I finally made my memoir available on Amazon, in honor of the up and coming 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The little girl
Learned how to dance,
Spinning and twirling
Into worlds unchartered.
That little girl,
Something much more
As her heart began to thump
Like a grown up
And she knew
What it meant to love.
That little girl,
Venturing into all
The realms unknown.
With blind faith
But, times grow tough
And we are all starving
That little girl,
Whose heart once thumped
And a heart swell
Sits out in the rain
Tears steady fall
And the pieces of her
In the mud.
The little girl,
And really twisted.
As she fell
Further and further
From the summer…
Living in the cold
Of the living dead.
The rains keep falling.
And she fears
The sun can never shine.
That little girl,
Deep, deep inside.
And she wonders
When the music
And she wonders
She still knows
How to dance…
Thinking back to the days
Thinking back to the days
Before my heart was corroded
Thinking back to all the pain
Inside and out,
Years and years of abuse
Some self inflicted
And others suffered
At the hands of another…
Some wounds too deep
To ever heal.
And forever, I am altered.
Can we ever really go back?
Once innocence is gone..
Is it lost forever?
Why is it, then…
That I feel like a kid again.
I crave just
About that wooden floor
Beneath my platform heels
Feet spinning below me,
And my head spinning
And all the edges are hazy.
The burgundy velvet curtain
Tilts back and reveals…
All that glitters,
Really is golden
In my fucked up haze
And drunken eyes
In the old yellow lights
Of the dark and dirty
Little strip bar.
My dark and dirty little secrets
For the world to see.
Just like the track marks
Covering my body
If you look really hard
In even the dark lights
Of the club,
You can see hints
Of the bruises and the scars.
But, soon you forget about all that
And just like me,
You are enveloped in this world
It is all an allusion.
Sweet, sweet smile,
And a sexy little body
A warm soul right next to you.
A beacon in the darkness.
But I really
Don’t wanna see the light.
Even the sound of the old jukebox
And enveloping my entire soul
With the sound of the guitar.
Just like it always has,
The sound of the guitar
The ringing in my ears,
The smoky haze of a cloudy club.
And I am lost within
The depths of the sound.
I close my eyes
Now, as I did then
Tilting my head back
And feeling only rhythm…
Radiates from me
And we are all drawn inside.
Just like the tip
Of my needle
Just like the sound
Of the music
And the cheap speakers
Rocking my soul.
I look back onto
That little stage.
A wooden structure
Long since washed away by water.
The old stage,
Under my heels
While I held tight
To that dirty pole,
And that guitar rips
Bringing me back to here.
And I realize
That girl on stage,
Has also been washed away,
And drown with the floodwaters
That swell still beneath my soul.
Tears jump forward…
And just like always,
I stuff them back down.
Words flow, freely
Before the fail, miserably
Falling onto the souls
Of the unfortunate.
Sucking the lifeblood of the weak
And the kind.
But life always
Returns the favor…
I pulled on a well-worn pair of black high top Doc Martins. I had on a baggy pair of shorts and a tight black t-shirt a local punk band’s logo. We opened the main door and walked onto the porch. Below the wooden slats of the porch, I could see the water dancing around in the sunlight. The water was all the way up to the bottom of the porch.
Out here, all I could see was water. The sound of water lapping onto the sides of the old house rhythmically pounded my ears. You couldn’t see the bottom. The water was black with all kinds of debris floating around in it, branches, and leaves, and Styrofoam containers. There was dirt and slime, and the sun reflected rainbow colored oil patterns all over the top of the water. It seemed choppy in parts, like it might be flowing. Maybe it was still rising. I could not tell.
Stepping into the water, it was warm like piss. It was warm, and wet, and fluid. It was all around me, sinking into the pores of my skin and weighing my clothes down on me until they hung sagging off my skinny frame. I wasn’t always this skinny. That was one major advantage to the constant bounce between sickness and wealth that every hard-core junky comes to know.
Undoubtedly, the humidity had only gotten worse with all this extra moisture flowing through the streets of the city. The sun was rising, and I knew pretty soon the heat would be choking down on us relentlessly. I thought before long the sun would be blazing.
