The coke cure is back. I couldn’t help it, I mean I couldn’t sleep without it, and you know I need my beauty rest. Wait, what am I saying — that coke helps me sleep? No, what’s my point? Well, Avery was starting to get on my nerves and I wasn’t feeling sick anymore, or not as sick, so I thought why not just a little? And then, well, you know.
The best part was that first cocktail, that first cocktail after not drinking for over two weeks, I mean Ned thought I was crazy when I didn’t want to drink, he just can’t imagine an evening without cocktails. But then he heard me coughing and he went out and bought me a bunch of apples: an apple a day keeps the doctor away, he kept saying. I don’t even like apples — well, maybe Granny Smiths, but these were red delicious, yuck. But it was a nice gesture, so I figured I’d throw one in the trash every day, just to make Ned happy. I mean, Ned’s not usually cute or silly. Plus, I could tell he thought I was going to die when he heard me cough that first time, so I tried to figure out how to emphasize that I’d just gotten tested, and that everything was fine, I mean without saying that directly, since he never said anything directly, right? But eventually I think it worked because then he got me the apples and we all know apples don’t cure HIV.
Once I was almost better, but still not drinking or doing coke, Ned kept saying Tyler, you don’t seem like yourself. And it’s funny because that should have emphasized that quitting might be a good idea, right, but instead it made me go right to the bathroom to do a bump. Or, okay, not right away because I wanted to be discreet, okay? You know how I’m always discreet.
But what was my point? Oh, right: that all the drugs I take to sleep, without the coke I just felt groggy all the time but then when I didn’t take a Xanax and melatonin and magical, magical Marinol I felt like a total wired catastrophe, pacing around the house in the middle of the night thinking about slamming my head through the walls and out to the street on the other side but you know I would just get stuck in the middle. My cough was almost gone, I mean at least all the phlegm, now it’s just the raspy thing I had before.
Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with all this. What I really wanted to say is that now Ned and I are reading Close to the Knives together — and I like our little reading group. I actually feel focused when I’m reading.
But wait, I wanted to tell you about my first cocktail, my first cocktail after I didn’t drink for two or three weeks — Ned put it on the table, and I took one sip, and I thought oh, this is it. This is everything. This is everywhere I want to be. And then after the third cocktail, I went upstairs and did a bump, even though beforehand I was thinking I would call Avery up and give him all my leftover drugs. And that first bump? Oh, that first bump —everything literally got brighter and then I went downstairs and Ned said: you’re in a good mood.
And that’s when we decided to read Close to the Knives together, I mean I’ve already read it at least three times from cover to cover and then different parts at different times, for a while I carried it around everywhere because it’s my favorite book, I’m always ready to read it again.
So it starts, that first chapter, “Self-Portrait in Twenty-Three Rounds,” and there’s that feeling in the back of my head, how do I describe that feeling? Just listen: “So my heritage is a calculated fuck on some faraway sun-filled bed while the curtains are being sucked in and out of an open window by a passing breeze.”
It’s that passing breeze, going right through my body, like suddenly my skin is alive, I can feel things all over. Except there’s Ned across from me, he’s wincing and somehow I forgot about all the violence in the opening scene, somehow that’s not what I remember, since there’s violence everywhere, I mean everywhere in this book and also everywhere everywhere, right? And then of course I finish the first chapter way before Ned so I sit there and wait, sipping my cocktail and looking at his face until he looks up and I say what do you think?
And he says: it’s a little much.
What do you mean?
Tyler, it’s a lot to look at.
Before I was ready to laugh about the end of the chapter where some trick with a foot fetish comes in his shoe and then says yeah, that smells like eggs, but now I’m thinking about the violence and does it ever end? And am I participating in this room? And what are my other choices?
But also I’m thinking about how reading Close to the Knives was the first time I ever felt my own rage in print, and also my sense of maybe a little bit of hope in a world of loss, and I’m wondering if I still feel that rage. Maybe I’m feeling it now.