I smashed in all four windows with a brick. I slashed all four tires with a knife. I kept hearing my wife. I kept hearing her inside in the house. He had her. I knew she was with my neighbor. I knew she was in that house. I was going to get her out. I would destroy his car. I would tear it inside out. He would have to let her out.

Next thing I knew I was in jail.


This all started on April 14, 2005. I guess it had started many years before but this was the worst of it. I hope. It was like any other day. I went to work. I work as a union plumber in Los Angeles. I spent eight hours, forty stories up while working on a new high rise in Century City. I ate my three roast beef sandwiches for lunch. I had my three liters of water. It was an abnormally humid day in southern California. I drove my white truck with the Harley bumper stickers home. I walked in my front door. I kissed my wife. I kissed my two daughters. Sophia is seven. Isabelle is four. I tossed them around. I took a shower. I sat in front of the television. The phone rang. It was my friend next door. We talked a bit and he asked me if I could score him some stuff. I hadn’t done drugs in two years but I knew where to get him some. He asked for something I had never tried. He called it ice. I said ok. I hung up the phone. I made a call. It was only a minute long conversation. The voice on the other end knew me well. We had a history. I hung up the phone. It was only a few more minutes later when the stuff arrived.

“A drug dealer who delivers?” My cousin from New Jersey asks me this as I tell him the story while we have dinner in a worn-out Mexican restaurant around the corner from my house. The place is empty.

“I guess if you’ve known him since you were 20,” I say.

“I guess that would do it.”

My long-time friend pulled up in a Honda CRX. We say hello. He has on a USC cap and an Adidas t-shirt. He is white and has short brown hair. He doesn’t get out of the car as he hands me the package. I give him thirty dollars. He says goodbye and pulls away. I walk across my yard. I walk across the street. I knock on the door and my friend invites me in. I see toys in the living room. He is married with a son. No one is home. He is in his pajamas. It is 7:00 p.m. He goes to work at four in the morning. He is a parking attendant. He is Persian. He has black hair and a goatee. I hand him the package. He gives me thirty dollars. He starts to open the package. He pulls out what looks like one of those sticks with candy on it. I ask the question.

“What is this stuff?”

“It’s crystal methamphetamine. It’s a different form of speed.” I say I had tried speed before, twenty years ago in San Diego.

“This is a lot different than twenty years ago. Want to try some.” I have never said no. He breaks a piece off the stick. He hands it to me. I hold it. It feels like a piece of hard candy.

We do it. I do it.  My heart rate goes from 80 to 300 instantly and I’m out of control.

I don’t go home. I don’t remember where I went. When I came home I was still high. I didn’t know what time it was. My wife saw me. I know that. That was on April 14, 2005.  On April 15, she was gone with our two kids. I was still high. I was still out of control. I did it seven straight days. I kept calling my friend in the Honda CRX. I was out of control, looking for my wife and kids.  I beat the shit out of anyone I could find. I was walking, driving my white truck with my hands and knuckles a bloody mess. I was looking for them. I thought everyone had them. I thought I saw them everywhere. I was hallucinating. That’s what the doctors told me later.

“What happened with your neighbor?” my cousin asks. “What happened with the car?” The salsa music is playing in the restaurant. It’s not loud enough. I need everything loud now, everything blaring, erasing everything.

“I came back later, told him I was sorry and gave him $3,000 cash for the damage. He is the nicest guy, too. A quiet, big, old boy from Kansas City.”

It was on April 15, 2005 when I trashed his car because I thought I saw my wife and daughter go in his house and I’m still not sure. I walked over. The back of his house faced mine. It was dirty yellow. I tried to look through the screen but it was so full of grime that I cut it open. I heard my neighbor inside. I said are my wife and daughters in there? I think I saw them go in. He said there is no one here. I said then could you bring them to the door and show me them so I know it’s not them. He said I can’t do that. That’s when I destroyed his car. I got a brick from my house. I smashed everything. He called the police. That’s first time I went to jail that week. I would go in another five times in seven days. I also busted doors down. I smashed computers and televisions. My doctor told me if a person not on drugs goes without food and sleep for two days they will start to hallucinate. I went without food and sleep for seven days. I was released from jail the first time and in an hour was put back in after I beat someone so hard his teeth got stuck in my elbow. After the fourth time, my mother wouldn’t take my calls from jail anymore. She told me to stay in there and sober up. Her lawyer wouldn’t take my calls, either. I fought every day in jail. Every one wanted a piece of the big white guy. It would be two and three guys at a time, every black and Spanish guy took their turn. I kept calling. No answer. Another black guy. Another call. No answer. Another Spanish guy. I was a mess. My body was shot to hell.  Finally my mother’s lawyer took my call. He got me out. I walked straight to rehab. I had never been this out control. It got so bad so fast that I started to smoke the crystal methamphetamine. I had done crack and cocaine before, but this took control of my soul.  On my first day in rehab, my wife filed for a legal separation. I didn’t know she did. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done to stop this drug. But I knew I would die. I couldn’t take it anymore. I saw jail. I saw death. I saw my bail go from 5,000 to 50,000 dollars. I guess I saw God ‘cause I saw all those things. That will make you see God real quick. I had stopped for seven days. I walked out of rehab. It wasn’t much but it was something. On this day, my wife took her stuff and left. I came home. I saw the empty house. I saw the new floors I put in were empty. The furniture in the kids’ rooms was gone. I flipped out. I went through every room. I looked everywhere. I stumble across some ice on the top of my bookcase. I smoked it. My blood pressure went wild again. I was hallucinating again. I started looking again. I was looking for my wife and kids. I thought they were everywhere. I thought everyone had them. I smashed doors. I smashed computers again. I smashed furniture. I was so high I hallucinated my wife was everywhere. I saw her face. One time I mixed crack and ice and was still high after twelve hours. I was hallucinating scenes. People. Streets. I was looking for her everywhere. Twelve hours and I was still high. I hallucinated there was surveillance equipment in all my wife’s new computer equipment she got from work to watch me. That’s why I smashed them. I hallucinated that my sister-in-law placed cameras in my house to watch me. I smashed the walls. I hallucinated about where my wife was. I hallucinated everything. Except I knew exactly where I threw out my drugs when I was hallucinating. I knew the bush. I knew the size. I knew the color. I knew the street. I found it and did it again. I started looking for my family again. My wife and kids were at my mother’s. I smashed everything in sight looking for them. My family was at my mother’s. My mother had gone away on a trip. My wife used a spare key to get in, walked right in.

