Archives For heroin

 

It was 102 degrees the day the air conditioning crapped out on our tour bus. Mid August, somewhere between West Virginia and North Carolina.

20 writers trapped on a scorching hot bus. We drank to block out the oppressive heat. We were off the next day, so we showed no restraint. Not that we ever showed the slenderest thread of restraint.

It was the 90’s. We were in our 20’s. Do the math.

 

In the mid-90’s, spoken word poetry was HOT. The in-your-face nature of it, attacking gender, racial and economic social inequity, was perfect for that time. Which is why Perry Farrell decided to add a Third Stage to Lollapalooza for spoken word.

 

Slam Poetry

Slam Poetry is spoken word on steroids. A brutal poetry competition where judges quantify your talent with numbers on cardboard signs.

The New York City slam venue was a ruthless arena. You were heckled mercilessly the minute you stepped on stage, and if you wanted to stay on, you’d better be good.

I was.

Skinny little girl with a big fat mouth. I was featured in a documentary about the NYC slam scene and won a highly coveted spot on that ‘94 tour.

 

Lolla’s 1994 lineup was stellar. Nirvana. Green Day. Beastie Boys. George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars. Cypress Hill. A Tribe Called Quest.

In April, Kurt Cobain put a shotgun to his head, and Nirvana was replaced by The Smashing Pumpkins.

A massive let down.

 

Tequila at Twelve

We opened the Third Stage at noon, blasting War’s “Low Rider.” I got things going, dancing onstage in my Lolla uniform, daisy dukes and combat boots. By 12:30, I was pouring bottom shelf tequila into the mouths of teenage babes from the jug I kept behind the sound booth.

We performed several sets of poetry a day. Our teen audience, enraptured by the spoken word scene, stalked us between sets, asking for autographs. It was heady stuff.

 

The downside was, the Third Stage was sponsored by MTV. We were expected to run moronic crowd participation skits, like “The Dating Game” and “Oprahpalooza.”  As our youthful rebellious response to the commercialism of MTV we decided to jack up the skits.

 

Girl-on-Girl Porn

I ran the Dating Game.

I’d pick an extremely hot, intoxicated Lolita to be the “Bachelorette” on stage, along with three guys. Right before she chose one, I’d yell, “Forget these losers! Pick ME!”

Then I’d start making out with her. I had a built-in radar that always found a girl who dug it. We’d end up rolling around on the stage, grinding and groping each other while the audience went completely bat shit crazy.

Word got around that there was live girl-on-girl porn on the Third Stage at 4:00. By mid-summer, it was one of the hottest tickets on the tour.

Thank God there were no responsible adults around.

 

 

 

Rock Stars and Poets and Bears, Oh My

The cool thing about Lollapalooza is that everyone, musicians, roadies and poets, milled about backstage together, ate together, partied together. Gradually, most of the musicans came to the Third Stage to check us out. As the tour wore on, some of us collaborated. A horn player from Parliament Funkadelic dug me and my poetry. He would come to the Third Stage to accompany my performances.

The dark, rich sounds of his trumpet wove around my words, letting the audience feel both the story in my poetry, and the story of how he and I felt about each other. Those seductive, late afternoon renditions of my spoken word were the pinnacle of my performing career.

For many, for most, it was the summer of love.

 

Okay. It was a total fuck fest.

On tour, everyone’s single. You never knew which musician would wake up on our bus, crawling out of the coffin-like sleep bunks. I won’t name names. I’m a star-fucker, not a name-dropper.

 

 

Some of my favorite tour moments took place after we closed the third stage at 6:00.

Every evening, I raced across the venue to Main stage to catch Parliment Funkadelic and worship at the altar of George Clinton. Clinton was an icon who dominated my R&B project girl childhood. I don’t get stupid about musicians, but I’d watch the P. Funk All Stars from backstage and fangirl the fuck out.

 

After, we’d, head to the Beastie Boys’ trailer where they set up a basketball court outside and played as their pre-show warm up. My horn player played against them every night. The Beastie’s were dope white boys from Queens, and I was fond of them, but I took perverse pleasure in watching my horn player stomp their asses across the court.

