Living Life On The Other Side
It’s been a good run by anyone’s standards. My dealers can attest to it. I lived for months upon months in a altered state of mind. Climbed mountains with no problem. Maintained self control when other times I would’ve lashed out. A chemically induced transcendence. The phone calls I made were always answered. It was a mutual gain for us all. They desired finance, I desired freedom. In the end we both came out on top. Well, all that’s come to an end now.
I’m struggling to make it off the trolley into the historical north side section of Pittsburgh. It always begins in the legs. The agony is kicking in. College students striving for success surround me for my initial hike up the block to the local McDonald’s. As I walk underneath the bridge, I pass a homeless man on my left, who I never offer money to because he doesn’t accept debit cards. (It’s amazing what can transpire when you forego your dignity. I’ve heard panhandlers make a couple hundred a day). I’m hoping the coffee I’m eagerly anticipating will remedy my current dilemma.
Self delusion is only a necessity when all other options have ceased to be. Oh, if it was only that easy. I keep telling myself it’ll be alright, meanwhile my body doesn’t seem to concede. I could do this if I had more. It wouldn’t be a problem then. My minds in a prison, my body doesn’t wanna go. Each movement I make requires more energy than I can spare.
I used to march these streets like a Roman soldier on a conquest. Look at me now, I’m dying. I’ve always appreciated the splendor of these Victorian style homes located in this section of the city. They add charm, culture and history. The dingy bums who walk the streets help to diminish that in their own filthy way. Clean streets polluted with homeless bodies. I’m stuck in between. Not quite there yet. Reluctant to go.
I take a shortcut through the park thinking this’ll conserve my strength. Soccer mom’s up ahead are spending time with their offspring, enjoying a morning out in the sun. There’s bird’s, but no bee’s, my body is falling apart. I have people asking me for things, like a smoke, sorry I don’t smoke. We all have our wants, we’re all on a mission. The clock has a tendency to be cruel. I’m coming up short.
On the main drag now, only a couple blocks left to go. The yuppies are out walking their dogs, carrying bags to pick up shit. At this point I’m ready to crawl, my body wants to give in. Dilapidated houses from the nineteenth century sit idle for years, still the city’s made no progress. Each time I walk on by, this eyesore is always the same. Something’s never change. I’m at war with myself on the Mexican war streets.
I clock in at the shelter, I’m thirteen minutes late. It takes everything in me to cordially reply to my fellow coworker, who asked how I was. I tell a white lie, and proceed to the back where all the action is. I noticed a few new residents, along with a few I’ve seen before. Walking on grimy floors, sweating profusely, not knowing how I’ll make it through. I grab an apron, and wrap it around my aching body. I gotta stay clean in a life of temptation.
I lived life on my terms for months now with no interruption. Now I’ve hit a dead end. I’m forced to change my perception. Here’s me on the other side. It’s too late for all that shit. The box has been opened, I’ve broken the seal. To be honest with you, I don’t particularly appreciate the new me. I’ve lost my mind, I’ve lost my beautiful thoughts. I can kiss that perpetuation of endurance I once called my own goodbye. Is this how it feels to be like them? The one’s who go through life free of a chemically induced bliss. I’m turning into a reluctant renegade who hasn’t had enough.
This place is understaffed for the first time in my life. I walk to the prep room in search of Isaac. He’s chopping up vegetables for the salad bar. His demeanor is that of a man at ease. I ask how he’s doing, and what needs to be completed. It’s cordial as ever, we’ve always got along. My duties entail the eradication of taped-on labels from all the food pans. He’s clearly asking too much from a man in my dire position, but I persevere, and make things happen.
I’m scrubbing away with every fiber of my being in a place I never had the fortune of working at before: the sink. It’s menial work, but someone gotta do it. Sacrifices will be made. That’s what voluntary work is all about. If only my dirty body, and these clean food pans were at one. Then I’d be making progress. As of now, that’s just not the case. I sneak a look at the clock after each pan is cleansed. My crippling body is only getting progressively worse with time.
I feel a shit coming on. I’m thinking this’ll be a good thing. Time to expunge these chemicals from my body. I’ll be on my way to becoming a new man with every flush. Without hope we are nothing.
