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Station 14. Tina is placed in the tomb
Wood carving by Susan Hagen, story by Mike Walsh
"If I had known you woulda turned into a junkie I never woulda hired you," Tina's boss said. "I don't care how good looking they are. Junkies are too unreliable. Now get the hell outta here."
With that Tina was fired from her job at the Kit Kat Klub, a topless bar in Manhattan. She had missed work too many times.
"Come back when you get off the shit," he added as she left. "If you ever do."
When she got home, she asked Crystal's boyfriend Skip for a hit. She knew he had a stash somewhere in the apartment. She didn't have any money, but she promised to pay him soon.
"I've given you mucho gratis hits," he said, "and what have I gotten out of it? Zilch. And you're going to pay me back? Fuck that noise."
Tina screamed and cursed at him. Crystal told her that she couldn't talk to her boyfriend like that, not after all they had done for her. As they stormed out, Crystal told her to be gone by the time they came back or they would throw her out. Tina ignored her. She had heard the same threat from Crystal numerous times before.
Tina called a few other dealers, but they all said the same thing. No money, no dope. She was already into most of them for fifty to a hundred bucks. One said, "Sure, if you come over here and give me some head." She hung up on him. She was desperate, but she wouldn't stoop that low.
Tina had come to New York City three months earlier after deciding that her hometown was too boring. She was eighteen years old. Her friend Crystal told Tina that she could live with her and Skip in their apartment. Skip was a part-time dealer, so Tina was able to get wasted just about whenever she could afford it, and sometimes the tips at the Kit Kat were very good. She spent most of her time getting high or being high, which was the only time she felt half-decent.
Tina poured some of Skip's vodka into a glass and drank some of it, but it didn't make her feel any better. She lay down on the couch and tried to sleep. She hoped that if she slept, everything would be all right when she woke up, but she couldn't sleep, and she knew she wouldn't feel better until she copped. Even then everything wouldn't be all right. Everything would never be all right. Everything was completely fucked.
She remembered the first time she had tried smack. It was with Vic, her ex-boyfriend. Until then she had used only pot, coke, acid, and speed, but never smack. A friend had offered her a small packet, and she figured why not. It was cheap, and she hadn't been able to track down anything else. She and Vic smoked it. Vic didn't like it, but she wanted more, so soon they were driving to New York City once or twice a month to score for Tina.
Vic had always liked drinking more than getting high. Tina didn't like to drink. When she thought about it, she didn't know why they had stayed together for so long. She had been Vic's girlfriend for about a year. Vic used to pick her up in his beat-up hatchback every afternoon after she got home from high school and take her to the house he shared with several friends. He worked in a bar. His parents had gotten him into college and had paid his tuition, but he'd hated school and had quit.
Where was Vic? she wondered. Probably drifting around the country somewhere. Either that or he was dead, which wouldn't have surprised her. He had never been able to take care of himself, but right now she needed him. He would've found some way to score for her. Vic wasn't perfect, but he was helpful that way.
Tina remembered when they had cut each other's hair. Vic and Tina had shaved the sides and backs of their heads and had dyed the hair on top bright colors. They had also given each other tattoos and had pierced each other's nose, ears, and nipples. You don't go through experiences like that with someone, she decided, without forming a long-lasting bond. But where was he when she needed him? What good was the bond doing her now?
She thrashed her arms and legs, threw a magazine across the room, and called out for him. Her head was pounding. She hadn't eaten anything besides a bag of chips in two days. She washed a few aspirin down with some more vodka.
Vic had had a few problems. First of all, he had gotten drunk almost every day. When he was drunk, he claimed that Tina played "head games." They frequently had loud arguments, which usually ended in fistfights. Vic wasn't much stronger than Tina, so when they punched each other it was close to an even match. Once, however, Vic became so enraged he pushed Tina through a second-story window. She landed on an awning and managed to hang on until Vic's roommates got a ladder to her.
Vic was suicidal too, and he hated almost everything. The world was bogus. Everyone was an asshole except him, of course, and the cops were "fucking pigs." He told Tina that he dreamed about buying a machine gun, going to a mall, shooting a bunch of straight people, and then taking himself out.
