Three years ago, I asked a transit worker in Newark Penn Station for the date. The woman behind the counter was disgusted with my appearance. It wasn’t so much in her facial expression as it was in her eyes. The eyes can never lie
She said it was October 28th and seemed to want to go back to whatever she was doing. I felt terrible having to annoy her again when I asked what year it was. There was amusement in her face and pity in her eyes when she told me 2011. I thanked her for her help and smiled. She tried as hard as she could not to stare at my teeth. I didn’t blame her since I knew I probably looked as foul as the man who had assaulted me a few days ago. My muscles were still sore from having them hardened all at the same time like some sort of full body Charley horse.
With my ticket in hand, I walked into the bathroom to relieve myself before the train arrived. As I finished up, I went to wash my hands in the sink and did something I hadn’t done in many years. It wasn’t because I couldn’t. Any public restroom I used in the past few years has always had a mirror. I just simply never bothered to look since my appearance really didn’t matter to me. Deep down, I knew it was because I was afraid of what the reflection would show me.
I scrubbed the soap from my hands and then conjured up the willpower to look into the mirror and come to terms with the damaged I had done to myself. I had to turn away the first time because I thought someone was playing a trick on me. The person in the mirror wasn’t me. His skin was pressed too close around his skull. The tired eyes were sunken into the back of his head and the bags underneath were black and purple. Dry sores covered that face from hours of picking at hallucinated bugs crawling beneath the skin. The person in the mirror had aged about a thousand years in the span of only two or three years.
Gathering my courage, I turned back to the mirror and stared at the stranger that I had become to myself. I’d cried a lot the past few days since the man attacked me. I cried for the family I had lost, for the friends I had abandoned, and for the good life I had once had. Memories of my childhood were the worst. It was looking into the past and realizing that once innocence is lost, there is no going back.
Tears dribbled down the side of my face while I let out sobs that echoed through out the empty bathroom. I caught a glimpse of my teeth that almost made me vomit for the hundredth time that week. Enamel erosion had disintegrated my teeth into black and yellow nubs of rot and decay. I pushed my tongue against my teeth and felt the cracks and massive cavities in the teeth I still had.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know my teeth were missing. I just didn’t care about it up until that point. I mentioned before that I had a one track mind. Ignoring everything that went on around me, including things that were happening to me was a part of life. Meth, Crank, The Rush, and getting ripped was all there was and nothing else mattered.
I don’t know why I thought scooping water into my mouth and rubbing my fingers over my teeth like a make shift toothbrush would help. It wasn’t like they were going to magically repair themselves. I think I did it because it was the only thing I could do in that moment that made feel as if it was going to help. I knew it wasn’t going to help them get better. I’d need to get dentures if I ever wanted to eat solid food again.
I took a moment to collect myself before stepping back out onto the train platform. The evening rush had already passed and on a Friday night, most of the passengers were heading into New York City or Newark Airport. I sat facing the crowd on the New York City bound side since I was going south to the suburbs of South Jersey. I was heading home to see my family and beg for their forgiveness. I hoped to God that they would welcome me back into the fold but I wasn’t going to count on it. I figured the best I could hope for was them recognizing who I was despite my appearance.
After being assaulted by the creature in the guise of a man, I was left bruised, beaten, and I imagine, close to death. I laid on the warehouse floor where I collapsed, unable to tell if it was night or day, if there was anyone around me, or if the man that smelled like cat urine had left. For all I knew, he could be waiting in the darkness for a second round of his version of kissing and cuddling.
States of consciousness and unconsciousness came and went as the hours passed. Memories, fantasies, and dreams of the Blood Tree mixed together creating nightmares out of the fondest memories, like when my grandpa handed me the typewriter with a smile on his face. His teeth would be yellow and black with decay and then suddenly he wasn’t grandpa anymore. He was Alan Goodtime standing in the living room of my old house with bloody leaves spread across the floor.
If it wasn’t nightmares and memories, it was dreams of the Blood Tree that promised a chance for warmth at the end of the tree tunnel that I’d never have. The tree tunnel had grown darker. The whispers from the forest were louder and their voices more threatening. Aggressive clawed hands swung through the foliage threatening to eviscerate anyone within their reach. There were times that I could have sworn that I smelled cat urine among the foliage.
