“I wish I was able to say no”, he muttered, while he hesitantly handed his pipe to me, the moment I said I wasn’t in the mood for drugs and that I had no desire to get high. I only wanted to meet him in person to establish if the connection we had was only virtual, or could translate into the real world. After all, we had been talking on and off for days and we appeared to have things in common. Meeting up was the natural thing to do.
Unconvinced, he looked at me with a lone sadness in his eyes that I couldn’t quite define. Then, he lit up again. We were in my living room, sitting at opposite ends of the sofa. I stared at the pipe, held in mid-air just a metre away from me. There I was, not for the first time, taking another alchemy’s class that I hadn’t signed up for. The chemistry of fire has always fascinated me. In fact, fire is something I have played with all my life, as my many scars would prove. I saw the smoke developing from a crystallised rock the moment the flame from his ‘crème brùlèe’ torch hit the glass, transforming its contents. I stared at the oily, white smoke, a fog for the senses, circling and speeding erratically inside the confined space of the pipe, the promise of oblivion so close I could taste it.
Years ago, I would have given in. A few days off ahead to recover, coupled with ‘that’ feeling of loneliness that I associate with the winter season and the idea of cozy nights in with someone special, who always seems to desert me. That would be too much to resist. These are powerful ingredients, able to brew a perfect storm and the days of stillness and misery that always follow a chemical high.
Thankfully, these days I have acquired the ability to break down the whole, tempting picture into single individual frames and see them for what they truly are, a cover for self-loathing, a denial of my weakness and needs as a human being. I want company, therefore I compromise everything to get it or at least, I used to.
Now, I simply breathe in, deeply, allowing the oxygen to clear my head as the moment passes: detachment is a powerful instrument when used accordingly.
Marcelo stood by my side, facing me, his pipe loaded with smoke, still gesturing and offering with increased urgency. He was aware the drug would escape the pipe and dissolve in seconds. “No thanks. I am good as I am,” I said, without moving a muscle. Then I saw him take a deep inhale as he cleared the pipe of its contents.
As his high kicked in and his inhibitions left the room, he offered me some GHB, in case I only had a problem with smoking Crystal Meth. I declined, for the third time: “I don’t think this is going to work; the sex or whatever we were both hoping for. We can talk for a little if you like, but then I will need you to go. I’d rather have dinner and an early night. You are probably not hungry, which is a shame. I can cook.”
Then I smiled. I looked outside the window, as the night was closing in, wondering if my Latino dream, morphed into a sad nightmare, was going to waste his high on me. We spoke a little. As it turned out, he had spent the night before with a MATE, which in ‘gay-land high’ means he hooked up with someone he’d never met before, someone whose name he couldn’t remember. He had moved from place to place for the last three days, until he finally landed in my living room, where he was hoping to ‘self-medicate’ some more with me. The longer he sat in close proximity to me, the more I could smell his chemical sweat. He was beautiful and lost, in an indefensible kind of way.
As I looked at him, I remembered the words of someone I know, someone who doesn’t believe that the gay community has a problem with drugs and chemsex. “It’s only a very small percentage of people who can’t handle it, spoiling it for ALL the others, who simply enjoy getting high over the weekend. It’s the gay media who is creating the hype,” he told me then, with contempt of the ones who can’t handle it.
I wished he was here now. Here it was, his alleged living ‘spoiler’. A human being; someone’s son, brother, friend or lover. Are we so jaded with ourselves that we don’t care anymore?
“I was able to control things, now not so much. I am always late for work,” Marcelo informed me, while standing up and reaching for his coat. As I led him to the door, I suggested that perhaps he should consider seeking help, if he was ready to admit he needed help, of course: “Go to 56 Dean Street in Soho. They won’t judge you, they won’t turn you away, and they won’t report you, regardless of your immigration status and personal circumstances.”
“Perhaps I will,” he said, as he walked out of my flat. Then, he disappeared down the stairs, in hyperactive speed. By the time he had made it down and out into the street, he was on Grindr again.