God of Dreams

I gave up the dope before I moved in with Tyler. Went to a treatment center then bailed two weeks later. Tyler carried my bags out the back door in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve. Since then we stay away from the H. Nothing but trouble there.

Our little room is grey and tiny. Grey walls, grey carpets, grey Venetian blinds. It is so small that you can almost lie in bed and grab a beer from the mini-fridge without getting up. The bathroom is down the hall. If we are too drunk or creeped out late at night we just pee in the sink. There isn’t much room for our stuff. We stack our clothes in crates.

There is a toy stove that I call the EZ bake oven and sometimes I even cook. Mostly frozen stuff like breaded frozen chicken cutlets, tater tots and string beans. We eat on the bed, but we set out little places like it is a picnic. We are doing okay for ourselves. I am back on the schedule at the club and she manages an all-night diner. We shop and go to the movies. We go to parties with drag queens and dance in drunken drum circles all night. Every once in a while we smoke crystal with a trashy couple we know who live out by Walnut Creek. Then we drive home and walk the deserted hills of North Beach and the empty piers by Fisherman’s Wharf at five in the morning.

Tyler can surprise me. The stories she holds. Like the night she tells me about her sister. I mention something about working for the Angels in New York and she cuts me off.

“Anytime anyone tells me about some fucking biker gang and what nice guys they are and how honorable really I want to spit on them. Because my sister ran with the Outlaws in Chicago and that’s not how it went down.”

Tyler tells me about her sister Lynette, whom I have never heard of before. How Lynette with her long, swingy brown hair visited home and gave Tyler rides in her purple mustang while she smoked cigarette after cigarette. How their fat, alcoholic bitch of a mother loved Lynette the most, even though Lynette was strung out and riding with the Outlaws.

Tyler says that Lynette and her boyfriend were kicking dope in a hotel room in Chicago. Whoever knocked was someone they knew because Lynette looked through the peephole, undid the chain and unlocked the door. They shot her in the face twice and did the same to her boyfriend. Tyler was five. That was the year Tyler learned to tell time. Because Tyler’s mother didn’t come out of her room for a year and Tyler had to figure out how to wake up for school on her own.

We lie on the floor and pass a joint back and forth. I don’t know where the idea comes from, but on a whim, we decide to get some crack. It seems like an adventure. Crack isn’t really our thing, but we like to do everything once in a while and this night seems like once in a while. We call Quincey to find out where to go and what to spend.

“Girl, what kind of crack ho do you think I am that I would be privy to such treacherous information? All right, I’ll tell you. But you have to take me with you..”

The three of us drive to the tenderloin and Tyler does the scoring. Tyler always scores for us. She is street that way. She can go asphalt camouflage and be utterly incognito. No one rips her off because she doesn’t look like someone you want to rip off.

Quincey tells us to just drop him off. Says he doesn’t want to be encumbered by a couple of scandalous dykes. So Tyler and I go home together and set it up. It is a shared ritual. A Voodoo love spell. We char the Chore Boy, snuggle it into place in the pipe and rest the flat square of crack carefully on top of it. My insides twist before I even take the first hit. I hold in the lungful of smoke and rest my head back against the wall as the light sparkles and pops behind my closed eyes. I am in motion. Every atom in every molecule in my being gyrates ten times faster than usual. My stomach clenches and sends me running down the hall to the bathroom. I sit there hugging my knees, trying to breathe and quiet my heart. Afraid it will hemorrhage and the blood will come pouring out my ears.

When I get back, Tyler and I laugh like hyenas and talk and sweat. It is wildly fun for about twenty minutes, until we get anxious and tweaked out and start combing the carpet for a piece we are convinced we lost. Until it is two AM and I feel as if I’m coated in a slimy film. We don’t have anymore rock, we don’t have any pills to help us come down and the pot isn’t working to take the edge off.

I can tell Tyler is holding out on me about something. I begin to spiral off into paranoid fantasy. She is hiding some drugs. She is stealing my money. She is seeing her ex. She is going to kill me in my sleep. Finally she comes out with it, “I have something, but it’s just for tonight and never again, okay. After tonight we sell it or pour it out. I don’t want to start another run of this. You have to promise me.”

“I promise. I promise. What have you got?”

Tyler goes to the tiny closet and shuts herself inside, like a kid who doesn’t want to reveal her secret hiding spot. When she comes out she holds a full bottle of oral solution liquid morphine. I am as flabbergasted as if an apparition of the Blessed Virgin has just appeared on our wall.

“Oh my god. Where did you get that?”

“Mark saved it for me off of Little Eddie’s bedside table after he died. He said it made him sick to his stomach but he knew we’d want it.”

“How much?”

“One fifty. Just because he loves us. He could have got like three off any of these faggots for it. No more than a few capfuls each, okay?”

We pour capfuls of the precious, thick liquid, toast Eddie and down it. It tastes like bitter nothing and it hits fast and hard. Till now, it has been six months of no opiates. It is back and it is so easy. I look in the mirror on the closet door just to see it again. The lizard eyes. Pupils tiny black dots in a sea of glassy green shot through with gold and brown. And the morphine is so smooth. No vicious smoke tickle in the throat you can’t get rid of. No dropper of burning liquid up your nose searing a hole in your brain until you can’t breathe or smell anymore. No messy search for a vein.

I want Tyler to disappear so I can cozy up to the amber colored glass of the medicine bottle by myself. My wish is quickly granted. Tyler passes out after two more capfuls. Her face is smooth and her breathing shallow. I slide off the bed and sit on the carpet in front of the flickering light of the TV. I get lost there, staring at the screen but not really watching. I am deeply somewhere else and this is as okay as I get. It has been so long since I felt this way. Tyler doesn’t really love it like I do. Doesn’t miss it like I do. Doesn’t get hooked like I do. She floats in and out of the drugs. Never does anything two days in a row. I think it will be the end of us, eventually. I will stay here and she will move on.

I am so warm inside I could go sleep on a snow bank and not even notice the cold. I stop sipping from the cap and begin to take periodic swigs from the bottle. The sweetest sleep creeps into the edges of my vision, but I push against it, staying with the dreamy half-consciousness. Tomorrow she will try to take the bottle away from me. I fight the slipping as long as I can.

The last time I pick up the bottle I am shocked that it feels so light. I hold it up to the backlight of the television screen to check how much more there is. I shake it back and forth to see the liquid sloshing around, but there is none left. I hear a man’s voice behind me and to the left. He says, “I am Morphine, the god of dreams.” I stare through the empty bottle as I lose my grip and slide away.

I wake three days later. Tyler says she stayed by my side the whole time. That she counted the seconds in between when I would breathe out and I would gasp for air again. She said if she ever counted to ten she was going to take me to the hospital. She never got higher then eight.

I am touched she stayed with me. I pulled out of it fine, I think, except I can’t really get up for the next couple of days. I keep waking disturbed and unable to recall anything, but I have the distinct sensation that there is something I am supposed to remember. The harder I try the further away it gets. Every time I go under something gets lost for always.

About the author:

Jillian Lauren lives with her husband in Los Angeles, but they leave every chance they get. “God of Dreams” is excerpted from her first novel The Next Thing That Kills Me. She is currently at work on her second. She plans to attend the MFA program at Warren Wilson College in the winter.