The tree tunnel grew longer with each step I took towards the Blood Tree. Sometimes I felt like I’d been walking for days without rest. I’d reach the clearing and stand before its glowing crimson leaves. The first few times, I tried walking towards the tree, sticking out my hand, and trying to touch it, only to awaken on the warehouse floor again. The next time, I tried running as fast as I could and jumping towards it, only to awaken on the warehouse floor once again. I tried jumping into the pond, exploring the snow covered tree surrounding the Blood Tree, and sitting near the base to await something to happen.
Throughout the days spent on that warehouse floor, I was somewhere in between the realms of life and death, chasing dreams, reliving the past, and wondering if I would wake up the next time I closed my eyes. I wondered if the day I touched the Blood Tree was supposed to be the day of my death. Would the nutrients from my poisoned body feed the tree? Would I become part of the bloody leaves that covered the ground?
Thankfully, I never learned the answers to those questions.
On what must have been the fourth or fifth day, I awoke to the sound of thunder rumbling overhead. Water pattered on the leaky ceiling of the warehouse dripping down into a puddle near where I laid. The hope of quenching my thirst gave me the boost to crawl toward the dirty water on the ground and scoop it into my mouth. There were little specks of sand and dirt in the water making it grainy, but that didn’t even register in my brain. The need for hydration outweighed my concern for the cleanliness of the water.
My stomach began to hurt again. I braced myself awaiting another round of gut wrenching pain that never came. They were hunger pains. I hadn’t eaten for days. The applesauce and water had been vomited into the cat urine man’s mouth while he kissed me. I shuttered thinking about it, took a look around to make sure he wasn’t still there, and then pushed it out of my mind for more pleasant thoughts like leaving the warehouse.
I pushed myself up from the floor slowly, making sure the dizziness from the dehydration and hunger didn’t throw me to the ground again. My legs tingled from the numbness and lack of circulation until I could bear to walk on them. I checked my pocket and jumped for joy to find the remainder of the $100 was still there. I walked out of the warehouse that day and never returned.
The rainstorm continued throughout the day and into the night while I walked the streets of Newark with no destination in mind. It was weird to walk through the city without going to see a dealer, looking for cars to break into, or being cranked up. At no point did I feel like getting twisted. I anticipated the urge to return but it didn’t. For the first time in years, my head was clear and I loved the feeling. I thought long and hard about what I was doing in Newark.
By the end of the night, I made the decision to go home. If any withdrawal symptoms were to manifest, I would deal with it surrounded by family and friends. If the urge was to come back, I would go to my parent’s and tell them to send me to rehab, drug counseling, or whatever it was that they did with people like me. I would go home and throw myself on their mercy to see if they would accept their good-for-nothing, addict of a son, back into their lives. Before I was to leave, there was one more thing that I needed to do.
I’d been avoiding going back near Broad Street to “All in Good Time” the entire day but not anymore. I walked through empty, dark streets in the rain to get back to the shop. At first, I thought I had messed up the address since I was tweaked that night when I sold the purse. I went up and down the entire street searching for the shop only to find this:
I had gone back to find an empty lot between two buildings on 1111 Broad Street and simply couldn’t believe that it was gone. There was no shop, no building, just the empty lot, pistachio shells, and the rusted typewriter, waiting for me in the middle of it.
I’ll hold onto the typewriter until you return.
He must have left it behind for me knowing how badly I wanted it. Maybe he knew the building was going to be demolished, got all the junk out of his shop before the wrecking crew knocked it down, and left it here for me after they finished the job. I mean the shop was completely full of useless crap except for that typewriter. It’s possible that he was forced to leave because business was bad. Plus, Goodtime seemed like a genuinely good guy that would do this too. I mean he gave me the cross-scythe for free and a pretty damned good price for the purse.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how the typewriter got there. The point is that I got it and had the money to buy a one way ticket back home. I dragged that typewriter through the city to the train station where I started my journey home.
My heart was racing as I came up the driveway and went to the door. I pushed the doorbell and I heard it ring inside the house. Heavy steps came towards the door, the lock clicked, and the knob turned. My grandfather opened the door looking exactly how he looked the last time I saw him. The disappointment in his eyes was worse than the disgust on his face.
