Lee finally calls, all tears and apologies. "So are you coming back?" I ask.
More tears. No answer. Just "I'm sorry."
"So am I," I say, although I'm not sure what for.
"It's ME," she says.
"Don't you know how much I . . . ?" I ask. "Don't you know what I gave UP for . . . ? Don't you . . . ?"
It hit me that she wasn't coming back, and I lost everything inside. I started somersaulting into worlds beneath the floor, and I slammed into some pivotal zenith of total human power-lessness. I cried so hard I gave myself dry heaves.
I am crying so hard I can't see the page, but it feels like I'm really seeing under my skin for the first time.
APRIL 1, 1996
Jenna points to this semi-abandoned building and says, "It's up there on the fourth floor at the end of the hallway," and obviously I'm the one who's got to go get it. So I start up these creepy dark stairs that haven't been swept since 1947 and the place is deadly still, and my stomach is going "wrong, wrong, wrong" but I keep going, and my lungs are squeezing into fists and I get to the top and I look down the hall and these two spics in their big jackets are just standing there, staring, and I walk down toward them, thinking, "I'm fucked, this is a setup" and right as I think they're going to shoot me or arrest me, we simply do the deal. And I run back down the stairs with the bags, happy as hell.
I got beat after all that; the shit was cut into flea powder. April Fools'.
Jenna lost the lease on the store. Now she spreads all the clothes and trash out every day on the sidewalk and sits there with it. Good thing it's getting warmer.
I don't like leaving the house anymore. Since Lee left I am so unreasonably depressed I can barely get out of bed. I finally took a shower and tried to go out to Central Park to get some air, but as soon as I ate something I realized how miserable I was, so I came back and traded all the X and pot I had left to "Molo" for 10 bags of H and I think I'm just going to take a little vacation, here, and lay low a bit in a fetal position.
Lee stopped by with a bag of H and some cream puffs from the Italian bakery. She looked like she'd been drinking a lot, but she was still too beautiful to look straight at, like a blow to the chest. We did some of that good white junk (her boyfriend's uncut personal stash straight from the eel-skin briefcase of some sheik) and the truth just rolled out and I told her how I can't stop thinking about her, how much I've missed her, and we kissed and had amazing slow, slow sex, and my heart was in smithereens when it was over, because I was already thinking of her leaving again, and she said "Shhhhhhh," and when I woke up, she was gone. I wish she hadn't done that.
Steve called. He talked to me and Jenna for the better part of an hour. Jenna and I were looking at each other like "Can you believe this shit?" He was spouting off Narcotics Anonymous. He used to HATE people who did that; it's the classic story: guy gets clean, guy turns into anti-drug-Nazi-hypocrite asshole, renouncing everything. We were passing a cigarette and the phone back and forth, trying to sound like we were taking him seriously.
"I really love you guys, and I can't stand the idea that you're still Out There. . . . " he was saying.
"You didn't think too much of leaving me Out Here when you stole my wallet, Steve," I deigned to remind him.
"You didn't seem to love me enough to take me with you," chastened Jenna.
It was good to hear her be righteous about it-I know what she went through. I put an arm around her to show her how I was proud of her. She's a tough cookie; really indestructible.
Evidently, my mom really wants me to come back.
Needles are a taboo that seems perfectly disgusting and repellant to anybody who hasn't done it before-defacing yourself in that way. Impaling your skin and introducing dangerous substances directly into your blood. However, at a certain point your body WANTS drugs in it. There is a direct invitation issued from the bloodstream.
Jenna did it for me, first. Boy howdy . . . you do it once, you realize how much of your dope you waste doing it any other way. Then you start to develop a genuine fondness for those charming little orange plastic 1-100 insulin hypos, the ritual of mixing in the spoon, the little cotton squeezing sound, the tap-tap-tapping, the sticking in and watching the red jump into the tube and turn it swirly, then plunging ever so slowly in. It's quite the gorgeous little procedure. I'm writing Lee a poem in my blood.
Yvette came over crying, with Danny. They looked at me. My heart cowered like an animal. What they said has to be some venal lie; she just doesn't want to see me anymore. They are fucking liars.
JULY 15, 1996
PENINSULA HOSPITAL, BURLINGAME, ADULT REHABILITATION CENTER.
Hello, Carl. It's been a rough couple of weeks, hasn't it? After hearing that Lee died, the next thing I remember was waking up in Cabrini Hospital to see my Dad's face. Jenna called him in hysterics after the ambulance came, because I guess she thought I was dead. I guess I shot up everything I had left . . . something like four bags? I don't even remember anything, except wanting to die.
As soon as I woke up I noticed that Dad had all of my stuff that was at Jenna's house, in a suitcase. The doctors at Cabrini gave him some Valium and chloral hydrate for me so that he could get me on the plane.
The plane ride back to California was the most miserable experience of my life. I was violently sick; my stomach was cramping itself inside out and I was freezing and sweating and crying and pleading with my father as silently as possible to give me more pills. My old dad couldn't bear to look at me, he was practically in tears himself, but he held my hand tightly the whole way, whispering, "We're gonna get through this, Carl. Hang in there." I was so ashamed and sick and grief-stricken I wanted someone to kill me; the stewardesses kept looking at me with their terrible professional pity. I did convince Dad to let me drink a bit, so I could try to get to sleep. There was no hope, though, the withdrawal was way too intense. I shit my pants when the plane landed at SFO, and then I kind of blacked out or something-I can't remember anything about getting here.
The detox was pretty bad. I'm glad I was here so the doctors could give me various painkillers and sleeping aids and whatever. When I was finally reasonably ambulatory after the fourth day or so, I had to sit in on the group AA meetings.
Either my mom or my dad has visited me here every day-they've been frightfully supportive. I guess I am "grateful" that I am so "privileged." It's hard not to resent their serious interference in my life right now, but then again, I was in no position to refuse it. I feel like a real pussy in this nice hospital, with my caring parents footing the bill, especially when I think of someone like Jenna.
Steve came in yesterday. He's been Clean & Sober for like three months-seriously Working the Program. When he walked in the door and said "Aw, man, I'm so sorry about your girl," with this real look in his eye, I just broke down, shaking and sobbing like a kid. I can't reconcile the idea that I'll never see that beautiful face again.
Steve said that Jenna's on a methadone program, trying to get her life back together. They're friends, now, I guess. He told me that Jenna found out that Lee's body was picked up by her family, and taken somewhere in upstate New York. She was wearing the watch Margaret had given me. She was 24. I guess her parents are trying to prosecute Darrel, but how can they? He wasn't forcing her to take anything, just providing it.
I want to call Bridget and ask her to forgive me, but how could she? Nobody is that understanding or enlightened; nobody is that much of an adult about things.
Steve gave me my wallet back yesterday, with all my ID. I opened it and looked at my driver's license photo and just started laughing at the ignorant, existential sneer on my face.
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