Today Arty Party and I stopped at the Circle K for Thirst Busters. I stayed in the car while she went in to get them. A young guy came out, I would place him in his mid-twenties, and he looked like a combination of singer Julian Casablancas and my friend Gerlando. His hair was messy, he was cute, and I watched him as he made his way to the junker parked two spots away from mine. He moved slowly, kind of in a fog and I instantly pegged him for a piper, as in, drug addict. He climbed behind the wheel, his head rolled forward, he brought it back up. He took a few breaths, closed his eyes, fought to open them again. He tried several times to light the cigarette he managed to place between his lips, the weight of his hands too heavy as he let them fall away four times before actually lighting the damn thing. He turned his head in my direction and we got eye contact. Normally I would immediately turn away from a thing like this, pretend I wasn’t looking, try to hide that I’d even caught as much as I did, but this was weird. It was different. We stared at each other for a moment, his face admitting how fucked up he was, how powerless to stop, how unwilling he was to stop. My face said, yes, dude, I get it and I’m so sorry because we both know you’ll be dead in a few if you don’t stop.
I finally looked away. Making someone stoned out of his mind more paranoid or aware of being caught wasn’t something I wanted to drive home. An old man came out of Circle K, someone actually who looked old but probably wasn’t much older than me. He had on a Flyers shirt, Gagne on the back, which I can certainly appreciate. He was carrying a case of beer and stopped at the piper’s car, knocking on the driver’s window. I was curious enough to keep watching, but a car pulled into the open spot between us, blocking my view. Damn.
Soon AP came out with our Busters, two skinny skanks in jean cut-offs and bikini tops following close behind. They climbed into the front seat with the piper. AP and I talked about them–I told her about the guy, she talked about the two girls and how they shared a hot dog in the Circle K, no bun, loaded with ketchup, mustard and relish. We speculated on several scenarios, where the three of them had been, where they were going now, why they were all crammed into the front seat when the backseat was empty. My main thought was how the piper could barely keep his eyes open and yet now he was going to drive somewhere. Somewhere, meaning wherever the three of them go and come from to get fucked up, prompting me to comment, “Wherever it is, I hope it isn’t too far away.”
Minutes later as I am driving home I am thinking of my brother, as I always do when I see a guy fucked up. I think of my dead brother and the path that brought him there. On this particular occasion my thoughts went to something I had seen in his bathroom after he had died. Soap. In the medicine cabinet. Lots and lots of chips of used soap. Collected in a soap box. Next to it was a makeshift crack pipe fashioned from tin foil. So many questions. As someone who has never taken drugs, I wondered if the soap was connected to the crack pipe. Or was it another sign of his obsessive compulsive hoarding that had nothing to do with the pipe? Was the pipe his? Or the messed-up addict daughter of his skank ex-girlfriend? Had he been on on drugs? Or just consumed with alcohol as was the general concensus of the immediate family? I always thought he looked too ravaged to accuse alcohol of being the sole culprit. His face had changed. His bone structure. Like his features had melted. It seemed like a drug face. But what do I know? He had seemed anti-drug. He’d dabbled in them some over the course of his life, but he was never a real user, not even pot. He always steered away from people hooked on junk, shook his head with a “No thanks, man,” when he was offered something. But during the last three years of his life, when he’d fallen away so far that no one could seem to get him? Who knows. Who knows what was taboo for him, what was too much.
All this because I went to Circle K for a Mountain Dew and had to see that piper. So many reasons for me to cut that out.