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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Dark · #1654005
A mans' unlikely quest for happiness. (I am aware there are some grammatical errors)
Oh, such a perfect day, you just keep me hanging on
-Lou Reed



  "I dunno', she said she wanted to 'feel the wind on her face', whatever the hell that means."
    I was at Paul's flat, and I sat wordlessly as he ranted, pacing back and forth through the room. His hands were clamped behind his back, and he wrung them over and over.
    "I did nothing to drive her off, I don't know why she would leave me. I guess she just wanted to see what she could do without me. I don't know what to do Seb, I really just feel alone."
    I heaved a deep sigh, smacked my knees and stood up. I didn't like to see him like this. Paul was a calm man, he always had his life together. His job paid well and he, until just yesterday, had a beautiful partner that he had seemed perfectly happy with. Apparently she did not share his conviction. She had left him for the road, she didn't say where she was going, or even if she was leaving him for another man. The sudden change was beginning to tell on Paul.
    "I mean seriously! I was good to her, we had a great time, I didn't even know anything was wrong between us. I mean, just last night, I didn't sense anything was wrong, she was acting completely normal. You would think there would be some warning signs but no, she just waltzes in my room this morning and promptly tells me that she's leaving, and that she's sorry, I didn't do anything. But I know that's bullshit. She wouldn't have left me if I hadn't done something. And you know what she did? She took Simon! He was my dog! I don't know where's she's getting off at, but I had him ever since he was a puppy. You remember that Sebastian? Remember? I got him right when I graduated from college, from that hippie in Phoenix! That was seven years ago, surely you remember!?
    I nodded, afraid to say anything. I didn't want to upset him any more than he already was. He was on a roll, I knew all he needed now was someone to listen.
    "Michelle never seemed like the type to leave me," He moaned as he crumbled into a nearby chair, "I thought she was the one."
    I was a little shocked, I had never taken her to be anything special. But then again I didn't take Paul to be the marrying type. Paul had fallen silent. He had defeat written through his features.
    I had known Paul since college, I was a freshman and he was about ready to get his bachelor's degree in engineering. He was a hard worker, but also a hard drinker. We met when I saved him from an especially humiliating moment when he tried to drunkenly convince everyone he could beat Madonna at performing "Like a Virgin" any day. He seemed to feel indebted to me after that, which was alright with me. I was fond of him, he was a good man to know when you were going through a rough time. The only problem was, other than the time we met, he always seemed in control while he was around me, now that he was upset himself, I didn't know what to do.
    "She was okay Paul," I started, "but there are a lot of girls out there, and you are a pretty amazing guy" I slapped his back. I felt a little odd, offering advice. It sounded weird coming from me. It felt too feminine for my likes. I was used to fixing my problems with a beer. I would've offered him one, but I didn't think he would have any in his flat, so I just stood awkwardly with my hand on his shoulder.
    "Well, I have to go drown myself in my sorrow" He said to me, almost reading my thoughts. I knew that meant two things: He was going to get hopelessly drunk, and I failed at helping him. That was my cue to leave. I bit my lip and looked at him with concern.
    "You'll be okay man, I know you will."
    "Yeah." That was all he said before I quietly let myself out into the hallway.
    It was a chilly day though the sun was shining. I didn't quite know where I was going. I felt a certain foreboding in my gut, it unnerved me that I didn't know why.
                                                                                                                            ***

    Back at my apartment Joan walked inside and shut the door absentmindedly with her foot. Joan was shorter than me, something I pride myself in, seeing as I'm shorter than a lot of women I've been with. Her parents named her after Joan Jett. Once she realized it, I guess you could say she tried to become the rockstar. I think she feels the name is all she has and she has to live up to it. Personally I think she is more of a Joan Baez on the inside, but she never wants to admit it.
    "Hullo" She said, throwing her keys onto the small table by the door and tossing her jacket onto the back of the couch.