I did not notice the smell then. It must have taken a couple of days of heat and humidity in the midst of these river streets for the smell of death and decay to really permeate the air. A couple of days from that moment, the smell of death would be so deep in my hair that I feared it would never wash off. That smell is a smell that I will never forget. Every now and again I get a strange whiff of something that reminds of that Hurricane smell of death and destruction, and I am brought right back to that place in my mind.
When I stood in the middle of the street, the water was up to my chest. I slowly pushed my way through it. It was a long and rather arduous process to wade through chest deep water. I kept my arms high enough to stay above the water, pulling them back and forth while dragging the rest of my body behind. I swayed back and forth pulling and steadying with my arms. I could feel my thighs burning from the physical workout.
We headed straight for the Esplanade Pharmacy, which was about twelve blocks away from the apartment. Liam said he had been standing there when someone threw a brick through the window. He went in after them, grabbing whatever he could with his limited knowledge of pharmaceuticals and their mysterious names. We had to hurry back there because it will not be long before the pharmacy’s shelves were bare.
The water was lower when we got to the pharmacy. It stood waist high when I was standing on the sidewalk, and on the neutral ground it only rose to my thighs. When we got to the Esplanade Pharmacy, it was dark inside like all the other buildings. This pharmacy intrigued me since I moved to New Orleans. I passed this place on my way to City Park. I always thought it looked like a place you could get a fake prescription for anything you wanted.
I had been into the Esplanade Pharmacy many times in the past few years since I moved to the Treme several years earlier. I often met the dope man a block from there, and I always stopped and call him from the payphone that stood on the side of the pharmacy. I went inside any day that I had an extra dollar or two and buy a cold Coca-Cola. There is nothing quite as good as a cold coke, except dope when your entire body is screaming at you from need and lack. The pharmacy was raised up from the rest of the store, behind Plexiglas in the back. In the front of the Esplanade Pharmacy was a convenient store big enough to have couple of aisles of groceries as well as a couple of well stocked tall coolers with sliding glass doors. It always smelled funny in there, like old chemicals, like stale medicine. Sterile, yet rotten to the core.
We cautiously looked both ways, making sure no one saw us as we pulled open the door forcing its weight against the weight of the water. It was really dark when the door shut behind us, and I groped around in the dark, unaware of what lay directly in front of me. We floated a large, empty, plastic cooler on top of the water. We had not thought to bring a flashlight, but Liam found a box with a couple of lighters that was still dry. He held one up to light our way with the flame flickering only slightly in the still air. All kinds of trash floated around. It looked like people had been devouring snacks and drinks in here, discarding the wrappers and bottles in their haste.
We climbed up, almost out of the water and onto the platform that held the pharmacy. The raised floor behind the Plexiglas still had at least two inches of water. The water sloshed under our feet as we tried to be quiet. Slish, slosh. Slish, slosh. Slish, slosh. Several rows of those cheap, white metal shelves held pills, and liquids, and powders sitting neatly in lines. Bottles floated in those inches of water, but I did not bother with those.
Liam held the open flame up so I could read the labels. Quickly, I turned the bottles around to see what sweet treat hid inside. Making quick decisions, I pulled nearly every third bottle into the cooler. Nervously, I searched through those shelves for what seemed like an eternity. If any authorities came in, we would be cornered. Not that we had seen any authorities, but this was New Orleans…there had to be some cops somewhere doing some fucked up shit!
With the he cooler was nearly full, and we began our escape. Just before we stepped down from the pharmacy, I noticed some bottles and boxes below the empty open cash register. I just pulled them all into the cooler without looking. I retrieved a big one from the water that had fallen out of the overflowing cooler. I held it tightly in my hand. No one was in sight, so Liam and I ducked out.
Back in the sun’s light, I looked down at my hand. I was holding a huge bottle of Tylenol with Codeine, quantity 1000 count. It felt mostly full. We made a beeline back to the apartment to sort through the stolen treasure in the dark before our friends saw this pirated booty. A junky always keeps most for himself.
The cooler overflowed with bottles and boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Fentanyl patches in 100mg, 50 mg, and 25mg. Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin. Haloperidol in pills and liquid 2mg, 4mg, 10mg, and 25 mg. Seroquel, Trazedone, Thorazine, and Lamictal. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Dilaudid, and Phenergan with Codeine Cough Syrup. It truly was a glorious sight. I thought with this shit, I would never be dope sick again.
