One Last Trip

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Someone's screaming down the hall. It's Jen. Again. I don't blame her. This place is hell's waiting room and it'll be her turn soon enough. Outside the wind howls too, intermittently interrupted by the thudding branches of the old elm banging against the wall outside my window.

It's still dark. Other than that I don't know the time. Ironically a clock is one of the many items I'm not allowed in case I harm myself. I figure from the knot in the pit of my stomach several hours have passed since my last meal, so it can't be long before dawn. Apparently they prefer it this way. Makes the process quicker. Less chance of complications.

Jen screams again and one of the others yells for her to shut up. There's a clatter of keys followed by more shrieking. Then abruptly the shrieks turn to sobbing. They've given her something. Lucky bitch. But then I guess they'll be giving me something soon too.

The block falls silent save for the wind whining mournfully outside. I get out of bed, crossing a wedge of frozen light on the floor until I stand directly in front of the narrow window. I look out at a barred view of the stars and think of Benny.

***

One of my earliest memories is driving downtown late at night tucked beneath a blanket in the backseat of Mom & Dad's car. I was supposed to be asleep, but I'd peek from undercover to glimpse the stars and the passing city lights that both stretched on forever. At night the city buzzed with a kind of electric magic. Mom drove. Dad was always high by then, but he insisted on doing the business. They justified their habit by reassuring each other they were in control. Better than the street dealers they bought from. The dealers were the ones hanging around on cold streets, carrying guns, nervously watching over their shoulders in case the next car was someone waiting to shoot you. That was no way to live Dad said. We came to a familiar corner where a guy stood with a red bandana tied around his arm. He wore a red cap underneath a grey hoodie so all you could see was the lower half of his face. Still enough to see the gold tooth and tattoo scrawled around his neck that read Mighty Mongrel Mob. Dad rolled down the window. Words and cash were exchanged for a paper package. That was the first time I met Benny.

Mom died when I was fourteen and Dad couldn't look after me, even during the brief periods he was sober. I left home before I got kicked out. Dad still saw Benny for a while. He used to tell me guys like him were danger. Which is why, though he was a few years older, I started seeing Benny myself, one way or another.

I remember my first trip. Benny and I were at a party with a couple of friends I knew from school. When I used to go that is. I went looking for one of my friends. I tried one of the bedrooms and found a couple of guys lying on top of a bed with their girls. I assumed they'd gone to make out, but then I saw the syringes and traces of powder on the bedside table.

Benny was there. I could've gotten seriously pissed at that point, but it was obvious he wasn't there for the girls.

"You want to try some?" He asked.

I was hesitant at first. Benny tapped some powder onto a spoon and held his lighter beneath. It bubbled and let off a sweet floral smell. I remember thinking that must be the poppy resin. He rolled up my sleeve and wrapped a little rubber hose around my arm.

"Look away," he said.

There was a pinch, like an angry mosquito had bit my arm, then a feeling of cold pouring into my veins. After the initial cold, everything went warm and fuzzy. That was all. Some point after, Benny and I ended up at his apartment and we made love...and it was love, at least back then. Benny really cared I was okay. He worried I was going to be sick and kept asking me over and over if I was alright until I fell asleep in his arms.

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