Paul Satchel hated music lately. He cranked up the volume anyway, thankful he had remembered to bring the cheap MP3 player he'd bought strictly to drown her out her sorry ass on the days when he was forced to pass her. Sure, in this section of the city he risked getting mugged for it; but honestly a person could get mugged for nearly any damn thing around here, so to him it was worth the risk. That crazy old whore yelled the same fucking thing to everyone who passed her, day in and day out, and this was a busy street. So after weeks of hearing it over and over and over again, he'd grown sick of it. Sick to the point of dragging her down a back alley way and wrapping his slim fingers around her frail neck until her jaundiced eyeballs popped out of her skull and blood trickled down the corners of her rotten mouth...
He pushed the thought out of his mind. "Almost there, control yourself, this is for your Angel. Almost there, control yourself, this is for your Angel..." He repeated this mantra in his mind, nonstop, as he hurried down the sidewalk toward his destination.
When he reached the paint-pealed door of 102-C Arley Street he hesitated for a moment before knocking. He knew it was killing him, but he didn't care. He needed it... he needed her. She made doing it make sense. He had to do it. So he knocked.
bam bam bam...
The door cracked open and Paul Satchel found a pair of murky brown eyes peering into his stony grey ones. "Ball sack," snickered Jerrod, the owner of the murky brown eyes. "Come on in. What can I do you for?" Paul Satchel stared at Jarrod. That dopey mother fucker sure as shit wasn't his Angel, but he was one of the few people around here who could help him reach her, so he fought the urge to throw him down the concrete stairs of the stoop.
Instead Paul Satchel ignored Jarrod, shouldering past him and the door, and went into the kitchen where he slumped down on one of the tattered vinyl chairs. Jerrod knew damn well what he could do him for. It wasn't like this was a social call, not to mention Paul Satchel severely disliked being called that idiotic name, Ball Sack. Still, he had to hand it to Jerrod, it was pretty clever for an uneducated strung-out junkie. Credit must be given when credit was due... although Paul Satchel was pretty sure all the credit went to the drugs for that thought, and not to Jerrod. "Heyy Paul, uhh you know that rhymes with ball, righhht... *six minutes later* Ohhh maaan... did you know a satchel is like a sack... *three minutes later* Paul-ball Satchel-sack... *four minutes later* ohhh yeah it's like you're a Baaall Saaaack haha laugh, blah, zone out, drool..." And now he was stuck with a shitty nickname, from his shitty dealer, to go along with his shitty habit.
"Just shut the fuck up, Jerrod, and let's get this shit over with," Ball Sack, formerly known as Paul Satchel, grunted. Jerrod stumbled over to one of the greasy, dilapidated cabinets and opened the door. He removed an old tea tin from an even older coffee tin and set it on the table where Ball Sack sat. Ball Sack reached for the tin with a quickness, but Jerrod caught Ball Sack's wrist even quicker, "Not so fast, fucker. Pay up, then shoot up." Ball Sack glared at him, then smirked. Maybe Jerrod wasn't such a fucktard after all.
Ball Sack reached into the pocket of his jeans and threw a wad of crumpled twenties at Jerrod. He snatched the tin away as Jerrod grabbed for the falling money. As Jarrod walked out of the room counting his money and laughing, Ball Sack popped open the lid of the tea tin and dug out the tiny baggie of beige powder. He finally started to relax a little. Soon he would see her: His Angel, his heroine, the only one who could save him.
He reached in his right jacket pocket, the one that held his new MP3 player, and pulled out an elastic, a syringe, a small piece of cotton, a lighter, and a sterling silver spoon. He didn't really need the lighter; this shit was pretty pure. But it felt better when it was a little warmer. He didn't really need the sterling silver spoon stolen from his mother's precious china cabinet, either; any spoon would do. But this was Ball Sack's quiet way of telling his ridiculous, status-driven, money-loving, stuck-up parents, Don and Sheila, Fuck-You-Because-You-Two-Ass-Holes-Did-This-To-Me. He reached into his left jacket pocket and pulled out a bottle of water. Evian of course, also an ode to his parents, because only the best will do for their boy. Besides, he didn't trust the unfiltered funk of the city tap water and by this time a habit had morphed into a ritual.