    '"Hey" I replied. She looked tired. Her short black hair made her pale skin look almost translucent and her eyes, with the dark eyeliner looked sunken. As the months wore on, I had noticed a change in her; she seemed to look increasingly hopeless as the days passed. With a twinge of guilt I realized how hard she had been working, earning all the money for us while I sat at home, jobless. She worked at The Pulse, which was the night club down the street. She served drinks there. From the way she spoke about it, I knew she hated doing it. But even though I saw her fatigue, I couldn't get up enough motivation to find a job on my own. I suppose you could say I was a listless human being. Servile, lonely, a creature feeding off others. I didn't really know my purpose in life, I was pretty sure I never would. I liked to project myself into things, be it music or movies, live out my fantasies through clay golems that I banged together at the lips. I feel as if society was a wall around me, a small confining place where I was told to dream, and to love. But I couldn't love, I couldn't even breathe in that life. I was on a quest for happiness, but so far it had eluded me.
    Joan headed over to the fridge and peered inside. "Dammit. There's nothing to eat."
    The parrot in the corner mocked her: "nothing to eat, caw, nothing to eat." The parrot's name was Iggy. We had gotten him from a seedy looking man who looked pretty down on his luck. Joan had a soft spot for animals and saw the thing was sick; It's feathers were falling out and it looked terrible. She caved and bought him for a steal, only 100 dollars, which I thought was pretty justified seeing as the thing looked like death already. I remember she asked the man what the bird's name was and he replied that it was Elvis. Both me and Joan hate Elvis, and agreed to name it after a more appropriate musician. It just so happened to be Iggy Pop.
    She looked at me. I knew what that look meant. I sighed. "Alright alright, I'll go." I really felt like sleeping. Sleeping for the rest of my life. Hey, that's what you call death huh?
    I headed out the door and down the stairs in our apartment complex that always made me uneasy. The only thing that lit them at night was a single great bulb that cast a sickly white light down the shaft in the middle of the winding stairs. In the half darkness I grasped for the handrail and then thought better of it when I imagined the gritty clammy feeling of it. I stumbled my way down flight after flight and eventually reached the door that sent me out into the fresh air. I walked into the dark street.  It had to be at least three AM. Numbly I realized I should keep on guard, the night was the devil's playground. Especially on this side of the city. I shuffled along quickly, nervous and cold. I tried not to peer into the dark alleys I passed. I really hated going out at this hour alone. But there was no way I would've let Joan.
    Eventually I reached it; the opaque 24-hour quick mart sign hung limply like a sign of surrender up the road. I slid in the door and tried to ignore the suspicious scrutiny I got from the man behind the counter. I realized I looked like a man to be feared, sunken eyes, messy dark brown hair and pale skin. I had forgotten to change before going out and I'm sure the stained grey skinnies and t-shirt I had on, did not send out a genial air. On top of this I felt I hadn't shaved in days when I reached my hands to my face as I always do when uncomfortable under someone's gaze. I quickly darted behind an aisle of candy bars and headed to the frozen foods section for our late dinner. Everything looked disgusting. I didn't really care though, I wasn't one to gripe about what I put in my body. I grabbed two frozen dinners and began towards the counter. At the desk I mumbled a request for two packs of Marlboro and then having received my items and paid, hurriedly left the store.
    Out on the street, my mind began to wander. I had noticed Joan had been extremely distant lately and thought with a lurch in my stomach about Michelle leaving Paul. I resolved to talk with her soon, tell her I loved her, and that I would look for a job. Maybe that would cheer her up. Thinking about her coldness lately sent my stress level mounting and I vaguely registered my hands were trembling with cold and nerves as I lit a cigarette and took a long deep drag. Immediatly I felt a little calmer, and put the thought of Joan leaving me out of my mind.
    I had made it all the way back to the last turn before my street and I hastened to reach the door to the stairwell. Right before I reached my building however, I felt a hand on my arm. I started and turned quickly. My eyes rested upon a young man with stunning eyes. I couldn't quite place why they were so transfixing for a moment, and then it dawned on me, one of his pupils was bigger than the other. I was scared for my safety for a minute, not knowing who this boy was, and what caused the desperate burning in his eyes. Slowly realization set in. I knew this man. He hung out around my block. No one knew where he lived, but everyone knew how he made a living. I had a feeling of what was coming next.
