Mr. Poe of Newark [1]

I was an addict.
I still am an addict.

I will always be an addict.

Nothing will ever change that about me. There’s emptiness inside me that I fear will never be filled without the assistance of narcotics. Seeking to fill that hole had led me down a path of self destruction that I would not wish upon my worst enemy. It ripped me away from people that have only ever loved and adored me. It left my body scarred with the marks of self abuse from bouts of psychosis were I felt tiny bugs crawling all over my body and underneath my skin.

I haven’t touched any crank in the past four years but that means nothing to an addict like me. In a moment of weakness, I could slip and its back to ground zero again. Back to being alone and feeling that emptiness that needs to be filled. It only takes a little stress of anxiety to set off the craving. Something as simple as not getting the right change at the supermarket or someone cutting me off in traffic and I’m already feeling on edge. The thought of getting high immediately comes to mind. I miss the rush, the warmth, and the euphoria that comes from inhaling crystal. Luckily for me, as soon as I begin to think about getting high again, I instantly begin to feel sick throughout my entire body.

I’m not sure if its some sort of psychosomatic association but when I start to feel the sickness from the craving, I reach for my necklace and the sickness goes away and the craving dissipates. I go on about my day like nothing happened and that’s that.
Life wasn’t always like this though. A few years ago, life was very different for me. I hate to use these words but I think it applies to me at this point in my life. I was a meth head, a junkie, a drug fiend, whatever you wish to call me. The point is that I lived and breathed only for crank. I had reached the point of where my permanent home was an abandoned warehouse with the other disenfranchised of Newark, New Jersey.

Stuff like eating, drinking, and keeping warm, were a daily struggle. I’ve had to resort to eating from trash cans, drinking water flowing into storm drains and puddles, and having only old newspapers for blankets. You’d think this would be a priority for someone on the streets but it sort of fell into the realm of a comfort compared to having to get my next hit.

Keeping a one track mind helped cope with what went on around me. Tweakers screaming and yelling all around me while they were fucked up out of their minds with whatever shit they could get their hands on. You never knew what someone would do while they were cranked up. Violence, sexual assault, and psychotic behavior was the norm. I can personally attest to the violence and psychotic behavior part. I’d gotten into my fair share of fights and I’ve cut myself with whatever I could find to get the imaginary bugs out from underneath my skin. Most of the time, I roamed around the city having conversations with people that weren’t there and breaking into cars for items to pawn.

I don’t really have any experience with the sexual aspect of tweaking since my machinery didn’t work right while I was tweaking. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see someone viciously masturbating until their hands were bloody from their stroking the skin of their genitals raw. Hypersexuality is a common side effect of crank so it wouldn’t be weird to see sexual relations going on around the warehouse. I ignored it all.

Up until I was homeless, I never knew that a majority of the homeless population is comprised of children and teenagers. Some were runaways. Some were addicts worse than I ever was. As the most vulnerable targets to predators, a lot of them disappear within days of showing up. You can’t even imagine the exploitation that happens when no one gives a shit including the victims themselves. It’s worse when they’re girls. You don’t want to know what happens to them.

I apologize for painting a grim picture before even starting but I need you to understand what reality was for me then. This was my life and I was okay with it. Back in those days, I wasn’t an angel. I didn’t go as far as pimping children out to child molesters like some of the others did. Even in my darkest moments of desperation, there were lines I wouldn’t cross. Deep down in that cesspool of addiction, I was still some sense of morality. Although sometimes those lines blurred when it came to getting what I needed.
The only way I knew how to support my crank addiction and feed myself sometimes was by breaking into cars and pawning whatever I could get my hands on. Women’s purses were always my favorite to steal since they were like gift baskets of cash and a tossup of assorted items that women carry around. Medicine, hand sanitizer, lip balm, all of it usable and tradable with the rest of the rabble. When you have nothing, every single little thing counts.

