diana (a story in progress)


I’m still writing this thing in my head, even though at present the text has been languishing since 2008. If you have comments/questions/criticisms of any sort, fire away – I would welcome a kick in the ass of any sort to inspire me to continue.

1

it was sometime in April that i experienced what former addicts have referred to as the “moment of clarity”. i knew that outside, it was a beautiful day full of beautiful people living their perfectly beautiful lives, while inside i attempted to scrape whatever magic i could from the floorboards. it was one of those twilight periods between the only two states i knew (being high and getting high) that it suddenly occurred to me that our current rate of velocity was unlikely to decrease anytime soon. that more realistically, it was increasing, and that whatever prize awaited the winner at the end was probably going to suck. interestingly, the “moment of clarity” in and of itself was a sort of high, reminiscent of the time last month when it dawned on us that we’d just set the living room on fire.

i feel it’s important to mention that i went on using for another month after that lovely April afternoon. clarity’s a funny thing – it looks so good on paper, but it attempts to force us into action, which was the very thing i’d been avoiding in the first place when i’d started. addict instincts kick in when they sense discomfort of any sort, and the train began to lurch along again as steady as ever a few minutes after the aforementioned epiphany.

yet the moment returned every time my climax faded. each time i found myself clawing about the bedroom or wherever looking for some more happy-fuck-it-all, it would flash and burn in my eyes and i would imagine my mummified corpse being discovered by the next tenant, my body twisted into some awkward, unflattering position, perhaps on the bathroom floor mid-vomit. understand, it wasn’t my death that frightened me; rather, it was the final loss of control it introduced. i wanted to jump into a volcano, or be shot into the sun – something dramatic where i could push the button myself and be done with it.

but the unscheduled 30-odd days post-enlightenment ended, and since my suicide ex machina had failed to materialize, Something eventually happened. we got lit like always, i got up and announced that i was going into the bathroom to masturbate (as usual), and calmly walked out of the apartment, down the stairs and out into the street. i don’t think he noticed, or cared, or either – after all, ours had always been a marriage of convenience and smug cheerlessness that was possessed of a fifteen-odd word vocabulary, another in a string of junkie roommates in shitty apartment buildings scattered around the university district.

i got about halfway down the block before i began convincing myself to go back. i thought about my boombox and started to slow down, but then remembered we’d sold it three weeks ago. a beat later, it occurred to me that i had no idea where my mail had been going for the last six months or so, and started crying over the hypothetical letters that were surely stacking up somewhere, waiting for me. what if they were letters from my family, i despaired. worse, what if they had money in them and it was getting lost? misery. i needed that money, and how rotten did i have to be to let it go to waste, my parent’s hard-earned dollars languishing in a hallway or a landfill somewhere rather than fueling my own noble pursuits?

as i sobbed and slobbered my way down the walk again, my musing evolved – where the fuck was *i* going? i didn’t live anywhere. prior to squatting, there stretched a long line of couches i’d stumbled along, whose owners typically tolerated me for an average of 36 hours before giving me the boot to the next one. before that it had been one night in the shelter, which was enough to confirm that there could absolutely not be a second night. and prior to *that*… those two ridiculously cool months with Diana the Waitress in her boyfriend’s apartment while he was off in Panama City.

i first learned about said traveling boyfriend when he returned one morning. we said very little to one another – him walking in on me fucking his girlfriend on their kitchen table had said pretty much said it all. Diana asked if i minded leaving, which for whatever reason i found hysterically funny. my laughter seemed to piss her boyfriend off in a way that his witnessing my previous pounding her ass had failed to, and he angrily ran into the next room and started haphazardly cursing and breaking shit. Diana ran after him and i made for the fire escape, never to return.

would Diana know where my mail was going? no, i decided – Diana could barely keep my name straight, and had more or less settled on “hey” or “fucker” depending upon the needs of the moment. i wasn’t entirely sure i remembered where she lived anyway, assuming her boy hadn’t kicked her out after Breakfast Interruptus. i could go to the restaurant where she works, i thought. maybe she owes me money. wait, why do i need money? oh. fuck! this is going to suck in every possible way, forever. assuming i’m really quitting. am i quitting? i think i am. goddammit! i want to be comfortable! i want to be nothing and drown myself in the carpet and then maybe eat something. why in the fuck am i quitting?

