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by Branden Hart
If Tim didn’t have any booze, there would be no way I could sleep in this place.
Where I am is an abandoned warehouse. There are several dozen people here, all kids my age—some a little younger even. All of them running from something. Abusive parents, a grabby uncle, juvenile detention centers. All of them have something chasing them, breathing down their back. Not like me. I’m the predator. I’m the one doing the chasing.
And my feet are really fucking tired.
There’s a large bonfire in the middle of the room. The entire place smells like piss and pot. People are smoking drugs that probably don’t even have a name yet. Combinations of things you find under the bathroom sink. The entire place is concrete. It’s cold and it echoes.
How I hear about this place is pure chance. I’d call it luck, if I believed there was such a thing. A Hushedwhispers conversation unlike most I’ve heard. Two boys in the back of a classroom, about three weeks prior.
“It’s on the corner of Wilson and Lockhill,” says one of the boys.
“When are you going?” asks the other.
“Tonight. I gotta get out of the house. If my dad hits me again, I’m going to kill him.”
That night, when I go to the corner of Wilson and Lockhill to check it out, it’s drizzling rain and pretty chilly. But I go anyway, because I don’t have anything else to do. At first, it’s quiet. Then I notice a kid who has to be younger than I am jump the chain link fence and walk inside. Then another. And another. In less than ten minutes, at least half a dozen kids have gone inside, and more than that have come out. They pass me without looking. I’m just another part of the world they don’t care about. I’m a shadow.
Knowing this, I don’t know why I’m surprised at how many people are actually inside. After I leave my foster father’s tomb, I stop to get some water and food at a convenience store, and then head to the warehouse. When I jump the fence, there are some kids outside smoking cigarettes. They don’t look at me. As I walk through the front entrance, I pass two girls who are obviously intoxicated. They look right through me.
But Tim comes up to me as soon as I walk in. “First night?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, not sure how much to divulge to this stranger.
“Tim,” he says, sticking out his hand. “Good to meet you.”
“How can you guys stay here?”
“What, you mean why don’t the cops bust us? Fuck man, they don’t care. They come by every so often, make sure we haven’t killed each other. Then Angie,” he points to a pile of clothes in the corner that vaguely resembles a human, “she gives the patrolmen blowjobs and they take off. It’s a pretty good deal.”
“Good deal for the cops.”
“Nah, Angie likes giving head. Shit, just go ask her—she’ll blow you off.”
“Well, anyway man, it’s pretty chill here. Just don’t mess with the crackheads and you’ll be fine. That group is crazy. I’m surprised they haven’t all killed each other yet.”
“So what are you?”
“What—you mean what group am I in? Shit man, I pretty much stick to myself. Not a lot of people in here up for stimulating conversation, if you know what I mean. Nah, I got a couple of friends here. One guy goes to his parents’ house every week and steals a coupla bottles while they’re playing bingo. Gives me one—usually takes me through most of the week.”
“And why does he do that? Out of the kindness of his heart?”
“Nah,” Tim answers. He takes the bottle of Jim Beam he’s holding and takes a long, drawn out pull. After wincing, he says, “Nah man. I saved his ass. He OD’d. I took him to the hospital. Even paid for his bills with money I stole from my folks.”
“And why did you do that?”
Tim takes another pull. “Out of the kindness of my heart.”
He smiles slyly and hands the bottle to me. After about thirty minutes, we’re in the corner by ourselves, gulping down the whiskey and exchanging stories.
“They always do that?” I ask, pointing to the boy and girl having sex on the other side of the room. They’re both completely naked, making all sorts of guttural noises, not caring that people can see them.
“Ecstasy. The drug, you know. They manage to get quite a bit of it somehow. Take it all the time. That drug takes hold, they don’t give a fuck who is around or where they are—they start going at it.”
“Why don’t you take drugs?”
“Motherfucker what you think this is?” Tim says, holding up the bottle.
“I mean hard drugs.”
He sighs. “I did, back in the day. Really nasty stuff, that. See, I don’t like feeling out of control—know what I mean?”
“Tried coke. Before I knew it, I was jonesing for more. Didn’t even want more, but it’s like I had to get more of that shit in my nose. I tried acid, and went insane for about twelve hours. I tried ex too.”
“Ended up like those two over there. ‘Cept the next morning when I woke up, it stung like hell when I pissed.”
“What did you have?”
“Just a little case of the clap. Got some antibiotics, cleared it right up.”
“Know where I can get some?”
“What, the clap? Hell, I bet most of the chicks in this place…”
“No, no. Antibiotics.”
He takes a long pull from the bottle and puts it down with a clink on the ground next to him. “There’s a guy in here, he can get you almost anything you want. For a price.”
“And how much is it? I’ve got money.”
Tim laughs—a long, somber laugh. “He don’t want money man. He’ll get you anything you want. You just gotta let him fuck you up the ass.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
Tim laughs again. This time, it’s forced.
“Shit man—how do you think I got my antibiotics?”
And then he takes another pull from the bottle and leans in real close to me. He looks into my shocked eyes and says, “Sometimes man, you just gotta do what you gotta do.”
I’ll be damned if I ever let some vagrant motherfucker peg me, I think. I’ll just have to learn to live with the clap or whatever this is. After all, there are much, much worse things in life.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know it, but I was about to find out what those things were.