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He overdosed. 

Sick and addicted, he vomits into a bag.

Disappearing down wounded alleys punched with black rings of dark water and long shadows like needles infecting the rotten souls of an ancient city.

Loved ones pouring out every drop of support for his intrepid and meaningless life.

Shooting junk and hunting for more until every penny goes into his punctured veins. He seeks salvation from every relic of his past. Hovering over a bucket. Struggling to keep his stomach. Ripe and unwashed.

He sobers in the predawn Pacific frost. The jagged blue mountains, his cold little pillow. 

* * *

Ventures east to Spokane. A whiskey-soaked wanderer crossing the vast purple plains. The blood-red sun sinking in the charcoal dusk against a paperbag skyline. Sipping and sleeping under the constellations on the crumbled black soil.

He follows torn maps to encampments and raids the tents like some drunken beast of the night. He washes himself in gutterwater beneath a pale gibbous moon and the dark starspangled sky. He sobers in a frozen toilet stall daydreaming of memories that never existed.

Promises he’ll never keep.

A philosophical drunk barcrawling for treasures up the rainblown minefield toward his next hangover. 

*  *  *

Few months he’s in Portland, in San Francisco. He returns to the emerald city on a tattooed train that awakens at dawn along the grim black horizon. He steals vodka and drinks it and slurs songs of triumph while wandering the fractured traintracks. He sleeps in a shared room with the other lost souls of Belltown and comes alive at night like some inebriated nightmare. He’s skinny and his joints ache from hard travel and the dark eyes avoid everything. 

Shooting up with men and women of all colors. All creeds. Young and old and rich or poor but mostly he is shooting up alone. Women whose voices are barbed with a native twang and trailer park nasalness. Travelers from lands so wild and unique that robbing them at the hostel while they’re passed out drunk he himself feels anointed. 

And on a brutal winter night a crazed addict attacks him with a broken bottle and escapes. He falls against the dead plants and crawls to safety covered in black blood. Nobody helps. Nobody cares. By the time he’s sober he’s broke and he departs in the dark of dawn and stays unrested on a bed of slanted floorboards until he finds something new to sleep on. 

*  *  *

Family tree rotted with addiction.

Never again in all their infighting will there be anger so hateful as this. He sobers on the street, a bully amongst beggars. Watching the emerald river thrash. Crows croaking from the sidewalk, black as nails against the concrete. Rafts of dabbling ducks surfing the graywhite swells. 

He wanders through the veins of a vacant city.

The air stinks of woodfire and perfume.

At night the dealers hiss at him like demonic soothsayers and in a month he’s using again.

Needles in the sharps container.

Walking down dirt roads with no one, his trembling fist clenched in the deep pockets of his stolen jeans. He hitchhikes north through towns and time zones, taking bottles and wallets with him. He avoids the monorail for fear of arrest. The drunks howl in the fog and misfortune finds him in a cathedral where he retreats to hide from the law. An amputated priest prays beside him and together they wait for salvation. The sun that rises is a red pinhole burning though the ashen sky. 

*  *  *

His sickness leads him for days. 

He wears soiled trousers that have holes in the pockets and scribbles in the linings and he feels like one of the drunks he’d roll at the hostel. Soulsearching the north pacific and the pain worsens before an audience of none beneath a severed white birch and a scarred red maple and the rotten seeds inside him stay planted like a burning curse and a vicious wind rustles the leaves. He works as a dishwasher and asks as payment from his manager for food and a cot, and on that cot during the fall of twenty twenty-two he rises for chasing highs in the city of Seattle.