Dé Dale called to say he was heading out the door “right now”. The salsa event, according to the flier he had given me a week earlier, was supposed to start at eight, and at nine-thirty, my friend could no longer be considered fashionablylate.
“No problem,” I said.
“I’ll call when I’m in your neighborhood.”
Hanging up the phone, I settled back down at the dining room table where I prepared a fresh foil, sprinkled some crystals on it, and lit up. Odds were my friend was, like me, still in his apartment, “topping off”, if you will.
Getting high on meth is never as hard as stayinghigh: it’s like trying to stay afloat on a leaky inner tube that needs a puff of air here, a puff of air there.
“Good thing the wife’s out with friends,” I said to myself after blowing a thick cloud of white smoke out the window. I would have been sitting on the toilet or a step in the stairwell, otherwise, sneaking one more hit in before I left, just one more for the road, one more the bump in the road, just one more for . . .
Before long my cell phone was ringing again. Dé Dale was now a block away from my place.
So, he really was heading out the door.
I took one final hit, a gluttonously long one, and held it, held it, held it until my lungs felt as if they were going burst, then exhaled out the window.
Folding the foil up nice and neat, I slipped it, and two others just in case, into a simple black wallet between an assortment of business cards and “point cards”, none of which could be tied to me. This was yet another precaution dé Dale had once chastised me into taking:
“Man, what are you thinking?” he had said at the time. “One of the first places the cops look is in your wallet.” Tossing me a cheap wallet, he said: “Here, use this one for your gear. If a cop ever questions you, asks to see your ID, you’ll be able to take your own wallet out and not have anything to worry about. This is disposable, as well. Cops on your tail? Then toss this in a river.”
I returned the bag of meth with the rest of my stash, balled up in a pair of socks in my sock drawer, and then, went back to the dining room and double checked that I hadn’t left any clues to my illicit habit for my wife to pick up on. Yūko and I had enough troubles as is. No need letting her in on my nascent drug addiction, too.
“How are you doing?” dé Dale asked when I hopped into his car.
“Not bad. Not bad at all.”
Not bad indeed! If I had topped off again, that inner tube I was now soaring on might have very well popped.
Dé Dale handed me a small vial of honey oil, explaining that he had a shipment of bongs coming in from Amsterdam and didn’t want to leave anything in his apartment in case the cops decided to snoop around.
“Why thank you, kind sir.”
Honey oil is nature’s answer to Valium: the perfect thing to ease you to bed after you’ve been awake for several days. Dip a needle into the oil and add a little dollop of it on the side of a cigarette then smoke it like you would your Marlboros. Only with honey oil, Marlboro Country comes to you.
“Let’s hope you can repay the kindness,” dé Dale said. “You carrying?”
“I am, indeed.”
“Yosh!” Dé Dale was in a good mood now. “I’m already out, if you can believe it. That Chinese bitch can’t get enough of the shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were still at my place smoking tinfoil.”
It was “the Chinese bitch” who had introduced dé Dale to shabu, who had taught him how to smoke it, and who was now supplying his and indirectly my own habit in a kind of perverse trickle-down effect.
“You left her there?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure. If I don’t find anything to fuck at the party, I can always screw her again.”
Only in the World According to Gabriel dé Dale could something like that be pulled off. In my own world, if you ran after two hares, as the saying goes, you caught neither.
“So, you doing anything for Golden Week?” dé Dale asked, as we were approaching the Dome. The party was being held at a “live house” just next to it.
Golden Week,a weeklong string of holidays, began on the 29thof April. What with final exams bearing down on me, I hadn’t given it much thought.
“Let’s go somewhere!”
“Like Okinawa or something?”
“Okinawa? No, I can’t stand that miserable place! I mean a proper trip . . . somewhere abroad. There are some great parties on Cyprus. Or we can go to Goa.”
I rather liked Okinawa, the laid-back mood of the island, the music, the coral beaches, even the local cuisine. It wasn’t miserable at all, far from it. Still, I could understand dé Dale’s desire to get away.
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “I haven’t made my schedule yet, but I’m sure I can take off about two weeks around then. I’ll need a vacation after the exams and all.”
