Hippie First Aid 101 (Money, Part 10)


Obviously I didn’t die, else you wouldn’t be reading this story– at least not by my hand.

The events of the following couple of hours are (understandably) fuzzy. I laid there on the couch, drifting in and out of consciousness, swinging between the contradicting effects of the alcohol and the amphetamine. When the amphetamine was in charge, I’d stir, see and remember what I’d done, then the alcohol would take over and I’d drift back out again.

I’ve often said that drugs and alcohol saved my life. Ultimately, they went on to destroy, almost take my life, but long before that, I truly believe that if I had not had their anesthetic qualities at my disposals, I would have killed myself as an early teen. I was that unhappy. Cigarettes, from about age sixteen, helped me to stuff the unfathomable amount of rage I had so that I could function in the world.  They probably kept me from killing my bullies so in that since, since I probably would have at least gone to prison, cigarettes too can be said to have saved my life. Ironic.

(Hopefully now I’ve put them down for good and if my life needs saving I can do it in a less harmful way, a way that won’t ultimately kill me just as dead.) Here is another instance where they saved my life:

Out of my blood-soaked stupor, I got one good wave of the effects of the MDMA. It lifted me enough to sit up and figure out what was going on. As I said, as powerful as nicotine cravings normally are for those who smoke, MDMA can multiply that effect by a few thousand. I had to have a cigarette! “Just one more before I go.” Sad. I looked at the crumpled pack of Marlboros on the floor and I remembered those events from earlier. I went to the ash tray and started going through it, picking out the butts with my bloody hands. I’d light the butt to suck up the very last of whatever tobacco might have been left on the end of the cotton filters. Of course it was never more than a couple of puffs on any one butt so the lighter got so hot I was cooking my fingers. The smell of cooking blood is an interesting one.

I don’t really know if I believe in suicide attempts. I mean I guess I do but they are few and far between. It’s not hard to pick them out. They’re the ones lying in Intensive Care with half their face blown off. It happens. But not often I don’t think. People who really, really want to kill themselves do it. I mean I could have always put a pistol in my mouth or stepped in front of a freight train. But neither available that night. And after all I hadn’t really set out to kill myself at the beginning of the night. I’d actually set out to make a plan to get better. But when things went South (I’ve never really realized how appropriate that idiom is) and I turned that crucial corner and was bent of self-destruction, there were no freight trains or pistols in the apartment but there was that razor blade— and I had made good use of it. But unfortunately (or fortunately depending on who you ask) I had not done a good enough job and by the time I smoked into the last cottony filter, my wrists were starting to clot and I was still alive. It was clear there was going to have to be more hacking. Don’t worry, there wasn’t. And I’m glad of it too. Not necessarily because I survived but because I would have to write about it now and I don’t think you nor I could survive any more Hitchcock right now. But then again, if I had returned to finish the job I wouldn’t be writing this now so none of that makes any sense does it? It’s clear I’m not much saner now, these twenty-five years later.

It’s so strange what we do in moments of great crisis. It’s strange who we think of or to whom we reach out. I’m quite positive that there was part of me that had decided he wanted to live—but why didn’t I just walk into the bedroom and tell Andrea I had made a “mistake?”

Do you remember my telling you about the Nicaraguan foreign exchange student, Aldo Lopez de Santa Maria? I might not have told you his name but that’s it. He’s the one I got into the rolling fist fight with, the one who bit my face— right before I moved in with Waverly. Anyway, that’s who I chose to call. That’s who I wanted to save my life.

Or maybe I didn’t. Actually, what I told him was that I was in desperate need of a pack of cigarettes but that I was too fucked up to go get them and if he would just buy a pack and put them on the stoop, I’d pay him the next time I saw him. I didn’t want to see anyone tonight. Yeah, I was probably wanting to be saved.

This is where this macabre tale of self-pity turns into some kind of Gonzo Slapstick Passion Play (with me as Hunter S. Thompson playing Christ of course).

Forgive me but I’ll have to also introduce two more “under fives” who you’ll never hear about again (unless they rate high with viewers):

Lori Zellers, 20, Hillbilly, possible idiot savant. No seriously, this young lady could recite Nietzsche.

Andreas Strathapoulos, 30, Greek, Lori’s boyfriend, wealthy though he wore the same cream pants and jacket everyday.

So, soon Aldo showed up at the door (actually with the pack of cigarettes) but he didn’t just leave them on the stoop. He knocked—no, he banged on the front door. “Go away!” I managed a slurred shout but he wasn’t going anywhere. Apparently, from the phone call he had deducted that there was something very wrong and he was going to stand there banging until he found out what it was. I managed to stagger over and unlock the door. As soon as the bolt slid out of the jamb, they burst through the door like three keystone cops. Yes, “they.” Aldo had brought along Andreas and Lori, she in her Daisy Dukes and Led Zepplin t shirt, he in his signature cream colored ensemble. All the banging had, of course awakened Andrea and she emerged from the bedroom just in time to see their boisterous entrance. Then she saw the blood.

There had been a recent suicide in Andrea’s family and even more recent failed attempt. Here was the person she cared most for in the world (me) covered in blood, clearly by his own hand. I will never really be able to make it up to that poor woman what I put her through— this was only one of many occasions when I made her life a living hell.

The minutes that came after I don’t really remember that much. I had slumped down to the floor in front of the couch and I do remember Andrea coming over and wailing on me with her fists for what I had done. Then somehow Andreas (I realize the names are confusing but I’ve chosen not to change them), he decided to start screaming at me about how stupid I was for trying to take my life. This pissed me off immeasurably so I chose that moment to tell him, in front of everyone, that while he was on a recent trip home to Greece, Lori had cheated on him with a redneck named Troy. This lead to a fistfight between Andreas and me.  (Andrea had stopped hitting me by then.) Lori launched into histrionics at me for spilling the secret of infidelity with which she had entrusted me. This time around, Aldo was not punching (or biting), but there was plenty of combat going on and I think he was just trying to bring some calm. That was about like trying to put out a forest fire with a cup of water.  You can imagine I wasn’t in much shape to fight but I manage to connect a few solid blows to Andreas’ head. This of course opened my wrist wounds again and his cream suit was soon covered in about as much blood as I was. We looked like Sissy Spacek (and her stunt double) at the end of the movie, Carrie. 

The rest of the evening does fade to black and that’s all I remember. My friends (and they really were my friends) bandaged my wrists with toilet paper and duct tape and obviously, I lived.

I’ve often looked back on that night and thought about what a miracle it is that I survived. It seems like there was a force that needed me still alive, that I had more to do here. Maybe that force was coming from inside me. Maybe it was a combination of both. Maybe, in fact, there is no difference.

Sitting here in this coffee shop on the south side of Birmingham tonight, telling you this story, it seems bizarre that, having survived that night twenty-five years ago, I would have found myself at a similarly despondent point a month and a half ago.

It’s clear that there is still more here for me to do. But if I am to be stuck alive for any considerable amount of time longer, there is some shit that has to change. Therefore…

Tomorrow I’ll revisit the subject of my goals. It will be my 49th birthday.

See y’all tomorrow.

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