My friends and I were all at a house on Silver Street in Greensboro, North Carolina. I can think of no reason for such a name to have been given it because
nothing shone on this street. Silver started at Lee Street, a greasy area of town, and funneled down into Florida Street, the septic tank of Greensboro. Along the way, you could find an accumulation of greasy people in the joints and bends of Silver, the corners clogged with the grit of the city. Occasionally, the sun showed its face to the people of Silver Street, but only to drive them back into their dark houses where old sheets stapled to the wall served as curtains, as if the sun was trying to wipe away the tarnish.
The house on Silver Street was an old one, white and dissected into apartments. It stood directly across the street from a crack house whose doors routinely opened to hug the addict and deliver its love down through the pipe. The dealers leaned against the white columns of the sagging porch supporting its droopy roof and smoked their weed as the undercover narcs rode past. First, in a brown van. An hour later, in a Honda Civic. Half an hour after that rolling by on a bike.
I say my friends were there because I can’t remember most of their names. I do remember my boyfriend’s name, Jude – he was the thief of the group, and my best friend, Mia Vann – she was a model, tall, blonde, beautiful. There was Daniel, who looked like a woman – a pretty woman; and DJ – he was long, thin and dark, like an old string bean. The room, however, was packed full of people leaning on each other, touching. I wonder who they were. I only know they were people I spent every day with, running up and down Silver Street and sometimes seeping into the rest of Greensboro.
We had transformed DJ’s floor into human carpet. People were draped across the makeshift bed, a mattress on the floor with no box spring. A sea of pale and shiny faces spilled over the edge of the mattress to cover the dingy carpet. Gray film hung on us like a layer of pollution. We were polluted. The room was polluted. Layers of smoke stacked to the ceiling as new smoke from our pot twisted its way around the room, around us, hypnotizing us. Smoky vines wrapped around our necks, reached into our lungs and burst out.
In our ears thumped the deep rhythm of music, primitive and punctuated by the cold dry sound of nitrous emptying into each pair of lungs. Those who inhaled the gas melted into someone’s arms. Eyes closed. We all wondered where they had escaped to in those few seconds.
The smell of armpits was heavy. The room was hot for November, and we were sticky from Babylon. All of the good parties were held at Babylon, in downtown Greensboro. They all ended about nine AM and were followed by the after party – when the real party began. Our bright clothes had absorbed the dull gray from the smoke machine, making us look like an antique quilt spread on the floor, our faces held captive in the folds. Only a thin needle of sun pricked at us from under the blinds.
I can’t remember how many pills. Four? Or how much acid. Two, I think. And some special K. That stuff can put you in a coma if you’re not careful. And those were smack pills. It had been three days since I’d smoked crack. It wasn’t enough. “Does anybody have any drugs?” I asked. “Codeine? OK.”
I placed the white wafer on my tongue. My communion.
I forgot what I had done until I started feeling strange. Not the sick feeling before you throw up, but the one where you don’t know what may happen so you need to separate yourself from the others. Without a word, I got up and went to the bathroom. You know how a dog runs off into the woods to die.
I lay down on the cool pungent bathroom floor surrounded by yellow walls the color of smoker’s teeth. Bubbling oil paint was peeling off the ceiling. It was freckled with mildew. I was soaked. My abdomen was cold to the touch. I felt light and slow, like sinking to the bottom of the pool. Eyes wide. Agape. Blue under the water. A blurry picture hung on the wall over the toilet.
What relief to be finished. Now I could relax.
And the thought of hell crept in. It sounded in my brain like a whisper. Hell. Hell. And I was trapped, blue beneath the ice of drugs. Frozen as my friends gathered around me like I was already dead. They gave their respects and offered a token of drugs to me as a last gift.
Anger thawed me.
* Names have been changed to respect the privacy of others involved and their families.
Parts of this memoir were published as the poems “After Party” in Main Street Rag, Volume 8, Number 4, Winter 2004, and “Tokens” also in Main Street Rag, Volume 12, Number 2, Summer 2007.
Joy Beshears holds a BA from Salem College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Her poetry has appeared in various journals and anthologies including Surreal South, Main Street Rag, BREVITY, Southern Gothic Online, R-KV-R-Y Quarterly, Poet’s Canvas, THRIFT, In the Yard: A Poetry Anthology, Mountain Time, and Caesura. Her poem, “Rapture” was chosen by Kathryn Stripling Byer as Honorable Mention in the 2006 NC State Poetry Contest.