The Needle And Damage Done

Our closest friend linoleum, at one time white, on the first floor kitchen was curled at the edges, peeling, yellowing. This shitty little nowhere town, once a vacation getaway for wealthy city-folk, now a stopping point off the Iron Pipeline used to run guns and heroin through New England. We’re in the golden triangle, between Rts. 84 and 395 running south to north, and the Mass Pike running east to west. Leaning my rear to the countertop in the apartment, the entirety of this den is almost in view. The kitchen at the rear of the first floor duplex, against the counter, to my left the rear entrance onto the crumbling porch, unused but for trash bins awaiting nightly feeding; to the right through a jamb once housing a door since torn off is the living room, protecting two bedrooms facing the street, a front porch used for porching. Neil is back in the apartment having od’d just two nights previously, his third time this week - Saturday night, Monday night, Wednesday night, now staring down the barrel of Friday. The apartment is crowded, the owner unaccounted for tonight. When present, this doesn’t take place. But she’s not, and this does.

I need to piss. A gauntlet of bodies to maneuver amongst before reaching the bathroom door opening directly into the kitchen in the way horribly designed bathroom doors do inside dingy-town apartment buildings. A bi-fold door that’s been painted over and over and over separates the two rooms, closing just enough for light to sneak out from the center fold, and eyes to sneak in at inappropriate moments when serving gnocchi or pierogis on a Sunday night, leaning over a shoulder, plating a dish, turning to the next and catching a view of of someone sitting on the porcelain chair.

No knock. The bifold wasn’t closed entirely, meaning emptiness, availability. Pulling the center of the doors towards the kitchen, I clambered into the room, over the threshold dividing colors of our friend linoleum. Someone’s there, staring into the mirror above the single-sink vanity of the box store variety, torn at the edges, crumbling corners, musty mouldy scent inside from an eternity of slowly dripping pipes inside the cabinet. I looked up to Rob’s face, stopping a few inches short as the needle hit my eyes, stuck into his neck as the plunger released as the high landed, the blink in which this happens. In this moment, I could assess the heights of the highs my friends were on, how good the powder, how strong the mix; sometimes the needle was pulled out and tucked away, sometimes, often, it stayed in place in the body until later or until someone else undertook the removal process for need of the pin.

I turned. I would piss off the back porch amidst the trash.

A few years later, bearing a shotgun intended for use on his girlfriend, kicking in the back door of her home, our friend Neil would be shot dead by Webster Police.

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