We stashed pills all over and then proceeded to get high. We covered our legs with little Fentanyl patches, ate handfuls of pills, and cut open the big Fentanyl patches and shot up the liquid that lay waiting inside. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. Oh my fucking god. I had an orgasm right there; shaking and twisting from involuntary pleasure before I could even take the needle out of my arm. We stashed the entire booty, and we went out into the waters again on a mission for liquor.
That summer of the storm was one of the hottest and muggiest summers I have ever known. The air all summer stood really still, which just helped the heat to penetrate through everything, leaving its invasive personality on the sticky film of every piece of my sordid little life.
The clubs on Bourbon were even really hot that summer. Usually, the air conditioner in a strip club blows strong enough to keep all the nipples rock hard. Apparently, it helps the dancer make money somehow, although it is difficult to have a comfortable conversation with even the easiest going man when your back is stiff from sitting in the frigid cold for an hour with nipples hard and pointy. But, the summer the storm hit New Orleans; even the super duper monster air conditioners in the strip clubs on Bourbon Street could not keep up with the hot dead calm.
I remember sticky. My butt stuck to the old and dirty leather banquettes that provided most of the seating in the Shobar. Those damn things were grimy enough without a bunch of already raunchy strippers stuck to them with the funk of their own sweaty butts. I remember sliding off that leather banquette one night, hoping to conceal a little of my clumsiness and act somewhat graceful, when I skidded out from leather and sticky sweat catching my butt on several spots of that seat, and nearly tumbled drunk onto the ground. I remember girls getting up from their seats next to a customer, with residue of butt shaped sweat left still gleaming in even the darkened lights of the strip club.
Not to mention the funky smell of the locker room. In the winter, the locker room reeked of feet. In the summer, the pervasive smell of humidity and mold always hung around in the air. All year round, the smell of stale alcohol and cigarettes competed with the marijuana and flavored cigar papers. But, that summer, the smell escalated with the sweat from dancers, seeping from armpits and pussies. We tried to cover it up with cheap perfume and body spray, but that only worked for a while until the stink would creep back in. At the end of the night, we would leave carrying the sweaty smell of every other girl in our hair, with our own smelly sweat clinging to our moist skin.
325 Bourbon Street is one of the most infamous addresses in my old junky mind. Before Katrina, I spent most of my time at 325 Bourbon Street, working to pay for my expensive heroin habit. I can see the interior in my mind, as clearly as if I were still there. The place has changed since the Hurricane, which is a shame because there was so much history there.
325 Bourbon is where The Shobar stood for years and years. It is rumored that the site was the first strip club in America, and it most certainly was the oldest in New Orleans. Its history undoubtedly dates back to the red light districts of Storyville times, as the club sits on the edge of what was once the Storyville District. Walking inside, the feeling of its checkered past becomes instantly obvious.
The doorman stood out on the street just outside the double doors, barking at the people walking by…enticing them to come inside. Sometimes the girls would join him on the stoop, hawking at men on the street in attempts to draw more business inside. The girls were not supposed to leave the club, and most often they stood in the foyer, just inside the doors.
This did not mean that it was impossible to leave, as I can attest. I would often have to make a dope run just before the night shift really got cranking. The most frequent doorman in those days was Jeff, who was also a junky. Jeff always covered for me, and the other doormen allowed me to give them a few extra bucks to keep my secret safe.
Looking back on it, I am sure my little runs were no secret from anyone, but is always nice to keep up our images. I put on one of my most street worthy stripper outfits, which was generally a black vinyl nurse’s uniform with red flames accompanied by my knee high black vinyl boots. I stepped out of the doors, bullshitting for a few minutes like I was hawking at customers. Then, I turned to the left and darted down Bourbon to the corner. Turning on Conti, I picked up the pace as I rushed to meet the man with no less than two hundred dollars in my boot. (Often times, I had much, much more.) A man called Turtle often met me on Conti, just a block away from Bourbon on Dauphine. I hopped in the car and quickly made the transaction. Hugging tightly to numerous little foils of my precious dope, I headed back down Dauphine towards Canal for one block until I turned on Bienville. Walking up Bienville to Bourbon, I passed several bars and fine dining restaurants…I made the block at Bourbon and was back in the club lickety-split.
