Withdrawal started slowly.
I felt… off.
The hair on my legs stood on end. Then, the feeling of needles grazing the flesh of my arm announced itself to my brain.
It began pumping through my arteries. My blood ran cold. It felt like a foreign invader as its iciness insisted if I didn’t come up with a solution fast there would be hell to pay. My stomach lurched. Junk sickness seized me. My body was in revolt and demanded a call to arms.
My flesh was under duress, and I was one phone call away from the solution.
I went to the payphone, my only option after pawning the iPhone my parents bought me. I picked it up and dialed Big Fate as if possessed. I knew this was a bad idea.
A fucking terrible one.
However, my actions were no longer my own. I begged and I pleaded for him to stop through, but he refused. He said what I feared he would. He insisted in no uncertain terms that I come to his house.
I had only been there once before, and I had made a deal with my soul that I would never return under any circumstances. However, this being my only option to get a fix, I hopped into my shitty car and headed over doing my best not to get pulled over for speeding on the way.
Of course, I wasn’t always a heroin addict. I was a very promising scholar in high school. I had straight As until my junior year. However, I fell into the proverbial wrong crowd. What started as smoking weed once or twice on a lark quickly turned into raucous parties with people with unsavory connections. A line of cocaine here or there and I was still in the clear. It was the night that someone laid out a line of smack that was the beginning of the end.
I snorted it thinking it was blow. The euphoric feeling that accompanied the drip down my throat was unparalleled. That is when I started my interminable affair with H, the love of my life. While my world and ambitions burned to ashes around me, there was one constant. The sweet release from life the drug provided brought a veritable cremation to all my cares.
I pulled into Big Fate’s neighborhood barely able to hold onto the wheel with my shaking hands. Calling this part of Rashosha, WI skid row was being way too generous. This wasn’t where dreams went to die. It was a fucking mausoleum of the hopes and ambitions of the destitute. Dilapidated duplexes and derelict apartment buildings lined the streets. Children played in the avenues with the blessed innocence of youth. Not aware that in the game of life, they had drawn the short straw.
I walked up the wooden stairs as they threatened to give way from the weight of my feet, pulled the screen door that barely remained on its hinges, and knocked on the door.
It flew open. Big Fate stood in front of me. He opened the door with aplomb, a sinister smile on his face as he invited me in.
The thing about Big Fate that most people remarked about when meeting him was, naturally, his short stature. He was 5’1” at best, but size isn’t everything. He reveled in the fact that his frame belied how capably ruthless he was. As the five teardrops tattooed under his eyes indicated, he was not someone to be trifled with.
I entered his home, and the smell hit me immediately, the pungent aroma of cat urine. This was strategic. I was convinced that he purposefully did not clean up after his animal on the off chance that someone would dare to ask about the abhorrent stench and give him a reason to seek retribution for the slight. Rumor had it that only one person ever mentioned the smell, and they were never seen again.
My voice broke the momentary silence.
“You… you got it?”
“Yo, I got your shit. Come in and sit down for a second motherfucker. We have much to discuss,” he said with a sly grin belying his true intent.
I had no choice but to come in, sit on the ramshackle couch in his living room, and stay put with anxiety coursing through my veins.
I looked at the shitty coffee table and relief momentarily found me.
The answer to my prayers was two feet in front of my face.
Big Fate picked up the bag and handed it to me. Before I could grasp it, he quickly snatched it out of my hands.
“That’s pleasure motherfucker, first we talk business.” He looked at the stress on my face and reveled in his deceit. “So, you got my money?”
“Listen man. I get paid Tuesday,” I lied. “You give me that bag, and I’ll pay you double.”
“Do I look like a charity motherfucker!” All pretense went out the window. He swiped the dishes on the table in my direction and stood over me in a threatening posture.
“How much fucking money do you me?”
I didn’t respond. Knowing there was nothing I could say to appease him.
“I want you to fucking say it! How much!?”
“$1000,” I replied timidly.
“1000 fucking dollars, and you fucking expected me to front you more! Are you out of your fucking mind?”
I wanted to cry. I wanted to flee, but I held out hope that if I weathered the storm I could leave heroin in hand.
“Please,” I begged. “Just this one last time, and I’ll give you 2,000 when I get paid. You can trust me.”
“That’s one thing I know I can’t do. Me and you are different. I’m beyond trustworthy. If you fuck with me you can trust I ain’t going to take that shit lying down… Yo! D Murder!”
I turned around to see the large form approach. It was Big Fate’s right hand man. He advanced toward me rapidly, brandishing a baseball bat.
“Show our friend here about trust,” Big Fate said with a laugh.
Before I could put up my hands to defend my face, the bat made contact with my skull. Blackness followed.
I awoke in Big Fate’s grimy basement. The concrete rough and cold on my legs as they lay on the floor. The throbbing pain in my head was dulled by the increasing symptoms of withdrawal.
