I did not usually get to know my drug dealers very well. Try as I might to start a conversation they just didn't seem that interested, frankly.
I used to buy drugs at this seedy house in Famously Dangerous Neighborhood, and I'm pretty sure the folks at the house didn't speak very much English -- that's not a judgment of any sort, just my experience -- but it was certainly a barrier to getting to know one another.
Buying the drugs was simple. I would go up to the house and knock on the front door. Eventually someone would peer through the little window next to the door to see who it was (I've seen enough movies now to assume they didn't look through the peep-hole in the door so that if the person knocking had a gun, the person peep-hole-ing wouldn't get shot through the door). They'd see it was me, and apparently they were sort of fond of me (or planning my homicide), since they always invited me in. Naturally enough this deeply impressed Greg and Leon, the guys who drove me there ("Jeeze, man, we never got inside. They always made us wait on the porch.")
What can I say? I'm a people person. Even with my drug dealers.
Since I was always really loaded when I got there, my memory of the front room of the house is hazy, but I seem to remember a family, and I might have sat on the floor and played patty-cake with a baby while they were doing their mumbo-jumbo with the scale, but ... it might have been a dwarf. Or a hallucination. As I said, it's all pretty hazy now. I'm sure though that I was likely one of the only buyers who said things like, "May I please buy some drugs?" and "Oh, excellent! Thank you!"
Good manners in all things, to my mind -- felony drug transactions most of all.
The last time I went to the house I remember knocking and knocking on the front door for a long time, and sort of cheerfully calling out "Hey! Hey! You guys, it's me!" -- no lie (If the guys who always drove me there were still alive they would totally verify that -- but Greg OD'd and Leon died in prison, so please take my word for it.) Knocking on the door, calling out, it took me a while to notice the Police Tape across the door. Aww, man, nobody home! (Loaded, remember? Totally loaded.) Was I frightened? No, I was irritated that now I had to find a new place to buy. (I would have said "cop" but I never said it when I was using, so it would be silly to start now. The only people I've ever heard use the word "cop" in relation to buying drugs are really tough chicks in N.A. who have something like a thousand years clean. And extras in '70's TV Shows. Oh, and Al Pacino in "Serpico.")
But with no one home, and the police tape and all, my driver "friends" took off without me, and I remember walking to a bar I'd never been to before, somewhere in the neighborhood, and actually having a great time. It was definitely not my usual crowd, but I was a friendly drunk, and, as the record shows, unfailingly polite. The rest of the night is pretty much gone, and I woke up on my front door step with no idea how I got there -- and at the time, of course, waking up someplace and not knowing how I got there was a common occurrence. God watches out for drunks and little children, is the old saw. Overall I only got mugged and badly beaten a few times, careening around cities and neighborhoods blind drunk and on anything else I could drink, snort, swallow or inhale -- I would have shot up, but I was too chicken, and hadn't fallen in with anyone who would do it for me -- yet.
But, as I say, I only got badly beaten a few times.
There comes a point when, to paraphrase the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book) an alcoholic's life seems normal to them. Coming out of a blackout being beaten so hard I could feel my brain hit the inside of my skull was just ... life, I thought. It sure as hell didn't slow me down. Once I healed, that is.
Fast forward just a year or so from that point and it seemed perfectly normal to me to sit in a bar at 6:00am, drinking beer, watching Jane Pauley on "The Today Show" (just to give you a little historical perspective.) Why was I at the bar at 6:00am? Because I was waiting for the bar I wanted to be drinking at to open, and they were lazy, and didn't begin their business day till noon. Imagine! Noon! Slackers. Yes, I went to a bar while I was on the way to a bar.
Now, drinking beer at 6:00am is a tricky prospect. It is, in fact, a two-handed operation. One hand to pick up the mug, and the other hand to then hold the first one steady, since until you got a few of those beers in you the shakes are pretty bad. Being forced to drink with two hands means you have to decide if you're going to pick up your beer or your cigarette. That can be a pretty tough call, since both are important -- both are needs, by then. Beer usually won out, of course, but it was nice to rest from the work of picking up the mug and take a hit on your cigarette every so often.
Though I was usually a happy, outgoing drunk, the crowd drinking at a bar at 6:00am is pretty quiet -- and by then I fit right in. No singing. No chit chat. Not even a lot of reading the newspaper. (I'm so glad I'm writing this in 2009, and not in, say, 2015, when I'd then have to stop for a moment and explain to the new kids that we used to have these things called "newspapers." Something to add to my gratitude list later, I suppose.) All we had was Jane, quietly interviewing someone on the television in the corner, while the bartender and the rest of us nursed our poison, both liquid and spiritual.
By that point, if I went too many hours without a drink I got the shakes -- bad shakes. My liver was swollen -- distended enough so I could begin to kind of feel it through my side. There was always blood in my stool. I was beginning to have audio hallucinations.
I was 24 years old.
I hadn't even hit bottom yet.