Anxious eyes always greeted me, waiting for their precious packages. Gathering in the dressing room, I distributed the foils like I was Santa Claus handing out gifts on Christmas morning. Let the money making begin!
Once you entered the club from Bourbon Street, you stepped back in time. It was dark as hell in there, and the interior was dark wood and burgundy leather. It was always an adjustment on one’s eyes, even from the nighttime neon of Bourbon Street. Once your eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, you could see the inside of the place was really cool. It was old school, and you could tell it had remained unchanged for years. I think that it is sad that it was completely gutted and remolded after Katrina.
To the right was the bar. One end of the bar was almost on top of the window that faced Bourbon Street. This end of the bar was open and the bartender would come and go as he pleased. The phone was back in this corner, and I made and received many calls about dope from that phone. I even made a few calls to that phone from jail.
The bar itself was made of a dark wood, smooth from years of customers drinking and sloshing drinks. I can still feel the edge of the bar underneath my fingers as I think about it. It was an old bar with a raised and curved edge that went all the way around. The wood was softened from age and wear, and I often would push my nails into it, almost digging out little pieces of the soft wood. It was a nervous habit I had acquired while sitting there often waiting for either money or dope.
The other end of the bar, opposite the windows and phone, met up with the stage. This allowed the bartender to keep an eye on the stage from where he stood to mix drinks. Sitting at the bar, even in the daytime, one always noticed how dark it was in there. Sometimes, it seemed so dark that I could barely make out the bottles of liquor behind the bar. Of course, that was never an issue because I knew they had Jameson.
Behind the tables were more banquettes that were separated for dances. All the girls and their customers piled on top of each other, pretending that they were alone. The private room really was not private at all, as it was only separated by a beaded curtain at the entrance. There was an old couch in this room that had years of dirt and cum, I am sure. I was sometimes afraid to stick my hand too far into the seam of the couch for fear of coming up with a used condom. I will say, though, when Jeff and I would open up early for a day shift, we would often search the cushions of the couch for money. Dollar bills wrapped around thighs and ankles would often peel off unbeknownst to the dancer while giving a “private show.” Sometimes, Jeff and I discovered enough money back there to get a bag of dope for each of us. That was the best way to start the day!
The stage of The Shobar was my favorite part about the whole place. It was also old school and looked exactly like I had always pictured the stage of a strip club before I started to frequent them. The reality is that most strip clubs today try to look so ritzy the stages do not look anything like the ones you see in the movies or we picture in our minds.
The stage was also old wood, but a lighter color than the bar. The stage had the same kind of beveled edge as the bar, only wider. This served to separate the customers from the dancers on stage. There was also room for drinks on this little edge. Drinks are an integral part of any strip club. Behind the stage were all mirrors, and the pole came up somewhere near the middle.
The pole, like the rest of the place, was old and worn. Its goldish bronze color had faded from years of use. And in the middle, there was always a little grime from years and years of dirty, sweaty hands spinning around it. It was not an extremely high pole, which did not allow for a lot of extravagant tricks. Except for Blue, most of The Shobar girls did not do a lot of fancy pole work. We were more about the meat and potatoes of the business…getting money.
One would enter the stage from the dressing room, through a deep burgundy velvet curtain. I sometimes wore these really cool black fairy wings that someone had left at the club. They looked really great on stage when I would make them barely flap like a resting butterfly. One year during Mardi Gras, those wings were my moneymakers! I had to be careful going on stage because it was easy to get them caught on the pole that held the curtain as I emerged onto stage. That pole was eventually the death of the wings.
The dressing room was probably my favorite place in The Shobar, besides the bathroom, of course! The dressing room of a strip club is where the good stuff happens. This is where the camaraderie begins. This is where it all begins, starting with make up and hair. Just like the rest of the place, the dressing room at The Shobar was old school. It had mirrors all along the wall opposite the door. Just as one would expect, there was a shelf for make up against the mirror with chairs pulled up to it. The lights above this shelf were big, naked bulbs that one would expect to find in any strip club. The lights were never bright like those I have used at some of the newer clubs. These lights seemed yellowed with age, like much of the place was. This is where the girls would stake out their spots…to put on make up, to eat, or just to chill out.
