Under the Influence
It was happening again.
Oh God, not again.
Sometimes it was just a quick harsh pain. Sometimes it was what seemed like hours of unendingly excruciating hell. Let me explain the difference between the two, because it’s that difference makes my life bearable.
If they wanted a quick fix, a cheap thrill, or a nightcap on a slightly more horrible than usual day, it was that fast pain. Like a bike ride down a mountainside that ended in a quick snap and a broken femur. Or like a knife wound to the chest, that blade really hurt you when it came in, but just like that it was out again.
On the other hand, if they were really angry and wanted to share their agony, even though neither of you could do anything to fix it, it’s hell. And that’s the only word I can really think of to describe it. Hell. A wrongfully accused witch burning slowly at the stake in Salem, unending torture for a nonbeliever during the spanish inquisition, poison coursing through Romeo’s veins as normally as blood does, you know, typical hellish things.
Now it was the latter, it was always the latter recently it seemed.
I can’t help but close my eyes as the waves of heart stopping (I wish) pain roll in rougher in intensity but agonizingly slower in speed than those big blue pacific waves I remember being scared of back home. Different waves, same insurmountable fear.
My companions, travel buddies you could say, fellow junkies you could also say, look up and wince as I double over to the puke stained carpet before me.
I grind my teeth together tighter than should be humanly possibly and viciously grab at that stupid ugly tan shag carpet, dig my nails deep down into those never smooth strands of fabric and hit concrete below with my already chipped to hell nails, as if either of these two things will help.
“God, when will this guy be done with me?!”
“I thought you were over all that pity me bullshit man?” Flynns high pitched squak of a voice rang like daggers in my eardrums, the sound of a migraine and hangover combined, I can only scream back in response.
Let’s talk about Flynn.
Flynn was the oldest out of our group. We called him father time, not really as a poke at his age, because 34 wasn’t even that old. No, we did it more out of respect. Flynn was the only other one we knew that had been under the influence so damn long.
Whoever chose Flynn did it when he was only 15 years old. Can you even begin to imagine 19 years of this? Tell me you know somebody who’s handled hell more gracefully and manly than Flynn. Well, don’t, hopefully you couldn’t tell me of anyone who’s gone longer.
Anyway, back to father time, his sharp blonde hair was always a funny contradiction to me, but i liked it. It reminded me of the sunshines warm gleam when you first take your sunglasses off and gaze at the ocean. It was youthful, innocent, happy. Sappy, I know, but what else can I cling on to anymore? A little happiness goes a long way, I think that’s why I chose to hang out with Flynn in the first place. He made me smile.
Flynn’s face, however, fit his nickname perfectly. It was filled with lines. Stress fractures, worry wrinkles, junkie marks, if you look too hard you may feel like you’re being sucked into that lifetime of pain, that you have line’s by association.
Ah, lines. What I wouldn’t give for a fucking line.
“Are any of you worthless pieces of shit going to even try to help?!” They knew I didn’t mean it, it’s just all I can think to say through the pain.
An old magazine featuring some annoying new diet trend (ew, food) is thrust in my face, powdered generously with a snow more beautiful than any one Christmas Eve could produce.
The pain dulls, my lungs fill fully after much struggle, my brain slows, and my body becomes my own again. The hit dulls the pain, but it really never goes away.
Nothing I’ve found can help that. Not meth, not crack, not coke. Heroine, shrooms, acid, LSD. Opieids, psychedelics, uppers, downers, sidewaysers, it didn’t matter, nothing helped.
But those attempts, those words, were my friends.. Mary Jane, Angel, Molly, Barb, Charlie, … those names, those mere words make me feel safer. They make me feel like it’s all bearable, like good friends should.
They are just mere words though, minor temporary fixes for the pain, as most words usually are.
The floating arm that extended so angelically my escape this time belonged to Quentin.
Quentin’s the one who brought me here to this group initially. He’s the one who explained our kind benefactors to me.
‘There are those people in the world who suffer more than others,’ I remember his words clearly, memorized like a mantra to me. ‘Then there are those who make other people suffer more than others. Let’s say one of both of those two people happened to combine into one. Imagine all the rage, the cataclysmic amount of fuel to their hate fire, that they must harbor. It’s almost understandable really,’ he said, I don’t know, I may do it, given the power.’
That, that right there, was the essence of who he, Quentin, really was. He was that weird unsettling feeling you got when trying to figure out if that quiet guy down the road was really okay in the head or not (he wasn’t), only in person. Quentin was… odd, in a depressing way.
Odd also in the sense that he was a 6’3 Italian junkie here stuck with us. He had the build of an NFL player, the hair of a foreign fabio, but the face of a backwoods meth junkie. It was as if he was three separate people, separate stereotypes, all smushed together into one poor bastard.
I take another hit from Quentin and watch as Flynn goes under this time. As painful as it is to go through, watching may be even worse. His silent screams and gnashing of his knuckles make me want to cry, but the dust i keep hitting makes me want to laugh at his writhing around like a fish fresh off the line.. Again, little pieces of happiness (no matter how fucked up they may be) go a long way.
The jitters kick in almost in time with Flynn’s dry heaves and I have to try to make myself useful in some way. I take the initiative to chop him a line, and me one as well.
“No man, you know Flynn would want Mary, keep it green,” our fourth member said from his corner crate recliner.
Duh, I should’ve remembered that myself. It was Flynn after all. The haze is coming on strong today. Too many hits? No. Never too many hits. Probably not enough.
I watch as the short and scrawny build of Jay stumbles over to the center of the room, late to our pity party today. Jason sits down and loads a bowl, then proceeds to try and fail at passing it to Flynn. At this point it’s all Flynn can do to catch shallow gasping breaths in between sobs, somebody had a rough day.
Jason takes a hit and passes it to me, protocol calls for a forced high in situations such as these. Flynn hates being helped, but he’ll be thankful in the long run.
The three of us take turns blowing smoke in his ears and around his covered face until he simply uncovers it, an acceptable shade of calm finally. He smokes for himself now, he is, after all, a grown man for god’s sake.
I watch the smoke dance draft-blown patterns around his head and take another hit. More haze. My nose burns as Quentin tells me to slow down, to get out of my head and back into reality with him. Screw reality. Reality fucked four too many people over in my opinion.
But, anyway, back to Jason. He doesn’t really have a backstory. He’s a local stoner kid, provides excellent green, travels well, and suffers minimally. See, Jason isn’t under the influence as hard as the rest of us in the group. Somebody has just now latched on to him, the rage hasn’t spread quite yet.
Thats what the rage is to me. Venom. Poison. Deadly. Yet, contagious.
Flynn’s back. He takes my drug station, blade and all. I secretly wished the blade would turn red with a slight slide under his thumb skin as he walked back. But I loved Flynn.
The haze is much too heavy now to fight.
But really, so is the clear day.
A tingle of pain rushes through my spine and my hair stands on edge. I need another hit.
I sit back down on our makeshift furniture and stare ahead at our barren place.
Eventually we’ll get up, we’ll move, we’ll find more drugs. But for now, we have the haze. The pain, the suffering, reality, it all disappears in the haze.