Brown sugar, how come you taste so good?
I was only kiddin’ when I asked Hutch if he wanted to drive my car. Not just ‘cuz he hates my car, but because it’s a euphemism for sex, and that was the last thing he needed after what had just happened to him. But it seems the idea musta stuck in his brain. The same way the heroin did.
When I finally got him home, I figured he’d want to sleep for the next forty-two hours. I know I did. But instead, he slumped down on the sofa and leaned his head weakly against the backrest, eyes open and starin’ up at the ceiling. He still had the insomnia, poor guy. I sat down beside him and took his hand. I had so much I wanted to say to him, but it wasn’t the time. So I just sat there quietly and closed my eyes as I recited a silent prayer of thanks that he was okay. Well, relatively anyway. He wasn’t dead, so there was that.
I tried not to think about how, even after the track marks faded from his arm, he’d always be a recovered heroin addict. There was no goin’ back. Heroin alters your brain chemistry, so the threat of relapse always looms. And even though most of the physical symptoms of his withdrawal had worked their way out of his system, others, like the psychological ones, would continue to linger.
Dope. Smack. Horse. Junk. Black tar. Hell dust. New slang terms were constantly bein’ invented on the street to avoid detection by police. How fucking ironic is that? But little did those dope dealers know that half the vice squad was staked out on gas station roofs, spyin’ down at the occupants of the bathroom stalls through secret holes, hopin’ to catch two unsuspectin’ guys committing ‘crimes against nature,’ as the courts referred to it. Imagin’ goin’ to prison for the rest of your life because you decided to blow a guy in a gas station john.
People think that heroin is naturally brown colored on account of its nickname, brown sugar. You know, like the song. But pure heroin is a white powder, as pure and white as freshly fallen snow. As pure and untouched as my partner used to be.
The bastards who deal the stuff cut it with other substances so they can make more profit, or sometimes to make its effects more potent, and that can change both the color and texture, even turning it into a noxious black, sticky substance.
I wondered what was added to the horse they juiced my partner with. I wondered what color it was. Did they blindfold him while it happened, or did they force him to watch the needle go into his vein?
Seven jabs of that shit in the crook of his elbow. Seven jabs in four days woulda done a pretty good job of gettin’ him strung out, and once they got the information they wanted outta him, they were gonna waste him. I still don’t know how he managed to get away. They would have had to hold him down the first time they violated him. I wonder how many guys it took? Did he scream? Or did they duct-tape his mouth?
After that first time wore off, he woulda been beggin’ them for another fix.
Hutch. My Hutch. I still couldn’t believe it. I glanced down at his arm, grateful that his shirt hid the grim evidence.
Heroin is one of the most addictive substances known to man. But it doesn’t exist in nature. It’s processed in a lab from morphine and was originally intended for use as a non-addictive painkiller. God only knows what they were thinkin’ when they invented it. Yeah, it kills pain alright. As for the non-addictive part, they lied. Whether you smoke it, snort it, or inject it, it gets into your brain, and the more you use, the more your brain gets used to it and relies on it, and before you know it, your brain can only function like normal when you get another fix.
If you don’t, or can’t, you better be ready to go through some serious sufferin’.
“When was the last time you ate somethin’?” I asked him, squeezing his hand. “Not countin’ the candy bars you puked up yesterday.”
Hutch just shook his head. Did those animals even feed him while they held and tortured him? Yeah, they fed him, alright. Fed him a steady diet of junk. Bastards.
I patted his shoulder. “I’ll fix us up something.”
Christ almighty, I immediately regretted using the word. It’s such an everyday word, one I say all the time. ‘I gotta get my transmission fixed, there’s a kink in it.’ ‘I’ll fix you up on a blind date.’ ‘Lemme fix you some breakfast.’
Now it would forever mean somethin’ else.
The first time a person injects smack, they experience a rush of euphoria unlike anything they’ve ever known, but it’s short-lived, lasting only about two minutes. They say the closest thing to it is an orgasm. After the initial rush of euphoria wears off, the person falls into an almost trance-like state as a sense of serene calm overtakes them. That’s the good part. The bad part is when the calm wears off.
I rummaged in his fridge. He’d been gone since Friday. Did he even have any food? I pulled out three eggs and half a loaf of stale bread, and then I got the coffee started.
Coffee. As if he hadn’t had enough of it these past two days. But most of it had ended up all over me when he swatted the cup outta my hand as I held him on the bed or all over the bathroom floor when he puked it up. But I hadn’t gotten much sleep last night, so I really needed a jolt of caffeine.
I smiled a bitter smile thinkin’ about that jolt that comes from that first cup of coffee in the morning, when you’re all bleary-eyed and tryin’ to get your brain to wake up, and you feel that sweet, sweet caffeine coursing through your veins.
That must be just a fraction of how it feels to get high on smack.
