Thursday, May 20, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 3 : Madness

Fernando sleeping on a pile of coke was worrisome for two reasons. I could feel my heart attempting to hammer its way through my ribcage, which meant that despite my best intentions, I'd snorted way too much of the Bolivian marching powder. And being that I wasn't an expert on it, I was kind of concerned about whether I might suddenly do a face plant right next to Fernando. Secondly, I knew that if -I- was so fucking twisted that I couldn't even string two thoughts together, how could this freak be SLEEPING? This wasn't sleeping, in other words. This was at best passed out and at worst dead.

I sucked down a couple of beers really quick to try and get my heart rate under control (which always seems like a good idea but never does much more than upset my stomach), and began to try and settle myself enough to plan my exit. It seemed like Jim had been gone for hours, and given that it was only 10 blocks, this was odd. Just as I was working my mind around to how to work the light on my cellphone, so I could see what time it was, Darlene entered the room and kicked Fernando in the ribs.

Not too hard, but enough to wake him up. He glared at us, got to his knees, and fell over sideways. I began trying to remember where pulse points were. She bent over him and gently shook his shoulder, and this had slightly better success. He opened his eyes and focused them past me and (very plainly, to me) onto the couch in the next room. She was talking, but I was intent on Fernando, who managed to get to his feet and take a step. He wavered, and I caught him under one arm. He didn't seem to notice, and kept his gaze fixed on the couch in the next room.

I was used to this sort of behavior. It's what I do when I'm too fucked up to talk--focus on a flat spot and hope someone gets my point. I helped him to the couch, but he didn't want to actually get on it; he pulled the cushions off and arranged a pallet on the floor.

This didn't please Darlene in the least, who began a harangue that lasted until Jim arrived (which was the better part of an eternity, I assure you). She screamed at him, and cooed at him, mostly saying things like "get up you stupid bastard, we finally got company and you go to sleep on the goddam living room floor," followed shortly by "c'mon, baby, I wanna get high...please, please get up and let's get high..."

Then she looked at me and said "I knew this was going to happen. He hasn't been to sleep since Wednesday."

Count 'em up, folks. Four days without sleep. Anyone else, I'd call bullshit, but I'd seen that perfect pyramid of cocaine, and I knew that he could have stayed up as long as he wanted with what was probably in his stash. Which I was growing less and less interested in by the minute.

It would have been a fairly standard domstic scene, if everything were different. I myself have been berated by a girlfriend for falling asleep while guests were over, or being disinclined to see them, at any rate. But that was due to being tired from work, really, and it never ever took place by the light of a refrigerator., nothing was the same...but the housewife was definitely screeching at her fucked up husband about social mores.

Gradually, she forgot I was there, and her tone became more cajoling and intimate, and her patter more and more focused on "getting high." I realized that Fernando must have done something really horrible to her in the past for snorting his coke when he wasn't around, because there was probably a thousand dollar's worth less than 10 feet away, still with his faceprint in it. God, I thought, how fucked up can this get?

Since then I've learned to never, ever think that.

Jim showed up a few minutes later, and I immediately dragged him out into the back yard to "get a breath of air." It was October, and there was a slight nip in the air, so it felt good after the dead hot air of the house.

"Jim," I said, "this is fucking weird. Dude passed the fuck out a minute after you left, and she's been fucking with him the whole time trying to get him up so she can snort some more coke. There is nothing good here for us. Nothing. Let's go."

His reply was logical: "we can't leave, dude, we dosed these two." Which is definitely good form on his part, and given his track record, which is definitely spotty on the ethics of psychoactives part, I was proud of him. So stay we must. I held firm to this til we entered the house, and saw the most fucked up thing I'd ever seen to date (and remained the recordholder for almost 5 minutes).

You remember those posters in the school nurse's office that showed homeless people smoking, with captions like "smoking is glamorous?" These are attempts to show how smoking really is in real life, an attempt to counteract Hollywood's attempts to show it as a cool habit.

I'm convinced that if I could jack into my brain and plug into your average 20 year old's head, and show him or her the scene I'm about to describe, that person would never, ever take drugs.

Fernando had stripped down to his (irridescent purple, since Wayne asked) bikini underwear, or she had done it for him. Fernando, if you recall, was much smaller than she was. He was also out cold. Darlene had him by the back of his underwear and by his hair, and was cooing at him words that I couldn't understand til I got up close to them.

Darlene had stuffed a rolled up dollar bill into his nose, and held his head suspended a half inch or so above a pile of coke on the floor. The television suddenly seemed very loud, and its light made everyone in the room seem dead. Occasionally, when she'd duck her head to whisper to him, she'd let the bill hit the pile or the floor, shoving it a little farther up his nose. It was a third gone already.

Just before Jim began hollering at her, I caught what she was saying, for all the world like a mother to her child: "c'mon baby, let's get high. mama wants to get high, baby. let's get high."

My skin crawls, two years later. I have never in my life wanted so badly to be somewhere else, sober, and working as a CPA or something. I was horrified. But the image of her as a sort of mother to Fernando's child stuck with me.

Jim broke the spell (bless his irregular heart) by yelling at her to let him go, let him sleep. An argument began, in the middle of which I noticed Fernando was awake. Thinking back I'm sure he woke up as soon as he heard Jim's voice.

Once again I helped Fernando up, but he was now focused on Jim. The woman was screaming, and wouldn't shut up, and this was putting all of us on edge. Jim immediately saw that Fernando wasn't doing well, and took his arm from me to help the poor guy stand.

Things at this point turn into a bad, slow motion horror movie.

Darlene screamed "FERNANDO!"

Fernando's head snapped around like he'd taken a punch, and the second his eyes lit on her I knew we were all in a great deal of trouble. Fernando wasn't home in those eyes. He was gone. What was left was a cross between a frightened 3 year old and a feral animal. He'd lost all grip on reality--I could tell that instantly, because it's happened to me before. And when it happens, you just have to hope there are people there to care for you, or you're away from any kind of human being, any chance of human interaction. Because nothing good ever happens.

Fernando's eyes bugged in fear. He started to hyperventilate, and clutched Jim like a shield. Darlene kept screaming at him (and by screaming I mean top of the lungs screaming, at 3am on Sunday morning, with all the windows open in a pretty bad part of town), something about guests and him being an asshole. When she said "guests," she pointed at me.

That's when Fernando noticed me. When he did, his face registered shock and utter horror, and he spun Jim around to shield himself from me. There was no humanity left in those eyes. Those were the eyes of an animal caught in a trap, an animal about to burst its own heart with fear.

I felt sorry for the guy. I wanted to ease his mind as much as I could--I still thought this was merely a bad trip, and I've dealt with lots of bad trips, from both sides of the abyss. And the first thing you do is get the person still, and not afraid. I backed away, keeping my hands palm out and in plain sight, to the front door. Then I stopped.

Darlene was screaming still--I've never ever seen so much anger and willful stupidity in any one person. She was spitting, and red faced, and had lost it to a degree herself. Everytime she's shout "Fernando," he'd jerk and rotate Jim to be his shield to her, then rotate back to me as Jim tried to calm things down. Jim, needless to say, was freaking out, but handled himself admirably through the whole thing.

After three or four repetitions of the "jerk to Darlene then ease on back to the other guy," Fernando started sliding to the right, never taking those eyes off of me. I was frozen--even if I wanted to, I couldn't have moved. Fernando was breathing heavy enough that I could hear him over the television set, and totally focused on me. He stopped Jim within a few feet of the couch where Darlene was sitting. Then, without taking his eyes off me, he punched Darlene as hard as he could, right in the nose.

All hell broke loose.


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