It was love at first sight—or maybe I was high. I guess I’ll never know and now, after all that has happened, it really doesn’t matter. Just because I’m telling you this story doesn’t mean it has to have a happy ending. It doesn’t mean I’ll even be alive at the end. All I can do is try to make it make sense to you—because it never will to me.
First, let me introduce myself. My name is not important, but you have to call me something. Everybody that knows me (with the exception of family) calls me Red. I am thirty-five years old, and since I was twenty-five years old, I have been an addict. Whoa—you must think I am some sort of down-and-out derelict and honestly—some of the time you would be right. What really kills people is that the rest of the time, to look at me you wouldn’t even think that I am what I am, and I do what I do. It’s the truth, like it or not. And that’s not all. Somewhere along the line, I fell in love, which for an addict is like being a match and falling into a bucket of gasoline. Nothing good can come of it, but we will get to that a little later.
I didn’t intend to become an addict, and I doubt that anyone ever does. I read in a biography of some rock star (I forget who exactly) that they had at some point made the decision to become a heroin addict for a while. It didn’t work out very well. In the end, he killed himself—strung out, depressed, dope sick, and hopelessly lonely. That’s what happens when you get high; you get all these other unwanted benefits. Knowing what I do now, I couldn’t bring myself to feel sorry for him. What kind of a spoiled, attention seeking, fucking idiot wants to be a heroin addict. I sure as hell didn’t want to go through all that I have.
I used to be a cab driver, in a smallish city in the northwest part of Indiana. I liked the work, even though the hours were long, and the pay was dismal at best. I guess I liked the people—especially the people I met on the night shift. Some of my fares at night were, for lack of a better description, crack-whores. I don’t say it to be mean, it is what it is, I mean, I’m an addict, who am I to judge? I never treated them badly, and for the most part, they appreciated the kindness I tried to show them. They were my friends, and often times, the only source of companionship I had.
Sometimes I would even allow them to come by my little one-bedroom apartment downtown and take a shower, or eat, or sleep if they wanted to. I never partook of their “services”, a fact that I think cemented the friendships I developed with a few of the girls. I like to drink, and drinking at home is always cheaper than drinking at a bar. However—I hate to drink alone. Once the word got around that Red was kind of a cool guy, kept a carton of cigarettes in the freezer, and wasn’t handsy, I rarely went without company after my days driving.
I even allowed the girls to smoke crack in my apartment. What can I say; I’m a bit of a soft touch. That and sometimes people like to get naked when they smoke. Just saying, after all I am a healthy adult male, who enjoys looking at the naked female body. To make a long story short—I stayed in the proverbial barbershop long enough and ended up getting a haircut. I began smoking too. One of the girls I’ll call Addie caught me drunk one day and we went on a little mission. She showed me how to make a crack-pipe from a tire gauge, and even contributed $20 to the $400 I spent that fateful day.
For a while, I guess it wasn’t too much of a problem. I could still make it to work, I kept my rent paid, I managed to eat fairly regularly, and like I said, to look at me you would never know. Addiction is sneaky. Crack may be the most addictive drug on the planet, but the effects of addiction take time to add up. I know they did for me. First, I lost friends. They found out what I was up to and went their own way. Next, I lost my ability to work. I got in a fight, and lost the vision in one eye completely and partially in the other. No more cab driving for me. Only problem was, I still needed to get high, and with unemployment as my only source of income, I was in a bind.
At this point, luck smiled on me, and while I was basking in the glow of that smile, it kicked me square in the ass. Hard. I thought I had won the lottery. Through my case manager at Oakton Hospital, I found a government-subsidized apartment. I go to Oakton for depression, since before I began on this crack-smoking thing. Anyway, I had been kicked out on the street a few times by various landlords, and ended up in the local homeless shelter. My case manager, Tracy, found a government grant for people considered chronically homeless. I had an apartment, but at the time, I wasn’t able to pay rent because I couldn’t work. The fact that I had been to the homeless center a few times was enough to qualify me for the program.
She enrolled me in the program, and I waited. A couple of months later, in August, I got an email telling me that my new apartment was ready. I almost didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t drive, so I waited until the next morning for Tracy to swing by and give me a ride over to see the new place. It was amazing. It was in a brand new building, which contained sixteen units. Twelve were one-bedroom apartments, with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, and four were studios, one combined living area, and a semi-connected bedroom. I lucked out and got one of the one-bedrooms.
The apartment arranged itself in a sort of a shotgun style. After getting through the locked entryway door, the front door led directly into the living room. As you went farther back into the unit, the living room gave onto the kitchen. These two rooms were a tight fit, with the fridge ending up right next to one end of the couch. Through a short hall, all the way in the back were the bedroom and bathroom. The living room was furnished with an institutional-looking basic couch, loveseat, and some sort of a magazine/paper rack thing that I never understood. No matter, I already had furniture in my current not-paid-for apartment. I called the maintenance depart of the new building, and they said that they could come the next day and remove the furniture I didn’t need. Everything was falling into place. Or so I thought.
The next day, I hired a moving truck, loaded up my old furniture and belongings and made the move to my new place. When I got there it was around ten in the morning, and maintenance had already been there and gotten rid of the unneeded furniture. With the help of the moving guys, I got everything out of the truck and into the apartment. I was home.