Monday, January 4, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand Part 5

My bosses didn't give up until one o'clock, and by that time I was flagging bad. The cotton candy in my front lobe had melted down into pink slag the exact weight and texture of lead, and it was pulling on my eyelids with iron hooks. 36 hours a-go-go is usually my peak crash time, though with the right dosage I could go for longer. The rain wasn't helping either; it hadn't stopped for a second in all the time we had been sitting there in the dark like morons, and the constant noise was dragging me down into a warm comfy darkness. Only two things kept me awake: the prospect of a few neat lines when I got home, and an unceasing desire to strangle Cesare if he didn't stop pestering me for a Vicadin or an Adderol.

I stepped out into the rain, water flowing gleefully over the tops of my sneakers. The vague squishy discomfort in my feet and the cold rain kept me awake for the drive home, even through three seperate detours due to poor road conditions. The radio was telling me that a state of emergency had been declared for Indiana as well as Illinois. No news bites-this was the EBS, along with that requisite god awful beat. Somewhere in the depths of my sleep deprived fog, I felt I should have been more worried than I was-but I largely ignored the nagging worry while focusing on my driving. My knuckles were stark white against my steering wheel.

The same kind of people that think a puff of reefer will turn you into a jazz music playing serial killer also think that uppers like yay or ice will make you see crazy visions-like Pink Elephants from Dumbo or some shit. They are wrong in this; you can pound out lines all day long and not see anything. It's when you start missing a lot of sleep that your perception starts being skewed. When you get right down to it, its not much different from any other method of sleep deprivation-the brain needs to dream every so often, so whether your eyes are closed or not, you start to see things that aren't there. The dose just helps you panic about it.

I'm no stranger to this particular phenomenon. But it still took me longer than necessary to get my key into the deadbolt of my apartment. The fucker kept moving all over the door. And once I did get it settled in, I couldn't turn it to save my life-it didn't twist right and nothing I could do would make it open. Then there was a small snick, and I was holding the stump of my key in my hand, staring down at it stupidly while the rain poured down around me. I didn't quite hyperventilate, butt I definitely became concious of my heavy breathing and my heart hammering in my chest while I racked my fogged brain for a plan. What's worse, I heard rattling from around inside, and was hellaciously surprised when the door opened in front of me.

I stammered something incoherent as the door opened and a short, skinny girl in faded khakhi shorts and a black tank top opened the door. She had wide, startled blue eyes, and for awhile I couldn't see much else; my perception being as skewed as it was, I simply got lost in them. She had been talking for a minute before I registered any of the words.

"...don't know what your problem is, but take it elsewhere, man." She had a vaguely pensylvania dutch accent, and a tightly pulled ponytail that swished when she cocked her head to the side to look at me. Her skin was pale and freckled, and her features were somewhat coarse. She wasn't wearing makeup, and had slightly crooked teeth.

"What are you doing in my apartment?" I think I said.

"This is my apartment, and I'd appreciate it if you left immediately," she replied sternly. No idle words either-the girl was packing a glock in a shoulder holster, and her delicate hand (with painted purple fingernails) strayed toward it menacingly. Belatedly I focused on the letters stenciled on the pale wooden door. Ooops.

"Shit..." I grunted, and looked down at my snapped off key. "Long day. 'm sorry." The rain hammered down around me while I started to turn away, towards my apartment four doors down. I started to shuffle over to the sidewalk so I could stare impotently at my door and lust after all the delicious goodies on the other side.

"Wait." I turned toward the sound of her voice. She looked surprisingly contrite, though no less ready to ventilate me. "You're Jon, right? You live up a couple of doors." There was a short pause before she stated the obvious. "Your key is broken."

"Yeah...sorry about your lock. I just haven't slept in awhile. I'll call maintenance; they'll let me in." I leaned heavily against the damp brick of the apartment building and fumbled for my phone.

"Well, come on in and get out of the rain at least." She smiled at me, and I smiled back, though I was too tired to make it wicked and lascivious. "You'll catch your death out here." Adorable phrasing; I hadn't heard anyone say that except for British nannies in musicals.