To cover my tracks, I made sure never to visit the same pawn shop more than once every couple weeks. The owners never gave me trouble with purchasing stolen goods. They often unpaid me in exchange for staying silent about where I got my stuff. It was a good deal since I had no time or room for argument about the pay. Transactions went quick and easy as did the crank and the money.

Steal, sell. Buy, consume. Eat, sleep, do it all over again. Life went on in this cycle until the day I stepped into a new pawnshop that sprang up out of nowhere. Like I said before, I used to wander the city of Newark for two or three days at a time without stopping for sleep. I knew the city like that back of my hand and I’d never seen this shop before.

Earlier in that night, I’d scored some crank and went out to find some more stuff to pawn. I’d been zooming around checking cars until I hit the jackpot. I found a Coach purse on the floor of the backseat of a car. There was a $20 bill, a notepad with a pen, and a lighter. The Coach bag would net me a few more twenties and the rest of the stuff would be easy to trade. The only problem I had to contend with was finding a pawn shop that I hadn’t visited in a while. But luck must have been on my side that night because rounding the corner of Broad and Thomas Street I stumbled upon a shop I’d never seen before.

Its was located between two apartment buildings. The gold sign above the door had “All in Good Time” in black letters. It was a weird name for a pawn shop but that may have been why I never thought to visit it. The mailbox had four silver sticks each with the number 1 on it. The shopkeeper looked bored standing at counter popping pistachios into his mouth and tossing the shells to the side. With no one else to tend to in the shop, I could be in and out in a couple minutes with a payday. And if this guy was the only honest man in Newark, I could split before he could get around the counter. I pushed through the door and walked inside the shop.

As the door opened, a bell rang notifying the shop that a patron had entered. Maybe I already coming down but everything felt funny once I stepped through the door. The sound of the bell seemed muffled like it was coming from the inside of a sealed box. The sounds of Newark were replaced with the eerie silence of the shop. It reeked of cigarette smoke, musk, and mildew mixed together but who I am to complain when I probably smelled worse.

“All in Good Time,” the shopkeeper welcomed when the door shut behind me. I smiled at the shopkeeper then took a lap around the shop pretending to be shopping. From the look of the items, I considered leaving and going somewhere else to do business. This shop had nothing but junk. Old supermarket advertisements, boxes full of rusted, bent nails, and cracked hubcaps were some of the items for sale in the shop. And when someone that lives in an abandoned warehouse thinks something is junk, you have some problems. I faked interest in a few books with missing pages. Then a rusty typewriter that someone probably fished out from the bottom of the Passaic River caught my eye.

I put my hand over the faded keys and felt as if I was struck by lightening. My fingertips felt like they were melting onto the keys. I tried to pull away but couldn’t while my body was paralyzed. My windpipe felt as if it was being crushed by a giant’s hand. Memories rushed to me that I hadn’t thought of in a very long time. While it was a quick flash, it was enough to open the flood gates.
I remembered sitting on my grandfather’s lap while he taught me how to use his typewriter. I loved seeing all the letters appearing on the paper that weren’t there before. I still recall the sound of the clicks and clanks it made in my ears. When I learned to write, I used to spend hours typing away adventures featuring my friends and family with some talking animals peppered in for fun. My grandfather used to read every single one and gave me pointers on how to make them better. I’d always go back and fix whatever grandpa said. I wanted to impress him more than anyone else.

My happiest memory was of my fifteenth birthday. Grandpas gifted me the typewriter, and suffice to say, I was beyond ecstatic about it. Computers, video games, and all other activities were meaningless when I was writing stories about cowboys and indians fighting in outer space, lizard people from the Earth’s core invading, and about a man that could switch bodies at will with other people.

The happiness of reliving those memories left me feeling only a sense of sadness after it passed. It would be only a few years later, that crack would take me away from my friends and family. Or it was more like I pushed everyone out of my life to make room for it. Like twisting a knife in the wound, the memory of the last time I saw my grandfather popped into my mind.

