The Bigger Half
I stood behind, just off over his left shoulder, my eyes on his stubby, nail-bitten fingers and those surprisingly deft, sleight-of-hand, hands. The only time I took my watch off his ever deceitful ready paws was when studying the side of his face, that babyish but bloated looking head he had, the hair which looked like it was wearing bald but wasn't . There he was, hunched over the gear like a dark force, his body evolved to cloak what he was doing, using his long-dead bank card to crush and chop and flatten the heroin and divide it into two even lines. I studied him. I had the distinct feeling that his predatory little junkie eyes were watching me, cast down at the toes of my shoes or my lower leg, looking out for any sign of a slip in concentration so as he could shuffle off and squirrel away one of the uncrushed rocks of gear. Oh, how I despised him. He looked like a weasel or a shrew, something you'd find hiding out in a dripping wet hole along the river, like the heroin had such a pull on him that it had sucked his face into a pointed snout-like feature which contained all his sensory organs and twitched and wriggled before it.
“Come on, man!” I said, increasingly incensed at his deliberation over the two halves. His eyes slid across and down to me.
“Not as fucking easy as it looks,” he said. “You do it if you want, bro.”
“After what happened last time? No chance. You divide and I'll choose... That way there's no fucking arguments.”
I remained watching as he continuously moved tiny slivers of heroin from one pile across to the other, absolutely terrified that one half would end bigger than the other. In fact, that was part of his dilemma: he wanted one half to be bigger: his half. He wanted to somehow find a way to make the bigger half appear smaller so as I'd choose the optically larger looking deal and he'd gain. So he fucked around dividing up the gram, arranging the halves into various different shapes, playing out a thousand cuts in his mind, until he must have decided that it was best just to halve it fairly and be done with it. When he thought he was done he pulled one last sceptical face and then stepped back, presenting me with the choice. Looking over the halves I could sense him besides me, still scrutinizing the divide, barely able to contain himself from jumping in and meddling some more.
“Now, you're sure you're happy with the cut?” I asked, pausing, my eyes on him. He gave a shrug,
“Well, you sure or not?”
“I guess so,” he replied with a kind of pained expression on his face, like he was not sure at all.
“OK, I'll take the left,” I said, with absolutely no deliberation and wearing the slightest of smiles. As I knew it would, the haste of my choice startled him. His body jerked to attention and he lurched forward, over the two halves, with a quizzical look on his face like he had missed a trick. The blacks of his eyes widened and in them I could see his half shrinking in size. To allow his brain time to process what it thought it was thinking, and to also leave himself with a hand of control over events, he reached across for his bank card and began siding my half out the way, over towards me. Normally I'd have paid no mind, but there was something awkward in the way he was separating my half: holding his bank card low down at a flat angle so as much of its surface area as possible touched my heroin.
“Hey hey hey... fucking stop that!" I said. "Slide yours to you, not mine to me!”
“Huh? Why? What does it matter?” he said, innocently.
“Give me the fucking card, here....”
I carefully extracted the card from him. When it was safely out his possession I tapped it down lightly on the CD case we had divided the heroin on. A fine line of smack and a little showering of dust fell down: a small fix worth.
“That's why,” I said, sweeping it back into my half. As I prepared to scoop my deal into a wrap he suddenly stopped me.
“Hang on hang on...,” he said, “... it doesn't look right. Your half's twice as big as mine, LOOK!”
“Fuck off! It's just yours is piled and mines now dislodged. Now get yours covered before it gets knocked over... or gets any smaller! ” He looked like he as going to cry, like he was caught reverberating between the adult pressure of behaving honourably and with a semblance of pride and his illogical junkie instinct of believing he was always being hard done by.
“Man, come on...” he said.
“Trey, You divided it.”
“I know I divided it... but it looked even until it was moved. Come on, man, even you must admit yours is much bigger?”
I shook my head. His distraught self-pitying junkie face made me hate him. I wanted to punch him, and not just once.
“It's OK,” he then said, in a low voice like his entire world had crumbled to pieces, “it's my own stupid fault. I split it. I did.” I didn't look at him. I didn't need to to know what kind of a miserable hard-done-by sulk his face was collapsed into.
