, they said my blood pressure was only slightly high, not dangerous at all. My medical kit contained beta-blockers as well as fentalogs. When the third EMT caught a glimpse of my bruises, I skipped out the back of the ambulance and spent the rest of the day lying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, praying more fentalogs would arrive before my heart exploded. When I mixed up this concoction that Saturday afternoon, I knew my limits, but I was trying something I had never tried before, and I was doing it alone in my room.

I began to dissolve the meth with LSD from the liquid dropper. I have no idea how much acid that was. Anywhere between ten and fifty hits. All I knew is that any amount higher than five wouldn’t really matter because the world would melt away and I would lose control over my body and my senses. I then added ketamine to the cup, and just because I wanted to dispose of all my recreational drugs, I added the fine sawdust like powder that was DMT, even tho I had no idea what effect it might have on me, or if it might clog the insulin spike and ruin the shot. I sucked it all up through a needle, wrapped a tourniquet around my arm, looked out towards the Chrysler building and thought about the urban legends that tell of people jumping out of windows due to bad acid trips. I had done acid so many times, and not once did I ever want to jump out of a window, but I had never IV’d acid before. I like to gamble. In fact, I didn’t know it yet, but I was on my way to the casino.

You’ve seen this in the movies. You find the vein. Sometimes it takes a few tries, especially if you’ve been using. Once the spike hits the vein, you pull the plunger back and a cloud of blood begins emulsifying with your shot in the syringe. Then you slowly push it all inside. 

Some of the effects start immediately but there is not a strong effect on the nervous system for three to five minutes. Speed’s IV effect is extreme euphoria followed by intense mental focus, a confidence boost, and lots of sex. Like one of those orange 30mg pharmaceutical grade dextroamphetamine pills times ten. I had read that LSD would take longer to kick in than the other drugs in the syringe, but I could not find clear data on how long. I have never encountered any reliable recommendations to administer LSD by IV. Ketamine I knew quite well. On its own, I would be in a k-hole within three minutes. With meth, I would be a k-hole-zombie, still able to retain focus and some motor functions, with black lodge like hallucinations. I don’t know how to make DMT work with needles. But when that drug hits you, you are in a different world. It feels like you have died and woken up on an alien planet. Often there is an alien there to accompany you – sometimes there are whole cities of aliens. DMT experiences vary wildly.

The experience I like to share when someone asks me what DMT is like, goes as such. The DMT hit, and an alien creature growled into my ear from behind my back, Now I’m going to show you everything! Then he punched me in the back of the head and in some way that was like Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator zipped me around 70 billion different dimensions, gave me a split second peak of each space in the entire universe, and at the end of the seven-minute trip, I was convinced that I had, in fact, seen everything.

These junkie details, that’s not what this story is about. This story is about me, and my life. Me, Valerie, and how I love my life, and how I want you to love your life too.

In the three minutes before the ketamine would began to affect motor functions and depth-perception, making it impossible for me to shoot any more drugs, I got scared. I was afraid this freshly invented concoction would make me do something dead. So I tranqed myself. Quick as a bunny, I smashed a fentalog into a slurry, shot half in my arm, likely missed the vein, then squirted the rest in my mouth. 

There’s no logical explanation of what happened next. All the information possessed inside my body – not just the information in my nervous system, but my entire body, my soul, whatever being-in-the-world is – every thing I had ever seen, heard, felt, thought, dreamt scattershot out of my eyes, over the Chrysler Building, and all across the universe. Then everything turned white and I was gone. 

* * * 

I woke up four hours later leaning against the wall on my piss bed. I only know this happened because of my phone. From my phone I could trace back to the moment when I hit my vein, to when I came to, because there was a video on my phone. A video of me wearing a blond wig, purple kimono, make-up smeared all over my face, drooling on myself, looking like a very ugly and sick man.

The video is gone now. I can’t find it. Or I don’t want to. But during the seven-and-a-half minute video, I garbled and drooled into the phone explaining what I had done and how good it felt, and how happy I was to be alive, and then I sent it to my friend who first taught me how to tie my boots. To tie up and blast-off. The response I recall getting was Holy shit be careful!

Soon, the sun was going down. The drug that was having the strongest effect at that point was meth. The LSD was still there, but with meth I could focus, and with fentalogs I could relax. I took more meth and fentalogs. Scraped it out of the crevices of the lockbox, and the bottoms of baggies, then dumped the rest on the floor and pissed on it. At this point, I could not be truly sure if I was dead or not, so pissing on my floor to destroy the drugs felt like a super power. Like I was an angel of destruction raining down a supernatural stream of piss on all that scourged my life.

I took a shower and changed my outfit. If I was dead, there was still something of value I could give away – $200 dollars in cash rolled up and stuffed in my drawer. I dressed for the casino – gold pleather jacket, pork pie hat, tight dark jeans, and black snake boots. Already Dead Nick Cage after Wild At Heart. My gold pleather jacket is a symbol of my freedom to traverse across the unending layers of all that could exist and turn right back around to pound an earth goddess into pure corporeal ecstasy. Thank you, ma’am, that sure was a pleasant dance.

