Crack and Jill By Patty Kinney

Sometimes when I get an idea for a story I do this thing called clustering. I write down my main topic in the center of a yellow legal pad and go from there. Today's word is CRACK.
 
I am lying in my bed, head propped up on several small pillows. I shake my pen epileptically so the blue ink will continue to flow. One by one, I squiggle lines that extend from the center circle outward, then write a word or set of words and circle it. These extensions resemble sperm trying to escape of the edges of the paper into some unknowing sea. In the center of these balloons - How Life Was, The First Hit, Money, Dealers, Laptop, Diamond Rings, Watch, Treatment Center, Sex, Self Care, House, Friends, Jeff, Kids, School, Writing, Car, Bills.
 
I daydream, wondering if crack addicts ever quit looking at white specks on the ground thinking it is some dope that they dropped. I went to my son's 7th grade conference yesterday and I saw white specks on the ground in the middle school parking lot. To me, they looked like crack. Who would be dropping crack in the middle school parking lot? No, it couldn't be crack. The rain and snow would have washed it away. I am down at the bottom of a river in a pool and it just sort of fell on me rolled over my head and got me wet, kept me wet.
 
I am normal like you. Fairly normal. I am a mom after all. The mom who always talks to her children about drugs and makes sure they don't hang around with the bad kids, the troubled ones who might be on drugs. Eight weeks ago I was a member of a close knit writing community - an editor and a publisher, a writer, a featured reader. I was somebody. People asked for my advice. They looked up to me. I was invited places. I taught creative writing. I was trusted. I am the house with the cookies and cartoons.
 
I am the mom who picks kids up from the YMCA. I am the writing mom who is home. My co-worker, Pavel, at the newspaper used to call me "Jill" when I got in the reporting groove. I was Marlo Thomas in That Girl. Sassy and bold. I was Mary Tyler Moore. Nothing could stop me from getting that story when I was at the top of my game. Everything changed about me. The way I carried myself, my breathing. Nothing got in my way. I was Jill going up the hill.
 
Jeff wants to know what I am writing about?
 
"Life," I say. "Like what," he asks. "Crack" I say.
 
"Like doing crack or what?"
 
"Yes, I say. It's about me."
 
He doesn't come up with anymore questions. He laughs and asks if I am going to include in my story about getting down on all fours, looking for crumbs of the drug which we may have spilled on the bedroom floor. Sure, I think to myself. Why not write about sweeping the bedroom floor and looking for crumbs in the blue dustpan too? I stuck my fingers in the little bits of dirt and picked out pieces of anything white, mostly the size of black pepper. I licked them from my finger tips to taste if they had that numbing affect - that certain taste.
 
Most of what I got off my fingers was dirt on my tongue. I spit it back into the dustpan. I did, however, find a few specks. They weren't even worth loading the pipe and smoking. I placed them on my tongue and let them melt. I like that feeling. I like it when my tongue is numb. Jeff. I am in an ocean of love with this guy.
 
Then again, I often confuse sex with love or even attention with love. Will never tell him that I love him for fear he will not say it back. I watch him sleep and it nearly makes me cry. This love. I touch the hair on his chest as he dozes. I run my finger up and down his warm arm. I stare at his unshaven face. That five o'clock shadow at eight in the morning. The sun blinks in through the shade on the bedroom window and hits him angelically. He is everything I've hoped for and everything I should run from. This love.
 
Jeff cooks for us. He does the dishes. He is the best lover I've ever had. He talks to my boys about sports. He watches games on TV and takes us to his own sons' football games on Friday nights. He is a good dad to his boys. He is a friend to mine. He maintains order in my household. He explains plots of old movies to my children. He knows how to fix the furnace when it acts up. He gets up from bed at night to make sure the door is locked and calls my cat "buddy" when he feeds and waters him every day. He makes me laugh and he makes me cry. He watches television in the living room and I watch it in the bedroom. On commercial breaks we visit one another.
 