We drove through the night to the next city. No showers, no sleep, no exercise, no healthy food. Touring was grueling, so we bolstered ourselves with alcohol and drugs. We only checked into a hotel if we played the same city for more than a day. Then we had the luxury of a shower, but still, no one slept. With all of us set loose at a hotel for the night, neither did any of the other guests.

I chronicled the tour by talking into a hand-held tape recorder which I carried with me everywhere. I have the entire experience on tape. I recently moved, and unearthed the whole collection of cassettes.

I can’t bear to listen to them.

 

Returning Hero

I came back to New York victorious.

Clips from interviews and performances had been splattered across MTV. We had crossed over, melded performance poetry with rock and roll.

One MTV news clip was 10 seconds of me, my flaming red, 90’s hair bigger than my body, standing on the Beastie’s basketball court. All full of myself, and lots of tequila, I proclaimed “Spoken word is ROCK AND ROLL POETRY!” At the moment, my horn player stole the ball from Ad-Roc and made a running layup, and I screamed, “That’s what I’m TALKING about!”

It was played repeatedly.

I had offers to do articles. Books. I had performances scheduled. My phone rang incessantly. Managers wanted me. Agents wanted me.

Unfortunately-

I had acquired a bad habit. Without the tour, without the whole carnival of lights, sound and music…

My 10 seconds of fame so overwhelming, I could not handle it…

Or knew I couldn’t sustain it?

Something.

I lost myself.

 

I missed deadlines. Blew off performances, or showed up so high on smack, I’d stumble through a shit show and think I was spectacular.

I pulled the phone out of the wall, for days at a time. Heroin makes you antisocial.

A popular female journalist (I’m not going to say her name; she’s still around) interviewed me for a downtown New York City weekly newspaper (yes, that one). I showed up high, junkie girlfriend in tow. To the bemusement of the journalist, we spent the interview nodding off, waking up to bicker about my writing, the meaning of art, and who used up the last of our drugs.

The photographer snapped a picture of me asleep at the café table, coffee cup raised to my lips. Instead of writing about the spoken word movement, the journalist focused on downtown druggie nihilism masquerading as art. She made me the poster child for 1990’s drug-addled self-sabotage in a hatchet piece called “How to Destroy Your Writing Career.”

They never ran that story. I faded, mercifully, into obscurity.

 

Most of the poets I knew from that tour are successful writers.

I never discuss it. People who know me today don’t even know it ever happened.

Maybe it didn’t.

 

 

When I first wrote this story in 2013, I ended it with an homage to the genius of Kurt Cobain. I quoted “All Apologies” and loftily asserted that I needed to forgive myself for squandering my opportunity.

Five years later, I see the truth. The story that journalist wrote IS my story. I am a master of self sabotage. I fear success more than failure.

There is nothing else in the world that I want to do more than write, yet it brings up every fear I have about not being good enough.

I wrote an essay about mental illness, and when I was honored for that essay at a writing conference, I was ironically so anxiety-ridden I never left my hotel room.

Paradoxically, I see myself as both magnificent and inadequate. If I achieve any level of success as a writer, it creates such cognitive dissonance that I need to massage my psyche back into alignment with drugs, with sex, with bad decisions.

I am the Queen of Bad Decisions – I may go down, but it will be in beautiful fiery flames of my own making. I get to control my own failure, rather than let it blindside me.

The book that lives inside me goes unwritten. Surely I would be exposed to the writing community as a fake. The belief that I am a fraud is called Imposter Syndrome. It (along with massive Daddy Issues) has bought my therapist her beach house, but I’m certain it will be rooted in me until the day I die.

 

Here I feel safe. Here, I have a small, fiercely devoted group of followers, and your love for me and my words does not scare me. It’s a sweet miracle that every time I hit “Publish,” there you are.

Thank you.

Talk to me.
All this self-awareness has given me a giant migraine, but I’m listening.

