It begins again. The voices of the women singing in the background as the morphine kicks in. I can feel the first wave now. The Troll is in the kitchen with Ron de Veux and there is a knock at the door of his subterranean apartment.
The evening has been particularly disturbing. I have been nursing the last few milligrams of the drug and have not been able to drown out the piercing cries of the tenants above me. In between the cries I hear the frantic fluttering of wings. Angels. The other junkies believe the Troll when he says they are angels. I’m not quite sure but the fluttering of the wings always gets to me. I can hear those wings even in the deepest junk nod.
I answer the door and it is Nadia Chance. She kisses me on the lips, her breath is musky and heavy reeking of promises kept and hearts broken. She holds up her hand and there is a vial in it.
Samuel, the pharmacist who is totally taken by her, is her supplier of morphine. The price of hot whispers and a burning mouth that makes him wake shuddering in the night is one-hundred tablets of 15mg morphine, three times a week. One day it will cost him his license and his frigid wife. Then Nadia’s mouth will cool, his store will close and his wife will sue him for what is left. Instead of sucking on Nadia’s open places he will place his double-shot .38 into his mouth and spray the bathroom wall with blood and brains. But this is yet to come.
One night, during yen sleep, before Nadia had even met Samuel, the Troll had one of his dreams. When he awoke he asked Nadia to go to the pharmacy on the corner of 88th Street and Broadway. She had asked why she was to do this and the Troll just smiled and said
“Hurry. Just go.”
And she did. Four hours later she returned with pinned eyes and a bottle of morphine tablets, enough to fix every junkie in the apartment. After we had all fixed the Troll spun the tale of Samuel and Nadia. At the close of the story, when Samuel lay dead in the blood spattered bathroom, the Troll admitted that it was only a dream.
After hearing the tale Nadia went out walking the streets of the city and did not return until the sun was rising. She immediately swallowed three tabs and shot two of them. Then she made coffee and stared at the basement window for a few hours. All the basement windows are curtained and beneath the curtains the glass has been painted black.
She has been seeing Samuel regularly for seven months.
My hand shakes with sickness as I try to fix and Nadia reaches over and gently takes the hypodermic from my hand. I hold the belt tight around my arm and she places the needle directly over the scab from my last shot and taps it in. Blood spot at the bottom. She nudges the plunger back and my red life flows into the barrel. Slowly she slips the plunger to the bottom of the syringe and I disappear into myself.
I look up at her as she kisses my forehead.
There is a knock at the door.
I function as the gatekeeper and open the door. Sunken eyes are the first thing I see, dark with night that seeps into my own and I feel the tears rush to the back of my eyewall. He has a forehead with cavernous furrows yet his cheeks are smooth and appear to have no hair at all on them. His lips are soft and inviting and look ever-so-kissed. Above his lip, just below his nose, the normal ridges of the upper lip are absent, just a smooth track from one side of his mouth to the other.
I recall a tale that my mother told me. It was an old fable about the child in the womb. She said that we, as unborn, contain all the knowledge of our past and future lives within us as we rock in the sea of salt, the ocean of time connecting us to all things inside our mother. Then, in the few moments before we are born, an angel visits us in the womb, whispers into our ears and then says, “sshhh” as it presses a finger of heat onto our upper lip below the nose. We forget everything with that touch but the impression of that finger never leaves us. That is why we all have the indentation on our upper lip. It is the fingerprint of an angel of mercy. We are born clear, more pure than freshly falling snow.
Never before in my life had I seen anyone without that indent on the lip.
“May I come in and sit? I just need to talk to someone.”
I hadn’t realized that Nadia was with me at the door. She reaches out and takes his hand. He almost smiles as she guides him in to a small table surrounded by chairs in one corner of the great room.
“Sit. All are welcome here. Can I offer you something to wash the weight from your spirit?”
“No thank you. I don’t believe that you have anything strong enough to do that here.”
Nadia sits down near him but does not respond. I sit in another chair by the table but move it back slightly into the shadow. A candle is burning on the table and the wax spills over onto the dark whorled wood. There are many cigarette burns on the table. There is also a ceramic ash tray with four small hands, one on each corner holding it up, and a map of the world intricately painted as if the world was flat in the center of it with the oceans spilling out onto the cigarette rests. It sits embedded in old wax.
The man is wearing a heavy dark raincoat made out of a cloth of some type and I notice that his back is slightly hunched beneath the coat. The illusion that this creates makes it seem as if his shoulders were rising above themselves.
As Nadia crosses her legs the skirt she is wearing slips open slightly. He does not seem to notice and begins speaking again.
“I am waiting for my father. He will come very soon and then I will be gone.”
“Has it been a long time since you’ve seen him?” asked Nadia.
He almost smiles again. “Yes, quite some time. If I did not know how this meeting would go, it would be better for me. My conversation with you was the only thing that was unclear. I knew that it would take place but the content of it was a mystery to me.”
I want to ask how he knew how the meeting with his father would go but it is as if my lips had a seal upon them and cannot open. I realize that I am only there to observe and record these events in my memory so they might be written at some future time.
At that moment Nadia chuckled and put her face very close to his. He did not move away and his nostrils flared out and he breathed in deeply.
“Your scent is startlingly pleasant. I remember it in my dreams when I can sleep.”
“You like the way I smell,” said Nadia and it was not a question.
Then she rises slowly and takes his hand. I watch them walk together to the back room and close the door. Alone again, I take out two tabs of morphine and fix. My hand does not shake this time. After rinsing the hype I let it rest in the glass of water and my eyelids drop over my eyes. The dreams come.
Someone taps my shoulder. Nadia.
“He is sleeping,” she says. And then she tells me his story.
I don’t know how long I listened, how long she spoke, but afterwards I felt very tired, as if I had been awake for days, and very sad, as if someone very close to me was about to die.
Then he, she called him Simon, walked back into the room, shrugging his coat over what looked like a pair of large grey wings.
Simon placed his hands on her shoulders and spoke.
“There is nothing I can do for Samuel. I will look after him when he comes to us. The child will not be his. It will be from us, from tonight. My father does not know everything for I did not know what was to take place here. You are a good woman. One day you will leave here and your name will be different. I cannot tell you when or how this will come to pass for it would change everything.”
Nadia cries and the tears run down her cheeks. He takes his finger and catches one of the tears and lifts it to his lips. Then he places his finger on the indentation above her lip and she closes her eyes. She sleeps.
Simon looks at me. Suddenly there is a great wind howling in my ears.
“My father is coming. I am out of time.”
Then he reaches out to touch my lip but I pull back. He pauses, then the furrows in his forehead deepen.
He says, “Memories are made of this.”
The next thing I know is that I am very sick, dope-sick like I was 48 hours without a fix and the wind is just outside the door. I hear the door open; I hear it close.
I reach for my stash. My hands are shaking. Nadia will not help me this time. I let her sleep.
A door opens behind me and the Troll and Ron de Veux come out of the kitchen. I am fixing. Ron scratches her crotch and the Troll wipes some spittle from his chin and asks,
“Did a storm pass this way?”
“I thought so,” said the Troll.