    "Hey man, I gotta feed my kid I got at home, do you need anything?"
    I knew what he meant by "anything."
    "Nah" I muttered and tried to free myself from his grip. He held me tightly.
    "Seriously man, I got anything you need: grass, PCP, scag....name it, I got it."
    I almost chuckled. This seemed like a movie. My mood was of a man looking in on the situation from above. I seemed to forget for a moment that this man was desperate. I brought myself back to reality.
    "Look, I don't have any money right now, I couldn't help you out even if I wanted to." His face fell, the eager look in his face seemed to dull. Still, his grip on my arm didn't falter. "Maybe later, I'll find you." I added, ready to tell him anything to get him to release his grip.
    "You mean it man?" he said letting his hand drop to his side.
    "Yeah...yeah, of course." I slowly backed away and as I did, he fell back into the dark shadows of the night. I heard him muttering softly to himself, something about neon lights and a chapel.
    I exhaled loudly and opened the door to the stairwell.
    Back in in the apartment, Joan was sleeping. All the lights were still on, so I know she hadn't been planning on dosing off. She looked beautiful. The lines of worry had flown from her in sleep, and her breasts gently rose and fell with silent breaths. She seemed so peaceful. Her lithe body was gracefully spread in a comfortable position on our tiny couch. I kissed her pale forehead and turned off the lights in the living room. Silently I ate in the kitchen, my mind full of thoughts. I finished and washed the dishes that were in the sink. Exhausted, I dragged myself back into my dark room and collapsed into the covers. I looked at the clock, it was five AM. It was the last thing I thought about before slipping away.
                                                                                                                                *****
    I awoke when the day was no longer young. It was three PM. I had a sick feeling in my bones. The feeling you get when you sleep for too long. I staggered into the bathroom off the hall, took a shower, and shaved. Pulling on underwear I walked out into the kitchen to find Joan. When I didn't see her I called her name. She didn't answer. She didn't have to leave for work for another four hours yet, she wasn't home. I had no idea where she had gone, but it was a regular enough occurrence. She got restless if she didn't move around often. I reflected on the time she disappeared for ten days. It had been two hears ago, and I was insane with worry, especially because she had left her cell phone at home and I thought it was a sign she had planned on coming home soon after she left. I later learned she left it there simply because she didn't want to be found. I got a call from her on the fourth day. She told me she was calling from a payphone in Flagstaff Arizona, which put two states between me and her. She told me she loved me, and she was figuring things out. Our conversation was short and she avoided answering when I asked her when she would be coming back. Even though I had known her for a while, I hadn't fully learned to understand her. She returned later that week without a mention of her absence, acting as if she had never been gone. Later when we shared an intimate moment however, I found a small tattoo behind her left ear that I know she didn't have before she left. When I questioned her about it, she simply told me she had gotten it when she was sixteen. I knew she was lying. Her getaways were a part of her life I knew nothing about, and probably never would.
    Even though I was used to her leaving, I felt uneasy. I don't know what even made me think she didn't run to see a friend or pick up dinner, but I felt this time was different. I tried to convince myself it was just my recent paranoia coming back again. I really didn't know where it came from, but I had felt like something bad was going to happen for the longest time. My dismay with life was probably the cause. A purpose was what I lacked and I knew I needed to find one. Thus far in my life, I still didn't know what was important. Knowing I needed someone to talk to, to keep from convincing myself into a poisonous world of worry, I called Paul. I had expected to hear a beaten voice answer the phone, and I was fully aware Paul was in no mood to help me with my problems. However, on the off chance he wanted to listen, I called him anyway.
    "Hello?" a nervous voice answered through the phone.
    "Hey....Paul? Are you alright? I feel really bad, I need someone to talk to. You mind if I come over?"
    "Seb!" His voice brightened instantly, I detected a queer twinge in his tone. "Just the man I wanted to see, yeah 'course you can come over, in fact I have the perfect thing to cheer you up."
    "Hey Paul, are you okay? You sound different.."
