Book Excerpt: Don't Talk Junk
In an excerpt from her critically acclaimed short story collection Got No Secrets, Danila Botha walks us through her character's bloody love affair with the needle—and the man who brought it to her.
I can feel my teeth cracking in my head. Coming down is like that—it makes you feel every sensation in your body more intensely.
Last night we were lying in bed, and I found a big fat vein in between my thigh and my crotch. Actually, he found it—he was running his hands over my panties for the first time in months. I felt his nail run along a strip of raised skin—I felt a shiver somewhere in my neck, and I had to look down—It was purple and thick. It was better than sex. It was better than him on top of me, inside me, looking me in the eye, ’cause at that moment I couldn't even remember what colour his eyes were. The smoothness of a needle doesn't compare to the brush of someone's lips against yours or the sliding of someone's tongue. It's sharper, more real. It doesn't lend itself to any doubts.
I've been grinding my jaw for half an hour now and I can feel the enamel coming off the backs of my teeth.
He calls me at 1:35 in the afternoon. The flashing numbers of the call display are bright red against the Christmas-green of my alarm clock. I pick up the phone and whisper into it. His voice is ragged. He asks me how I'm feeling. I tell him I'm thinking of taking the frozen peas out of the fridge and rubbing them against my jaw. I don't have an ice pack. He tells me he can't believe I'm living alone after all of this. I nod my head. I know. I can't believe it either. He asks me if I want to go to the park, between my apartment and his. He can get a dealer there in fifteen minutes. I drag myself out of bed, splash water on my face. When I look in the mirror, I notice that I still have the mark on my neck.
The smoothness of a needle doesn't compare to the brush of someone's lips against yours or the sliding of someone's tongue. It's sharper, more real. It doesn't lend itself to any doubts.
I can still see his teeth marks.
Before, when I had friends who weren't constantly fucked up, when I was still in school, this girl would tease me about not having any foundation or concealer. She'd say, “Angela has eye glitter in every colour of the rainbow but nothing to cover up a zit.” I pick up a bottle of red sparkles and sprinkle them on my lips. The door knob that hit the top of my mouth the night before makes me look like I had a collagen injection.
The bones in my knees scrape against the bones below my neck. I am freezing. My body temperature is all fucked up now. I live beside a park where 15-years-olds deal acid and shrooms, and I live in a building where a lot of people smoke crack. The elevators constantly smell like burning plastic. I never got into the rock, even though he does it, ’cause I believe you get what you pay for. My father used to say when you buy something cheap in life there are always consequences.
All the crackheads I know don't function in real life. None of them have jobs anymore, none of them are artists, half of them steal and do crazy shit just to get by. Crack is where I draw the line. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not a junkie.
I was really young when I first met him. It was at a party—one of those fake-ID, looking-the-bouncer-in-the-eye, wearing-a-low-cut-shirt type of deals. He was eleven years older than me. He had a swagger—the kind of man who walked into a room and owned it. Every woman in the room was watching him. He was an arresting but laid back presence.
I was sitting in the corner by the bar, drawing in my sketchbook with a thick black Sharpie. I was writing out my name in thick loopy letters, trying to come up with a tag. I wanted to start doing graffiti.
I wanted to professionally vandalize.
He approached me and started talking. He said something about my Converse, something about how pretentious the place was, how he could tell I wasn't like everyone else based on my shoes. He could have been with anyone, but he picked me. We shared a cigarette outside. I felt we connected, that he might understand me.