BY DAVID CARR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES Where does a junkie’s time go? Mostly in 15-minute increments, like a bug-eyed Tarzan, swinging from hit to hit. For months on end in 1988, I sat inside a house in north Minneapolis, doing coke and listening to Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” and finding my own pathetic resonance in the lyrics. “Any place is better,” she sang. “Starting from zero, got nothing to lose.”
After shooting or smoking a large dose, there would be the tweaking and a vigil at the front window, pulling up the corner of the blinds to look for the squads I was always convinced were on their way. All day. All night. A frantic kind of boring. End-stage addiction is mostly about waiting for the police, or someone, to come and bury you in your shame.
After a while I noticed that the blinds on the upper duplex kitty-corner from the house were doing the same thing. The light would leak through a corner and disappear. I began to think of the rise and fall of their blinds and mine as a kind of Morse code, sent back and forth across the street in winking increments that said the same thing over and over.
W-e a-r-e g-e-t-t-i-n-g h-i-g-h t-o-o.
They rarely came out, and neither did I, so we never discussed our shared hobby.
I was lonely, but not alone. The house belonged to Anna, my girlfriend and dope dealer, who had two kids of her own and newborn twins by me. One night, Anna was out somewhere, and I was there with the kids. I had a new pipe, clean screens, a fresh blowtorch and the kids were asleep. It was just me and Barley, a corgi mix I’d had since college. When I was alone and tweaking with Barley, I’d ask her random questions. Barley didn’t talk back per se, but I heard answers staring into her large brown eyes.
Am I a lunatic? Yes. When am I going to cut this stuff out? Apparently never. Does God see me right now? Yes. God sees everything, including the blind.
Trapped in drug-induced paranoia, I began to think of the police as God’s emissaries, arriving not to seek vengeance but a cease-fire, a truce that would put me up against a wall of well-deserved consequences, and the noncombatants, the children, out of harm’s way.
On this night — it was near the end — every hit sent out an alarm along my vibrating synapses. If the cops were coming — Any. Minute. Now. — I should be sitting out in front of the house. That way I could tell them that yes, there were drugs and paraphernalia in the house, but no guns. And there were four blameless children. They could put the bracelets on me, and, head bowed, I would solemnly lead them to the drugs, to the needles, to the pipes, to what was left of the money. And then some sweet-faced matrons would magically appear and scoop up those babies and take them to that safe, happy place. I had it all planned out.
I took another hit, and Barley and I walked out and sat on the steps. My eyes, my heart, the veins in my forehead, pulsed against the stillness of the night. And then they came. Six unmarked cars riding in formation with lights off, no cherries, just like I pictured. It’s on.
A mix of uniforms and plainclothes got out, and in the weak light of the street, I could see long guns held at 45-degree angles. I was oddly proud that I was on the steps, that I now stood between my children and the dark fruits of the life I had chosen. I had made the right move after endless wrong ones. And then they turned and went to the house across the street.
Much yelling. “Facedown! Hug the carpet! No sudden movements!” A guy dropped out of the second-floor window in just gym shorts, but they were waiting. More yelling and then quiet. I went back inside the house and watched the rest of it play out through the corner of the blind. Their work done, the cops loaded several cuffed people into a van. I let go of the blind and got back down to business. It wasn’t my turn. MORE