Why you should care

Only dopes do dope!

Sometimes, love finds you.

Then again, so does cancer.

It was here that I was mired once again, locking in a full nelson against a bat-wielding knucklehead and thinking to myself: When did my life become this perfect storm of romantic despair and seething rage? In a flash, like a dog too enamored of its vomit to realize the damage done, I remembered:

Sheila. The love of my life. The bane of my existence.

Things weren’t always like this. We had dated briefly in high school and lost contact for a decade, only to come crashing back into each other’s orbit via the mid-2000s magic of MySpace. After a turbulent relationship on the outskirts of Detroit, which ended with all the requisite drama and venom that comes so easily in your late 20s, we once again parted ways. A few years later, older and in far better shape, wondering what could have been, I made the disastrous choice we’ve all succumbed to: I answered the phone.

I was laid off from my job, collecting unemployment and sinking into sloth. We started to fight more. Shocking, I know. Then came the heroin.

Sheila had been living down near Florida, out of sight but never really out of mind. Having contributed largely to our demise the last time, I jumped at the chance for a third go-around. Those rose-colored glasses still fit just right.

And at first it was bliss. I had a steady job and was hitting the gym on the regular. We’d spend our time together drinking too much and doing all those classic things that repeat-offender couples do: eating, drinking, fucking, blocking out reality and so on. For a while, that was enough.

Never confuse half-life with shelf life.

Things went downhill fast. I was laid off from my job, collecting unemployment and sinking into sloth. We started to fight more. Shocking, I know. Then came the heroin.

I had noticed her behavior getting more erratic, but, like the man with the cheating wife (another tale of woe for the future), I was literally the last to know. Call it blinders. Call it being an unobservant dingus. The fact was, I was now living with a junkie.

Now, with junkie behavior comes new “friends.” Strange people you see very briefly, with names like Boo and Juicy. Your girlfriend, now becoming gaunt and querulous, starts taking to prolonged periods of drooling and rambling about how she’s “just really tired.” I’d confront her; she’d have a big tearful breakdown and swear she was done. A few days would pass, and then we’d start the game all over again, Charlie Brown–and-the-goddamn-football style.

Tina was one of the aforementioned new friends that had cropped up like a bad rash to complement Sheila’s bad decisions. A former co-worker turned sycophant-enabler, Tina was both abuser and abused. Her boyfriend, Duvall, had been beating her as he pleased, so Sheila decides to hide her in our basement. You can see where this is going.

2 a.m. Boom! Boom! Boom! The only people who knock this hard, at this hour, are either sporting badges or bad intentions. Heading for the back door, I grab hold of our pit bull, Laika, for backup.

Duvall, sporting a T-ball bat, and some guy who declares he’s Joe, Tina’s brother, are banging on my back door and demanding the return of Tina or else. Fuck calling the cops — it’s 2 in the morning and I’m pissed.

I throw open the door, letting go of Laika, who proceeds to run around in circles and hide in the other room.

My roommate, Dave, not a fighter, bolts up the basement stairs to check out the commotion. Joe and Duvall pile into the house, and the fight moves into the kitchen, spilling down the steps into the basement. We trade blows: Dave and Joe are locked in the classic headlock-and-punches combo while I chase Duvall, who, despite wielding a weapon, is fleeing the scene.

Now, like a movie run in reverse, we move back up the stairs, crashing through the storm door and onto the back porch. Tina bolts out the front door — thanks for the memories. I clinch a full nelson on Duvall, forcing him to drop his bat. Being almost a head taller than me, he manages to wriggle free and takes off into the night chasing Tina, leaving his boy behind. Bags of garbage, piled on the porch, are exploding around us as the fracas continues in earnest. I’m tagging Joe’s ribs while Dave tries in vain to apply what appears to be a terrible rear naked choke.

At this point, the cops pull up, guns drawn.

I try to explain the situation while simultaneously not implicating Sheila for being the catalyst for this debacle, which goes about as well as expected. She’s high and rambling; I’m covered in trash. Hood living 101 right here. After a few minutes of this, the cops get tired of everyone’s collective shit and leave, apparently having better things to do.

Sheila and I limped along together for a while after that, until she shacked up with someone more conducive to her habits. Tina and Duvall disappeared from town; last I heard they were taking turns being in and out of jail. Dave squandered our rent money and bailed. I moved to a better part of town and learned a valuable lesson: Keep friends who can fight and a dog that’ll bite.

And don’t do heroin, kids — that stuff turns you into a real asshole.

OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising — the human.