Fiction, Vol. 5.3, Sept. 2011
I can hear Pockets and those two kids talking out there in the front room, picking at a frozen pizza, and I know that their feet are kicked up on a coffee table so battered that Goodwill had thrown it away. Duct tape holds one of the legs on, and someone has tagged it with paint pen – looping yellow and orange letters like bubbles or puddles. The ashtrays overflow with stubbed-out cigarettes. Nubs of candles soft-flicker on the table. I make my way out into the room. I’m groggy and coming down. A girl that I don’t know sits against the old radiator reading. The curtains brush back and forth above her, letting in little bits of orange streetlight. Her head is shaved except for bleached bangs that hang in greasy threads against her forehead.
The girl wears a pair of cutoff cargos over torn fishnets. I touch Pockets on the shoulder. He reaches up and puts his hand over mine and smiles, but goes on talking, not moving his hand and not looking up at me. I give up on Pockets and walk over to the girl. She folds her book closed, keeping her place with one finger, and looks over at me to ask for a cigarette. Says her name’s Dee.
“I’m not going to fuck you,” she says.
“It’s a cigarette,” I scrunch down beside her. “I’m Loner.”
“My blood itches.”
“Even Pockets is short.”
“I might fuck for a fix,” she is scratching her arms.
“SoCo might be holding,” I ash my cigarette out the window.
I walk back to the bedroom and stuff my things back down into my pack. When I come back into the hallway I can see Dee waiting for me by the front door, drumming her hands on her thighs. The hallway outside the apartment is graffiti crowded and the drywall at the top of the stairs has been kicked in, exposing wires and copper pipes. The plan is to head down towards the Blade to cop. As we walk downhill towards the water and she tells me that she was in LA last, and that her big brother had fixed her for the first time so that she could escape her step-dad, who’d taken her virginity. At fourteen, she says, she left the house for the last time and went to New Orleans to find her brother.
“Kid he was traveling with knifed him,” she says, “somewhere in the Quarter.”
A block ahead I can see a hobo rocking back and forth on the stoop of an old apartment building. I walk up to him and take the forty of beer right out of his hands. Maybe I’m showing off, or maybe I want a drink. I push him down the steps with little more than a nudge, and he curls into a ball and doesn’t move. Dee spits on him as I’m wiping the mouth of the bottle clean, and we keep walking, passing the bottle back and forth until it’s empty. Dee tosses the bottle at a car on Third and Union, but it falls short and shatters like fireworks in the glow of taillights.
Closer to the market we see two Frat boys having a punching match in an empty parking lot. Their jackets are thrown down on the wet pavement, and they wrestle with each other, tearing at each other’s T-shirts and swinging wildly. Dee goes up and asks them for a smoke, and while they’re looking at her I run past and topple the smaller guy, snag his leather jacket and sprint down the street. When Dee catches up with me a block later we can hear those Frat boys yelling about what fucking trash we are. Their voices echo off of the buildings as we search the jacket. There’s a phone and some cash, a pack of cigarettes. We’re feeling pretty good from the cheapo beer and I ditch the jacket. I don’t want to be caught with something that’s going to be a bitch to sell.
The sun’s coming up as we hit Pike and walk down First to the Blade smelling salt water and hearing the gulls. Shops are starting to open up and street performers are setting up cardboard signs and portable radios. They’re drawing chalk circles on the sidewalks to keep tourists at bay. An older guy stakes claim on a park bench and takes out plastic baggies of colored pencils and a battered sketchpad. This guy is the only person who looks at us as we pass, and I can tell he doesn’t think much of us. It doesn’t matter anyways, since I know that SoCo will be down here somewhere. For the right price he can hook up some pretty decent H. We find him standing near a parking garage farther down First near the art museum. We cop enough to last us a few days and pay with the Frat boy’s money. I bury the dose in my pack and we catch the 42 towards Georgetown, where I know a place we can fix. There’s an abandoned warehouse at the end of the runway, and we can fix there, under the angry hornet engine whine of planes landing at Boeing Field.
The building isn’t far from where the bus drops us, and it’s early, so there aren’t many people around. I hop the fence first and she follows, hanging from the chain link with one hand and pulling my jacket off of the razor wire. It takes a few kicks to get the boards out of one of the windows, and inside the building there are dirty rays of sun passing through gaps in the boards.