I’ll never do drugs again. I can’t. I will die. If my parents didn’t have money I would be in jail for good already. If they didn’t have money I would be dead already. It’s my fault. I say that but then I start with the excuses. What I am about to say is a cliché but it’s true. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to feel.  I know it’s bullshit, self-pitying crap, but it’s the truth. It’s a cliché. But sometimes they’re true. I have a lot of feelings and I hate them all. The only thing I was ever good at was getting high. I’ll never be a normal person. I’ll never be someone who can be loaded every once in a while. That kills me. I will miss that. I wish I could do that. I have so much shit in front me. I have to take care of my dying wife. Yes. She has cancer. She found out after she left. I’ll take care of her. I’ll take care of my kids. I’ll have to work every day. I’m fucking scared. I don’t think I can do it.

We’re eating and I’m starting to cry over this shitty quesadilla. My cousin tells me 99 percent of the people in this world have to do those things. They work and take care of their family. He’s right. But I keep crying over my quesadillas. It’s pathetic, I know. I look around.

The only thing I was ever good at was getting high. I would come to this restaurant with my wife all the time. When it was slow, my dog Samson would go into kitchen and the cooks would feed him chicken and beef. He is a big black Rottweiler. I sleep with him.

We sip our iced teas with lemon. I walk outside now. I have done this every two minutes since we’ve sat down. I see my cousin through the glass. He sees me and I wonder what he sees. I see myself in the window.

I have to start being honest with myself. If I am, I am forty-five and starting to look like a drug addict. I always could hide it well, but now I’m getting that skinny look. I am six foot three and I’ve always been big and wide with broad shoulders. I’m starting to look worn. My father abused himself with alcohol from the time he was a kid and lived until he was 77. I have strong genes but I don’t like this. My clothes are thrown on me. I have on a black biker tank top tucked into a pair of tan shorts with a belt on. The belt is pulled tight to keep my pants up. Everything is loose. I look dirty even after I’ve taken a shower.

I finish my cigarette. I go back in. I take a drink and a large bit of salsa and quesadilla. I can’t do anything halfway. I’ve gone through four bowls of salsa and hot sauce. I pour it all over the quesadillas, spilling everywhere. I eat too much. I get extra bowls of sour cream. I load it on.

“My wife wants someone solid as rock,’’ I say.

“I think she just wants you without the drugs.”

I tell him I’ve been clean for four months. But he sees me with my tequila after work. I tell him my wife’s left breast exploded today because of a massive infection after her lumpectomy. It’s leaking puss and fluid. My doctors have told her she needs to go to the emergency room for treatment. She won’t go to mine and her doctors won’t send her in. She has cancer. She has a fifty percent chance of living. I need the drink. The only thing I was ever good at was getting high.

“Sounds like another excuse to drink.”

“Fuck you. She won’t come home She’s rented her own house. I try to be nice. I take the kids from Friday to Monday. She can barely lift them already. I invite her over to my mother’s for dinner. She comes but she’s nasty to me. I want her to come home. I don’t get any love.”

“You have to be the most selfish person on earth. What do you want her to do? You’ve been doing drugs, getting thrown in jail, driving while you’re high, beating people up, endangering the kids and she’s dying. And you want love. Four months is nothing. And you want love. And you’re still fucking drinking.”

Before I did speed, I would get high about eight times a year. I would lock myself in our bedroom and wait to come down. She has a right not to come home. The truth is this is the first time I’ve been near my house in three weeks. I’ve been sleeping in my mother’s long-time friend Amy’s room. She died a few months ago. I tell my cousin my mother is alone now and she needs me. I said my mother took Amy’s death hard. She has lost weight. She looks too thin. She needs me. But the truth is I need her more

“It feels like there is a black cloud over your mother’s house. There is a lot of death and depression looming over there.”

