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