The Image/Memoir Writing Challenge: ‘Dating Death’

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Image #one

“Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” – Dag Hammarskjöld

1987…I think…

Friday night, the night I lived for, the night I would always party and hang out with friends. I grew up a heathen; I never knew that life was any different. I thought everyone partied on the weekend. I never knew about two parent homes, mowed lawns, family cars, Golden Retrievers, or a Bible on the table. Nope. My family, we were hippies and bikers, pot smokers, and fighters. So, I lived for Friday night. It was why I worked—not because I had any goals or financial plans—but because Friday was the only day of the week that mattered. One Friday, I was going to see my old Navy buddy Scott. Yes, we were both Scotts.

Scott was gonna show me a new bar in South Atlanta. We were tired of the Crystal Palace, Timothy Johns, and the other popular nightclubs on the North side. Tonight, we were gonna hit the Southside and tear it up.

Scott had a Harley Davidson, orange Toyota Corolla that was a poor man’s sports car. It was a nice ride, and we hit the Hwy wide open. Cigarettes, whiskey, loud music, and the Fastlane to Atlanta.  I don’t ever remember caring about drinking and driving, or smoking weed, I just thought it was normal. We were half blitzed by the time we hit Atlanta coming from Forsyth County. Stevie Ray Vaughan played on the tape deck. He was Scott’s favorite, “Caught in the Crossfire,” rang in my head. Loud music, weed, booze, and 80 mph was our choice of cocktail. But Scott had another surprise for later.

As we pulled up to the bar, he put the car in park and left it running. “Hang tight…I got something for ya.” He smiled with a red glow in his pupils. He pulled out a small tin foil wrapped object, opened it up, and dropped a crystal rock on a small mirror that he placed on the console between us. I smiled back.

1982-Flashback

I loved crystal meth. I had used it heavily in my late teens before I enlisted in the Navy. Well, before a judge gave me a choice between the Navy and prison. I lived in a house in Southern Forsyth County, Georgia. It was the home of a high school buddy of mine whose family was estranged when his mother was incarcerated for one of the largest meth busts in Forsyth County history. He was left with the house, which, strangely enough, had bars on the windows and doors. Something you’d see in Atlanta, but not in Cumming, Georgia. I often wondered if the odd placement of bars on the windows and doors in a community where most folks left their doors unlocked at night caused the police to become suspicious. Funny how dope heads and criminals never think through little things like that.

I had quit school and moved in with Jeff. We smoked a lot of weed, drank daily, and did meth when we could find it. It was fun, but I started to have these weird and completely debilitating panic attacks. I was never one to think about suicide, but this period of my life was a dark hole that I will never forget. My family had left the trailer park we lived in and moved to Dawsonville, Georgia—a few miles North. I stayed behind, quit school, and stayed blitzed. I worked construction jobs which were abundant in the early 1980’s. That whole period of my life remains a thick fog of fear, dark nights, depression, and loneliness. Of course, I wasn’t normal; I could be dead lonely in a crowd of people. I didn’t like me.

I came home one day, and this dude was in the kitchen messing around with chemical bottles, glass cookie sheets, and the oven. I soon realized that they were cooking meth. In spite of the dysfunctional, wild lifestyle that I lived (often placing myself in situations which I shouldn’t have made it through), I should have died or spent years in prison, but I was always lucky (I now see it was God’s mercy), or had enough sense to leave at the right moment. I would get these “gut feelings.” I did then, and still do, to this day.

The dude cooking the meth was the worst junky I had ever seen, and I had seen a bunch of them in my life. I grew up watching people shoot up dope of all kinds—Heroin, Cocaine, you name it…I saw it. I’ve seen tracks down the arms of a junky, but this guy had holes in his skin. Creators. Scabs. Up and down his arms, and he didn’t seem to care who saw them. Most junkies would hide their tracks with a long-sleeved shirt. Not this guy. He would have made the cast for The Walking Dead look like the Brady Bunch. I watched as they mixed the chemicals, poured it into the glass, put it in the oven, pulled it out, scraped off the meth (which became a sort of crystallized dust), and go straight to the bathroom to shoot it up. I was petrified. I had that sick feeling in my gut. The walls were closing in. I had to leave. I took a swig of Tequila, which I almost never drank, and hit the road to Dawsonville. I hitched. That was my last really bad period of being strung out on meth before Scott and I met in the Navy.

Heart-pounding fun…

So, there we were, staring at a line of crank as long and as thick as my pinky finger. Scott handed me the rolled-up dollar bill and said, “You first.” I looked at the line, never did think twice about its size, and in one fail swoop, I snorted the whole thing. As I laid my head back and began the dope head’s ritual of placing one finger over each nostril and sniffing it all up—fighting off the tears and snot that follows a good snort of crank, Scott yelled, DUDE! I looked at him, and he looked shocked. “Dude, that was for both of us. Man, that’s some pure shit! You’re in for a ride bro.” Panic immediately set in. “Nah man, I’ll be alright, “I said. I think I was trying to convince myself rather than Scott. As he did his line, my mind raced, my heart followed. Soon, I was in a total panic attack, coupled with the fact that I had just done one hell of a lot of crank.

My ears began to ring, and Scott was talking to me, but I couldn’t hear him. The world was spinning. I was scared to death. I could feel the demons around me. I saw them laughing. “I gotta get a drink bro.” I jumped out of the car and almost ran to the bar. My heart was pounding out of my chest. The familiar spirits that haunted me surrounded me, poked me, laughed, and awaited my death. They were gonna take me to hell that night.

“Bartender! I’ll have a double of Crown.” By the time he set the glass in front of me, I opened my throat, and it was gone. “Gimme another!” As my mind continued to race, I said a prayer to a God I did not know, asking Him for mercy that I did not deserve. I don’t know how many shots I drank. I just kept them coming until the scales equaled out. My heart stopped racing. My mind was quiet. The demons left. And there I was, staring at the bar, totally forgetting the God I had just prayed to.

