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tearing the rag off the bush again
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I gently held Angie's wrist while she tied a lavender, paisley neck tie around her upper arm, slapping and waiting for a vein to emerge.  Our eyes never left each other's, and when that vein bulged she found my soul with her gaze…then I stuck that needle in, soft and slow, pressing the plunger full of Mexican Mud into her irises.

Tino sat on the lid of his toilet while Lucy jabbed him with a speedball right in the neck.

Tino had asked me if I knew a girl who would mainline him in the jugular while he sat on the toilet in his office that was stacked wall to wall with books.  He wanted me to photograph it, so there might remain some sort of a death mask of him.

Was Tino going out of his mind?  I had read that between 1981 and 1985, death from speedballs had risen by 754%, and I wondered if Tino was creating courageously, or if he would end up another statistic.  I knew two girls who might want to stick him in the neck--especially if he paid for their narcotics--but I'd have to go back to the neighborhood I grew up in to find Lucy and Angie.
 
Lucy's was named after her mother's favorite Beatles' song, and Angie's father had nick-named her after his favorite Stones' song.  Lucy and Angie were born at the height of commercialization's artistic expression spawning Rock-n-Roll's adolescents.

I jumped off the bus and walked down New Ave. in South San Gabriel with Chacho, a childhood friend.  I hadn't seen him in fifteen years or so and was surprised he wasn't in prison or dead.
 
Chacho was a spindly Mexican transvestite.  He looked like a mal-nourished werewolf with blood-shot eyes and cracked lips and hard taste buds that were so dried out his tongue looked like rotted wood.  Chacho started jittering and scratching, and his repetitive speech was beginning to annoy me as the neighborhood sweltered like the dried desert buried under the concrete of East Los Angeles.  Chacho had been on a runner, low riding around town.  I asked him if he knew where Lucy and Angie were.
 
"They're probably at Tony's."

I picked up my pace, and made my way to the old street that embodied my childhood memories, Ramona Boulevard.

As I walked onto Tony's porch I overheard him talking to Danny, a junkie pachuco, who came from a long line of junkie pachucos.

"Where did you get the little girl?" Tony asked Danny.

"I'm telling you I murdered a junkie, and you're asking me about a chavala I rescued from of a demon."

A man bleeding from his ears, looking pale and stunned walked by Tony's house.  I thought he was an undercover cop posing as a drug addict, but he wasn't posing.

"There goes that mother-fuckin' narc.  Who the fuck's on my porch?" Tony shouted.

"I'd like to order a Fiesta-Bitch-Taco and a cup of Mrs. McGillicudy's Cunt-Bustin' Juice," I answered.

"Mother-fuckin' Jack-off!" Tony exclaimed as he walked out and grabbed me.  "Dude.  What-the-fuck?  How long has it been, mother-fucker?"
 
Before I could answer Tony was yelling at the junkie walking by.  "Get the fuck out of here, you low-life narc!  I got nothin' for you!"

 "He said your name, hommie, only I heard it not so much out loud, but like he whispered it into my mind," Danny said with a thick cholo accent from inside the house.

The junkie-narc turned around and started walking in a confused circle, scared.  Danny sensed this and goose bumps popped all over his body.  A tingling sensation vibrated his face.

Tony walked up to the junkie-narc, and checked him out.  Tony asked him if he was ok.

I poked my head through the door frame and saw Danny swaying on his feet.  Danny was mumbling that he could feel his feet lifting off the floor.  Then he levitated.  He floated to the ceiling; the back of his neck pressed to it.

He cried out, "Tony!  Tony!  Get me down, hommie!"

