by Adam Kinsey
Hi everybody. My Name is R. I'm an addict. It's good to be here. I just need to check-in.
Six ay em this morning, I'm up. I wish I could say I was on my hands and knees by my bed, thanking God for the new day, or calling one of you guys to tell you what I was committing to or something, but in the interest of rigorous honesty I got to say all I wanted was to get the fucking cat to leave me alone so I could go back to sleep. Humble Pie kept jumping up on the bed with all of her sixteen pounds of weight, then walking back and forth across stomach and purring. I knew she was not gonna let me sleep until I got up and fed her. So I finally dragged myself out, but the box was totally empty. I tried just getting back in bed, but she wasn't going to let me do it. She's heavy, like a big possum, you know? So finally I'm totally cursing her, but I get up, pull on my jeans, throw on a t-shirt, and my shoes without socks.
I live just a block down from that Safeway on Market Street, that fucking mongo one, and it's open twenty-four hours a day. Did you know it's the hugest one on the West Coast? Just an extraordinary factoid for you guys there. Wouldn't want you to quit learning just because you're a bunch of fucking addicts. Anyway, I head out, stagger down there half-asleep. The weather is like, spitting, it's so foggy, and I'm cursing fucking Humble. I'm sure I looked very sober (laughs).
Anyway, I get there, I think the security guard is totally going to give me the hairy eyeball, but he doesn't even look up, doesn't stop talking on his cell to his girlfriend or whatever. And I look around. It's six-fifteen now, right? I look around and everybody who doesn't work in there, they all look like they're half-dressed and heading for the cat food aisle too. And I feel great suddenly, because, I think, I have found my people.
So I get the cat food and just think I'm gonna go home, gag the cat and go back to sleep, but for some reason I start walking the aisles, kind of going into the Safeway Trance. Do you guys know what this? Some of you are nodding your heads and some aren't, and I don't care if Tim S. is grinning his ass off over there like I'm some kind of tweaker, I'm going to explain what the Safeway Trance is. It's no big, it's just how the colors are all bright on the packages and the music is always the same. There's just something very comforting about walking those aisles, particularly as a recovering junkie, because in my life I haven't been able to be sure of much so I take my consistency where I can get it.
Anyway, I'm in the trance. I'm walking along with a box of cat food and kind of thinking about going down to the methadone clinic early and how much it would surprise the nurse, but then I decided that as long as I was up I'd fix myself breakfast. I used to love making big breakfasts. I wasn't going to do just Captain Crunch and milk either, but eggs and sausage. And hash browns, none of these homo-fries! Sorry. Present company excepted. What I'm saying is, I hadn't fixed a breakfast with sausage like that in I don't know how long, and I wasn't even sure how to make hash browns. But there I was in this Safeway trance of colored labels and Muzak versions of Nirvana songs and I feel so good that I decide I'm not only gonna feed Humble Pie and make breakfast for myself, but I'll make it for my no-good housemates too. Evelyn and Peter usually don't even get up until two, and Theodore is a night clerk at a convenience store and he always says that the fluorescent lights suck all the chi out of his bone marrow, so he needs ten hours sleep. But I knew if I made a big, big breakfast--with potatoes and eggs, sausage, coffee, I'd juice some oranges and have fresh squeezed orange juice too--If I made a great big breakfast, they'd all sure as fuck get up. It's, like, since we made the no drug-rule at the house and then Peter and Evelyn broke it, none of us really hang out like we used to, and I figured this could kind of be like old times. But in a healthy way, you know?
So, by this point I've gone up to the front and put my little box of Friskies into a cart and I'm filling it with all this stuff: flat of eggs, five-pound bag of potatoes, pound of coffee, coffee filters and one of those plastic cones for making it, a bouquet of purple iris's and a roll of paper towels for napkins. We're going to do this fucker up right, right? So I've got all these things, and I go over to the meat section to get sausage.
Now, have you been in the meat section lately? Have you experienced trying to buy sausages? There's the old Farmer John kind in links and patties like I had when I was a kid, but then Farmer John's got something called turkey sausages, and they're in links and patties too. Then there's Italian sausages--mild, medium, and hot--and some kind made of chickens and apples. There's sausages made out of soy and beef, and there's detached sausages and uncut. And everything--even the chicken sausages!--they come in both turkey and regular!
Anyway, so I'm trying to figure this all out, and my breakfast exuberance level is starting to significantly wane. I look at my watch, see it's only six-forty-five and I start thinking about just ditching the basket in the kosher food section, taking the cat food and going back to bed. But just as I'm thinking that, I see this guy and this woman, and their both either strung-out, or they just got off a real little boat on a real rough ocean, you know what I mean? So anyway, the guy looks like he's about as confused over in the lamb section as I've been in the sausages. He's shaking his head and the woman's laughing, and when he leans his head back a little, his long hair falls away from his face and I see that this guy is Monroe!
Monroe was the son of my pastor back in Iowa City, and while I was always nice enough to him, not everybody was, because Monroe--unlike the usual stories about the wild children of clergy--was a geekazoid and a half. I remember back in elementary school, Monroe used to carry all his fucking books in a briefcase, and one time he sat down to lunch, opened that briefcase and took out a plate, some silverware and a cloth napkin. The entire fucking elementary school--kay through six--is sitting at those foldable tables and this little guy with glasses is having a fucking dinner party. Monroe was still carrying the same briefcase in high school, and sat around reading Kierkegaard or something like that.
