from now on our troubles will be miles away

IMG_0003Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. J’s favorite holiday is Halloween. I appreciate anyone who loves holidays, because I love most of them. But we are apart for 10 days. And I’ve been thinking about what those holidays mean.

I flew home to see my family and get clean. You know, that’s always inevitable when two ex-addicts get together. And then we couldn’t stop because I was working full time at an internship and I didn’t have enough days off in a row to go through withdrawal.

The night before I flew to my parent’s place on Sunday, J’s band played a show. They play about every two weeks at a local club, make like $60 per band member from the cover charge, and all of his friends come and have a great time. His friends are amazing, they have totally welcomed and accepted me and greet me like we’ve known each other for years. You can judge a person based on their friends and family relationships, I think. J is clearly someone whom people love fiercely.

I still can’t put my finger on what it is about him that makes me so crazed with  love/lust. Sure, he’s my type, physically, I could spend a lifetime exploring his perfect body, down to the pores, his soft skin, delicate hands, thin and tall and restless, with eyes that wander around the room like mine do, this lightening bolt of something from deep down under the pain that comes out through his eyes. He’s warm and fiery and passionate and emotional and breaks down crying at random moments, which is one of my favorite things in a guy. The way he never asks for anything, ever. Suffers through so much in silence. And then sometimes all the stuff in his head breaks open and I get this outpouring of grief and pain and tears and I just want to wrap him up like a baby and protect him from all the shit in his past that I will never, ever be able to protect him from.

He writes the most incredible songs, too. At first I groaned, not another boyfriend in a band, but he is so good, and so good at writing songs… they are constantly in my head. I can see how cathartic preforming is for him. The suffer in silence stuff goes out the window and he’s got sweat and tears running down his face, wiping them off after every song.

After I got on the train on Sunday morning I almost started crying, I missed him so much already, even just five minutes after we hugged goodbye. I spent the two hour train ride to Portland watching these two videos over and over in rapid succession. The first is at his friend’s housewarming party. J is in the middle, standing, holding a cigarette that he restlessly fidgets with, putting it in his mouth, then taking it out and flicking it with his hand for the next three minutes. His best friend Jon is on the piano, and his good friend from high school, Dave, is on the floor on guitar. Emily is next to the wall. Apparently after J’s divorce two years ago, she told him that she had always had a crush on him. But he wasn’t interested, and she was distraught: “Aren’t I pretty enough?” I always feel weird around her. But anyway… I love this video because you can see how much love there is. J makes fun of me for how many videos I post but I feel like a sponge just drinking it all in. I have been so isolated for so long. And J and Jon are smiling at each other in the cutest bromance way…

Oh, well I was going to post it here but I realized I have no idea how to download a video I’ve posted to facebook, and it’s no longer on my phone. Point is, I spend most weekends singing along to great songs with a bunch of amazing pianists & guitar players.

The second video I still have on my phone so I can post it. This was at J’s last show. He had a cold so his voice sounds a little weird, but I’ve been watching this video over and over with the computer screen about two inches from my face so I can see his facial expressions, because there’s a part where he’s singing directly at me, pointing at me, in the middle… the song lyrics are pretty dark actually. But the refrain is a little lighter… that’s the part where he points at me, then each of his two band mates and repeats the line, “But you’re not gonna die, cause they won’t forget your name.”

The words are:

With all the ideas that they put in your head
Will you think about them, can you think at all?
Will you think about it?
And on the inside when you swallow it down,
Take another hit and drown,
In the darkness and then come back up to breathe
So hypnotizing when the words are let in
And your dizzy head it spins
The decision to pacify from within
With all the ideas that they put in your head
Will you think about them?
Can you think at all?
Will you think about it?
But you’re not gonna die, cause they won’t forget your name.

Watching the videos doesn’t make me feel better. It just makes me miss him more. Despite the logic that I know I will be back in less than a week. For the six or so months we’ve been together I’ve tried to cling to some perspective or independence but it’s hard when he basically moved in with me the second time we saw each other, and we were rarely apart for more than a few moments from then until my internship started, and then only for three or four days a week tops. And he would text me multiple times a day to tell me how much he missed me or that he couldn’t wait to see me that night or whatever.

And when I would walk through the door after being gone for a few days, he would hold me so tight for these epic 15-minute hugs, and would just be so overjoyed to see me, I don’t think anyone I’ve ever loved has ever been that happy to see me in my entire life. I’m needy as fuck, I have zero boundaries, and I appreciate another person with similar characteristics.