"What-the-fuck!" Tony seized Danny's dangling arm and yanked his light body down from the ceiling. It charged me, hommie. Tony handed a piece of paper to the junkie-narc, admonishing him, "You can't hackie-sack a turd you little-bitch-bone-monkey.  Now fuck-off."  Then he calmly walked into the house.   Danny's brown skin turned white.  His eyes sunk deep into their pockets.  He clung to Tony and in a hurried, soft voice he said, "Listen, ese, before it's too late.  Last night at about 3:00 a.m. my dogs were spooked by something outside, ese.  I walked out and heard a noise I never heard before.  It sounded like some kind of demonic animal.  I saw a red bull across the street on my neighbor's yard. It charged me, hommie. It broke through my fence, ese.  The bull smashed against the door, destroying my porch.  It pounded against the door, cracking it.  Then it disappeared.  All of sudden, hommie, this naked white devil with horns and wings was flying above me.  It tried to grab me, but its hands went through me.  Somehow, I wrestled it to the floor.  I cried out to Jesus, but I doubted myself.  Was I paying for my sins?  But I'm not evil, hommie.  I slashed the devil's throat with my angel blade.  Then this little girl came out of the white demon's bleeding neck.  She was crying.  She had been trying to escape.  She reached out to me.  I held her, like I'm holding you now because a demon is trying to possess me for stealing her away.  Help me, hommie."

Danny's face paled ghost white.   He looked courageously terrified.  He resembled someone who had beaten him with a logging chain.  And then he passed out.

"What the hell's going on?" I asked Tony. 

"Danny nodded out."

"How the fuck did he float to the ceiling?" I asked

"That mother-fucker just got back from Chichén Itzá with his cousin, where they were shooting too much Mexican Mud and chewing mushrooms, and playing around with Palo Mayombe.  He's been learning some universal language called Esperanto or something like that," Danny explained.
"Who's the teenager?"

"I don't know," Tony answered pissed-off.  The teenage girl didn't say a word or stir as she silently slept.

"Danny!  Danny!  Get your ass up, you juju, junkie mother-fucker!  Come on, get up!  Get the fuck out of here," Tony commanded, nudging Danny with his foot.  I went to the girl and quietly knelt beside her.  As I stared into her face she felt my breath mix with hers and she opened her eyes.  She had deep green eyes, with auburn lines running through them, leading to brown pupils.  Her hair was bright, brick-red with a slight white streak running through it.  Her body and nose were slender and her smile was full and embracing.  When she opened her eyes she didn't look like a teenager, but more like a woman: an honest, noble, sexy woman.  She reached out and held my chin with one hand and pulled my face to hers.  She whispered in my ear, her lips brushing through my hair. "I know you.  I know all about you," she proclaimed.  And I believe her.

Danny sat up, scrubbed his face, lifted himself off the floor by his hair, apologized, shook Tony's hand, and thanked him.  Then he recognized me for the first time.  "Orale, ese.  What's up, hommie?"  Danny asked with tired eyes, shaking my hand while he continued to scrub his face.  "The compulsive urges of the thoughtless grow like a creeper.  They jump like a monkey from one life to another, looking for fruit in the forest."  Danny said to me, reciting a line from the Dhammapada.  "Ok…Ok…Later, hommies."  Danny stumbled out the door.  I turned around to say goodbye to the girl/woman but she was already gone.

"What the fuck happened to you that night?  I haven't seen you since…How long?"  Tony asked, giving me a bear hug.  "You want a vodka or Scotch?  That's what you drink, right?"

"Yeah, a vodka."

"What's it been, fifteen, twenty years?"

"Something like that," I answered.

But we spoke a couple of times on the telephone and bumped into each other at a Black Flag reunion concert, but we hadn't spent any significant time together since we last hung out at the Rose Bowl with a bunch of punk friends twenty years ago.

Tony was a tall, lanky, tatted-up punk back then and we had just graduated from high school.  Now he was a tall, buffed out, tatted-up, long-hair slinging dope and rod busting for the Iron Workers Union, Local 416.  He'd been in and out of prison for narcotics and drunk driving, and he was most likely still a snap case.

