“Heeeyyyy guys glad you can make it out to my place,” Kendal’s words were that of genuine gratitude and happiness, but her face seemed to tell a different story. Her long, thick, shiny, black healthy hair was all shaved off. How could she shave off all that hair? I was shocked. As a result her head looked much smaller and unaccounted for her body. What is wrong? My eyes transfixed on her tiny head and big eyed presence. Dirty fingernails curled around the door-knob.
“Hey Kendal, I haven’t seen you in for-eh-vah!” I go to hug her, but she pulls her shoulders away from me and turns around. Following her, Hilary and I make our way up the poorly lit stairway. Kendal has a single pea-soup green dyed braid in the back of her head. I turn behind me to Hilary shutting the door like she’s totally hunky-dory. She shows no sign of being effected. I start telling her about the lady we saw and then get distracted with the wood trim in the home. There on the door way I recall acid lime green trim and along the fireplace in the main living room complimenting the bubble gum pink walls. I have the flashback all the way to when I was in this apartment a year or two ago and it had inflatable furniture, Sesame Street dolls lay on top of purple fun-fur rugs. It completely suited the Raver’s living in it when Laura from the Have-a-Java crew took me.
“Hey guys? Are you listening? I was here before…what a trip!” I share my excitement.
“Dude, they seriously messed up the beautiful natural dark wood by painting right over it.” She points to the lime green on pink fireplace to emphasize her point.
Curious to see if there was still a small, metallic blue colored room off to the right side I head to the back of the hall. Just as if it were a dream, I open the door to a tiny room I stood in before.
Laura’s friend Tina had made it her designing studio devoted to her many costume creations which she’d always tastefully showcase at a party or after-party. In this room I remembered her samples of colorful textured prints creating a border. Now the here was completely spirit-less with dirty shirts and pants spilling out of stuffed garbage bags. Backing out I head towards Kendal’s bedroom.
Hilary is sitting in the centre patting a grey kitten. There isn’t a spot for me to put my foot unless I want to step on her clothes. Kendal pushes aside bowls and plates to make some room for me.
“Really guys… there were bonna-fide club kids living here. I’m serious.” I get an unimpressed response of silence. Kendal stares off into space like a crazy old lady on a bench. Her eyes somehow disturb the balance of her face, making me uncomfortable. Hilary is unusually quiet. I feel the need to speak again cause I’m really not digging what’s happening.
“Totally about living in the artistic process Kendal,” I lie. Her space is strewn with jars of paint, brushes, sketch books, and cups of grey water. What look like parts belonging to the inside of a car or machine were heaped in a pile on the other side. I see her clothing half-shoved, half-folded inside red, green and blue milk crates like the ones we use at work. The mattress looks lonely lying on the floor without any bed-frame or sheets. I try to act nonchalant and pick the cleanest looking spot to sit down on. A mans amazing but tinny voice sings out of her dented yellow stereo.
“Stephanie Says, Stephanie Says…”
“Who’s this singing?” I ask Kendal half expecting her not to hear me. She turns around to reach for something behind her and brings out the cassette. The cover has a banana on it: The Best of The Velvet Underground.
So this is what they sound like, I marvel. Hilary didn’t respond when I called her attention to the band. She nods her head totally preoccupied with something else. I start to worry cause she never gets this quiet if she’s just buzzed.
“Is everything cool… Hill?” I reach out to her knee, but she changes the way she’s sitting to be slightly closer to Kendal.
Kendal lights a red candle placing it on a dish in front of her lap. She clears her throat several times.
Groping inside a milk crate beside her she holds out a needle the size of a small pencil.
“These are really easy to get from the drugstore when you tell them you’re a diabetic and you really need them for your insulin.”
Whoa, hold on here. Kendal does heroin? Hilary didn’t tell me we’re going to Kendal’s to sit around and watch her shoot up. As much as Hilary might want to see that, I knew in the past few months she’d become more and more vehement about looking for a chance to try Heroin. She once said that if she could experience what most of our icons claimed was ‘the hardest high to kick’ then it could provide some insight into their souls.
But I couldn’t just stand up and leave. If I got out of Kendal’s apartment this buzzed without Hilary I’d be alone in this creepy area. I shoot a look over at Hilary which she totally pretends not to see, instead her gaze is on Kendal’s needle. Maybe because Hilary was interested in trying heroin Kendal assumed I was as well. It’s just typical of Hilary to only think of herself and take me along convincing me that Kendal wanted to see me, when she hadn’t even asked me about work or what I was doing.
Kendal’s hand shakes slightly as she pulls the needle down, and takes a spoon from one of the bowls surrounding us. Wiping the spoon on her black, frayed sweatshirt bottom, she places it beside the needle on the floor. In her hand I see a tiny packet the size of a stamp. Unfolding it open she starts coughing again, tapping out an amount the size of my pinkie nail into the spoons cradle. Deciding that I’d watch her demonstration I lean in closer. Smack doesn’t look yellow, I observe, but it doesn’t look pure white either, it’s kinda like a mushroom color.
