I'm shooting down a silvery tunnel at terrifying speed. Scenes flash by indiscernably, but I know they're episodes of my life. As I blaze toward a strange cloudy light, a fear dawns. I've been here before, but this time an odd feeling troubles. At least my other cares are gone—a relief considering the hell I've called my life for over a year. I almost look forward to entering that approaching mysterious glow. Where am I going?
As the eerie light looms, my velocity changes, slowing. Suddenly the brakes slam ferociously, and I'm in reverse. The next thing I know, the tube vanishes and leaving me floating in an inky void, a blackness so totally complete it feels like a thing alive. I haven't been scared of the dark since I was three, and it's unnerving to regress twentyfive years.
To my great relief, someone's turned the lights on, but a deepening chill ensues... and now it appears to be raining. As the void resolves into a room, I find myself on my back in the tub, eyes ceilingward. The shower is blasting, full cold, right in my face. I begin to cough and sputter.
The water stops, and I see Ruby's slender, ebony hand on the tap. She slides the door fully back, brown eyes blazing at me. She is apparently not very pleased at the moment.
“You stupid fucking bitch!” she yells. “Are you fucking trying to kill yourself or what?”
No, she's not too thrilled at all.
“I... Uh...” It soon becomes clear I'm more than slightly loaded, on the verge of nodding out again. In the interest of forestalling a fresh deluge, I struggle to keep my eyes open. Being hopelessly stoned is scarce insulation from the icy shower. I prepare for her verbal torrent.
“I get home, hopefully to do a shot in peace, get some food, and here's my lover sprawled all over the kitchen floor, blood running down her arm, outfit lying next to her—and guess what? She's fucking turning gray!
“So what do I have to do? I have to drag the stupid bitch to the bathroom, hurt my back getting her in the tub, and run cold water on her until she breathes. Hopefully she will breathe. Because otherwise I have to call fucking 911 and try to pretend I don't know my roommate is a junkie, which they wouldn't believe anyway because of the tracks on my arms. And if you die then I become an accessory to your sloppy little suicide. Only you can bet they'd call it something else—like manslaughter!
“Isn't that just a great way to end an evening?”
“I... Uh...” Words fail me at the moment. Incapable of responding to this level of unbridled sarcasm, I'm just going to have to lie here and let Ruby vent her spleen.
“You stupid bitch,” she repeats. “If your life is so miserable, why don't you just jump off the goddamn roof?!”
It's September of `85, and the honeymoon is definitely over. Ruby and I still live together, but midsummer saw the last of the good times. In the last seven days, soulmates became more like roommates. It started with her overdose a week ago, for which I suggested she was a greedy pig considering how little we had. Then I went out two days later, which doubtless seemed kind of retaliatory. These incidents have not much contributed to domestic harmony, but the tension was mounting even before.
In three months I've taken to the needle like a long lost lover. At first, Ruby is pleased she no longer needs to fix in the bathroom; now we shoot up together. In a twisted way, it's very romantic: two urban desperados—Bonnie and Bonnie—social outcasts who find themselves in “love” and regularly inject their problems away, every six to eight hours like clockwork.
Predictably, the romance starts to fizzle. The problem is I love the stuff so much. Nodded out on Mex brown, nothing bothers me for very long. Phone freaks can masturbate in my ear, tricks can be flaky and insensitive, total strangers can yell “man in a dress” or a “punk faggot” or whatever until hell freezes over—it rolls right off my back. Queen Heroin is very good to her subjects, as long as they pay homage with regular injections. The problem is the “regular” part.
When hooking is a feast, scoring dope is hassle-free and Stress is a stranger; it's easy to be junkie whores in love. Happily ever after and all. When it's a famine and money is tight then we're both bitches from hell to each other. Til-death-do-us-part becomes I-want-to-fucking-kill-you.
During these periods of impoverishment, each little speck of dope is a bone of contention. If one of us breaks big luck and the other can't even give it away that night, the one flashing the green complains about supporting her shiftless lover's habit. The tighter the money, the nastier we become.
Money couldn't be tighter. Rock Hudson just bought it, the biggest goddamn media circus since Hinkley plugged Reagan. Suddenly every swinging dick with a twentyspot is health-conscious, thanks to every headline, every broadcast screaming AIDS in their face. This has an unsurprising effect on the flesh trade, especially for transsexuals. We're practically starving. “Stranded without even cabfare,” Ruby is fond of saying.
Dopesickness has been no stranger since Rock bought his ticket to that great hospice in the sky. The phone seldom rings, the bar is a virtual ghosttown, and the cars don't stop as much. As a result, our prices have plummeted. And even then we're strapped. I can't blame her for our predicament, and I'm sure she knows she can't blame me, but we do it anyway.
And when we catch some well-heeled thrillseeker, are we prudent enough to budget it? Hell, no! We plop it all in the cooker and hope tomorrow takes care of itself. This is especially true of me because, unlike Ruby, I'm a rookie transsexual—just 18 months removed from suburbia and a wimpy pot habit. I require major anesthetization to shoulder my insecurities and the near-daily street critiques. It doesn't matter how pretty I am, and I am pretty. If someone notices I used to be a man—or still am, as far as they're concerned—they're more than happy to share their misery like a bad cold, showering me with hateful maledictions that reverberate through my tenderfoot transsexual soul. And I know of no greater balm than Tijuana tar.
Given my track record, Ruby's accusation is perhaps justified, but I can honestly deny any intentions of doing myself in. My agenda is simple: to thoroughly deaden the malevolent voices, my own included. Unfortunately my judgement sometimes leaves much to be desired, resulting in eight ODs over the last three months since she first deflowered my vein. At first Ruby was scared and concerned, but by now my black TS lover is mostly angry when forced to resuscitate me. She's especially furious tonight, because this time I fixed all alone. It's only my good luck she came home when she did.
“No, I'm not trying to kill myself,” I finally mutter. I may hate the miserable hand I've been dealt, but I'm not prepared to fold just yet. My suicidal thoughts are more the result of selfpity run riot than a true desire to pull the plug.
“You could have fooled me,” she grumbles.
I lumber from the dingy porcelain and shakily peel off wet clothes. Ruby impatiently thrusts me a towel, and I begin to dry off, apologizing.
“Baby, I'm sorry, really I am. I just get greedy and miscalculate, that's all. As long as you're around, I don't want to be dead. I don't.”
Ruby skewers me with hard eyes for a long, uncomfortable moment. “I know,” she finally sighs. “If I got clocked as much as you, if people gave me as much shit, I'd want to get wrecked, too. But, Crystal, I can't stand this drama. If I wanted to be a paramedic, I'd go to school, okay?”
“I promise. No more fixing when you're not here,” I assure her with all the sincerity I can muster. I pause to consider this pledge. “At least no more than a wake-up. Deal?”
“Deal.” A faint smile tugs her lips at my earnestness.
“I really am sorry, Honey. C'mere.” I open my arms to her.
She hesitates for a second and steps into my embrace.
I feel so much better now. And I really meant it. I'm going to take it a lot more easy.
At least, I'm going to try to.