Three hours past midnight. A damp, deserted, working-class, suburban street. Chasing again. She waits standing on the worn, oil-stained brick path, outside yet another unfamiliar front door. Above a knee length, black skirt she cloaks her low cut, pale green top with a hand-knit jumper. Once white sneakers, that hide her dainty feet, are blotched with cheap acrylic paint; a collage of color that mimics her personality. She’s not dressed for the weather. The constant shiver of her body is the combined effect of ice wind that licks her exposed flesh, and the early stages of withdrawal. I offer her my coat but she refuses, preferring to freeze than admit anything resembling dependency. Perhaps that’s ironic. Un-kempt, shoulder length, orange tinted hair blows about her face freely. It whispers quiet songs of anarchy as it moves. She still wears yesterday’s make up and a recently re-applied, soft red lip gloss that glimmers in the street light and tastes like strawberries.
Anticipation is etched into her beautiful hazel eyes. Beneath them are dark, deeply set, rings that tell of sleep deprivation. This is her last hope: tonight’s last chance at finding a dealer that isn’t dry. She becomes impatient and knocks again, almost aggressively this time.
Mouthing the words “Please be home” as she does. In an equally rigid gesture she brings her left hand up to her mouth, from its tight defensive fold. She bites anxiously at the black nail polish on her fingers. It all seems a strange contrast to the movement of her hands yesterday, when I watched her wield a paint brush with all the form and grace of fencing and yet a strange fluidity and freedom. She is herself when she paints and she only paints when she’s high.
A sudden malevolent gust of wind threatens to expose her panties to no one in particular. She quickly grabs her skirt and presses it down against her thin legs, in a clever imitation of modesty. But this is little more than an unconscious, socially induced, behavioral response. There’s only one thing on her conscious mind right now. That which she so desperately needs. Needs in a way that only an addict can really comprehend. As if she would die without it, only she doesn’t and she won’t.
Finally the door opens and a half-dressed, unshaven, middle-age man appears. A few words flow from her mouth in a polite and strangely formal tone. The words themselves don’t matter. Then she holds her breath as though oxygen is of less importance than this man’s response. He mumbles something back, shakes his head and closes the door.
She plummets to the ground like a bad actress in a climatic death scene. And like the tragic lover, I try to catch her and fail. She pulls her knees in tight against her chest and begins to cry.
As I lean down to comfort her she shoves me back, screaming “Get the fuck off me!” She stands up and drenches me with a shower of verbal abuse and spit. Her voice some wretched conductor that prompts a silent orchestra of living room lights to flick on almost sequentially down the street. Then just like these lights her mood switches. She puts her arms around me, pulls close and whispers in my ear between sobs, “I’m sorry babe, I know it’s not your fault.” She buries her face in the alcove of my neck, lying to rest the weight of her chaotic mind. I can feel her soft, delicate, skin warm with blood, and damp with tears. Her hair smells faintly of sex and cinnamon apple. It reminds me of nothing.
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