Maybe it was because of the alcohol. Maybe it was because Denny, per usual had already ruined the first half of the business trip by getting mad and sullen when I talked to anyone but him. Maybe it was just being in Baltimore, a city I’d been high in on more that one occasion. Maybe it was because I remembered that Baltimore had the best heroin. Like bring you close enough to death without the annoying ambulance ride to the ER good. I’d nicknamed the red balloons “Nirvana” that I use to get from what looked like a 14 year old, and no not after the band.
Whatever the reason, when I woke up at 2am in the Inner City Harbor Marriott, still drunk from the lobby bar, I was determined to find some enlightenment. I hadn’t done heroin in over two years. Denny was passed out in the other bed, an arrangement I’d insisted upon because he gave off heat like a prewar radiator when he slept, and it was summer. I’d fallen asleep (OK, passed out but who are you to judge me?) in my suit after the ‘meet and greet’ downstairs that evening. I didn’t want to wake Denny up by changing, so I grabbed my wallet and quietly slipped out the door.
Out in the cool summer air, I lit a camel and reveled in my sense of freedom. When was the last time I was alone? I couldn’t even walk the dogs without Denny wanting to come. Feeling light and peppy, I find one of the Marriott valets and ask him “which parts of the city I should avoid?”. The young black guy tells me that as long as I stay in the Harbor I should be fine, anywhere else in the city is questionable, but if I do have to leave the Harbor just don’t go East. I slip him a $10, knowing I can expense it when I get home, and walk purposefully to the East.
I get about ten block into what is obviously the worst part of the city when I realize I’m starving. It’s probably why I woke up stuck to that room service flyer, my saliva having formed a bond like glue. There was still ink on my forehead, which really didn’t matter because I definitely wouldn’t be running into anyone from the conference in East Baltimore.
Having not seen anyone resembling a drug dealer yet, I decide to stop in a Farm Fresh and grab a sandwich. I was going to need some fuel if I planned on accomplishing my mission before Denny woke up and sent out an Amber Alert.
I eat my sandwich outside the convenience store. Maybe this was a stupid idea, I’ve never been good at cold copping, and I’m starting to feel tired again. That’s when I see two homeless kids panhandling by the side entrance, a boy and a girl. They are my age, and more importantly, they don’t look threatening (i.e. white). I light a cigarette and, casually introduce myself, and ask them if they can procure any heroin.
“And obviously, I’ll hook you up for helping me out”.
Both of their eyes brighten in sequence like Christmas lights, and we head off into the night. The first two places we try have closed up shop for the night. I’m getting pissy because my dress shoes are pinching my toes and at this point (5am) Denny is calling me every ten minutes. This eventually includes my mother, father, and attorney/girlfriend. (To my parents and attorney/girlfriend I am truly sorry for this night, and to Denny, fuck you, enjoy my clothes and furniture).
The homeless girl promises me that her boyfriend will be able to get the heroin as soon as the sun comes up in an hour and a half. He disappears to go do homeless person stuff – your guess is as good as mine – and the girl and I curl up in a glass bus shelter. We both want to sleep the next hour away, but it’s chilly and both know that bliss is just around the corner. We stare at the sky for awhile, but with nothing else to do we start talking. After ten minutes, I realize that the only difference between me and this once beautiful girl, other than my suit, is the people on the other side of the phone I’d turned off.
I slip her two 20s before her boyfriend gets back and tell her to get some food later, knowing she will use the money for crack or more heroin as soon as I’m back at my four-star hotel.
The sun is coming up as the homeless boy and I climb a hill next to the hospital. Just as he promised, an old black man is at the corner and we finally get what I’ve been searching for all night. Searching for my whole life.
We meet the girl a block away at an abandoned house, where the boy tells me has clean needles. When we get there he crawls down a set of crumbling concrete stairs leading to the basement door. He lifts up a blue plastic bag, and under it, I see the familiar orange cap of a plastic syringe. He crawls back up and hands it to me so I can go first.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me” I tell the boy. “This is so old the numbers have worn off”.
He promises me it’s only a couple of days old and because I am invincible and on $1400 of prep a month, I use it. As soon as i push the plunger down, all worries cease to exist.
I turn on my phone and finally call Denny and give him a street address while the boy and girl shoot up. Denny pulls up in an uber 25 minutes.
I start crying as soon as I get in the car, partly for making everyone worry, but mostly because I don’t want to back.