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Death Wish on Acid
"It's all good dog!"
He found a risk inherent in certain forms, be it family, security or love. The specificity of risk excited Kyle. He could see the shockwaves pushing out from the epicenter of decision. The anticipation of reaction was his motivation. Imagine the problems this could cause!
He hadn’t set out on this night to imbibe frenzy, but in less than two hours after he’d downed the Death Wish on Acid he found himself neck deep in rivers of chaos.
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The drive to Asheville had been tame, which was lucky on a Friday evening. His shift at the warehouse passed quickly given the amount of anticipation he had for the weekend at hand. His friend Norah had invited him to drive to see her brother. Kyle knew her brother, but was more interested in what might occur on the drive there and back. He had a sweet spot for Norah, one that longed to be assuaged.
He was able to score two grams of coke within ninety minutes of clocking out and was in Norah’s driveway by a quarter past seven. The drive from Greensboro was mellow until they hit Morganton and the anticipation grew and they began to pull lines every ten minutes during the last hour of the trip.
Somewhere in McDowell County he pulled the Celica off the interstate hoping to buy a tallboy. The clerk gave him a funny look while mouthing the words “dry county” and Kyle had to content himself with Sprite.
The dry sweetness did little for his thirst, pushing him to drive carelessly up the serpentine concrete until they crested Black Mountain and floated along toward the I-240 exit that led downtown. Norah’s brother, Troy, and his roommate, Kevin, gave them shit in a roundabout way for being fucked up but they didn’t push the issue. Troy had moved up into the mountains to grow hydroponic pot, after all, and to escape the powder scene that dominated the mid-section of North Carolina at that time.
“Man, you guys are wired,” Kevin said after they’d exchanged greetings and had the time to find a seat.
“Nah, bruh, just tweaked from the drive,” Kyle said. “I tried to get us here as fast as possible.”
Troy wasn’t saying anything, just glaring at them because he’d specifically banned anyone from bringing blow into his house. Kyle tried not to look at him.
“So what’s up with you two bitches anyway?” Norah said. “Are we going to hit the town or sit here and stare at each other?”
“Well we’ve been waiting on you, but now that you’ve arrived in style we can get the evening started,” Troy said. “I guess you’ll be wanting to smoke a bit so you can come down from ‘the drive.’” He made quotation marks in the air before pulling a wooden tray from behind the apron around the bottom of the couch. A gray green glass pipe rested on its side surrounded by clumps of pot the size of grape clusters loosened from the bunch. Norah’s eyes lit up and she licked her lips. “Yummy,” she said and rubbed her hands together.
Troy pinched off a bit and stuffed the glass as Kevin got up and walked to his room just off the main living area. He opened and shut the door quickly, but not before Kyle saw the orange glow from the grow lights. “How’s all that coming?” Kyle said, nodding his head toward the back.
“If by ‘all that’ you mean the grow room, then you know we don’t talk about it,” Troy said dryly. “But I can tell you that you’ll enjoy this right here.” He handed Kyle the glass and put the tray back under the couch.
Kyle’s head still pulsed fifteen minutes later when Troy pulled his Civic under the I-240 bridge at Lexington Street. It was a good spot, just down the hill from Walnut Street. The lights from the storefronts and the rush of the crowd on either side gave him that electric Asheville vibe right off the bat. Straight-laced clean cuts in button down madras with badly dyed blondes in Eddie Bauer passed along amid dirty jeaned burnouts with unwashed dreads and ear lobes as hollow as their gaunt stare. Underfed women in formless cotton dresses tie-dyed the color of New Mexican sunrise tagged along behind hallucinating heroes tripping on the mellifluous din of a city open to possibility.
They crossed the street near Stella Blue and Kyle was almost knocked to the pavement by a gregarious high-class beauty dragging her high-heeled friend in a short skirt in the wake of her own flowing hair. Their toned forms backlit in the bluish streetlight as they ran toward the door. He thought to call out to them, and he would have in any other city, but he was trying to tap into that mellow Asheville soul.