“Fucking divide it again!” I said, tossing the bank card at him. He collected the card and his pitiful little expression left him. Immediately he returned to normal, hope alight in his eyes, like a man who has gotten an unexpected reprieve. He was hyper with it.
“I swear it looked even but it was the way I had piled it. And the end of my half was tapered and not built up... just wasn't paying attention, dude.”
“It's in your fucking head, Trey. There was nothing wrong with the cut. It's psychological. Every fucking junkie imagines the same fucking thing: that they're getting the smaller half. You watch, you'll cut it again and still be convinced that somehow I've tricked you, that somehow you're not getting as much. I've seen it a million times over!”
“Nah, it's not like that. You'll see.”
Trey swept the gear back together. This time he sorted it into a finger, squared off both ends and then used the bank card to level the top down. When it was a perfect oblong he laid a piece of paper besides it, marked on the paper how long it was, tore the paper off to that length, folded it in half and then laid it back down alongside the finger of heroin so as the crease in the middle showed up its exact centre. At that point he put the thin edge of the bank card through it and dissected the gear in half. He looked at me and gave a subtle nod.
“Now you're sure it's evenly split this time? You're positive?” He said he was. I looked over the halves. Once again I showed absolutely no hesitation.
“I'll still take the left;” I said. As had happened before Trey leant forward with a ruffled look on his brow. He looked at the two halves like they were fucking with him. Then he leaned back in with the card, about to disturb them once more.
“Fucking leave it!” I cried. “You said you was happy with the split, now fucking leave it.... they're even!” They were even. Trey just couldn't accept it. He tossed his bank card into the wall and flopped down into a pitiful childish blob on his bed, sat sulking and staring off somewhere out across the floor.
“What? You think yours is smaller again? Jesus! I fucking told you this would happen... I fucking knew it. I'll tell ya what: take the fucking left half if you think it's bigger... you can have it!” Trey remained where he was on his bed. He shook his head in stubborn refusal but I could tell my offer had piqued his interest, that his eyes were no longer lost in a world of woe but pricked and primed like dogs' ears.
“Your last fucking chance, Trey... I won't offer again: do you want the left half or not?”
Trey looked at me apologetically and then slowly rose and went over to inspect the two halves. I could feel his shame, his embarrassment for the childish way he had earned this second reprieve; for the way he had wangled having first choice.
“OK,” he said, “I'll take the left.”
I reached over, turned around the CD case and pulled what was the right half over my way. I saw Trey looking, then saw him straighten himself up and that questioning look come to him once more. His brow lowered heavy over his eyes as he watched what I was sliding across my way and what was left for him. I knew what he was thinking... he was caught in that vicious circle, but even he was too embarrassed to remonstrate a third time. Instead his whole demeanour deflated and a lost, woeful expression hijacked his face. He sunk down into himself like his whole body had given up and was silently weeping. To tease it out of him, to further provoke his suffering, I looked at his deal and said:
“Is it just me or does my half seem so much bigger?” He looked at me, his regard a melange of envy and hate.
“Hmmm... that's what I was thinking too,” he said in a half sulk, like he didn't want to be heard but needed to say the words.
I stared at him and shook my head and told him there he had lost his fucking soul.
What Happened The Last Time
Now, this was a story of thirds. He had spent so much time shooting a speedball and then trying to figure out where the hell he was that we were being pushed out the dealer's house as his wife was pissed off at our presence.
“We gotta go,” I said.
“Hmmm. Yeah bro I hear ya,” he said, sitting there jittering away and rolling a cigarette in a way only crack fiends can do.
“Like now, Trey!”
“Yeah, yeah... just getting my shit together, dude. Rolling this cigarette. I'm good.”
“OK, well I'm gonna divide the gear as there's no time to go to yours.”
“Cool, man. Go for it.”
I opened the two grams. The dealer thought I was about to measure out another fix and told me no more, that his wife was about to blow. I assured him I was just dividing it. I quickly arranged the two grams into a straight even line, split it in three and asked Trey to OK it was a fair divide. He gave a jittery look at the gear, his mind skittish and his face twitching like it was full of spiders. He was in that silent world of hyper alert crack prickles – nothing being able to hold his concentration long before his mind was off on something else. He nodded while looking at the gear, his mind completely wired. I could feel the static electricity in his hair. The split was two to one in his favour. Once he had given the nod I scooped my third up and wrapped it in an oblong of aluminium foil. Trey's deal was left on the table. I told him to wrap as we had to get the hell out of there.
