A tinge of saffron scented the après dawn sky though Jackie, her sunken hazel eyes rolled back, half collapsed against the wall with the tin foil covering the small pane of glass save for the thin slit one inch by four inch long that had only a moment before been created by her ring dragging across it, was far too busy choking on her own vomit to notice it. An empty hypodermic hung lazily from the vein in her skeletal forearm just below the two other pin sized pricks upon that vein that still were oozing blood and heroin from the two other injections she had awarded to herself five minutes apart from the last squeeze of the syringe just before feeling the back of her head bounce roughly into the cracked plaster wall of the barren save for a stained single mattress in the opposite corner second storey bedroom she had hazily walked into to escape the noise from the activity downstairs in the living room.
Jackie’s chest ached, feeling constricted yet bloated, threatening to explode from the pores of her skin if the thick saline liquid that seeped from them wavered from thickly coating Jackie’s body from the bottoms of her feet to her scalp. Her dirty blonde hair had been thick and long once, but as the years went on some of the follicles had deserted her, just like her loving ‘family’ had. Her chest was being crushed, Jackie reasoned but the cause of the agonizing discomfort was not the toxins she had brought into her lungs and blood system were not the cause – it was just the physical manifestation of what those who claimed to love her had tried to do only to turn their backs on Jackie when they had failed. They didn’t understand that if they had truly loved her then she wouldn’t have needed to buy her reality all these years; they didn’t understand that she needed to be unfettered, to be one with her own identity.
Her parents and siblings had given up on her years before when she had needed them the most. What had been so wrong with celebrating the end of her six month program by showing that the stuff didn’t own her, but she owned them? Why didn’t they see that she could handle a little chemical pick-me-up, enjoy herself and then continue on the business of being a mother? When the government took her children for the fourth time, her oldest daughter’s faith in Jackie did not lessen. Her daughter loved her and knew that Jackie would jump through the hoops to reunite the six of them. A year and a half ago the children were rounded up once more by the government suits for a fifth time, but Jackie found herself staring at an ocean of molten lava without any hoops. At first Jackie was devastated, being forced to sign the rights to her children away, and then she was angry. How dare those people do this to her! So what if she would disappear for a few days so that she could enjoy herself, she made sure someone was checking in on the children and she would always come back – once the money was gone. The anger within her raged on for weeks until that magical moment one afternoon slumped over one of the benches in the park as the vein in her arm throbbed from the tiny tear a careless withdrawal of the syringe had left. It was all about time. Those suits couldn’t and wouldn’t keep her real family from her, once they turned eighteen; the binds that forced them idle were broken. One by one she would gather them together with her as they became adults. Jackie attempted to smile but she hadn’t enough control on her facial muscles to do it fully. It would be fifteen years until we would be whole again, she thought, but we will be whole. In the meantime, she could bask in her chemical escape.
Jackie knew how to contact her eldest daughter when she needed to, both had a profile on “Facebook”, though Jackie had not felt it necessary to do so since the final taking of her brood until six months ago. Jackie took the time to go to the library and messaged her eldest with fantastic news: Jackie was getting married! Jackie had expected a message back of congratulations and excitement of being a real whole family in the future but the response broke Jackie’s heart. Her eldest, the one who always said she loved Jackie the “mostest”, wrote back, “So what? You want me to be happy for you? Are you preggers? Is there another one for you to abandon?” Her daughter, just like her parents and siblings had two years before, blocked her out of her life. At least she had finally found Dyson.
Dyson loved her unconditionally. That’s why she had married him. Jackie never would have believed it if anyone had told her that a man twenty two years her senior would be her husband, her soul mate. It had been fate that had brought them together on that night at the roadside truck stop where they met. Dyson had been driving an overnight express freighter, stopping to look for some relief, Jackie was looking to exchange an outlet for that relief for manufactured mind, body and soul accelerations. She popped, he grunted and instead of kicking her out of the back of his cab afterward, he took her into the diner for a meal. Not just a plate of fries, but a burger and fries with a side of gravy! Dyson knew how to treat a lady. Dyson knew Jackie couldn’t be happy with monogamy; she just was too giving of a person to be held down by that archaic notion, and never said a word against her. He would simply give her a kiss on her forehead when she would come home and give him a fistful of money that her spreading of affection had received in turn. Dyson loved Jackie because of who she was and he knew how lucky of a man he was to be with her.
Jackie had always been thin, her A-cup giving her the lithe look of an athlete without having to put effort into working out. From the corner of her eye she caught the way men and women stared at her since she was a teenager, how much they desired to be with her. At forty she could tell that she hadn’t lost that allure, in fact, her desirous image was deeper etched into her body as the little fat deposits she had once had dissipated leaving only her shapely bones to curve and mold the skin around them. Jackie had to stifle a giggle every now and then as she noticed the lust induced leers of those who she passed on the street: she may look unapproachable but if a mere askance were to be given, entrance to her Eden would have been the reward. The pleasure that those men and women sought could be reached by allowing her to indulge in what gave her pleasure, and she was not strict: heroin, cocaine, meth, crack, T-4’s, so little to ask for the greatness of what could be received. While Jackie did not concede that the key to what she thought was love could be fashioned from modeling clay, others were aware.