He knows everything there is to know about sports trivia. He has countless friends. People smile when they see him. Jeff left about three hours ago. He went to the plasma center on the other side of Portland to donate plasma. He makes $20 a whack. He does this twice a week. When I moved to town, two months ago, he quit his job. He hopes to find something better, closer to home. Some mornings he leaves for awhile and says he is going to the unemployment office. When he returns with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his pool blue eyes, I know he has brought back dope. I hurry to the bedroom behind him. The kids are at school. He opens the middle drawer of the nightstand and grabs the glass pipe. He loads a rock of crack about half the size of a pinky fingernail, lights it with a cheap Bic lighter and sucks in the first hit.
 
I love to watch him inhale the smoke and work the lighter. It is sexual, sensual. In and out he guides the air as expertly as he guides himself during sex. I put my lips on his and he blows the smoke in my mouth. Sometimes it shoots down the back of my throat. I like to stand up and take hits. I get a better buzz. Sometimes I blow smoke back to him. Usually, he instructs me to blow it out into the air. Then, I sit on the side of the bed and just enjoy the room getting fuzzy, not spinning, but getting numb from the inside out. That's about the time we usually shed our clothes and ask if the other is horny? The drug works fast on the libido. All you want is to have sex, then have some more. We don't have any money so I don't know how he can possibly score today. But, he always seems to be able to.
 
Of course, one drug dealer has my $2,000 laptop right now and my $400 Seiko watch, hold them as collateral for a $60 we got last weekend. Another dealer has the digital camera I paid $650 for. Yet another had the diamond wedding set from my two marriages. All being held for small bits of the drug. In the past few weeks, I also sold a $5,000 diamond ring to a pawn shop for $925 and have gone through about $3,000 in cash.
 

***
 

I don't have a washer and dryer in the house. I have not done laundry for two weeks. I am wearing the same thing over and over and encouraging my boys to come up with creative outfits to wear to school, assuring them that the pants they have worn for two or three days in a row can go another 48 hours - no problem. The kids slam their bedroom doors and tell me they hate me because I promise every day I will go to the Laundromat but something always seems to come up. Last week, I let "T" (one of our dealers), borrow my car for a night. He kept it for a week. We had no transportation but he hooked us up with drugs. Each time I tried to get it back he screamed at me so I just accepted more drugs from him.
 
I've also had threesomes with four of Jeff's friends for the drugs, the first group sex experiences of my life. I didn't care what I had to do as long as I was supplied with smoke.
 
Jeff's been gone about four hours now. He must have got some drugs. I will be able to tell by looking at his eyes when he returns. If he doesn't have anymore to share with me, he will lie and say he has been somewhere else looking for a job.
 
I am craving it. Thinking about how that smoke floats like velvet inside me, how it makes love to me, satisfies me. We have a few groceries because my friend Suzy brought us some. Jeff pointed out that my food stamp card was good for crack too. Dealers take the card and give you half the face value of what your food stamp amount is. I've done this twice.
 
We went to the food bank week before last and got a couple boxes of food. There were six cans of cranberry sauce in the boxes and eight cans of tuna fish. We also got spaghetti noodles, olives, macaroni noodles, some flour and sugar rationed in clear plastic bags and a pack of frozen chicken breasts. There was some day-old bakery stuff left over from Halloween that the kids sucked down. But without margarine, milk or eggs, it's hard to make anything. I know he is out doing drugs and I am getting really pissed off. Oprah is on TV and he's been gone since Live with Regis and Kelly.
 
One thing about Jeff, he can make something out of nothing when it comes to cooking. He cooks for us all the time. I wouldn't eat if he didn't cook. He makes fried egg sandwiches for breakfast and cooks casseroles for dinner - nothing recognizable but delicious, like the food at a church buffet. Our house smells like something is being cooked in it all the time because someone spilled something on a burner and nobody has bothered to clean it up. I've never had a house with that smell.

***
I met Jeff in August. I went to a singles' dance and there he was. He looked like a jock. He had that bad white boy look - tall as a prison wall, delinquent eyes, hair the color of a wood floor. Down on his luck maybe?
 