We find a little spot on the second floor, near a window that looks down at the street. I fix her first, using my kit. I cook off her dose watching the bubbles swell and pop in the spoon. Black Tar gums up the needle. She winces as the needle goes in, but it only takes a second before her eyes droop and she mumbles nonsense at me while I clean the needle with rubbing alcohol and my lighter. I fix and the ceiling spirals high and distant above me as I lie back at her feet.
We wake up feeling hazy. The building has a musty smell and the air is thick. My kit is spread out on the Crown Royal bag I keep it in. There are a few syringes lying on the metal mint container, my spoon – all the other bits and pieces. I pick up what’s left of the H we bought from SoCo and figure it will last us until we can find a little more money. I look at her and think about how the drug brings people closer together, even if it’s only momentary. Sober, we wouldn’t cross the street to piss on each other.
After a few hours we walk down to the Jules Mae Saloon and trade the Frat kid’s phone to a biker for a little bit of cash. After seven or eight shots of bourbon we head back to the warehouse. It’s about closing time and it’s rained at some point during the day, slicking the asphalt to a reflective sheen. I slip as I drop down on the other side of the fence and fall flat on my ass laughing as Dee drops down beside me. The sound of bikers gunning their engines cuts the air as single headlights trace over us and across the front of the abandoned building. Back on the second floor of the building we lay laughing on the floor. And then it’s a drunken, fumbling fuck. Her hands up against the brick wall, by a gap in the boards. The only light is the light from the airport sneaking through the gaps in the boards. I run my hands over the crooked wings tattooed on her shoulder blades, my fingers catch in her necklaces. Needle punches and cigarettes along her forearms as she reaches towards me, naked, unashamed.
When we’re sober enough we fuck on the bare mattress in the back room at Pockets’ apartment. Out of nowhere it’s July and we’ve been in town over a month, squatting in Georgetown when we want to be alone, and hanging out at the beach around bonfires with the freaks down there. Those fuckers couldn’t avoid the pigs or the railroad bulls if their lives depended on it. They get picked up for mouthing off or get caught carrying kitchen knives and shanks fashioned from some post-prison-know-how.
Abscesses, ODs, and withdrawals are part of our lives. At least once a week someone ends up in a bad way while hanging out at Pockets’ and I end up dropping most of them off at the Harborview ER. Junkies who’ve turned into the walking dead, slumped against me as I drag them through the sliding glass doors and dump them in the hard plastic seats. Pockets can’t deal with all that noise. His partner OD’d a few years back, and since then the place has gone downhill. People get so out of it that all you can do is try to keep them moving. It takes Dee and I almost an hour one night to drag this kid, Gumby, five blocks down to the Burger King. When we got back to the apartment I could smell his sweat on me, and I had to rinse his vomit off of my shoes under the shower. Dee is sitting there, on the edge of the bathtub watching me.
“Who’s going to take care of you?”
“He’ll be fine,” I say shutting off the water and shaking water off my shoes. “Who gives a fuck about him?” She stands up and wraps her arms around my waist. It’s the most tender moment we’ve shared.
“I mean,” she says, “what about you?”
“Nothing’s going to happen to me,” I say.
Walking down Broadway, dodging people, Dee keeps falling behind me. I’m moving pretty fast because we need to get to the Central District to score. I stop and wait for Dee, and when she catches up I take her pack off her shoulders and sling it over mine. I start walking again, Dee beside me, and she reaches over and curls her fingers through mine. I guess we must look like an almost normal couple, even though I don’t give a fuck about normal.
We score and fix, and by that evening we’re spare changing in front of Dick’s. If we’re lucky someone will hand us a burger, wrapped up in its orange foil. Most of the gutter punks hang out in front of Dick’s with cardboard signs, squatting in lines and clusters that make people on the sidewalk catch a wide berth. Like water flowing around a rock.
You get off of the West Coast and you can find some real white shit, pricey, but you buy from dealers that sell to Weekend Warriors who think that they can chase the dragon and not get hooked. They think they got something we don’t. Some superhuman bullshit strength. Guys in business suits freebase off of aluminum foil, but wouldn’t know how to shoot up if their life depended on it. Satchel once shot up in a ritzy hotel in LA with some Yuppie who was OD’ing, he had to squeeze the guy’s balls to keep him from dying. Next to a Narcon shot it’s the best way to keep a guy alive. Nobody wants somebody dying on them.