Me and about six friends had been drinking at the Rose Bowl after 2:00 a.m. when Joey, the toughest and meanest punk we knew, (never-the-less, our friend), came up behind Tony and innocently tapped him on the shoulder, greeting him, "Hey man, what's up?"  Tony turned around and punched Joey in the nose, splitting it wide open.  Joey flew back, but he was caught by a retaining wall.  Tony went over too him, cradling Joey's bleeding face with both hands, holding it in a gentle and nurturing manner, apologizing, "Dude.  I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.  I didn't know it was you, man."  And just as we all stood suspended in Tony's heart felt sorrow for busting Joey's nose, Tony continued, "Joey, Dude.  I'm sorry.  I didn't know it was you…But…But…It's too late now."  Then Tony proceeded to pound Joey's face, over-and-over-and-over again, until Joey passed out.  When Tony snapped out of his logical reaction he turned around and snatched a beer with his bloody hand.

One might ask, "Why was Tony's reaction logical?"

It's easy.  Once Joey's eyes stopped watering from having his nose busted, he would have beat the shit out of Tony.  Tony had to act while he had the upper hand, even though he made a mistake.  At this point Tony had to show everyone how crazy he was so no one would side with Joey.

Hanging out with Tony was a coin toss.  You never knew if he was going to give you a big hug and hand you a drink, or if he was going punch you in the face.  I was glad that he was offering me a vodka, and I didn't want to talk about the last night we hung out.  So I told him I moved to the east coast.

I asked him if he knew where I could find Lucy and Angie.

"You and Angie use to romp," he reminded me.  "She's not the same girl she used to be."

"I'm not the same guy I used to be."

"The fuck you aren't…"

Just as Tony was about to remind me of my troubled past Lucy and Angie walked in.  They had just escaped from Prototype Rehab for women, where the speed freaks obsessively cleaned the place and drank strong coffee, while the heroin addicts lounged around reading books and discussed politics and drug statistics.

Morris and Anina were with Lucy and Angie.  In the past Morris kept Lucy warm as they slept in an alley near Temple and Alvarado, in East Hollywood, while Anina and Angie prostituted themselves to support all four of their addictions.  Morris was a large, tall black man, who always behaved and spoke like a gentleman.  Lucy attempted prostitution, charging only forty-dollars per fuck.  She had one taker: a spindly vato named Spider from 18th Street.  After him she was only offered four-dollars by low life junkies desperate to find out if they could still screw.  Her career as a whore lasted three days, so she settled for Morris' comforting arms.  Anina and Angie were able to pull thirty-dollars for head and sixty-plus-dollars per fuck.

Morris and Anina were hoping to cop some Mexican Mud from Tony who wasn't interested in Talley Sticks or Fractional Reserve Lending.  All he gave them was a dime bag of Mexican Rose and a large can of Mannitol, which they could trade for some pills with a dealer in Down Town L.A.  Then they were on their way.

(Mannitol is a milk sugar used as a baby laxative and is commonly used to cut heroin with.)

I had sat patiently feeling the hole in my stomach expanding, which was molested by a natural frustrations in the soul.  Lucy and Angie thanked Anina and Morris for giving them a ride from Pomona.  Then Angie recognized me.  We stared motionlessly at each, missing all the years between us.  I thought of Abraham Heschel writing in Man Is Not Alone, "It is incumbent on us to obtain the perception of life eternal in everyday deeds."  The time Angie and I spent apart suspended our shared experiences, which were never temporal.  They were like cracks in the floor of heaven, illuminating images of what could be.  We were each other's center and the world revolved around our tender yet desperate dreams for one another.  These two girls were everlasting in me, and Angie would always be the girl who reminded me of the infinite possibilities.

Lucy and Tony stood quietly watching Angie and me silently reacquainting ourselves.  Then Tony had enough, "He's still the same jack-off he was when we were kids."

Lucy hugged me as if she were holding herself together with my arms.  The roles had reversed, because Lucy and Angie had kept me from going out of my mind when we were young.  Many times they yanked me back over the railing of the Eaton Canyon Bridge, or slapped my father's snub-nose .357--with one bullet in it--out of my hand, or picked me up from a puddle of puke and blood and tossed me in a cold bath.  I wasn't trying to kill myself I was just a drunken-drugged-out-adrenaline junkie, at least that's what I told myself.