I saw the soberness come over him like a changeling. Any man who sobers up that quickly has either had a huge shock or has just died.
“Is that mine or yours?” Trey asked, staring ghostly at what was on the table. He damn well knew it was his. It was his sly way of saying it looked more like a third.
“It's yours. Now get it wrapped, we gotta go.”
“Man, that's two thirds?”
“It's two thirds of what we got, yes. Minus what we've used.”
Trey pulled an ugly face. I knew then that he had slipped into his real guise, that that was the skeleton expression on which his skin was hung and would always revert to in moments of instinctive honesty. Not wanting to lose me as his contact, just as he quickly as he had found me, Trey swallowed the doubt he felt over the fairness of the divide and said: “It's cool, man. Just don't look two thirds, that's all. Not used to grams an shit.”
“Well it is two thirds. Though, even if it were slightly light, you've nothing to grumble over. You've had a speedball and a shot of brown on the fuckin' house.”
“Yeah man, no... that was appreciated, bro. Fuck! I'm in France and I got high! Fuuuck!!!”
In the lift down to ground Trey purposely took out his little wrap of heroin and observed it again. He didn't say anything but made a point of letting me see him deliberating over it in his mind.
“Fucking put that away! You wanna get us arrested? It's hot here doing that shit. Fucking serious business here in France.”
“For real, man? For a gram?”
“Yes, now put it away.” Trey closed his fingers over the wrap and then put his clenched fist inside his front pocket of his hooded top. Walking down towards the metro, the night settled in good and this stretch of city all closed up and deserted, I could feel Trey still playing around with the wrap of heroin in his pocket, feeling out the size and thinking that he'd been half-robbed and that the thief was there walking besides him. I could sense his squinted eyes, bejewelled with a special kind of hatred that only junkies reliant upon each other can feel. Trey needed me, and even supposing that I had robbed him, he was obliged to smile, speak to me graciously, even thank me for it. It was evident he wanted to say something, there was that feeling in the air in the way he was walking and thinking, not saying a word and subtly dragging his feet so as I wasn't gone too quickly. As we approached the metro station where I'd leave Trey for the evening I said my goodbye.
“OK, Bro, laters,” he said. I looked at him. He had said goodbye but was still standing there in front of me as if the night wasn't over.
“Man, you sure that's two thirds what I got? This is expensive shit and it just don't look like it's two thirds of what we got.”
“Trey, don't do it, mate... I'm warning ya... Don't.”
He knew I was serious and he also understood that I would not suggest finding a place where he could inspect my cut against his. It was the end of the night and it was ending like this regardless of anything he thought.
“OK, man,” he said, “no biggie.” And with that he kinda wriggled more comfortably into the rucksack that was on his back, pulled his jeans up a notch, and going on, alone, he held up a hand. I watched him from behind as he gradually trudged on and I didn't like what I was seeing. This young man, an American, disappearing into the dark of a continental night with tragedy stamped all over him. I felt a cold, timeless wind on my face and for just a moment I felt terribly sad. Not for him; not for me. Just something in this world which is indescribable. As I descended the stairs to the metro a warm air came up to meet me. It carried the familiar smell of carbon dust and electricity, something musty and deep and damp. Standing alone on the deserted platform I stared down the tracks, deep into the dark of the tunnel, waiting for two lights to appear from nowhere and come and take me home.
The Scales of Justice
By now I despised the very shape of his body, his stocky pumped up torso, those rounded shoulders ready-made to sink in despair and swallow his neck, legs a little too short; thighs all too muscular, and that arse, God, the way it popped out an inch too far, self-publicizing the fact that it would be all accommodating for the almighty dollar and yet was closed for any kind of business in his private life.
