Billy walked through the side gate of a white-picket fence next to the detached garage at Mike’s house. It was beyond the midnight hour and the star-filled sky was accompanied with a full moon.
Billy was covered in a long, black overcoat. The wool collar was pulled up to cover his neck from the cold wind that blew through the streets of his somewhat normal, but otherwise suburban town.
His filthy, but untied, white shoelaces to his blue Converse sneakers dragged against the ground, and the once-white emblem with a blue star at the side of the hi-top shoe was nearly black from dirt, and they were stained with the droplets of fresh blood.
Billy snuck through the backyard of the small yellow house. The bluish beams of moonlight reflected against the home’s siding and changed the color of grass to an almost grayer version of its original green.
He crept over to the cement steps, which led him down to the basement apartment where Mike lived.
Billy’s eyes were wide opened and his jaw clenched from the speed that ran through his veins after a long, two-day binge. He was hooked by the claws of the cocaine demons. Billy was tall and thin. His skin was pale. His hair was long and it was always unkempt.
He was the embodiment, or the perfect description, which defined the results of heavy drug use. Billy seldom looked clean or nourished. He often had cold sores at the either corner of his mouth, which is why no one wanted to share a pipe with him.
But once the night gained momentum and the drug seeped into place—none of Billy’s fellow users cared about the sores on Billy’s mouth. After the cocaine demons infected the bloodstream, no one cared if there was blood or virus on the pipe. No one cared about life or death. No one cared about anything—except for their next it.
Mike had just finished emptying one of his packets onto a small mirror when he heard Billy at his basement door. The basement apartment in his family’s house was small, but it served its purpose.
The uncleaned room smelled from cigarette smoke, and the brownish, shag carpet was stained with scattered cigarette burns. The white ceiling tiles in the dropped ceiling were stained with brown spots—some were from the nicotine and tarry smoke, and the stains, which were closer to the color of rust were from previous leaks that came from upstairs.
The cheaply wood-paneled walls had breaks and holes in them. The dark red couch was filthy with emptied cigarette packages crumbled between the cushions, and the television was broken.
Billy rapped on the glass panels in the upper section of the basement door.
He whispered loudly. “Mike, open up. It’s me, Billy.”
In a paranoid fit, Mike hunched down and peeked through the curtain to see who it was.
“If anyone has anything that could help me out, it would be Mike,” Billy thought to himself.
Mike saw the look in Billy’s eyes. They were wired enough to reflect the moonlight. It was midway through the stretch of a cold winter and Billy’s tall frame was standing, hunched down, and shivering with his face at the glass panel. He moved his head nervously to try and see through the inside curtains because he knew Mike was inside.
“Mike, it’s me,” he said again in a loud whisper.
Mike ducked beneath the window at the door so Billy could not see him. He hid in the dim light that glowed from an old red and gold lava-lamp, which, other than the stale yellowish light that came from the partially opened bathroom door, were the only lights he used on nights like this one.
Like Billy, Mike also danced with the cocaine demons. But Mike had a remedy for the demons when they screamed too loudly. To silence them and soften the urges, Mike switched speeds and bowed to a different god for a chance at redemption.
He placed a short straw into one side of his nose while closing the other side with his finger. Mike passed the straw over two small piles on his hand-sized mirror.
As he led the straw over and sniffed, a flaky off-white powder flew in through the straw and up into Mike’s right nostril. He sniffed quickly to finish the last portion of his fix.
Then, Mike tilted his head back while grabbing his nose and he sniffled to make sure each grain dissolved and made its way into his system.
Like Billy, Mike was very tall. He was also just as thin and his skin was equally pale. Mike was well liked by most; however, he did have his share of enemies.
He was not a stranger to the basic scams that keep the cocaine sickness alive. He was known for selling fake pills to uneducated pill users who were looking to be cool, or catch an easy high.
When Mike was younger, he placed raw spaghetti in purple food coloring. Then he cut the spaghetti into little tiny pieces and he tried to pass them off as hits of mescaline.
He was the first of his friends to sell bags of oregano to the younger, wannabe crowd, because they were eager to be cool and try weed for the first time. He was always looking for an angle and always looking to get high.
Billy rapped at the door again.
“Mike, it’s me. Open up.”
The crazed sound of Billy’s whisper was not going to stop.
“Mike, are you in there?”
Billy even went so far as to turn and shake the door knob.
After hiding the mirror and moving his stash, Mike poked his head from behind the curtain at the basement door.
“Billy, what the hell are you doing?”
“Let me in,” he answered.
Mike unlatched the system of four different latches and door locks. Then he quickly opened the door, but only enough to reach his arm out and pull Billy inside.