Lucy and Angie got me out of the neighborhood and talked to me about art, books, travel and philosophy.  When we were in high school the three of us use to take off to Arizona or northern California.  The two of them use to read to me.  I'd ask them the meaning of words and concepts.  I had never read an entire book until I was seventeen: Hemingway's Farewell To Arms.  It was the first book to invoke an emotion in me.  Lucy and Angie talked about how a book could scare them or make them cry or laugh or reflect on themselves or discover a world they knew nothing about.  I was too busy getting high and hadn't the faintest idea that the written word could incite such personal meaning.  These two girls mothered me into a new life and now they were tore up.  Their bodies were ravaged from all the dope they injected.

Lucy had abscesses all over her body from shooting speed and heroin.  She was inflicted with Bells Palsy while kicking heroin in the Glendale Jail, but she hadn't noticed it until she was released.  She went to a Thrifty Drug Store and bought an ice cream.  The first lick slid out of her mouth.  She caught a bus, wondering what was going wrong with her.  The bus driver watched her, in his rearview mirror, having a difficult time with the ice-cream dripping out of the left side of her mouth and on her shirt.  Two Armenian girls were laughing.  So Lucy looked at herself in the reflection of the bus window.  She couldn't believe she had lost her smile.

Angie had contracted HIV from hooking or slamming dope.  She was never quite sure from which, but she suspected that she rigged it by sharing a needle with a crippled male prostitute, who died two years later from AIDS.  But she still looked gorgeous.

Angie and I use to make love in the back seat of the Lucy's car as she drove us around.  I always had a bag of coke or some weed, Angie always had money, and Lucy had a car.  All three of us had an appetite for anything that wasn't in the neighborhood, trying to escape the sweat of our streets.  We were inseparable for three years and then I left.

I went through a fanatical religious faze.  It was my way of getting clean.  Lucy was accepted to UCLA, where she majored in psychology and got strung out on speed, believing she was born into the Illuminati only she hadn't actualized her privileges yet.  She thought the Illuminati would contact her when she had attained some secrete knowledge, so she followed every white car on the freeway with a half ounce of meth in her bra.  She did this until, Aleida, her Mexican psychic set her straight.  Angie decided to follow Marco Polo's Silk Route, only she never made it past West Hollywood, where she got strung out.  All three of us went through a two year period where we lived in a cheating confusion which we never resolved but found our way out of.  Then Lucy and Angie found each other again, whereas, I moved to Boston and then to New York and then to Spain and Italy and then to Oklahoma and Northern California.  Now I was back in L.A.

The first time Lucy stuck a needle in her arm was at a Latvian dance convention in Long Beach.  Angie slammed her first dose in the bathroom at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, during a Faster Pussycat show.  I never put a needle in my arm, and Tony only sold the stuff in between Union jobs.  The four of us had a few drinks.  Angie and I didn't say a word to each other.  We just caught each other in between missing glimpses that said everything that was necessary for the time.
 
Lucy's car was in Tony's garage so I asked her and Angie for a ride.

As we drove to Pasadena I told them about Tino.  Lucy was always the most inquisitive and wanted to know as much as she could about Tino.  Angie was looking extremely tired.  She held my hand as she tried to stay awake.

Tino had been a rich kid who was educated at Eton and went to Oxford to study linguistics and began studying copies of Sumerian clay cuneiform texts.  His parents owned a veranda outside of Barcelona where Tino spent his vacations.  When he graduated from Oxford with a Master's in Linguistics he moved to Los Angeles where he landed a job rewriting scripts until he went from chipping to becoming a full blown addict.  When his parents died he shot half his inheritance up his arm.  One night after the Domino's Pizza boy left, delivering ribs and a six pack of Mountain Dew, he shot a heavy dose and passed out for two days.  When he woke up he discovered that he had no feeling in his left arm.  He rushed to the emergency, where the doctors explained that he had killed all the nerves in his arm and that it would have to be amputated.  He asked if there was another solution.  There was, but it was experimental and costly.  Tino sunk the rest of his inheritance into saving the arm that he used to mainline in.  The doctors sent him to Chicago where bionics were implanted in his arm.  Then they waited, hoping he would not contract any infections, which he did and was forced to amputate the arm anyway.  The loss of his arm was a daily reminder that he had become a junkie who would never get as high as he did the first time.