Over months I scrutinized him, a weird kind of hatred having built up in me from witnessing all his little scams, his superficial facial expressions, how he'd pat down his pockets as he said he'd lost money, the way he had of balancing his phone up on the side when taking a shot, a depressing, grungy, American rock song drifting out of it as he dug for a vein, how when he'd struck home he'd close his eyes over and stand there swaying to the dirge filtering around the room; then the immediate retreat he'd make into himself and that utter coldness he showed towards anything living when he finally had what he wanted/needed. He was still romancing this life. He worshipped the needle. I didn't hate him for that, maybe I even envied him for it. My romance was gone. It went with my lungs and my lover. Nothing left of it at all.
But as Trey annoyed me, so the anger and dislike I showed towards him must have been reciprocated. I never hid my contempt of him or his schemes. I shouted him down in the street and made him look a fool in front of my dealer. I subconsciously abused the power I had over him, knowing he would have to accept anything I said if he wanted me to continue scoring for him. As a consequence to that power Trey must have had a natural and festering dislike for me too, his building up in trying to restrain himself from blowing or biting back. And not only that, after everything he was also required to bow to me and keep me cool and also give me a share of his smack every time he scored. So as he annoyed me so I and his own fashion of living, the reliance he had on others, annoyed him. His life style was too far out of his own control to not be embittered by it. He often cursed heroin, but just as often as he cursed it he embraced it and sung jubilantly of its qualities of sedation and psychological pain relief. It's a love hate romance most debutante addicts go through before either dying, quitting or learning how to control and supply ones habit on the way to long term and chronic drug addiction. At what stop Trey would eventually alight is anyone's guess. Personally, I think he will continue to live a parasitic life of addiction until he can suffer it no more, go on to prostitution to gain financial independence, learn he caught HIV in his younger more desperate days of addiction, and having an existence so bleak at that point will look back to these days in Europe, as dire and as frustrating as they were, and see them as some of the better days of his life. Its a tragedy and one is allowed to feel sorry for him at this point... at least until the end of the sentence.
Sympathy over! The little shit. A quarter split this time. Three for him; one for me. We were in the dealer's apartment, sat staring at the floor awaiting him to return with his main stash of smack. As soon as the dealer's key turned in the lock Trey straightened up in his wooden chair at the dining table, his chest poking out like a bimbos and his biceps ripping out through his t-shirt.
The dealer – who now also disliked Trey – made a point of fingering him up out the chair he was in so as he could sit down in his place. It wasn't the dealer's chair or his usual cutting up spot: it was a power thing – a way to let Trey know it was his house and his rules, that he had the heroin and thus he had the power. Trey got up but didn't take another seat. He lingered around the dealer, his nose poking right into the his affairs. Even as the dealer was measuring and weighing up the four grams Trey was there with his bank card asking if he could take a small measure to cook up. The dealer looked at him like he was a retard, not being able to restrain himself for even a minute. He warned him off from touching anything until it was weighed and bagged and told him to stay away. Trey paced around the room. As he passed me he said: “What the fucks his problem, man!”
The dealer looked up from weighing out the smack. He didn't speak English but he understood tonality and he understood the word FUCK.
“What did he say?” he asked me in French.
“He's just desperate for a fix,” I replied, “never mind him.”
The dealer nodded and pulled a face like he was tonguing a loose tooth.
“You want, er... shoot shoot?” he said to Trey, mimicking the act of injecting.
Trey nodded enthusiastically... too enthusiastically. “Yes, a shot... yes, please! I need a shoot shoot of your beautiful heroin, Monsieur!”
Trey was unaware that the dealer was being sarcastic and he also didn't seem to realise that his utterly false comment about “beautiful gear” meant nothing in French. Trey seemed to think that his manufactured charm was so sweet and endearing that it transcended language itself.
The dealer, just nodded. He was hatching something. This was his house. He called Trey over to see the heroin on the scales. I joined them. Three grams to the point. That was Trey's deal. The dealer pointed to the weight on the digital screen. “Threeeee,” he said. Trey gave a thumbs up, literally. The dealer lifted the little square of plastic with Trey's three grams on it up from off the scales and put it down to one side. Next he took another little cut of plastic, placed it on the scales and measured out my gram. He asked us to OK the weight. I nodded. Trey kinda deliberated and then took out his bank card and mimicked scooping a little corner of the gram and putting it to the three grams. He saw the dealer wasn't quite sure what he meant and so he made a tiny size with his thumb and forefinger and said “just a pinch, man.. uh puhti puhti pew.”
