It takes more than just looking to truly see a drug subculture. You’ve got to be willing to get twisted and cracked, like the stale and salty breadstick that you are. You’ve got to get on your knees with the blood pounding inside your ears and stretch open your mouth as far as it will go. You’ve got to learn that being down is not only about getting high first thing in the morning and driving around town sporting unwashed Johnny Depp hair. Rather, it’s about slamming closed the door to any future personal growth. You have to give up control--decide to no longer decide. You've got to wake up with blood on your shirt and no money in your pockets and no idea what fucking day it is.

(You’ve got to be it, not dream it.)

Everything is disposable: they toss narc after narc into the foaming green druggie surf, knowing that very few will be able to stay afloat without a raft or a line.

Before I became a junky, I had no idea what a smackhead looked like, or how many of them there were right out in plain sight, walking around through crowded streets and going about their day like everyone else.

Now I spot their long waxy foreheads and taut, pock-marked skin from a mile away. It goes beyond the physical description—beyond the lankiness, the perma-slouch and loopy stride. There’s a hunger radiating from them that I understand. My eyes meet their furtive, inquiring glance before looking quickly away. I get clammy hands and both my elbows buzz like tuning forks.

what you got what you want what you say to him

It’s the same for meth freaks, cokeheads, potheads, boozehounds…

…whores, shoplifters, murderers…

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

--(Ezra Pound)--“In a Station of the Metro”

(They had that one up on the trains. The story goes that it started out as a poem several pages long. Signor Pound wasn’t happy with it so he edited it down to a page. Than it was a paragraph, than a measure long. Finally, it ended up being the single sentence above.)

I like the idea of carving away at something until it starts to make sense.

I like the idea of a harsh relief, something made out of stone or bark.

My birthday’s coming up. There was a time when I used to think that I’d be dead by now. At least that’s what I liked to say when I was talking shit at the bar. Who the fuck knows if I believed it. Those transcripts got rolled and smoked long ago.

Sometimes, when I lie in bed at the end of a busy day, I wonder if I ever really was that person from my past—or if it’s just a story I tell myself. It’s not the diabolical parts that seem far fetched to me now. It’s the banal, boring shit that I can’t understand, like the way I used to wait around hours for a phone call or for someone to pick me up on a rainy street corner. I had all these (stupid preoccupations) rituals with my shit—special “lucky” baggies and gilded boxes…I had a set of antique works I bought in a Belgian street market that I was immensely proud of. As for my stash, I had more hiding places than I could keep track of, filling me with the insatiable need to compulsively check each one, over and over.

The other day on the train, I spotted a smacked out couple in their late thirties, early forties. People who do serious drugs at that age are bound to be stripped bare psychologically and these two were no exception. They barely made it through the doors and when the train started they were flung back and forth limply, like rag dolls.

The guy wore a white undershirt tucked into his cut off jeans. I tried not to look at his legs. All I caught was a wash of pale hairiness. His face was round and his cheeks hung from it loosely, like pancakes. The woman wore stretch jeans with white leather criss-cross stitching going up the legs and a pink pastel peasant blouse that puffed out at the shoulders. She was overweight, mainly in the ass. Both of them had the same kind of dark, greasy hair that made me think they were brother and sister. But then he started whispering harshly in her ear and she started to cry and I knew they were lovers.

“What the fuck, what the fuck?” I heard her moan. The train tilted and she allowed herself to flop into his arms. It was always like that: the accusations, the steaming hot, doped-out tears followed by an exaggerated plea for forgiveness.

They started kissing. Tongues and all. It was deep, mechanical—like school kids who had only just learned how to do it. Their round bellies pressed together. Passengers snapped their papers and shot them disgusted looks.

When the kiss was over the man took out his cellphone and immediately became immersed with pushing the buttons, pausing only to occasionally wipe his mouth with the back of his hand. Meanwhile, his woman closed her eyes and nodded out against the door. Her arms hung loosely at her sides and she bent her knees as though she were about to sit in an invisible chair. Beside me, a black guy with immaculately neat corn rows tisked softly. I held my breath and waited for her to hit the floor.

Only she didn’t. She used that crazy smackhead balance to keep herself up, squatting like a weightlifter or a party-goer about to shimmy under the limbo stick. She was out, drifting between sleep and wakefulness, sliding down the curly-q of her high.

Too much, her back was saying, too much, her legs were saying…but her brain didn’t know and didn’t want to know.

Finally, her man turned and saw her hovering near the floor. He fumbled with his phone and reached out to her with both arms. Instead of helping her up, however, he instead put his hands on top of her shoulders as though offering her a benediction. The train screeched towards 145th street. The man leaned forward and again whispered in the woman’s ear. She straightened slightly, but kept her eyes closed. The doors behind them flew open like an escape hatch and after a shuffle and a push they disappeared into the Harlem hustle.

I leaned back, a deep moat separating my thoughts from my memories…Oh, Harlem. My old shooting gallery. I hadn’t dared to go there in years. With the girls hanging out of sagging window frames and the flowering weeds poking through the cracks in the sidewalk. There were the boys in 300 hundred dollar satin jackets with too much time on their hands, drinking 50 cent sodas while they waited for customers. There were the Newports...the slip-on alligator shoes...the homeless men jerking themselves off on the traffic islands and the bodegas with dusty shelves where nothing had a price tag. If you were dumb enough to take a Snapple to the bulletproof window the twelve year old cashier would be so shocked and perplexed she’d probably let you take that shit for free…

there's a message in the music: art pepper (via Fitz)

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