i couldn’t remember if i’d had a reason; then the clarity thing came back, and by then it seemed kind of lame, so i decided i was quitting because i needed to get a job because i was broke and needed money and… fuck! ok, i have to avoid getting any money. even if someone gives me money, i need to just set it aflame or something. i imagined crumpling up dollars into a ball and throwing them away, and the thought was stupidly exciting, almost kinky.

my revelry was interrupted by a panhandler asking for change, which in my supreme highness i took to be a sign from God that i was on the right path. i thanked him, and he told me to fuck off, and i walked with my head held high for another eight blocks before i stopped to pass out in the alley by the ethnic market. i had just enough time to settle into a dry spot next to the dumpster before things went to gray spots and dull throbbing. “no fucking rats”, i mumbled, and curled into a ball on the warm concrete, mission accomplished.

i dreamed or hallucinated that i got a job wearing a giant hotdog outfit in front of the market. i screamed and carried on like a maniac, but everyone just laughed and threw me change until some fucking kids showed up and tried to set me on fire. i awoke to some actual fucking kids trying to set me on fire, who had understandably mistaken me for some junkie bum in the the alley.

“getthefuckahhhikillyoumotherfuckers” i yelled, or something, and they ran off laughing and cursing. fucking stupid punks. i blearily assessed my blackened clothes; little bits of ash drifted around as i slapped myself about. i was distantly pleased to find myself feeling more angry than freaked.

slouching back to the street, i began groggily formulating my plans for the rest of the day. using popped up immediately, but i blindly pushed it away. i knew that i would likely take the next opportunity handed to me to get smacked up, and i wasn’t quite ready admit defeat. i decided to distract myself for awhile with a trip to the laundromat to lift some new duds. i smiled nervously as i wondered if i would sit inside for awhile, pretending to be waiting for some non-existent load to finish, or if i would boldly make for the first dryer and grab whatever was inside. the first method sometimes backfired because i’d wait too long and psych myself out, but if i kept cool it would allow for me to make an educated choice, since the second method often resulted in a less than useful pile of children’s underwear and towels.

Star Laundry was fairly quiet, but the drone of machines gave me hope for some good pickings. i managed an approximation of a sauntering in, casually looking at my watchless wrist before plopping myself into a plastic chair by the door. i slowly scoped out the pale yellow room; there were two women sitting some distance away, maybe reading, their chairs turned away from me. after a few minutes, i heard the warble of a cellphone, and one of them walked outside to babble on it about how fucking ugly she was today.

i began to tense up, knowing this had to go down quickly or i’d fuck it up and likely have to deal with her screaming at me. she was starting to walk away from the door, utterly absorbed with her bitching. i stood up and walked across the room to the dryer she’d been sitting near, avoiding eye contact with the other girl as i walked past. inside i could see jeans and shirts tumbling noisily. yes! i opened the door and started pulling out clothes…

“hey fucker!” the sudden shout from the girl sitting nearby made me dizzy. the dryer door was between her and i, but i could see her stepping quickly towards me through the porthole, her body sliced and distorted by the worn glass. she slammed the door shut as i started to stutter a nonsensical apology, then stopped when i saw her angry face. it was Diana.

2

i first met Diana outside the restaurant where she worked. she was smoking, wearing a short blue dress and red lipstick and a filthy apron. i tried to bum a smoke off of her, and she eyed me warily, probably wondering if this was a setup to either bum change or fuck her. “yah, sure,” she said after a moment, and handed me one. i stuck it in my mouth and began the faux pawing up and down my sides for a lighter i didn’t have. she smirked, and proceeded to do one of the coolest things i’ve ever seen a girl do: her eyes fixed on mine, she pulled out a match from her apron and snapped it quickly against the wall behind her. there was a hot white flare, and then she was holding the flame in front of her expectantly. i leaned forward, sucking in, mesmerized. “what’s your game, john?” she asked.

i took a drag and tried to compose myself, unsure of how to answer. i’d been on my way to meet a dealer about an hour or so ago when i realized i was too fucking high to remember where he lived. i had given up and started to head back before realizing i was too high to remember where i lived. thus i found my tricked-out self hovering unsteadily about in front of Diana, the waitress. Diana of curvy hips and strong hands and jet black wig. i muttered something about getting something to eat, thinking it would give us something to talk about, her being a waitress and all.