I asked Trey what the hell he was on about. He said that the weights were fine but that my deal was a bit larger than one third of his and he wanted the dealer to take a tiny scoop from mine and add it to his three grams.
“Are you for fucking real? I asked him, “they're weighed! Mine is exactly a third of yours.”
“Oh man, come on. There's no way I've three times your worth. Serious, Man! And them scales.... those little electronic ones, they can weigh up a point or two either way. And DID you see what he did? He weighed the gear on the plastic... probably another point lost there.”
The dealer asked me what Trey's problem was, if he was disputing the accuracy of his scales. When I explained Trey's gripe the dealer closed his bag of unweighed heroin, put it in his inside jacket pocket and then got up from the table leaving both our deals and the scales there for us to sort out between ourselves.
The way Trey hot-footed into the dealer's seat was like a game of musical chairs when the music stops. I had no intention of taking the chair myself but by the way Trey bundled past me and slammed himself down at the table I felt I had lost. Trey lifted my gram off the scales and put it on the table. He cast a quick glance to the dealer who was now sat over on the sofa flicking through foreign TV stations. On seeing that the dealer wasn't taking any notice of us Trey started going through the options on the little scales. He didn't say what he was doing but it was obvious he was checking that the dealer had them calibrated to 0 and hadn't weighed us up short. After a moment Trey's face changed, he looked pissed off and began pushing and holding buttons until it was clear he had entered some parameter he couldn't get out of. The dealer noticed. Trey was then hitting the buttons in such a way with his stubby fingers that he could damage them.
“Man, what-the-fuck!” he said. “These things have got the fucking time and everything on them!”
The dealer came over and snatched the scales out of Trey's hands. He stared at Trey and Trey said “Sorry, Dude... was just checking them out.” The dealer told me to tell Trey not to touch any of the buttons. When he gave the scales back to Trey they were set to 0.
“Man, do you mind if we put the four grams together, re-weigh them and then split from a whole?” Trey asked me.
“Do what you want... just be fucking quick about it.”
Trey placed his three grams on the scale. It weighed to 3.2. His deal wasn't under it was over. Then he added my gram to it. 4.2.
“What did I tell ya, man.... these scales are never accurate.”
“Maybe they're not accurate now? Maybe the first reading was correct and this one is false?”
Trey didn't answer. He didn't hear. His brain had stuck on pause the moment he had convinced himself that his guile had made him a petty gain. Objective truth held no importance to him: he wanted fuck all to do with it. Trey was all about subjective truth and subjective reality. In that way there were no lies, no theft, no games or dishonesty. And whenever justice was served, it was always – in his mind – completely unjust, life kicking him in the ribs again.
Trey, now in the dealer's chair, with the dealer's scales, with four measly grams of heroin, did the job of dividing the cut himself. He lifted the four grams off the scale, put my empty wrap on the platform, and then weighed up my gram. As the dealer had done he asked me to check the reading. I didn't check but said it was fine. He gave me the gram and alongside him I bagged it and tied it secure. As I was doing that Trey reweighed what was left.
“3 point 1 this time, dude,” he said. “You need to tell your dealer to get some new fucking weights.”
I wasn't watching Trey. I had seen his face too often lit up from the glow of sitting in front of his heroin, knowing that the next few days would be peaceful no matter what atrocities were to happen in the world. But then, suddenly, I was watching him: his face frozen in terror and his mouth caught in the word “NOOOoooooo.....”, a high-pitched beeping noise coming out the scales in front of him.
…ooooo!!!! What-the-fuuuck!!! DUDE... HELP!!” Trey, startled by the beeping, had somehow managed to spill his heroin. It must have been an involuntary reflex while lifting his deal off the scales. He hadn't spilled it all. The actual square of plastic was tilted off the edge of the scales with a good gram still on it. The rest was strewn across the table, to the edge and over. Trey was sat there frozen, his hands raised like he was being held at gun point. His eyes were strained down, passed his air-filled chest, down to where his lap was and where the heroin would have fallen. When he was sure everything had settled down he ever so carefully inched backwards, away from the table, his eyes strained down all the while.