The Conner’s, Dale and Marcus, were small fish in a big pond. They were astute enough to run their operation by ‘invitation only’ in order not to ruffle the feathers of the larger operations that surrounded them in the lower income area. Every morning as they counted their night’s take they also counted their blessings that running a crack house wasn’t freely talked about and that while they did not have any patched affiliations, they had been graced by the physical presence to match the stereotype of those who were. They ran their operation smart; no coming and going of clients, arousing suspicions. People came in and didn’t leave until their money had run out. The two storey townhouse was set up for extended visits. Each of the three bedrooms upstairs had a mattress. The Conner’s had taken the time to tack queen size bed sheets down in the basement for twelve more guests to enjoy their ride without presenting a threat of blabbing the location of this fine heroin hotel in some thick hazed conversation with the wrong people.
Jackie knocked on the Conner’s door at four in the morning, Marcus coldly admitted her inside but quickly warmed up when she pulled out the majority of the welfare cheque she had cashed that afternoon. Marcus and Dale had known Jackie for several years; they had partied with her at a nightclub, and then privately afterwards. She was not only a good customer but the men appreciated that for the low price of a tiny rock of crack, she would allow them to do almost anything to her without complaint. It had been a busy night – the couple of days after welfare paid out its commitments always were. They had overbooked, but fortunately the customers were in a social mood, the majority of them sitting on the four ratty looking couches in the living room listening to the static laced radio rather than getting a fix and passing out. Being a host for so long was wearing on the Conners, especially Marcus. The other women that were in the room lived on the streets for the majority of the time, unless they had money, so Marcus’s urges were reined in for the dirty smell that emanated from these women. Jackie though, she smelled nice he noticed as he took her money and handed her three syringes.
Marcus leered at Jackie, pulling out a small clear glass pipe from his pocket and asking her if she wanted to have a little party before she partied like she liked to party for her first couple of hits – upstairs alone. Jackie’s eyes sparkled as he put a tiny white pebble into the pipe’s bowl and handed it to her. Jackie’s sweats dropped to the floor and Marcus picked the thin shell of a woman up, placing her ass on the chipped oak coffee table. He unbuttoned his own jeans and let them drop to the floor; the Conner Heroin Hotel didn’t stand on stuffy ceremony when it came to the stagnant social rules on what should be done in front of the guests and what should not. Marcus spat into his hand, rubbing the slime upon the tip of his penis, he didn’t have the time to make her wet to avoid road rash, so he would make do with get her wet. Jackie held a lighter to the top of the bowl and began puffing to heat the white deposit.
Jackie moaned lustfully as the smoke rasped along her lung’s lining, inviting the dopaminergic excitements gracefully to tour all the attractions along the blood vessel express. Marcus took Jackie’s sounds as encouragement for more and began to thrust into her roughly. Jackie winced from the pelvic pain as Marcus’s belt buckle imprinted itself repeatedly into her bony calf but though she thought she ought to push him off, her instinct chastised her; anger him and he would take back his gift. Instead she leaned back, turning her head to the side even further and watched intensely as the smoke churled downward from the glass bowl into the glass shaft that led to its end between her two dry, torn lips. She smiled. So pretty, so pretty.
“You like it like this, don’t you, bitch?” Marcus snorted as his meaty hands dug deeper into the little flesh Jackie had on her waist. Jackie gave no response; that’s what Marcus liked about her; she knew that good fucking bitches opened up the right set of lips.
The last of the smoke curled along Jackie’s upper throat just as Marcus’s ejaculate curled along the insides of her. When the glass once again was clear did she then turn her head to face her ‘lover’, leaning towards him placing her arms around his neck and kissed the man in front of her while her eyes stayed fix on the glass pipe she held in her hand.
“You were wonderful, baby,” Jackie slurred.
Marcus, his stress reduced, noticed that Jackie didn’t smell as nice as she had a few minutes before and responded by knocking her arms off his shoulders, concentrating on doing up his jeans over the woman whose arms hung limply down. Jackie hadn’t moved when he was buckling up his belt, still smiling goofily so he pried his pipe from her grip. He told her to have a good time and went on to see if the other guests in the living room needed to be topped off.
It was a few minutes before Jackie realized that she was still sitting bare assed on the coffee table, with Marcus’s semen seeping from her onto the wood. It hurt a little bit as she slid off to retrieve her sweat pants from the redness of where the man’s belt buckle had dug into her shallow skin but a quick look at the coffee table to the three stages of heaven minimalized her concern of it. Once her sweats were hanging loosely over her waist once more, she grabbed her prizes and headed loftily up the narrow stairs to one of the bedrooms so that her induction into her preferred world would not be disturbed.
