by Jon Vreeland
Huntington Street was quiet that winter day. The tourists had long gone home and it was a Monday. I was hung over, carrying my dirty clothes to the laundromat when I saw my friend we call Gravy, standing on his front porch smoking a joint. Gravy never worked. He sold weed and heroin, a desired combo for most locals, and surfed every day of his informal life. I walked over with the intention of carrying on after a quick hello then found myself drooling in a wakeful dream on his old and musty green couch.
Gravy had gone everywhere. Seen everything. He traveled all through his twenties, taking arbitrary surf trips by himself, or with a beautiful woman. And the quality of his dope was invincible. Nobody in town had better dope than Gravy and he was generous to his friends when we were dope sick.
Gravy walked to the kitchen and grabbed a couple bottles of beer. He gave me one. Cooked up a shot of dope. Carefully pushed it in his arm. Then rested his head on the back of the chair while his blue eyes fluttered as he spoke in a drunken slur. His phone kept ringing but he ignored it; so for the next few hours people randomly stopped by to buy drugs. Gravy would wake up for a moment at a time, nodding off five or six times before the transaction was finished. “Everyone stops by at one point,” Gravy said. “Old, young, men, women, heteros, homos, punks, hippies, homies, rasta men, rasta women, skins, surfers, skaters, spongers, tweekers, junkies, stoners, drunks, artists, hookers, models, students, immigrants, rich, poor, pretty, ugly, fat, skinny…and we’re all the same brother.”
He smiled, then crawled back into his vacant head.
I cooked up one last shot while Gravy dreamed then headed out the front door of his apartment, still carrying my dirty clothes.
The street was quiet and empty. I kept walking until I reached the laundromat. There was nobody inside, just a toothless old hag, folding her old withered blankets: green, purple, brown, black. All with holes like they were gnawed through by a giant sewer rat.
Looking for her flesh.
Once I was inside I could smell the piss and the booze seeping through her five layers of filthy clothing. The smell was atrocious.
“You want a drink kid?”
“What is it?”
“It’s fucking booze. You want any or not?” I walked over and took a giant pull from the cheap charcoaled Vodka then threw up in my mouth. The old hag laughed and pointed at me, almost falling out of her chair. “Holy shit son!!” She laughed. “Do all pretty boys wear black and have a vagina as big as yours?”
“Hey shut up lady,” I said laughing, still choking on the cheap sauce. Her smile was kind when she wasn’t laughing that old ugly witch laugh. I stayed and washed my dirty clothes. I listened to her talk about Jesus, and how she gave him head. We passed the bottle until my clothes were clean then said goodbye.
I walked towards home. It was still gloomy and mellow, just a stray little dog digging in the trash. I walked past Gravy’s. It looked quiet for a change. The red curtains were pulled shut and the door was closed.
When I turned the corner I saw a beautiful blonde riding her beach cruiser, wearing a black bikini top and tiny shorts, singing with her headphones on. “Beverly Hills, Century City! Everything’s so nice and pretty!! All the people look the same, Don’t they know they’re so damn LAME!!!” It was Mindy, who I have known for years, and she was singing The Circle Jerks, and yes, we have had sex, and the last time it was awkward (but I loved Mindy and wanted to say hello so I followed her down the street, trying to keep up). When she got to the corner, she finally turned around and saw me. “Jonny!” she shouted. I watched her breasts bounce up and down in her black bikini as she rode hastily my way.
“Hey sexy what are you doing?” she said stepping off her bike, giving me a zealous bear hug.
“Just did some laundry. What about you? Rockin’ out to the Circle Jerks I hear.”
“You know it! But other than that nothing, just cruising around. I’m bored as shit.”
“Got any drugs?”
“Yeah, I do actually,” Mindy said. “Sean left a shitload of meth at my house; says the cops are chasing him. Fucking paranoid. Come on to my house and we’ll do a shot.”
I followed her to her house on Nashville Street just around the corner. The dog was barking when we walked up. It was a little white shiatsu. It was loud and annoying. I stomped my left Doc on the ground. And made it run away.
“How much do you want?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Just make me a big one.”
“Okay baby cakes. This stuff is gonna knock your dick in the dirt.”
“Good. I was over at Gravy’s earlier and you know how that goes.”
“Yes I do.”
“Nauseating, same as always.”
“I really wish you didn’t do that stuff Jonny. I don’t want you to die,” she said handing me a syringe full of speed.
“Me too,” I said tying off my right arm, my left arm had an infection.
“You can always come by here Jonny boy, and I don’t do heroin so you’re safe.”
“I know Mindy and I envy you.” I stuck the needle in my arm, and slammed it home.
I started coughing.
My vision gone.
My heart beating through my chest.
Speed is a drug that won’t kill you instantly, but it sure feels like it when that train is barreling through your already tainted head while you gasp for breath, trying not to blow a load in your pants. It’s the most beautiful, yet most terrifying, experience all at the same time, and ultimately becomes a nightmare to the daily users; a tweaker always loses his or her mind…always. I regained my vision. Mindy was standing next to the bed. Naked.
This time it wasn’t awkward.
This time it was perfect.
I wanted to stay but Mindy had to leave and pick up her son, so I walked slowly home after I gave her a friendly kiss goodbye. When I got home, I cracked open a Bud tall can and sat down at the piano. I lit a cigarette then started to write a song about a girl I recently dreamed of when there was a knock on the door. I opened the door and my neighbor Shana was standing there holding a six-pack of Corona.
They looked cold so I let her in.
I played a few songs on the piano for Shana, and every time I finished a song she applauded amiably, removing another piece of clothing then pouring me another drink when I needed it and lighting me a smoke every time mine was burned to the filter. I played for hours as she folded my clothes. We made love three times in between, and just about midnight she walked home, leaving me sitting at the piano…alone.
A dreaded ending to a typical day.
Jon Vreelandwas born in Long Beach, CA, and raised in Huntington Beach where he became an accomplished musician and struggled with addiction most of his life. He has over twenty publications and a poetry chapbook titled Laughing in Your Sleep. Vreeland resides in Santa Barbara with his wife and two daughters and attends Santa Barbara City College.