The house does carry a history. The bedroom up from Katie’s to the right is where my father slept. He died about five years ago. My mom and dad tried to get divorced several times but the lawyers were taking everything. So they decided to live together but not together. In the end, he destroyed himself so much with alcohol he couldn’t make it to the bathroom without shitting on the floor. My mother would clean it up. Imagine cleaning the shit up of someone you can’t stand. Then there was a fire in the house and everyone got out, but they forgot my father was up there. Maybe they didn’t. He got smoke inhalation. He was in the hospital for weeks. When he was there they discovered he had cancer. He died soon after. Then there is my youngest brother William. He lives in the front apartment. He suffers from depression. He spends his days smoking weed and his nights watching television. My cousin says it’s awful, that William had a full time job for eight years. He’s only thirty-eight. What is he, retired now? We just look at each other. My older brother Jimmy lived in that front apartment as well and is an alcoholic. He has been clean for years, though. I have three sisters. My sister Lizzie, who is two years younger than me, got me into pot when she was twelve. She is still smoking every day. My older sister Tracy is hooked on Prozac. My youngest sister, Lori, is a doctor and runs every day. How does that happen? Where one can avoid all of those things that have affected the rest of the family? I can’t end up like my father. I am outside the restaurant again. I look through the glass again. I take a drag of my cigarette. I get scared. I am starting to look my dad. I am an aging alcoholic with a bony body and weak legs. I can’t end up like my father. I am scared. I take another drag. This started before April 14, 2005. When my sister got me into pot, I did it for two years but didn’t really like it much. Then I met Courtney. She got me into coke. We fell in love. I loved her so much I would always give her the last hit.  She left me for a dealer. I stopped doing drugs for four years in college. I went to Long Beach State. I had an A- average. When I graduated, I started dealing out of my apartment. I was connected. I did crack with Keith Richards. I did coke with Mick Jagger. I did six months in jail. In San Diego, I met my first wife because she was dealing speed at the time. She came over with a friend who wanted to buy some other stuff. We had a threesome. We got married soon after. Like I said, this started before April 14, 2005.

I put out my cigarette on my shoe. I go back in the restaurant. I sit down. The waiter comes. He has our enchiladas. I have beef and chicken. My cousin has chicken. I tell the waiter all the bowls of salsa, hot sauce, and sour cream have to be refilled. I shovel the food in with tortillas. I shovel and shovel. I shovel beans and cheese and beef and chicken and lettuce and more beans and chicken and beef. I go through four tortillas. I ask for more. My cousin is only on his first tortilla. I tell him he eats like a girl. The table is a mess. I can never slow down. I can see my cousin is uncomfortable. I know how I may look. He says I look like I could snap at any moment. That’s it. Like I could flip a switch and throw the table over. That’s it. Then the next moment I’m crying when he puts a hand on my shoulder. Rage and fear. Rage and fear covered by drugs. We eat and keep talking.

“I love my wife but I don’t know if I can take it if she is bald and has one breast. She gave me some sex before she had to go into surgery. When she had both breasts. Before her body had scars all over it.” She said she wanted to have sex as a whole person for one last time. I ask him again if he wants to go out tonight and find some girls. I have bothered him into going out so I can get laid. I can’t take it anymore.

“There is a 25-year-old girl at my office that would go out with me.” Every time I tell him, he tells me to take the high road. Live your life with a clear conscience, he says. I tell him my wife said I could do whatever I want. He just gives me that look, the little fuck.

I tell him she will come back if I give her thirty percent of the house. I could cut off her insurance. I could bankrupt her, I say. He gives that look.

“Fuck you.” We finish. We go to my house around the corner. I take Samson out back for a walk. He misses the house. He loves it here. So do I. I put the music on and turn it up louder than hell. Then I turn it up some more. We can’t hear anything.

“Turn it down,” my cousin says. “It sounds chaotic in here.”  I turn it down. I don’t know why I do these things. I take him through the house. I put an addition on the house. I did all of the work. I did the woodwork. I did the tile. I put up a wall. I made a pit grill from scratch. I put in the kitchen. I put in the bathroom. There is a floor to ceiling shower. There is a Jacuzzi tub. There is a walk-in closet. I did the shelving. I did the woodwork on each shelf. I put in the master bedroom. I custom-made the bay doors to open out so they didn’t crowd the room. They open out to the tile stairway I put in, which leads to the patio and brick grill that I put in. I made an office for my wife in the back of the house. She loved it. I made a little deck in the backyard for my weights. I put in a new garage. I converted the old one into a living room with high ceilings and a sunken entranceway. My wife loved it all.  She loved what I did.

I tell my cousin all of this. I show him all of it. We go through each room. I explain each thing. We look around. He looks at me.

“Drugs aren’t the only thing you’re good at, Jeff.”