Peel drew a map on a cocktail napkin: a laundromat between Avenue A and Avenue B on the lower east side, New York. He said they sell it right there on the street, through a gate.
I took a bus and got some cash and tried to look like I fit in. Sure enough, there was a line of people on the street, waiting. When it was my turn, I said I’ve come for the D (like Peel said), but the guy refused. He pointed to the other people in line and said Look, you don’t belong here: do you want to wind up like those losers? Put your money in your pocket, and don’t do drugs.
I walked away, ashamed. I found a pay phone and called Peel. He was working at the sub shop, and sounded annoyed. I asked for advice and he said get back in line, so I did.
I sat there on the steps of an apartment and wondered, was it a message from God, that this drug dealer in New York would refuse me, like this?
I got back in line, spent all my money, and got back on the bus. I left my shoes there for some reason and thought I could retrieve them but I was wrong, and so I walked the streets barefoot and my feet were black from the grime and the rain, and I felt stupid. I went into a McDonald’s to wipe them off but couldn’t remove the black.
We stayed up most of the night and I passed out to a Van Morrison cassette and woke up feeling sick, dirty. There was some kind of disease in our heads that had us living a life that wasn’t ours, a life we imagined, that was delusional. Like, we could be more of who we were by doing this to ourselves.
My mom didn’t like Peel. It wasn’t just that he had long hair, it was the cold, dead look in his eyes. Some people cast a dark energy; they’re dying from the inside and looking for company…either to pull them out, or to pull you down.
I don’t know what he saw in me and I’m not sure what I saw in him. We both had dreams and holes in our pockets and now he’s gone and I’m here writing about him, and it’s too bad, because there’s not much of a story outside the cocktail napkin map and the bus ride I don’t remember.
And that’s what I saw in him was a story, and maybe he saw in me a writer.