“The problem with addicts,” said my aunt, “is they have no will power. If they had any sense at all, they would stop using. They all need to grow up and learn that life can’t always be one big party.”
I was too dope sick to argue. It wasn’t really worth arguing, either. No amount of logic would change her mind; she was committed to her ignorance. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and pulled my black beanie over my ears. My Carhartt jacket was warm enough but lacked a hood, and it was a frosty, mid-November day in Nevada. The dawn sky was fretting gray and threatening snow. I felt a chill creep up through my bones as I stepped into the garage to leave, but that didn’t keep a steady stream of sweat from forming on my face. I was faintly sick and hungry. Even if I’d had money for food, I wouldn’t have eaten. Who knew if I’d be able to cop before I started puking?
Anxiety gnawed on me like an abused dog—my thoughts chased each other in useless circles despite my attempt to breathe deep and calm the fuck down. I just had to keep it together until I could fix. What choice did I have? It wasn’t like anything was going to get better if I rested a bit. No, I’d be immobilized sick for a week or more if I went cold turkey now, and I couldn’t afford to miss that much work. There was nothing for it but to soldier on.
The Aveo wouldn’t start in these temperatures without a blast of starting fluid, which meant popping the hood and unscrewing the cover to the air filter, then putting it all back together. First-world problems, right? It wasn’t my car, but I’d been driving it long enough to have become more or less efficient at the starting process. The need for me to find my own vehicle now that I lived far out of town weighed heavily on me, joining the wolfpack of anxiety running down my sanity.
I drove the unregistered car thirty minutes to Reno, quietly thanking God for letting me pass undetected by highway patrol. I made some phone calls as I drove. It was too early for many drug addicts and dealers, but I might catch some still up from the night before, some may have even been up for days. The ones who worked construction, like me, were already at work for the most part. I had been laid off for several months, but had managed to stay busy with a friend of mine hustling side jobs for cash while drawing unemployment. My drug habit had grown quite expensive. Coupled with the sky-rocketing cost of gas, food, and especially rent, my life was completely unsustainable financially if something didn’t change. Yet another wolf in the pack. Some party, huh auntie?
I showed up to Jimmy’s house, where we met each day before work. I went directly to the garage, where he was lighting the wood stove.
“Morning,” I said. Jimmy looked up.
“Morning. Not feeling well?”
“Is it that obvious?” I asked.
He chuckled and returned to his fire.
Suddenly, my stomach heaved, and I gagged. I snatched up the wastebasket and violently dry-heaved over it, producing only a few tablespoons of frothy, yellow, evil-tasting bile. It was like a stain on my tongue. Again I grew hot, started sweating profusely, yet as soon as I slipped out of my Carhartt, the moisture on my neck and face seemed to freeze into ice, and a chill washed over me from the inside out. I yawned, suddenly feeling completely enervated.
“Can you get anything?” Jimmy asked. He knew what I needed. I always tried not to let dope sickness keep me from working, but once it got bad enough I was useless as a carpenter. Just as I was about to answer in the negative, my phone sounded a bamboo knock, indicating I had a new text. Thank fucking God!
“Tito’s gonna front me some blues. I’m gonna bounce and pick them up. I’ll meet you at the job.”
“Okay brother, see you there,” he said.
On the freeway, my nausea returned. All my symptoms were intensifying. I couldn’t pull off the road, and I didn’t want to puke in my lap, so I rolled down the window frantically, holding my vomit back with straining lips.
Belly mustard exploded out of my mouth, but at freeway speed it blew instantly back in my face—covering my sunglasses, cheeks, hair, and both the inside and outside of my buddy’s car door. At least I didn’t crash.
I arrived at Tito’s, feeling less nauseated, but boiling over with anxiety. My body ached like I had the flu. Walking up his shoddy porch steps winded me and left me with fever chills. I was soaked with sweat.
Tito sold fake pills made to look like 30mg Oxycontin, but which were actually fentanyl. That’s why I wanted them: they were strong enough to overcome my tolerance. They were also killing people who didn’t know what they were taking.
Tito served me up, and I promised to pay him on Friday. He still fronted me because I’d never burned him. A lot of dealers won’t front, especially the ones who serve fiends. And I don’t blame them. But Tito and I had a solid dealer/junkie relationship. Hell, he used more than I did, and that helped me feel less taken advantage of then if he strictly sold them.
I loaded one on a square of foil and melted it down, sucking up the burnt-popcorn smoke through the cut-off body of a Bic pen—a “tooter”. I held that sweet, savory smoke in as long as possible. By the second hit, I felt worlds better. My nausea vanished; I stopped sweating, and my anxiety lessened, one predator at a time until only the echoes of wolf hounds drifted into a soft background static. My body aches dissipated. I actually felt a smile emerging. I was ready to go to work. A sense of relief washed over me. I thought about my aunt, then, as I left Tito’s to work for the day. I thought about her enjoying the kind of party I’d had that morning so much she wouldn’t be able to stop, and I laughed for the first time that day.