    "Man, I'm fine, just come over quick okay?" He cut me short before hanging up the phone.
    The feeling in my gut worsened. This was not the Paul I knew. I had known him long enough to hint when something was wrong. There was an odd almost insane air about how he had spoken. Just hours ago he looked like the most crestfallen man I had ever seen, and now he seemed not to remember the woman he loved had left him. Rushing to get dressed, and worrying he had finally snapped, I pulled on a pair of skinny jeans, a t-shirt, and slipping into my converse, I headed out the door.
    About fifteen minutes later I arrived at Paul's flat. I didn't know what to expect when he opened the door. A lonely man, or something else? With an unexplainable sense of alarm growing inside me, I took a deep breath and knocked.
                                                                                                                ***
    The door swung back and there stood Paul, a maniacal grin on his face.
    "Hey Seb, come in come in, hurry." As I walked in I noticed him look up and down the hall anxiously, almost as if he had something to hide.
    I quickly surveyed the apartment, half expecting to see the dead body of Michelle slumped in the corner. I didn't think breaking up with his girlfriend would cause this much of a change in Paul's personality. In all the years I had known him, I had never seen him act like this, and quite frankly it was scaring me.
    "So, what's up?" Paul asked. He was talking extremely fast. Almost as if he didn't care what I said.
    "Joa..." I began, before he stopped me.
    "Yes, I figured. I ran into Joan down at The Pulse, you see, she wasn't working obviously, but was there as a customer just like me, she was alone at a table so I slid into the chair across from her, you know, just to say hello. She told me she was meeting someone and I only figured it was you, so we had a few drinks while we waited, and eventually this kid slid into the seat beside her. I was a little surprised, because I had thought you were the one coming. Anyway,  I asked if there was anything serious between them, you know, because I had already downed a few drinks like I said, and I really didn't care if I offended her or not. Well, she said she had split with you and she was trying something new. Man, when I was telling you about Michelle, you should have told me! I mean, I know I was upset but you didn't have to be that humble."
    I was too stunned that Joan had told him we were over to correct him by saying I wasn't even aware we weren't together.
    "But that is beside the point, that's over and done with. Now, we have both been left, and if you're like me, you've been wondering why you even should consider living anymore. Right?" Paul almost screamed at me. He didn't give me a chance to answer. "Well, I have just the thing for both of us, something to take our minds off the pain, dull it for a while. We don't need them when we have this. You should've gotten over here sooner, I was almost going insane with having to wait."
    And with that, he pulled off his belt and hung it out in front of me almost like a trophy.
    I was confused, not knowing why he was showing his belt to me. I stood there, looking puzzled, still too dumbstruck to speak. I watched as he smiled and stared, not making any movements, and then suddenly, began to tighten the belt around his left upper arm. After I had heard the news about Joan, I didn't think my body could physically take any more shock. I was wrong. With a terrible realization, I knew why Paul was acting odd, I knew why he had shown me the belt. An overwhelming sick came over me. I ran into his bathroom and retched into the toilet. When I was done, I fell back against the bathroom wall, and shook. Paul hadn't followed me in, he was probably already shooting up. I didn't know what to think. My mind was racing so fast. I thought stupidly, could you possibly have a stroke from thinking too quickly? Paul was never a drug user, in fact he had always disliked the thought of it. Sure he drank quite a lot, but drugs were a whole other level to him. He had never taken that step. I mean I had experimented more then him in my college days, but never with anything too serious since I was always afraid of ruining my life.
    My mind jumped to Joan. Why was she leaving me? I loved her, what did I have to do to convince her of that? I would do anything for her even if it meant dying. Feeling like Paul, I realized that I did, in fact plan on marrying her. I had never really allowed that decision into my conscious, but I knew now, that I had every intention on living with her for the rest of my life. In a heartbeat my thoughts turned mutinous. What the hell did she think she was doing leaving me? I thought she was better than that. Everyone left me in the end. Here I was, with no girlfriend, no job, a friend who has lost it, and no sense of self. I wanted to die. If I had had a gun, I would've done it. And then the thought occurred to me. Why, if Paul was entitled to a release was I sitting here in complete agony? Why was I sitting here ready to take the pain when I could choose between suffering and ecstasy? Finally, I had snapped as well, and I was about ready to do anything. Staunchly I rose, determined to do the deed.