"And I'm not really even chasing it," I said, but I stepped inside-no sense dicking around in the rain while I waited. I stepped into her apartment-neat, clean smelling and cheaply but tastefully decorated. There was a large rubbermaid tub on the coffee table filled with canned goods, and a notepad and pen sitting beside it. That would have seemed odd at any other time, but all I could think of to say as I stood there dripping on her carpet is "Can I smoke in here?"

"I'd rather you didn't," she said crisply, adjusting her pistol rig around her chest. She had cute little perky tits, that I managed to pry my eyes away from. "Still, it looks like you need it. Go ahead, but stay next to the open window."

"You're a sweetheart," I mumbled, and got out the phone for my relevant call to maintenance. I had them on speed dial-when you dabble in the drug trade and date strippers, you get your locks changed often. I dialed them while I fumbled a cigarette from my pack and lit it, sitting in a large cozy papa san by her living room window. While the phone ring I watched a couple of fish flit around in a massive aquarium next to me. She didn't have a TV, but I could hear a radio in the background giving the same rehashed emergency status announcement I had been listening to earlier.

"Not really," she said. She sat down on an overstuffed loveseat and picked up a pencil, making a few scribbles on it while she looked through the canned goods in the rubbermaid tub. "But I've seen you around before, and I suppose that makes you my neighbor. And I try to help my neighbors when I can."

Our conversation got cut off by the chirpy tone of the office gals for our apartment complex. I danced through the tired routine with them. Yes, I'm locked out of apartment 119. Yes, I'll pay the 25.00 lockout fee. Yes, you can reach me at this number. I had done it often enough for it to be rote. I was on my second cigarette and nodding off by the time they told me to call back if I hadn't heard from Maintenance in 30 minutes. For awhile I just sat there in silence, swimming in and out of conciousness, with the sound of her pencil scratching and a staticky radio in the background. It felt good, but I really needed to take a valium and crash for awhile.

"So what is this, all this?" I said finally, more to keep myself awake than anything else. With a wave of my hand (shaking by now) I gestured to the rubbermaid tub. In the corner, I noticed three more just like it, stacked up neatly with a piece of paper taped to the side of each.

"Oh, you know. All this flooding and such." A short, awkward pause. "Well, I keep some extra food around is all. I thought, since I'm off work today, it might be a good time to take an inventory. You know, just in case." I nodded, though I really hadn't grasped it yet. "I know that seems..." Her voice trailed off.

"Weird?" I supplied, and regretted it immediately. "No, that's wrong," I addly quickly, before she could respond. Sleep was loosening my tongue, and yet I could barely understand myself when I was speaking. "Still, with all that shit going on, sounds like a good idea." My phone rang-Cesare-and any profound thoughts I might have had were cut away in a flood of Kottonmouth Kings. "Sorry," I finished sheepishly.

No sleep and no drugs make Mackey...something something.

"No, I know it sounds weird," she conceded. Her hands were undoing and redoing her ponytail; she had done so three times in the last few minutes, presumably to cover up her nervousness. "My parents insisted, you know? And then they called and..." She shrugged, and leaned back down over her notepad. "It's as good a time as any to make sure I'm set."

I was spared a reply as Maintenance banged on her door, startling her and bringing out that snappy blue in her eyes. It was harder than a visitor knock, softer than a cop knock, and consistent and professional-odds are they have a door they practice on somewhere, to get a consistent, customer pleasing sound that some stupid fuck was making a fortune hiring focus groups out to study.

"...ten minutes or so with the rain, but we'll just be detaching your door. You do have ID right?" I did, though I don't exactly recall getting up; I was really caught up in my internal monologue. I'd like to blame that on the pills and sleep deprivation too, but I think I've always been that way. "...outside, you can wait in here till we're done. We have your number so we'll call you. You want that billed to your rent?" I nodded again and signed a couple papers with an illegible scrawl.

The girl-only now I realized I didn't know her name-had come up behind me. "You can stay here till they get done."

"," I said with some difficulty. "Nobody wants that; it's too comfortable in that goddamn chair and I'll pass out." I needed to get some fresh air, filter it through some nicotine, and rely on the cold rain to keep me awake long enough to get inside. But she grabbed me by the arm-the first human contact since Cristal had left my house this morning-and that more than anything else kept me from stepping out into the rain. That, and the memory of her startled blue eyes. They were valium gel tab blue, and nobody loved that color more than me.

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