As my consciousness slowly came back online, I realized that the crack on my skull and the junk sickness were the least of my worries. My hands were elevated above my head. Attached were a pair of handcuffs. The handcuffs were tethered to the wooden railing of the basement stairs. I looked up to see Big Fate next to D Murder standing ominously by a small table. When I saw what was on the table, my pulse quickened. My already stressed heart threatened to burst out of my chest. On the table was a 9mm handgun. However, that isn’t what worried me the most. The needle nosed pliers next to the gun were worn down from use and covered in blood.
Big Fate broke the silence with a shit eating smile on his face. “Now, I take no pleasure in doing this,” he lied. “But if I don’t make an example out of you, every junkie in this town will think I’ve gone soft. Murder grab this worthless piece of shit by the legs.”
D Murder sprung to life and grabbed my legs. Big Fate removed my shoes and socks.
I could feel the cold steel of the pliers graze the flesh of my big toe.
“How much do you think a junkie’s toe nail is worth Murder?”
“I’d say about a hundred dollars.”
“Would you look at that. Ten toenails, $1000,” he said gleefully. “If you fucking scream I put a bullet in your fucking head.” The pliers clamped around my toenail. I began to struggle furiously but to no avail.
“Please what, stop?” Big Fate said with a laugh.
“Please… just let me shoot up if you’re going to do this.”
“Unfucking believable!” He increased the pressure of the pliers and began slowly removing the nail from the flesh of my toe. The pain was excruciating, truly indescribable. It made a slight ripping sound as it came free. I wanted to scream so badly, but I knew if I did Big Fate would make good on his threat.
Big Fate held the pliers by my face and showed me my detached toenail. He looked at me with such disgust for what I had said reflecting exactly how I felt. It was at that moment I decided if I made it out of this alive, I would get clean.
“Yo, you got some fucking balls, you know that. I think I’ll take them. Murder take off his pants.” He ripped my pants and boxers downward. My genitals shrunk back in horror as they were exposed to the cold, still air of the basement.
“Please! No! I’ll do anything!” I said pathetically.
My words did nothing to deter him.
I struggled with a fury and vigor I didn’t know existed inside of me. Big Fate scraped the skin of my scrotum with the pliers. As it began to clamp down, a crashing sound filled the air.
The stairway railing broke free of its home. With incredible momentum, the handcuffs came down on D Murder’s enormous head. He fell to the ground unconscious.
The shock of what happened caused Big Fate to become momentarily petrified. I kicked him in the face and scrambled for the gun on the table. In one swift movement I picked it up and pointed at Big Fate’s smug mouth.
“Do it motherfucker! Fucking shoot me!”
My index finger gripped the trigger and pulled.
“There ain’t no bullets in it you dumb motherfucker,” Big Fate said with a triumphant chuckle. His victory was short lived. I grabbed the pistol by the slide and brought it down on his mouth. Teeth flew out. Blood erupted. The force of the blow was so hard it knocked the gun out of my hand. In a panic, I pulled up my pants, grabbed the handcuff key, ran to the stairs, found the front door, and made my exit out to the street.
I struggled to put my key in the ignition as the front door to Big Fate’s house flew open. Pistol in hand he loaded the magazine. I turned the key knowing it would stall. This car was on its last legs. I cursed myself for trading in the 2009 Honda my parents bought me for this piece of shit.
Miraculously, it sprang to life. The sound of gunfire filled the air. The back window of my car shattered. I stepped on the gas. As I peeled out, Big Fate shouted.
“You’re fucking dead motherfucker. You hear me, DEAD!”
I drove at the top speed my beater would allow. When I was absolutely certain I was not being followed, I found a payphone and put an anonymous call into the police (my various warrants for petty theft barred me from reporting anything without a shroud of anonymity). I drove with my destination in mind. I pulled up to the driveway and rung the doorbell furiously (my parents had long stripped me of my keys to their house). My mom answered the door.
“How much money do you need this time?” I collapsed on their front porch.
I awoke in my childhood bed. My parents stood over me looking sullen but hopeful.
My father spoke. “While we laid you in your bed, you said you were getting clean. You said it like you meant it. Do you?”
Tears welled up in my eyes. I answered honestly.
My mother bent down and kissed me on the forehead. Sleep found me once again.
I awoke with a fever. I was hopeful that the worst of the withdrawal was behind me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was back with a vengeance. I called out to my empty home and received no answers.
I awoke again with a start. The sound of the slamming of the front door brought me reeling out of my slumber. They say you can hallucinate when coming off of junk. I pray that is the case. I look out the window and see that it is still daytime. My clock reads 1:00 PM. With my parents at work, who opened my front door so noisily. And if my parents are gone, whose footsteps do I hear coming down the hallway to my bedroom.