EVERY JUNKIE IS A SETTING SUN AND OTHER REVELATIONS
By Alissa Johnson
Every junkie is a setting sun, so the song goes. Sad and splendid in their tumble to the horizon. There was nothing splendid about Ron’s death, unless you think it’s splendid to be found dead in bed in a neck brace with an empty bottle of Jack Daniels beside you and bottles of valium and flexeril buried in the sheets.
Ron was found dead in his bed by his mother in the tiny one-bedroom apartment he had been renting ever since he split from his wife of twelve years. For the last six of those years she had not had sex with him. Ron had been faithful to her. They had a kid together who was about ten. Ron saw him sometimes. The boy’s picture hung on the wall in the kitchen: smiling, chubby, oblivious.
Ron was in a neck brace from a car accident and subsequent neck surgery, but had been skydiving the week before. Two nights before, Ron had ridden pillion on his buddy Mike’s Honda Magna motorcycle. The two of them almost took a spill thanks to Ron’s added center of gravity. He was tall and seemed to sweat a lot. He had a scent that turned me off so much I didn’t like to hug him hello or goodbye. Maybe it was the scent of early death. He was thirty-six.
One wall of his apartment was completely covered by a mirror. I liked to pose in it when I was anorexic and working out a lot with Mike. I have a picture of the two of them mugging for the camera and showing their biceps. Strangely, the photo turned up in the last page of one of my photo albums next to a photo of Jeanine. Jeanine died the year after Ron.
Jeanine was a biker chick, thirty-six years old but looked forty-five. Her hair was bleached blonde and she loved her man, Steve, who rode a Harley. They were goofy about each other. They were Hell’s Angels. Jeanine was on disability for the repercussions of Valley Fever, but she had occasional work looking after disabled people in a group home. One night, after not seeing her in the bar for a while, Jeanine showed up in a mellow, thoughtful mood. Steve was there, too, at the bar talking to Paula, the beautiful and fierce bartender.
Jeanine came and sat down at my table and showed me her new tattoo of a feather with a band that encircled her upper arm. She already had another tattoo that represented her son. This tattoo was for her dad. Her dad had passed away some time ago, but he had come to her in a dream the night before, she said. She said he stood there and said, “Everything will be all right.” Jeanine had a distant look in her eyes and she was smiling. “I’ve had things good with Steve. I love him so much. If I died tomorrow,” she said, “I’d be happy.”
Five hours later Jeanine was dead. I found out later Steve and Jeanine had gone home and Steve went to bed. Jeanine went to the kitchen for a snack and choked to death on some chicken. It was an issue of debate how much her scarred lungs and asthma contributed to the asphyxiation.
Life is for the living, so they say. I never heard anything more about Ron, or what happened to his frigid wife and traumatized son. A couple of months after Jeanine passed away, Paula and Steve hooked up and it was hot then cold and then a disaster, but it was life.
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