    When I rounded the corner into Paul's bedroom, I saw what I had expected. Needles, spoons, a lighter, some cotton balls and a brown powder in a bag littered the floor. Paul was laying flat on his back, but with his legs crossed, staring open eyed at the ceiling, his needle and belt discarded by his unclenched hand. Seeing him, knowing he knew nothing of his pain, made me want it even more than I already had. I quickly sat cross-legged on the floor and began to prepare a hit. I knew how from the games I used to play with my friends in high school, it had seemed so glamorous then. It seemed desperate now. Back then it was like playing house, but for the big kids. I dissolved the heroin in spoon with water, a flame heated it underneath. I went through the movements of getting it into the syringe, getting some of the impurities out with the cotton balls, and drawing the remaining liquid inside. When I was done, I removed my own belt, and wrapped it around my upper arm, holding it tight with my teeth. Raising the liquid to eye level, I flicked the glass. A fleeting fear of AIDS passed through my mind, but with a surge of anger I realized I didn't care. I would be glad to die. At least Joan would feel guilty. I smiled at the prospect. Smacking my arm to make the vein more visible, I prepared for the final lap.
    This was the part I was afraid of, I really hoped I didn't screw this up, but I really didn't care to much about the consequences. I was shaking a bit which made the job I had to do, a little more difficult, but I went on nonetheless. Paul was still staring upwards, unaware of his surroundings. I looked at him and then pushed the needle in. The feeling of the liquid being pushed inside my body unnerved me. I felt a stinging and I knew I had probably missed the vein. I thought with a panic about if this was a bad thing or not. But right as the panic was about to take over, a power outside of me seemed to move my hands through the steps of preparing another hit. This time I was ready. With my arm reached out before me, properly inserted it and pushed in the drug. I saw some red seep into the muddy solution I hadn't already injected and knew I had successfully hit the vein
    Nothing happened for about 3 seconds, and then ecstasy whooshed through every molecule in my body. It was indescribable, the feeling so good, it almost hurt. I thought hazily this was the best choice I had ever made. Joan didn't matter, in fact, who was Joan? I fell back and my head hit the floor, but I didn't really feel it. My muscles tightened and released in pleasure. This was euphoria.
                                                                                                                        *****
   
 

    Groggily I opened my eyes, and looked over at the clock on Paul's nightstand. It read 11:00pm. Paul was no longer beside me, but all the equipment was still lying on the ground around me. Now that I had slept, I was realizing the mistake I had made. My thoughts began to race again, although when not heated by rage, they produced results. I thought back to Joan, remembered with a jolt she had left me. Clumsily I rose and headed out to find Paul. I found him on his sofa. His eyes were glazed, and with terror I realized he had already cooked up and taken another hit. Remembering what had happened just a few hours ago, I thought with fury of how dumb I must have been to not ask him who Joan was with. A fire burned in me to know what bastard stole her. Now Paul lay, looking quite catatonic, sprawled on the couch. I ran to him and shook his shoulders violently. He looked at me with foggy eyes.
    "Paul..PAUL! Listen to me! I need to know who was with Joan!" I screamed, as if yelling would make my words clearer. Paul mumbled with a crooked smile on his face. I shoved him down into the couch as I let him go. I knew he cared nothing about what I was asking him right now. In annoyance and rage, I called my apartment, and willed Joan to pick up. No one answered. I thought madly that she was probably sleeping with this man, which is why she wasn't answering. I called again. And again. She didn't answer. Paul needed to come to, I needed to speak to him. It seemed I had no other choice but to sit it out and wait for Paul to come down.
    Three hours later he did. My fingernails were bleeding because I had bitten them down so low. Hunched in front of him I had waited, and now he looked at me with concern. I knew he was back.