I listened to the coffee percolate as I scrambled up the eggs. Then I glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was 7:20pm. Dinnertime. Not breakfast. When the food was ready – when it was all fixed up – I called him over to the table. We consumed it in silence, both of us too exhausted to engage in either small talk or meaningful conversation. Besides, what could we possibly have said?
When Hutch finished picking at his food, he rose and took his plate, and then with a shaking hand he tried to grab mine, but I gently pushed his hand away. “Go sit down, Hutch. I’ll take care of cleanin’ up.” He hesitated for a moment, but then he nodded, put his plate down, and shambled back over to the sofa where he collapsed in a dejected heap, twitchin’ every so often as I glanced over at him.
I’d done a lot of cleanin’ up the past two days. Cleanin’ up coffee…cleanin’ up puke. I’d held my partner in my arms as he thrashed against me on the bed, beggin’ me for a fix, his vacant eyes searching desperately for help that I couldn’t give him. There was the anxious pacing and restless agitation. The soul-crushing pain in his bones. Sweating and chills, nausea and stomach pain. His flailing hands. The failed attempts at escape. The relentless insomnia. He couldn’t sleep, so that meant neither could I.
I got Hutch clean in more ways than one, but he still had a ways to go. He was a broken man, and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to put him fully back together. Like a shattered ceramic plate mended with glue, the crack would always be there, even if you had to squint to see it.
When the dishes were washed and standin’ up in the dryin’ rack, I sat down next to him. “You okay?” I asked him for the second time that day. And for the second time, he lied and said, “Yeah.”
I leaned my head against his and breathed in the scent of the shampoo he’d used at Huggy’s that morning. It was a fresh, clean smell, of apples and tall grass on a warm summer’s day and the promise of everlasting love. I breathed it in deep, relishing it. When I found him in the alleyway yesterday morning, he smelled of four days’ worth of blood, sweat, and puke and I breathed in his scent then, too.
“Sorry it didn’t work out between you and Jeanie,” I said.
“Asshole,” Hutch responded weakly, a little smile briefly making an appearance because he knew I wasn’t sorry at all. In an instant, the smile was gone, but for a fleeting moment, a little ray of sunshine was released into the world. Then he turned his head and pressed his lips against mine, softly, tenderly, and I kissed him back, comforting him, comforting myself.
Knowing I shouldn’t have him, especially not tonight.
“Make love to me, Starsk,” he murmured, and suddenly his tongue was in my mouth, and for a moment, my brain shut off as all the blood flowed downwards, and I felt a sense of sublime euphoria wash over me. I was addicted to Hutch, and if he’d been sportin’ a tan after a weekend at that beach house he was supposed to have been shacked up at, he’d be my own personal brown sugar. But no matter his skin tone, he tasted just as sweet.
I tried to fight the urge to consume him, even though I knew I’d eventually lose that battle.
“Hutch…we can’t right now….” I slowly trailed my fingers through his tousled hair, from the golden wisps that fell gently over his forehead to the baby curls that kissed the back of his neck. “You’re still too weak…you need sleep.”
“I just want to feel normal again, Starsk,” he countered. “I just want to feel like me.” He looked at me, all wide-eyed and needy, a haunted shell of himself.
“Whatsa matter? Those goons put a wrench in your plans to bang Jeanie this weekend so you come crawlin’ back to my bed to get laid?” Shit. I’d meant to just rib him a little, but I could hear the tinge of bitterness in my voice. Now it was too late to take it back. I just needed to get some goddamn sleep. I was so tired. So goddamn effing tired.
Hutch looked at me, cheeks mottled red with rising anger and a look of profound hurt on his face. “Fuck you, partner.” He practically spit the words at me. “You know that’s not how it went down.”
I reached out to stroke his face, to brush the anger away. “I’m sorry Hutch, I didn’t mean that.” His cheek felt warm and flushed and I leaned in closer, trying to kiss away the red.
“Please,” he moaned, grabbing my shirt and twisting it in his grasp. “I need you.”
He sounded desperate and weak, the way he did when I held him on the bed as he struggled in supplication. He had pleaded with me to give him some medicine, somethin’ to take the edge off the withdrawal sickness. Now he wanted me to fuck him and to hell with how dangerous he’d insisted it was before.
I suddenly noticed that the area around his right eye was swollen, ringed with black and blue and streaked with angry red lacerations. How had I not noticed that before now? My poor baby, what did those creeps do to you?
“Come on Hutch, you don’t have the strength right now, let’s just get some sleep—“
His kisses prevented me from finishing. “You can do all the work,” he murmured in between kisses. “Just let me lie in your arms and feel you inside me. Please, Starsk.” He was practically begging now. He musta sounded like that when those goons had him. Beggin’ them for a fix as he lay prostrate before them.
In the end, I gave in to temptation. The promise of having him was too much for me to resist, and I surrendered myself to him.