A lot of fake punks hang out on the drag too – one of the few places we can blend in. As far as I’m concerned they could fuck themselves, these kids with faux-hawks and carefully torn pants. We are near the weekend flea market one afternoon when we see a guy with a cardboard sign that says “free dogs.” We walk over to his big red Lincoln, and he has the trunk open and there are three or four pups in this big cardboard box. It seems like Dee might climb into that trunk, and it makes me more than a little nervous. Nervous because I feel like I’m seeing how Dee might have been once. She picks out a dog and names him Buster. He’s some kind of mutt, mostly grayish black with pointy ears and cool gray eyes. Later in the afternoon I find a length of rope in a dumpster on Summit and turn it into a leash.
Everyone knows that dogs are an easy way to make money when you’re spare changing. Most people will avoid eye contact with you no matter what your sign says. Even if you can get them to laugh or smile when they read your sign they don’t want to give you cash. But if you have an animal people feel guilty, they feel like, maybe, the animal doesn’t deserve to go hungry. They’ll look right past you at the pouting dog, and their heart softens and they go for their wallet.
My brother Trevor lives in West Seattle. He moved out there with his woman a few years before I got back into town, so I knew that I had a safety net if I needed a place to stay. At nineteen I’d been familiar with the circuit for five years – give or take – riding trains down through California and into Texas and New Orleans, sleeping in rattling cars and piss-smelling alleyways. Trevor and I had never really been that tight. We shared a room at one point, but I was pretty young and I don’t think that he knew what to do with a little brother who was already smoking and drinking more than he was.
By the time he moved out of the house I was already running with the local punks, skipping class and cutting down to the University District to hang out on 45th drinking forties in the 7-11 parking lot. I guess I’d been a pretty good kid until the divorce, but I couldn’t handle it. Mom started drinking more and I think she cared, but it was a tough time for her. I mean, she was a good mom, but she had a lot of shit she was dealing with.
It doesn’t matter – it wasn’t until I called Trevor a year ago that I found out that she had gotten remarried to some ex-Marine who sounded like he could be a real asshole. The guy liked Trev though. Trev had turned out to be the type of ex-high school football star who goes to church on Sunday and comes home, cracks a beer and watches ESPN for hours. Trev’s a good guy, and always has been. He doesn’t realize how empty his world is.
Up on the backside of Capitol Hill there’s a place called Volunteer Park. It’s not a huge park but it’s big enough that you can hide out there, and you can figure that the pigs won’t cruise through on any sort of regular basis. Dee and I are out there one day, hanging out in the sun not far from the Asian Art Museum, when I see Satchel making his way towards us. I know him from when I was staying in Portland. He’d been working at a fast food place in the Rose District, and he used to hook me up with free food now and then.
Buster is lying in the grass nearby with this bored expression on his face as if he’s waiting for something to happen. The park was rippled with shadows – the punks stuck to the shade, laying their torn shirts and boots in the grass and sprawling in little groups either on or off the nod. I lean against a tree, my feet dug into the soft, dry dirt. Dee sits nearby sewing a patch of black fabric over the torn knee of her cargo pants with dental floss.
Satchel sits down and takes off his pack; his light brown Carhartt overalls are held up with a piece of chain that he’s turned into a belt. He sits down beside us and digs a little flask of whiskey out of his pack and offers it to us. I like this part of being on the streets. You always run into people you know, and it’s like a reunion. I’m happy that they’re alive. I lean forward and we hug each other and I introduce him to Dee, who smiles and keeps sewing in long movements.
“Skank OD’d in Portland last week,” he says. “Fixed and that was it. By the time he we realized he was dead it was too late to do anything.”
“Fuck.” I light a cigarette.
“That’s why I had to get out of there,” he takes his whiskey back. “I need to cop, you know anyone that’s holding?”
“Pockets, down on Bellevue,” I say. “If anyone’s holding it’s him.” Satchel nods and picks up his pack. It’s then that I notice that the Docs he’s wearing look like Skank’s. That’s the way the world turns. Death means new boots, a new jacket – or, if you’re lucky – a fix. I’m not going to say that it’s all silver fucking clouds, but you have to take it all in stride. Junkies like us OD every day and no one gives a shit. Even the people that we used to fix with are going to get over it in less time than it takes to cook off a dose. You build up a tolerance after seeing your first dozen dead bodies. You put it in a different vein.
