13th Floor Dives

“Hey…you still want some smack?” The guy in his forties was leaning in close towards me, he looked fucked up. Not just a little bit fucked up, but royally screwed. A length of brown leather cord was wound tightly around one of his large muscley forearms, both skin and leather covered with lacquer to keep it in place, chains hung from his unfashionably loose black jeans and the white teeshirt he was wearing was smeared with blood and vomit, and read ‘Never Answer The Phone’ drawn in thick black sharpie that had clearly started to run out at the w of the word ‘answer’, but had been pushed to give up the ghost of the last of its ink by someone chemically meticulous. A strong stench of booze came off both him, and the cracked wineskin he held in his left hand. A small tattoo of a dagger sat on the flesh between forefinger and thumb. His dirty blonde curly hair hung down to his shoulders, and covered most of his face – more hobo than Neil Young grunge. From what I could make out of him under that hair and the hat and the glasses that made a big impression, he looked wasted and emaciated, pinched ratty features, a mean mouth, and expressive hands that stroked an ugly dark short beard which was more couldn’t be bothered to shave than facial ornament. He was wearing dark glasses with spray-painted lenses, which he had chipped off to dig swastikas into the paint. This man was looking at the world through two black lensed swastikas. I asked him if he hated Jews, if he was into some nasty crazed meth-nazi scene, asked him straight out, with no accusation, just curiosity. “Nah….I just like to make an impression, scare off some people, give ’em the wrong idea so they don’t fuck with me.” Employing the ultimate death and torture symbol certainly made an impression, and probably not the right one for anything good.

“So…you’re looking for some smack?” He asked again, this time more urgently. putting his hand on my sleeve. and pulling me closer towards him. I was still fixated on the glasses, but New York was not my city, I had certain needs, and this dude certainly looked the part. I had gone out to wander around the outdoor market in a part of town I thought I might have luck. I was portable but my habit was not, and I was sick. My friends having dragged me out to visit promised me I would be ‘taken care of’ but only came up with a bit of Mexican brick weed and a line or two of tina. They didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. All I scored in ______ Park was The Fear and a healthy respect for New York low lives. These motherfuckers were packing guns. I had given up, put the word around, and settled down to feel sick when my drunk deathe-angel in chains turned up. “You want to go south or not, girly?”

“Yeah, sure..can you do 2 grams? Cut me a break? I smiled in a way I thought might be received as winningly, just not overly friendly…” This was not Lou’s man in a big straw hat, and I was pretty sure he was gonna want more than $26 off me. I didn’t want to have to see him again for a couple of days, but also had no idea if the shit was any good…so… He looked at me. “You aren’t from round here, are ya?” I could not buy as much as a fucking coffee without the question of my origin being brought up. “Nope, I’m visiting my friends for a while. I know this guy…kinda boyfriend, he was meant to fix me up, and didn’t come through.” New York bundles. A point per bag. Ten bags per bundle. Should be a gram in a bundle, but fat bags, slim pickings, good score, bad bags….glassine envelopes stamped with the brand of the smack. Word gets around quickly about good stamps, as soon as they are fresh and good and just delivered, the corner boys get onto them, stamp on that shit, cut it to make more money, until they are no longer good and strong bags. Some bags are better than others. Some are stuffed. Some not. If it is a new plug, a new connect you might get lucky, they want your custom, and will give you nice fat bags…The next time around it ain’t so pretty. Sometimes the taped bags are better than those not taped up, and sometimes this is junk mythos, wishful thinking. The average junk fiend looks out for signs that the product is good, even if those signs are crows flying left to right, the wind settling in the right direction, or small signals in the stamp and the care of the packaging job. The stamps acted as advertising for the product, and quickly got either a good name or a bad rep.

I was sick, nausea rising in my stomach, nose running, legs shaking, bowels turning to water…jittery, nervous and the swastika-sunglasses were not helping the feeling of unease. He carefully took off his Central Park baseball hat, and plucked two taped bundles of glassine envelopes out from the inside. There was a coffin stamped in ink on the front. Gee, I thought, these New Yorkers don’t mess around. The message was clear and received. I pushed the agreed sum into his free hand, he pushed the bundles into my pocket, and kept hold of my arm. Balancing his bottle on the wall, he reached into his inner pocket and pulled out another bundle. “Careful, Ok. My own personal stash. It’s good. I mean the other stuff is good, but this……” Crossed guns on the envelopes. Freebies. He must have overcharged me I thought…or else…he wanted something else from me.”What ya listening to?” He motioned down to my walkman. “Ramones.” The ice was broken. Joey was tragic. The band was doomed. They were the best thing since sliced bread. I flashed my Ramones shirt. “I could make one of them, better than that for cheaper. Just give me a white teeshirt and a sharpie.”

..The next time I saw him was in a shooting gallery. Gathered around were a group of men, missing legs, missing eyes, missing their humanity. Missing their intellect. Missing veins and missing lives. I turned up and handed my money over, then was told to leave minus my drugs. I started to protest, not good to show too much weakness, wrong move. The collectively decided in their cracked out, methed-freaked paranoid degeneracy that I was a cop. It turned ugly fast. Billy swooped in, vouched for me, got them to back off. “You are gonna have to shoot some speed in front of them, there is nothing else for it, woman” I didn’t shoot speed. It was that or I was never going to be allowed to leave there. The situations I got myself into. Speed in the microwave drying out. Speed on the tables, the dog’s tail perilously close to the drugs, just waiting to sweep them off onto the floor setting off an ugly dangerous temper tantrum. These guys might have been dealing smack circa 1990 something, but they were not doing it. At least not mostly, they were not above anything. Not breaking down and shooting up some poor guys psych drugs, risperdal, haldon, some chemical kosh type deal, than lurching drunk and sedated to collapse where ever they fell. Changing the channel they called it. Anything other than the reality of how they felt when they were sober. I was never that indiscriminating. They scared me.

Needles didn’t scare me, other people’s rigs did. Speed didn’t scare me, but I hated how it made me feel, paranoid, up for days, psycho and obsessive, not only that this was an ugly scene with ugly people in an ugly place. There was no choice.

The phone rang just the other day: “Hey…you want some smack?” The voice drifted down the phone line,familiar soft and wheedling, sly and slimy.

“Mmmm…No thanks. Im busy. I’ve things to do. Im writing.” He continued ignoring me, “Cause I’ve got some right here, if you want it..” I took a deep breath. “No thanks, sweetheart. I’m busy. No time for that…besides..its all fent nowadays, huh…”

I put the phone down crying.

Ten minutes later I sent him a text….”Hey…send me a photo of the H”

Then I blocked his number, and turned off the phone, and turned on the computer. I rolled a joint, and ran downstairs to stand on ______ Street with the bums and the hobos and take a few drags on it. They ignored me. I ran back upstairs, and closed the curtains, and hugged the Boy.

Why does it always have to be so hard…


  1. Time Traveler of Life

    Because life is hard. When you can look back on this and hopefully smile it will seem less horrible. Try to see into the future, and paint a picture of what you want. I know you can, because you paint such clear pictures with your writing.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Thank you. I could do with some peace and quiet. I do smile – every week at baseball, every time I hear from you and Rebecca. I smile when I write something that feels right, and when the boy makes me tea. I am not unhappy – but then I am not an unhappy person. Im naturally peppy. I don’t suffer from depression, I just get anxious. How are you? xx

Leave a Reply