“I come through shattered pieces of an amazing image
soaked with moisture
. . .and waiting
I’m waiting for another wave
or another way
to beat the system
and escape symptoms
She dives for me
angry—like the wind when the storm picks up
She dive for me like a hawk towards its prey
and sweeps me away
To her, I am nothing more than small piece of meat
I am a tiny morsel and she is the hungry street
which is where I find myself.
She is the bosom of milk
which moves through needles
to mark pinholes into flesh.
“Have you seen this side of the Hudson lately?”
“No,” I say.
But two bags ago,
I thought I saw a little dog running across the street
Turns out, it was a rat carrying food back to its hole
a small dark place where light gives way and sells itself short
I am aware of places like this.
Steve took aim and pushed through
He felt the pinpoint break the surface
then he withered like a leaf
swaying through the air in an autumn breeze.
Ever see the inside of your mind?
Ever slip through a tiny window
and come through the other side
whole and totally painless?
It’s like that.
The other side, I mean:
painless and unconcerned.
I could go away, I thought to myself.
I could take off in a second
and be someone else in some other place.
I could kick. You know?
I could cut like a knife through the breeze, and just like that . . .
I’d be free.
Instead, I euthanized the clock
watching minutes die
and powder dissolve
into the basin of a filthy spoon.
I guess there are different kinds of freedom.
Steve woke up on 9th avenue, just south of 14th where the old city streets turn to cobblestone. The early sun was bright and filtering through the uptown buildings on the Eastside. The summer morning was warm and the humidity was thick. There were no clouds in the sky and the colorful part of morning was newly underway.
Steve had a trail of dried blood the leaked from his right nostril and streamed down to the top of his swollen lip. Steve was unsure how the beating began or why he was beaten in the first place. The relevant pain came to him moments after awakening.
He checked his clothes to see if the last of his wealth was still with him, which it was. However, in this case, wealth takes on a different meaning. Steve checked through his pockets to be sure he had the only thing that had any value to him.
His eyes half-closed and swollen, mouth fallen open, hanging from the jawbone that lacked the strength or energy to close.
It was a calm morning in the city. As Steve decided to head east, he began to think of the beating he took. Aside from being homeless and in the middle of a nod, Steve could see no reason why four young men from a different side of the bridge would beat and kick him to the ground. There was no gain from this. The four young men were well dressed in their city best, drunk from the bars, and miles away from their safe, suburban lifestyle.
“Guess I’ll head over to Ned’s,” Steve mumbled to himself.
Ned was a long time junkie who claimed to have perfected the sickness. Ned learned to score from the methadone clinic. He pulled a trick and landed a double dose. One dose was for Ned’s heroin addiction. The other was a dose for pain management to settle the countless issues with a deteriorating spine.
At this rate, Ned had no intention, nor would he ever have any intention to get or stay clean. He beat the system and landed a way satisfy his habit while receiving public assistance and cashing out on his fellow junkies. To Steve, Ned was as good a friend as any other. He had a place, which was dry and out of sight. In most cases, Ned charged for the use of his place. But not when it came to Steve.
As a job, Ned helped run a small residential building on Avenue C. Instead of pay, this gave Ned a free ground level apartment, and since the landlord never planned on fixing any of the apartments or making any of the necessary repairs on the 5 floor walk-up, the slumlord was content with his and Ned’s arrangement.
Steve was a large man. He was heavyset with a slightly dropped stomach. He often smelled from body odor and his mouth was nearly toothless on the top row.
He was kindhearted towards others like him. Steve knew what it was like to be sick. He understood what it meant to be hungry as well as strung out. Steve was longhaired with several jailhouse tattoos etched into his arm.
None of the artwork was well done, and most of the black ink had faded throughout the years. Most of the tattoos were of spiders and skulls.
Steve had a black tear tatted below his left eye, which represented the death of Steven’s younger brother, Jonathon, who died from the needle and a bag, which he took from Steve.
“That shot was meant for me,” Steve would explain when anyone asked him about the tear on his face.
The only other legibly clear tattoo on Steve was the words, “Perdoname Madre,” which translated to, “Forgive me mother.”
Steve had the markings of a junkie. Aside from the needle marks in his arm, Steve had the withdrawn eyes with sagging dark circles beneath them. His speech was dragged on as if his brain lacked the ability to speak quickly.
