eality was seriously overrated.
Get clean, everybody said. Stop drinking. Quit smoking. Just say no to fucking drugs.
Well, maybe if you were fucking Nancy Reagan or fucking Michelle Obama living in the fucking White House, high on your beautiful fucking life, that might be a reasonable way to live.
But here? Living in one squalid little room in his father’s house with no job and no woman and very nearly one whole ball melted off? That was not a reality he cared to inhabit.
Downstairs, ha ha ha and ho ho ho, the party was going on. He couldn’t stand that kind of thing, sitting around with a bunch of people he barely knew talking about nothing and pretending to have fun. And doing it sober? He’d rather melt off the other ball.
To make matters worse, somebody had cleaned his room. If it was depressing when messy, this looked like the chamber of the kind of person who ate squirrels for dinner. Squirrels he caught with his bare hands and then fried alive in the microwave. Cheap 1970s dresser with bong burns and beer can rings on top. Saggy mattress on the floor covered with barf-stained bedspread. Wine-crate bookcase stuffed with yellowing paperbacks of the complete works of Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. And not even any old newspapers or clothes lying around to hide the essential hideousness.
His stash. He’d left one here, he was nearly totally sure: a small one, of indeterminate contents, but still.
He’d already made a cursory search of the neatened-up room to see if anything remained, but he hadn’t located the bong, any prescription bottles, or the emergency bottle of bourbon he always kept in the bottom of his laundry basket.
Now, though, he started searching through the more obscure corners of the room, the pockets of the jackets he hadn’t worn since hard winter, pockets of jeans that had become too big for him, envelopes that might be layered among the papers someone had “helpfully” piled in a tall stack on his dresser. Every few minutes, he had to stop to adjust his sweatpants and the gauze taped over his crotch area. Ouch. One more thing that needed to be anesthetized.
Finally, in the inside pocket of an old corduroy pocket he’d dimly remembered borrowing from Senior last fall, he found it: a little baggy with a few stray leaves and seeds left from a much larger stash. In flusher times, he wouldn’t have even bothered to keep scraps like this, much less smoke them, but everything was different now. Now his heart fluttered in anticipation of the burn at the top of his lungs, at the liftoff of the top of his head, at the transcendence over the rest of so-called reality.
He limped down the back staircase, hand clamped over the pocket that held the baggie, trying not to make any noise. “So glad to see you,” he heard, and “Cora, come here.” He caught a glimpse of the candlelight, the faces, but he hurried by, terrified that someone would see him and call him in.
He didn’t begin to breathe easily until he was in the alley behind the house, perched on the edge of a cement step beside the garbage cans. Then he pulled the baggie from one pocket, and from the other a pack of matches and the edge of an envelope to use as a rolling paper. Hands trembling, he rolled the crisp dope in the stiff paper and twisted the ends.
And then, instead of lighting up, he sat there. He was clean. He was well and truly clean for the first time since…..well, maybe since eighth grade.
Reality definitely blew. But being a drug semi-addict, that blew too. Or blew at least some of the time. Did he really want to go back to that? Did he have a choice?
He lit the joint and sucked in, feeling the anticipated burn, leaning back and stretching out his legs in hope of the advent of a high. His foot kicked an old cardboard box that was lying there, and he was stunned to hear a sound from the box and see it move.
Could this stuff be soaked in some kind of hallucinogen? Was he experiencing some otherworldly kind of high just because he’d gone so long without?
Experimentally, he kicked the box again. This time, it rattled even harder. And this was definitely happening in real life.
Slowly, tugging at his sweatpants for the 6000th time that day, he rose and approached the box. He peeled back the lid. And there, gazing up at him, were the red eyes of his beloved Iguana, Iggy. Unmistakably alive. Mouth open and lunging for his hand.