The first bedroom she walked into was occupied, two men were on the mattress engaged in carnal relations, used syringes laid on the faded wood linoleum that covered the entire upstairs beside them. They didn’t notice as she watched them for a few moments, debating on whether to join them or not. The weight in her hands then brought her back from her thoughts to what was really important. She turned from the men and walked down to the second bedroom. It was empty.
Jackie sat down on the mattress for the first injection. She waited for what must have been an eternity for the euphoria to envelope her but it never came. The second vial of fluid shot into her arm gave her a slight twinge of the Promised Land but it was still not strong enough for what Jackie was seeking. Groggily, Jackie stood up with her final hit. She wondered if that maybe is she walked around first, getting her heart rate up if that would engage the heroin gods enough to visit her. She attempted weak jumping jacks but with Marcus’s voice booming up from the first floor of “settle the fuck down up there”, that idea was quickly squashed. It was so reassuringly dark in the room, Jackie thought but it was missing some colour. The light blue paint originally in the room had faded, and the tin foil that blocked out the harsh sun and menacing moonlight was too bland for the nirvana that she had found so often in these bedrooms. Next time, Jackie vowed, she would bring some paints and jazz up that tinfoil. Her shoulder felt cool resting on that tinfoil compared to the relative mugginess that she felt over the rest of her body in the room. Jackie felt at peace. It was time to surf the cosmic wave of bliss; she brought the third syringe up to her arm.
She wanted to shriek from the heat as a mixture of ejaculate and urine began to cascade along the raw and welted right calf as her bladder had exhausted the will to keep its contents within but another wave of bile crashed into the wall of stomach contents clotting her throat. The last dispersal of heroin reached her mind, massaging it deaf to the last warning of danger that her body was screaming. Hoarseness gave way to silence. The sweat, beading on Jackie’s skin, pled with the wall to allow gravity to have its way with her as so many others had. Fragments of plaster drew upon the woman’s arm as the wall obliged. Jackie no more, slid breast to waist into the acidic dandelion pool beside the wall that blocked a tinge of saffron scenting the après dawn sky.
Jackie’s hopes and dreams as a child were simple: to be a princess and everyone to love her unconditionally. Through her adult life, these hopes and dreams were the same – which would seem, to me, the entire problem. Human nature spurs us to believe that royal blood creeps within us; no one really aspires to be the stable boy or handmaiden, yet many of us can be content with being just that. We go along our everyday lives working to better ourselves, most often mistaking financial betterment for spiritual, but neither is mutually exclusive depending on an individual’s goals are. You can colour addictions in a myriad of ways: feelings of isolation, discontentment, rewarding yourself, or stress – what it comes down to is utter laziness. Temporary escapism is a necessary component for a healthy psyche, but when the focus of a person’s life is escapism it then becomes an ugly path for a person to stumble and fall down upon.
Addictions used to be something a family would hide from the outside world, giving neighbours and relatives excuses for that person’s absences or behaviours: “oh, she’s really tired”, “he would have liked to be here but he has a cold and we thought it be best that nobody got it”, or “sorry about this, she has a bout of the stomach flu – so how much will it cost to clean your rug?” Hidden away, sent away or outright cast out, it was the Devil’s mark upon them. Today, though, the media likes to stereotype addicts as those sleeping in dumpsters, committing penny ante crimes for their next fix, and while there are those like that, addicts have become part of the mainstream of society. Television has de-sensitized addiction through celebrity “endorsement” of the behaviours associated. Shows like “Dr. Drew’s Sober House” and the other inane show prior that the good doctor had on about the ‘rehabilitation process’ exploit to entertain or the different ‘magazines’ that splash on their covers who’s in rehab and for what – it makes addiction an additional line on their resumes for their publists to use to tickle a producer’s memory; hell, Lindsay Lohan would be in the ‘where are they now’ category if it was not for her partying and self destructive behaviour. Society has followed this trend in accepting addiction as a disease, taking away ownership of the behaviour from the person and placing it upon something that cannot be held responsible. Diseases are what they are: foreign invaders in our system that may be or may not be able to be combated successfully. Addictions are not foreign, but familiar invaders of our own creation. Success or failure rests entirely upon the will of the person, no one else or anything can make an addict discontinue their behaviour if they do not wish to do so.
Jackie died because she was Cleopatra rather than Joan d’Arc. The majority of us eventually are slain by the society we live in, there are too few who can look in the mirror and say that they have accomplished everything they have set out to do, but addicts do not face their accusers, they hovel in some corner decrying the injustice of it all. Addicts need support but it shouldn’t be in the form of hand-outs. I could have written Jackie’s story with an entirely different ending if our culture had not so embraced the snake-oil salesmen as our gurus.