The best part of all was that my wife, due to leave for Canada in early April, would be out of the country by then. I would be free to go wherever I liked, whenever and with whomever. I was practically a single man again.
“Well, let’s not just talk about it,” dé Dale said, thumping the steering wheel. “Let’s do it!”
“All right, then!”
I was certain it was the speed talking: when you’re high you are inundated with “great” ideas. What’s more, you have the conviction, the perseverance, and the boundless energy to carry them out, allof them, and not just someday, but today! Right now! Let’s do it!
Every time I smoked, I could barely keep up as I filled page after page with story ideas, witty dialogues, and so on. I made lists of projects I just had do straightaway, and found new ways to tweak my business to squeeze out a few more drops of blood from the turnip.
Every time I got high on meth, it was as if I were lowering a bucket into a wellspring of creative genius. That was the attraction of the drug, and looking back it’s easy to understand why I developed such a powerful taste for it.
Meth-inspired babble or not, it still came as a surprise that dé Dale would suggest our taking a vacation together. The man seemed to take a sadistic pleasure in finding fault in me. You name it: the way I sentimentalized about the romances in my life, the stupid futility of my marriage, even the clothes I wore—he was in one of his two-thousand-dollar, custom-made Skinnleather pants, his “pussy-magnets” as he called them; I was in something with a considerably smaller price tag—he would find something snide to say. Be that is it may, no one, save my wife, was spending as much time in my company than dé Dale was. And as the year passed we would spend even more time together.
I still can’t get my head around that today.
Did it mean that, in spite of all his playful vitriol, dé Dale sensed substance in my wafer-thin existence, or did he merely need someone to get high with? Like that aversion I once had to drinking alone. After four years of conjugal acrimony, I had developed a rather thick skin. My pride wasn’t so easily bruised that I cared; nor did I want to devote much time brooding over the riddle of dé Dale and my friendship. It was just one more pedestrian curiosity as I walked through life.
At the salsa event, we clawed our way through the crowd to get to the bar where crap drinks were being sold for outrageous prices. It was then that a woman caught dé Dale’s eye.
“Did you see that?” he asked. “She looked right at me and smiled.”
“The tall one.”
“Long brown hair over there,” I said pointing to a tall, slender woman in black leather pants.
“You and your goddamn finger! You’ve always got to point!”
I pointed again, only more deliberately.
“Ugh! You are so uncool, man,” dé Dale blustered. “Do that one more time, and you walkhome.”
The woman was gorgeous, an Amazon, easily a hundred and seventy-five centimeters tall. With the stiletto heels she was wearing, she towered above all the other women in the room, and a good many of the men.
And boy was she ever flirtatious! Every now and again, she’d turn around, give dé Dale the eye, and then laugh playfully.
“I’m going to take her home tonight,” dé Dale said with such confidence that I assumed they had already met. I asked him if they had.
“Nah, first time to see her,” he said, staring directly at her and smiling in that devilish way of his.
Dé Dale is one of those unique characters you run across in life who seem to get exactly what they want. Compromise just doesn’t figure. He used to say it was because he didn’t give up, that he was disciplined, that he acted on his ideas.
“Anyone can have dreams, Rémy,” he once told me. “Anyone can tell you that they want to do this or that, but only a few people will actually do it.”
I had dreams; had always had them, but the overwhelming force of the current rushing against me was keeping me downstream, by no means defeated, yet struggling desperately. At thirty-five, however, I was beginning to fear that I would be washed away forever by that current, washed away and forgotten. And it was this fear of never coming to anything, of failing, that I no longer even bothered to tell others what it was that I wanted to do with my life, not my friends in Japan, not even my wife Yūko. Only my girlfriend, Azami, knew.
With bottles of mineral water in our hands, the two of us entered the main hall into which the object of dé Dale’s desire had disappeared. The darkened hall was even more crowded than the reception area. On stage a band was playing some Latin tune. The music did little for me, but all the women gyrating their hips to the beat was enough to make me pretend I was a fan.
“And you didn’t want to come,” said dé Dale. “Think about all the pussy you would have been missing!”
He was right. He was always right. And I was finding it easier and easier to just go with the flow, to follow the master’s lead out of the labrynith than try to search blindly for the exit myself.