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San Francisco: February Something 1993

4:01 am The cockroaches have woken me again. Eating the melted chocolate drool off of my unshaven chin. A boney finger scratches at the shattered glass void San Francisco, California. beyond the burnt mattress that is my domain, my kingdom. The void; my only access to the rusted out fire escape where they watch me as I light my broken crack pipe. I brush roaches off of my cotton pile, like so many fibrous black beans, and drop them into the spoon. Instant fever, just add water. The throbbing begins at the base of my skull pounding through gray matter, A giant pendulating sledgehammer bursting out my temples. Glassine kidneys shattering, and thick green foam erupts from my volcanic throat.

11:39 pm Complete agony. Pounded the rest of the cottons. Ate five Klonopins and 9 Vicodin-EX and tried choking down a Schlitz malt. Promptly vomited it all up. There's nothing that can cure cotton fever except time. No amount of dope. Couldn't even walk to Dennis's, let alone down to the payphone in the lobby for my pager connection. It'd be a waste of effort so I resign, laying stiffly on the sagging mattress, beer soaked blankets smelling of stale smoke and detox sweat, tossing and turning, thrashing in my own private hell.

6:00 am The fog rolls through the dark canyons of the Tenderloin, adding to the subarctic chill long in the depth of my bones. Dumpsters overflowing and crawling with vermin the size of cats create an atmosphere of even deeper despair that reeks from every pour of my skin. Purple bloated arms hang listless from my torso as I shuffle along, time standing still, each moment a painful consequence of my cursed existence. Muni buses roar past enveloping me in petroleum exhaust, I light a cigarette and curse the driver, puking in the gutter.

6:30 am Dennis doesn't like being disturbed at this ungodly hour. Neither do I but hey, rust never sleeps [it's better to burn out]. He buzzes me in despite his incoherent obscenities through the crackling talkbox. Crawling up 5 flights of stairs; decades of flop-house filth and exfoliated human skin create a slick surface on the stained carpet. Dennis's door is open. He's bent over, tying his shoe. I let myself in and announce my arrival. Nothing. Not a movement. Muni bus roars by below, shaking the building at its deepest core. Lighting another cigarette, my fingers stained yellow brown. Dennis's abscesses drip pus down his shin. Still no movement. I look on the coffee table, covered with cigarette butts, ashes, blackened spoons and 1cc insulin syringes in various states of disrepair. A handful of Klonopins scattered nearest to where he sits. Ahhh. He is in the proverbial "Klonopin pause", the fugue state between pleasant nod and complete delirium. This will take a while.

7:45 am Still nothing. I've drummed on the coffee table. Coughed loudly. Run the sink. Sweated another gallon. Paced the one room perimeter 39 times, had 14 smokes and puked twice. Nothing. I'd rob the fucker but Dennis is insane and he'd gouge my eyes out sooner or later. Seeing the filth under his fingernails would be enough to make you cringe.

7:52 am Dennis comes to. Asks who let me in. I tell him, asking for a gram. He leans back, reaching into his pocket. Eyes roll back into his skull. Then nothing.

8:17 am He comes to again, ignoring me. Cooks a gram and plunges the spike into his neck, with the help of a shard of mirror framed in duct tape. Amazing what you can do with duct tape. He hands me a balloon, as if I had just walked in, counting my 35 dollars in singles and fives.

8:26 am I've already got the shit in the cooker when he announces I can't fix here. Bastard tells me "this ain't a shooting gallery". I glance at the blood stains on the couch and floor, the spray of it on the walls. The burn holes in the upholstery, and the carpet. Bottles of bleach from the needle exchange and exhausted methadone bottles crushed in the corners. Right. Fine. I draw the syringe and lock myself in the bathroom, fighting for a vein while he pounds on the door. Fuck the world until I'm well.

8:29 am Nirvana. The Deep Void. Warm Flooding Bliss. Hah hah, fuck you motherfuckers, you can't touch this. Slumped on the toilet, I am the king on my throne. Nothing can touch me. Right here, right now: nothing matters.

8:51 am Opening the bathroom door. Dennis is back on pause. Propped in the corner, cigarette burning between his fingers. I take the cigarette, smoking it as I glide down the stairwell. No sense in letting the fucker burn down the building, although I muse how it might be a service to the reputation of the neighborhood.

9:22 am Nothing compares to the taste and texture of a fresh, properly prepared cinnamon roll. Nothing. The warm soft dough of the inside, the glazed crust of the outside creating a symphony on the palette. I relish the moment, staring out the window at the foggy streets, knowing I have only minutes before the Oriental owner ushers me out, speaking in machine gun staccato tongue, making room for the next customer at the window seats.

9:41 am Lighting my last Basic I climb the stairs back to the squalor of my room, 3 plastic wrapped white rocks buried in my cheek. I glance in a mirror propped in the corner, not daring to look myself in the eyes. Fuck it. Burning my lip on the crack pipe, I remember a time long ago. All my dreams collapse into the present; just me and my fading glow of smack and the microscopic crumbs of crack I search for in the folds of the bed. The walls close in as I fight for a breath, a fix, a way to exist. The wind screeches through the broken window pane, rusted chains creak and car alarms pulsate as I attempt to surgically remove the bugs under my skin.

by DH © 2002

Editor's Note: The following is basically a "day in the life" story of a junkie living in the Tenderloin of San Francisco in the early 1990s. Although the story is told in a wonderfully stylish manner, the author tells me it is all true (which I don't doubt because it just sounds right. The author left the Tenderloin behind and now lives in the mid-Pacific building a family, creating art, and surfing. He is one of the Ibogaine success stories--he used it to detox from methadone and heroin and has been clean since July 1998.

Editor's Note by Dr. H © 2002
Last Modified: 10 January 2004


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