Cracks Back

Or perhaps it never really left

Ricky's device was a bit of screen torn from some window and stuck into one end of a piece of metal tubing he found somewhere. Loaded with a piece of crack, he handed it to me. We were on that dark, smoke-filled porch of that dark house in Santa Ana on that night I was telling you about. I took the proffered flute, held it and looked at it. Ricky leaned forward; his lighter flared as he gestured with it. "No problema, dude," he said. "You the guest; you first."

The other two, the bald guy and the guy with the Angels' cap, were still into their act—rug farming on their hands and knees. The bald guy held up something between his thumb and forefinger and peered at it intently. "Whoa," he said.

The guy in the Angels cap crawled over and studied it. "Kibbles, man," he said. "I don't even know what the fuck it is, but whatever it is, it's a fucking crumb."

"No, man."

"Look at it, you dumb fuck."

"I am."

"I mean, look at it!"

"Shit."

"Yeah, I guess," the bald guy said and flicked away whatever it was he had found.

Ricky was still holding his lighter toward me, toward the loaded flute he had passed to me. He was looking at me with expectation and a smile. I started to raise the piece of tube but hesitated. I looked at it in my hands—just a piece of metal.

I had a weird flashback to a time long ago in Greece. I was sitting in a room, listening to the Doors on a transistor radio with a long-haired girl in a black sweater and a paisley vest leaning toward me with a spike in her hand like an offering. Those were days of drugs and adventures on the long road to India. Hash and opium and smack, the Big H—but never slammed, only snorted or chipped. Days long ago and long past. The girl passed me the spike, and I held it up. It gleamed like a jewel in the candle glow, and the weird, lonely music jangled in the Acropolis night. That was the night, and then we passed on eastward. And it was all an adventure.

Now I sat in this place full of acrid smoke, my eyes stinging. The two crackheads were back on the sofa, arguing their gibberish, goofing and geeking, their round paranoid eyes trying to see past the dark of the windows. From the floor, Ricky regarded me—Ricky the gas-can artist I had met one day as he panhandled a Garden Grove Street; Ricky who lived for the moment in a fleabag motel with stains on the floor and ceiling and wild shouting in the night.

This awful room in some awful place but someone else's adventure now.

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