I moved to Richmond because of Pete, and out of Megan’s grandparents’ two-story Colonial in the ex-burbs of Washington, DC. Her grandmother burst into tears when I finished packing my Grand Cherokee with the autumn leaf vanity plates. I’d picked them out while high but was now embarrassed about how gay they looked.
She made sure I packed the fruit cups and vegetable soup she always kept stocked in the pantry for me. I would miss watching HGTV with her and hearing her say in a raspy voice “well that looks like complete and utter shit” I’d also miss watching her chase the Cocker Spaniel around with a towel after he drank to wipe his jowls.
Things had grown a little tense since my parents drove down a few weeks prior to check up on me. I should never have taken that Klonopin before shooting heroin in the upstairs bathroom as dinner consisted of my mom yelling at me to wake up – my sunglasses weren’t fooling anyone.
The drive to Richmond is blissfully uneventful. A week earlier, a concerned motorist had followed me for several miles and video recorded my erratic driving before calling the police. They were waiting for me at the Fauquier County line, and when I pulled my Jeep over I quickly ate the Valium I had hidden in the center console and placed my last syringe between my butt cheeks. It really seemed like the best place for it when I saw the line of squad cars along I-95.
I gave them permission to search my car as I tried to look sober on the gravel curb. In one of my failed attempts at sobriety I had inadvertently left a Narcotics Anonymous workbook in the trunk, and as luck would have it the cop was in recovery. The video showing my repeated swerving was pretty damning evidence, and I ended up tearfully confessing that “yes, I probably should not be driving”, without getting into any specifics.
I was going to keep the needle hidden but the officer told me that if I brought any drugs or paraphernalia into the jail that it was an automatic felony. I remember being pissed off that they took my last syringe since you couldn’t just walk into a Virginia pharmacy and buy a pack of 100.
The jail was clean, small, and crowded, but luckily the Valium I’d hidden from the police in my stomach was kicking in, and all I wanted to do was sleep. The two days I’d spent in custody in North Carolina had prepared me for the cold temperature and inedible food. I was not prepared for the meeting with the local judge via teleprompter when they pulled me from the holding cell later that afternoon.
As usual I was more fucked up than I thought I was, and the judge made a snarky comment. The cop in recovery must have felt bad for me because they never charged me with a DUI which was good, considering I was only 20, and had just gotten one the month before. I guess technically my license was also suspended, but I was still in the habit of ignoring that inconvenient fact.
They released me the next morning. I stood blinking in the sun outside the jail staring at my dead Blackberry. I knocked on the steel door and asked them what I was supposed to do, to which they responded “that’s not our problem now”. Good enough. At least I wasn’t in jail anymore. I eventually got my Blackberry to turn on long enough to call a cab to take me to an ATM and figure out where my Jeep was impounded.
That is all behind me now. I am moving back to a city, and life is going to be beautiful again. Pete had promised me a new car to replace the one I bought with my Wachovia credit card, and hey, I might even quit doing heroin. Mostly because my arms hurt from jabbing dull needles into my skin. I even have a Suboxone in my backpack that I plan to detox myself with. I feel hopeful for the first time in months.
I make it to Richmond in a little over two hours, since I am now following the speed limits suggested on road signs. Pete lives west of the city in the affluent suburb of Henrico, an area that reminds me of the one I grew up in. The last of the heroin I’d done that morning is metabolizing out of my system, and I am starting to feel nauseous as I pull into the long asphalt driveway flanked by stone lions.
An acre of freshly mowed lawn slopes gently upward to the white Colonial farmhouse. I pull up next to the three-car garage Pete added to the main house. One of the garage doors is open and I can see his lime green Lamborghini that he had taken me for a ride in on my second visit to Richmond. I remember him gunning the accelerator at a green light and thinking “this is it”.
My money problem – and that’s what it is a money problem, not a drug problem – is over.
I cut the ignition and catch a glimpse of Pete exiting the house in my rear-view mirror. He isn’t ugly, but definitely not someone I would take a second glance at if I passed him on the sidewalk. Hard work has left him looking his age, mid-forties, and he has a gut that I’ve come to associate with all well off white men over 30. He lacks refinement, charm, and style, and is dressed in his usual t-shirt and Levi jeans. The only real thing we have in common is our love of money, and the things that it can buy. Money is our bond until the end, even after he loses most of it. That comes much later though.
I follow Pete into the house and kick off my Timberlands in the third bedroom that is now mine. It doesn’t have any furniture in it yet, which is fine since I don’t feel like bringing any of my stuff in from the car. I walk into the newly remodeled kitchen and pour myself a rum and coke. At the last minute decide to pour Pete one too so it doesn’t look like I need a drink.
I hear someone thundering down the steps and think, “fuck Travis is home”. Travis is Pete’s delinquent 16 year old son who he’d adopted from a foster home when he was 10. He is too unimaginative to get into any real trouble, but he likes to destroy things around the house, and of course Pete has to hide the keys for all of the expensive cars. Not that I have a better track record when driving them. Nodding out at traffic lights is my go-to, but I’m also fond of hitting the curb at 50 miles per hour and blowing out both tires on one side of the car so that a flatbed has to come. Fortunately Pete owns a towing company.
Pete wants to see the website I’ve been working on for him, so I run out to my Jeep and grab the Dell laptop my parents bought me for college. I’m not sure why I agreed to the task because I’ve never built a website, but I find a template to use online and it doesn’t seem that hard. Luckily the site isn’t for the company, but for the racing Pete had taken up, presumably when he didn’t know what else to blow his money on. Luckily, I am now here to help.
With Pete engrossed in seeing his name scroll across the screen of my laptop, I decide to excuse myself to the bathroom so I can split a Suboxone with myself. On the way there, I decide it will be best to shoot the tablet instead of letting it dissolve under my tongue like I usually do. Might as well get one more use out of my syringe.
I make sure the bathroom door is securely locked before I sit on the tile to crush the Suboxone, and pull the orange liquid up into the needle. It is getting harder to find a suitable vein, and I cringe as I feel the steel tip connect with scar tissue, but eventually the tube turns red with my blood.
As soon as I push the plunger, I know I’ve made a terrible mistake. I am sent into immediate opiate withdrawal, as I have inadvertently activated the Naloxone in the tablet when I crushed and injected it. I rip the needle out of my arm and shove it into my pocket without even rinsing the blood out. Every muscle and bone in my body seem to be screaming “why, why, why!?”. Fortunately, you can’t see the bathroom door from the kitchen because all I can do to crawl on my hands and knees into the living room.
I curl into the fetal position on a brown leather chair, convinced the pain is going to kill me.