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Good Time

April 29, 2015 — 121 Comments

shooting gallery 2

I’m king of this blood-haunted room,

Grand marshal over the endless parade of junkies, thugs and whores waiting to be immunized against their sad life stories

 

Cops crawl the streets like flies on shit and fiends need to bang their dope quick, don’t need to get popped holding a dime bag

They need a place to shoot, a sheltered squat with a stash of needles, where other dope fiends can help them hit a closed up vein

So they come here cause it’s close; cause they too sick to make it home or cause they just can’t wait

They come here for a good time

 

We the best shooting gallery down town,

Boneman, Double D and me run the place and we sell new needles for 2 bucks and bleach if you wanna clean your own

Stupid ass junkies be sharing shit and injecting each other with death,

sharing the lethal hardware of contaminated needles

 

Dope fiends always on the hustle, always on the grind, steal and sell their mama’s radio and forge her welfare check

I don’t need no fucking hustle, I make mad bank off these crack heads,

2 dollars to get in, 2 dollars for a clean needle, and all the pussy I want

Bitches come in sick, slogging through trash heaps out front, climb the rickety steps into this burned out hollow of a house

Crying and moaning they ain’t got no money and I give ’em a taste after they suck my dick

 

I won’t do no dope, I smoke herb but I ain’t about no junkie life

so I always have plenty, bitches come here knowing they can trade pussy for junk

Boneman wishes he could get pussy like I do, but he’s a dumb junkie hisself,

He lives here, his soul drained away through the tiny holes in his veins

His bed a moldy cot in a ratty gallery.

 

But tonight me and Double D getting all the pussy we want,

Tonight, we are KINGS

This is our palace, gouged walls, charred beams,

Dirty bedsheets hung over what once were windows.

Outside, trade in crack and dope busts the streets as wide open as a carnival midway,

50 dealers walk up and down, ten dollar bags in their socks,

Inside, candlelight distorted human shadows huddle together next to grimy walls,

“Cooker friends,” in solidarity for a moment over glassine packets of powder and a bottle cap,

and some bitch wrapped in blackened rags moans on a dirty mattress.

 

Tonight, they all here for a good time

 

Later I’ll go home and find mom passed out in her own piss;

an empty Colt 45 bottle rolling by her side and a Hi Point 9 mm under her pillow

My mom and her fucking men; the parade of drunken scumbags who came in and out of our lives, who came in and out of me

The one who fucked me when mom left to get scratch offs, smokes and a 40 down the block;

she’d come back and hear me crying, ass split and

let it go on a whole year cause he made good money running numbers

 

She was wasted drunk the day Julius fell out the window

My baby brother J was leaning against the screen and

people said mom was too drunk to pull him away from a loose screen

but it wasn’t

The morgue doctor saw the hole in his brain; a clean shot, a stray bullet from a playground shoot out caught him in the head and

He fell hard against that screen.

Already dead.

Still, he had no business up against that window watching gang gunfire,

And I hope to god I catch my mom without her Hi Point one night cause I would like to kill her in her sleep,

slam a pipe down on her skull and spill her ugly brains onto the pillow

 

But tonight we having a good time

 

Fucking dope fiend bitches coming in here like crazy tonight, sick and moaning and broke, and I fuck them and throw a five dollar bag at them

And the men look at me with hollow eyes

Wasted and ruined, breathing in urban grief like it was oxygen

One lame ass fool is whining that his works is too dull; he can’t get a clean shot and he

pushes it against his thick neck, wincing in pain

A trickle a blood runs down his throat, twisting like a river on a map

A map he uses to find the shortcut to death

 

Outside I ain’t nobody, I ain’t SHIT

but I got JUICE in here

If a white bitch come in here, Me and Double D, we both fuck her

White pussy don’t come in but once or twice a month

 

So this skinny white red-head bitch shows up,

I seen her before, little east village punk bitch,

She don’t smell nasty like the others, like piss and dead dreams. Her clothes is clean

She talks different too, like she finished high school.

I woulda finished high school too if I was a skinny white snooty bitch and she sound like she even went to college, yeah, she one of them community college cunts.

She smile at me, and I know she don’t mean ‘hello.’

She means ‘look at you, you dumbass nigger, working with dope fiends all day you ain’t never gonna be as good as me cause I’m WHITE’

She think she all that

She don’t need no money, she straight

But I’m gonna fuck this bitch anyway, who the FUCK she think she is?!

