The apartment is on the third floor of an old brick tenement. I knock on the door and hear the clack of deadbolts being unlocked.
His name, according to the delivery slip, is Matthew Street. He looks about 40 and has long black hair and the physique of a career junkie or Steven Tyler impersonator. He gives me a surprised look as he opens the door. At first I think he mistakes me for a gang member, so I hold up my gang-neutral pink bracelet and shirt. Then I realize he's looking at the dark circle on my crotch. After a long pause, he says "Come in."
His apartment is a shambles of soiled rugs and unbought furniture - he has one table and a lawn chair and milk crate for seats. The air smells like cigarettes and feces trying to mask an even worse smell.
"Did you have any trouble finding the place?" he says as he locks the door behind me.
"No." I stare at him a few seconds, then remember that when someone asks a question it's so they can use part of the answer as a segue into a story about themselves. So I add "I did pee my pants though," figuring that'll give him something to work with.
He just stares back at me and says, "My money's in the kitchen. Have a seat." Then he looks at my crotch again and adds "On the crate." and points to the crate.
I sit down and put the heroin on the table, which is covered with ashtrays, half-empty beers, and drug paraphernalia - needles, a cooker, and a pill crusher. There's also a box of fudgesicles. I haven't eaten all day and they look delicious. I reach for the box, but I see him coming back from the kitchen, so I reach out with my other hand to make it look like I'm stretching. He lays my money on the table and looks at the box. "Have one if you wa-"
His sentence is cut short by the sound of me tearing open the box. I take out a fudgesicle and stick it in my mouth. It tastes delicious - sweet, fudgy and savory. Like what human flesh must taste like to zombies.
He smiles. "Good, isn't it? They were to me too. At first. Then I got sick of them."
He takes out his needle and prepares a shot. "Just like life. Life is a lot like a fudgesicle: cold and hard. Tasty sometimes, sure. But mostly cold and hard. That's why I do drugs to kill the pain away."
"Uh huh." I'm licking the last chocolate off the stick and wishing he'd stop talking because it's ruining my sugar buzz to the point where I need another fudgesicle, so I take another one and start eating it.
He gives me a disgusted look. "Jesus, slow down. You're going to get sick."
I make an irritated face, trying to politely communicate that I'm in the zone with my fudgesicle and would rather not be bothered. But he doesn't get the message.
"It's getting all over your shirt. That's disgusting."
I roll my eyes. "Can this conversation wait until another time? Like any time after I'm done with this fudgesicle and the next one I'm going to eat after this one?" I reach for another fudgesicle, and his pill crusher so I can insufflate it.
Are you concerned that you may be a character trapped in a Tom Waits song? Be smart and learn the warning signs before it's too late. Also, it's too late. It has always been too late.
I'm haunted by a recurring vision of a skeleton flipping me off. To avoid seeing this terrifying image in bumper sticker form, I pay someone with a blank bumper to drive in front of me at all times.
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