Chauncey liked to freebase smack with the foil positioned so that the shiny side was up. What he hoped to gain from this was self-induced Alzheimer’s. It came from burning the aluminum.
Chauncey said, “I don’t wanna know the things I know, ya know?”
It sounded crazy, but I could dig it. Losing your mind would be terrifying for most folks. To Chauncey, the concept was appealing. If you couldn’t remember the names and faces of all the people you did wrong, how could you remember the horrible things you did to them? True freedom came from not being able to remember all the times you were disgusted with yourself. That was the idea anyway.
Chauncey pulled smoke from the shiny surface of the foil, held it in, exhaled through his nose. “Why would anybody want to remember all their dirt? Not if you had a choice to forget. Not me. No sir.”
“Neurodegenerative absolution,” I said.
“My man!” Chauncey slapped his knee. “That shit.”
I plucked a muddy, brown, clump of boogers and raw out of my right nostril, rolled it between my thumb and index finger. I put it in the cellophane from the bottom of my cigarette pack, to save for later, to crush up and reuse after I found somewhere warm to dry it out.
Somehow, we got ourselves stranded on Treasure Island, otherwise known as San Francisco’s trailer park. They built it on a landfill, then built a nuclear contamination training center on top of that, then built Section 8 housing on top of the radioactivity. I could feel the radioisotopes with 1,600-year half-lives coursing through my veins. I read somewhere that our bodies treat radium-226 like calcium, transporting it into our bones. I held my teeth together, tried to breath through my nose.
To mourn the loss of a local child, the community had purchased large quantities of Mylar balloons which they planned on releasing into the atmosphere. The tradition of letting go of a thing. This object, this thing, would complete its life cycle as garbage, and yet, it began its life cycle as garbage, just waiting to be deployed and forgotten. These were the only things that made it out of here.
They had enough balloons for everyone.
We joined them, holding our grief tokens. They floated slightly above our right shoulders like familiars.
I took a daguerreotype of the whole scene using only my eyes and imagination. The way I saw it, everyone was silver, tarnished with black streaks that ran through their body like rhizomes.
Chauncey pointed at the reflective side of the balloon he was holding. “It’ll be ok, maybe.”
We stared at our reflections in the Mylar. Our chins made contact with our chests and the next time we opened our eyes, the crowd had dispersed but we were still stranded on Treasure Island. We let go of our balloons.
“You ever been in love?”
I side-eyed Chauncey. “I don’t know.”
“Ha!” he laughed. “Sounds like it.”
Chauncey rolled his eyes at me. “You either been or you ain’t been.”
“This chick,” I told him, “she gave me bread to go cop some yeah for her. So I go down Turk to cop the shit from No Shorts.”
“Yeah though.” Chauncey fiddled around with the dope on the foil—scraping, scratching—trying to make something out of nothing. “Them No Shorts boys, they charge six per cap. And you gotta have the exact amount. Ain’t no five gonna get you right. I heard about them boys. They don’t give no change, right?”
“That’s right,” I nodded, pulling on a Newport. “That’s why they’re called No Shorts. So I cop like five or six caps for shorty, but before I get back to her, I take a couple points out of each gel cap and put some sugar back in each one, then I put the caps back together, squeeze ‘em, shake ‘em up, you know, so it ain’t look like I shorted her shit.”
Chauncey spit phlegm on the sidewalk. “Shoulda used flour or baking powder, some Clabber Girl. But yeah yeah, I feel you, I feel you.”
I shrugged. “Whatever. I was young. So anyways, we’re at Subway and I give her the dope. I get one of those nasty ass meatball sandwiches they got and she takes the dope in the bathroom with her.”
“Subway is trash. Wettest sandwich ever. That artificial-baking-bread smell the whole place got is even worse.”
“And whole time,” I continued, “I thought she was gonna snort the shit but—”
“Aw shit, here it come.”
“Found her in the bathroom fifteen minutes later with her bra off, shirt over her head and a needle stuck under her titty. She was diabetic. She died from that shot.”
“Cause of the sugar?” Chauncey asked.
“Yup. And it sucks because I really liked her.”
“So you saying, this broad went into diabetic shock or whatever ‘cause you cut her bag with sugar?”
I shook another Newport out of my gradually dwindling pack and put flame to the end of it. “That’s right.”
Chauncey looked up at the sky. “Hell nah.”
“What you mean hell nah?”
“That shit don’t work like that. Diabetics get fucked up off the sugars that come from carbohydrates, like rice and bread. Ain’t nobody having no hypoglycemic attack cause they shot sugar in they titty. That’s not how it works. Trust me, my daddy got that sugar foot. I’m hip.”
“Whatever.” I flicked my cigarette butt across the parking lot. “She’s definitely dead.”
Chauncey shrugged. “Relationships are tough.”
Somehow, we got ourselves stranded on Treasure Island. A man-made polygon, built on top of trash. Colossal, vibrating beams jutted out of the ground like fangs. Respiratory issues, lung and thyroid cancer—all of that good shit.
“They call it the Treasure Island cough,” I said. “Everybody who lives on the island has the same dry cough. Like their throats are made of Chore Boy.”
“I’m a regular Long John Silver,” said Chauncey, right arm extended while he thrust his pelvis, humping the air in front of him.
Somehow, we got ourselves stranded on Treasure Island. This would have made me Jim Hawkins. At least I thought it would. I never read the book. I just googled the characters in the book in order to make the reference. Chauncey even drew us a map of how to get out of here. It looked like a child’s crayon scrawl; chunky, red, intersecting lines with the words Avenue H and 3rd Street written along the length of them. In the upper right corner of the page he had drawn the mullein plant in the style found in taxonomy journals. Bright yellows and greens jumped off the page at me, clinging to my eyes and turning the scleras neon.
I watched the bay, saw the sea levels rise, carrying water from the ocean inland. My chin tapped my chest, the water settled, a tidal lagoon formed. Brackish water surrounded the tidal lagoon, connecting to the Bay by a rivulet which took us back to Treasure Island. No matter how hard we tried, this is where we always ended up.