    "Paul, I need to know who was with Joan." I said extremely slowly and clearly, as if speaking to a child.
    "Wha-? Why? You're not gonna kill himaryoo? he slurred, still disoriented.
    "No, no, I just want to know who it was, please tell me."
    "Well, his name was.....oh yes, his name was David, I remember because it was funny."
    "What? Why was it funny?" I demanded.
    "Because his name was David, and he had two funny eyes, just like David Bowie. You know..one pupil all funny, and bigger than the other? Weird coincidence, they are both named David..."
    My mind was a blank. I knew I had seen this before..but where? And with a sudden memory I knew. It was the young man who had accosted me not two nights ago. The pusher. Things started to click.
    "Paul. Where did you get this smack?"
    "Well, I- I got it from David I suppose.." he stammered.
    I was right. And just as I had that realization another one occurred. With a burst of insight I knew why Joan had seemed distant. She had been using all along. The sunken eyes, the unhealthy look, quiet and disconnected. I had been so stupid. She had been cheating on me and shooting up all this time and I didn't know anything about it. I didn't even feel angry, I was just worried for her.
    "Where did they go after the club do you know?" I asked dryly.
    "Yeah, I drove them to your place, I figured she was picking up some of her stuff or something" replied Paul.
    "But I called and she didn't pick up, that means they aren't at the apartment." I voiced, thinking out loud. "Of course that was hours ago, I suppose the only thing to do is go check if they're there."
    Without another word, I departed, leaving Paul alone with his muddied thoughts.
                                                                                                            ************

    When I arrived at the door, no one answered, so I got out my keys and let myself in. I didn't know what to expect, but I feared I would find them together. My assumptions were wrong. Instead of two lovers, I found Joan, laying passed out on the floor, a needle still sticking in her vein and vomit on the floor. Her eyes were rolling around inside her head. Her muscles rippled like water. She was convulsing. Fuck.
    I knelt down beside her and held her hand, she felt cold. Her skin shook madly under mine. Her eyes were unseeing and spinning madly inside her skull. Her neck was tensed so the veins stuck out, and her teeth looked clenched to the point of breaking. This was the scariest thing I had seen in my life.
    "Joan! Can you hear me?" I shouted. Iggy mocked me, squawking in the corner like this was an amusing show we had put on for him.
    I ran the phone nearly tripping over our rug and giving myself a concussion. My fingers trembled so much I had to dial 911 three different times before I hit the right numbers. They quickly arrived and loaded her in an ambulance. I was along for the ride. I still felt unnatural, with smack still in my system as well, but I tried not to show it.
    Once at the hospital, the nurses gave her something that brought her back, and although she seemed sickly and tired, she had some energy. When she saw me, she frowned.
    "I know." I whispered.
    She looked at me with a frightened face, now that I really looked at her, I could see how far gone she was.
    "I'm sorry. I'm done with him...... and it." she breathed. And I knew she meant it.
 

        A few hours later, I decided we had to leave. I was not going to put up with questions, and surprisingly none of the staff had asked for our information, so I put Joan in a wheelchair, and headed for the door. No one really seemed to care we were leaving and for the first time in my life I was glad we lived on the bad side of town. This must be pretty normal here. It was early morning by now and I hailed a taxi. We rode to Paul's house and I demanded his car keys from him. He was in no state to argue with me, in fact he just let me take them, no questions asked. We left Paul and drove back to the apartment where I began to search the house. David, if that was truly his name, was nowhere to be found. I was guessing I wouldn't see him again, I'm sure he was scared for his own skin when he saw that Joan had overdosed. The money jar we kept in the kitchen to keep us inspired was empty, but other than that, the apartment was normal, minus of course the gear and vomit in the living room which Joan cleaned up. She was far to embarrassed and demanded I not touch the mess.
    Joan spent the day sleeping, and I spent the day thinking. I knew she was going to go through withdraws soon, and I didn't really want to cross that bridge yet. As for me, I really didn't feel an urge to have another hit. I thanked God for that.