The part that is freaking me out is that since I’ve been gone I haven’t gotten the same rapid fire texts that I would get when I was away at my internship. Which makes me think he didn’t get clean after I left. Because he always misses me more when we are clean. It’s just a feeling, but it keeps bothering me. Especially because a mutual friend, one of the few who knows about our habit(s), stopped by two days after I left and reported back to me that J. didn’t seem dopesick at all. And then J. asked me for our dealer’s number yesterday. He said it was because he has to be alone on Christmas, he had to work xmas eve and xmas day at his fancy new job as the assistant manager of a pet store. And I felt so bad for leaving him there alone that I gave him all the numbers I had for people in town. I asked him if he had actually stopped when I left, and he said he had, which didn’t jive with what the mutual friend had said. He has always been really pointed about being 100 percent honest, like I am in relationships, and I loved that about him. And I don’t want to find out that he’s lying to me, even about something silly like whether he used for one extra day after I left or something.

I was thinking about our favorite holidays today as I worried about this. He loves, loves Halloween. I’ve actually rarely met anyone who was as into any holidays as I am, so that made me happy even though my favorite holiday is Christmas. Christmas is about darkness giving over to light, it’s transactional, giving and receiving and seeing where you stand with people based on their gifts. It’s a full-throated celebration, totally regardless of religious connotations, since I have never been religious.

Halloween is dark, it’s about deception, disguise, not recognizing those around you. Or at the very least acting. J is an actor too and he does hilarious accents and impressions. He was Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, which seems fitting. Based on some pretty weird and/or unflattering stuff he voluntarily told me about himself, and his constant stressing of honesty, I’ve always assumed he was as honest as he said he was. But then I started doubting him and it’s just eating away at me.

Being in love is really extraordinarily painful in almost every way, even the good bits. I forgot what this was like, for the last 10 or so years. I definitely had some strong crushes and flings over the years but most of them ended so quickly I didn’t have a chance to get in this deep, so far over my head I feel like I can’t breathe. My last relationship, which went on for five years, I think I thought I was in love but now I’m realizing that I wasn’t, or at least it was just on a different level, where I could stay at arm’s length, at a remove, and not be bothered by whether he gave two shits about me or not. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t.) Or whether he was lying to me. I don’t think M. has the same excessive guilt/shame-complex that J. has so maybe he never had reason to lie to me about anything. But I was definitely never up nights wondering whether he was using when I was out of town or trying to figure out why he wasn’t texting me back.

I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, even if he overdosed and died tomorrow or left me or something at least I know I can still love someone that much. I was starting to wonder if I’d lost part of my soul. Obsession runs in my blood and it never feels quite right when I’m not fixated on a person, place, or thing. First Gabe. And then for the longest time it was Eva and Portland, my twin loves. Now that I actually have a job in Portland and have chosen to work remotely from Eugene to stay close to J and his friends, my whole world has turned topsy turvy… I wasn’t aware anyone could top my love for Portland other than Eva.

Being alone and lonely, that was an ache I was used to. Being in a fair-to-middling long-term relationship was pretty familiar too, but after M. left for Alaska I knew I wasn’t going to spend 6 months waiting for him to get back so we could return to our then-100-percent celibate relationship, but even being alone, wasn’t a big deal. I watched a lot of WWII documentaries for the first two months until J. and I finally got together. We’d been messaging each other since March, I shudder to think what would have happened if I had been a bit quicker responding. If I’d still been taking 5 classes when we met, I probably would have gotten straight F’s instead of straight A’s. God, I am pathetic.

If I had known what did happen when we met, when we were both single and clean rather than on heroin and with him dating a psycho drama queen and me dating a shut-in who never touched me, well, I definitely would have taken him up on meeting back in March when he first messaged me. I guess I can thank my lucky stars it took me until July.

And… just got this text that he is feeding the kitties some gourmet food from his job and going to see Star Wars… alone, on Christmas. Five more days until I’m back.

XOXOXO

 

 

“if we strain thought clear of impulse slowly, slowly the day scream subsides to ordered lust”

82ndThe thing I miss the most is always knowing exactly what to do at any given time. The single-minded purpose. The last time I relapsed on heroin, there was about a two-hour interval between when I decided to buy heroin, and when I actually got it in my hands and got high. I had to pick up M’s friend Emil, way up in the SW hills at his dad’s, and then drive clear out to the other side of Portland, to SE 157th and Stark, where his dealer lived, and then even further out to Troutdale or one of those faraway suburbs, where the dealer’s dealer wanted to meet.

