I fell asleep on the roof of an abandoned building used as shooting gallery. Even though I was clearly out, Poppy was in mid-conversation with what could have been my corpse. I vaguely tuned in what she was talking about as I sat upright to shake the tingling out of my arm. Tiny pebbles were stuck to the side of my face.
The moon was big.
“…I said to him if you want the mom thing that’s gonna be extra,” Poppy spoke in a slow heroin slur, “It’s just too much talking, “ she coughed. “So, I got twenty to tug him off saying ‘dirty boy, dirty boy’.” She scratched her cheek.
Poppy’s approach to her vocation was on first glance was cavalier, but on further observation one could see its strain could only be subdued by chasing the dragon into a sleepy jungle of boiling spoons.
” You want one?” She pushed a box of cigarettes towards me. Her dirty nails were jagged.
“Thanks.” I lit one.
Her lazy blue eyes watched my first big drag. Her smile was genuine. She shrugged as if she couldn’t remember a task that was asked of her. “You can have more if you want.”
Her unwashed auburn hair reminded me of one of those old billboards of a freckled faced farm girl pushing Nehi grape soda.
“Why are you sleeping here?” She lit a cigarette from the pack I pushed back over.
“Safer than the gallery,” I said.
“When I heard you were here, I wanted to come up to get high.” She took a drag. “Look what I brought you.” She pulled out a pint of gin from her jacket.
I relieved her of the small bottle and gulped.
“So this old guy comes up to me and asks if I do pictures. I say ‘yeah sure.’ I’m thinking he wants pictures of me, but he wants me to take pictures of him …” On occasion, Poppy would hunt me down for impromptu confessionals about her tricks.
We took turns at the bottle. I could feel my empty stomach swishing from gin.
Poppy scratched a sore on her face. “…after that he took off his gasmask and jock.” She looked around as if she had remembered something important. “I’m going to cook up.” She winced and smashed her cigarette. “You can help me.” With a subtle, but growing sense of earnestness, she laid down a spoon and needle. From inside her mouth, she took out a little balloon and tore it open, exposing a brown pebble. Patting her jacket she found an eye drop and squirted water into the spoon and then dropped the pebble into it. Her hand hardly shook as she lifted the spoon and lit a fire below it.
“Tear me off some of that cigarette filter.”
I tore the filter and dropped it into her boiling brown soup. It absorbed almost everything.
“I got another spike. You wanna?”
Without an argument she put the needle into the filter and drew up the murky liquid.
“Hold my arm above the elbow. “ She pulled up her sleeve.
I took her arm with both of my hands and squeezed. The bruised veins in her forearms nearly burst when they popped up. Her quivering hand slipped the needle in.
“This is new stuff. If I stop breathing, smack me.”
I nodded. “Got it.”
She pushed in the plunger. I let go.
Her eyes fluttered. Sweat beads gathered on her forehead while her body drifted towards mine, until I was propping her up.
“I wish I had some liquorish.” After a while Poppy started talking again. “You treat me so nicely.” She scratched her face.
I took gulps until she passed out.
Before long I finished the bottle. My bladder was full, so I rambled over to the side of the building. While I was pissing into the night I almost fell over to my doom. As I yanked my body from the ledge, I pissed all over my hands.
I shook my hands off and wandered back over to Poppy and plopped down, wrapping my arm around her.
Without Poppy, without my bottle, I fell asleep.