Anyway, here he is with long greasy died black hair, wearing a leather jacket and jeans that I swear look like they've been soaked in blood, and he's got a red-haired babe-o-rama hanging on his arm. They both look like they'd really like a nap, and I don't think it was just because it was early in the ay em, you know what I mean? Now, I've been Clean-and-Sober for a year-and-a-half except for the methadone, and I don't really count that no matter what anybody says. The methadone doesn't stop me from being clean. That and God are what keeps me clean. But after fifteen years on The Street I sure as hell can still spot a stone junkie when I see one, even if he was the pastor's geek-o-rama son, and he's sixteen-hundred miles from where I saw him last.
So anyway, I'm watching these two while they're le-eaning over the rib-eye and the chuck as if they're thinking about climbing in and laying down for a little while, and I think "What the fuck?" Make amends. Or at least be friendly, right? I leave my cart where it is--'cause no matter how good of friends you are, when you're walking up to someone that loaded you want both hands free, as you have no idea what's gonna happen--anyway, I leave the cart and I walk up to these two jokers who are now French kissing and nodding out at the same time.
Standing behind Monroe, I've got a moment to think that the dude has gotten big over the years, I mean, he used to be a beanpole, but somehow he's gotten…wide. Standing behind his back it's like I'm standing next to a…a…SUV or something. I consider walking away, then think What the fuck again and tap him on the shoulder. I say "Hey Monroe, dude, how long you lived in Frisco, man?"
The red haired chick looks at me first, kind of peeks around his bicep, but she doesn't say anything. Monroe doesn't even turn around. There's just this really low fucking voice--but I'm sure it's Monroe's under all the menace, you know?--this low voice and it says: "Who. The fuck. Are you?"
Well, fuck him, I'm thinking but I figure what the hell, I haven't seen anybody from I.C. in ten years and I been feeling like now that I'm clean maybe it's time to start being in touch with my roots like the rest of the straight world does, right? Not run away from the past but face it, right? So I say "It's me, Jerry Tyler, man, from Iowa. How the fuck you doing, Monroe? Long time no-fucking-see, dude."
Monroe turns around and looks at me. Down at me is more like it, 'cause this guys has about a foot on me, I swear, and I'm no Napoleon, you know what I mean? He's obviously gone through hell--his face is all brown and wrinkly, his teeth are fucked-up and he's got a big scab by his eye like he's been doing crank and picking, picking, picking.
But you know what's funny? He has the exact same glasses as he did in High school. I'd be willing to put money on it that they're not just the same style but the same fucking ones. Black plastic frames, square not round, and I have this sudden flash of peeking into the band room at lunch time once and seeing little Monroe Quaily sitting in there all by himself, practicing scales on a clarinet with his square plastic glasses on. I remember knocking on the window and when he didn't quit playing or look up I kept on knocking and yelling at him for about another ten minutes, until the lunch bell rang. Same damn glasses, can you believe it?
Anyway, Monroe. He doesn't say anything. The red head's staring at me like from behind a tree. Finally, he smiles at me with, like, both teeth, then he reaches into the meat display and picks up this big package of lean ground beef. I gotta say, what happens next is weird. He just takes that package of meat and holds it right in front of my face. The price was five-oh-four at a dollar-ninety a pound, I remember. Then Monroe, with his other hand, he--really slow and, like, methodical--he pushes his fingers through the plastic the meat's wrapped in, and starts squishing it around, really close in front of my face. He does that for about ten seconds. I can see how red the meat is, and I hear the song that's being played is a Muzak version of "Penny Lane." Then he tosses the mangled package back into the cooler, looks at me and says real calm, "I don't know you."
But then they just keep standing and staring at me, so I finally book and go back to my cart. I wheel on up to the front, pay for my stuff with my ATM card and trudge on home. When I set the sacks down to unlock my door, I look at my watch and see it's seven-thirty. I go up stairs, feed Humble, and put the classic rock station on real quiet in the kitchen. Then I make breakfast for Evelyn and Peter and Theodore and me. When it's ready, I go and wake 'em all up by tapping on their doors. They bitch at first but when they realize it's free food and coffee's ready, they got up pretty fast. We all ate with the radio on, and talked. The fog had burned off early, and it was, like, a pretty sunny day and it was pouring in through the window and we were all wired on coffee and happy. When we finished, Evelyn and Peter did the dishes and the nurse at the clinic was blown away because we weren't just skating in as the doors were locking. Theodore even thought to bring her half the irises.
So it was an okay day, but weird. But I'm thinking about this: making reparations and having history are good things and all, especially for people who aren't addicts, but maybe sometimes they're overrated, and we should just, like, be happy with what's happening right now if something worth being happy about has snuck up on you.
Adam Kinsey was born in Santa Clara County, California, before the phrase “Silicon Valley” was coined, or before even people used answering machines. He received an M.F.A from Eastern Washington University, and has published in Yomimono, Happy, and Hubcap. He lives with his wife and daughter in Petaluma, California. You can check out his ongoing experiments in fiction at http://10minutesandcounting.blogspot.com, and/or stalk him on twitter @10ScndsNcntng. He likes the word "logy" an awful lot. He is also known for for overusing "antechamber."