The takeaway…

My life continued down this path for a long time. I worshiped the things created, not the creator. My life was filled with golden calves, little “g” gods, and whatever it took to make me happy, comfortable, or numb. Comfortably numb.

Scott died at age 42 in the mid-2000’s. He had Hep-C. I attended his funeral. There were about ten people there. I’ll never forget the sense of emptiness I had at the sight of the sum total of his life–ten individuals in a room waiting to get the funeral over with so they could resume their day. You could feel it. Hurried. Indifferent. Inconsequential. Sad. Like a match lit in a room, that once burnt, is thrown to the ground, never again to raise a thought from anyone.

In your twenties, you run through life with full speed ahead passion toward anything shiny, new, and exciting. Filled with dreams and a “devil may care” attitude, we hold hands with death regularly, and we never see it. At fifty, I look back on the memories of my life and shiver—literally—as I think of all the times I should have died or been killed. This fact, more than any other, drove me to my knees and to my Christian faith. God bless.

Scott

We will be accepting submissions for the image/memoir challenge through December. Here is the link for the challenge instructions: Image/memoir challenge  

Love memoirs? Read more memoir posts here on Two Drops of Ink: Memoir

 

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16 comments

  1. Vulnerability gives others permission to be vulnerable. Being the one to go first is scary, but you do it so well. Others will read this and think…if he can share his story maybe I can too, and that leads to freedom. Quite a calling to lead people to freedom, don’t you think? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle,
      Thank you for the words of confirmation. As I’ve said to several folks, I wondered if I should post this story. I was concerned that some might think I was a nut-job (and they’d be right…but aren’t we all?). I’ve exposed myself pretty well here since 2011 when I started this blog. I originally started Two Drops with the hope of creating a sort of “writers group.” One where I could try my hand at memoir and see peoples’ reactions to my stories.

      I remember Lydia, as she was working to share different posts in various social media forums, asking me if I was okay with her sharing my older posts (2011-12) without me checking them for edits. I told her to go ahead because I felt like it was okay to let writers see my imperfections and my progression as a writer. I have some pretty bad stuff on here if you go back and look (laughing). Anyway, this writing challenge has been fun and produced some great posts so far.
      Thanks 🙂

      Like

  2. Hi Scott,

    First, let me give you kudos for writing and exposing an experience many people would rather keep hidden. I have never been in recovery, but I have hit bottom dealing with my depressions. I would think the process towards healing is similar. To share your story and relive those terrible encounters is awesome and brave.

    While your story was gut wrenching, your writing in several areas was beautiful prose. “…You could feel it. Hurried. Indifferent. Inconsequential. Sad. Like a match lit in a room, that once burnt, is thrown to the ground, never again to raise a thought from anyone.” I keep reading it over and over; realizing you had captured that haunting moment. As a reader, I couldn’t escape the utter sadness of a loss life and soul.

    In your profile your state, “I love realism. I love writing about the raw, down-to-Earth, heartfelt realities of life. I love to write in a way that reaches into the human soul. I love to take the greatest pains and struggles in life, and make them a blessing to others.” Wow—what a statement. With this story, you accomplished all of the above. If this piece is a sample of your memoire manuscript, I can’t wait to read the rest.

    You show us by example what hard work and dedication to the craft of writing is all about. But, you also have a gift from God to be able to share it. Never let that light go out. God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chuck
      Thank you so much for the kind and complimentary words about my writing in this post. I struggled with this one. I wrote the rough draft the night after I launched the writing challenge. I have lived a tough life, and yet, God has allowed me to live the dream of writing and editing, in spite of my past. I’ve been humbled and blessed by so many people saying they want my memoir to be finished. I have three books I’m editing and publishing for other authors before I can finish mine. But, I do have about 20,000 words of my memoir – the first draft – finished. God bless my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I too am glad that you posted this Scott. It is very brave of you, even if it didn’t/doesn’t feel like it in other fleeting moments. It’s very well written too! Wonderfully fast paced, and alluring in every single paragraph. I was sucked into the story! So good. Can’t wait for your whole memoir.

    I just finished the final draft of mine and I get transient panic attacks every time I imagine it getting published. I have a scene very similar to this one. Same – 33 years ago. I swear/swore I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but throughout the evening and into the night, I took various drugs until I wasn’t even a person anymore. One of the scariest nights of my life. I can fully relate! Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carol, I told you in our emails that I felt we had similar backgrounds (laughing). Thank you for commenting and giving my words value. As you know, we writers only survive when we know we are being read. BTW, your poems have done well on the site. I hope you’ll submit again in the future. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Tom,
      Yes, I flew close to hell for three decades. If you read some of my sample memoirs (which will be included in my book), I think you’ll see that I’m more than lucky to be alive. Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, Scott, I sat on the edge of my writing chair as I read this poignant and captivating piece. I admire and respect anyone who has chosen the recovery road, especially those who share their story so others may have hope. Not everyone makes it out safely—I lost an only niece to drugs.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi, Scott. While I’ve known much of your story, and lived my fair share of it, too, this tightly wound post describes with intense clarity the lives we lived, almost lost, and the redemption we experience now.

    Thank you for allowing our readers to know who you were, and who you are. Recovery and change aren’t just something that happens to others. We’ve embraced it and I think it is an integral component in our philosophy of being a team site. We are both aware that no one accomplishes something without guidance, help and other people.

    Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Scott, thank God man. That was an intense read. I give you a lot of credit from where you were and where you are not. But we both know who to give all the credit too. I’m glad your here. I’m glad I know you. I’m thankful you shared this story. JG

    Like

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