Everyone was furious with me and I was too messed up to give a shit about it. My high school guidance counselor had called my mother to report that I hadn’t shown up to school in three days. My grades had taken a steep plummet as a result of missing tests and homework. My family had already be suspicious after I started hanging out with the same people they didn’t recognize. My old friends had slowly stopped hanging out with me after I used crank. They said it made me too hyperactive and they were unable to keep up with me. I hadn’t seen my grandfather in a long time and blew off every family function. They waited until I went up into my room and sprung a trap on me.

There was a ton of screaming and yelling. I denied, denied, and denied that I had a drug problem until my mother pulled out the stash I kept in my closet. My grandfather’s opinion changed as quickly as his expression did. His bottom lip curled into his mouth and he avoided looking into my eyes choosing the floor to shake his head at in disappointment. This hurt beyond words. When he finally looked into my eyes, I could see that he was looking upon a stranger wearing his grandson’s skin. I burst into tears and apologized for my behavior but grandpa didn’t want to hear it.

That’s when he did what I hoped he would never do. He asked me where the typewriter was. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’d sold it for crank money. But I can only assume that he already knew that as he stormed out of the room and out of my life ever since.
“Excuse me, sir,” the shopkeeper interrupted putting his hand on my shoulder. I felt like I’d just been awoken from a deep sleep. How long had I been standing in that spot? I felt dizzy and my stomach began to cramp up. Had the store gotten hotter or was it a hot flash? I felt like vomiting.

“Sorry, I spaced out,” I apologized trying to keep my sickness in check.

“No worries. That seems to happen in here a lot,” the shopkeeper responded.

“Well, anyway, I got this bag for my girlfriend but she dumped me and I want to get rid of it. The fucking store won’t take it back cause she used it for a day or two,” I lied to the shopkeeper faking disbelief.

“Why is all her stuff still in there?” the shopkeeper asked peering into the open Coach bag.

“She left in a hurry,” I lied again, shutting it.

“We’re starting off on the wrong foot here. I’m Alan Goodtime, what’s your name?”

None of the other pawn shops ever asked me for my name. This exchange began to worry me.

“My friends call me Poe,” I lied once more.

“Mr. Poe is a very interesting name, my friend,” Goodtime answered with a smiled displaying a set of teeth that would have required several days worth of dental work. None of this was going the way I wanted it. I hung out too long and this guy could probably give a good description of me to the police. It was time to go.

“You know what, forget it. I’ll just give this to the next girl that comes along,” I smiled and walked to the door.

“Stop lying to me and I’ll give you a good price for it. I know it’s stolen. I know you aren’t feeling well. And I know that you are afraid that I will turn you into the police. Worry not, Mr. Poe. You are safe here,” Goodtime offered with the same ugly smile coming across his face.

Goodtime didn’t wait for an answer. He walked behind the counter and waved for me to meet him.

“I’ll give you $80 and something I think you’ll find interesting, for free, of course,” Goodtime offered.

“No, I want $120. I don’t need anything in this shop,” I countered back while the thought of the typewriter popped back into my head. I denied myself wanting it since it served me no use. The piece of crap probably wouldn’t work either yet I still couldn’t help but desire crappy typewriter.

“Oh come on, my friend, I told you not to lie to me. I’ll do you a solid. I know you want that typewriter. So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll give you $100 for the bag, I’ll throw in something else for free, and I’ll hold onto the typewriter until you return,” Goodtime countered back.

“Who said I’m coming back here?”

“Just a hunch, Mr. Poe. I think we’ve conducted some good business here,” Goodtime said warmly.

“Sure,” I agreed as he handed me the money. With our transaction completed, I walked toward the exit. As I reached the door, Goodtime stopped me.

“Oh Mr. Poe, you forgot your item. Luckily for you, it’s right on that box next to the door,” Goodtime pointed to a small box with red packing tape on it. On top of the box was a gaudy black necklace you’d probably see some Goth kid wearing. It looked like the designer had molded a scythe to the bottom of a cross.

“What the heck is this?” I asked Goodtime. He’d already gone back to stuffing pistachios into mouth. He spit the shell out and turned in my direction.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Poe. You’ll know in good time.”


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