What an idiotic idiom; who makes that connection? Who spends their time ruminating on the relationship between the skins of some plucked poultry and these things blooming all over my body in epidermal effervescence? It doesn’t even make sense. Pfft, pimples. Can you pop ’em? What about those bumps around your nipples? This broad I used to know said she got goop to come out of one once. Probably lying, though. They’re glands, aren’t they? Those don’t have goop in them-I think. I’ll look it up later. She was kinda cute actually-I’ll look her up, too. Fuck, forget it, way off track; I’m covered in these wannabe pimples or nipples and I don’t really give a nun’s clit what they’re all about. I just want this done. This is the worst part of my job, the waiting. I’m a punctual person, and that’s pretty rare in this profession. So I end up waiting. A lot.
-Um, what’s the time?
Shit. How is he so chill? Maybe that’s not the right word. More like composed, or tranquilized; damn near comatose. I’m the chilled one. I should’ve anticipated the wait and worn more than this home-knit sweater. Or, better yet, just told Grandma to get her shit together and knit a decent article of clothing. This is Canada. What in the hell was she thinking?
-Dude, he’s late. Again.
My partner grunts. I bow my head and scour the rubber mat under my feet for a flash of salvation-like some new age, post-relative-morality, existential prostration: a perverse form of prayer, not that they aren’t all warped and distorted ways of wishing upon some long since extinguished star. Oh Sin, deliver me from god. I’m rewarded for tipping my cap to the fallen angels with a bent, slightly torn cigarette: this can work if I pinch it just so. I’m craving something stronger but that would be a bad move at the moment.
-We look pretty bait… Maybe we should take a trip around the block, or something.
The engine sputters to life from its slip into hypothermic oblivion. The ghost in the machine is just as worn out and frigid as I am. It’s January, and we’re in Canada… Did I mention that yet? Well, it bears repeating: because it’s cold here. Like, capital ‘c’ Cold. The maybe/maybe-not goop-filled bumps on my nipples are harder than debating autonomous-agency vs. material-determinism with a plebeian vegetable case on life support.
They said I’d get used to this weather, eventually. I didn’t. Been here thirteen years now and it’s still as wretched as ever. Shitty thing is, I’ve lost my once-upon-a-time, so-called ‘adorable’ accent and picked up most of the colloquialisms of this country (except that I still use words such as ‘wretched’), so I don’t even have an excuse for not snowboarding, or liking hockey, or whatever. I fucking hate snow-magical my ass. Sure, it’s all glittery, sparkling, pastel-like-pixels at first when it’s falling: not so much white as just every hue in the spectrum coalesced into one, the saturation jacked like it was on steroids-no shading. So, I guess it has its infinitesimally momentous, momentary, aesthetic appeal: it’s born beautiful, congratulations snow. But how many of these unique specks do we actually see as singular? How many individual flakes do we fully appreciate before they’re crunch-consolidated into the tapestry under our tires? I don’t think I can recall any particular piece of snow, just the broader concept of it… People here just assume I’m Canadian too, which I guess I am: but not Canadian like them. It’s supposed to be a melting pot, right? But I think the burner under my part of the pot is defective; I’m always either frozen solid, or boiling over: never temperate, never bubbling away happily with the rest of the bland, pastiche, smorgasbord of a soup they conceitedly call their cultural collage.
I absent-mindedly pick at a scab on my arm as we hit the curb and take a right, merging with traffic. Public areas are the best option for these sorts of encounters. They ensure a mutual level of safety; or, at least, a mutually assured destruction. This element of comfort doesn’t detract from the fact that I’m packing a jack-knife in my pocket and a straight razor tucked into my boot.
My fingers quiver-it isn’t a shiver due to the cold, more like a twitchy case of the jitters-they shouldn’t, not after the forty milligrams of oxy up my nose. Granted, there’s also half a gram of the only snow I can stand in there, keeping the opiates company and shoving me down the well-lubed slip’n’slide tube of coke-psychosis into a surrealistic, super-spatial/-sensory, synaesthetic soliloquy of solipsistic, symbolism-questioning semantics. Not to mention the two smiley-face tabs gradually decomposing under my tongue, sabotaging any semblance of sanity I could cling to in this sinking ship of a ‘soul’ I’m captaining. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that something’s about to go gravely awry. Of course, that could just be paranoia, which is entirely understandable given the concentration of illegal, alien alkaloids coursing through my nervous system.