I’m watching Satchel make his way across the field when Dee stands up and stretches, leaning back with her arms out at her sides. The weight of her studded belt pulls down the edge of her pants a fraction of an inch, and I can see the pale skin of her stomach and the hard ridge of her hipbones.
By early evening the sun is going down and the cars are starting to thin out on the road. Off and on shouting and barking careens through the trees, making the whole place feel hollow. Trees and bushes are clumped in the center of the park, and all around the grass is broken only by a few picnic tables. A little farther up the hill there’s a shallow fountain, and not far from that is an old brick amphitheater. Some of the other punks left, but Dee and I decided to stay there for the night. After hearing about Skank I didn’t really want to head back to Pockets’ place to deal with the noise of people OD’ing and begging for doses and all that shit. Dee pushed her way back into some of the bushes and flattened the underbrush down with a piece of cardboard. We fucked there in the bushes, our pants around our ankles, the cardboard sliding back and forth under us.
We fix and fall asleep, and the next thing I know I’m waking up in the silent early morning and I notice that Buster is gone. His leash is coiled in my pocket and when I reach over to where he was lying on my jacket the leather is warm. I sit up and pull on my boots and jacket. There’s dew on everything. It’s cold and damp and a bright sun is rising and hanging out there on the horizon – making things seem colder than they actually are. When I don’t see Buster I nudge Dee with my boot and she wakes up, not having to ask me what is going on. She realizes right away that Buster is gone. She tugs on her hoodie and shoves her hands into the kangaroo pouch, her shoulders hunched up and her hair stuck to her forehead.
Dee takes off through the bushes without putting on her shoes. She sets off at a sprint through the trees, branches vibrating behind her. I grab her shoes and our gear and head out after her. When I catch up with her she is sitting on the low edge of the amphitheater smoking. I drop our gear beside her and set her shoes on the ground in front of her.
“Can’t find him,” she says without looking at me.
“He’s around somewhere.”
“I don’t think we’ll find him.”
She pitches her cigarette butt into the grass and stands up, bending over to put on her shoes.
“I need to fix,” she says.
For weeks, well into early August, we split our time between the parks and Pockets’. More than a few times we stayed on the beach at Golden Gardens, sleeping tucked back in the long grass; building bonfires out of driftwood and watching the tide go in and out. We fixed behind the dunes and lay down to let the water wash over our ankles, the sand sift into the seams of our pants. Skin stained with salt and sun, boots tucked back behind us in the pebble scrabble and weeds. It was a bit of a hike back to Highway 99, but once we hit that drag we could usually find somewhere to cop.
When we had cash we stayed at a no-tell-motel set back between the dive bars and car lots. The carpet in those places is always a disgusting color: green or brown or mustard yellow. The furniture is perpetually outdated. Bad paintings – prints really – of mountains and sunsets hang on the walls in those places. A night in a motel means a shower, a real toilet, and a decent bed.
Around that time I start to think about getting Dee another dog, but after a while not much matters except for the next fix. Besides, I know that it isn’t any kind of love, what we have between us. A junky, like me, can only really fall in love with the drug. Now and then, I think that I can see what the world would be like if Dee and I finally got clean and made it off the streets. Then reality sets in and I realize that we don’t know each other without the drug. I mean, fuck, what would we do for fun, and what would we have to talk about? Regardless of whatever the two of us feel or don’t feel for each other, both of us are about ready to get out of town. The town’s about tapped out as far as we know, and if we can scrape together some cash we can catch a train down into Cali and spend fall and early winter somewhere warm. I call Trevor from a pay phone outside of Dick’s and tell him I’m in town. I tell him I just got in, and that I need some work so that I can get myself off the streets. It’s an easy lie to tell because he wants to believe me. Trevor’s running some kind of landscaping gig lately, his own business, he tells me. “I can probably use an extra set of hands,” he says. “If you want work.” “Okay,” I say.
“I’m not going to give you a handout.”
“I’m not looking for one.”
We arrange things and Trevor picks me up a few days later and drives me back out to West Seattle in his yellow Toyota pickup. The place that they are renting out there on Fauntleroy makes the motels look like a fucking paradise in comparison. The house is one of those low-slung places with bars on the windows, and the whole place has this sour smell. Not a strong smell, but it’s there, underneath the smell of fresh paint and the spaghetti his woman cooked for us. I can tell by the way she looks at me that she doesn’t want me there. She’s the type of girl who’s happy with working her eight hour shift at the beauty salon giving old ladies perms and gluing on fake nails and all that shit. She sees me come in and looks at me like she wants to call the cops.
