There was a basement I knew about when I was younger. I would hide here. I would hide away from the groups and away from the different people and the so-called friends in my so-called crazy little town. I was a suburban kid with city genes. I was all over the place. Here, there and everywhere else I could be, if you know what I mean.
At least, this is how I see it. I was someone who had starry eyes and I was unsure if this was okay. But in either case, I always knew there was something out there for me.
Perhaps there was something missing. Or, maybe it was me. Maybe I was missing. Maybe I was too young to enter the games I was playing – me and my madness, a cigarette dangling in my mouth. My hands shook and my teeth clenched, due to a chemical reaction.
Maybe I was simply unenthused about the life that was presented to me – and me and my differences with the school systems had finally hit the breaking point. I was done. I found a way to pull a trick but the joke was on me. Only, I was too lost to understand.
Maybe I was tired of living with the same old, same old or perhaps there was something about my dreams or my hopes, which seemed a bit different, or misshapen or strange. Or, perhaps this is life and at the time, I was simply unaware of the downward spiral that was flushing me away.
As for my hiding place, the basement was a dark refuge which I used during the nighttime hunts when I was fueled by certain powders that eventually betrayed me. My hiding place was small and not very clean. The floor was mainly dirt. However, the door which led down to the room was easy to jimmy, which is a secret that I kept to myself. I had to, especially on the cold, windy or rainy nights.
I chose this place to hide from the elements of my town as well as the elements from the season. However, the paranoia bugs were tough to shake in moments like this. And yes, this was me – deep into a sickness that has been an epidemic for centuries, yet people discuss substance abuse as if this is a new thing. No, really. It’s the truth.
I hear people talk about the drug culture as if it’s a fad. When I hear this, I think to myself, “Good God, man. Where have you been?”
My hiding spot was the basement of a local bar, which meant I could hear the music from the jukebox. I could hear the sound of people laughing and drinking. I could hear the noise, which I would describe as something that comes with a band of friendships. I heard happiness above me and meanwhile, I indulged in the rituals that kept me distant and away from parties like this.
The ceiling was low, which was fine. There were no lights either, which was fine as well. I didn’t mind the dark. I didn’t mind the tiny squeaks which were from either mice or rats. I don’t know which one. I never saw them either. Only a few times in the shadows when the candlelight flickered.
I had a lighter, some cigarettes and a candle, which I used to complete the rituals. I had a dirty spoon which I used for cooking. I had some other tools of the trade hidden in old boxes which were never disturbed. This was my own little space station/shooting gallery.
I was not far from home, which would only leave people to ask, “Why not go home then?”
Why hide here?
My answer is more than the chemical response or the need to finish my journey. However, my answer is best served as an analogy or comparison. I can answer this question with a question. For me, the question comes from me as a spectator. This comes from a person who it seemed as if I was always watching life happen to other people. I watched my life, your life and the life of everyone all around me.
Have you ever looked out of a window and saw into the window of another home? Picture this at nighttime. The flickering bluish light is flashing from a television in someone’s home – who knows what they’re watching. It could be anything or it could be something but either way, whatever they’re watching – it is something that shapes their minds and defines their life, which is obviously different and distant from mine.
Imagine this view as a person who is looking from the outside in. There’s a family in this house. There’s a mom and a dad and a few kids. There’s a dream here too of people who live happily ever after.
I compare this to the feelings I had (at the time). I compare this with my sense of being out of place or somehow, there was something different about me. I couldn’t connect. I couldn’t understand people. I couldn’t feel comfortable nor did I understand the ebbs and flows of my social surroundings.
I have dreams of this place sometimes. More like nightmares, I suppose. I find myself back in my old dungeons – and I find that these dreams usually come when I am intimidated or uncomfortable.
Perhaps this is the younger version of me trying to say, “We went through this before. Remember?”
I came across an old poem of mine, which I find timely too because the dreams have come up in recent conversations.
I was yelled at by someone. I was told it’s been a long time; that I think I’m some kind of martyr or something, and that I think I am better. I was told that I don’t get it because I got out. Oh, but I do get it. At least to some degree.
I never argue when people say things like this to me. I only think back as to where I was, like on nights in the basement of some local bar. I had burn marks on my lips from a glass pipe. I had the remnants of the cocaine highs that turned against me, which was fine because I learned to make a trade with the white horse – the opiate gods stepped in and the horse moved with its hooves gently running through my spine – it was enough to slow the madness and cut my eyelids to half-mast. And again, I shake my head because people assume that heroin is new. It’s not new. Neither is substance abuse. It only changes forms and alters its chemistry a little.
This was me –
Headlights pass the window
“Is that him?”
Those aren’t the lights I’m looking for.
Inside, my heartbeat emulates the tiny wheel,
which spins faster and faster.
I only hope the little mouse inside me can keep the pace
(before my heart bursts or the wheel slips off its track).
Speaking of tracks . . .
Remnants of powder flake to the ground,
I can see them like tiny mirages of ivory lies
and each time I think I find a piece,
I’m wrong . . .
All one can do is search for more.
All one can do is crawl the floor
It’s like you’re on an invisible leash
and the powder gods keep taunting you
and pulling you around.
They know you have no other choice . . .
Except, to find more.
Jaw grinds, teeth clench
the stomach is a new kind of empty,
growling in the emptiness of nausea
laced with a taste in the back of my throat
– a leftover evidence of a bitter,
but unforgettable flavor.
They called this the drip
from a post nasal drip numbness –
it falls down from the nose.
I can feel it pass the back of the throat
and it lands, crash,
deep in the bottomless pit of despair.
Headlights pass again. I watch them.
“Is that him?”
I watch them like I’m awaiting a stay of execution.
I watch, wishing a package would appear
I’m waiting for something to execute the adrenaline
Headlights pass but they’re headlights I’m looking for.
I watch them and wait
“Is that him?”
I wait because I need something to break the scene
I need something to stop the whispers
from screaming in my ears.
I watch and wait
to ease the rage
but I can’t seem to stop anything
“Shit! I’m all out of cough syrup.”
(Sometimes it helps cut the edge a little—but not much)
Every nerve is stretched like a wire with too much voltage
can’t sit still
can’t change the feeling in my spine.
eyes wide open
Heart beats fast.
Headlights finally come, and “Knock, knock”
Did you bring it?
Are you the one that called me?
Then sit down, son.
We have something new to talk about.
This was about a time back in the winter of 1989.
However, as I write to you, I am at an undisclosed location with the harbor behind me in a hotel that has rooms which are bigger than most people’s apartments.
I’ve come a long way from that basement. I’m no longer on the outside looking in.
I work hard. I play hard.
Have I made it?
Not yet, but we’ll see.
All I know is this,
I have nothing left to prove!
I’m inside now.
Thanks to you.