Tina had loved Vic despite the fact that he was such a mess. Maybe it was because she felt sorry for him. He just didn't fit in, and he hated the world. That's where she was different. She didn't hate anything or anybody. She thought the world was a screwed up place, but it just didn't bother her very much.
One day Vic had told Tina, "This scene is so lame, I just can't deal with it anymore." Then he split. Completely out of the blue. No one knew where he had gone. Tina took up with Vic's roommate Ed, who enjoyed heroin almost as much as Tina did. He taught Tina how to shoot up.
Vic came back after a few months of hitching around the country, and he was incensed that Tina was seeing Ed. One night he got drunk, smashed a bunch of dishes, and passed out on the living room floor. When Tina found him, he was bleeding from several cuts on his arms and hands. She helped him to the bathroom, where she tried to clean his cuts. Vic regained consciousness, looked at Tina, and shouted, "You bitch! You've been sleeping with my friend."
Vic wrestled her to the floor and started choking her. Tina was on the verge of blacking out when Ed and another roommate found them. They pried him off of Tina, but not without accidentally breaking two of his fingers. Vic ran downstairs screaming and smashed every window on the first floor. He eventually took off again.
Tina had to laugh. Poor Vic. Poor fucked up Vic. Why had he left her? Sure, she had slept with Ed for a few months, but that was just while he was away. Vic was the one she had always loved. Even Ed knew that.
It was getting worse. She felt nauseous and weak. Her skin was cold and sweaty. She needed just one hit. Even a little taste would make everything better. She turned an ashtray over on the coffee table and sorted through the cigarette butts for a roach but couldn't find one.
She was going to die. She could sense it. Someone would find her cold body lying on the dirty couch in a few days. Probably Crystal or Skip. Everyone had given up on her, even Vic. They didn't understand or care how much she was suffering. She wept convulsively.
She wondered how everyone would remember her. What would they say? Would Vic go to her funeral? Where was Vic? Why wasn't he taking care of her? Why did he go away? Why had he always been so nasty? She hadn't played head games with him. She didn't even know what head games were.
She wanted to speak with her mother one last time. Her mother had always been kind despite the pain Tina had caused her. Tina wanted to tell her that she loved her. She wanted her mother to pass the same message onto Vic. She reach for the phone and had just enough strength to type the number.
Tina woke up the next day in a hospital. Her mother had come and immediately taken her to an emergency room. After a few days she was moved to a treatment center, where the doctors gave her various drugs to help her through withdrawal. For a month she was sick, weak, and not quite with it. She had to attend counseling sessions every day. The food was horrible, and the other patients were just like her-ghoulish. She couldn't decide which was worse, rehabilitation or addiction.
She got out after two months, enrolled in a local community college, and went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings twice a week. She also found a new boyfriend, who was in a fraternity and didn't use drugs. She worried that he would dump her if he found out about her past. She decided to get it over with and told him. He didn't dump her.
She was nervous all the time. Her hands shook, and she yearned to get high. She worried constantly that she wouldn't make it, that she would get back on the junk, and that it would kill her. She was afraid to associate with her old friends. The doctors said that the marks on her arms would go away in about two years. After a few months, she stopped shaking and began to feel a little better about things.
It was a mystery to her why she had been saved. Was there a reason, or had her salvation merely been a random, meaningless occurrence? She wondered if it would have mattered if she had died. She wasn't certain that her life was important.
Vic called her once from California. She was shocked to hear his voice, and immediately her mind flooded with frightening memories. He said he was sleeping in the streets and eating out of dumpsters. "I haven't taken a shower for a month," he said, "and I'm having a ball."
He seemed strange and foreign to her, like he was from a different planet. She remembered how dirty, pathetic, and violent he had been, and she couldn't remember why she had loved him. The conversation made her realize how much she had changed.
Now she had a new life. In the past year she had become a completely different person. It was as if she had died, been buried, and been re-born. Now she was slowly relearning how to live, pulling herself along, crawling, as best she could. Soon, she kept telling herself, everything will be all right.
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