The bathroom in this place should be quarantined. There’s no bleaching away the stench of urine, no matter what you do. I know first hand, empirically. Be that as it may, the vile smell doesn’t work as a deterrent for a man in need of assistance. On a positive note, this piss hole comes equipped with literature which is a good thing. I might be here awhile.
It’s going on ten minutes now, I still haven’t managed to get it all out. I’m reading an inspiring book I found on top of the bathroom stall called ‘Living Clean’. Ain’t that ironic? Voraciously, I read the book. A person like myself can use all the help he can get.
All I keep thinking about on my way back to the sink is how much better this entire experience would be if I were high. Life’s easier when you’re loaded. This is a fact.
The small mundane things in life have a higher joy factor when under the influence of FDA regulated drugs. If I could get off on something else, whether it be God or food, I’d pursue that way with profound diligence. I happen to know where I stand though, so I find no reason to delude myself any farther than I already have. Going without is like falling out of love with yourself, and having to go out there and find someone new, when what you had was adequate. This is no way to live. I want myself back.
More dirty food pans are scrubbed clean by my filthy body. I’d high five myself, but I lack the self esteem. Why bother? I don’t even like this guy. He feels like an asshole. Fucking body can’t keep up, and I’ve lost the ability to smile. All I do is scrub, suffer and dwell on the one thing that never let me down. Complacency is wonderful if you’re capable of attaining it.
My shift is over, my energy is depleted. I almost stagger out the building, into the blindness of the afternoon sun. Hobos are coming in an out, some are stinking up the place. They’re struggling to rectify their past failures. Only a select few are granted the fortitude needed to make it come to light. I left the place cleaner than I found it. On a normal day I’d have an appetite after my work shift. Normalcy has eluded me.
My nose is running on this hot summer day. My problems are catching up to me. All I need is a message. My inbox is all alone, but not I. This body, these thoughts, this prison, they all do their deeds. They haunt me, keep me down when all I wanna do is find a ladder. This subterranean hell is more than I can bear. There’s no going back once you’ve reached the high life, and there’s sure as fuck only one way to go once you’ve strayed from that euphoric path.
I go back the same way I came. Usually I receive a hello by some of the locals. Not today. I must be the manifestation of a good thing gone bad. I’m sniffling every twenty steps I take. By keeping track it almost alleviates the obsession of scoring more, getting straight. This crocked path I walk takes an eternity to reach my destination. I can’t help but dwell on my dismal situation instead of taking in the beauty of nature which is in abundance over the north side area of Pittsburgh.
After an excruciating journey, I finally reach the trolley stop. It’s the afternoon commute. People are everywhere, but none of them appear to be suffering my self inflicted sickness. Good for them. In the meantime as I wait for the next trolley, I take a much needed seat, and open up my new Stephen King book. I can read the pages, but I can’t absorb the content. This is fucked up. Of all the things to hinder, it’s hindering my ability to read. My passion. I close the book, and check my phone. Still no messages which means no salvation.
On the trolley I take a single seat by the window. Maybe no one will notice me and all my glory. These withdrawal symptoms are exculating to new heights. Still I delude myself. It’ll be ok. Just gotta wait it out. Fuck my life! How long do I gotta wait?
Music has a tendency to be soothing when you need it most. Luckily for me, I brought my headphones. My musical choice is simple. I listen to ‘The Cure’.
Next thing I know I’m woken up by the trolley driver with a bloated beer belly on the last stop, accompanied by a splitting headache. Everyone’s running from something. It’s only a matter of time until it catches up with you. I finally found serenity only to be reacquainted with pain. My initial reaction was to spas out on him, make a spectacle of myself. After all, I am turning into a moody miserable motherfucker. Then I come to the realisation that it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I’m officially six stops away from my shabby apartment. That walk would do me in. The only option I have is to blow my nose, and wait for the trolley to continue it’s route. Sleep is the cure all when faced with crippling withdrawal symptoms. My comfortable queen size bed is gonna have to wait another twenty minutes for this worthless body I call my own. This is day one, which means this is only the beginning.
◊ ◊ ◊
Michael Marrotti is an author from Pittsburgh using words instead of violence to mitigate the suffering of life in a callous world of redundancy. His primary goal is to help other people. He considers poetry to be a form of philanthropy. When he’s not writing, he’s volunteering at the Light Of Life homeless shelter on a weekly basis. If you appreciate the man’s work, please check out his blog: www.