January 28, 2014 original writing by Sean Blake
What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been…
“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” –William S. Burroughs
It is like any other evening on 183rd street. The Bronx is home to many types of people, hard working immigrants, young Fordham students, old Irish and Italian New Yorkers. It is also home to the morally bankrupt and spiritually disenfranchised, I would put myself in this class. I’ve been homeless, selling stolen property, “Boosting” (stealing/shoplifting), and mainlining large amounts of cocaine and heroin for the last 4 months.
It is July 7th 2012, a warm summer night in New York City. My leg hurts. I find myself behind a dumpster with a 1CC syringe two bags of brown and one of white, these colors I’ve come to know. These colors define my very life, “you are what you eat” and I haven’t eaten anything in a day or two, except drugs. I mix the remainder of my stash in a sickly concoction and blast off. No idea this would be my last time. My heart races, my ears ring and my problems melt away. The crack wears off quickly and I’m left with an intense mellowness. Bliss. Time to go to work. I’m in the same situation; broke, high, with nothing for the damn morning. While heroin withdrawal is not an appealing option, but going into the lovely island of Manhattan and filling some bags up with merchandise at the 24 hour Pharmacies and walking out the door sounds like a great idea. Sick, Crazy, Desperate, I’m all these things and I’m getting on the D train.
I start on the Upper East Side, my route is picked out. I’m going to walk down to Hell’s Kitchen where the bodegas need to fill their shelves; soap, Advil, shampoo, and deodorant. Yes if you’re in New York and shopping at a corner store your probably buying something stolen. I probably stole it. But, I must put my ego aside and get back to the story. So I hit a CVS, a few Duane Reade’s and a few Rite Aids. No Problems. No Questions. I’m a cute white boy shopping around. I wait for the right moment and walkout. I have two bags filled and am on 50th in Midtown a few blocks away and I know I’ve got enough. My leg hurts. I walk past another Duane Reade and want to grab a little more. “Just a little more, a few more dollars equals an extra bag.” I walk into a store at 1am with black bags full of stolen goodies. Sick, Crazy, not so desperate now. I have what I need but there is no off switch. Drug addiction is a belly that’s never full. I walk downstairs grab a few boxes of dove soap and turn to leave. The Stores empty and something feels wrong. An itching sense of suspicion and a glimmer of darkness, “probably just the drugs.” I exit the store to be tackled by 7 foot tall African, The store manager holds me down until the NYPD arrives. I’m cuffed and in the car, tears begin to drip from my eyes and a glimmer of who I used to be breaks free from the corruption a despair only to fade when we get to the midtown community court. Then the monster comes out just to keep me safe. A handful of interesting folks in the back of the police station with me, two men in suits (businessmen), a boss and his employee had a dispute, the rest of us junked out heroes of the street. I get processed and put in the back for court the next day ROR (release on own recognizance.) Is what I’ve heard all the other times I’ve gotten caught. It’s just shoplifting. I get some food and lie down on the hard wooden bed, if you can call it a bed. My leg hurts. I finally take a look to see an abscess the size of a golf ball on my ankle. I should go to the hospital when I get out. I probably should stop doing drugs if this is what my life is. These are the thoughts that follow me to sleep. I awake dope sick singing a different tune. I need out now and really need a shot. Aches all my body, cold as can be, my leg really hurts. The meeting with my lawyer is bad. That same really I had the night before is crawling through my head along with the start of a detox I don’t want to have.
I go before the Judge, she’s pissed. I have several open case of petty larceny all over the city and she doesn’t ROR me. “1000 dollars bail, Mr. Blake I’m turning you over to the Department of Corrections.” My Heart sinks in my chest but for the wrong reason, not because I’m going to jail, because I’m not getting high today. A DOC guard asks me “if I want detox” of course I say yes not realizing I won’t be going to the tombs (Manhattan Jail) I’m on a bus to C-95 Anna M. Kross Center (AMKC) RIKER ISLAND.
My first few hours are spent in a pen full of New York’s worst. My leg hurts. Fear of losing my foot leads me to pray “God please don’t let me lose my foot, God please don’t let me lose my foot” mid-pray I realize how selfish I sound and I change my pray. “God I’m scared, tired but I’m not alone, please show me my path, whatever it is. Whatever happens to my foot it is your will what happens to me next is in your hands. Thy will be done.”
I’ll end the story here, I would spend the next 3months on Riker’s Island, I didn’t lose my foot. I don’t do drugs anymore and I’m currently back in school writing a story of where I came from. I still pray but it’s a lot simpler today.
“God, thank you for teaching me how to laugh again, but don’t let me forget I cried once.”
- (This story is dark, I did not right it to seem bas ass, cool or different. I wrote because it’s the one day I could write 3+….pages about no problem.)
12 thoughts on “What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been”
This is heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for showing how he was so much more than the addiction. Beautiful writing that brought me to tears 😭
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