Andy is being a serious cocksucker and holding onto my money. He won’t give me any. He says it’s for my own good and that I’ll just go and spend it on drugs. He’s right, but it’s irrelevant. It’s my money! He’s my brother, not my father. He’d be a better father than Pops is, but that’s a different story.
I’m in withdrawal. I’ve felt it before, but never this bad. My bones are aching and I’m freezing to death. My whole body hurts. It just fucking hurts. Not any one place in particular. All over.
Sometimes when you’re in pain, like when you have a headache or a stomach-ache or something like that, you can move around, get into the right position and maybe you’ll feel a little bit better. This isn’t like that. It’s more like I’m uncomfortable being in my own skin. You apply that logic, the idea that if maybe if I can just get into the right position it will feel a little bit better, but it doesn’t help. It just makes things worse.
You think, “Oh, ok I’ll try lying down.” So you lie down and it feels worse than when you were just sitting there. So you get up and go and get a glass of water or something but it was better lying down. With each movement, big or small, it just gets worse and worse and worse.
And all I can think about is dope. Dope. Dope. Dope. Dope. Dope. Dope is what would really feel good right now. That would really put a lid on this whole feeling like shit thing. My bones would stop aching and I could think about something besides going out there and scoring some dope. I could maybe do some homework or something. Or just watch TV or do anything, really. Anything but sit here and think about dope.
We’re in the living room area of our unfinished loft, watching TV. Andy gives me $5 to go down and get us some beer. I run downstairs to the grubby little bodega on our block, which is still open because it’s not 7 o’clock yet. I grab a couple of 40’s and some chips and head back upstairs. We watch TV and I drink my 40 as fast as I can. It gives me a buzz but now I’m just drunk and sick. It’s miserable. Just fucking miserable.
“Andy, please just give me ten bucks man. I feel like shit! Let’s just go to the bank machine. We’re going to need cigarettes soon, anyway.”
His eyes are all squinty from the cigarette smoke and smoking weed resin from the bong. He exhales like he’s tired of hearing it, which I’m sure he is. “How many fucking times do I have to tell you, Dean. I CAN’T go to the bank. They put a hold on Douglas’ check. It’s not going to clear until at least tomorrow and maybe not even then. It might be Friday before we’ll be able to get anything out. I’ve got like $7 here, we need to get a pack of smokes and some pasta to eat or something. I feel like shit too. I sympathize, believe me. We just gotta hold out till tomorrow. So quit asking!”
I try to sit still, but I can’t. The beer and the resin from the pipe aren’t cutting it. I’m gonna fucking die if we can’t get some money. “What about cd’s? Lets go sell some.” I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me earlier.
“It’s eight o’clock at night. Nobody in Brooklyn is gonna buy cd’s now. Most of the good ones are gone anyway. The ones that are left, I wanna keep.” He says, not taking his eyes off the TV. He’s right. Brooklyn is shut down for the night.
I can’t just sit here like this. I light a cigarette and pull on my jacket. “I’m gonna go walk around or something.” I say.
“Where? What are you gonna do out there with no money? Just relax man. We can pull together some change, enough for some more beer and some food anyway.”
I can’t do it. If I sit in front of that miserable television sick like this I’m gonna go insane. “I can’t sit still. I’ll be back later. I’m just gonna take a walk.” I say on my way out the door.
It’s a ghost town outside. It’s cold for November. Shit December. It’s already December. There are very few people out walking the streets. The ones that are out are Hasidic Jews and they just pretend like you aren’t there anyway. I walk down to the subway station on Broadway and not much is open as it’s getting late. It’s just a couple of bodegas and the shitty pizza joint. I think about trying to panhandle change from people getting off the subway, but it’s not really an option. I’ve tried before and the working stiffs getting off the train don’t exactly radiate sympathy for a white kid with dreadlocks.
I could hop the train and head into the city, maybe I could beg for money there, but the idea sucks. I haven’t got it in me. I know I don’t deserve other people’s money, so I have trouble making a convincing case for them to give it to me. I could go see Dave at his brother’s place but he’ll just give me hassle. He’ll know what I want the cash for and he’d be right.
