Thursday, March 1, 2012
Tastes like vodka.
I walked into my house with an unbelievable pain in my lower back, and the realization that Bob was dead and was never coming back to the house. The police had finished questioning me hours earlier and had released me, there were phone calls to Bob's family and explanations necessary of course, all of which I was not prepared to do at the time, and I called my day program to let them know what had occurred and that I would not be attending that day, I then sat on a recliner and drifted off to a much needed sleep. I awoke in a swirl of commotion, ambulances and police cars, and my roomate doing what she could to control the situation, which was well out of her scope. I walked upstairs and blurted that my back hurt, and was instantly on a stretcher, I'd thought I pulled some muscles dragging Bob to the tub, and returning him to the bed after his overdose. I was taken in for observation, where later I found that my organs were failing due to overdose as well, by 'getting rid of the evidence' the only way I knew how to I'd ingested a lethal dose myself. I was in so much pain they prescribed morphine every two hours for what went on for days, and I made this observation. Drug overdose that sometimes seems like a peaceful and easy way out can be more painful than death itself, I've never been in such a state of pain that doctors knowing I suffered from an addiction to heroin would prescribe morphine, and when asked, noone could say if I would live or die, it was touch and go for about a week, and still I played the game. I was not suicidal by psychiatric standards, and was improved to the point of release, and I was not released to an institution, or a detox, but was put in a cab and sent home. Since I had money and no desire to go home, I was dropped off at the local tavern, where in agony, I squeezed onto a barstool and ordered a beer and a shot and drank until the distance home seemed acceptable even with the pain. I returned to my house, and stood in the space where Bob and I had so many escapades, and was filled with a sudden anger with myself, which was followed by nothing, nothing but the knowledge that I couldn't stay in a world of Bob's possessions knowing they were always going to be a strict reminder to me of what had passed, and knowing I could no longer enjoy what average people enjoyed. I deserved far less, and was going to escape to a world where I received or gave nothing to anyone, and would protect the world from a toxic demon, also known as me. I packed two bags of my belongings and left the rest never to return to the scene of the best and the worst times of my life, in my twisted way of judgement there weren't any other options.
I chose a shelter outside the city, in a suburb of Boston that I knew was a toilet, a bad place with even worse inhabitants, and it's where I decided to settle in, it fit my feelings of myself at the time, it was where I deserved to be. Surrounded by strangers, with an income that could provide necessary toiletries and tobacco, I pursued my recovery and made a plege to ingest the medications prescribed by doctors that would restore my sanity and refrain from the self prescribed medications that had led to my demise. Transitioning to shelter life is a hard road, and what's worse about being sheltered is that for most of the morning until afternoon, you aren't sheltered at all and are exposed to the elements of your environment. Shoes protect your feet, a jacket keeps you warm, but what protects you from the deviants who have years of experience in this life compared to your complete lack of knowledge? The people who are first in line to befriend you are the people you've needed to worry about most, if you were treated with indifference, it meant that you had nothing worth taking. If you are approached, it is by a predator or predators who have seen something you own and are completely motivated in the mission of making sure you don't own it for long, you have a choice. You can share your belongings willingly, or watch as they are carted away. By dispensing cigarettes, you are really guaranteeing that you get to keep some of them, the ones you give away insure your safety, and you're accepted into the group, making it easier to sleep at night with your possesions under your bed, your wallet in your pillowcase, while you sleep with your shoes under your head, with the false sense of security that they will surely be there when you wake up.
