I get to the hotel room and shut the door behind me as if I’m closing the curtain on a great, terrifying stage where I’ve had to perform a grueling part, the skin of which I can now finally shed. I take off my coat and pack a big hit. I hold the smoke in for as long as I can. When I exhale, the stress of the last few hours disappears and in its place swells a pearly bliss.
I soon become aware of my body and feel restless in my clothes. They seem like part of a constricting costume for the performance on the other side of the door. I take my sweater off between the first and second hits. By the third, I’m naked, though I grab a towel from the bathroom and tie it low around my hips. I will always do this when I get high. I will always think my torso looks lean and muscled and sexy. I will always, many times, clock myself in the mirror and think, Not bad. I will, to be perfectly honest, turn myself on.
I scooch the towel lower down my hips and begin to get restless for company. I call the number of the taxi driver, but no one answers. I do this 30 or so times in the next hour. I put what’s left of the bag in an ashtray and thrill to what seems like an endless amount. I’m sloppy as I pack these hits. The bedspread and floor are soon speckled with crumbs. I know that at some point I will be on my knees picking them up, trying to tell the difference between crack crumbs and other debris. There will never be a time when I smoke crack that doesn’t end with me on my knees, sometimes for hours—hunched over carpets, rugs, linoleum, tile—sifting desperately through lint and cat litter and dirt, fingering the floor, like a madman, for crumbs. As I pack those lazy crumb-scattering hits in the beginning, I will, each time, think of the floor like a retirement account. Little bits neglected into a place where I will seek them out later.
In the room at the Marriott, as in most rooms where there is crack, porn flickers on the television. This time, it’s straight and soft and on pay-per-view. I pay for all six movies and flip among them as one scene disappoints or dulls. I have drunk the small bottle of white wine, the two beers, and both small bottles of vodka from the minibar by the time I realize I need to get back to the airport. Since there is still a large pile of drugs left in the ashtray, I wonder whether I should go at all. Noah has called three or four times, but I have not picked up, nor have I listened to his messages.
I don’t bother checking out. I go straight to the taxi stand and get in the only cab there. The driver is a big black guy—fat but muscular, linebacker style. Forty, maybe 50. The stem, still hot from heavy use in the room minutes before, burns in my jeans pocket like a little oven. Of course I ask him if he parties. He says he does, and I ask him if he ever smokes rock. Sure do, he says, and right then, within the first minute of getting into the cab, I know that I am not getting on the plane. That I will probably never make it to Berlin.
So let’s hang out, I say, and he says, Sure thing. I call Continental’s 800 number and tell them I’m sick and can’t make the flight and could they transfer the ticket to the next night. Unbelievably, they can and they do. I am booked in a first-class seat the next night at eight. Acres of time, a bag of crack, company lined up, and a hotel less than a minute away. I’ve just missed two flights, tossed my career down the chute, and stood up my beloved and no doubt frantic boyfriend. I’ve done all these things and I couldn’t be happier.
I leave a message on Noah’s cell phone saying they canceled the second flight and that I will be flying out tomorrow. Then I turn the phone off.
Later, the taxi driver and I sit in his cab behind a 7-Eleven somewhere in Newark. He’s anxious about being seen in the hotel because he picks people up there every day. I pack his hit—small because there is precious little left—and as he lights up, I tell him how horny I get when I smoke. He nods in agreement as he exhales, and soon zippers come down—mine first, then his. I take a hit and he holds himself and talks about his wife, how she blows him but never wants to fuck. I inhale so hard that I burn my forefinger and thumb. I should be over the Atlantic right now, I think, but instead I’m behind a 7-Eleven, in the shadow of a Newark overpass. What I want is the blurry oblivion of body-crashing sex, and instead I get a gloomy jerk-off session without enough drugs to get either of us high. As the bag empties, I start to feel shaky and it occurs to me that I’ve gone nearly a week without sleep. I ask the taxi driver if he knows where to score more and of course he doesn’t. I start thinking about whether I should go back to the city—to a hotel somewhere in Manhattan where I can call my dealer Happy. But the city seems time zones away.