We eat and his woman goes to bed. I think I hear her lock the bedroom door behind her. Trevor and I sit at the kitchen table and he cracks a beer and sits down across from me. “So, how are you, man?” he asks.
“Trev, look. No bullshit. I just need some cash then I’ll be out of your hair.” “You really trying to get clean?” “I just told you I was.”
Trevor lets the whole thing go. Thing about these types of conversations is that people think they can help us out – they think they know better and they got everything figured out. I can name twice as many things that’s wrong with his lifestyle than he can name that are wrong with mine. Other thing is, people always want to believe a junky. They say it’s the junk talking, all that sort of thing. Hell, if I can play that card, I’ll fucking play it.
Trevor makes a little bed for me on the couch, and I crash there that night. Once he goes to bed I fix and send myself off into dreamland.
I wake up to Trevor shaking my shoulder. We load some gear into his pickup and drive out to a house overlooking the ferry terminal all the way down at the end of Fauntleroy. We peel the grass back from the yard, throw bits of sod into the back of his truck, and spend most of the day raking, leveling, and backfilling the yard. I don’t know if we could cut more of a contrast: Trevor tall, rippling with muscles, tan. Me: thin and pale with needle punches in my arms. For the most part it was like old times, before I first left town, back when we did odd jobs for a little pocket change. Late in the afternoon, as shadows stretch out across the lawn Trevor straightens up, and leans on his shovel, wiping sweat from his forehead.
“Hey, man, you need anything?”
“I’m good,” I say. It takes me a minute to realize he’s not talking about water or a break.
“I mean, anything.”
“I’m good,” I repeat.
“Sarah found this place downtown. Stone-something-or-other.”
“Stonewall,” I say. “I know the place. It’s a methadone clinic.”
Trevor yanks his shovel out of the ground and looks around at the yard. There is dust coating his jeans, and he pulls off his leather gloves and slaps them against his thighs. Trevor checks his watch and says its about quitting time, and I help him load the shovels and sod cutter and rakes and hoes into the back of his truck. While Trevor talks to the homeowner I tie everything down, making sure that the sod won’t fly out the back. All I can think about is getting back to town and fixing. My blood feels razor-edged in my veins, my mouth tastes coppery and dry. If Trevor notices me shifting around in the seat he doesn’t say anything.
The radio pumps country music, and I’m almost certain that I’ll be out of my mind by the time he pulls into the 76 Station and runs inside to get beer and chew. No one is around in the parking lot, and I dig my kit out of my bag, cook off a quick dose and fix there in the passenger seat. I rub at the dot of blood pooling on my arm and slap the veins. I get everything put away by the time he comes back out a few minutes later, but either he thinks I’m tired, or doesn’t realize that my eyes are half-closed and my body like a ragdoll.
Back at his place his girlfriend has dinner waiting for us. Salad, bread, pasta. Trevor cracks a beer and sits down at the table to eat. My eyes lock onto the way his hand curls around the sweating can. I feel myself lean forward on the table, numb and a little anxious. I try not to move. Moving will make it more apparent that I’m high. I can feel their eyes on me – I can feel their knowing. I sit there while they eat. When they are done Trevor fills a Ziploc bag with pasta and wraps some bread in tin foil and hands the whole thing to me. The high is getting thin. I press the food into my pack and I can hear plates clattering in the kitchen as we walk out to his truck again. I don’t bother to say goodbye to his woman.
The ride back is quiet. The sun is going down and as we drive over the West Seattle Bridge I can see the low buildings and warehouses, and all the gray reality of the Industrial District. The radio plays but I’m not listening. Trevor glances over at me at intervals, but can’t come up with the words to say whatever he’s thinking. I try to call up some memories of us as kids, but nothing really comes to mind. In reality, I guess I don’t want to think about it at all. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to dwell on childhood and growing up. That shit’s so far behind us, and it’s not who I am anymore. Why make it syrupy?
Trevor pulls onto Broadway and I’m already looking to see if there’s anyone I know on the streets. I pull my pack up onto my lap as we roll into the Dick’s parking lot and Trevor punches the E-break into place. He leans hard towards the door and digs into his folded, battered wallet. He opens it, peers inside, and peels out some bills.
