“How Far Gone” by Kyle Kirshbom

In the backyard of Mickey’s house I snorted 2 lines of cocaine cut with 20mg of Adderall through a duct-taped straw.

I could have gummed it. Dipped my finger in the baggie and rubbed in my mouth. My nostrils were crusty trellises of rocky mucus, but my septum hadn’t collapsed yet. I was leaning on a warped wooden fence watching Mickey bend his neck over the encyclopedia to take the last two hits.

Mickey and I met when he was a barback at Champion’s. While he worked and I drank we talked about chess and which books we liked. He had a tattoo of a snake inside his right ear, and would invite me to hang out at his place after the bar closed. He didn’t have a car, and while I was looking for a place to stay, he let me sleep on his couch if I drove him to work.

I watched the clouds split in twos, threes, and fours. I wiped my nose. It was cold outside. I forgot my lumberjack coat at home. Mickey and I sat in his plastic green patio chairs drinking and smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes. We listened carefully to the birds violently fuck each other in the trees above us and grinned.

Sounds like they’re doing it doggie style, Mickey said.

What kind of birds you think they are?

Probably robins. Or it could be owls.

How are you feeling?

I’m feeling fine. I could be higher though.

Me too.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve smoked meth a few times.

He looked shocked.

His shock was shocking.

I assumed he’d done everything.

He asked if I could tell him the story and I told him it wasn’t worth talking about because it wasn’t that interesting.

He said, I don’t know why, but I respect meth.

I respect good meth.

He asked if I knew anyone holding.

I told him I knew someone.

While birds fucked their tiny brains out we walked inside and played dice for hours.
He won and I won and he won and I won until I said, Let’s go get some meth.

My car leaked oil and was prone to overheating. Backing out his driveway I caught a glimpse of the small puddle left on the pavement, and the dotted trail that would follow us.
Mickey sat in the passenger seat looking out the window not saying anything. Around his feet were crushed-up fast food bags, old french fries, ketchup packets, books, a red lighter, two water bottles, two smoked joints, and loose change that added up to around $1.50. He was uncomfortable.

I pulled into a gas station to fill up the tank, and Mickey went in to piss. I texted Torie we were on the way, and she replied to meet her in the back. I took the pump out of the tank, and Mickey came out carrying a bag of sunflower seeds.

We got in the car and he asked where he could spit his seeds.

I told him to use the dixie cup in the holder.

He was throwing in at least ten seeds at a time, and spitting them out in the little paper cup.
Down the road, when he was halfway through the bag, we passed a couple on the shoulder. They were arguing next to their broken down truck.

I asked Mickey, Isn’t that your neighbors?

He crouched in his seat so they wouldn’t see him.

Yeah, they’re friends with my parents.

She’s hot, I said.

I know.

Smoke was coming out their hood. Further away I looked in the mirror and saw a small flame where the couple had been. Mickey kept looking back at it, and I asked if he brought enough cash.

We drove to the bar Torie was working at and waited in the neighborhood near the back entrance. Torie walked towards us. She looked around the car. Behind her. She took out her hair net and got in the back seat. Mickey’s knuckle hair stood in dark rows while his hands shook in his lap. His face was pushing oils through his open pores.

Supp fags? Torie said as she leaned in between us. She smelled like hamburger grease.

Torie, this is my friend Mickey.

Hey Mickey. Any friend of Charlie’s is a friend of mine. She put her hand out for Mickey to shake.

Mickey hawked his seeds into the dixie cup, and put it in the center console to shake hands. Charlie said you sell meth? Where’d you get it from? Is it strong? He shifted in his seat, the trash at his feet sifted and rustled.

Slow down I just got off work. Torie pulled the pipe and a tinfoil ball out of her leather dope kit.

I said, Calm down Mickey. We’re going to smoke meth. It’s cool.

I put on my ambient playlist for Mickey.

Yeah. Meth is cool, Torie said.

Listen to these calm ocean sounds.

Turn that up, Torie said, Was that a fucking dolphin?

I’d fuck to this. This is some good shit.

Torie handed me the pipe and I held the flame underneath the bowl. Once the inside became opaque I inhaled and handed it to Mickey. He pressed the pipe to his lips, closed his eyes, and inhaled everything he had. The moment where the drugs are inseparable from the user. Twins at the pipe. His eyes closed. The meth entered his system. The pipe was holding him. He was entering its system. He handed the pipe back to Torie.

She smoked like a professional. Nothing sensational, but no less charming. She smoked like an athlete who never stumbles a play. Torie swayed her shoulders to the waves crashing, keeping time. I have a deep respect for people who do things with precision.

Torie laid back in the leather upholstery. Hit this real quick.

The nylon fell from the ceiling into the blue and green dixie cup filled with Mickey’s spit and sunflower seeds.

I hit it really quick. The waves kept crashing.

People walked out the bar with my lips still on the pipe. They walked towards the car, but couldn’t walk past. More people were around the car. Walking in place. Bumping into the car and into each other. At least 3 rows of people around the car walking in place like cadets. Beautiful, repulsive, vague, and blank. No one looked inside. We were invisible to them. I flashed my lights and they were gone.

Mickey, it was a real fucking pleasure. Torie said goodbye, hit him on the shoulder, and left.

Mickey was slumped so low in his seat his knees were in the trash. He looked at me, scrunched up with ketchup all over his jeans. I was too fucked up to drive, but not worried. We sat there awhile, riding with the dolphins. When it got darker, and I felt good to go, I turned the car on to take us home.

The music kept looping, pumping, but everything was still. Mickey sat up before we got to the burning truck we had passed before. He told me to slow down.

He said, I want to see what happened.

I parked next to what was left. Even with the windows up I could still smell the burnt tires and charred frame.

I’m getting out, Mickey said.

I stayed inside, watching Mickey walk towards the truck. He looked around, inspecting the remains. He put his fingers through every crack and crevice. While I watched him put his hands around the destroyed thing, I let the high and the ocean sounds take me to another place. I wondered if he could hear the music from my car, or if he was imagining what the fire sounded like before it went out.

He opened the door and got in the front seat. When he got out and walked back, he was holding onto something.

He got in and he showed me: it was a blank cd with nothing written on it.
I wanted something to remember, he said.

He put it in the player, and nothing came out of the speakers.

We drove home in silence.

We walked through the open door of his house. We sat on the couch facing his TV. The Simpsons played. Mickey stared at the screen.

My eyes shifted, then I fixated on a crack in a ceiling I hadn’t noticed before. A brown roach crawled out its side.

I got up to step outside, and Mickey looked at me and said I’m glad to be alive.
I nodded, and I sat on his front porch alone.

Far away, behind the houses across the street, the bright red tower crane lights bled in the soft blue twilight.

______

Kyle Kirshbom lives in America.

IG/Twitter: @kushbom420

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