"That's it!" He slaps the fudgesicle from my hand. He stands up and points at the door. "Get the hell out of here! You're sick."
I try to say something, but my tongue is coated with a quarter inch of fudge. I hold up my index finger and take a swig of one of his beer bottles. It tastes like acid and fire ants. I spit it on the floor.
"What the hell is that?"
"Bleach to sterilize my needles."
"Oh." I look at the bottle in my hand, then the brown stain on the carpet. I wait a few moments and say, "Can I have another fudgesicle?"
He snaps, clearly filled with an addict's jealousy at watching someone else get higher than he is. He overturns the table. Fudgesicles fly everywhere. Glass shatters.
"Are you crazy?! Is that it?! Do you just want to get addicted to fudgesicles?" His face is a tortured mask of agony and disbelief.
"I just want one more," I say, calling him on his slippery-slope fallacy.
He laughs. He walks across the room, kicking bottles out of the way, and looks out the window. I see a fudgesicle on the floor and reach for it.
"Don't you get it?" he says. "That's how you get hooked." His voice is bitter and sardonic, like Columbo in the later episodes of his show. "You start just eating a few fudgesicles, and only at parties. Except then it becomes weekends too, and holidays, and special occasions and novelty dates like 12/12/12."
He turns around. "Pretty soon you're selling them to support your habit. Robbing ice cream stands on the side."
"Uh huh." I look at him and nod while my hand feels around for the fudgesicle.
"Listen to me!" He barrels across the room and kicks the fudgesicle away. He raises his needle at me like a dagger. His eyes burn with a nameless rage. I feel the wet spot on my crotch grow a few inches.
"You can't beat an addiction!" His neck and forehead veins bulge. His features contort like a Stretch Armstrong. "You can fight it at first, but it's just a matter of time. Just a matter of time before you're out on the streets, shivering, looking for your next fix. It's over then. There's no escape. It's a disease. It's ..."
He looks at the needle in his trembling hand. A long pause. Then the tortured look on his face deflates, like a botox ad in reverse.
"Oh God, I can't do this anymore."
He throws the needle on the floor, shattering it. He sits in the chair, cups his face in his palms, and starts sobbing.
I look at the fudgesicle on the floor, next to the shattered syringe. It's covered with dirt and ash and paint chips. The AC hums. A subway train rumbles in the distance. I feel something churning inside, some inner turmoil coming to a head. I look over at him. His sunken, tired eyes meet mine for a pregnant moment.
I throw up.
It's a geyser of green and brown that looks like something from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, assuming that movie was about projectile vomiting. It goes all over his shirt and face.
"Get out," he says. I grab the money and run out the door while he's momentarily paralyzed with rage and disgust and maybe relief that none of the vomit went in his mouth.
In my car, I count the money. Only a $2 tip, which barely even covers my fuel costs. I groan and start the engine. It backfires really loudly, sounding almost like a gunshot coming from the window of the apartment, which I notice is speckled with what looks like strawberry fudgesicle syrup.
Suddenly, I feel bad. Mainly because I'm crashing from the sugar high. But also because of something else. Something having to do with what Matt said, and the look in his eyes and configurations of his face-parts when he said it.
But I don't analyze it too deeply. That's how this job gets under your skin: thinking about it too much. Plus I've got my next delivery to focus on: two ounces of PCP to Best Western. I put the car in gear and drive away.
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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