Alexander Michael Marasca Ziperovich
The ketamine’s phosphorescent glittery saltwatery. Annie is somewhere in the nether part of the condo screaming; there are two places where the screaming comes from, the bathroom or the bedroom. I am always in the middle. I’m slicing up her mahogany dining table again with my three-razor trick. Tossing the kitty around and then lining it up again and then watching it do the waterfall and finally doing a line or two. “You hate me!” I did. “You’re gonna leave me and my parent’s are going to fucking kill you! That table’s so expensive and you’re destroying it and…” Her voice trails off into the ether after a big blow to my face like a slap of red lightening.
“Nhrruruhhhscrhhnchhchhhhhh-huuuuuuuaaah!” I snort.
“Sczizsciissss…” went her table.
This isn’t working. This K is garbage. The other goddamn ketamine I got from those parking lot kids was far superior the night I got LA tattooed on my right tricep and I would have paid two hundred a gram again but this was all there was, thanks to the fucking pokèmon crew up north.
My teeth hurt.
“I’ll be back.” She moans and draws herself up like a bow and shoots herself at the just-slammed door. “Thump,” I laugh, skipping down the stairs after sending the elevator up.
I’m talking to Santa that lives on the doorstep of the furniture store at the end of the block about dolphins or shit and Gypsy stumbles up. “Alex. Give me a fucking goddamned motherfucking cigarette.” Her hair is a lime-green rosebud nest of wires. Her face is decorated with scars and her neck has apparently been doing a lot of black tar. A bottle of Southern Comfort is hanging from her hand like a rosary. She spits violently into the wind, swaying with one foot in the gutter under the sidewalk. She’s like a beautiful painting that moves.
We embrace and she has Hep C and the saliva I think landed in my eye and we start walking, down the block to buy smokes and I tell her about my wreckage of a life and she tells me about hers, again. We’ve been close like this for almost three years. In jail in a nascent ante-cell by the infirmary I saw her name scrawled with what must have been sharp metal all over the door. I thought it was remarkable, “Alex, they just fuckin’ lemme out again yesterday. Gimme another smoke, man.”
We stop and I turn toward her. She’s all rags and liquor meat but she’s gorgeous. Hasn’t had sex in six years she tells me. I believe her. Lives in a government pad up the street the methadone people hooked her up with.
“Well, Gypsy,” standing in front of Annie’s lobby again, “I need some hypodermics.”
“I got a hundred-pack at my pad. Come the fuck on.” She swigs the booze without spilling a drop. She’s quite sharp.
We rise into the Hill as the sun dips below and into her glowing amber sauce as the sparkling shimmer from the glass and the sun fade away. She unscrews it, takes a thick hit and pours out a few jiggers. “Johnny. Poor bastard.”
We walk into her moodily institutional but relatively barren home save the orange TOXIC! sharps containers and the bloodstains and the burnt spoons and pipes and the little clumps of what look like metallic pubic hair. Her carpet is green. A good, honest green.
She shows me to a massive backpack full of capped orange .29 gauge hypodermic needles
!FOR DIABETES ONLY! and I ask how the fuck I know they haven’t been used. The floor is covered with uncapped bloodrusting rigs. “They’re brand fucking new if they’re in there, otherwise they’re not.” I see my face in an empty bottle of gin on her kitchen counter through the open door. I reach in and grab six or seven and look around uncomfortably. “I usually get mine wrapped individually in plastic but…” She jerks her head away.
“What’d I say?” I’m looking at a spot on her wall to which her eyes have also trained.
Her face hardens and softens and finally a small moan escapes her cracked lips. “I miss my daughter,” she whimpers. CPS took her three years ago after Gypsy violated. The picture on the wall is the size of a credit card but a little bigger, hanging from a nail and a long string.
“This is the fuckin’ deal, Gypsy. If you ever want your daughter back you have got to stop doing heroin and getting arrested. I’ll make you a deal: I’ll give you as much Subutex as you need to stay well if you stay off the streets. You can sell it, or if you were smart, switch off methadone and turn on subs. Your choice.”
Her face is music, agony and dreams spilling from her eyes like black ink.
“I just gave you like ten rigs for free and you’re telling me what?” She’s scarlet in the face more than usual and she’s growling at me. “Gypsy, I just want you to have your daughter which is what you want, no?” This is the culmination of a very slow hour of Gypsy telling me what happened and me trying to tell her how to unfuck the whole thing.
I feel brave.
I go to the wall and snatch the picture and take it to her. She rattles and falls to her knees and weeps. “Gypsy…”
“If you wear this picture around your neck and I see you wearing it in the blocks and you don’t bullshit me we can go back right now and get you like ten subs, which as you know are worth a lot of fucking money, a lot more than some fucking grab-bag needles.”
“You got the real ones? Suboxone? What milligram?” She asks after immediately responding to the word subs by flying up off her knees, looking from the little pale rectangular missing picture to the picture itself in my hand. “I have the real fucking deal, the big boys. Eight milligram generic buprenorphine. Don’t get no better.” She sighs and we strike a deal. We walk back down the neon path.
I run up into the screaming condo and grab the safe and unlock it and throw ten or twelve subs into my hand and run back down. I still have the picture but the rigs I left upstairs. “Here. Wear it around your neck.” She puts the picture on like it’s a diamond necklace and for the first time I see something like hope come into her, violent hope. She reaches for the subs and before I give them to her I tell her, “No more if you don’t have that on your neck. None. I want you to have your kid, Gyps.”
I’m boiling ketamine in a black pot on the stove and somehow the sight of a handful of needles has calmed Annie down. I’m abruptly and arbitrarily throwing crystalline ketamine into the pot, letting it boil a bit, drawing it up into the syringe and slamming myself in my left bicep. The memorial tattoo of my best friend is on my right arm.
Boil. Pour. Stir. Draw. Slam.
Boil. Pour more. Stir. Draw. Slam.
Boil. Pour the whole bag. Stir. Draw. Slam, into my right arm cause I don’t know any better now and drop myself onto the kitchen floor where I sink into a black telescopic pit where I hear someone wheezing, breathing, screaming, shrieking, my heart is or is not bleeding and this ketamine finally did something I needed.
I got Gypsy sober for four weeks. She wore her daughters face everywhere she went and no one ever gave her any shit. I saw her once a few years later looking terrible and then I saw her again looking less terrible and then I didn’t see her anymore.
I love you, Gypsy.