Written by Susan Lloy
Art by Zach Rossman
It wasn’t a good morning. Sleep never showed. The night before I had been sniffing cocaine hour upon hour. I had started about four o’clock the previous afternoon. Laying lines on the Arborite tabletop. By five in the morning, the coke had run out and I had resorted to hunting powder on the black enamel-painted kitchen floorboards. I examined the clock and calculated the hours until I could next meet my dealer. My heart beat so fast I thought it would break through my chest cavity like baby Alien. Obviously I wasn’t proud of myself, but there is no bargaining in situations like this. Surrender is the only option.
I liked it the minute I first tried it. It took me somewhere else. Far away to a place I wanted to be. It was always great in the beginning hours, but then the down came. Like the great force from an ocean wave that pins you against the bottom. Suspending you in the same position. Filling your heart with dread and regret, fear and hopelessness. Why keep at it? This question rates up there with the meaning of life and so forth. At that time, I still had youth on my side. I bathed and checked my face for any revelation of deviant behavior, then selected an outfit for my expedition. It was already late in the afternoon. I left my flat and headed towards the bar walking past shops and sidewalks dotted with tables and customers. Knew that I shouldn’t be flirting with the idea of another repeat, but tossed it to the place where bad conscience roosts. Heels clicked and my short skirt billowed in the soft breeze.
As I approached the bar, I saw the other cokeheads drinking their beers, smoking cigarettes. I could tell some of them were at it already by their exaggerated facial expressions and moving mouths. I could never stand myself when I was on it. You talk for the sake of talking. No matter what trivia comes out of your chops. And, as you’re doing it, you think to yourself – ‘Shut the fuck up why don’t you?’
My dealer never sat outside. He held court within the dark interior of the bar amidst dim light and old music. Each time I went there the same songs were playing. Bad Moon Rising hung in the room. There were other prospects at his table. Some would sit there endlessly, charm him up vying for discounts. He glanced in my direction. Knew I was waiting. I went to the bar and ordered a beer. Sipped and hungrily waited my turn. My large green eyes confronted the table huggers. My dealer nudged one on.
“Hi,” he nodded.
“I’ll take three grams.”
He reached into his pockets and slowly glided three small bags underneath the table. I got up quickly aiming myself in the direction of the bathroom.
“Grace. Wait. You always do that. A little obvious – don’t you think?”
I lit a cigarette and returned to my table. Looking at the clock. Watching the slow minutes. After about ten had passed I went to the bathroom do my first line. I loved the sensation of it shooting through my nasal passages – dripping down my throat. The immediate clearing of the head. This is what gets you. Gone are the cobwebs and fluff that clog thought. Slows you down. Holds you back.
I picked up my habit in Berlin cruising the clubs and prowling the streets with German friends. Now I was picking up my coke and purse, heading outside to look for a seat on the terrace.
“Is this seat free?”
“Oui. Cą va?”
I smiled. But I was far away thinking of Germans, thinking about Herzog. Wishing it was his smooth, philosophical voice in my ear. Seeing myself as his neighbor. Pulling weeds next to his Hollywood bungalow. His Russian photographer wife is out of town. He invites me for a cocktail. We discuss his films and Kinski. I’ll call him Werner and bring him pickled beets. He becomes my confidant. Offers me a role in his next film…
I didn’t know him but he was there for the same reason as myself. I’d seen him around.
“What do you do Grace?”
Why is that always the first question? The answer given determining the summation of our being. If I said file clerk, he would look at me differently than if I said physicist. I could tell him anything. Serial killer. Playwright. But I kept things simple.
“In between things.”
“Well. What do you usually do?”
“Like I said. In between.”
The coke had kicked in and I knew I’d get trapped in conversation. The long repetitive tale of altered navigations had begun. Routes diverged. Studies, jobs and countries shifted. He told me about himself, which really didn’t interest me.
I was, however, frozen to my seat viewing rue Saint-Denis surrounded by other patrons of the soirée and only gravitated to the bathroom when the urge beckoned. We had been at it for hours. Bag after bag had been relieved of its costly contents. I never wore a watch and my head arched and leaned about – attempted to know the hour as if I were a baby bird waiting to be fed. A large head adorned by a chapeau obstructed the clock inside the bar.
My dealer always left promptly at eleven. The clock read ten forty-seven. He was nowhere in sight. I asked the bartender if he was around. He shrugged his shoulders, poured beers and prepared drinks.
“Is that clock right?”
“No. Runs fast.”
I saw the unhurried hours stretching ahead. Bad thoughts. Tick tock.
Susan has honed her perceptual skills working in diverse environments; from handling nitro and explosives in the Canadian North to slinging drinks in Halifax, she now coordinates a Cardiac Surgery Unit in Montreal. A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Susan has published twice with Revolution House, Production Gray Editions, Penduline Press, and Beecher's Magazine. She is currently crafting her second novel.
(Updated May 2014)
Born in New York and raised in Tennessee, Zach Rossman is a freelance illustrator currently living in Atlanta, GA. Working in different mediums, he brings a youthful energy to his work, whatever the subject matter may be. He has provided work for clients such as Emory University, among others.
(Updated May 2014)