We sat at the same table, made small talk and danced. Four hours after we met we were in bed together. Jeff's friends Roxanne told me he usually goes for black women. He ex-wife is black. He's been divorced for ten years. I've been divorced for eight. Jeff wears hi-tops and listens to hip-hop I wear Birkenstocks and listen to NPR. He thinks NPR is a drug and that a laptop is a dance. The sex was good from the start. He talks during sex. He tells me what he's going to do before he does it. It's a guided tour. A voiceover explaining each move. So we started seeing each other most every weekend. I made the two-hour drive from Olympia to Portland.
 
We spent the time hanging out and having sex - mostly having sex. He took me to a titty bar. I'd never been to one. It was just like a normal bar except there was a nude girl in the corner humping a metal pole. At first, she looked like she was in pain. Then she didn't. She had long black hair that touched the middle of her back. Her body was hairless. Everywhere I have hair she was shaved smooth like the surface of glass. I felt German and Italian and hairy. I felt big and fat and pink and Irish too. Plump like a plum hanging from a branch in September. I might as well have had an apron on and served pie in the place.
 
After a month of driving back and forth, I decide I want to move to Portland. I'll find a job. I like Jeff enough that I think we might have a good attempt at a relationship. What do we have in common? I'm a year and a half older than him. He has two boys, I have six.
 
Shortly after we met, I wonder one night if Jeff is "on something". He is nervous and sweaty. I ask him if he is a tweaker which would mean that he had done methamphetamines? I know little about drugs. It's the first one that comes to mind. He gets really pissed off. We are in a car outside his best friend John's house. He is so mad he drives up on the curb. He screams at me and asks how dare I even think such a thing!
 
I move to Portland at the end of September. I pack 44 years into 72 boxes crammed into a 36-foot orange moving van. My first night in Portland I get a ticket and my car gets towed and Jeff introduces me to a sex drug called "Foxy". He asks if I want to try it. I am flustered but I like sex so I say sure. Anything to take away reality.
 
At his house, he takes a glass tube from its resting place near a pile of clothes and fills it with a little piece of something white. He hands me the pipe and lights it, tells me to inhale the smoke slowly, steadily. Toward the end, he leaves the flame on the pipe a little longer and tells me to go ahead and suck hard. He bends toward me and I blow the smoke into his waiting mouth. Then we kiss. He waits for the pipe to cool and then goes through the same routine himself. I watch him intercourse with the pipe. This turns me on.
 
I learned quickly that there is nothing like that first hit. None of the others are ever as good. The first one is dirty sex, orgasm, sailboats, the best lasagna you've ever tasted, the quaintest café you've ever sat in, your first kiss, a walk down the aisle. The first one grabs the inside of your head and you have a new kind of orgasm. I've gone two days without the drug as I write this. I would do anything right now for that first hit. Anything.
 
After we've been doing it for a few weeks, one of Jeff's friends informs he that what we are smoking is crack. Jeff denies it and states it is just a sex drug. He pretty much moves in. He has some clothes, no car, no money. The money I save for moving expenses becomes our drug money. For $20, $30, $40, $50, or $80 at a time, we stay high. With the exception of trying pot once in a while, I hadn't done drugs for 20 some years.

Jeff is still not working. I guess he sort of looks at the plasma center as a part-time job. Suzy and I joke that my mother could finally have a son-in-law in medicine. He is supposed to have a job lined up this Thursday, but he's said that before (normally every Thursday).
 
Just now I cleaned the kitchen and peeled some potatoes for dinner. I am flat broke. We have to drink tap water with our meal. It's been six hours now. We've gotten to the point that when we smoke, we have to split the drugs at the beginning and hide them from one another because one of us thinks the other is getting more. After I set the table, I go to the bathroom to put on some makeup. I sit and watch TV for the next four hours. At midnight I lay down on the top of the bed and stare at the street light poking in through the shade.
 
Author's note: I am very proud to say that I attended rehab and as of this writing have 16 months "clean."