He didn’t want his reputation to follow him. Not here. Not when he and Norah had talked during the drive about moving up and joining the highland party. Not when he had the chance to leave his reputation for drunken brutality in the past and maybe find a way to tap into the good times vibe. If he could find a way to chill and leave the worries of the past in the past and not fret over them and chase the stoned just trying to mute the noise for a while.
“Where are we going, Troy?” he asked.
Troy had set a mighty pace and Kyle had fallen a few steps behind after he’d paused to watch the two dark-haired beauties rush into Stella Blue. He’d thought about running after them for a minute, but that’s what got him into the trouble he was clawing his way out of eighteen months later. So he rushed to catch up to where Kevin and Norah walked arm in arm next to Troy.
“We’re going to Magnolia’s, behind that shop where you bought the ring last month,” Troy said. “I met this cutie who tends bar there.”
Kyle walked a few paces behind the group. He clenched his jaw and opened and closed his fists rapidly trying to pass the pulse of envy he felt at the sight of Norah’s arm fed through Kevin’s, the way her hip and long torso brushed against his portly frame. Nothing he could do about it, he reminded himself. She’d made it clear to Kyle that they wouldn’t become lovers anytime soon. He’d cried on the phone a while back and said “I’ll wait then” to which she replied “Don’t” and he said “But that’s all I have right now” to which she suggested that they not hang out for a few days so he could get himself sorted out.
He’d fallen in love with her quickly after Troy left town and suggested Kyle hang out with Norah in his absence. He’d only been out of prison for six weeks when Troy told him he was moving to Asheville to get a new perspective.
Kyle didn’t talk to her for a week after he’d finally said the words, but she’d called on Monday and asked if he wanted to drive back up and see Troy for the weekend.
Magnolia’s was a spacious bar with floor seating and dart boards on the wall and an opening that led to more restaurant seating and a billiard area next to bay windows. They shared a few drinks and caught up on small talk and Troy was able to make plans with his cutie. Norah walked off with Kevin to play pool and Troy finally turned his way.
“She’s cute, huh,” he said with a toothy grin as he turned to Kyle, who nursed perhaps his third Long Island.
“Very,” he said. “But you always seem to make a good impression with them. I wish I knew how to do it.”
“It just comes natural, bro, you just got to be yourself. I been telling you that for years now,” Troy said. He smiled again with those easy eyes and then leaned back on his bar stool. “They’re everywhere up here, man. You really should think about moving up,” he continued. “And for real, you need to stay away from that shit in your nose. You’re about to piss me off bringing that shit up here. And with my sister?”
“She’s the one, homes,” Kyle said quickly. “She’s the one who calls me on the phone ‘hey watcha doing? wanna split a gram?’ You know I’m struggling, and all alone, so what am I gonna say when a 21-year old asks me do I want to go out and get wasted?”
Troy looked at his beer. “I know. Look, you should know that my parents are suspicious. Asking me all kinds of questions about who she hangs out with and is she hooked on drugs, so try to get her to chill.”
“I try man but ever since she started tending bar at Stilskins shit is crazy.”
“Yeah, my mom is about to come down on that, too.”
“So, it’s like half the time I am trying to protect her and half the time I am trying to do my thing. Did she tell you I almost got in a fight with a guy who wanted to hit on her about two weeks ago?”
“Yeah, I heard.”
“I mean shit Troy I can’t be violating my probation. I got thirty-six months hanging over my head. It’s one thing to do dope, but if I get arrested, I’m fucked.”
They passed a few minutes in silence and Kyle turned around and leaned his elbows on the bar. He watched Norah from across the room. He’d fallen in love with her because she was Troy’s sister and he missed Troy with all his heart. He knew this much. He knew what his feelings for Norah amounted to. And that’s what kept him from running off the rails like he’d done so many times before.
