Kensington Canterbury

Addison, The Man, The Meth Head, and Me

There’s a meth head peering into car windows in the parking lot, and I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing here.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but right now, I’m on the wrong side of the wrong town and this leather jacket I stole from my Dad’s closet isn’t doing much to make me fit in. It’s too big, and I keep having to shove my arms forward to get my hands through the sleeve holes. Every time I move, I’m scared the gun will fall out of my pocket.

I heard guns can go off sometimes if they hit the ground just right.

I wouldn’t know. I don’t know much about guns. Just stole this one from Dad’s nightstand.

The tweaker bangs on one of the windows but it doesn’t break. Not sure what he saw inside, but it didn’t hold his interest. He’s moved on to wiping the fog off an old El Camino’s windshield.

There’s a copy of Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame sitting in my jacket pocket. I want to take it out and read a piece or two. Poetry always calms me down. But I don’t want anyone around here to see me reading.

Especially poetry.

If it makes me a target for the other kids at Evans High, I don’t even want to think about what it would mean to whoever hangs out around here.

What the hell am I doing here?

I should have said no. When she asked me. And I almost did. I mean, it’s insane.

You think she’d ask some juvenile delinquent. Some tough kid who’s been in a hundred fights and is willing to stab somebody if they need to. Somebody like Alex Mobley. Not me. I’ve never even thrown a punch.

I spend most of my school days trying to act like getting punched in the face doesn’t make me want to cry.

How am I supposed to be a bodyguard?

Yet, here I am. Sweating bullets and watching as the meth head sniffs the air like a coyote. I wonder if he can smell fear.

He doesn’t look my way, so probably not.

I’ve been writing poetry of my own for a few months now. Ever since I first read Buk. There’s an old faded paperback of The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills in my school library. I checked it out on a whim. Then, read it cover to cover the entire night.

I don’t even think I slept.

I started trying to write the next day, but I quickly realized that I didn’t have anything to write about. Buk had stories. He’d lived a life most people could only dream of. He could say things like “This is the unsubtracted sum. This is living beyond the death” and mean it.

Nobody was going to read anything written by a lonely suburban kid from Augusta, Ga. My mother teaches middle school and my father owns a golf cart store. We take Summer vacations. I have the kind of life people want to forget. Lest they start thinking too hard about their own.
Addison and the man are inside the motel room behind me. I can hear the bed squeaking inside. I try to decide if whoever-he-is is going to be done soon, but I have no real frame of reference with which to gauge that. So, I just listen to the squeaks and Addison’s fake moans while the meth head wanders away from the cars and picks something up off the pavement.

I can’t tell what it is.

“They say that Hell is crowded, yet, when you’re in Hell, you always seem to be alone.”

What the hell am I doing here?

At first, when I agreed to this, I told myself it was just as a favor. Something that any friend would do for another. But that’s not true. A good friend may help you move or bring you coffee – but nobody agrees to anything like this unless there’s something more going on.

Something deeper.

Then, I told myself it was because I love her. Which is true. And that I wanted to make sure she didn’t get hurt. Which is also true. But now, standing here, shaking in an oversized leather jacket and clutching desperately to a gun I don’t know how to use, it’s not her I’m worried about getting hurt.

Neither of those reasons feel honest. Whether they’re true or not.

There’s a horribly emaciated woman standing at a vending machine across the parking lot. She puts in as much change as she has and starts to wail and scream when it isn’t enough. She punches and kicks the machine and shouts for the “fucking cocksucker” to give her the “fucking cock-sucking Coke.”

I think something like a hundred people die every year doing that.

Behind me, the headboard beats hard against the wall.

I start to second guess whether Addison’s moans are actually fake.

When she first told me what she was doing, prostituting herself, I didn’t believe her. This wasn’t somebody who needed money or had a rough home life. Her mother is a nutritionist and her father owns an office supply store. They have a two-car garage.

Yet, I could tell she was being serious.

When I asked her why, she just said, “It’s an experience.”

I did not expect that.

I always thought that the only people who do sex work are people trying to make the best of a bad situation. But she just did it. Came to this place of her own volition and debased herself for the experience alone.

I think, when I cut through all the lies, I agreed to do this because that’s the kind of thing I wanted to want to do.

I’m uncomfortable here. Out of place.

But I don’t want to be.

I want to belong here. I want to be someone who’s at home among degeneracy and danger. Someone who can be around these people. Hear these things. And be entirely at peace within himself.

Strange as it sounds, I’m not actually scared of the meth head who has finally found an unlocked car and is dumping the contents onto the pavement. Nor am I scared of the lady fist fighting the Coke machine. I am. But more honest than that –

I’m jealous.

I don’t want to keep pissing my pants in the darkness. Keep copying down the same poems over and over again from memory. Replaying the same stories about someone else’s life in my head and fantasizing it was me.

I want to be home here – as he was.

For people to see me and think of him.

I want to be the one who walks well through the fire.

A homeless man lying on the ground in the middle of the parking lot screams at the night sky.

“Guess how many reasons I got to live motherfuckers? 11 million and nine bitch. 11 million and nine. I had a bug on my arm the other day and I just cut that motherfucker off man. Just cut that motherfucker off.”

I take out my pen and scribble that line on the inside cover of Buk’s book since I don’t have my notepad with me. As I’m writing it, I replay it in my head like a song. Just cut that motherfucker off man. 

Suddenly, I start listening. Really listening. To everything around me.

The slams and curses on the vending machine. The heavy breaths of the desperate junkie. The wails of the insane man. The moans and slams and creaks in the room behind me.

I can’t write them all down fast enough. I realize what I am doing here.

The fear fades away and, all around me, I hear music in the darkness.

“As God said, crossing his legs, I see that I have made plenty of poets but not so very much poetry.”

In the room, the noises stop. The night is almost over. She just needs to pick up her money and wipe herself off.

The door opens behind me and Addison steps out. Her mascara is running a little and her hair is matted. She smiles when she sees me. As the door shuts behind her, I see a fat man lying naked and breathing heavy on the motel bed. Probably about forty.

Addison takes my hand and we walk calmly across the lot.

The meth head finds a wallet with a small amount of cash inside. He jumps up and down screaming with excitement before falling onto the pavement and rubbing the money over his body.

Then, he takes off. Sprinting down the street.

Howling at the sky.

Kensington Canterbury is an active duty enlisted Sailor in the United States Navy. Originally from Augusta, Ga, he now resides in San Diego, Ca with his wife Maria and two daughters.