“What the hell are you doing, Billy? You’re gonna wake everybody up.”
“Sorry,” Billy said. “But I’ve been going hard for two days now and I need something to help me come down.”
Billy moved through the dark room without walking into anything the way a bat would navigate its way through a dark cave. He and Mike were old friends and Billy spent many drug-filled nights in the small apartment. He was no stranger to the room or the paranoid reasons of why the lights were out..
Moving closer to the lava-lamp, Billy took off his overcoat and tossed it on the arm of the beat-up couch. His wiry black hair poked from his underarms and through the gray, cut-up, and sleeveless sweatshirt. There was a hole surrounded by a blackened stain, which was wet on Billy’s upper left rib.
Mike pointed to it and asked, “What’s that?”
Still shivering and adjusting from the outside cold, Billy twitched while crossing his arms to warm himself.
“I tried to rob that old Greek bastard at the gas station on Meadow Street, but that crazy old man had a gun.”
Meadow Street was only a few blocks from Mike’s house.
“He shot you?” Mike’s eyes opened with fear.
He spoke out in an elevated whisper. “You tried to rob him and he shot you . . . and then you fuckin come here?”
“I didn’t know what else to do,” Billy answered.
“I can’t go to a hospital,” Billy explained. “The cops will be looking for me.”
“That old man knows us since we were kids,” said Mike.
“And unless you wore a mask, he knows exactly who you are!”
“Well, then I guess he knows who I am,” responded Billy.
“What the hell were you thinking?”
Billy answered him with a sickened, but nervous laugh.
“I don’t know.”
Every so often the furnace would turn on, and both Mike and Billy would duck as if the police were about to barge through the door.
Mike told Billy, “You can’t stay here.”
“We gotta get you to a hospital, or doctor, or something.”
But Billy ignored Mike.
Billy asked, “Do you have anything?”
The pain was unbearable, but not as unbearable as the nerve-splitting need that comes with the cocaine demons.
Mike retrieved another packet from beneath the carpeting next to his bed where he kept his stash.
“I have this,” offered Mike. “But you have to get out of here after you take it That old man knows we’re friends, so the cops are gonna come here for sure..”
He spilled the contents onto Mike’s hand-sized mirror. Then he rolled a piece of paper into a straw-like shape before putting one end in his nose and lowering the other end at the foot of the powdery line.
“I never did heroin before,” said Billy.
“But I guess now is a good time to start.”
As Billy snorted the tiny pile, Mike began to feel the effects of his last and final departure.
He could feel the overwhelming rush of a slow-moving justice as the heroin coursed through his body.
His mind was suspended and his body was cloaked in the gentle warmth of a delicate chaos.
His eyes closed halfway and his jaw hung open. In an instant, the cocaine demons were quieted by the ambassadors of euphoria, which were sent by the dope gods, and as he slumped forward, Mike hung like a dead man whose body was dangled by puppet strings.
Mike mumbled, “You can’t stay here too much longer.”
He said, “I’m sorry Billy,” in a slow drawn out voice.
“But I can’t have you here,” and then Mike slipped into a nod.
His mind turned inward. Mike felt himself vanish into the warm seclusion of an unthinkable high.
His mind, spirit, and body moved like the changing and swelling shapes inside of his red and gold-lava lamp.
His eyes eventually closed. Then it was Billy’s turn.
“I think I feel better,” Billy said.
And then the two nodded off.
An hour passed . . .
Suddenly, a loud burst shot through the basement door to break the silence. Light flared through the room and Mike’s eyes opened slowly. He was too far gone to move away from the shouting officers as they crashed through the apartment with their guns drawn.
By the time the police arrived, Billy was laying naked on the tiled floor of Mike’s bathroom. His brown eyes were fixed and dilated and his skin lost the color of its life. Billy was curled in a fetal position. His piss-soaked pants were crumpled up in a ball beside the constantly running toilet. There was blood around the drain in the shower stall. There was blood on the floor, and blood in the sink.
The police searched and found Mike’s stash—but he was too far gone to respond to the constant barrage of questions.
Outside,the normally quiet street was lit up from swirling lights that flashed in colors of red and white from the top of police cars. The sound of an ambulance siren echoed as it took Billy away, and families from the neighboring homes stood out on the sidewalk while dressed in their coats, slippers, and pajamas, just to watch as Mike’s parents saw their only son taken into custody. . .
I love it when parents talk about today’s drug culture as if it would never happen in their home or community
I love it when kids talk as if they know everything and they are not afraid.
I also love the look on their faces when they find out they were wrong!