she chuckled and said, “ok, but if you eat here, you gotta tip well, or i’ll cut ya.” i nodded, “no problem, i always tip well,” or something equally banal, and shuffled my feet for a bit, suddenly realizing with a degree of typical inappropriate panic that my grand discussion thread had already wrapped itself up. fuck, i thought. now i’m stuck here. i tried desperately to think of something else to say, but she was merciful. “i’m Diana,” she said, and then narrowed her eyes a bit. “are you stoned or what?” with that, i quickly straightened and started a babbling negatory of some sort.

she burst out laughing, and assured me it was cool. “heh, thanks,” i muttered, and i told her my name and shook her hand. her fingers were rough, but her palm felt pleasantly soft and cool. her grip was strong, but the shake was quick and her hand darted back to her hip. the amber light of the street lamp made sharp puzzles of her face as she leaned back against the wall. i found myself wanting to tell her all about me for god knows what reason. maybe because she was pretty and cool and had been nice to me so far when she didn’t need to be and i’m a sucker like that. but instead we shared a vaguely comfortable silence, and eventually i finished my cig and ground it into the sidewalk. she took one last drag from hers and flicked it away, a silent splash of sparks on the inky street.

i followed her inside and sat down. the menu was utterly baffling until i remembered how out of my mind i still was. i can do this, i coached myself. appetizers are first, then salads, then entrees. this is totally manageable. after what could either have been five minutes or an hour, Diana sauntered up to the table. “what’s it gonna be?” i looked up and giggled before i could catch myself, completely delighted by the absurdity of what i was trying to do. “what do you recommend?” i responded, having resigned myself to be an idiot. she raised an eyebrow, and after a moment, “how ’bout i bring you some coffee while you try to work that out?” for a moment i thought i’d pissed her off, but then she smiled a little, as if in on the joke or just feeling indulgent.

the rest of my “meal” was something of a slow blur. i’m not sure i ever made it past coffee, but i did do a decent job of not staring at her breasts when she came to check on me periodically. the place stayed pretty much empty, with a few exceptions. at one point a homeless guy came by and tipped his hat to Diana. she gave him the day-old bagels and bid him goodnight in what seemed like a ritual of some sort. members of the night’s circus would occasionally canter by the dirty front window in various states of undress and distress. and every 20 minutes or so, we’d step outside and share a smoke, and say very little; but there was a strange momentum building, as we silently summed each other up, each seeming to slowly accept the same conclusion: i probably can’t do much better than this.

Diana started putting things away and i walked over to the register to settle up. “all set, big tipper?” she said, with that awesome raised eyebrow again. i smiled and reached into my pocket, realizing only then that i was about to use my drug money, otherwise known as my current life savings. i pulled out my wrinkled twenty and handed it to her. “keep the change.” i think i did it just to see the look on her face. “what? no. no! really? damn!” she stammered. then blushed, then i think she got a little pissed at herself for blushing, and then she looked down. i was reasonably sober by this point, but feeling a sense of giddy potential to the moment. for fuck’s sake, dude, say something, i insisted silently to myself. the air was humid, and i felt my toes curl involuntarily, painfully, before blurting, “do you wanna hang out?”

she looked up at me with a serious expression. “no,” she said finally, answering a different question. “but you can come over to my place for awhile if you want.” then she gave a steady grin, and i said, “ok.” she finished up, shut and locked the door behind us with a body yank, and we made our way into the city night and heat and noise.

i felt like i’d just asked her to prom or something equally momentous, and i kept fighting the urge to laugh aloud at the unreasonable happiness that flooded my brain by biting my tongue and pinching my balls through my pocket. don’t act like a fucking idiot and fuck this up, i told myself. Diana seemed cool as a cucumber, utterly in command of the whole affair, her hips swaying ever so slightly as we walked along, smoking and chattering about a movie she’d seen recently. “there was all this crazy shit at the end that i didn’t understand, but the girl in it was so freaking weird and hot. she kept talking about this robot boyfriend or something who was also a stove and kept her alive with his heart…” i tried to keep up with her story, but i kept zoning out on her lips and hips and the sound of her bootheels on the sidewalk. i nodded a lot (but not too much) and smiled (probably too much) and then she was asking me a question.

i nodded again, then realized she wasn’t talking anymore. fuck. she had slowed down, waiting for me to answer as i struggled to piece together the question she’d just asked. “umm…” fucking fuck, i have no idea what she just said. she stopped and looked me square in the eye with an ominous tilt to her head. “you weren’t listening, were you, boy?” she said with a somewhat melodramatic snarl. i began to deny it, sputtering something about needing more time to think about the answer. “fine,” she interrupted, and started to walk again.

i followed, unsure as to whether she was joking or not. catching up to her, i caught her smiling before she dropped back to the straight mouth and raised brows. right on, everything’s still cool. before i could press the issue, she stopped us and looked to our left at a dilapidated ivy-covered apartment building with a rusty fire escape zigzagging dangerously up the side. she turned back to me, her face now in darkness with a light streaming behind through her hair, a cold wind rising from somewhere below our feet. oh shhhit, i said, possibly aloud. i’m tripping again and she’s going to figure it out and…

“end of the line, john,” she whispered slowly, drawing from her cigarette. “we’re home.” the light went out, she turned away, and i stumbled after.