The dope sickness is just getting worse by the minute though. I’m fucking freezing to death even though it’s only like 35/40 degrees outside. I just want to cop some drugs. It’s all I can fucking think about. Andy should have warned me we were so tapped for money. I don’t know what I would have done about it, but maybe I wouldn’t be down here on Broadway freezing my ass off.
A couple of black kids come out of the store, dribbling a basketball and eating candy. I make eye contact with one of the dudes by mistake and he gives me a hard look. I nod and look away. I don’t want any trouble.
“What you looking at, bitch?” he says.
“Nothing.” He doesn’t know who he’s fucking with. I don’t want to fight but if push comes to shove I will go to fucking 11. I put my hand in my back pocket and finger the knife I keep there. I don’t want any trouble but man, he’s got me on a bad night if he wants it.
“That’s what I thought.” I hear as they shuffle down the block. The dudes are laughing and joking with one another. There aren’t a lot of white people living in this neighborhood. Not beside the Hasids anyway. Are Hasids white? Who gives a shit. Andy wanted to move this far south so we’d get more space for our rent money. He needs the space for his tools and shit. We are definitely in the first wave of gentrification around here. A few blocks North it’s a different story, but for now white people are the extreme minority around here.
I walk down Rodney, to the little park by the BQE. The regular kid who works the night shift at the drug spot is hanging out. He knows me. When he sees walking towards him, he nods. He’s got a huge puffy winter parka on (it’s like 4 sizes too big for him) and he wears Timberland boots perfectly unlaced. I step up. He makes a point of not looking at me when he talks. He can’t be more than 13 years old.
“S’up? How many?” his voice is still boyishly squeaky.
“Yo man. I need a couple bags on credit. I’ll get you back double, tomorrow.”
“No credit. Keep walking!” he practically shouts. His raised voice startles me. I can’t tell if he’s acting hard for his boss’ benefit, wherever he is. My face goes flush. I need to get right. I need to stop the sick. No way I can go all night without a hit. My instinct is to elevate the situation. I could pull the knife or just punch him and take what I need, but he’s not out here alone. There’s a lookout around here somewhere. Doing something like that would be a good way to get shot, never mind getting myself frozen out of the only consistent dope spot in the neighborhood.
“C’mon man. You know me. I’m good for it. I’ll make it—” I hear myself, going weak.
“Said no credit. Get walking son!” louder this time.
“I said walk!” He’s yelling. I feel the adrenaline surge through me. I don’t have a choice here. I walk. I’m having trouble thinking straight as I make my way across the highway, towards home. I alternately fantasize about scoring and beating up Andy. I don’t get how he can just sit around drinking beer when he’s feeling this bad. Maybe he doesn’t feel this bad. As I get further from the dope spot and the adrenaline wears off, the aching cold resumes its place. My will is weakening by the minute; I’m completely focused on my need to get normal. All I can think of is getting more dope. So fucking depressing. Nothing else exists. No way I can keep going like this.
As I open our building’s front door, I just kind of crumple as the door shuts behind me. I fall against the wall in the small, barely lighted stairwell. I pull my knees up and start to cry. How fucking embarrassing! I’m crying! I feel like shit and it’s just getting worse. Maybe things would be different if this feeling was just starting to ease off, instead it’s going the other direction. It’s getting worse! I can’t think more than 30 seconds into the future. All I have is need. The thought of joining Andy upstairs is impossible. I feel the folded knife in my back pocket pressing against my ass bone and I get an idea.
I walk over to the pile of bicycles by the mailboxes. I unlock the padlock on the heavy chain around my one wheeled bike. If I had two wheels I’d take the bike out and sell it, but there’s only the one. It’s a heavy chain. I put the padlock in my front pocket, gather the chain into my inside jacket pocket and head back out onto the street.
I’m about a third of the way across the bridge when I stop and take a look out over the water. The wind makes it feel 10, maybe 20, degrees colder out here. The East river so far below, is just black, a void between the brightly lit shores on either side. It’s got to be at least midnight and there’s nobody out here, which shouldn’t be a surprise I guess. I’m about as alone as you can get up here. I know there’s no turning back from this. I’ve never felt like a decision I had to make has had actual consequences, but this one must. Big events in my life up until this point have always just happened to me. Here I feel like I’m stepping off a cliff. I’m aware it’s a cliff but it doesn’t matter. I have to do it. Feeling this way, getting worse than this, just isn’t an option.