    Once the sun had begun to set, Joan seemed a little stronger. She seemed to detest the prospect of eating when I offered though, which killed me because she looked so frail. I had realized how skinny she looked, and marveled  how I didn't notice before. Instead she offered another suggestion.
    "Sebastian, would you like to come with me? I'll show you where I go sometimes, when you're asleep."
    My heart leapt. In the midst of the pain around me, I was filled with joy at the prospect of Joan letting me into a part of her life she had never showed me before. 
    "Yes, of course." I breathed.
                                                                                                              ******
    We took Paul's car, I drove and Joan told me where to go. She led me far out of the city, up in the hills that surrounded it. We drove for about an hour, way out to the middle of nowhere. The moon was out and it bathed the field we had parked by.
    Joan squeezed my hand. "This is it." The words escaped her like a sigh.
    It was beautiful. I hadn't really been outside a town in ages, I was so swept up with the city life. I had forgotten how wondrous the world we live in is. It was only a field, but I don't think I could've imagined something more glorious. Nothing that is, except the sky. Joan led me out into the field her pale skin touching mine. She looked like a ghost in the moonlight, but she was beautiful. She lay in the grass and motioned for me to join her, which I did. Once I had layed down, she wrapped her arms around my chest and lay her head near mine.
    "Isn't it awe-inspiring?" she said softly in my ear, no more than a whisper. "If there is a God out there somewhere, he sure did one hell of a job." Joan sighed, answering her own question.
    I was in so much awe, I couldn't even speak. I had forgotten how wondrous life was. The sky above me seemed to unfold in a timeless universe. Not matter what mankind did to destroy itself, it remained there. Solitary and silent. Always waiting for the time when we would remember our meaning and our creation. I was filled with a beautiful feeling. It was sort of like the beginning of a laugh, spreading through my blood. Purer than the drugs that my blood already knew. I felt cool and clean. I felt natural. I felt like I could call myself human. It seemed nothing of my past pain mattered, because out here, none of the causes of pain mattered. I realized that pain was mostly man's invention. The world offered nothing to us but beauty. Perfection everywhere you looked. I had drown myself with distractions, I had shot up smack, I had tried to ruin my life in an attempt to bring it together. I had tried to drown out everything. I thought it would be the answer. If you ignore it, the clenching feeling in your gut will disappear. But what did I know? I knew what most of the people in my life knew. You're born into a hustle, people telling you what to do how to do it and to be quick. No time to think. No time to feel. My life was a sensory overload. I felt I knew the truth now, to appreciate the senses you have, you must strip all the unimportant things away. What really was the value of society as I had know it? People exploiting other people, all unhappy in there own way no matter what filler they used, be it drugs, sex, violence, entertainment. None of it mattered.
    "I had always thought it was sentimental shit, what people said about how great getting back to nature was." Joan said incredulous.
    A laugh escaped me. It was a higher toned laugh than normal, I think because it was a pure laugh. Not forced or fake. Purely a reflex to joy.
    I felt Joan's fingers slowly entwine with mine. And I knew I was safe. Safe from the world and myself at that moment. I thought about Paul, and I knew what he would say if he could see me now: "you've gone soft man, there's nothing to see here. Why don't you come back to my place we'll talk about whats really important.' And what was that? A hit? Brainwashing by society?
    "No" I would say to him. "If I were home with you, living life as I used to live it, or how you are choosing to live, Would you experience, what I know now?"
    His face disappeared from my mind. He was a friend, and I would help him as best I could. I had Joan back, for the time being, although, I saw the lust for a score just beginning to come into her eyes. I knew that soon, a need would grip her like it never had before. But even though she had cheated on me, even though she did what she did, I knew things would be different. I would stick with her through this no matter what, because I loved her.
    Laying with her, with the sound of the crickets and the feel of the earth under me, I knew who I was, and what was real. Love was real, and this wondrous life we have in this beautiful universe. That's what's real. I kissed Joan softly, and pulled her body close into mine, feeling her heart beat.  I had never been a religious man, but the stars in the heavens seemed to tell me there was a God somewhere. I didn't know, but thanks to this ordeal, I had all of my life to find out.


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