She ain’t better than NOBODY

She just a dumb ass dope fiend whore like the rest of ’em

 

I grab her arm and she turn around, eyes big, and she starts to pull away and I punch her face and stomach, HARD

Pull her over to the mattress and she try and crawl in between the mattress and the wall and I pull her hair, jerk her head so hard that I rip handfuls of red hair out her head

She screaming so I keep ripping red hair out her head, mixed with red blood, blood everywhere, her face, her scalp and I feel like an INDIAN scalping this crazy white bitch!

She just laying there, not even crying so

I fuck her hard and come all up inside her, I hope I leave little black babies in this bitch

But she look like she going away in her head someplace

Look at me when I fuck you!

LOOK AT ME BITCH!

I punch her face hard again so she knows who’s fucking her but her head turns up this time and my ring catches her SPLAT!  on her chin

Bust her chin wide open, wide, like my brother’s eyes when he fell 12 stories, wide as the Hudson river where we dump the bodies that OD

DAMN her face is split, blood and torn skin where her chin used to be, and that is gonna leave a nice fucking scar,

YEAH!

She gonna have a big-ass train track scar under her chin,

For the rest of her life, and

20 years from now she’s gonna be driving down the FDR drive, take the Houston street exit,

and pass by here.

Only it ain’t a shooting gallery no more, it’s a motherfucking yogurt shop

but she gonna pass it by and remember

Lift up her hand to feel that bumpy jagged scar

and remember this night

when she came in here and

we had a good time.

 

 

Talk to me. I’m listening.

heroin 2

I snapped a picture of my surroundings and sent it to him, so somebody would know where I was.

“Pretty,” he said. “Where is that?”

“Downtown Newark.”

Downtown Newark, New Jersey is anything but pretty, but nighttime hides a multitude of sins.

“Are you going to score?”

“Yes” I  texted.

“Don’t be a dumbass” he responded.

“If you don’t hear from me in an hour-there’s a problem.”

 

An hour later, the most magnificent church bells rang in my soul as I bathed in the warm golden sunshine of a perfect life.

 

I was jolted out of my reverie by an obnoxious beeping.

It it was coming from my phone. I squinted, got a closer look.

7:45? AM?? Fuck. I’m usually up at 6:30. Get my kid up at 7.

My heart, thudding in my chest, slowed a bit when I recognized the reassuring sounds of his spoon clinking against his bowl of cereal.

I splashed cold water on my face. I was pale except the dark purple circles under my eyes. My hair was matted to my head from sweating profusely. I had a set of scratches on both arms.

I looked like a junkie.

If the shoe fits…

My kid was sitting at the table, eating his breakfast and looking at his tablet. I’ve taught him to be independent in the morning. But not so I can sleep off a dope nod.

“Baby, why didn’t you get me up?”

He shrugged. “Don’t sweat it. Can you make my lunch?”

He didn’t say anything about me wearing yesterday’s clothes. He couldn’t smell the dried vomit on my shirt. I opened the refrigerator door and the light hurt my eyes. Slowly, with shaky hands, I made his lunch.

Mother of the year

This is the last time I get high.

—-

NYC, April 1995

“Where have you been?” I looked up sleepily at Debby. It was 5 am and she had just let herself back into my apartment.

“I couldn’t sleep. I went to cop. You want me to fix you?”

“What day is it?” I looked at the calendar. “No. It’s Tuesday, right? I work today.”

I watched her prep her fix. I loved watching her beautiful, delicate hands do this. Her skilled fingers, the neat flick of her wrist – raised prepping a dope fix to an art form.

“Frenchie just got this in. This shit is supposed to be fire.”

She dumped the contents of her packet into a spoon, flicking at the small plastic packet until all the power tumbled out.

She added a small amount of water to the dope, making it the perfect consistency. She held a lighter to the bottom of the spoon, cooking the mixture to the optimum temperature. She always got it right – hot enough to burn off some of the cut in the dope – but never so hot that it damaged the heroin.

She twisted the cotton off the end of a Q- tip into a tic-tac sized ball. She dropped the tiny puff into the heroin and it swelled up like a sponge. She pushed the tip of the syringe into the center of the cotton, which filtered out impurities.

Slowly, she retracted the plunger until all of the heroin was sucked in.