“I think I see him. It’s go time, bud.”
Nod in agreement. If I open my mouth it might spew puke.
“Rippers after this?”
I grant another silent inclination of my mind (or, at least, my head). He knows I get anxious before these meetings. An unspoken bond exists between us. I turn off my personal phone, and my business phone. Then I check another phone: I only use it once a week, but no messages. That’s a relief; this guy’s impatient, despite the fact he’s always late.
“It’s gonna be fun bro, amateur night.”
We pull back through the parking lot and drive to a spot equidistant between the two functioning lamps. The only luminescent beams I perceive though are coming from phosphene dreams illuminating the illustrations on the insides of my eyelids. He’s waiting for us. We pop the trunk in anticipation before getting out and walking the ten paces to a little, rusted out, two-door, four-seat, shitbox sedan. I recognize the little guy in the passenger seat, but not the big, pockmarked guy driving. No matter, it’s the little guy I care about. The window rolls down. It’s not even electric.
“Yo, sup. Your shit’s in the trunk. On the left.”
My partner, ‘Chud’ (so named for several reasons), passes him a computer case jammed with forty-six thousand, nine hundred and fifty dollars denoted in multi-coloured pieces of plasticky paper, and I pick up one of the hockey bags from the trunk-careful not to slam the door down when closing it. He cares about that, for some reason. Chud and I nod at each other, near imperceptibly, and then at him. Following this practiced, ersatz kowtow, I drop the bag in our trunk and slide back in the car to my seat. Driver/Goon turns the key in his ignition, dims the headlights, and they leave first. We follow after two minutes. We do this every Tuesday and know the routine by now.
Getting back to Chud’s place feels like navigating the Mekong Delta, circa 1967; just with more acid, less rape, and the fact that we voluntarily do this-oh, and it’s cold. Expecting Charlie to pop out of every manhole, I envision my impending demise in an epic firefight; or worse, being taken prisoner. But I won’t let them get me. I’ll go down swinging that straight razor for all I’m worth. I’ll take a few of those mustachioed bastard-fucks with me.
Call it ‘being in the zone’-athletes pull off heroically inhuman acts of strength and skill; we drive a few blocks without looking suspicious.
My reverie is unceremoniously interrupted through a combination of rapidly subsiding effects of cocaine, and parking abruptly. We tread like fairytale mice at Christmas up the four flights of stairs, past the other apartments, and into Chud’s room.
My head feels strange: empty. That can’t be right. My head has shit in it, I know that much for sure. It’s just that I’ve realized not a word has passed between us since the encounter, which lasted all of a minute, if that. I fleetingly wax metaphysical. I wonder if I actually exist; is there a Me aside from in my interactions with others? What language would I think in if I’d never learned one? Am I just a confluence of external stimuli processed through a biological, Von Neumann or PDP based, binary-logic assembly machine composed of neural switches? I don’t think there’s any sort of over-arching meta-Self that I could actually identify with. I have as many different selves as I know people, one for each of them… Wait, what the fuck am I talking about? Am I speaking to myself? Is this out loud? Can he hear me? No. I don’t think so… Am I willing I into being-self-awareness?-in the absence of interactions with another algorithm analysis program?
Click. The door shuts behind us and I toss the bag on the couch, collapsing beside it like a psychotropic body pillow. Chud turns on the vape while he packs a bowl. We’re always careful to exhale through dryer sheets stuffed into an empty toilet-paper roll: it turns the telltale aroma of weed into a perfumed plume, indistinguishable from potpourri to your average ganja-ignoramus. Vapourizers don’t smell as much as bongs but we still don’t take any risks, in this respect. He takes a few hauls, though it’s not really cooking yet. Instead, we open up the bag and begin splitting the contents while we wait. It’ll take a few hours to weigh everything; first to make sure we didn’t get shorted on the order, then to divide it equally.