“Look,” he says, “I’m going to give you more money than you earned for landscaping. But, it’s not a handout.”
I take the cash from him.
“Thanks,” I say pushing the door open.
“Hey,” he says, “fuck. Take care of yourself.”
There’s no real way that you can respond to something like that: a big, tanned all-American boy about to cry. I slam the door and put on my pack, tucking the cash down into my front pocket. I am already planning how Dee and I will get out of town. I’m thinking about getting some H and hanging out at Pockets’ for the next day, and leaving for Cali tomorrow night. I’m not sure where to find her so I try Pockets’ first and then the Park. Around midnight I curl up in the bushes near the same spot we slept the night before Buster ran away. I wake up the next afternoon and walk down to Dick’s and find some other gutter kids down there who tell me they saw Dee down at the Blade that morning.
Pockets looked surprised to see me at first but his surprise started to look like fear when I heard people fucking in the back room. I don’t know why I expect it to be Dee, but it’s those two kids that have been staying with him all summer. The boy’s dirty white ass is bobbing in the air, and the girl looks over at me with a type of dullness in her eyes.
“Shut the fucking door,” the kid says and I turn and walk back towards the living room. Pockets is sitting in there leaning forward in his chair, sweating. About ten minutes pass and I can hear someone laughing in the bathroom. I light a cigarette and look up as Dee walks out of the bathroom with two Weekend Warriors behind her, both of them zipping up their pants. She sees me sitting there against the radiator. She looks at me, and she seems cold and unfamiliar, as if neither of us recognizes each other.
I don’t remember standing up, and I don’t remember calling her a whore.
“Money is money,” one of the men says.
I throw my cigarette at him, and I hit him hard in the mouth and he hits the wall and stumbles into the bedroom. I’m on him and I’m not expecting much except to be pulled off by the other guy. It’s all limbs and grappling and Dee goes to slap me, but instead drags her nails down my cheek, tearing the flesh back. I can feel the warmth on my skin. One of the Weekend Warrior boys spits down on me, and they take off out the front door. I could give a fuck about them. I’m looking up at Dee and I can feel the blood running down my cheek and tickling my neck.
Dee grabs her shit and walks out the front door without saying anything else, leaving the door hanging wide open behind her. The last I see of her is her backpack disappearing down the stairway. I light another cigarette and use my bandana to wipe the blood from my cheek.
“Loner,” Pockets says. “Loner, come fix with me.”
I walk over and sit on the arm of his chair, fix him with his kit, then fix myself. I almost double my dosage, hoping that it might be enough to send me off into the great nowhere. I nod off leaning against the side of Pockets’ chair, his hand dead weight against my scalp.
The city is small, but not so small that you can expect to run into anyone on any given occasion – especially if they’re trying to avoid you. But avoiding me means that Dee can’t fix at Pockets’, so she will have to cop down at the Blade, which is fine by me. The parks are another story, and so was Broadway, and every now and then I see her running with some other punks who hang out farther down Broadway in front of the community college.
The scars on my cheeks are already scabbing over, and every time I run my hand over those three distinct gashes I try and figure out where I went wrong with her. I should have kept it to a fuck. Somewhere in there I started to depend on her for the little things: someone to be around me. Someone to fix with and sometimes talk to.
Near the end of the summer I decide to head down to Portland. Rumor has it that Dee has headed off to New Orleans. Satchel, always the bearer of bad news, was the one who told me. We ran into each other, Satchel and I, in the Pearl District, where I’d been hustling for spare change. We walked along the river and he told me that he’d heard that Dee had OD’d a while back while turning tricks in a motel somewhere near Austin, Texas.
“Know you had a thing,” he says.
“Forever ago,” I say.
“Cook off the gear,” he says. “Forget about all that shit.”
We’ve scored from a connection I have downtown, and we make our way back to a junkyard I’ve been staying in for the past couple days. We huddle in the rusted-out hulk of an old vee-dub bus. It isn’t a bad place to stay, and there’s never anyone around to bother me. Satchel finds a vein and his head thumps back against the metal shell of the bus. I sit there, slapping my arms – my belt cinched down around my arm, puckering the flesh. I search for a vein. I cook without bothering to look at Satchel. I close my eyes. Let the drug take over. Let the world slip away. My head drops to my chest. Forget it, a voice inside my dreaming me says. Forget it.