Originally I intended to be a loner, to attend my day program and stay sober, but survival being an instinct that I posesss, I soon discovered that you were either friendly with certain people or preyed upon by them, and I convinced myself that being an attractive likeable person who could hold his own on the streets, alliances would have to be made lest they discover that I was as vulnerable as any other pigeon walking the streets. I reinvented myself a street worthy soul who could drink and provide drink to worthy sidekicks, and was once again back to a world of drugs, a world I had a great understanding of, one I could pretend to enjoy. I found I was magnetic to the worst of the worst, stealing, drinking, and scamming were traits that were revered, and when in Rome, I found I am quite Roman. When the idea of 'canning', or turning in recycled aluminum came to my mind for additional income, I took to it like an honest soul, it would be two people who came into my life who showed me how to make real money doing it any any expense, and the word 'people' I use exceptionally loosely, but the reality is, they became parent figures who I acted out for attention and acceptance, believing I had found people who I could depend on and trust, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's just say one night I was snoring loudly, and someone came to my cot and kicked it, waking me up and saying his first words to me, which were "Stop fucking snoring!" Snoring is as uncontrollable as your natural habits of say..heart beating and breathing in general. This was an impossible request, but what the hell, I could give it a try, it was early morning, what later turned to be prime canning time, and this is how I met Canyon, the master canner of the city we called home. Canyon it turned out could smell aluminum in a sense, and worked alone in the early mornings. It would take a show of force from a charismatic person to turn this into a profitable triad, and unknown to either of us, he was on the horizon.
Winters end was nearing and the weather was starting to take a seasonable turn for the better. I had assumed my spot in line, the winter arrangement had ended and we had our beds assigned to us in the order of our appearance, the earlier you returned to the line, the more favorable chance you had at a bed, which was never a guaranteed done deal unless you had a permanent bed assigned to you. This made the wait longer, as you had to arrive earlier, which made standing in the line about as much fun as a root canal. Talk always ranged from who had acquired what during the day, who you'd seen making way around town, and always, who was too intoxicated to fool the staff, who would not be getting 'in' that day. Our shelter staff consisted of easy going and not so easy going people who could it seemed smell alcohol from all the way down the line, and the rules were vague. For some, just being intoxicated barred you from entering, for others as long as you weren't trying to smuggle a bottle in during search, you could do no wrong. It was during the chatter of 'who will? who won't?' that I spied a new face in the line, talking to Canyon. This was Sean, and once seeing him, I knew that we were going to join forces instantly, the way you recognize an old friend. He was familiar and a charismatic stranger at the same time, clearly from prison with a 'the sun revolves around me' attitude. Like a Santa Claus who had taken the low road, he wore glasses that made him look smarter, a tank top that made him look more foreboding with a broad chest and muscled arms, and long gray hair and beard that made him look wiser than any man I have ever seen. Incredible eyes that showed his enthusiasm for just being outside after being caged so long, vitality effused from him, and a voice that was at once all I was willing to hear, everything else was shut out, and I hung on his every word, a voice that was deep and masculine but who clearly loved to laugh. My mission was clear before I spoke to him and I planned my strategy immediately. I had food stamps, or what we affectionately call 'grub stubs', and headed to the corner store, breaking line and asking a mate to guard my bag, and my place in line. It was a warm day, and I casually grabbed at ice creams in the freezer, until the store clerk looked at me as if I were totally insane, loading them onto the counter. I then returned to the line and started eating one, and offered them to my friends in line, and made my way towards him. I casually looked in his direction and asked if he wanted one, and it gave me a chance to look more closely at him, to introduce myself, and to see if I could generate two flickers of interest, one that was of genuine friendship and one that was entirely sexual. In a Native American sense of understanding, it was clear to me that Bob had left this world and my life because he knew that Sean was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop our meeting, that it was best to relinquish any hold on me, because the minute I looked, I was lost in him. In a world of wanting and feeling attraction to people that goes unwarranted, hoping that you're right and understanding when you're not, who'd have guessed that this guy would hear the message and have one of his own for me? Who would know that he would ask me to kill him, and that I would agree to do it?