Inside, we find our leather bound book full of LSD (codenamed ‘liquid soluble divinity’), with an otherworldly, hypnotically designed cartoon character’s face on each sheet; a ki of decent cocaine (purportedly Peruvian, but who knows); ten vacuum-sealed pounds of pot (five each of indica and sativa strains of varying qualities-there’s something here for everyone); a brick of MDMA, straight from the chemistry team; five pounds of BC gold caps; an ounce of K; a gram of DMT (or ‘dreams made tangible’), for personal purposes; and fifty capsules of 2-Ci.
It’s not the same every week. We do inventory checks on Saturday nights and place the order before we hit the bars. The runners can’t always move everything we’ve got on hand. It’s simple supply and demand really. This is an average sized delivery.
It’s all there; I can finally exhale the stubborn, bottom bit of breath I’ve been holding in for the last few hours. I hate the idea of having to call that guy to tell him he’s short. He always bitches about it and blames someone else. Bullshit, he’s the CEO; he should accept responsibility for his lackeys the same way we do.
Chud lovingly places his share in one of his safes. We go back to my place and I do the same before we can head out for a night on the town. It’s eleven pm.
We get frisked at the door to the club and the security guard finds the jack-knife in my pocket, but lets it pass. He knows who I am. Unless I’m much mistaken, he’s got a nasty habit of his own and he owes someone a few grand… He ushers us in and I choose not to remind him. That’s my runner’s problem for giving credit to a fucking junky.
Taking our seats right up in front of the stage, I place an order for tequila with beer chasers. I recognize the girl on stage: she works at the local Wal-Mart. She looks better with clothes on. By the scar on her abdomen I’d say she has a kid, either that or she was a cutter once upon a time. The fuck do I care? As long as she keeps shaking her bleached rosebud in my face, I’m happy. When we pay for our drinks, I note the waitress’s eyes. I forgot about the state of my wallet-it looks like it has thyroid problems. She’s got a bad poker face. A bad face in general, really, which could be why she’s slinging sauce instead of slurping it. Maybe she just has dignity-or, more likely (given that she’s still, ultimately, working here), hubris. Fuck knows where she got that. She scuttles off to the professionals working the crowd and next thing I know I’m talking to some Russian, Twiggy-look-alike about prices for a dance. She’s as fresh off the boat as a barnacle and I’m not sure if she’s using her strong accent as a ploy to help her haggle, or if she legitimately just can’t hold a conversation. Either way, she reminds me of my ex and she’s wearing lingerie; I’m four shots and two beers in-so, she has the upper hand.
She gives up trying to sell me on it, grabs my hand, puts it on her tit, and I find myself following her to the backroom. I glance over to where Chud’s winking at me like an epileptic staring at a coronal eclipse, a grin on his lips that would petrify Medusa. This man has evil thoughts-but I love him, for lack of a better word. It’s not everyone that I can be myself with. As my father always told me, “Good friends help you move, great friends help you move bodies.” This guy would not only help me move them, he’d make them. He grants wishes like a demented Kuklinski/Genie hybrid. And he does it out of love-again, for lack of a better word.
In the private lounge the Russian skeleton sits me down on a pleather couch. I hope they Lysol this shit. She drapes a bandana over my crotch, and then starts rubbing that general region with her entire body; writhing like she’s in pain, which she probably is; but, as long as it’s not from anything visible, I’m not gonna call an ambulance. Deciding to test my luck, I slip my hand between her legs…
“No touchy, mister.”
The speakers are blasting some top-forty, ventriloquist dummy, make-believe rapper who rhymes poorly about drugs, guns, and hoes. Hey, at least he’s making a living off the kids that actually believe him and buy this shit. Power to him, I say. I can’t exactly talk.
The dance ends and the girl asks if I want another one. Tough call: variety is the spice of life; but this is the best-looking broad I’ve seen in a week. I agree to one more dance and make a face like I’m doing her a favour. She wants to settle up on the last one before she starts. I get it. There are tricks to every trade, especially tricking. I nonchalantly flash the wad in my wallet as I whip out a twenty for her. It curls a little into a tube, like muscle memory. The next song starts and she’s made a quantum leap, suddenly pulling out all the stops.