“Okay, so now that you’ve put the tiniest amount in the spoon, you take your neeeeeedle.” She trails off picking it up and sticking it into a baby-blue plastic cup that she brought down from one of the milk crates. I watch her stick the needle into the cup and pull the orange plunger.
“Aaaand that’s the water to cook your junk,” she lifted up the needle to hold it above the spoon and pushed on the plunger. A tiny thread of water shoots out of the needle onto the spoon.
“If you didn’t have a candle, you could just use your lighter.” She looks into the flame coming from the candle. Like kids watching a science experiment, Hilary and I observe how the water in the spoon began to bubble after a few seconds.
“You see the tiny bubbles forming? Now at that point it’s cool to take your cigarette filter and break it in half and drop it in.”
“Why?” Hilary asks.
‘ “Wait, you’ll see,” she pulls out a flattened pack of Du Maurier’s taking out foil, unfolding it to expose the broken filter which she dropped into the spoon. The white cotton drinks up all the liquid. It’s magic!
“Now take your needle and stick it in the cotton.” She holds the spoon in her shaky right hand, and pulls the plunger with her teeth while holding the skinny body of the needle in her other hand.
“There. See?” Kendal coughs reminding me how she once spent an entire winter homeless when she lived in Vancouver. My eyes focus back on the spoon, which is now completely dry with a Q-tip sized amount of withered cotton in the middle.
“You don’t ever want to get a tiny piece of cotton into your needle. If you get it into your bloodstream it can majorly, majorly, fuck up your heart. It’s what they call cotton fever.” She warns us, searching for something by her knees.
“Hilary, can you pass me that nylon behind you?” Pushing up her right sleeve she starts tapping on the side of the needle. Just like watching smokers tap the bottom of their cigarette on the pack before they light up, I think this is a ritual that junkies have. Later I realize it’s a preventative step to ensure that no air bubbles are present. Hilary passes Kendal the nylon eager to watch the rest of the process. Kendal ties it around the top of her arm to make a vein stick out. I know this part, as this is the only bit they let you see in films when someone is shooting up.
Nah-how bay-bee I’m buh-ginning to see the light, that’s right… The Velvet underground are giving me the shivers, as the music’s essence seems to twirl around the candle.
One time I watched my friend Lauren pack a pipe with weed, but that doesn’t make me think about hospitals or how dangerous putting something in your skin can be. Kendal’s procedure is perfected as she uses one hand to stick the needle in her vein, the other to hold on to it, and her teeth to anchor the plunger drawing blood out of the vein.
“Push it in partially then wait. Then draw blood for the second time and by pushing it in all the way…here, Annie do you want to push it in for me?” Without a second thought I lean over, reach my hand towards the needle in the same manner I’d light her smoke, I bravely push in the plunger. Kendal pulls out the needle leaving a bead of blood to rise on her arm. She quickly unties the nylon from her arm and the next thing I know she’s at the window puking her guts out.
Over the retching sounds I ask her if this is normal, “Are you okay?” I walk over to her window and put my arm on her back. I look down and see that she ate something with corn in it. Trying to say something that would make her feel better I tell her how Hilary and I puke sometimes when we really get wasted.
“What does it really feel like exactly?” Hilary asks her.
“Once I finish puking the feeling is sooooo worth it.” Kendal tells her still leaning out the window. By the expression on Hilary’s face I can tell she’s impressed by this new way of self torture.
Kendal jerks her body back into an upright position leaning against the window frame for support.
“Do you want to try it?” she offers her supply to us as if it were a mixed drink she’d just come up with. My mind has already made the decision to not use a needle to get high. I’m just too squeamish, Hilary on the other hand is game for almost anything so I’m a little surprised that she turns it down.
“Not now…” pausing she lowers her voice, “I may come back, you know.” My gaze follows Kendal’s kitten wander over to the needle lying on the ground, and begins to bat it around. Kendal picks up the needle by the end and tosses it onto a dirty dish on a shelf.
“Now I feel like…comforted and safe. I feel warmish-numbish.” Kendal’s eyes close half way when she says numbish, and I start to feel like some people do grow up quicker then me and experience things that I’m too chicken to try. I envy her independence the same way I envied the party-people’s independence, I’m just not sure that I’d live in such squalor. Thinking about doing it sobers me up quicker then I anticipate. Hilary and her make plans for when they’re going to see each other again and I got the feeling that they didn’t want me to join them. Before we head home Kendal gives me her Velvet Underground tape to take home and copy.
We ride the streetcar to Osgoode station in silence followed by tired excuses to not talk to eachother on the subway. Two stops before Finch Hilary opens her eyes.
“You know heroin is something I might try, but can you see me with two hundred and forty dollars?”
“What do you mean two hundred and forty dollars?” She looks at me as if I should have known that was the exact cost for a gram. She rests her head on her bag which is smushed between her and the ink-black window. For some reason I think back to Kendal’s hair.
“Can you see me ever shaving off all my hair?” I ask her. We laugh about that for a little bit and it feels good.