I’m standing on the corner of Helmcken in the neon glow of Granville Street, looking to trade $100 of my birthday money for a fix.
Out of respect for my family, I’ve taken the last two weeks of December off from getting high; after all, it was Christmas and I’m nothing if not thoughtful. The holidays are over now and there’s nothing I want more than to spend the evening with an illicit substance inflating my already vainglorious pride. The only problem is that my almost-never dependable dealer isn’t answering his phone and the word on the street is that he’s dead. And while that may be well and good for him, I’ve been straight for far too long and I don’t need his sob story right now. What I need is a straight line of crystal meth and I’m at the point of desperation to get it.
There’s a method to asking seedy strangers for drugs; you can’t look rich or they’ll try to rip you off, and you can’t look too clean or they’ll think you’re a cop. I’ve unsuccessfully asked 20 people walking through the January rain if they can score me some dope. I’m tired, cold, wet and ready to call it a night.
Stepping into a dollar-slice pizza parlour, I sit at a bench and stare at the mustard yellow walls. Sliding into the seat next to me, Kitty introduces herself without prompting. She’s 19; beautiful, bored and fidgety. Going out on a limb, I let it slide that I’ve been wandering up and down this street for nearly two hours in search of crystal. Kitty holds my gaze intensely; my new friend is feeling me out. Finally she responds, “I can hook us up.”
Kitty and I do our first line and the once soporific women’s room of the pizza parlour comes alive. Instantly I’m invigorated; hit with wave after wave of an eager excitement. Crystal turns me into the most self-assured person in the world, like drunkenness without the disorder. I feel smarter than I’ve ever been; accomplished before I even start a task. It’s like sex without the sloppiness; love without the letdown. Glancing at the clock on the pizza parlour wall, Kitty says she’s got to go home, and invites me to join her. I decide that spending the night with her sounds far more enjoyable than my looming evening of isolation.
We arrive at a two-level, run down home on reserve land. Upstairs, six preteen boys play Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. Kitty introduces me to her 12-year-old brother, Alex before we retire to her bedroom. The room is small, dirty and mostly unfurnished. Slats of light break through from the adjacent laundry room by means of exposed framework in the crumbling walls. Kitty flops down on her bare, stained mattress. I hand her the bag of ice and she shakes the contents into the bottom. As she heats the meth inside of a light bulb and inhales, I watch her eyes roll back in ecstasy. Kitty pushes the bag back into my hand and gestures to her purse where I find an expired credit card, half a straw and a tiny mirror.
Flinching for a moment as the crystals painfully hit my sinuses, I lean back, shivering as my heart rate increases and my confidence swells. Facing one another on the bed, we silently enjoy these first moments of bliss and delirium, which give way into jittery, corybantic conversations. We are harmonious in our inebriation. Our ritual repeats over several hours, increasing in frequency and decreasing in effectiveness.
It’s quiet. Kitty and I are lying on the bed, our legs entangled. I’ve never been so close to another person; I’ve never bonded with anyone so fast. She’s tracing clandestine words in the air with her finger; it feels like we’ve been here for days. This is the lull before the rapids of the “come-down” begin; the feeling that signifies we need to start again. The bedroom door flies open and I nearly jump out of my skin when Alex bursts in screaming, “The fucking bathroom is flooded!”
Our hearts are pounding as we race up the stairs through pools of water. The frantic voices of young men shoot blame in every direction. Alex’s friends disappear out the front door, leaving the three of us ankle deep in the deluge. Every towel is covering the sopping floor upstairs as Kitty throws the contents of her nightstand drawers across the bedroom, searching for the bag of meth she put down before the flood. She can’t find it and she’s screaming at me that I’ve stolen her drugs. I’m standing silently, awkward and nervous by the covered window in her bedroom. I haven’t “stolen” the drugs that I paid for but I’m coming down pretty hard now, as is my new friend. She pushes passed me, stomping up the soaking wet stairs to continue her search on the second level. Kitty is screaming, calling me a whore and a narc as I slip out the front door silently and take off running in the pouring rain.
Leaning on the window of the 211 bus, I stare out at the ocean. I cross the Lion’s Gate Bridge and watch, relieved, as the North Shore fades away. I’m standing on the corner of Helmcken, shivering in the neon glow of Granville Street. I’m holding the receiver of a payphone in my hand with no one to call. Hanging up the phone, I reach into my purse for a stick of gum; my fingers wrap around a tiny plastic bag of meth that I didn’t know I had. Throwing it in a nearby garbage can is the easiest decision I’ve made in my seven months as an addict. What I need now is to head home and sleep this off.