I squint through bloodshot eyes at the body tangled in the sheets next to me. Last night her skin was velvet, but in the light it has ruptured with pimples and sores. She wakes with a groan and we lay beside each other, naked and itchy.
For us, every morning is the morning after. She likes to say it’s romantic, that it always feels like the first time. But there’s nothing romantic about waking up on a come down.
I walk to the kitchen, the cupboards empty but for a jar of instant coffee. With a bent spoon I stir the murky brown liquid, sipping its bitter distraction by the sink. Outside the sun is glaring at me. I stare right back into it, wanting the white light to bleach my veins and make me heavenly again. But it’s no use. It’s spread too far now, in between my toes, my groin, behind my knees. It has wriggled its way into my ribcage. A glorious, greedy dictator.
The plastic man on the radio says it’s going to be a beautiful day. But Sunday isn’t the day of rest for us—not when Joey, our most faithful dealer, has been leeched dry by tourists. I can see them now, tapping their plump veins with pride. Oh yes, they enjoy their little holiday, everyone does at first. But on Monday they’ll go back to their lives, and we’ll be here. In a cigarette stained apartment, with a ‘just in case’ drawer of used needles. The river is drying up, and the birds no longer whistle at our window, but this is our home. We are nothing if not loyal residents.
We throw on whatever clothes we can find and get on the tram. It rattles through the streets, each alley boasting shameful memories and traces of my bodily fluids. My skin is crawling, it knows what it needs and will prick away at me until it gets it. I knock on the door and Joey answers. His pupils tease us; he says the price has gone up. Supply and demand, you know? Damn tourists. I pay, and we duck into the disabled toilet at the park down the street. Fistfuls of toilet paper hang from the ceiling like crusty chandeliers. Scum for scum. I strap her arm first, but she doesn’t seem to notice the gesture. She’s twisting her lip ring with her tongue. She’s looking at the iceberg of ecstasy that is the tip of the needle. She goes, and I dive in after her.
Headfirst into the rush. The golden sherbet fizzles in our blood. We walk through the sunshine door and swing into the sky like children. Our heads spin on the grass, the earthy rug tangled between our fingers. I can feel her wriggling as if she’s inside me. I stroke the smooth surface of her inner lip, leading a trail of saliva down her throat. She says I see the way people look at us, but I don’t care when I’m looking at you. I say I love you and she smiles. The words aren’t as shiny as they used to be, but she still likes them. I’m her hero, you see. It’s my hands that take her away...
The light hurts. The birds squawk as if we need an alarm. I pick a melted strip of gum from my pocket and chew until I run out of saliva. When I can’t wait any longer I nudge her awake.
Up, up and away. If only you could eat clouds. We float down the grocery store aisles. We buy white bread, and dip it in milk until it’s soggy. The entire meal costs three dollars and we laugh at how stupid people are, stuffing their faces instead of shooting stardust into their veins. It’s dark and we lay in bed telling each other secrets. She tells me about dirty men, how she never really loved any of them, never loved anything until me. I kiss her forehead, and she falls into me. Lips on punctured skin, relishing each quiver of the blood. It doesn’t kick the way it did when we were young. It’s softer now, wiser. Settled like the dust on the lives we led before this one. A tune whistled by an old friend.
It’s always over much too soon. We get back on the tram and each jolt makes me want to vomit. She’s curled over next to me. I try to rub her neck, but she shrugs me off. I wipe the sweat off her skin onto my jeans and tell her that we should shower tonight. She nods to shut me up.
We are the yellow rain. Two souls inside slippery skin. The water cascades into the valleys between our hipbones. Limbs only ours to roam. We knot fingers and tug at each other’s hair in fascination. More, more. I push down the plunger and she squirms with pleasure, digging her fingernails into my back before letting them they slip away. I stroke her pale lips. I shake her bones. I slap her hard, snatching at the black marbles rolling back and forth beneath her eyelids. She lolls idly back into life, pink cheeks grinning with wonder. I yell dead-end words at her. Stop. No. But my voice is weary and she’s drifting. Eyes glimmering like moonlight in a stream. The doors are closing on me now.
I wake and check the dull throb of her pulse. I go to the supermarket to buy bread and strawberry jam. I pick flowers on the way home, tying them together with a rubber band. She’ll say that they’re beautiful and we’ll have breakfast on plates, and wash our hair, and twitch our way to salvation. We’ll say the words again and again, like ugly bricks on the road to sobriety. I open the door, and she’s sprawled out on the lounge. The television is on, but she’s not watching.
She’s naked except for her underwear but I don’t linger on her skin for long. There’s a syringe dangling off the edge of the table, like a pendulum about to tip. I clench my hero hands. What a glorious waste it would be.
Come back to me. Her voice is a whimper, and mine is dry. I lay the flowers on the table and kneel by her side. She smiles.
Come back to me. I shake my head. But I do. I do.