Gentrification — driving the criminals out to your suburb!

Anyway, throughout this long tour of the Portland sticks, talking to Emil or just driving silently as he chain-smoked all my cigarettes, I felt this sense of calm that I hadn’t felt in months.

My ability to concentrate completely fell apart after I got clean. And procrastination is a million times worse than it was pre-heroin. Prioritizing what I have to do and actually doing it apparently uses some of those brain cells I murdered during my 50+ overdoses. How did I get five A’s last term? (humblebrag alert!) I think doing well in school is one of those few times in my life when being booksmart comes in handy. But it was a fucking struggle.

You know what I really fucking miss about heroin? Never having to choose what I’m about to do next. I might have been losing my mind on a daily basis about where the next $300 was coming from for that day’s 2-3 gram supply, but I knew exactly what I needed to do to get that money. Even if everything went wrong, clients cancelled, whatever, I had a series of other ways to make money: pawn my guitar/camera/etc, overdraw my bank account, sell my books/records (it hurt…), call various people trying to borrow money, and last resort, call my dealers begging for a front… None of that stuff was fun. It was nerve-wracking and made me feel awful.

But I can say one thing, I never had a single problem concentrating on the task at hand. The threat of imminent heroin withdrawal is better than a pound of Adderall for making you focus.

Even on my days off now, even when my homework or whatever is done for the day, I get anxious about my fucking free time! I should be reading more books… taking more walks… cleaning the house… I should be writing freelance or some shit… I need to work on my memoir… but I’m afraid. 

Portland is a very East-West oriented city, at least the routes I used to drive daily. I’ve done that long drive out to the boonies of Southeast thousands of times. 200 blocks sailing down Powell, Division, Stark, Burnside, or Glisan… the dealers must have a pact to always live as far as possible away from the customers. Make you work for it. I guess I built up an association with that drive.

When I first started using, I had barely ever gone east of 39th St. The area past 82nd was a blank spot in my mind. Chris would drive and I would stare dreamily out the windows as the Douglas firs got taller and taller and the houses got tinier, shittier, and more run-down. That’s how you know you’re almost to Gresham.

Of course, back then, the heroin still felt good. The last few times I relapsed, I knew it wasn’t going to feel good. I knew even if I got a momentary rush, I would come down quickly and then have four days of withdrawal from just using that one time. My body, it tries to tell me not to fuck with it anymore. Do I listen? Hmmm.

Waiting in the parking lot for the dealer with Emil, at some nameless strip mall, a crappy dive bar with guys wearing Semper Fi t-shirts, a Mexican restaurant, discount cigarette store… Emil was freaking out, pacing around (he’s a pacer, it’s very nerve-wracking), chain-smoking, texting the dealer every five seconds and reporting back to me, coming up with a creative succession of theories as to why she was taking so long.

But I was blissfully content. When you’re not strung out, the craving goes away as soon as you decide to score. I was just enjoying that feeling of not having to make any decisions, not having to try to concentrate on anything. Deciding to fuck up takes a moment and then everything is out of your hands. Living in ‘reality’ entails billions of decisions, practically every single moment you have to think about what to do next.

Today I was sitting on my porch when this random guy passed by, walking through the alley. Just then, a beat-up car pulled up and the guy hopped in the passenger door, and they drove away. I had this flash of pure, unchecked desire, like a shock wave passing through my body. If you’ve never been addicted to drugs, picture how you felt when you were most in love, and when you saw your beloved after a long absence.

It took me a second to comprehend why seeing a random guy get in a car had made my nerves sing like that. It was one of those associations my brain holds onto just to fuck with me. I apparently associate hopping into someone’s car with going to buy drugs. And that set off some other shit in my brain that reminded me of that single-minded feeling that I miss so much. I had this vision of the driver and passenger driving off to some far-flung part of the city to meet their dealer, that tense but focused journey… Fuck, they were probably just going to a movie or something. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Sometimes I wish I had a religion or something. A person, or a set of beliefs, or a god, or SOMETHING that would give me a sign, tell me what to do. Just take me in and tell me something that makes sense and tell me I don’t have to be in this war with myself moment to moment. Give me that calm. That’s what I miss. Not the drugs. The relentless need for those drugs that kept me from fragmenting. That’s what I miss.

“What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What is this language we have got backed up into on long worst fire nights like a bad translation? It is important to keep recording the dialect forms, tracking the idioms. Yes there is a violence in it.”
[A.C.]

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ps. Why do I always write the most depressing entries when I’m happy?