The first people I’ve seen in about 10 minutes pass by. It’s a couple walking with their arms around one another, braced against the cold. When I first got to the bridge’s pedestrian ramp a couple of bike riders flew past me, but since then there’s been no one. I keep walking. Maybe I’ll step onto the island of Manhattan sicker than when I went up the stairs in Brooklyn. Then far off, high on the arch of the span I see a shape in the lamplight. The sick in my bones goes to my stomach. I get butterflies like I’m about to go over the first big drop on a roller coaster or like when I kissed my girlfriend Justine for the first time.
I try and remember my plan, which was to hide until the person passes by me, but I realize there’s no way anyone is passing another person on this bridge without seeing the other. The walkway, which is probably 10 feet wide makes it impossible. There’s nowhere to hide. So I wait, burning a few seconds by looking out over the water as the human shape approaches. I feel for the chain inside my jacket. I finger the heavy iron knots and pull an end so it hangs out of my pocket. I keep checking the walkway back towards Brooklyn and there’s nobody there. There was a police callbox a ways back but I don’t think I need to worry about it. It’s a long way off. When I look back to the figure, I realize it’s a dude. He’s still a good 100 yards away. It almost looks like he’s swaying though. He’s not walking in a straight line.
I put my hands in my hair and shake it out so my dreads hang over my face and start walking quickly towards Manhattan and the stranger swaying in the lamplight. I make a point to not to look at the dude as the distance closes between us. When I’m able to make out that the guy is white I feel like crossing myself, like you see people do in TV and movies. I was hoping for a young, white kid and it looks like that’s what I’ve got. I don’t know what crossing yourself really means, I never went to church when I was a kid, but it seems like people do it when something lucky or serious happens. The dude seems small and the closer he gets, the more apparent his swagger becomes. He must be shitfaced. Talk about lucky! Let’s just pray he’s got some money on him! Dumb ass! What’s he doing out here alone this time of night!? He’s tiny. And he’s drunk.
I finally take a good direct look at him as we pass each other. He turns towards me and I see that he looks just a couple years older than me. He doesn’t seem fearful. His eyes don’t seem particularly quick, like they aren’t focusing properly. He must be fucked up. He’s wearing those big black metal-shop style glasses. I pull the chain out of my jacket and pull it tight between my fists. I try and spin as quickly and quietly as possible. He’s turning his head. Everything is happening in slow motion. I raise the chain and pull it as tight as I can around his neck. He grabs the chain, grunts and I try and force all my weight to the side. He stumbles and gets a bent knee under himself as I push him, facedown onto the wooden planks. It’s weird, my motions are slow, but at the same time the whole thing happens faster than I dared to hope. He’s barely fighting back. After a quick stumble forward, he’s lying prone, flat on the walkway. I jam my knee into his back, pull the chain and shout louder than I’d meant to, “The Money!”
This is strange. It’s too easy. My adrenaline is pumping but he’s not fighting. He pulls his wallet from his back pocket and tosses it onto the ground. I don’t know whether to drop the chain or not. I take a chance and grab the wallet and pry it open with a single hand. I see money. Any green paper is good enough for me. I pull the chain out from under him and step on him. I thumb through the wallet real quick and grab a thin pile of bills with a $20 on top.
“Count to 100! Don’t get up until I’m out of sight! If you do, I’ll split your head open!” I turn. “You hear me?”
I hear a stunted, “yeah.” I stuff the cash into my front pocket and toss the wallet at him. As I’m leaving I kick him in the ribs. Hard. I’m not sure why, but it feels good. I take off running, back towards Brooklyn. My heart is beating like crazy. The wind whipping past my ears and the traffic down below the walkway gives me the feeling that I’m underwater or something. I try and slow down and turn around to see if the dude has gotten up but it’s hard to run and look back at the same time. I end up neither running nor looking backwards particularly well, so I stop. I squint into the distance and it looks like he’s still down on the ground. I run full speed until I’m off the bridge. When I finally get to Bedford, where there are a few people around, I slow down and try to fit in. I keep heading North and then when I don’t hear any sirens I start a circuitous route back towards the dope spot.