Decision in Texas, 1994https://i1.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Forgotten-Plaza-1920x1424-1.jpg?fit=1920%2C1424&ssl=119201424Anna MooreAnna Moorehttps://barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/annamoore.png
David and I are dating a week when he drives us to his house.
“I like being out in the country,” he says. The Austin sprawl has become hard-ground desert, shaped by rocks and shrubs I don’t know the names of. I light a joint but manage to hold the smoke in for only a second before coughing it out. I still feel high, but the wheeze in my chest makes me panicky since my inhaler is at home.
His dog, a bullmastiff named Precious, stands tall in the truck bed, a giant gentle brown through the rearview. Her head is as big as a basketball, her cheeks vast and loose around all that strength. I like to hold her face in my hands, feel the power of her in my bones.
“There’s no commode out there.”
“No toilet. No commode.” He is 45. I am 25. We drink beers. Since he’s driving, he has only two and keeps the second bottle ready against his thigh. “We discovered the place and moved in. Don’t know whose it is. We’ve been there a few months.”
Through the cavernous interior of his old truck, David looks small. He is shorter and thinner than me, but his body is tight, his voice deep, his face seasoned. I am attracted to him, curious—but the night before, when we were out drinking at Emo’s, he had put his arm around me and tried to kiss me. While we waited in line for tacos this morning, I nonchalantly reminded him about public displays of affection. He said he understood, that he’d drink less next time.
“How do you get away with not paying rent?”
“You always have, I suppose.”
There is no CD player or tape deck on the dashboard—just a broken radio, but he keeps a ghetto blaster behind his seat. He reaches back and turns up Motörhead. I tell myself his lack of career and possessions is a brave path, the way he rebels from mainstream social expectations after his service in Vietnam. He is a kind, generous man but deeply broken somehow, his ambition snuffed out.
He turns onto a long gravel drive, then stops at a cattle gate that hangs lopsided between two wooden posts. He opens the gate while I drive the truck through, and there all roads end. No driveway, no path, just rocks and rough ground. The house is a hundred yards back with dark brown siding, small and settled into the terrain like a sigh. All the windows are open. No screens. No electricity.
“We have water,” he says. “And a stove.”
Inside, it’s no dirtier than the apartment I share with a friend in Austin, but the house feels bleak, vacant, left behind. A pile of stuff by a chair. Bits of trash in the carpet. A sagging couch. Precious jumps on it and takes up the whole thing. David pats her head.
We will have to go soon, because I will need more beer for sure.
“What drugs have you done?” he asks.
“Pot, cocaine, acid, mushrooms. I think that’s it.”
“I have heroin.”
“I’ll show it to you.”
“You shoot it?”
“I don’t like this. You shoot heroin?”
“When I can afford it.”
“You can’t shoot heroin for fun.”
“Yes you can. Come on.”
We go into his room and climb onto his single loft bed, unmade but with clean sheets. I lean against the wall and breathe; my chest tightens like a fist, but I can’t exhale hard enough to cough. I see myself wheezing in bed as a child, nobody around, the dusty house hollow and empty in the middle of the afternoon.
“Can I show you?” he asks.
“I really don’t want to see it.”
“Okay.” He brushes my hair behind my shoulder and kisses my neck. We make out for a while and I’m soothed by the tiny breeze through the window, even though it’s warm, and he surprises me with more beer from a cooler. The sun has set and through the window the sky is orange and gray, pink and yellow, a beautiful haze.
David reaches up to a shelf above our heads and pulls down a baggie with several syringes, a rubber tourniquet, and some items I recognize from television and movies.
“Let’s do it.”
“I’d snort it, maybe. Are those needles new and clean?”
He looks irritated. “Of course.” We share a joint. I pull hard, hold it in, and cough a lot.
“You’re safe here,” he says. “We have no place to be.”
Here’s what I’ve heard about heroin: that it feels like every cell in your body is having an orgasm. That it is bliss. That it is the most addictive drug ever.
“Let me think.” Of all people who could do heroin recreationally, I am not among them. I consume nothing in moderation. I know this about myself and I don’t care. I want to have fun, feel boundless, float into relief as often as I can.
He pulls out the syringes and the tourniquet, lays them on the bed. If I do this, I am done for. I hear this sentence in my head like a faint call from across a canyon. It is a voice I feel unfamiliar with.
Precious snores from the giant couch.
He lies back on the pillow, lights a cigarette.
“Go ahead, if you want,” I say.
He sets the cigarette on the edge of the ashtray and puts the paraphernalia back in the baggie. “I’ll do it later.”
“I’m having asthma.” I put my hand on his thigh, lift the cigarette, take another drag. “Take me home in a minute?” The sky is changing, the colors fading to gray. I try to cough.