The walls were the same yellowing color of age, scrawled with graffiti from decades of various dancers leaving their mark. The carpet was so old and worn that parts of it did not even resemble a carpet anymore, but looked more like a big splotch of gum that had been rubbed in. The carpet was grey with dirt and age, and I noticed the funky smell it carried when the dressing room was first opened each day. One door lead in and out of the dressing room and the other lead to the stage. Lockers lined the walls in random spots.
The dressing room was a gathering place for the women who worked there. There was often a blunt being passed around, and we all shared alike. Some of us may not have contributed weed, but we always chipped in a little money or offered up some of our other goodies. I often ran to the dressing room after my dope runs, handing out bags like free lunch to the homeless. Hungry junkies grabbing at the tiny foils.
The bathrooms were an infamous part of The Shobar. Many of the dancers at The Shobar were junkies. I do not know if it was because it was too hard to follow the rules at some of the other clubs (as was the case for me) or if we just tended to gravitate toward those we are alike. I bet those bathrooms had more drugs spilled on their floors than many users see in a lifetime. I spent many hours in there shooting up.
Often we would go into the stalls in twos. Sophia and I spent a lot of time in there together. After I cooked up a shot of dope (and also mixed with coke sometimes), Sophia would join me in the stall as I removed my choker. I pushed my hair aside, tilting my head to reveal the vein running down my neck. Sophia was good; she was in and out of the jugular in seconds…my head was instantly swimming. The two of us were thick as thieves, and we used to do a lot of heroin and coke in those bathrooms. We would emerge back into the club, heads spinning with a big, fat speedball, to sit on those vinyl banquettes just sweating our asses off. Just thinking about it now, my heart’s pace has quickened slightly. All night in and out of the bathroom. Back and forth, pacing the floors of that place. I spent a lot of hours in that place, drinking, getting high, and making money.
Every morning, we got up in our dirty little rented junky room, and took a wake-up shot. If we were lucky, we had one waiting for us when we woke from our wintry drug slumber. Liam was so intense when he took a shot of dope. He pulled his kit out, as a serious look overcame his face. He carefully opened the tattered eyeglass container, lifting the lid back to reveal its precious contents. First, he always pulled out the little pink cloth with the zigzag-cut edges that was intended to be used to clean the lenses of a pair of glasses. The cloth was stained with soot on one side. Liam carefully laid the cloth on the table, soot side up. Then he took out his spoon, bent slightly so that the cup would sit flat, never allowing any dope to fall out. He took out the lighter, setting it next to the charred spoon on the cloth. He then put his little orange cap full of water right next to the whole setup. He usually extracted a tiny little square folded piece of tin foil from his pocket, holding it up in the air, as if to watch it sparkle. Then he carefully pulled it down, slowly unwrapping each side of the intricately folded square, careful not to spill a single granule. He always looked over into the bag, inspecting its contents before dumping them into the spoon. Then he took his spike out of the eyeglass kit, pulling back on the plunger to make sure it slid easily. If it did not, he took the white piece out of the back end of the syringe, sticking it in his ear to lubricate the black rubber. He checked it again, making sure the rubber glided easily against the plastic sheath. He slowly filled the syringe with water, careful not to put too much. Then he squirted it in the spoon, moving the tiny spray of water in small circles, so as to cover all of the dope. He pulled the plunger out of the syringe again, swirling the dope around in the water before he carefully lifted it up. Steadily, he reached for the lighter, watching intensely as the flame scarred the bottom of the spoon, and pulling it back just as it began to bubble and smoke. He set the lighter down, not looking at it as he focused on holding the spoon steady, so as not to spill any of the precious solution held within. Then he carefully set the spoon down. He took out a cigarette, extracting a tiny piece of the cotton filter with his teeth, rolling it in his fingers to make it perfectly round. Dropping it into the solution, he stared unwavering as it expanded with the sweet, brown liquid. Eyebrows furrowed, he lifted the syringe, carefully steadying it into the cotton and slowly drawing back. Watching the brown dope fill the syringe, his eyes widened. When he heard the hissing of air through the tip of the needle, he stopped drawing back. He held the spike up to the light, tapping the bubbles out meticulously. He then put the sheath of the syringe in his mouth, undoing his belt. He tightened the worn, leather belt against his bicep, pumping his hand a few times as his already bulging veins looked like they would burst with his life force. Then, he switched the needle and the end of his belt in his teeth’s grips, and before I realized it he was holding the syringe in his hand and the belt taut in his mouth. Holding the needle slightly in the air, his fingers pushed at the throbbing big veins, until he found the perfect spot. Pulling his skin taut to keep those monsters from rolling, he carefully slid the needle in. Drawing slowly back, the blood would come bursting forth. His hair hung down over his eyes, as a smile of satisfaction spread across his face before he pushed…releasing the shot quickly into his veins. Then he sat back, staring up at the sky, slowly pulling the needle out, letting the belt slowly open up, and clatter to the floor.
