The Crimson Cloud

The following is a short tale written [in terrible form… passive constructs, inconsistency, all the jazz of a young writer with the widest eyes and the most slender skill set] circa… I don’t know. Sometime after I popped my virgin veins by shooting coke, stopped, hitched back, stopped, hitched waaay back, intranasally back, 9/11, the hospital, the pick-line directly into my vein, then stopped. Before any meth. This happened… or I wrote this sometime within this aforementioned time-line… somewhere… something like a…

Hey, man… nice shot.

I mean, the crimson cloud! It’s important. This was then. A thousand years ago, but still holds true. And describes it in better terms than I believe that I can right now.

Without further adeiu:

a short story
the author

“…back …
… forth… back…
… forth…
back… half-way under the bed again, it hides, then rolls back to reveal itself, then back again…
and forth.
A small cylindrical orange cap, an uneven section of carpet in a hotel room, and a wide-eyed, dark-haired, sweet girl sitting Indian-style on the firm bed, unaware…no, unconcerned by what possibly might be occurring just a foot’s length or two beneath her: the momentum of the cap slowing with each roll; the distance closing in on itself.
She often dropped the caps. On this moment’s surface, down it would go, a slight sway, perhaps, before it slowed to a still. After the split second of her always-careless released grip, she missed the orange cylinder suicide lemming as it took the plunge like all of it’s brothers that came before.
Never slowing to a still, its continued roll was brought to an end with a grand, inaudible plunge to the unfamiliar ground below.
Though for all of its efforts, its impact with the ground was as inaudible as its fall to it. No poof, or smack, or crash. Upon impact, it did nothing but relapse into the repetitive groove of ‘back and forth’.
And in this way, for the past few days, the bright orange would scream its existence in this unseen tiny dance against the sea of pastel blue carpet upon which it fell.
But for Sedge, there were more important things to attend to.
The room was nice. Nice. What is nice?
This, this was nice.
Comfortable. Homey.
Most importantly, anonymous.
Yes, the infamous impersonally warm hotel room ambiance.
A scent, just a scent. Sedge boiled it down to the complimentary anti-bacterial soap cake in the bathroom. These days, it was all about ‘boiling-it-down’. This ambiance, though comforting, was not immune.
The television flashed off her face. Across from her, an alterna-grunge, mid-nineties, Chris Cornell somehow found itself on the screen. Though muted, she knew what it was. It was impossible for the matching voice to his moving lips not to reverberate somewhere in the back of her head. blowupthe Other than this (and the cap, of course) however, everything was achingly still.
She used to wonder if she existed at all at times like this. Though she learned to love her un-detectibility on the radar.
She wanted to be still for just one second more and breathe the untainted air, before she was to make herself the defining characteristic of the room, undetected still, but now rendered detectable. Rendering herself detectable.
Actor-guy was gone. Working. On a set. In a trailer? Waiting? Memorizing lines. Refreshing his acute awareness of what he looked like, and therefore, what he was supposed to be. And, of course, how he was supposed to let others know this by making an even larger outward caricature of things he genuinely once was. Actor-guy was an actor…in the literal sense.
And so there were these days in the deafening silence of the huge room. Sedge, not responsible and unconnected to anything in this hotel room, to anything in this town, somewhere in the vast unnamed mid-west, where this person she felt somehow equally unconnected to, invited her, while he was working. And the cap rolled somewhere between the bed and herself and the carpet and dresser and…
Now it was time for protocol, procedure, exacting steps carried out in perfect succession. It was time for that.
Exiting the bathroom after a thorough scrubbing of the hands with anti-bacterial soap that seemed to pervade every public and private restroom these days. “C-fold” paper towels went down on the surface of the now empty room-service cart. Followed by a bottle of 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. Then, saline solution. Cotton Balls. Q-tip. All ordered, exact, and in it’s place. Then…
…a spoon and slick, aerodynamic Zippo… flame. As important as any one of these components were, it was the next which stood most essential and intriguing…her extensive, intensely obsessive knowledge of phlebotomy, anatomy, and general medical procedure.
And the stage was set: all the characters in their place, all the pieces aligned correctly on the chessboard… and Bobby Fischer at its helm. Though this wasn’t true. Bobby Fischer she was not. A man who went deeper than anyone else before him and found art at the core of what seemed an impersonal game of strategy. Numbers, math, combinations, logic. Sedge was the anti-Bobby Fischer; trading choice and fear for certainty and structure. And her opening move involved rubbing alcohol that bled into a piece of cotton that she would use to clean the spoon.
She continued like this, step after step in perfect succession, as impersonal and robotic as medicine can be; as medicine had to be. And it was something about this… no, it was this that was comforting.
One last item… a sterile syringe.
And POP, placed on the room-service cart, rolled the orange cap and fell into the vast sea of the carpet beneath.
In a few seconds, a distended vein would arise, followed by a stringently comforting cool alcohol swipe, and gentle prick. And then… ultimate confirmation. Confirmation that all these steps were carried out successfully; that she did the things that she had to do. The confirmation that upon the slight tug backwards of the plunger, a flood of rich, maroon liquid would cloud into the otherwise clear, thin solution still in the body of the barrel.
The crimson cloud.
Literally, just confirmation that she was in the vein, but, somewhere in the distance, behind the bells ringing in her ears, she could hear, “good girl”.
It was about order, routine, the feeling of success when these tasks where carried out. Certainty, consistency… trust. It was the way there had to be half a pack of splenda in her six ounces of iced green tea at eleven AM, everyday. It was about her antiquated eighth grade social studies teacher and his ‘system’ of clothing… alternating colors on alternating days. “green on wednesdays”. It was the customer who came into the restaurant who insisted on the ‘ritual’ of certain combinations of food.
It was the fact that if nothing else, if no one else, it would be there when she needed it.
Of course, one could witness the release of unconsciously held muscles as her jaw dropped slightly. Of course she could have told you the effects of the drug itself was certainty enough as back she fell, all of the indecision focused for just minutes to…
Blowuptheoutsideblowuptheoutsideblowuptheoutside… releasing the mute button, the song came from outside her now, the single sound that engulfed her. As a short while later, the Actor-guy, burst in unexpectently on her laying on the bed, commenting on the sweat on her brow. This, to which she justified with an afternoon jog and a nap; she, an actor in the figurative sense (a liar in the literal).
She could have told you about the semantics of an iridescent, flaky, purple-white, powder-esque mass. Commonly referred to in many parts of the world as… cocaine hydrochloride. Or for the lazy of tongue, coke. And the paranoid of mind, blow.
She could have told you any of this. But mostly she would just smile a lot and nod while somebody else spoke about something else. She was happy enough with her letter of confirmation, her successful operation.
But for right now, all she needed was what she had: a place in which she could disappear on the radar to find certainty and forget for a while about the rolling orange cap she dropped.”

Hopefully, this clears up a bit of what the crimson cloud actually is.

Now, on with the story….


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