By Alexander Adams
Eric was a recovering heroin addict.
I guess that’s the right term for someone who did a bunch of heroin, got arrested, got clean, and ended up going to college. Anyway, I met Eric when I started working at one of the university cafeterias. We bonded instantly. He was a huge Nirvana fan and I was just getting into their earlier work, pre-Nevermind.
“Molly’s Lips and Son of a Gun are the best songs Nirvana recorded even though they are covers,” I told him.
“You’re full of shit," he said. "Neither of those are even the best song on Incesticide. That would be Stain.”
My favorite work shifts were the shifts I had with Eric.
He would ask me to take smoke breaks with him. I didn’t regularly smoke, but I always had one if Eric asked me to join him. There is something beautiful about low paying jobs and smoke breaks.
We would stand out there, half soaked from the commercial dish washer, smoking our cigarettes, talking shit about the rich college kids who would do all sorts of things that we thought were meant to personally provoke us, and then we would smoke some more until it got kind of quiet and peaceful as we watched the sun going down into the ocean, and then we would go inside and get back to work.
I started hanging out with Eric outside of work, mostly taking him to parties with non-work friends. Eric didn’t try to get along with everybody like I tended to. He didn’t enjoy the company of most of my friends, guys who were going to school totally on their parent’s dime.
“Why do you put up with those assholes?”
“I don’t know. They’re not so bad."
“They’re like lawyers. I’m sure lawyers are fun to party with, but they’re disgusting people.”
I could never be as hard line about it all as Eric. But I liked that he was on my side.
Eric was off the heroin when I met him, but he did like to smoke pot. We spent a lot of time doing that together as well. It was during one of those sessions that he suggested LSD. I had always been curious. The idea of distorting reality sounded amazing. I was a little scared, though.
We eventually got around to it, accompanied by a non-work friend (who made the cut with Eric) and another friend from work.
The four of us put little black pieces of plastic with gold flecks under our tongues and played a racing game on Playstation while waiting for it to kick in. I first noticed something had changed when the posters started to move.
The adventures over the next 24 hours are some of my most vivid memories of college. We laid in a field and watched the clouds turn into cartoons. We went to the beach and my friends had to tackle me when I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) stop staring at a topless woman.
Over and over we ran into people we knew and smiled and giggled like idiots, believing ourselves to be possessed of a great secret; the secret to pure joy!
When we got hungry we went to a campus store to get snacks. Our friend from work pickpocketed me and used my ID card to buy a ton of shit and it made me laugh until I cried, not at all my normal reaction to being screwed over.
We hiked in a eucalyptus forest and the crunch of the leaves beneath our feet slowly grew in volume until it was all we heard and no other thought was possible other than we were all thinking as one, marching and stumbling as one.
When we got through the forest we could barely talk, but our silence communicated the intensity of our mind’s having merged for a time being.
When it got too late we ended up in my room, listening to the Verve’s EP album over and over again. I retreated to my own world, drawing endless looping pictures and writing completely mad observations.
“I see battles with green army men. They are losing their arms and their legs and they’re screaming, but their mouths are full of green plastic," I said.
Slowly, things got less strange. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. My mind kept moving and tripping while my body gave out. We reconvened in the morning, all of us still less than normal.
At some point the conversation turned to comics. The others were never into comics in the way that I was, but they had stories. My friend recalled how much he loved Akira. Eric talked about the Punisher books his mom threw out while he was in jail.
Even though I had read thousands of comics at that point, the thing that came to mind was Guy Gardner -- he was a Green Lantern who lost his ring, but eventually went into space and found a yellow ring that gave him powers again. In the state I was in, I remembered these as the funniest and most amazing comics I had ever read.
A course of action was decided upon: we needed to go to a comic book store. The least fucked up of us was enlisted to drive. I’m glad it wasn’t me behind the wheel.
I remember thinking as we we drove towards the suburbs that all the freeway overpasses were like moving trains and we were riding on their backs.
The store was a nightmare. I felt repulsed by most of what I saw. I did find some Guy Gardner comics and bought those, but I couldn’t have gotten out of there faster. The comics, like most, were not nearly as good as they had been in my head.
I had to go to work that afternoon, but Eric didn’t. It made for an incredibly dull shift.
I saw less of Eric in my second year of college.
He got back into Heroin.
Slowly at first.
“There’s nothing better, man. If I do it on the weekends, I’m fine.”
Then he started shooting up at work.
“Can you cover for me? I’m going to go to the bathroom and I’m going to be there awhile.”
Then he started shooting up in my apartment.
“Do you see this shot? This shot would kill you if you took it. That’s how much is in there.”
He came over one night with another junkie. Eric asked me for money while the junkie went to use my bathroom. It was the next morning when I realized he had stolen all of my razor blades and combs. Finally, Eric overdosed in my apartment while I was at work. My roommate called an ambulance and had to deal with the dean of student’s questioning. I decided to cut ties with Eric after that.
I saw Eric a couple of years later. He had been arrested again for trying to steal a car. The judge saw that he had been a student, and mercifully sentenced him to a college education. Eric was back in school and could stay out of jail if he completed his degree.
I wished him the best, but I didn’t stay in touch.
I have no idea what happened to those Guy Gardner comics.