Using her index and middle fingers she gently slapped a vein right above the crook of her elbow. She never had to pull back the plunger, like most junkies did, to draw blood up the syringe and make sure she was in a vein.

She never missed.

I watched her eyes take on that faraway look of exquisite pleasure, as her brain rode the waves of that first rush. Her facial muscles slackened, her body swayed. She looked at me and smiled.

“I’m…so…high…”

Those were her last words.

 

Her eyes rolled back in her head. She slumped to the floor. Her lips turned blue, then purple.

All in slow motion.

I did nothing. I was paralyzed with fear. I could not bring myself to touch her. I called 911 and babbled hysterically.

I could actually see a faint pulse throbbing irregularly in her throat. Her breathing was shallow. Her skin was the yellow color of cafeteria cheese.

She was dying.

She was dying, and I couldn’t bear to watch it.

I ran out of my apartment and stumbled out onto the street. I had on no coat or shoes, and even though it was mid-April, it was only a raw, cold 40 degrees. I ran through the streets barefoot, wild and desperate, going nowhere.

The police and EMT workers arrived 11 minutes after I called 911. The 5th precinct was only 8 short city blocks away. But an overdose, on the Lower East Side? That’s how you clean up the streets. Human pesticide, as far as the police were concerned.

By the time we all got inside my apartment, Debby was dead.

 

A memorial service was held for Debby at St. Marks Church in the Bowery, the second oldest church in New York and a legendary performance space. Debby knew everyone, and everyone knew Debby.

Her memorial service was standing room only. Several of NYC’s leading punk musicians unplugged and performed acoustic songs.

Debby had introduced me to rock stars and gangsters, and heroin and lesbianism. She was the first and only woman I ever fell deeply in love with.

I wrote a spoken word poem, dedicated to her memory, and performed it at her memorial service.

It was the last time I ever performed spoken word in front of a live audience.

 

After the service I copped several dime bags of smack down on Clinton Street.

My boyfriend’s face, when he saw them, darkened with rage. He snatched the packets off the table.

“What?!” I demanded. “WHAT?? This is the last time I get high!”

Apparently not. He flushed the drugs down the toilet. He snapped my works in half and threw the pieces out of the window.

I kicked heroin cold turkey. There was no money for fancy rehab.

The plan was simple. My boyfriend would not let me leave the house.

The withdrawal was not so simple.

I had excruciating pain in every muscle of my body. For three days, I threw up violently, and had horrible bouts of diarrhea. I was weak and dehydrated but couldn’t keep food down. I suffered with severe flu-like symptoms; sneezing and sniffling and dizziness and fever. Sweat poured off of me constantly; I was dangerously dehydrated. Sleep would have been a welcome relief, but there was no way I could fall asleep. I had frightening visual and auditory hallucinations.

By the second day, my boyfriend had to call both his brother and his cousin – who played in a band with him – for reinforcements. It took THREE GROWN MEN to keep me inside that apartment and away from my dealers.

I turned into a snarling, cursing beast. In between raging bouts of excruciating pain and illness, I fought them with the strength of 10 men.

My boyfriend’s brother was a recovered heroin addict. I sobbed uncontrollably to him and said,
”This is what it feels like to DIE.”

He answered, “NO. This is what it feels like to LIVE.”

 

By the third night I was drained and exhausted, and managed to fall asleep at dawn for a few hours.

I awoke Sunday morning. My muscles had stopped spasming in pain.

My boyfriend pulled back the shades that had been drawn for days.
“Let’s get some air in here,” he said.

He opened the large casement windows. Just then, in the distance, church bells began to chime.

It sounded like life.

It was Easter Sunday morning. And like Jesus, I had risen from the dead.

All these years later, and sadness throbs through my body.

There is a price to pay for feeling broken.

I’m aware of how I’m perceived, but I can’t feel it.

Heroin renders me immortal. I am what all humans seek through religion and spirituality.

On heroin, I am my vision of myself.

I’m socially adept, moving fluidly among others instead of hiding in my room.

I’m the writer who inspires, rather than constantly crawling through the wreckage of her squandered life.

I’m a woman capable of love; of intimacy and relationships. Not someone who lets no one get close.