Ball Sack tied the elastic tightly around his left bicep. He picked up the tarnishing spoon and poured the contents of the baggie into it. Then, adding just enough water from his bottle of Evian, he swirled the mixture around in the spoon, ever so gently, and lit the bottom side with his lighter until it barely steamed. Carefully, so as not to spill anything, he placed the cotton in the liquid and pushed the needle of the syringe in it, drawing up the liquid gold at the same time. When he finished he turned the syringe upside down, thumped it a few times, and plunged the remaining air out of the body of the syringe through the sharp point of the needle. Then he pierced through the thin skin at the crook of his elbow and into his vein. It was almost time to see her. He closed his eyes and pressed the plunger down hard.
When he opened his eyes he was outside, down the street from Jerrod's row house, sitting in the grass of the ramble-wild park. He knew he had walked here; he knew it had only been minutes. Still, he couldn't quite remember the trek here. But he could feel her presence next to him now, so everything would be ok. Funny, he couldn't feel the warmth of her skin. He could remember the warmth she radiated just two months ago, could almost feel it. Her hands were always so warm. At least they had been. Those warm, soft hands were nothing but ash now. It was fine though. H felt warm enough, alive enough, for the both of them. Everything was fine. He turned to her now and the shadow of a smile spread across his lips. She frowned.
I told you I didn't want to see you anymore...
"I love you."
Not like this.
"But I love you..."
If you loved me you'd stick to your real life.
"There is no real life for me anymore."
You've got to stop doing this.
"It's the only way I get to be with you."
But it's not real.
"It's real enough."
You have to let this go.
"I can't let you go."
It's not your fault.
"I know that."
I don't think you do.
"I do. It's Don and Sheila's fault."
No. It's not.
"Yeah. It is."
It's my own fault. I was the one driving.
"Don't say that; don't ever say that again."
You know it's true.
"I won't believe that."
Stop blaming them. It's really not their fault.
"Oh it's their fault alright."
It was an accident, Paul. Nothing more.
"They turned you away that night, Angel."
That's not what killed me and you know it.
"If they hadn't done that you'd still be here."
They thought you deserved a better life than the one...
"They thought wrong."
They love you.
"I had all the love I needed."
You still have it. You always will.
"But you're gone."
Time goes by quickly. We'll be together soon enough.
"Even a minute is too long anymore."
It doesn't have to be like this.
"Yeah it does have to be like this."
Be patient, my love.
"I'll find patience when I'm in my grave."
This mess is going to put you there, you know.
"I know that."
If you go that way, you won't be able to see me again.
"You're... you're lying."
Did you know that, Paul?
"No... I didn't."
Stop this madness and get clean.
"But I need to see you again, Angel."
You have got to stop this or you won't.
"Not ever seeing you again, that's not an option."
There will be no options if you don't stop.
"I can't be without you."
We'll be together again, my love...one day soon.
I promise if you promise.
"Promise what, Angel? Anything, I promise anything."
Promise me you'll stop using.
"How can I stop now? I think I'm too far gone."
"I don't know that I can."
Pray, my love.
And when that doesn't work?
It will work, Paul. Promise me you'll pray.
Try for me.
"For you I will try anything."
"I promise if you promise."
I love you, Paul.
"I love you too, Angel."
Paul Satchel closed his eyes and laid back on the cool grass. He knew she was already gone. He had a choice to make. He opened his eyes and peered up into the heavens. He wasn't sure how to pray. He wasn't even sure if he could come to terms with a God who would take his Angel away. But he would try. For her.
As he started on the long walk home to face his parents, sobriety, and a life without her, he heard a familiar screeching up ahead. "One for the money..." the old whore sang out, making obscene gestures with her knotted hands. "Two for the show..." she continued, thrusting her bony pelvis around and flashing a gaunt thigh. "Threesome get ready... and four...." Paul Satchel reached into his pocket and tossed the MP3 player to her, interrupting her vulgar song. He wouldn't be visiting that ass-hat Jerrod anymore. He wouldn't be passing the old whore anymore. So he simply wouldn't be needing it anymore. Besides, hated music lately. He winked at her, started humming a tune to himself, and continued on his way home.
(This Is No City of Angels)
Photograph By: Me