this is how the virus spread

Everyone wants to ride high on the wave but no one wants to tumble. And by tumble, I mean crash. No one ever wants their ride to end. No one wants to find themselves faced down in the sand.

But hey, it comes with the territory . . .

I walked across Front Street with two small packages hidden in the inside pocket of my denim jacket. My long hair was wet from walking in the earlier rains. My shoes, socks, and blue jeans were soaked as well. As for the two small packages hidden inside my jacket pocket, I thought to myself, “This should keep me good for a while.”

Mike was waiting outside the 7-11 on Front Street and Merrick Avenue. His tall slender body leaned against the brick wall of the store. Like me, Mike was anxious. His eyes were wired. They were wide opened and his face was blank without the depth of expression. There was no joy in his eyes. There was certainly no expression of euphoria left behind. There was only a look of serious desperation. It is a fiendish look—it is the look that comes as an aftermath or chemical reaction to a previously fleeting high.

“Did you get anything,” he asked
“I picked up two.” I told him.
“I was able to swipe some cash this morning, so we should alright for now.”

Saying, “For now,” meant that we could put off the fiend for at least a short period of time. This meant we could put a hold on the restlessness; it meant we could quiet the loud whispers from the cocaine demons. The two bags were not much. They were only enough to stay, “Up,” long enough to postpone another inevitable crash.

Lighting a cigarette, I told Mike, “We have to find someplace to go.”

Mike suggested the Double Sumps. The double sumps were a place in the middle of our town. We called it the double sumps because it was two large sumps, side by side, and divided by one street that separated the sumps.
Between the sump basins was a cement tunnel that ran underground and linked the two drainage basins together. There was rarely water in the sump.
Unless there was a heavy rain, the sump was a dry, sandy-bottomed indentation in the ground, which was fenced in our suburban community to accept the drainage of rainwater from the quiet residential streets. This was the sumps purpose; however, we used the sump as a great place to hide.
There was no wind inside the cement grid. There was very little noise, and there was little worry about the police. The only problem is we were not the only ones who knew about the double sumps. That meant other kids from the neighborhood could show up at any time. And that was no good.  Neither Mike nor I was in the mood for company.

“I’d rather go to The Pit,” I said.

The Pit was another sump in a different part of town. This sump bordered Glenn Curtis Boulevard, Merrick Avenue, and Hempstead turnpike.
We found shelter at the mouth of the cement drainage tunnel in the bottom of the large sump. The tunnel picked up the rainwater, which fell onto Glenn Curtis Boulevard. And though there was some water in the sewer pipe, we were able to find a dry patch and a place for us to fix.

Much of addiction is ritual and much of the ritual is preparation. Some like to do lines of cocaine from the fancy glass mirrors because it makes them feel cool. It contributes to the lies of being a rock star. Or perhaps they find the madness sexy, and enjoy watching their own reflection as white powder vanishes through a straw and shoots upwards into their nostrils.
Some prefer little coke vials, pouring out a small pile between the crevices of their thumb, clinched against the pointing finger, and then snorting the small pile from the top of their hand.

Me, I liked to smoke it. Smoking was my ritual. it seemed more dedicated, and above all, the sudden inertia that came on was like a beautiful explosion in the center of my mind. After the exhale, the quick blast into atmosphere is nothing less than sensational. My ears clogged as if the altitude changed. I heard the sound of bells chiming in my ears. I felt my chest lose its sense of feeling. My mind loosened from anything sharp or heavy. All that weighed me down melted away the same as the small rocks in my pipe melted under flame. In a word, I was weightless and perfectly numb.

My ritual began with a filthy spoon, bent upwards, so I could cook my batches in its basin over a flame. My source of flame was either a candle or a cigarette lighter. My pipe, my spoon, my cigarette lighter, a small pouch filled with baking soda, and small bottle of water; these were my tools.