Plodding east on 14th Street, Steve made his way to Ned’s with hopes to find a soft spot in the basement of Ned’s building. This way, Steve could find a place to set up and feel the redemption from the last of his bags.
“Maybe Ned will have something hanging around for me,” Steve thought.
“Maybe I should do the same thing as him and get set up on the methadone program. Maybe that will help me.”
Halfway across from west to east, Steve noticed the four young men that took turns kicking him on the floor. Steve was caught. There was no way to pass by them without a problem. There was no way to turn around without causing attention. The four young men were still reeling from the night out. They were still loud and still howling regardless to the hour or that the sun had come up.
“There he is,” Said one of the four men.
The other three laughed.
The four young men began screaming at Steve, calling him junkie, loser, and a bum. Steve’s chin fell to his chest.
It was obvious to Steve; this is not the life he wanted. It was obvious to Steve that he never expected life to become this bad.
He never thought he would be caught in the trap of addiction. Steve came from a good home with a good family.
Steve’s father was a loving man. He was strict and quick to discipline—but he was still loving. Steve’s mother came from the Dominican Republic. She spoke little English and whether in English or Spanish, she had not spoken a word to Steve, her oldest son, after the accidental overdose of her youngest son, Jonathon.
The pain and regret was obvious to Steve. To the four young men, the pain and regret was far from obvious. They had no pity for Steve or his life. above all, they had no remorse for their brutality. The four men saw Steve as a deserving victim. He was a junkie,a loser, and a bum.
“You asked for this,” shouted one of the four men as the group began heading towards Steve. All four of them were well-dressed, handsome, but totally ugly in their wealthy clothes, wealthy lifestyles, and classless mentality. Had it not been for the policeman emerging from one of the stores near Avenue A, the four men would have beaten Steve once more.
Steve smiled as he walked passed the four men. He did not complain or explain about their actions to the officer. He simply passed, waved, and continued on to Ned’s
“Better get there soon,” Steve thought to himself.
“I need to set up.”
Steve walked along with nothing but the tale of his tragedies, folded in a small white packet, and remedied with the contents of deadly white powder.
Finally, he arrived.
Pushing the white button on the intercom outside the glass door, a loud ring buzzed down to Ned’s apartment.
“Who is it,” asked Ned over the intercom
“It’s me, Steve.”
Ned did not answer. Instead, he pushed the button, setting off a buzzer, allowing Steve to enter through the first door and then into the second glass door.
The hallway in the apartment smelled from food—but not the good kind. The food was foreign to our country. Often, Ned would scream up to the Korean family on the second floor to complain about their choice of food.
Stepping into the hallway, Ned came out to greet his friend. He folded his eyebrows downward and sniffed the inhale of an overpowering smell.
“Stop cooking that shit. It stinks,” Ned screamed up the narrow staircase that led to the second floor.
Then he motioned to Steve.
“Come on in.” welcomed Ned.
“I have your spot already set up for you.”
Steve went in to set up. Ned walked him down a dark staircase, which led them passed the compactor room and next to the boiler room.
“Go on inside,” Ned told Steve.
“You got anything,”Steve asked.
“I might be able to straighten you up,” explained Ned.
“It’s the least I can do.”
Ned still held onto the guilt he felt after selling Steve the bag, which killed Jonathon.
Steve walked in and sat down on a cushion beside a row of boxes and an old bicycle that hung upside down from the ceiling.
The pain from the previous beating was tough. Steve had a split lip and perhaps when being kicked, Steve bit down on his tongue enough to make it bleed.
But all that was about to stop.
Upon entering the vein, Steve slipped away from the painful memory of the beating. He forgot about the blood that crusted on his face. He forgot about the police and how they intervened and stopped another beating that almost happened.
Pushing the plunger forward, Steve’s body accepted the poison, which transferred him into a soft, untouchable state where his mind was no longer hinged upon life and its sharp realities.
He forgot about the failures. He forgot about the loss of his brother Jonathon and the subsequent loss of his family thereafter. Once the needle broke the vein, triggering the spark that changed the mind, Steve withered like a crumbling leaf swaying in the autumn wind and returned to his hole.
a small dark place where light gives way and sells itself short
I am aware of places like this.