Injecting heroin takes some amount of preparation. It’s not as simple as just swallowing a pill. The goons who nabbed him would have prepared the powder using a spoon and a flame, heating it so it turned into a liquid that could be injected with a syringe. They would have taken their time. After all, what was the rush? Another couple of minutes wouldn’t have made a difference. When the syringe was filled, they would have tightened a strap around his arm to make his veins more prominent. And then they’d have jabbed it into him while he struggled.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what must have been going through his mind when that strap was tightened around him, how much he would have tried to fight. Until they did that, he might not have known what was about to happen.
I pulled him up, helped him over to the bed, and got us ready as he lay immobile, watching me. First, I removed his shoes and undid his belt, pulling down his pants and underwear. Then I removed my own. I left his shirt on because I couldn’t bear to look at the needle marks, so in solidarity, I left my own shirt on as well. Finally, I grabbed the Vaseline out of his nightstand and applied it all over my cock, getting it nice and hard and slippery slick.
Then I lay down beside him, pushing him onto his side so he was facing away from me. It took me a while to enter him, because I went as slowly and as gently as I could. It was miles from the rough and tumble way we’d usually fuck, but as gentle as I tried to be, there was no way to completely avoid the initial prick of pain that would occur when I successfully penetrated his anal sphincter and entered his rectum. Fortunately, the pain would usually recede quickly, followed by sheer bliss for both of us.
He uttered a small groan as I pierced him, and I felt him tense up. Dammit. He needed to stay relaxed. I hated the thought that I’d hurt him, even if it was only for a second, even if he was expecting it.
“You okay, Hutch? Talk to me.” I placed my hand on his shoulder as I waited for him to respond.
“Yeah,” he answered, and I felt him relax around me. This time, I knew he wasn’t lying.
Fully inside him now, I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him close as we spooned, my chest pressed tightly against his back until there was no space left between us. Now was not the time for hard thrusts that left us panting and sweating in their wake. Instead, I rocked slowly back and forth inside him, just enough to remain hard.
The usual sounds of grunting and groaning as we thrashed our bodies together in careless abandon were instead replaced by quiet moans, soft whispers and ministrations of love in all its forms.
“Mmm, you feel good…”
“Oh God, Starsk…ohh…”
“I love you…”
“For what I put you through”
“Hold me, Starsk…”
“I’m right here, my love…”
“Don’t leave me…”
“Shh…I’m right here…”
As we lay together joined in coition, both of us naked from the waist down and our guns out of reach on the other side of the apartment, I suddenly realized how vulnerable we were. It was here in Hutch’s cottage just five days ago that the bad guys had busted in and taken Hutch by force. If bad guys showed up right now, we’d be dead meat.
Damn Hutch and his flawed reasoning. Every time we’d make love, he insisted it should be our last time, because he said it was too dangerous. He’d remind me over and over that up until a few months before, what we were doing was a crime punishable by 15 years to life. God, it was so dangerous. We both knew it, but we were helpless in the face of it. We were helpless now, but neither of us cared.
When I wouldn’t back down, he’d insist that we weren’t gay. But whether we were or not didn’t matter, I’d try to tell him. I didn’t want to put a name to it. To us. Because it wasn’t just a physical thing that we had. It wasn’t just the two of us gettin’ our rocks off in between girlfriends.
It was more than that. Me and Hutch share a strange and deep emotional connection, like nothin’ I’ve ever experienced before, and bein’ sexually intimate with each other is like an unselfish giving and receiving between two human beings. You could almost say that we needed each other to feel whole.
To me, it was worth any risk.
Too fucking dangerous, he insisted that last time, while his cock was deep in my mouth. If anyone were to find out, our careers would be toast, he uttered between moans, and that would be the least of our problems. We’d be lucky if we weren’t beaten, flayed alive, and hung from the rafters. They would make an example out of us. And then he shot his wad down the back of my throat as he came in a fit of ecstasy.
After that, he started fucking Jeanie, and look where that got him. Repeated beatings, a busted eye, and seven needle marks on his left arm.
As I rocked slowly back-and-forth inside him, I suddenly noticed how quiet Hutch had become. Had he fallen asleep? I could feel myself gettin’ closer to completion, so I leaned over to nuzzle his neck and that’s when I noticed he was crying. Fuck.
Immediately, I felt my cock soften as I slipped out of him.
Heroin withdrawal comes with a lot of unpleasant side effects, both physical and psychological, and the psychological effects can last for weeks or even months. Things like difficulty finding pleasure. Depression and anxiety. Fatigue. Even increased tearing.
But I knew that wasn’t the reason he was crying.
“Oh my poor baby…” I murmured into his ear, cradling him in my arms as he sobbed, my limp cock lying against his backside and my impending orgasm a distant memory. “Poor baby…it’s okay,” I repeated, my voice quivering as I rocked him gently.
Eventually, his tears subsided and he drifted off to sleep.
For a long while, I closed my eyes and listened to his even breathing, feeling his back slowly rise and fall against my chest as I held him. Then I gratefully followed him down into blessed stupefaction.