3

i awoke to a thousand iron pellets pelting my face, which quickly turned to rain after a series of coughs and twitchings from deep in my lungs forced me to move and open my eyes to the pale orange city sky. i could taste iron wine dribbling down my tongue as i spat and cursed. fuck, i’m still on the roof. i must have fallen asleep. wait, why was i on the roof? who’s roof is this? how soon can i get high? and so on. i played idiot-junkie-detective for another ten minutes or so before my head was clear enough to stand up. wobbling slightly, i started out across the wet black tar, stumbling around the stovepipes thrust about like rusted mushrooms, and out beyond to the edge, hazy streetlights and slow-motion rain that poured down on them, on me, long soaked to the bone.

i stared down at the street below, gently resisting the familiar instinct to let myself fall forward, watching a bus grumble by full of blue light. i kept feeling like i should be cold, but there was a strange warmth in my belly. i coughed again, not as bad as before, and sat down, letting my legs dangle and bounce on the stone ledge. i slowly started to remember the events of earlier that… evening? maybe. from the familiar nag in my head and gut, i figured it must have been awhile since i last fixed. Diana’s face swam about in my head, and i watched her drifting around her apartment, offering unhelpful bits such as do you like beets and take your goddamn shirt off already.

where was she now? had i pissed her off and been exiled to the roof of her building, or had i simply wandered off in the flaky asshole way i typically manifest when i get high or otherwise distracted. i once again decided to look at my nonexistent wristwatch, and noticed that i seemed to be wearing a woman’s slip; further investigation revealed a pair of badly worn black fishnets covering my legs.

“ah,” i said aloud, mostly to convince myself that this made some sort of sense, or otherwise provided a vital clue to the current lay of the land. it did neither, but i thought that perhaps if i played it cool, i’d think of something clever to say to whomever i ran into next. visions of a heretofore unmet tenant, landlord, or policeman danced before my eyes, and i decided it was a good time as any to be shuffling on.

standing up, i scanned the roof, and spied a door which i assumed would lead me into the stairwell. the rising urgency of getting the hell out of the rain and into manclothes again was doing wonders for my sense of clarity, and soon i was turning the knob of the aforementioned door. it turned only slightly, but was evidently quite locked. shit. shit shit shit. i began to imagine having to huddle here all night in the rain, waiting for the reward of daylight and the attempt to summon the sympathies of some passerby on the street below to help a waterlogged transvestite brotha out.

a murky shadow through the small square window in the door appeared, then the flash of a cigarette being lit in a familiar set of full red lips.

“Diana, hey, lemme in!” i croaked. what the hell was she doing, standing there?

“ready to talk, john?” she asked, blowing smoke against the glass and temporarily obscuring her face.

i blinked, then futilely tried the handle again. “hey, come on, what is that, am i ready to talk? sure, yeah, let me in, we’ll talk!”

silence. the rain beat down, and there was nothing for awhile. “you don’t remember, do you,” she finally said, not sounding the least bit surprised or disappointed.

“Diana, i…” just for a second, something stirred. some distant conversation that i felt i was trying to overhear in my own head that simply tumbled into meaninglessness; the closer i came to the speakers, the more it turned to noise. i saw shapes, too close to be in focus, drowned in slow singsong and incense. then, a sting on my wrist that i’d been ignoring until now – a fresh cut, only barely scabbed over…

“did we… holy shit, did we drink each other’s blood?”

she made a sound that could have been a stifled laugh, but then spoke with slow, complete authority.

“are you ready to talk.”

i felt lightheaded, in a not altogether unagreeable way.

“yes.”

the door opened, slowly. she stood before me, and shifted slightly in her boots; her eyes like fire, and empty of mercy.

“on your knees, then, boy.”

it rained for the rest of the night, until just before dawn.


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