I was sitting on my bed, and thoughts were full of how to do what's next, what to do, and then without question, Sean was sitting on my bed. He told me he wanted to know how he should go about getting help, that he'd heard I was a person who could help him, and was asking for an instructional of how to get what he needed. On my bed, sitting here was an icon in my mind, and he needed my help, all I wanted was to get him under my sheets in bed. Thank god I was drugged or he would have noticed my instant attention, I tried to keep the conversation light, and from the luck of the draw, his bed was just above mine, we were practically neighbors, and he said to me that his name was Sean, but that his friends called him Killer. I called him Sean, I will always call him Sean, because we were not friends, we were never friends, and in his words and not mine I will say 'We are what we are.'.....That's not true, to his friends he would say "Me and Brian are me and Brian". He was a strong presence, but at the same time was missing something in his life, and I became determined to fill his void instantly, his bed was behind me, his feet were at my head, he was tired and drifted quickly off to sleep, and left me sitting perched on my bed, looking over at him and thanking God for having sent him to my life. I also wished it was tomorrow, because I'd have the pleasure of having known him better for two days rather than just the one.
I returned from an appointment, and was walking up the hill of what leads into the city's worst neighborhood, and I looked past a church and towards a liquor store, and coming out the door was Sean, with a brown paper bag, and a spring in his step. To my amazement, I still had fourteen dollars in my pocket, and I caught his eye, and he walked over to me and started talking. The dialogue was friendly and masculine and within minutes I was invited to drink with him and Canyon. Thus began the painful emotional struggle of always wishing we were alone and knowing that his friends had seen the appeal that he so clearly effused. They were attracted to him differently than I was, no sexual tension, but it was the same in that they felt better about themselves when they were around him, and they fed into his desires wishing to make him happy so they were able to bask in the light that his soul shown. We walked behind the laundromat with bottles in hand and we began to bond in the way that men do. Even in homelessness and poverty, there is bragging beyond measure of accomplishments, where you had come from, where you were going, and how you would go about making your wishes come true. Canyon was smart, you knew it from talking to him for five minutes, he was also directed in his goals by his priorities, which were cocaine, beer, cigarettes, and being with people he considered friends. He and Sean had been friends for years and years and I got the encapsulated version of who they both were over the consumption of beer in a back alley. Sean, knowing the last fifteen years of his life was miserable entirely due to substance abuse and mental illness, was the voice of reason to dissuade any illegal activity. Canyon was the devil on your shoulder, waiting until you were just buzzed enough to consider listening to the suggestion that you run astray, and he had impeccable timing. I had no voice in the initial encounter, or in any subsequent adventures we were about to experience, but to agree and do what I was told and before long, we had pooled our money to capture a trip down memory lane for the three of us, but a new experience was also greeted, for here was an alliance that was forming without our knowing. We scored and looked for an acceptable place to consummate the relationship, substance wise, and as we walked down the street, Sean walked in front of me and I looked down at his hips. I then picked up an empty soda container and said "Nice can." He thanked me, and looked over his shoulder and saw I was pointing at the soda, I knew I had found a way to get my point across, and that my point was taken. This is how you hit on someone who is clearly able to reject you without facing the rejection square in the face, but I was not rejected. It's all I need to pursue the chase and I'm proud of myself for being so clever, thank you very much. I've never had such fun in a bush next to a church in the pouring rain with two strangers than I had that day.
Sean snored, I snored, we both snored, that's how we ended up together. At the shelter they group snorers together, like the brass section in the miami sound machine. For an entire week, we got to sleeping next to each other, I was in bed seven, he was in bed eight, every time the staff announced our beds, I rejoiced. This unbelievable man was to my left, unimaginable joy. I had arrived to the shelter with my favorite book, and I leaned over him in front of eighty men and read it to him, it was Dr. Suess' The Cat in the Hat. I read it to him and he let me read it to him with a hand grabbing his upper arm hidden from everyone in sight. For that week I would be standing in line and a leather bag would be thrust next to mine, and Sean would ask me to watch it and guard his spot in line, a spot that noone at the shelter would be fool enough to say didn't belong to him, and when we showered together, in separate stalls of course, it was mentioned that we were 'saving water'. Slowly everyone came to know what was happening and they became as determined as I was to make us together, to keep us apart. It was also during this time that Sean had disclosed that we needed more money, and that Canyon had a way that could provide it, so long as we became a team. We all had something to bring to the table, Canyon had his brain and intuition, Sean was the muscle to provide protection if we were caught, and I was the guy who would push the cart, and was affectionately know as the Ox.