Some prefer to use ammonia when the cook their batches. I thought ammonia worked better. It gave the smoke a cool flavor as it drew in against the back of my throat.  The only problem with using ammonia is there was one more thing I had to carry.  Ammonia would be another item in my pocket and something else in the way of my bags. Water, on the other hand, is free and can be found nearly anywhere. Worst case, I could always use the water in the bottom of the sewer drain.

Some people like to cook the entire batch right away. But I liked to cook one hit at a time.
This was my ritual.

I poured some of the contents from my package into the spoon. Then I mixed in the baking soda. After which, I added a tiny amount of water. Next, I held the bottom of the spoon over the flame and watched the contents bubble until it solidified. The content of the spoon was called, “the hit.”

I loaded the hit it into my glass pipe, or “Stem” as we called it. The stem is a clear tube with screens at the tip to hold the contents. I’d put the flame to the end of pipe, heating the glass, until I heard the hit begin to sizzle. Then I placed my mouth on the opposite end of the pipe to inhale, watching the smoke blitz through the clear glass in thick white curls before entering my mouth and infiltrating my lungs. Then I would hold the smoke deep in my lungs to consume all of its temporary wealth. Then I exhaled the smoke with the sound of a resounding, “Ah,” as the poison did its trick.

After the first taste was in my system, my anxiety was settled. I felt rescued in a sense that my mind was released from its pressurized state of reality. There was no stress or need for aggression. There was no outrage or reason to be angry. For the moment, I was suspended in the short duration of a perfect high—until the crash set in.

Somewhere after the first hit, the imaginary whispers became real to me. After the first hit was gone, everything began to deteriorate. Nothing felt as good. Nothing could get me quite as high and nothing could rescue me from a terrible angst.
After each hit from the pipe, my high was continually cut in half. After each hit my crash seemed worse. It came to the point where I was no longer smoking to get high. I was only smoking to keep from the terrible crash.

This is what the crash was like –
Imagine every nerve tensed and stood on heightened alert. Imagine your jaw clenched and grinding, your back is stressed, your shoulders are tight, and your neck is tight as well.
Imagine despair; imagine knowing there is only one thing you can do to feel better, but it’s all gone, the bags are empty, and there is no way to get more because you have no money and no way to feel better. The paranoia is punishing. You hear things. You think everyone is after you. And then comes the regret factor. You begin to realize what you turned into. You realize you are horribly capable of the unthinkable. At that point, you would do anything—anything at all—just to stop the crucial grind that tears at you from the inside out.

Worst are the paranoid whispers and imaginary sounds.
Worst is the growling stomach, or the reflection you see in the mirror.
Worst is crawling on the floor with lighters trying to find little pieces of white powder so you can get back up and feel numb again.

I mean hell, no one wants to crash. But it comes with the territory. No one asks for the downfall, but yet somehow, we all forget it comes with the contract we signed when we boarded this ride.

I just wanted to feel better. I wanted to be cool and weightless. I wanted to be in the middle of bliss and forget about life, reality, and all the bouts and thoughts that came with my social awkwardness, failures, struggles, and the common pressures of everyday life.

Like any virus, addiction spreads by contact. It spreads through word of mouth and passes from hand to hand. Addiction teases the curious mind until the curious is brave enough to try it.

I remember sitting with my back against the concrete wall of The Meadow Dairy on Prospect and East Meadow Avenue. My skin was pale and my eyes were spiritless. I had just finished a binge after a run to Brooklyn, and while sitting next to one of my newly infected friends, I listened to him explain, “I’m never doing this again.”

“This is the last time,” he swore.

“I don’t know why I let you talk me into trying this.”

As he spoke, I stared into the wasted moments of sundown in my small, Long Island town. I felt as if the cocaine demons took another victim.

I swore I could almost hear them laughing.
They were laughing at him because they knew he’d be back again.
And so did I
I could hear the demons laughing at me too because they knew I sold my soul for a $20 bag and a trip into Brooklyn.

I heard my friend plead, “I swear to God…this is the last fucking time.”

Pale skinned, thin, and strung out, I turned to my newly infected friend and said, “No it isn’t”


Unfortunately, I was right

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