HAD ANXIOUS, SQUIRMY EYES that made me uncomfortable
around you. Creepy but earnest, a little chubby
and stubbly, you ran around doing favors for people.
You were usually very, very drunk whenever I'd see
you, and while on one of your benders, you confessed
to me that you hadn't been laid in two-and-a-half
you'd be a little calmer if you got yourself some
gash, and I made it a personal goal to find a woman
in Portland willing to engage in the sweaty mysteries
of sexual intercourse with you.
people your age (mid to late twenties?), you were
passionately interested in ideas. You once got into
a late-night argument with my girlfriend about whether
the US government was worse than most communist
regimes. (You thought it was.).You were obsessed
with writers and the act of writing. You'd often
hand me your latest essay and ask me what I thought
about it, and honestly, I rarely looked at any of
it, but once or twice, I swear I saw something good
I knew you'd
done some time in an Alaskan prison, presumably
for something drug-related. I was unaware that you
were actively using dope.
A couple of
weeks ago, all alone in your room, you slammed a
shot of dope into your arm and overdosed.
are still in my inbox, but you're dead.
GIVE YOU any moralistic admonitions about monkeys
on your back and chasing the dragon's tail. I just
want you to know where I stand on all this. I don't
like junkies. It would weaken my estimation of ANYONE
to learn that they were a junkie.
I might sound a little square about this. I confess
to a distaste for syringes and a disdain for addicts.
Using a needle to get high is a barrier I've never
crossed and never want to cross.
for some reason, still bears a stigma for me. It's
just that using heroin shows...I don't know...really
BAD judgment. Of all the dumb mistakes I've
made, I've always had enough sense to avoid heroin.
There's something extraordinarily final and extreme
and bleak about it. Maybe it's my hangup
to think there's an indelible taint to heroin.
ago, a drug addict was among society's most-stigmatized
characters. A junkie was considered among society's
dregs. A "hype" was nearly as low as a child molester
or a commie. Now, with half of the population on
illegal drugs and the other half on prescription
drugs, being called an addict doesn't have nearly
the same sting. This is largely because drug dependency
has become widely viewed as a "disease" rather than
a character flaw. (It is, of course, a character
flaw.) Let us bring back the shame of addiction
and force dope users to feel bad about themselves.
I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO HANDLE IT. I know how
compulsive I am. I'm not strong enough to swallow
poison all the time and live. I respect it too much
to do it. I'd be strung-out instantly. I'd be Sid
Vicious in less than a week.
you think you were strong enough?
become addicted to things they hate. One guy in
jail told me it felt like your whole body was covered
in an electric blanket. Someone in my college writing
class said he tried it once and vowed to never do
it again--it was so good, it scared him.
known anyone who's been able to handle it. No one
who can control it. It's just too powerful.
So what made
you think you were strong enough?
known anyone who hasn't been made worse by using
it. I've seen it turn hot young girls into sallow
old hags within a year or two. I've seen men who
swore never to try it wind up wallowing in their
own vomit and pus, ready to kill for a fix.
limits, ye weak men. Death can be beautiful, but
living death is always ugly.
a seductive party treat that turns around and eats
your life. And if it doesn't swallow you whole,
it always kills parts of you forever. Everything
that's vital withers and rots. Human beings turn
to garbage--they smell like garbage, they
look like garbage. Relapses and OD's and
robberies and handcuffs. Hep-C swelling your liver
like a football.
sallow and jaundiced, the opiated zombies snort,
smoke and shoot it. Smashed glass, fast-food wrappers,
ghetto insects. Endless sickness, decay, rancidity
and potato chips turning moldy to green.
flesh fall off their faces as they vomit, sweat
and writhe. Selfish, self-pitying, scabby angels.
Bleak sick cancer waste depression. Slow pathetic
zombie suicide. Bowels turning to concrete, they
squeeze the cotton balls dry. With that pathetic
waifish searching in their eyes, their brains all
gummy and sludgy, each cell junk-drenched, these
gaunt, spectral, idiot addicts prove that heroin
is everything NOT romantic.
It sure turned
you into a dried lump of dung. It flooded
your cells and wiped you away. The heroin has taken
you. You became its dead bitch.
you into a bitch in so many ways over which you
have no control; that's why choosing to become
a bitch is so despicable. And that's why I have
little sympathy for overdose victims.
the choice of cowards, escapists and underachievers.
It's an act of despair, a way of saying, "I give
up." It's perfect for submissive types, because
you have to prostrate yourself and pay tribute to
the smack. But there are enough slackers. Enough
apathy cases. Enough do-nothings. Enough shrugged
Was your life
too hard, my little poppy seed? Were you sticking
it to the man by sticking it in your arm? That's
always good for a laugh--hearing heroin-charred
waste cases complain about the "system"--these junkies
who can't even run their own lives!
know I'm being harsh. It's because I feel guilty.
I have a confession--when a friend first told me
over the phone that you'd OD'd, he paused and then
laughed awkwardly. Then I laughed a little bit.
Then we both started laughing--a LOT. And even though
we didn't feel good about doing it, we kept laughing.
for laughing when I heard that you'd died. I wasn't
happy that you were gone. But Jesus Christ, a heroin
overdose is such a pathetic, BORING way to go! It's
not like it's a new way to die. Maybe it had a tabloid-shock
cachet a couple of generations ago, with Puerto
Rican kids nodding out and falling from Cleveland
tenements in the 1950s. But these days, the sight
of white hipsters dying from dope only annoys me.
And it's hard
to feel sorry for you. When you try heroin, you
know what you're getting into. If you choose to
shoot smack aware that it could kill you, you deserve
to die from it. How could I pity you? It's like
feeling sorry for someone who got killed while running
across a crowded freeway. If you wanted to do heroin,
God bless you. Just don't expect me to be a pallbearer.
No pity for junkies and fuckups.
never pleasant, and without being asked, I volunteered
my services to deliver this sermon about you. It
is not my intent to besmirch your memory, O dearly
departed, although I feel like I'm standing over
your carcass, spouting off. I'm constantly reminded
that you're freshly dead, and I keep checking what
I'm not sure
what I expected of you, but I expected something
better than this. I thought you were capable of
more than suicide-by-dope. Maybe I'm not pissed
at you, but at the situation's predictability. Show
biz is all about entrances and exits, and you made
a lackluster exit.
in some other spirit realm where you can hear me
but I can't hear you, well, you're one up on me.
If you're just gone, well, no harm done in making
an example of you.
I could have
gotten you laid, man. I know I could have.
I could have gotten you laid...