I’m the mother my child deserves, not the one who’s exhausted and impatient and irritable.
Not the selfish bitch who risked her life to get a fucking fix.

 

This is the LAST time I get high.

This IS the last time I get high.

THIS. Is the last time I get high.

 

What is, or was, your drug of choice? What finally made you stop?
Did you ever write a post you just weren’t sure you should write, but you did anyway?
Are you tired of your problems? Are you tired of mine?

Talk to me. I’m listening.

This is the most simple, most perfect, most beautiful song about heroin addiction ever.

potty-mouth-734

 

1. Congratulations on your engagement. Your fiancé gave venereal warts to every housewife at the gym. His ball sack is a hot bed of disease and infection.

2. If I can’t afford it, and I have to have it, I’ll just shop lift it.

3. Why are you so engrossed in your cell phone conversation? Are you a transplant doctor awaiting a donor heart? Someone could strap a pair of cymbals to their feet, and kidnap your child and you would be oblivious.

4. No, it’s not a “difficult age.” Your kid is an animal. We’re in a restaurant, so please, don’t just stand there while he caterwauls like someone shitting farm equipment. I would like to enjoy my meal. If you don’t learn to control him, I will cut you and dance in the blood.

5. I know being morbidly obese is horrible and challenging in a million ways. and it’s probably glandular and I’m sure you’re a lovely human being. But in the mean time, stop blocking the entire aisle at the fucking supermarket. The regular sized people need food, too.

6. Oh my God, your baby is UGLY. SCARY ugly. Did they yank his head out with forceps? Is it too early to consider plastic surgery? Get that shit fixed so he doesn’t scare the other babies.

7. For the love of everything holy, please brush your teeth. Your breath smells like feces. Would you like a tic tac, or some toilet paper? While you’re deciding, I’ll be over here donning an oxygen mask, so you don’t singe my eyebrows.

8. No. Your kid is not a “bad test taker.” He’s just dumb. Remember dumb kids? Yes. They still exist. You own one. You should sterilize him so that he does not reproduce.

9. Stop being so incredibly nasty to me, PTO whore. Our kids go to school together. If you continue to act bitchy to me, so help me God I will fuck your husband six ways till Sunday.

10. Place don’t sit next to me, please don’t sit next to me, please don’t – oh my God, you smell like Big Foot’s Dick. Your BO could be used in international bioterrorism. Next time you go out in public, please take a shower, heathen.

11. Heroin is awesome. It’s so convenient that the dealers are selling it behind all the high schools. And in those economy-sized little $5 baggies.

12. Good thing I am not a crazy person, or this Godforsaken supermarket parking lot would be littered with the dead.

13. I know you just farted. My eyes are watering and suddenly the room smells like an exploded septic tank.

14.  I could just totally punch you in your misshapen annoying face and run away because you don’t know me and you couldn’t report me if you wanted to.

15. Oh, dear Lord. I look ridiculous. Am I really wearing a backwards baseball cap? Forgive me, world. It’s a frantic attempt to beat back death. In a few short years, I’m going to be shopping in Forever 21, trying to get a discount with my AARP card.

 

Do you think things you would never say out loud?  C’mon. Your turn.
Talk to me.   I’m listening.

 

The most inaccurate depiction of prostitution in the history of the world

The most inaccurate depiction of prostitution in the history of the world

 

The job of a phone girl in a brothel is basically a sort of sub-madam.

Clients, either established or new, would call. Once they arrived, I would let them in, pour them a drink, and seat them in main lounge, where they could chat for a few minutes before deciding who they would like to have a session with.

We called them “parties.”

I also had to keep the place stocked with alcohol, make sure all the laundry was picked up and delivered daily, collect weekly doctor’s notices from the girls, make sure the supply closet was stocked with tissues, baby oil, condoms, etc.

The clients, were normal, run-of-the-mill men. They weren’t unsanitary freaks incapable of attracting women. They were pleasant. Some were extremely handsome.

They were men who did not wish to ask their wives or girlfriends to fulfill some of their kinky fantasies.

It’s complicated to go home to the wife in Scarsdale and say, “honey, tonight I’d like you to pee on me. Afterwards, please dress me up in a giant diaper and spank me.”

