Monday, March 29, 2010

Meeting Bob

The first night I met Bob, I had no idea what a central figure he would play in my life for the next few years. Our first meeting was random, as I tried to sneak a peek of the dope man as he walked through the living room into the back bedroom. I tried to take a peek without him thinking I was staring at him. Little did I know then, he probably did not even notice me.
That day I decided to ask Bald Paul if he could score for me. This was back in the glory days when Liam and I still had our shit together enough to have a car. I ran into Paul at The Abbey, and we came back to my place to get the car.
Nell lived within walking distance from me, at least in the New Orleans sense of walking distance. People from other places of the world may feel like it is not walking distance when many New Orleanians would walk it in a heart beat.
Nell did not have a phone, and Paul was not 100% sure she would be there. He was, however, almost 97% sure she would be there. It was early enough in the day that there was sure to be someone at Nell’s house waiting for Bob. I did not know this game at the time, so I decided not to chance it. We were taking the car. I did not want to walk all the way over there if they might not even be there!
Nell lived on the other side of St. Claude, across from the Bywater neighborhood. This area over here was just a little shadier and a little more run down than the Bywater. Nell lived in a double that looked bleak from the road. It was old and run down with a dilapidated porch that seemed to be falling of the house. I remember wondering how cheap this place was every month.
The stairs leading up to the porch creaked with instability. I heard dogs barking on the inside. I had expected dogs. Like Bald Paul, Nell was also a gutter punk. Gutter punks usually have dogs and have spent a large portion of their lives either homeless or travelling the country by hopping freight trains. Gutter punks are usually unwashed hard core alcoholics and drug addicts.
Gutter punks do not often have ID of any sort, although I suspect many of them do come from decent families. They generally do not work, or cannot hold down a job. They are used to sleeping outside, and they are not afraid to eat out of trash cans. Many of them will be crashing on someone’s couch or floor most of the time. They have all lived in the same squats, and they have shared many a forty.
Gutter punks are a loud and rowdy bunch. They like to drink, and they like to fight. It is not uncommon to see black eyes and cut faces amongst this group. When they are drinking and partying, there is often some kind of commotion.
We enter the apartment in the kitchen on the back side. Paul was right, and there are lots of people hanging out waiting to score. At this time in my life, I had no personal up close experience with heroin addiction, so I was unaware what many of these people were feeling at the time.
Mara was there that day, too. I think this was the second time I had met her. She was also hanging around waiting for Bob. She had been in school that morning. Mara was in hairdressing school at the time. We hung out and talked a lot of the time I was there. I always really enjoy hanging with Mara. I was happy to see her here because we really connected when we had hung out recently on my birthday. Now that I look back on this, I also think that Mara and I were the only two that were not dope sick at this time.
There were kids laid out on every couch and chair in the place. And it was filthy in there. There was a layer of dirt and grime covering everything. Three dogs were running through the house, ripping and tearing at things. There was dog hair everywhere.
I do not think this place had ever been vacuumed, and the layer of dust was more dirt than dust. There were empty beer bottles everywhere, some of them still dripping with beer. The smell of old, stale beer hung in the air, mixed with the smell of sweat and dirt. There were empty wrappers everywhere, some with food still clinging to them. I could just feel that there were probably bugs everywhere.
I was sitting on a folding chair in this crowded little den. I was wearing a long, flowing hippie skirt that day. My eyes surveyed the squalor I was immersed in. I was suddenly aware that I was not wearing underwear. I was thankful my skirt was long, so that nothing could touch this chair I was sitting in. It was so dirty in there; I wish I had decided on underwear that day.
I sat uncomfortably in that metal folding chair for nearly an hour. I was thankful for Mara’s company. Paul had long since disappeared into one of the bedrooms. Nell sporadically checked the window to see if Bob had arrived. Kurt, Nell’s boyfriend, snored away on the floor. Finally, I hear a knock at the door.
Nell snaps to attention, quickly shuffling to the door to greet Bob. Bob was an older black gentleman. He had a shaved head and wore glasses. He seemed to have a kind smile. I noticed he had one prosthetic leg from the knee down. Trying to sneak a sideways glance at him, I wondered what happened to his leg.
Nell and Bob disappeared into one of the back bedrooms. A few minutes later, Bob emerged alone and saw himself out. I think I may have heard him mumble something about being back later. Nell emerged another fifteen minutes later. Her smile was now crooked and relaxed.
Knowing what I know now, I could tell you what went on in that closed bedroom before I received my package. Nell and Kurt broke into all the foils, dumping just a little out of each to add to their own shots. Then, they cooked up a couple of shots and proceeded to find a vein. A few seconds later, their moods were lightened.
I took my two bags and stood up to leave. I asked Paul if he wanted a ride back to the Quarter, but he declined. It seemed Paul was more interested in what was happening at Nell’s house. I shut the door behind me, excited to have two foils in my pocket.
The sun was just beginning to fade, and the summer heat had not yet arrived. It was a nice, breezy spring evening. I opened up my windows when I got home to let the Mississippi’s winds flow through my house. Opening up the first foil, I carefully split it into two lines.
Gingerly, I took the first one, partly not knowing exactly what to expect. The taste was exactly as I remembered it, earthy and bittersweet. It did not burn my nose, but instead warmed my entire body. Warmth dripping down from my head, where it started. Slowly, like warm water taking over all my blood. Like swimming in a pool as warm as a bathtub. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh…
I could get used to this!

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