She must want a third dance; I’m not sure if I do yet. I decide to test my luck again, now that I’m the one with the upper hand; it comes easy to a dealer. I start my fingertips behind her kneecap and work my way up. She doesn’t object this time. A fat clit and a loose cunt: not surprising really. Nobody’s perfect; at least she’s smooth, though I suppose that’s a job requirement. I slip my thumb in her asshole like I’m hitching a ride to horn-dog heaven and she takes this as a cue to whip off the bandana. I hear a zipping sound through the bass speakers.
Svetlana (as I’ve now decided to call her, that being one of the few Russian names I know) waits until I flop out and harden up enough to fill her hand with lackluster libido-as firm as whatever flimsy ideology she follows on her days off-then she starts the bargaining again, all the while languorously working me like she’s making bread from scratch. I’m not precisely a Herculean Pillar of wonder with women after excessive narcotic abuse, especially since I can tell she’s enjoying this as much as stewing borscht. Her technique needs improvement but she’s playing the Bambi-eyes card like only an anorexic Russian can. I’m almost tempted to quote Master Splinter at her: “Young woman, we have something most important to discuss.” Then, “Practice harder!” I sagely decide not to imperil my cock. I do still wanna cum after all. Fuck, she’s persistent… What do I say? No? I’m not weak willed but I’m still a heterosexual man with liquor in his system.
“One hundred! Plus dance.”
-Only if you get the job done before the end of the next song. Deal?
“Sound like challenge.”
I guess her accent is kind of cute-and I’m fascinated by her resemblance to a kid I saw on a charity infomercial a few days ago. I hope I heard the price right. Oh well, I’m not paying her till afterwards anyway-she probably won’t even be up to the task in hand-and who’s she going to complain to? The bouncer that let me in? Ha! That guy can’t even look me in the eye, let alone throw me out.
Fuck. She’s really good at this. Where’d this come from? Who cares? Fuck it. Fuck-it. Fuckit. This is far, far better than I was expec-uhh, uh, uhhh…
My sahasrara swells and convulses in a nebulaic seizure of infinite ecstasy. Everything everywhere is white light that only I can see and smell and touch and taste and hear and SHIT SHIT SHIT: visible in a sense, but less than invisible to the senses.
She doesn’t miss a beat, or even bat a Bambi eyelid, swallowing everything like it was Maxwell House. Holy Fuck, this bitch just siphoned the last shred of sobriety out of me. She deserves more than a tip.
I get up, pay her through my post-orgasmic haze, and she leads me back to my seat before hitting up the next sucker. I manage to glimpse Chud heading to a different backroom from the one I just left with a tall, curvy girl wearing absurd stilettos and a Mrs.Mia Wallace wig. She stumbles a few times. He doesn’t bother to help her up. He’s cackling away instead and grabbing her ass. He must’ve had a few more shots during my dances’ absence. Usually, he’s a bit shy with women.
I’ve had people ask me how I live with myself. What kind of question is that? What else am I supposed to do with my ‘self’? Not live? Not experience all that I can possibly experience? I don’t see the point in living if all you’re looking at is the shadows on the wall. In fact, I tend to answer these people’s questions with my own: what can you do? What changes can you effect when nothing you ever see needs changing? What do you do? Not that I’m out to save the world myself, or anything else as uppity-persnickety-as that. Shit, I just paid some underage stripper a hundred bucks to rent her digestive system. But at least I’m comfortable with myself, and my place in the world I’m in. See, my partner and I, we’re not bad people. We just do ‘bad’ things particularly well. Whatever the fuck ‘bad’ means in the first place. Nietzsche would be dying of maniacal laughter right now, if he hadn’t already.
I revert my attentions to the new girl on stage. Amateur night has its ups and downs… This is a down moment. I order more drinks. She’s eyeing me but she’s still wearing pants so I’m not about to get up there with her and make a donation. I just came anyway. I like to choose my moments wisely, and my charities. The song ends and she morosely steps down. Nobody tipped her. Can’t blame ’em.
Really starting to feel the booze now. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom where I bust out a line on the lid of the toilet, making sure to lock the door first. Even in a seedy environment like this, the management doesn’t exactly approve of you doing blow in the open. I crush the rocks, chop it into a fine powder with playing cards (a jack and an ace-I don’t really know why), roll up a hundred-dollar bill-because I like feeling like a big man-and I relish in the sting as it hits my sinuses: it’s good. Good coke always smells like romaine lettuce to me… Then again, maybe I’m just fucked up. By the time I’m back at my seat I can’t feel my front teeth and I’m clenching my jaw. This is really, really good-much better stuff than last time.