I did find some of their predilections unnerving at first. We had a couple of dominatrixes on the premises, and I could never fathom the male masochistic inclination.

 

I occasionally got ensnared into a party.  Strictly as a voyeur, and reluctantly. If it was an “emergency” and everyone else was occupied.

“He wants you to watch while I stick my stiletto heel up his ass. PLEASE! He’ll pay you $50. There’s no one else available.”

The first few times, I was completely freaked out.

Then, it just seemed absurd.

 

Once, one of the dominatrix’s was running late. Her client had already arrived, and he was getting antsy. She insisted I “get him started.”

Even on the phone, she scared the snot out of me.

I looked in the closet where she kept her sadistic accoutrement. And shut it, quickly.

I ended up making him crawl around the room with a garbage pail on his head.

That was the best I could come up with.

 

I knew what I was doing was illegal. It appealed to my sense of non-conformity.

At least, it was an honest admission of being dishonest, as opposed to more covertly dishonest professions. Like being a car salesman.

Having grown up in a house with all brothers, I also enjoyed the sense of female solidarity. I gradually bonded with the girls, and became close with four of them.

Nikki was Queen Bee of 51st Street. She was in her mid 40’s. Strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes; a kind of luminous sensuality.

Men of all ages desired her. I never quite understood why guys in their 20’s wanted a woman in her 40’s.

Now that I’m her age, I…kind of understand.

She was married to Joe, who accepted her profession. Some husbands were like that.

They had a gorgeous apartment on the Upper East Side, where I spent a lot of time.

Their favorite hobby was doing massive amounts of cocaine all night while playing bizarre porno movies in the background.

Our all-time favorite was “I Spit On Your Grave.” One of the characters wore glasses, and when he was pounding away at women, closeups of his face showed there was no glass in the glasses.

This seemed hilarious at 5 am on an 8-ball of cocaine.

“No expense was spared in the making of this movie.”

 

Kathy was a big, voluptuous, 25-year old brunette.  She lived on Long Island, and was working her way through college.

Gail was very tall but model-thin; fair skinned, auburn hair with a pretty, girl-next-door look. She was my age, and lived near me in the East Village. She was also working her way through graphic design school. We frequently went out together after work.

And then there was Debby.

Debby.

Barbie doll body, unbelievably full, pouty lips, huge brown eyes and artfully tousled blonde locks.

 

Debby was a reigning queen of the East Village punk scene. She’d run away from home at 13, and had been on the scene since the late 70’s.

She knew EVERYBODY.

She was a musician. A painter. A writer. A vagabond. A free spirit. Brilliant, talented, tormented, fragile, tough…

 

At first, she was aloof and scornful. She’d mock how I was dressed when I was heading out with Gail.

Little by little, she let me into her world.

I realize now, she saw in me her younger self. Before she’d become so damaged and lost her innocence.

And was somehow trying to regain it through me, by osmosis.

Instead, the reverse happened.

 

Yes, I was impressed with the fact that she knew and hung out with all the punk icons I worshipped. What can I say? I was a kid.

She’d had a tumultuous on and off again romance with Johnny Thunders, and although he was now married, she completely lost it when he died.

I loved her particular habit of referring to rock musicians by their real names. It spoke of a true familiarity with them that I envied and craved.

She’d see Richard Hell – whose album Blank Generation I worshipped – at a downtown bar and command him, “Meyers – get me a drink!”

Much later, when she finally introduced me to them, I picked up the habit.

It wasn’t the only habit of hers I picked up.

 

Debby was a world-class junkie. I was so naive, I thought she was just frequently stoned on weed, like other girls at work.

I saved all my money and acquired a nice apartment on 2nd Avenue. East of where I lived was known as “Alphabet City” – it still is.

Debby was living in a “squat” – an abandoned building on Avenue B.

I didn’t connect that she was earning money at the brothel, but still couldn’t afford an apartment.

Alphabet City was a seedy place in the early 90’s.

 

Our friendship began with her sharing my taxi home from work. I always paid.

She’d critique my look. Make a few adjustments in the cab.

“Here – belt this.”

“You can’t draw a good cat eye with pencil- you need liquid liner.”

“Is that…glitter on your face? Where are you going, a fucking Bowie concert?”