“Quick, there's some on my jeans... bud, help get it up.”
Over at Trey I used an old metro ticket to collect what powder I could from off his thigh. I salvaged a good bit but some had dispersed into the fabric of his jeans and more had cascaded over his thigh and sprinkled down the outside of his calf and onto the floor.
“How much on the floor?” he asked, panicked.
“Not a lot, but it's hard to see.” When I had salvaged all I could Trey stood up, stepped back and knelt to inspect the ground himself. He kept saying: “Man!! Man! I can't fucking believe it! What the fuck, dude!” When Trey rose he was red and flustered and angry. In silence he scraped together what was on the table and collected it back on his wrap. During all that activity we hadn't noticed that the beeping had stopped. The dealer was stood there with his little black electronic scales.
“What the fuck was that,” I asked.
“The alarm! Your friend somehow set the fucking countdown timer!”
When Trey weighed the heroin he had left there remained not even two grams. An entire gram was somewhere within his jeans, on the floor and between the joint of the table. He sat there just staring at what was left, utterly distraught but lost for anything he could say. Slowly he went into his rucksack and took out a needle and a little aluminium cooking cup. Usually the dealer would turn you on to a free fix for business but today there was no chance of that, not for Trey anyhow. Trey sat at the table with his empty cup, reluctant to put a measure of his own stuff in before knowing if the dealer would give him a freebie. When the dealer didn't look over Trey made deliberate noises and fidgeted looking around the table for something until he had the dealers attention. The dealer looked over, saw what Trey was doing and then seemed to come over irate.
“No no no...” he said, wagging a finger. “Tell him he's not shooting here!”
Trey understood but thought it was a joke. He continued on. The dealer walked over to the table and with his index finger flicked the metal cup off the table and against the wall.
“No shoot here!”
“Huh?” went Trey, shocked.
“You tell him he must ask before doing that in my house... In front of my wife... His blood on my table! He fucking asks in future!”
He was right. You always ask a non-injecting user permission to bang up in their presence and certainly in their apartment. I had known the dealer for over five years and I still asked before pulling out a spike. Trey seemed to have no concept of the horror of the syringe or what it was associated with. He had barely known the dealer a month and here he was blatantly taking out his old syringes and getting ready to cook up without even the good grace to ask. I told Trey that he wasn't allowed to shoot in the apartment today, that he must ask before doing. I can't explain Trey's reaction, but I understood it... I understood that drained, grief-stricken appearance, the sudden welling up of pain in his eyes and his total desperation to get out of their and relieve himself of the horror he had lived in the past half an hour. I felt sorry for him. After any shock the junkie needs a fix. Not five or ten or thirty minutes later but immediately.
“Get your works. Go to the toilet. Get your shot but be fucking quick about it!”
Trey gave a cast across to the dealer wondering if he should follow my advice, what could be the potential consequences if the dealer cottoned on to him in there shooting. Whatever he concluded he must have thought it was worth it. He gathered up his kit, put it in his bag, made every appearance like getting ready to leave and then excused himself for the toilet. As I waited for him the dealer gave me half a gram for what Trey had spilled. I put it in my pocket for myself. That's when we heard the music. Floating out the toilet and down the hallway and into the living room. Trey, so into his habit, so utterly selfish in his needs, could not manage even a single shot without his choice music on and swaying away to the dirge of some gruff singer growling on about the horror of addiction and the sweetness of death. Of course, I knew what the music signified but the dealer didn't.
“What the fuck?” he asked. “Does your friend shit to music?”
I thought over the words, thought of Trey, swaying there like having a cosmic orgasm, the syringe embedded in the fat of his arm, the pastures of heaven across his face for a while.
“Yes, that's exactly what he does,” I said, “he shits to fucking music.”
The dealer grunted, shook his head, then holding the remote control, pointed it at the TV and began flicking through the channels, not staying on one for a second, the blur of a continent all hissed and merged together, nothing of interest anywhere to be found. After a moment his eyes closed over and the TV settled to a stop. Trey flushed the toilet; all business was done. One and a half grams, the price for such a life.
- - -