I headed to the train and on to Baby Atlantic City — the race track and casino where gambling addicts dump a week's pay during weekends, and layovers at JFK. Standing there among the twinkling of digital slot machines, I prepared to use my new supernatural powers to hit the jackpot. Intentionally blurring my eyes, I walked through the long halls and gambling rooms until I found a slot machine that whispered to me, I am the one, jackpot, jackpot! Within five minutes my two bills were gone. If I was dead, then the only thing left I had to prove that I had once been alive, was my phone.

I scrolled the photos. Nudes, nudes, nudes, cat, nudes. Mostly my own. My dick as big as I could make it. I was in good shape then. You could see my abs and pecs, under shiny brown hair. I put more effort into my appearance during those months on meth than I ever had in my life. I was at the peak of health. Even the doctor said so after taking my blood test a few weeks before. How did you get your cholesterol levels so low and lose so much weight? No carbs, I said. The true health routine was protein powder, meth and prowling the city through endless sleepless nights.

I looked through the photos and then I looked through the contacts. I decided to send one last message to someone. Not my mom. If I was dead, it would be better for someone else to tell her. I sent it to Eva T, a very pretty orthodox Jewish trans girl who lived in the Lubavitcher part of my neighborhood. She was completely passing, no one knew she had a dick. A week before, we had sat on a park bench and talked about our futures. She wanted to get married and live a life among the orthodox community. Are you Jewish, by chance. I truly want to be. Would you live in our community? I am sorry, in fact I want to live upstate with a woman. Who? I think I know her name, but I can’t say.

I sent Eva T a message that said I’m really happy for you, with a photo of my face to show her how fucked up I truly was. Then I threw my phone in the trash can while walking out of the door of Baby Atlantic City like a proud dead man with nothing to lose.

* * *

I tranquilized myself all the way until the sex clinic. It was the sex clinic downtown for people like me. People who had seen almost everything in New York City, from the Tombs to movie star mansions at the tip of the Hamptons, fucking my way to death.

The freak sex clinic downtown has an intake form with questions like, Have you had sex for money? Have you paid for sex? Have you used recreational drugs intravenously? Have you had sex for money while using recreational drugs intravenously, and so on. I checked every single box on the list and handed it to the intake nurse as fast as possible. She smiled at me and said, Ok, let’s go.

Twenty minutes later she told me I was HIV positive. I’m not really sure what part of the universe passed through me over the following two weeks, but it was something miraculous. A fat, handsome, gay Jewish doctor at the aids clinic in Chelsea held me and said comforting things into my ear. Then he poked and prodded, and said, You know, I can see how what you did may have been a lot of fun, but you should probably try to make some lifestyle changes, immediately. I agreed. I made a joke about how in the perfect world, a person could fly out to the west coast north of LA and do what I did with all the celebrities and fine decadent citizens of the world for three days a year, and depart the vacation in perfect health. He said, Hey, that sounds like a pretty good idea. I might even invest in an idea like that!

My shrink was devastated, but not angry. She was so sweet. I loved her, and told her so. I told her I loved all the doctors I had seen the past 36 hours, and then I cried. By the end of the session I was convinced I was alive but I believed I might as well be already dead.

After the session, I went to Port Authority and got on a bus to visit one of oldest and dearest friends in the world. He was also HIV+. Over the course of a few days, he began to teach me how to eat, how to meditate, how to live a long and healthy life with the virus. We made art. I played the guitar quietly in his basement. We joked about all the prizes I would get for getting aids – free rent for life, free food, sex with a whole special community of people if I wanted it. I still had my cat, Angel. Angel was waiting for me in my piss drenched junkie aids apartment.

I was standing in my friend’s kitchen drinking freshly made turmeric ginger lemon juice, feeling as healthy and handsome as the most pussy drenched high school quarterback in American history. My new life in the light.

Then my new phone rang. It was an obamaphone – someone offered a free obamaphone to me outside the sex clinic, and I snatched it up. The voice on the other end said, Mr Blackwell, I have some very important news to tell you. Are you busy right now? Ok. We did a thorough examination of your blood samples and you are HIV negative! How does that make you feel?

Honestly, I don’t remember the phone call making me feel any different than I already felt.  I was in good company, and I was dead set on living an already dead lifestyle for a very long time. And my friend, he was – is, may always be, HIV+. Over the course of that visit, it came to seem that we would work together to help each other heal for the rest of our lives, no matter what the prognosis. We embraced, I got on the bus and slept all the way back to my apartment.

Back in my apartment, I cleaned everything and then held Angel for a long time. He wouldn’t be with me for long after that, but he loved me so much then. We loved each other. We had the same taste in furniture, and music, and we both liked the way the light came through the sixth story windows in the roach infested apartment seven miles from the Chrysler building.

I set Angel down, and went about cutting certain people from my life. The first to go was Jules. And with Jules went Valerie. The makeup, the wig, the purple kimono, stuffed in a garbage bag with all remaining drug paraphernalia. I put on my black snake boots and walked way out past where I lived and dumped her in a public trash can. She’s still around, in the white light beyond the scattered information of my entire existence that flew over the Chrysler building that sunny Saturday afternoon in August.