“Look, I found one.” he said, holding up a half smoked cigarette to me. Lighting it, I took a huge draw before handing it back. We each got two puffs of stale tobacco before the cigarette was gone and the search for another half-smoked discarded cigarette renewed.
The air was warm and humid. Humid enough that you felt a slight weight as it clung to your shirt. Here we were, searching through discarded smokes, trying to sate our nicotine urges.
It had been a long, blurry night. At about eight o’ clock the party arrived. While I didn’t have a job, I had something most didn’t. I had a place to party. The two bedroom apartment with connecting kitchen and living room was strewn with the clutter of broken furniture and stains of people who couldn’t make it to the toilet to throw up after a night of drinking. People would come over to drink and do whatever drugs and would share their booze or narcotics. It was a fair trade off. The urge to party sometimes runs headfirst into the problem of not having a place to rage.
I provided the space, people provided the party. My stomach, along with my cabinets, hadn’t digested anything but cheap beer or even cheaper vodka for the whole week. It was only Thursday.
It wasn’t always this way. I was six months removed from a decent job, a family and a respectable living arrangement. My life had done something I was all too familiar with.
It had fallen apart.
That was the summer I almost lost everything, including my life. The appetite for destruction couldn’t be sated and there wasn’t a drug that went through that apartment I didn’t personally test.
Sifting through cigarette butts, we found two more that were good for a drag or so. What do you do when you’ve got nothing to do?
Our friendship was about as new as my latest spiral out of control. It worked, because our spirals somehow aligned.
How the fuck did I get here?
I wasn’t a terrible bad kid. I was a bad kid, I wouldn’t say I was a terrible one. School and I never agreed on a subject. I was an honor student. It wasn’t that I didn’t like school, I wasn’t a class skipper. The problem was more so the amount of time I spent in class waiting for the teacher to move on. The regular courses came so easy to me that I found myself sitting there; bored and restless. In the time I spent waiting for the teacher to make sure no child was left behind, I daydreamed. Since a young age, the studies were easy and I found myself having to look busy. You know the tortoise and the hare? I was the hare; too fast for my own good. So, while my peers struggled to understand the complexities of the multiplication table, I would sit there, furiously scribbling on a blank piece of paper seeing who would win out; the paper or the ink in the pen. My notebooks were filled with pages saturated in nothing but ink as I scribbled and scribbled to see if the pen would run out of ink before the page became a black hole.
So, as kids slowly progressed, I filled notebooks with nothing. Throughout elementary school and middle school, my class notes were nothing more than pages black and torn from extreme pen abuse.
By the time I hit high school, my two talents were getting under people’s skin and hitting people who got under mine. In my eyes, all my fights were justified. The principal had my parents on speed dial. Maybe it was the feeling that I wasn’t noticed unless I was in trouble that drove me.
That’s what any number of psychologists might tell you. The truth? I was bored and the only way I could find interest was pushing into the unknown.
By high school, a mix of sports and an ability to choose harder classes had leveled me out. Honor courses gave me less time to fill sheets with empty blackness.
if there was something I enjoyed more than pushing into the unknown to see what would happen, it was proving people wrong. By the time high school had arrived, my main goal in life wasn’t to fill notebooks with nothing, it was to prove people wrong. When my guidance counselor looked at the tome of a file on me, she adamantly refused to put me in honor classes. I would be a high school drop out before sixteen, she said. The only classes I ever excelled in were the ones she told me I would fail in.
My parents began a countdown to when they could get rid of their troubled child my senior year. To say I had teenage angst would be an understatement.
I fucking was teenage angst.
Halfway through my senior year, I moved out. Taking a bag of everything I felt I needed, I shacked up with a friend who had already graduated. My parents assumed that was it, I was finally proving everyone right and dropping out.
Quite the contrary.
As I took the stage at graduation, it was hard not to raise a middle finger to the bleachers. Just a nice fuck you one last time. I had no intention of ever talking to them again and I am sure with the burden of me lifted they would be just fine in their day to day.
How did I get from stage walking to sifting through the cigarette butts?
I was broke. I was bored. I was filling the nothing with blackness, just like through grade school.
The summer had begun to reach a tipping point. As more and more drugs and alcohol made their way through my apartment (and my body) my spiral only quickened.
By spiraled, I mean I began to just smash unapologetically into oblivion.
That’s what can happen when you just don’t care. I mean, fuck, no one cared. If anyone did, they certainly weren’t showing it. Nights were spent inhaling anything we could get our hands on.
The substance was the substances.
We gathered empty beer cans from around the house, making our way to exchange them for any change we could get. The change wouldn’t go towards food, but a black and mild to tide over until the party began to show up again.
These were my days and I thought I was living.
The party came. The alcohol flowed. The drugs popped. The party went. I found myself in a room of broken furniture and spilled drinks, looking for meaning in the form of a late night visitor.
When the alcohol and drugs are gone, sex or violence are good substitutes to continue filling with blackness. I didn’t care who she was, I just needed her there. Some semblance of relationship till dawn. A pretty little thing, enabling in a crop top.
Maybe everyone saw how much I didn’t seem to care about my well-being, so neither did they. Maybe, they had enough of their own shit to deal with to worry about the problems of others. We were all young and fucked up, angry with our parents and the world; looking to lash out with sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
Walking cliches. Young, dumb and full of cum.
I told you the spiral began to transform into true, pure, destruction. Right?
By Sunday, I was threatening to kill myself if I didn’t get my late night fix of human connection. Did I want to off myself? Well, being alive didn’t really seem all that great. Besides, at nineteen, I felt invincible anyways.
When the cops showed up at my house, asking me why I wanted to kill myself, I laughed. I couldn’t kill myself with so much to live for I told them, hysterically laughing as they shook their heads and made their way to go do whatever cops do after they feel their time is wasted.
Did I want to die?
Yes. Absolutely. I wouldn’t off myself though. For all the self-loathing and destruction, I knew my story didn’t end in some shithole apartment.
No, there had to be more to life.