Then, she began inviting me to go out with her after work.

 

The minute she entered the room – a bar, a club – she OWNED it.

I had a boyfriend at the time.

I was feeling things for Debby that I had never felt before, but I didn’t identify what they were.

I wanted to crawl up inside her and live IN her. I was besotted.

It wasn’t that she knew everyone.

It was the way she smelled. The way her lips looked when she was making an exasperated face at me.

Her walk. The sexy way she flowed through a room.

I could never imitate it. I tried for years.

 

Fridays were always busy on 51st street. People get paid on Fridays, which creates an illusion of abundance.

We all made a lot of money on Fridays.

Debby and I usually started our night at a popular bar, like the semi-subterranean Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Mark’s.

This time, she told me she had to make a stop first.

We drove to a sketchy part of the East Village.

In the early 90’s, Avenue D was run down and filthy. A barren urban wasteland of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings.

I said nothing as we got out of the cab. Debby had taken me to some squalid places before, and I learned to just keep my mouth shut.

 

The streets were littered with junkies and freaks.

Men, mostly Hispanic, wearing carpenters aprons, were walking around, announcing their brands.

“Pac-Man!” “Nynex!” “Fire!”

Two men were herding people in lines, and bringing them over to a burnt out laundromat.

It was my first visit to an “open air” heroin market.

 

We crunched across the lot in our heels, across broken bricks and trash and weeds. When she found the man calling out, “Terminator,” she made her purchase.

By now, I knew she was buying heroin. I tried to act as nonchalant as possible, but I was taken aback. And worried.

And extremely curious.

 

We made our way back through this perverse street bazaar to Avenue A, which was more civilized.

Debby wanted to go to the Park Inn Tavern for a drink. It was one of her favorite dive bars; pitch black walls and skinheads loitering outside.

It was a locals only place that would never attract the “Bridge and Tunnel” crowd – people from New Jersey, or the boroughs.

We walked in, and she nodded hello to the bartender.

She said, “You wanna wait here? Or come with me?”

“Where are we going?”

She laughed and ordered two shots, two beers. Took my hand and we went into the filthy bathroom.

Junkies shoot up wherever they can, as soon as they can.

 

I wanted to try it.

She insisted I go first.

“If I go first, I’m gonna be too high. I’ll fuck it up.”

 

Debby pulled all sorts of paraphernalia out of her bag.

She tore open a package and took out a syringe. She mixed the heroin with water, and put it in a spoon. Added heat from her lighter. She took a tic-tac sized ball of cotton from a Q-tip to filter it.  She dipped the needle into the cotton and sucked-up the heroin mixture.

She sterilized my arm with an alcohol wipe. Tied a black band around my upper arm.

She tapped hard on my upper bicep.

“Your veins are so tiny,” she crooned at me.

And then-  she found what she was looking for.

I felt an almost imperceptible prick.

There was a buzzing sound,.

For about 30 seconds, my brain felt like it was orgasming.

I got a metallic taste in my mouth that drove down my throat.

The sound of my own breath became echo-y, like I was under water.

 

And then I got violently ill. I RETCHED. For what seemed like an eternity.

When I finally finished, I looked up. Debby was leaning against the wall, stoned.

She looked at me and said,

“You look so beautiful with vomit on your face.”

 

She went to the bar and got paper towels and cleaned up my face. Handed me gum.

We sat at the bar for hours.

Or maybe not. I have no clue.

My entire life felt like it was in a bath, at the perfect temperature.

We ended up back at my apartment.

 

That night, I found out who puts what where in lesbian sex.

 

She took her time with me, and that, coupled with the heroin, made the experience euphoric.

She knew exactly how fast and slow to move, exactly where on my body to focus more of her attention;  knew what was going to curl my toes and just make my entire body tremble.

When we finished the first time, she just laid next to me and ran her fingers through my hair until my heart rate came back to normal.

The next day, she pushed her shopping cart over from the squat on Avenue B and moved in with me.

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

 

Next week: Part Three! The Conclusion. 

Part One Starts Here

 

Have you ever gotten involved with someone you shouldn’t have?
Or had a job you knew was a terrible idea?
Talk to me.  I’m listening.