Sunday, April 17, 2011

IndieInk Writing Challenge: "After These Messages"

It's Indie Ink Writing Challenge time again, cats and kittens! This time the lovely and talented Trish has asked me to "Write about Time". What follows is my response, which I am calling, "After These Messages". My challenge will be met with delightful strangeness by Miss Yvonne here.

"A junkie runs on junk Time and when he makes his importunate irruption into the Time of others, like all petitioners, he must wait."-William Burroughs, Naked Lunch

8:30, he said. 8:45 at the latest. I knew it was 7:29. I knew it was because I had just looked at the little reminder thing on the TV, in the corner there near the logo. I knew that it would seem slower if I kept looking at it, so I promised myself I wouldn't look at it anymore. 

Like all promises, I broke it immediately. It was 7:30, which was good, because time had gone by, but it was also bad, because I knew it had just changed, and that would make the next change all that much slower to come. The best way to do it was to not look at the time, so you could be pleasantly surprised when you looked back at how much time had passed. 

I tried to focus on what the girl was saying on the screen. I didn't pay for cable, but the guy who had lived here before had scammed his way to getting some free stuff, patching into the feed somehow, so who was I to question? I was barely making the rent- I wasn't going to ask any questions about free TV. 

It was the traffic girl, a pretty, thin blonde. She had a wide brown belt on over a red dress. She wasn't gorgeous, but she smiled a lot and the camera liked her. How did you get to be a traffic girl, I wondered. Did you study traffic in college? Did you need to know anything about traffic, or did you just read stuff other people wrote? 

The focus shifted to the weather- another blonde, this one seeming a little taller and thinner, wearing something purple, still beautiful and charming. I thought I had seen somewhere that weather people actually did their own work- it was full of computers and hard science, and some of the work was done for them, but they had to know what was going on. 

I remembered when I knew what was going on.

They went to commercial, and I watched a woman in tan slacks and brown flats marvel at her new carpet, then another woman yelling about how wonderful Jiffy Lube was. I laid back on the couch and closed my eyes, trying to will the time away. I heard them come back to the studio, the tiny Indian woman and the friendly older man telling me about last night's loss to the Mets, then segueing into another inner city shooting. I drifted off for a moment, figuring a short nap would kill some time for me. 

I awoke with a start, right in the middle of a yogurt commercial. I didn't trust the tiny clock radio in the kitchenette- the power in this place was unreliable, so I never knew what time it was unless the TV was on. 

I pulled myself up, feeling the room swim for a moment. I closed my eyes until it passed, listening for the familiar voices that would tell me the main program was back and I could get a reassuring time stamp in the corner. The need had been a distant, quiet presence in my head this morning, but it was yawning and stretching now, preparing to make my life hell until I fed it. 

It wasn't an ache, although I certainly hurt. It wasn't nausea, although I had that, too. It was a clear, distinct lack- the absolute absence of something. I can't explain it to you if you haven't felt it. It's like being really thirsty, or needing to pee- except the solution to either one of those is readily available. 

I heard the broadcast resume, and forced myself to look. 8:17. It was frustratingly close. I imagined him driving into my neighborhood, looking for a place to park, my stuff wrapped up tight inside his windbreaker pocket. I looked at the money, wrinkled twenties on the arm of the couch. I resisted the urge to count it again. 

I willed him closer, wished for the lights to be green in front of him. I pictured him zooming up my street, seeing a gap and sliding his car into it. I felt like I could feel the distance between him and I shrinking by the second. I knew where my stuff was, thinking about getting it out to get ready, but I didn't want to seem eager. 

If you seemed too anxious to get it, he might make you wait, or he might start charging you more. You had to act calm, like you didn't care whether or not you got any. You had to act like you didn't need it, even when your guts were churning and your muscles felt watery and weak with need. 

My brain was screaming at me, telling me I needed it now, to forget about how it looked, that nothing mattered except getting it inside me as quick as I could. I pictured the way the stuff looked, orange and clear plastic, the spoon with the blackened bottom, the lighter. 

I thought about flicking it to check, but if I knew if I did that, it would be constant, flick, flick, flick, flick, until I used up the fuel and would end up walking, painfully, slowly walking down to the store on the corner where he would charge me 3 bucks for a 79 cent lighter that he knew I couldn't do without. 

I looked at the TV again, that pretty Indian woman explaining to me how the church was dealing with more allegations, more lawsuits. Her voice was even, accentless and flat like all the rest of them. It was racist to assume she ever had an accent- she could have grown up anywhere. 

Still, I wondered if she had an accent. Did journalism training knock it out of her? Or did she train herself not to use it, but home for Christmas, around family, did she slip back into more natural speech patterns? What was she like? Was she single? Married? A parent?

8:32, I noticed. He would be here any moment, I decided. He was probably parking now, coming up to my door, walking up the cracked cement to buzz my apartment. I wanted to go look, make sure he wasn't buzzing already, make sure the buzzer hadn't failed during the night. I made myself wait, knowing that the strain of standing by the window would weaken my resolve, making me look weak and desperate to him. 

I was remembering how good it felt, how you didn't feel good so much as finally feel even when it hit you. You felt normal, like you could get up and go to work and be a regular person now that the raging furnace of need was stoked. It made you feel functional, like you had been wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day and then finally took them off. 

When the buzzer sounded, I nearly cried with relief. 


  1. I am so much excited after reading your blog. Your blog is very much innovative and much helpful.


  2. Um, wow. That's some seriously powerful stuff right there. Really great job.

  3. Agh... I nearly cried for relief when the doorbell rang too! Time drags on infinitely when you most need it to move. You captured the torture of the junkie life brilliantly!

  4. Wow. Your writing is so moving. Great job!

  5. Time can be your best friend but is more often the biggest enemy. I got anxious reading this, it made me impatient.

  6. oh my jesus christ on a bike, what on earth was the prompt? oh, right, time. well thanks for taking me on my own little journey here. whoosh.

  7. This made me check my watch several times as well as actually hear the tick-tock of my alarm clock. Time seemed to take on a personality whilst I got as anxious as the character. Thank crunchie the buzzer went off!

  8. You nailed this one. Stunning stuff!


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