Love Letter in Black

Carlos Cabrera

Trust me, Mr. Steve won’t give two shits about the bucket you’re driving. That fool will be higher than LA’s murder rate by the time he stumbles into your backseat. Look hard. He’ll try to make small talk, like always, talking out the side of his mouth like he just had a stroke. It’ll be hard as fuck to understand him but you’ll shut him up quick once you pull the scrilla out your wallet. Don’t look so nervous when you reach back to hand Mr. Steve the sweaty Ben. He’ll laugh at you for flinching at every passing car and ’cause at every corner you’ll make a full, paranoid stop. Ignore him. Remember that the second he puts the shit into your palm you’re almost done. All that’s left is the easy part, and dropping his ass off ain’t nearly as bad as having to pick him up from his sober living joint.

Speed home to Engleewood, but not too fast. You won’t take the 405 because too many piglets are on patrol this late, so you’ll cruise down La Cienega, toward Long Beach instead. At every stoplight you will be tempted to take the shit out your coat pocket and admire it in the streetlight, and to make sure Mr. Steve didn’t gyp you this time. Don’t.If he fucked you, whatever. Let it burn in there till you get home.

Your mom will be snoring on the couch when you get back to Engleewood. Be glad she’s asleep ’cause at least now she can’t bitch at you again for tossing instead of washing the styrofoam plate on which you ate your frijoles. Kiss her softly on the forehead as you turn off the telenovela she was watching. You’ll slip off your heavy Timbalands and step into the blue chanclas that Rolando got you for Christmas last year. Though your toes curl around the plastic edges, they’re the most comfortable kicks you got.

You’re glad to have your own room now that Toño’s in jail. Twenty-three is too old to share a room with your brother. And admit it: you’re glad to have enough privacy to at least jack off in peace whenever you want instead of hiding your dick beneath a pillow. But that’s as far as you’ll go. You never had the balls to fuck Rolando in this room the whole three years you were together, even when your mom was working nights at the McDonald’s on Crenshaw. You just couldn’t get hard, no matter how much tweak you and Rolando snorted.

Lock the door. Dim the lights. Place the books you’ve stacked on your desk to the side. (Your mom’s asleep, so you won’t need these props to keep up your college student front.) You will take the shit out your pocket and place it on the desk’s white surface. There’s always that moment of disbelief when you look at it, and tonight is no different. Each of the four grams of black heroin will be wrapped individually with the crinkled wax paper pulled into a point on each bit.

Your mom’s wheezes will seem to be getting shallower, so you’ll have to move fast. Get the backpack out from underneath Toño’s bed and pull out your kit. By now you’ve done this enough times that even Rolando would be proud. Lay out the tablespoon and lighter on either side of the toothpick. You’re down to just one band-aid, so make sure you don’t bleed too much this time. You’ll look away, like always, at the sight of the two points you stole from your diabetic grandma. You will want to use Rolando’s blunt and bent needle, but you’ve stuck it in your arm too often. Use your own this time.

Unwrap a gram. It’s as big as those Hershey kisses Rolando used to sneak you when he couldn’t kiss you in public, but don’t think about that right now. Cut the black into four even pieces, and drop one chunk onto the spoon. Don’t make it too big though; this shit’s gotta last you the entire week. You’re afraid to wake your mom so you’ll melt the smack in spit instead of water this time. (Use the nail of your pinky to scoop out the blood specks floating in it.) The lighter will make the shit sizzle and bubble when you hold its flame beneath the spoon. Don’t fuck up and burn it like you did your first time. You’ll stir it softly with the toothpick as it cooks, just like Rolando taught you. You will know it’s done when it looks like maple syrup.

Take your needle and dip its eye into the melted black. You’ll slowly suck up what’s in the spoon and hold it up to the dim lamplight. Make sure to flick it with your middle finger once, twice, three times to pop all the bubbles. You sure as fuck don’t wanna end up sleeping in a pine box like Rolando.

As you balance the outfit’s sharp point over the bend of your arm you’ll remind yourself that this is the last time, but you can’t even convince yourself. The needle will stay suspended until you push it deep into your flesh. You won’t care that it hurts like a motherfucker or that you probably pierced a nerve ’cause anything’s better than rotting inside out. Push down the needle’s plunger with your shaking thumb. That’s the only time depression’s a good thing.

Pull the needle out your arm. Press two fingers against the wound to stop the bleeding. Lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling; you’ll grip your arm as the black begins its hot churn through your blood. You can’t close your eyes, at least not yet. Soon you’ll feel the fuzzy high wrap itself around you, and you will only remember his softness in the dark that became your beloved secret. The heroin will want to push his strange blue lips and ashy face from your mind. Let it. Ride the black as it washes away the rage you felt when, even at his funeral, you could act only like a sad friend instead of climbing desperately into that coffin with him like you had seen your grandma try when your grandpa died. Had you also overdosed that night, your mom would have winded up just like Rolando’s, never recovering from the shame. You had to play the part that day, man.

The tweak hasn’t let you sleep in days and it still fizzles in your veins. Soon, though, the heroin will draw you down to sleep. You will drift toward his voice as it touches you.

Through the black, rise up and meet it.


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