“I miss you brother,” Troy finally said to him. “I hope you can get this way. It would be good for you.”
“I’d really like that,” Kyle said. “Maybe things will line up and I can make it happen. Make a few good decisions for once.” The comment lingered between them, hovering in the possible space before pushed away by the sound of Norah’s voice from the other end of the bar.
“Kyle, get down here,” she called, leaning her breasts upon the bar so that he could see her smile beyond the row of people between them. She was with Kevin and had picked up a couple more admirers, an athletic black man in a gray shirt stretched across his thick chest, and a tall blond school boy in khakis and a red and black polo shirt. Kevin knew them and they formed a tight circle around Norah. One had his hand on her hip near the space where her shirt rose up from her belt line to expose her taut midriff.
Norah was like her brother in that they both were wholly without malice and often the center of the party. But unlike Troy she was still very naive. “Not this shit again,” Kyle thought when he saw the dark-skinned hand resting on her hip. He approached gingerly, as if afraid of being drawn into another conflict over who earned her attention.
“Dude, you have to try this,” Norah said. She handed him a tumbler, with colored liquors stacked in layers.
“What is it?” he said and raised the glass to his nostril.
“Death Wish on Acid,” she said. “It is so good.”
Kyle didn’t think it sounded like a good trip. He sniffed the liquor, picking up hints of rum, whiskey and mint.
“Don’t be a fucking pussy,” Norah snapped. He downed the shot, surprised at how effortlessly the concoction went down.
“Let’s do another,” she said. Kevin and the two suitors nodded.
“Why not,” Kyle said.
Norah stepped up onto the foot rail and leaned in to get the bartender’s attention. The school boy elbowed his dark skinned friend and they eyeballed her ass and the school boy made a groping motion with his fingers. They both looked up to Kyle, the school boy offering a lecherous smile as he pulled on his cigarette and looked away through the rising smoke.
She handed around the drinks and they downed them without a word. Norah turned and accepted the touch of her suitor. Kyle looked back down the bar to where Troy laughed with a new group of friends. Kevin and the school boy chatted about a mutual friend from the restaurant where Kevin worked.
Kyle lit a cigarette and contemplated the visible. The energy like atoms in constant vibration, giving, receiving, moving without reason. He realized he’d reached the point of inebriation that he called “liquefied” where the infusion of more alcohol leads only to nausea. He stood sipping a glass of water when Troy said he was ready to bolt.
Kyle rode in the backseat becoming increasingly disoriented. But he snapped to when Troy took a clover leaf curve too fast and came within four inches of the concrete barrier that separated them from the French Broad River flowing silently below in the darkness.
“It’s all good!” Troy yelled as he worked the wheel, his hands crisscrossed as the tires screamed before he righted the small white car and they all laughed.
“Holy shit,” Norah said. “I need a cigarette.” She smoked for a minute and then asked Troy if he would stop at the grocery store.
“Will you run in for us, Kyle?” she said. Still buzzed from the hairpin curve he thought it would be a good decision to get out of the car for a minute. Troy handed him ten dollars and said to get a couple of cheap pizzas and a Coke and maybe a pastry for in the morning.
The store was incredibly bright and Kyle felt a strange rush of drunken energy, a manic, confused excitement, as if he was just getting his alcoholic’s second wind. He did grab two pizzas and a Coke and some Pop Tarts and headed to the front. It dawned on him as he waited at the register that he hadn’t seen anyone else in the store. Not a clerk. Not a customer. Not a cashier. He thought about laying the ten spot on the counter, but he looked around again, and seeing no one, he walked out the door.
The excitement bit into him. The electric tingle of fear as he waited to hear a voice calling him to stop, footsteps rushing in syncopated loss prevention.
He exited the foyer and went through the large sliding door. Down the concrete sidewalk and across the blacktop to the white car. He could see Troy laughing in conversation. He glanced back over into the store and still saw no one at the checkout. It was like an apparition of a grocery store, a third moment between what normally is.
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