I remember the last night I saw her. Sophia entered the club, frazzled as usual. Her long, dark, hair still wet from the shower, and her shaking hands desperately tried to pull back her locks as she tugged and smoothed in one failed attempt after another. Her wife beater was stained and dirty, hanging untucked out of her tattered jeans. I think this was the only pair of jeans she owned because she wore them every day. Her feet were crammed into a pair of black Converse high tops that I am sure she wore in the eighties. They always looked so comfortable.
She went straight to the bar and ordered a Jack Daniels. She frantically searched her purse for something when it spilled open revealing her dog eared copy of Stephen Crane’s “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.” I happen to know this was one of Sophia’s favorite stories, and she always carried a copy with her. It was obvious to me that her head spun as it bobbled back and forth and her shaky hands gestured wildly. Her eyes were so wide with anxiety that I could see the whites of her eyeballs as she came in from the daylight.
I love this fucking girl and all her madness. In addition to sharing the same profession, we shared the same passions for both writing and heroin. Her madness and insanity amused me in this dark and sometimes dreary world of stripping and drugs. She was my confidant. We copped together, we worked together, and we used together. I often wondered if we are going mad together.
In the dressing room, the bright yellow lights were a stark contrast to the dark, wooden club. Sitting down to apply our make up, I got a sideways glance at Sophia and searched for clues. Her eyes were heavy lidded, so I know this anxiety was not from lack of dope. In this light without make up, her face showed a sad and weary complexion. Her eyes had dark circles under them, as she dotted them with foundation to rub the darkness away. I wondered how she would pull it together in the next hour to look great on stage, but I knew she would. She always did.
I always found myself looking at her track marks in the bright lights of the dressing room where they shone like a beacon to her lifestyle. The older marks on her arms and legs were purple scars, straight like an arrow. The marks on her swollen feet and hands were red and bruised signaling the sites of active invasion. Many of Sophia’s track marks were permanent, and they had been there for many years. I looked at a map of her veins.
I glanced down at my own arms, relieved that my track marks here were hardly noticeable. Looking in the mirror, I shuddered as I noticed the mark on the left side of my neck, running long and lean from almost my ear to my collarbone. I quickly put my thick leather dominatrix collar around my neck to avoid the truth a little longer. Shooting up in my neck was easier than in my hands because the jugular is so thick and strong. Sophia always hit me in my neck when I did not have access to a private mirror. She was so good with the needle that she reminded me of a nurse. Just tap, tap, tap, and she slid the sharp and shiny point right in. WHAM…it hits your brain more quickly when you use the jugular.
I noticed Sophia was lean and muscular as I watched her apply liquid cover up to the bruises and scars that covered her body. Her legs were strong and defined from years of wearing at least six-inch heels. She really was beautiful. She talked a mile a minute. Her neighbors had been causing trouble for her, and she was livid. They reported to the superintendent at her apartment that she got into a shiny, new Lexus driven by an older black man every single morning. She rode around the block and then hopped out, always rushing back in the front door. The neighbors accused her of being a dope buying junky. She was furious, ranting and raving. The inflection of her voice was piercing as the tone got higher and higher with each word.
“They don’t know me, “she bitched with her hands flailing in anger. “Why couldn’t I be giving this man a blowjob every morning? Why is it that the general assumption is that I am buying dope?” Well, Sophia, because you are.