The following week came and Sean, Canyon, and I were standing in line, having gotten there intoxicated. When we did our intake, Sean went in front of me, and I heard loud voices in the hallway. He stormed past me saying he had been thrown out, and I had heard the conversation beforehand, and heard that he was thrown out indefinitely. During the search, the staff member had crabbed too close to his crotch, and Sean's arms went up in defense, enough to scare the staff member out of his mind, and staff members have the final say, Sean was barred for life from the shelter. I watched him from a window and worried for me and for him. Where would he sleep, was I protected in a shelter where everyone had been threatened by our alliance? I had known the arrangement was too good to last but was dismayed that it could end so soon. Canyon came to my side, we rolled our cigarettes for the next day, and he swore that he would find a solution. We would all be together soon, and it wouldn't be in the shelter. Sean was a very popular guy and there was a white Cadillac parked by the street in front of the shelter and that's where he'd stay for now. One night soon I would remove my bootlace and try to strangle him in his sleep because he asked me to, and when I failed it would be the beginning of the end of us.
We met up with Canyon at the recycling center and Sean sprang his plan into action, we would be a team, we would not live in the shelter, and we would split the profits. Though Canyon was only one of the few people who could change Sean's mind about anything, there was no going back once we had agreed and toasted the occasion with vodka and beer, at eight oclock in the morning. Sean and I would live in the Cadillac until we had enough money for the three of us to buy a tent, and we would live in the woods. The owner of the Caddy that day resigned himself to a thirty day stay at the V.A. detox, and he threw the keys to Sean. The car was dead by any standard and would not move, it was relegated as home, and I took my place in his seat, the drivers seat to sleep, with Fred shotgun, and a myriad of people who stopped by and wanted to make the back seat their own. Not only did we have the homeless people who needed a place to stay stopping by, we also had the other street people such as drug dealers and whores who knew the car and its occupants, and were always willing to bring something into the car, be it a bottle, a pipe, or their naked bodies, and the days were filled with adventures that anyone could imagine, ten dollars still goes far in the armpit that is our city. One night as we were drinking and smoking and talking, Sean made a simple request that I kill him in his sleep. He was at the end of his line and wanted out, and wanted someone he trusted to make it happen. I thought I was that person and agreed and gave him a handful of medication that would render him unconscious and helpless, and of the dozen pills I gave him, he secretly took only two, a sign to me that he was bluffing, that he didn't want to go through with it, he should be thankful I noticed the pills he had left in his hand that he tried to hide, it's the only reason he's still alive. I switched seats and sat in the back with our temporary occupants, and that left me sitting behind him in the back seat. When he asked if I could be depended on, I told him I had some experience with untimely death, but I was drunk and had little to use in the way of tools. I untied my boots and made a connection that I had something to use to bring his sorry life to a conclusion, though my primary method would have been to drug him. I tried choking him with my hands while he was asleep, but his arms instinctively went to his throat, and he was a big man, the laces would have to work. He took the first lace away, so I tried my second one, and had a vision of prison for ten years at least with a group of people who knew Sean and would have a deadly interest in the man who killed him in his sleep. I curled up on the seat and went to sleep knowing that I would have explaining to do the next day, but that I'd done the correct thing at least to protect myself. He woke up groggy the next morning, and was bitter, he came up with a plan that I was to cut his throat with a razor knife the following night as we were beginning to can our route, he placed the knife in my hand and begged that I didn't let him down. There was suspense the entire night as he walked in front of me, the plan was that I come from behind him and just do the deed, and he gave me many opportunities. As the sun came up, he admonished my behavior and was disappointed that he saw the sunrise, I looked at him and said that I was selfish, that I wanted him here with me, and that I would not do it. Acts such as this were my downfall, I had lost respect by not carrying out my word, but I kept myself in tact by not performing the feats that would have made him love me. He said he would love me forever if I did these things, and still I couldn't do them. At least I knew my brain was working even if it was costing me the man I was attracted to more that words.