“Grandpa, it’s me,” I apologized while presenting him with the rusted typewriter. He stared down at the rusted piece of crap in my hands and threw his arms around me, knocking the typewriter from my hands with a loud clang as it hit the pavement and it broke into pieces.
“Where the Hell have you been?” Grandpa cried while squeezing me.
“I’ve been in Newark since I can remember,” I replied.
“Do you parents know you’re home?” Grandpa said.
“No, but I wanted to see you first and give you the typewriter,” I said through sobs.
He invited me inside and picked up the pieces of the rusted typewriter, looking them over.
“Is this my old typewriter or it is something you found in a dumpster?” Grandpa asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know where it came from but I couldn’t come home without it. I sold yours and I couldn’t return without one to give back. As soon as I saw it, I thought of you. That’s why I came home. I missed you,” I replied.
Grandpa smiled and patted me on the back with his arm around me. The smell of his cologne went into my nose reminding me of everything I’d left behind. He must have smelled me too because as he escorted me inside his house, he asked me to head straight into the shower. I crossed the kitchen and saw a few dishes in the sink which grandma would have never allowed if she was still alive but otherwise it was exactly as I remembered. Grandpa opened the refrigerator and took out a couple of beers.
“You want one?” he offered holding it out to me.
“No thanks, sobriety feels too good right now,” I answered.
“That’s a step in the right direction. I guess you are taking the Alchemist Lead to heart,” Grandpa said.
“That necklace around your neck is the symbol for Saturn, the God of time and harvest. It’s also associated with protection,limitation, and in your case, restraint. Don’t tell me you are wearing that and don’t know what it means?”
“Sorry, Grandpa, I found this in the middle of an empty lot,” I lied and then changed the subject.
After a long, hot shower, a set of new clothes (Grandpa tossed my smelly old rags in the garbage where they belonged), and the leftovers of an old meal, Grandpa drove me the rest of the way home. It was a tearful reunion to say the least. I was ecstatic to see my parents again and they accepted me back into their lives with arms wide open. Everyone had a million questions for me that I didn’t want to answer just yet. It was all so overwhelming and emotional that by the end of the night, I was drained. I excused myself to my old room to go to bed for the night.
I tossed and turned for a while unable to sleep. Something was still bothering me. I booted up my computer and did Google searches on “All in Good Time”, “Alan Goodtime”, and businesses located around 1111 Broad Street for about an hour until I gave up with nothing coming up in the search results. I shut down the computer and sat with my hand behind my head wondering if everything was some sort of crank induced hallucination.
I crawled back into bed, got underneath the covers, and cried myself to sleep with the happiness of being home again. There was much that needed to be done to repair my relationships with everyone I’d left behind years ago but for tonight I could take comfort in the warmth of a home. It was a warmth that not even touching the Blood Tree could beat.
Over the years, I put back together the pieces of my broken life on step at a time. I started with my family. Reconnecting with them was tough since they couldn’t trust me. The slightest change in mood, positive or negative, and they thought I was cranked up again or using something else. It took a while for them to trust me again but I’ve won them over. I don’t drink alcohol, smoke, or do anything that would endanger my sobriety.
My next order of business was getting a set of new teeth. The rest of my teeth were pulled out and I got dentures put in. No one would ever notice that they were fake unless I show them. It makes for a great ice breaker at parties. Not so good for getting the ladies interested though. I’m single but I’m happy and that’s all that matters.
I reconnected with my old friends, the ones before the crank, that were still around. I apologized to them for being a jerk and threw myself
on their mercy. Some of them accepted my apology while others told me to go fuck myself. There was no harsh feelings against them. They owed me nothing.
Every now and then, the thought of getting twisted comes to mind and I start to feel sick again. Touching the Alchemist Lead always makes the sickness go away and I go about the rest of my day without paying thought to it anymore. At my grandfather’s request, I began to write again. I have a new addiction and this one, isn’t going to destroy me or leave me homeless in Newark.
A friend introduced me to Reddit, saying it was hilarious. I found /r/NoSleep mentioned in a few other subs and I decided to check it out. I’ve been hooked on it ever since. I’ve contributed a few stories over the years but I never actually read the stories that everyone mentions are the best. A few night ago, I was home alone and with nothing else to do, I decided to read those stories everyone always talked about. I sorted by top, all time, and then I saw it at the top of the page with 1111 upvotes.
“All in Good Time.”