She loved my bright green eye shadow and the way it highlighted her big brown eyes. Her eyes reminded me of a deer sometimes. They were often wide and wondering from either anxiety or shooting too many speedballs. They were a deep brown color, and I could always detect sadness in them even when their desperation was pleading vehemently with the world. I slid my green eye shadow over to her without a word.
She paused in the rant to say thanks, and proceeded to put it on with a crazed flourish. I am still not sure how she applied her make up to look so good with those shaky hands. When she was finished it always looked fabulous. The creases of her lids shaded with a deep forest green, and the lid highlighted with light neon green. Her brown liquid liner was thick and smooth, turning up in the corners to make her eyes look more like a cat than a deer. Her mascara just lengthened her already luscious lashes. I was so envious of those fucking lashes!
I have never known a heroin addict that was so high strung. I am pretty sure that without drugs, Sophia would surely be somewhat insane. She was self medicating, whether she realized it or not. Her eyes drooping with heroin, as her hands flailed wildly with ticking, twitchy gestures. Her voice bombarded the air with its screeching inflections. It was impossible to keep up with her speeding mind sometimes.
Sophia used to be a singer in a band from New York City. She was once an eighties rocker chick who loved to scream into the microphone in front of a heavy metal all chicks band. I think they were pretty good. Her boyfriend was also in a band, who once had a video on MTV. Now they lived in a shabby little apartment with used furniture and as much dope as they can afford. She worked stripping every night to support two drug habits, hoping the music would one day get back on track.
When I stepped out of The Rio into that bright morning and waved good-bye to my best friend, the whole Quarter was quiet and eerie. The sun shone brightly, and the dark clouds skated quickly through the sky with the gusty tropical breezes. The eerie light reminded me of when the sun shines while it is pouring rain. My mother always used to say that meant the devil was beating his wife. I was already wasted, yet I guzzled a drink in every bar I found open in my endless search for dope. I got drunker and drunker, but the Sickness set in more and more.
Several days later, I was at The Abbey in the morning. I loved The Abbey at ten in the morning, when most of the patrons sat scattered around the bar, all knowing each other in one way or another. Those early morning hours in a bar are some of the most sacred hours of the bar, where most of the regular morning patrons have a special code. You are allowed to go into your favorite bar at ten in the morning and not speak to anyone. At ten in the morning, the bar can offer a great place of solitude. In the unspoken language of the daytime alcoholic, we all knew there were many more boundaries at those early hours, like ten in the morning.
And at that early hour, often times The Abbey hosted a few patrons, still up drinking from the night before, as their speech got more slurred and their trips to the bathroom become more frequent, leaving them looking slightly rabid by the time the morning had really set in. The ten o’clock hour at The Abbey was always an interesting mix of night and day. A clash of cocaine and alcohol that usually ended in one big conglomerate party.
The inside of The Abbey was always dark, even on the brightest New Orleans day when the sun beamed through all the glass all over the Quarter, The Abbey remained relatively dark. The dark wood interior added to both the mystic and the misery, making the atmosphere mangled and magical all at the same time. The dark wooden bar rose like an altar, with its massive and intricate mausoleum molded shelves behind where the Gods were left an offering. Within the crevices of the mystical shelves were trinkets and memories of days past, tucked away behind all the layers of dust. Pictures of the lives gone past, stapled crudely to the wooden wall above, a shrine to the one we have lost.
Above the entire bar hung an old stained glass shape, reaching and spanning out across the bar, with years of dust hanging from all the corners. The floors below hosted worn, old linoleum that was often sloshed with beer and dirt. The old jukebox in the corner with the best mix of old punk music, was always blasting Social D. Or Nancy Sinatra. Or the Beatles. Or Merle Haggard. The Sex Pistols. Louie Prima. And the Grateful Dead…but, only if you dared.
The Abbey was far from Bourbon with all its neon and glamour, tucked away on lower Decatur, and always spilling out interesting characters tumbling into the street. The door always stood open, with thick, clear refrigerator flaps falling over the gaping door hole. It was nice and cold with the massive air conditioning cranking most of the summer. Barstools, mismatched and well worn, where patrons sometimes sat for days. Ashes of former pets, patrons, and owners rest in the mausoleum-like shelves that rise from behind the bar, splashing the place with spirit and camaraderie. And it all sits, collecting dust and split beer.