Even though I just sat down, the next amateur is far from inspiring-so I decide to go for a stroll. I pass the bouncer on the way out and try to make eye contact. He used to buy off the owner of the club, like one of the girls; but then his intake surpassed his income. In order to keep his job-and likely other, more vital titles (like ‘mister’)-he started digging a debt with my boy. I don’t like his chances for once he hits bedrock-bottom. He studies his discount black leather shoes and pretends to pick something off his tie, which is immaculate already. I open the door with a self-satisfied flourish and beeline for the circle of professional girls who are also indulging their relatively benign addictions. I pretend not to have a lighter in order to spark up conversation. They pass me a strike-anywhere, but are uninterested in what I have to say, and unwilling to entertain my feigned interest in their formulaic, lackadaisical lives. So I go and lean against the wall, spitting occasionally, and making a game of trying to start a puddle. The door opens and the girls go in without a sideward glance. Yeah, fuck you too: you syphilitic, sycophantic, subhuman sluts. The door opens again and Chud comes out.
-Yeah. Good to drive?
“Won’t kill anyone.”
We hop in the car and pump some Ludwig Van out of the radio, as much to fuck with people’s minds at two in the morning as because it’s a beautiful sonata. I’m lulled, despite the volume, to the lethargic, purgatorial cusp of sleep… Then something shocks me out of my stupor-somehow, I have the momentary impression that my pants are full of bees. Gradually, reason reaches my unsettled psyche and I realize it’s just my phone. Customers; it’s a small chop, but a chop nonetheless. And we pass by this house on the way home anyhow.
-Dude, um…uh… Right! Hey, can we make a quick stop?
-Fucking wasps, man. Fuckin’ wasps…
“Huh? You fryin’ or somethin’?”
-Like chicken, bro… Special, secret blend. Herbs. Spices. Shh…
The room oozes bad karma and worse habits – I’m drawn to it like a fawn to the salt stains of the highway before being smote by hallucinogen addled teenagers on an intergalactic voyage at warp speed inside of a fetus coloured Pontiac Sunfire.
I push the door open to be met by shit-faced grins, gawking at me through the topsy-turvy, swirling, curling, opalescent eddies of cyanic, sterling silver-pearl smoke. Tangy traces of tequila tickle my nostrils, mixed with the citrus elements of a sativa dominant strain of cannabis… This is the smell dreams are made of.
Assuming a position on the couch between a dread-locked trust-fund artist and a pro-bono nude model watching pornography blooper videos, I rummage in my pocket for a second before extricating a baggie full of little baggies full of these people’s main nutrient source: drugs. Fuckloads of drugs.
To tell the truth, these people sicken me. These little encounters give me the heeby-jeebies. They represent everything I stand against; they are everything I oppose-like a mirror image inverted. These sheep in wolves’ clothing though are my bread and butter. Pseudo-intellectual sorts that discuss the comparative merits of Kierkegaard and de Beauvoir while puffing on hookahs and sipping Chimay, in between bouts of snorting cocaine cut with baby laxatives. I bet they’ve never even heard of Levinas.
-That’ll be $250.
Dreadlocks passes me two hundred-dollar bills and a fifty. The thought of this kid in patched jeans and a threadbare sweater owning a bank account seems odd, until I remember what he told me last time I was here:
“Yeah, my dad’s one of the top criminal defence lawyers in Toronto.”
I relish the idea of Dreadlocks, Pro-bono, and the rest of them shoving expensive baby laxatives up their noses. I complete the transaction and ready myself to leave.
-Enjoy your shit.
Finally home, I try to pass out for about half an hour but the coke’s still got me buzzing, so I go back downstairs and turn on the TV. There’s nothing good on; not surprising at this hour. I go to my safe, open it up, and grab a sheet of acid. I carefully cut out five tabs and pop them under my tongue, letting nostalgia overwhelm me as I reminisce with myself, led by the bitter, metallic taste of this liquid soluble divinity. I go back to the TV and pop in a DVD: