In the end, though, every addict has that one special vice that can tip them from relatively functional to completely unhinged. For Chuck, it's a new drug that doesn't even have a name yet; it's just a smokable, everlasting gobstopper of mellow high. But when chunks of time begin to disappear and rearrange themselves , he wonders if this really is just another life-ruining drug or if it's something straight out of a Philip K. Dick universe. Word on the street is that this
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THEN ONE DAY, you're the creepy old guy with the drugs. That guy. Fuck. I used to talk so much shit about that guy. When did I become him? One day your friends think it's funny that you get fucked up and throw up everywhere, and the next day they're having an intervention for you. Drugs start out as a social event, but in the end, you do drugs alone.
There's something romantic about being young and strung out. Even when you look like shit, you kinda look good, and there are drug buddies your same age and you get high and come down and get high again and you don't know what day it is and you talk about plans and life and you confess all the horrible shit that's happened to you to someone you met at a bar on Friday night and it must be Tuesday, and shit, we're almost out again, do you know anyone who can get us more, do you have any money, cuz I'm broke, I'm broken, I bent myself so badly I can't ever be straight again, I'm a human wire hanger you used to get your car unlocked and here's all the things we should do together because we'd be the best team and we're going to accomplish our hopes and dreams and fuck everyone else, you're the best friend I've ever had and we'll never be alone again.
But then you catch your reflection, and you're the freak in the corner of some party where everyone's half your age. Sure, it's cool that you're there, you brought your own drugs and your shit's so much better than what they usually have, but someone asks you what the '90s were like, and you're telling them about the Pearl Jam Nirvana Red Hot Chili Peppers New Year's show that you blew off because it was too mainstream, and someone else tells you that was the year they were born, and everyone looks at each other and laughs.
I would love to get off this shit, get off everything, and be some square who goes to work and goes home and does whatever those fucks do when they're at home. I would love to have a beer and watch TV in my mancave. You know, normal. Those fuckers who have a drink at the bar and go home. Who smoke pot once a year at a wedding. Who go to bed early because they have work the next day. Who are dull but don't mind. And that's the part of it I can't wrap my mind around: the DULLNESS of it all. But with the dullness, the chaos would go away.
It's the chaos that fucks with me. The drugs, I like, but the bullshit of finding them and paying for them, and some tweakedout dude freaking out on me, the calls in the middle of the night, the weirdos knocking on my window — all that shit I could do without. Unless you have movie-star money, chaos always comes with the drugs. And if you have movie-star money, you won't have money for long. The drugs will take as much as you have and return only a habit.
I'm forty-three. Own nothing to speak of. I sublet a room in a rent-controlled apartment. I have a bank account that's a little more than a high-tech mattress I stuff my money in until the first. It rarely has more than a month's worth in it. Sometimes I have to deposit a few bucks in to get a twenty out.
San Francisco used to be the town where you went if you were a weirdo with no money, and the Mission was the home for those with even less than the others. The Lower Haight was the cool place to live, and if you couldn't afford it there, you ended up in the Mission. There was a small lesbian enclave there before they all moved to Bernal Heights and Glen Park and bought houses. There were a few Irish bars still there from back when it was an Irish neighborhood, way back before World War II. Other than that, it was a Latino neighborhood when I got here. People just offhandedly call it Mexican, but it's a wide representation of Central America and some of South America.
Every day, I come out of my place and look at what's happened to the neighborhood. There's been riots and gangs and drugs, but the worst enemy the neighborhood ever had was money. If you think it's about race or class or crime, you're wrong; it's only about money. It looks like dope or crack or pussy or tech, but it's always about money. Every broken car window and every asshole coding away at Ritual Coffee Roasters is about money.
The money didn't start with the tech market or the dot-com game. The money's always been a part of this neighborhood, pushing it, propelling it. The corners for drugs, the alleys for prostitution, the pawn shops, the SROs, the porn — it's all money. Money ran this neighborhood then, and the only thing that stopped that money was newer, different, bigger money, much bigger money: tech.
It started with biotech, quietly, a little bit of money coming in here and there, then the dot-com days came and Eggers set up his trophy charity on Valencia, a place for Marin moms to drop off the kids while they went to trendy brunch spots with the girls, and slowly the thrift stores became vintage stores and antique stores and no one complained when there was a new police station with a rock garden with Good Vibrations across the street and there was another tapas place and a yoga studio and things got expensive but hey, the dot-coms folded and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but it was only a few more years until the real tech companies showed up and things went batshit.
So one year it's vatos by the payphones and a few years later, it's the techies on their cell phones, but they all use the neighborhood for money. Whether you're trying to corner a drug market or market a drug company, you've come to the right place. So now it looks like I'm talking about drugs, but if you know anything, the drugs are only a vehicle for money.
There's still a little bit of the old neighborhood here. It's hard to see unless you look in the right places, and those right places are often the wrong places — you'll see the truth but you'd better duck, you'd better hide because the truth is some scary shit you don't really want to see.
Just a few years ago, a Mongol shot a Hells Angel on Twenty-fourth. Then somehow the Sureños got involved and the Norteños jumped in and there was all kinds of shit going down. Seven people got shot before the cops arrested everyone they could and let them fight it out in county. This was all a block away from the artisanal ice cream shop, the place where you stand in line to get a basil pesto ice cream in a sea salt cone.
Someday the scariness of the neighborhood will be gone, which is incomprehensible. They'll do to the Mission what they did to Times Square. Someday Seventeenth and Mission won't smell like an old tire filled with pee; someday the corner stores selling crack pipes and dollar cups of vodka will be gone and all the SRO hotels will be condos. I can't picture it from here, but it's going to happen. You'll walk by a yoga studio and some old fuck like me will be like, That used to be the Irish bar where they found half a skeleton when they took out the drywall, and they never found the top half, or you'll buy a Coach handbag where nothing used to cost more than a dollar.
I'm walking between the two worlds: the square world and the drug world. I go to work every day in the square world and spend the rest of the time in the drug world. I'll never have peace until I'm all the way in one or the other.
Took too much. Fuck. Again. Maybe if I just stuck to one drug at a time. Maybe I could manage that.
Last night, happy hour: drinks, more drinks, another bar, a bump of coke in the men's room, more drinks, that girl with the Vicodin. More drinks, a full line of coke in the men's room. Left the bar, went to a club. Did some new shit: remote. More drinks, more coke. A psychedelic drug too new for a name, a test batch fresh out of the Berkeley drug labs. That's a lot for one night. Maybe it was two.
Remote is fun, for slowing down or speeding up your perception of time. It's great with smoking speed or crack. It's fantastic for fucking, for that moment right before you come when you think your whole life leading up to this point was a great idea, but it's fucking hell on the crash when you can't control the speed. When someone else is holding your biological remote and just mashing the fuck out of it.
It was developed as a combat drug, to allow soldiers to remain calm and slow down firefights in their minds. Didn't really work. Actually, a slowed-down firefight is much more frightening than a high-speed one. That's why your brain does that, makes it seem like everything happened so fast.
But you know all those great moments that never last? That instant right before orgasm, especially? You can slow those down and wallow in them. Remote is the best thing to happen to sex and drugs and rock and roll since ecstasy. It works great in conjunction with other drugs, and since I'm always on other drugs, I go through a lot of this shit.
With remote and DMT, you can spend what feels like days of being high during the actual shortness of your lunch break. At remote parties, the DJ spins music sped up to incredibly high rates, indecipherable to the sober, but you can listen to entire catalogs of artists in only minutes, real time.
The only real problem is coming down. Time slows when you're detoxing. You can get so slow it feels like endless pause. You can be stuck wherever you are, alone with your thoughts, and god fucking help you if you're in pain at the moment or staring at the sun. What looks like just a second to everyone else can feel like weeks or months. The boredom will drive you insane. People's minds pop on this shit. There's even rumors of total pause, where you're perceptively stuck forever. It's a paradox that makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.
Sidewalk is ankle-deep wet mud. Moving in slow motion. Tenderloin, heading up Jones Street, and I don't know why. Don't remember how I got here or what I was doing.
A centipede of Vietnamese ladies runs for the bus down the hill, opposite my direction. I'm a drugsick rock in the middle of a stream. I'm losing ground, being pushed backward. These women with their pink plastic bags mean business.
A refrigerator-sized skinhead sees me from across the street. His eyes widen. This isn't paranoia; this isn't the coke crash talking, drug psychosis; this is the real shit. He's real, and he's coming for me, wading through a sea of old women.
His head is a peppermint of knuckle-white and sunburnt-red. Black button eyes sewn into his face. Cable-cover veins run up the side of his neck and spread across his temple. Smoke coming out of his collar, swirling off the top of his head.
My hand in my pocket. A .25-caliber Raven. Yes, my little popgun. When did I get this? Have I always had it? He's getting all six: five in the clip, one from the chamber. That's if it's loaded at all.
Fearsweat and sickness. Slog up Jones Street, but it's slower as it goes.
He gets closer in quick jumps, like a movie with missing frames. He's a slideshow of impending doom. He's going to stomp me out, kick me with steel-toed boots, grind me between heel and sidewalk. I don't want my teeth crushed. Everything else heals. Teeth are fucked forever.
Wait until he's close enough to read the tats on his neck. Grab him and jam this ridiculously small gun in one of the few soft spots he has — right underneath the sternum and between the top two ab muscles, these tiny lead pieces will take the fight right out of him. I'll take my chances with the law but not with this hulking monster. You can still smoke a motherfucker in the TL.
The uphill sidewalk steepens. It looks like a fucking wall covered in cigarette butts and blacked circles of old gum. I can't move. Too sick. Guts clench; I'm falling to the ground.
A hand constricts on my arm, tightens with a grip like a blood pressure machine. Bicep about to blow out. I can't move the arm. Can't reach the Raven with the other. I'm fucked.
CHUCK, he says. He knows me. I look in his face. I know this guy from somewhere. He's sweating from the top of his head. His veins pulse like an equalizer light with a Godsmack song on. Big Mike. It's fucking Big Mike. Isn't it?
Big Mike? I ask.
Yeah, bro, who else would it be? What's up with you? You okay?
Sick. Jonesing. Hurting bad.
That's why they call it JONES STREET, bro! Come back with me, I'll get you right.
Back in the day, Big Mike and I dated dancers that worked at the same club. He was a Cal lineman back then, but he lost his scholarship for a buffet of reasons. Academic failure. Legal trouble. General scariness. Gridiron mayhem. Too violent for football, you know, spearing and shit. Using his helmet as a weapon. Going for the injury instead of the tackle. He was a goon, someone coaches only wanted to have in order to injure other specific players. He had the mean streak and the strength, but with none of the subtlety; Big Mike was as flamboyant about hurting someone on purpose as a pro wrestler.
We were two losers with stripper girlfriends, getting high and killing time while they were at work. He was out of a scholarship, and I couldn't hold a job. Behind every stripper is a man wasting her money. They make it from men and take it from men, but usually they spend it on some other fucked-up man, a man who is well more fucked up than anyone they're getting money from.
Big Mike talks the whole way to his place, but I can't follow it. The sickness turns his voice into sad trombone music. I'm fading fast.
* * *
At the bottom of the stairs, he tries to talk to me, but it's no good. He alters his speech to make something listenable, but there's no hope. Garbled shit, I can't understand a thing.
He picks me up like a sack of laundry and carries me up the stairs. People walk by us in the hallway, but it's that kind of building in that kind of neighborhood, where if you're carrying a body to your place, no one will say shit.
He lays me down on a mattress. I watch a fly above me. It pauses midair. I'm so fucked. Even if he comes back for me, I could be stuck like this, staring at a fly forever. Five minutes go by; the fly moves again.
Big Mike returns with various drugs, holding them in my line of vision. Crack, no. Heroin, no. Speed, no. Remote, yes. Please. Fuck. Please. I try to speak, but nothing comes out. Something registers though; he saw the look in my eye.
He dips an eyedropper into the vial and holds it out over my eye. I see the drop form on the tip, and it pauses there. Fuck. Not now. Not here. Don't make me wait. I can't get stuck like this. I stay like this for seven, eight minutes, staring at that drop before it finally falls from the dropper.
Everything comes back.
We're in a studio apartment that smells like cat food and burnt plastic. My eyes sting. He's hotboxing crack in here.
You feeling it? he says, leaning over me.
This shit is hella scary, bro.
You don't have to tell me.
I mean, it's great, until you get a habit.
Really, you don't have to tell me. The sickness is worse than anything. You just freeze wherever you are, stuck in time. In reality it's not happening, but it feels like you can be stuck somewhere for days. Maddening.
I look around. Mirrors are haphazardly placed around on all the walls, like whatever he found thrown out he hung up. They're dirty, chipped, and cracked, and they don't all reflect the same image. The only furniture in the place is the mattress I'm on and a squat rack with a bench. Weight plates lean against every wall. There's a garbage bag full of empty tuna cans.
Haven't seen you around the clubs, he says.
Nah, got a straight job. Takes up too much time.
You? Straight job? What are you doing?
What the fuck is that?
We make dwarf whales for rich fucks.
No, really, every rich fucker wants his own whale right now. All those startup guys and software nerds have one. And the Russian gangsters are crazy for them. They're like an Italian supercar, you know, something most guys buy just because someone else they know got one and they can't have it.
How much do those cost?
Hundred grand to get started.
People buy those?
Bro, there's a waiting list.
So what are you doing drugsick in the TL if you have such a good hustle?
I'm just cleaning the tanks; I'm not getting a cut.
You got a lady?
You got money?
You want to put in some work for me?
Is it legal?
Big Mike busts up laughing. Bro, he says, you are fucking hilarious.CHAPTER 2
THE TRUTH ABOUT MINIWHALES
EVERY YUPPIE AND techie wants his own Moby Dick whale. And why wouldn't they? There's no cooler whale; until we get the killer whales or narwhals, it won't even be close. Blue whales come in a distant second. Way far in the back of the pod is the non-albino sperm whale.
But all these fuckwads have to have one. And if you want one, we're the only game in town. You can get them from us, or you can settle for last year's dwarf goats with their inner-ear problems and their shit-spraying assholes. You can get the dwarfed bison with their rage flare-ups and their bad pelvises.
If you want a MiniWhale, you have to come to us. We trademarked this shit. Sure, someone else will make a tiny swordfish or some shit, but if you want to be a whale, you have to own a whale.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Black Hole"
Copyright © 2015 Bucky Sinister.
Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
THE TRUTH ABOUT MINIWHALES,
BACK TO WORK,
FUCK IT ALL,
WHERE TO GO,
THE MONSTERS ARE LOOSE ON MISSION STREET,
BACK AT LIZA'S,
BACK TO THE BUS,
BACK TO WINCHELL'S,