But on this trip, I could feel the seed embed itself in their brains and begin to sprout. We all slowly awakened to many feelings and sensations and thoughts – one of which was “A stripper rents a room from us. How should we deal with it?” In my head, “Is this whole living arrangement in trouble now?”
These thoughts existed, but were in the backs of our minds. While upstate, we lived in a fantasy world. We escaped from everything.
The afternoon we returned to Cary’s house was a bad one for Tanya. We were lowering our methadone doses and this one hit her particularly hard. We had no other source of illegal methadone, so she couldn’t up her dose to keep comfortable. When we arrived, she had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, shuddering. Cary was very nurturing towards her. She overplayed her suffering like a child and demanded to be hand—fed chicken noodle soup. I acted concerned but I was annoyed. First off, Cary almost died from AIDS less than a year ago. I could never make a fuss like Tanya was making and really expect sympathy from Cary. But she did. Second, Cary’s whole family was there, and Tanya was the person most familiar with all the family members. By overplaying her sickness, and isolating herself and Ollie physically in another room, she made my initial experience awkward.
Luckily, Cary’s family turned out to be friendly. I drank wine with his late-50s parents. I remember telling his father that he absolutely had to see Tommy the movie if he wanted a prime example of good cinematography.
After calming Tanya down, Cary came out of “her” room and procured a joint from his pocket. He said it was sprinkled with coke.
We sat outside on the back porch to smoke it. It was chilly and pitch-dark. Soon, I began to hallucinate that snow was falling. Ollie said he saw the same thing: snow.
After the soaring high was over, I went back into the house and talked more with Cary’s parents and his brother.
Cary was gay – a flamer. He’s the chubby type with meticulously-groomed, female-arched brows. His brother, Glenn, was a gruff upstate redneck-woodsman. As opposite as the brothers were on the male spectrum, they had an interesting similarity. No matter what Cary ever said, whether it was a response to a question, or telling a story, or anything – in essence, the real message was always the same: “Whatever! I’m lewd, gay, and proud!”
His brother exhibited this same trait, except for he always conveyed: “Whatever. No matter what, your problems will never be as bad as mine.”
It was both alarming and comforting to know what to expect from these two guys.
That night, we built a bonfire. It seemed crazy to build a bonfire where we did: under a huge pine tree. The tops of the flames were only maybe 10 feet below the tree’s boughs. I expected the tree to catch flame at any moment, but it didn’t. Glenn said it was one the wettest upstate summers on record. That must have saved us. We dragged all the nice lawn furniture in a circle around the flames. I felt bad for creating such a white trash spectacle in their quaint, pretty yard, but Tanya explained that Cary’s parents live under this rule: Cary and his friends can do whatever they want, because Cary’s family is so grateful Cary didn’t die from AIDS. I think they might have even promised God while Cary was on his deathbed. This immunity made me feel uncomfortable. As friendly as the parents were, they were utterly defeated by this lifestyle. Their beautiful home full of nice furniture was covered in dusty filth, hairballs, and dirty clothes. No one seemed to notice. I asked Tanya about this and she just shrugged and said it was normal.