When he returned to L.A. he started using the other arm to shoot coke in the morning and heroin throughout the day, until he nodded out too many times, so he'd shoot more coke and then slam a large dose of heroin to sleep.  He did this for three years.  Then he was arrested and sent to County Jail for six months.  During this time his girlfriend od'd and Tino fell into a depression that he never recovered from.  He cleaned up for about three years.

A friend of ours, who worked in the movie industry, would use on his down time and got pretty strung-out. Tino tried to help him clean-up, but Tino just started using with him.   He's been at it hard, now, for seven years.

Lucy was excited by Tino's story.  When we got to Tino's office her panties were wet, and she pulled them off to prove it.

Angie fell asleep in my arms as I read Wu Ch'Êng-Ên's Monkey to her.  She felt free and independent, with no worries as if she had been carved out of stone and brought to life by a warm, tender wind.  She looked peacefully lost, waiting to leave this world; not anxious; just ready.  When she woke, she asked me if I would shoot her.  I resisted having never done anything like that before.  She assured me it was easy and "not as frightening as when we were children getting immunized."  She sat close to me and whispered on my lips that she wanted it to be me.  I understood perfectly what was about to happen.  Lucy and I both knew what was going on.  Tino no longer felt that he was alone.  All four us knew.  But I was having a difficult time accepting it.

I walked outside and lit a cigarette.  Lucy followed me and explained that Angie was ridiculously tired of being sick, and that both of them believed it wasn't a coincidence we had found each other that day, or that Tino had brought us together.

"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about.  Three lonely junkies, that's all," I said lying to myself.

"That's right.  But you're the loneliest person I have ever known.  I know you're here for this." Lucy reached for my cigarette then took a drag.

We smoked the rest of it together in silence.  Then we went inside, where Angie and Tino were preparing their syringes with large doses of black tar heroin.  Tino mixed his with cocaine.

I couldn't take my eyes off of Angie.  Her slender frame, long legs, small breasts, beautiful brown hair, penetrating green eyes, elfish ears and smile reminded me of the time when I first felt the autumn winds.  She took hold of my sleeve, tugging me towards her.  Lucy leaned over and hugged her with tears in her eyes, whispering her ever constant love for Angie.  Then Lucy pulled away and followed Tino into the bathroom.

Angie and I sank into the center of the sofa.  She kissed me between my eyes and slid her lips down to mine.  We pulled ourselves deeper into each other.  Our lips felt like the first time we kissed, when we were naïve, believing we would become who we'd always dreamt of, but we'd never developed the discipline to manifest those dreams.  Nevertheless, it was a peaceful moment with no longings or surprises.

Angie positioned her arm on my lap and tightened a lavender tie around it.  She showed me where to stick the needle.  When her vein surfaced I stuck it sensitively.  I pulled back on the plunger a little, watching her blood flow into the syringe.  We sat in suspension, exchanging our lost years for one more innocent moment shared together.  The ethereal hovered over us.  We found ourselves in another kiss as I slowly released the brown mud that would never give me back the girl I once knew.  I felt her final touch for one last time as she rushed through me.  Then she disappeared.

I sat with her head in my lap for about fifteen minutes.  I felt empty and quiet.  There were no invasive thoughts…Nothing…Just a still and silent presence.

I heard Lucy washing up in the bathroom.  I set Angie's head gently on the sofa and got up to snap a shot of Tino in his everlasting slumber with Lucy's wet panties pinned to his collar.

Then I sat back down next to Angie returning her head to my lap.  Lucy sat next to me combing her fingers through Angie's hair.  We didn't say a word for about an hour.  Then she knelt beside Angie in a solemn fashion and whispered on Angie's parted lips, "Angie, you're my favorite."

Lucy and I looked at each other as if asking, "What do we do now?"  But the answer revealed itself before we had the chance to ask.  We exchanged our lifeless dueling kisses for Angie's animating kiss.  Then we left like a couple of feral alley cats, dragging courage behind us in our broken tails.  
 
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