As we were saving for our tent to call home, we were untimely sent from the Cadillac, and had to find somewhere to stay that wasn't expensive, but also allowed us to come and go to forage for aluminum; at the shelter you had to stay indoors until four in the morning, much too late in the night to come and go unnoticed in neighborhoods and backyards. We needed to be out after midnite and until early morning, and Canyon said he knew of such a place, it was indoors and we could stay there for a week or two. This was how at forty years of age, I came to live in a roll away dumpster. We cleaned it up and gathered a mattress that was big enough for the three of us to sleep on and the dumpster became home. Early mornings we were waiting to get our cash for the night before's take and we would gather alcohol, tobacco, and food and return to the yard where the dumpster sat amongst twelve others, in a yard that seldom had any visitors. We had good nites and bad nites, but we always returned as three men who had worked to gather supplies for home. We would take our sleep whenever possible, and spent time alone, in groups of two, and for the most part, as a family of three. The weather was making a more than favorable turn, and rain was hardly around, we were living outside in optimum conditions. We bathed outdoors with gallons of water, and would take turns soaking and rinsing each other, we all had toothbrushes and razors, and we did laundry to guarantee we were always clean, one of Sean's many rules. We were seen by many people in the morning and throughout the days, and noone was allowed to know where we were staying, just that we had escaped the shelter and were now living on our own. It was on one of the nights where we'd had a particularly profitable morning that I could no longer contain my love for Sean. We had been drinking and napping all day, and there was a time where it was only me and Sean, opportunities like these didn't come around much, Canyon and Sean kept the same schedule and it was often me alone with my thoughts or the three of us than it ever was me with Sean. We sat outside the dumpster while Canyon slept and passed a bottle between the two of us, telling stories about life and whatnot, laughing. Our flirting was commonplace at this point, but taken by the three of us as jest though all of us knew my intent was intentional. I've never found it easy to hide what I feel when I feel something strongly and this was no different, no matter what the consequences would be. As afternoon turned to evening, the shadows fell on us as the sun fell away, and we welcomed the dusk. I was entirely consumed by Sean, his presence, his warmth which I imagine he still hides but for special occassions, and the moment which was being written as we watched. Evening came and with it, the bats from the woods beside our shelter came to life, swarming over the yard to the point where the sky was thick with them, and we both became hyptnotized by the mood that was set. I looked at Sean with long gray hair covering his eyes and shoulders with his red tank top showing off the physique that betrayed his true age. I leaned across and brushed the hair away from his face and kissed his lips. Time froze then, and it wasn't until I put my hand to his face as he turned his lips down to meet mine that the moment was broken. He displayed genuine concern (or was it Jewish guilt?) with what had occurred and asked what my intentions were. He detached himself emotionally from the moment and spoke of needing to digest what had occurred, and there was a long pause between us as we stared into each others eyes. He then asked if this was a sign that we should try it again, and we did, longer than we had previously, and we grasped at each other with both of our hands in an embrace. I had told him I was in love with him and we had kissed, who knew what was to come? I was lost in what was and will always be the most romantic moment of my life; next to a dumpster, encircled with bats, with nowhere to call home I had found heaven. There would be a rollercoaster of sexual tension and fulfillment, arguments that would end our special bond, and lies and betrayals that would ultimately tear us apart forever. For this moment, however, we had found love between two men that knows no name and cannot be smeared or undone by events, strangers, or even ourselves.