Trigger Up: Sharps Container

02/20/2013

trigger warning for IV drug use. take care of yerself!

We’re talking about syringes in class, the different types, their uses, the basic components: barrel, plunger, tip. I slip in and out of focus. I remember watching her cook and shoot up. She ground up the tablets first, then mixed them carefully with bottled water (Evian, like the model she could have been), put a lighter under the spoon, stirred till it all cohesed and bubbled. Maybe there was more. The shag carpet smells like the inside of a vacuum bag, like home. Aaron* ties her off and his mom comes in. “Are you using the bent spoon? Don’t burn all my nice spoons.”

He isn’t, but insists he is. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. He taps her vein until it bulges, an army drab river under alabaster pale. I can’t watch the needle piercing flesh, the flush of blood before push. Ulric reaches out and grabs my hand, as much for comfort as to break the spell. “I can’t do it either. I’d rather drink a beer, anyways,” he says.

We lay facedown on the crusty carpet. As Aaron ties off for his shot, Ulric noses over to me, puts an arm around my back, and presses his lips behind my ear. He grazes the flesh and makes for my mouth, misses. Ell sighs and my head shoots up. “How do you feel?” I ask, curious as much as wary.

“Good.” Her eyes are big, sparkly-manic, ice blue fascination. I press Ulric’s hand and get up. Aaron staunches his clumsy shot with a rag.

“C’mon, let’s go. We should get some beer,” I pretend to know exactly how we would go about it.

In the parking lot of the Safeway downtown, two twenty-something guys with greasy scalps and patchy beards sway, leering at Ell and I, clearly resenting our companions. “Twenty bucks, Black Label. All the way from Canada to your underage hands.” Ell slapps the money into an open palm.

“High alcohol content,” offers Ulric approvingly. “Like a lager.”

The beer tastes tinny and sweet, worse warm than cold, and we only drink it warm. I don’t drink more than two, more anxious to hold my own than to prove my capacity. The night air seems like enough, the novelty of roaming streets less rural than my own. 3 years ago when I moved here I thought it such a small town, but I’ve up and moved to an even smaller one, and now I can observe this town as a novelty, an adventure.

Somehow Ulric and I end up in his bed, messy limbs and malt liquor sweat. We have sex but neither of us comes. I am unconcerned, the sex is more perfunctory than interesting, at least for me. He offers to go down on me, but seems relieved when I decline. We sleep, toss and turn unfamiliarly. In the morning we go again. At least it doesn’t hurt. It’s over fast, and he’s happy to use a condom before sheepishly confessing he can’t really keep it up right now, either.

Ulric and I, we keep in touch for a while, long enough for a few phone calls, halfhearted and awkward. We meet Ell in Seattle for a show, drink malt liquor in the alley, chain smoke and make small talk, but I can’t convince myself that we are either of us interested in picking up where we left off. His mohawk is up, a foot and a half of soft brown fan dividing the scalp above his baby face. He has the chunky build of a toddler. A driver honks and calls out, “Sweet hawk!” as we share a cigarette.

He turns to face traffic and his hair lingers on my face. I touch my cheek in wonder. “It’s so soft,” I marvel. “How do you get it to stay up?”

“Egg whites, mostly. A little glue and Aquanet. It takes me two hours!” he reveals proudly. This boy who has already dropped out of high school at 15, relegated to a lifetime of work at his father’s dog grooming shop, cares that much about his own hair. Between his bondage pants, patched vest, and studded jacket, it is the one feature of his ensemble that is made from his body, an accomplishment he has both grown and crafted. He’s a nice boy, I think, momentarily tender. He catches my eye and half-grins, half-snarls. “C’mon, let’s get into the pit.”

The tiny venue can scarcely afford the band space for bodies and instruments, let alone audience members, but somehow we fall all together in sweat and stink. The bassist leans into us and is held up, then knocked into the drums, knocks over half the kit, and still they play on. It’s a good night.

I hear from Ell that he got back together with his ex and she gave him the itch**. I ask Ulric about it and he laughs. “Fuck. Well, I deserved that one, didn’t I? Stupid shit, got what was coming to me. Thinking I was so mighty with Ell and Aaron all the time.”

*all names changed

*gonorrhea, thank god for small favors

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