Crack was more of an adult vice. The crowd that would’ve graduated to heroin had it been any cheaper. In the bigger cities, it worked its way further down the food chain, but crack seemed to localize or nest in neighborhoods. But crank was cheaper, easier to kit up and widely available in damn near any social circle.
And crack was instantly addicting, a ferocious half-life that had immediate effects. It didn’t take Pookie’s parents too long to figure out something was up. But crystal is more sublime, more seductive in its grasp. You could party with it or you can occasionally sharpen the senses with it. At first. The death of the soul is more like a mortal wound turning gangrene than the instant killshot of the rock. Which allows it to permeate broader crowds willing to take some minor risks for a decent kick. Becoming more socially-penetrating. It’s the Micky D’s of pharmaceuticals. We know it’s not good for us, but it’s cheap and no one we know has ever actually died from eating there, right? Okay, not counting the lives lost trying to cook it up.
This is NorCal, so yeah, everybody I know smokes. Chillin in the living room or hiding on the back porch, we can smell you a mile away. Yeah, I have sure seen some interesting custom glass-blown flower vases on top of your television sets. And I don’t need to ask why there’s always a lighter near that vase. Weed, besides coke, is the only drug I know where people get picky. Like my mom shopping for meats at the butcher picky. Even the clueless try to act like they know good bomb, just like they do at the grocery store, poking the melon just because they saw the old lady do it. And rich white guys treat cocaine like sashimi: they know fresh, clean, pure premium cuts so don’t even bother with the starkist. In either case, the smart ones find a practical use their gourmet medications. The not-so-smart ones won’t end up dead, but it sure is hard for them to keep a job or tie their shoelaces. All it takes is a reality check and you back on the grind. For now. Or, if you’re lucky and found Jesus or Mohammad, then maybe for good. You can be and old smoker and still have all your organs. And I never personally bumped into anyone who did coke with the Mother Superior crown.
But crank is permanent. You can pick out a user, no matter how long ago it’s been. There is just a part of you that you just don’t get back. It’s that downward slide of gravity that gains momentum faster than you can try to regain traction. If you can break out fairly early on, then you just end up looking like you quit smoking and you put on a few pounds and your teeth never quite get that pearl brilliance back. Any longer, and no matter how long you stay clean, no matter much you’ve accomplished, you’ll still always get “that look.”
And the streets of Rancho Cordova are like film sets for zombie flicks. Creeping up on you from the smell of money and nice things. Those empty hungry eyes. The ones that think they are so smart that they can fool you with the lies the mouth is telling. Your sob stories would work better if you wore sunglasses. The petty flare-ups over little meaningless shit, like the color of the bubble gum wrapper or the whereabouts of some parent’s jewelry that went missing last night. The constant bumming of cigarettes with absolutely nothing to barter. Except maybe the bubble gum wrapper. Kids having habits having kids, with no stroller, no diaper bag, no beaming proud mother smile.
The most startling to me are the newly absorbed. Their last haircut was nice, but it’s been awhile. The clothes were nice and not quite ratty, but you can tell clothes shopping should soon become a priority. Life went to shit on them, but they haven’t yet quite blamed the crank. In fact, it’s the crank that’s making this embarrassing shit bearable right now. They don’t quite got their hustle down, and they’re probably still thinking that one of their friends will still hook them up, as soon as he starts returning phone calls again. The denial is at full strength and holding. For now. He’s not broke-broke yet, but he’s about to rationalize that since the crystal eases the appetite, he doesn’t really have to spend as much on food anymore. Just before the slight tinge of embarrassment starts to fuel the growing anxious paranoia. Just before “muthafuckin” becomes the only adjective in the sentence.
Yeah, I know, not everyone who does meth is a junkie. Very true. But when I keep seeing the same lost empty look in so many eyes day after day, especially among my own friends, it just isn’t looking very good. I don’t even bother telling grown up kids what to do. I’m not tellin you anything you don’t already know.
Clearing out my body and habits of a lot of other different chemicals for Lent is a pilgrimage I am always hating to start but always happy to finish. And while this will sound corny to y’all, I am very, very much looking forward to my first 2-litre of Dr. Pepper. Everything else will be just icing on the cake. But clearing my senses for a while allowed me to re-examine my circles in a much more observant perspective. I used to think “Eh, they’ll be okay somehow.” Now, I’m not so sure. Passover will be a soulful time for reflection for me. At least I’m thankful that I’m watching the funerals of friendships, and not the friends themselves. For now.