So long to all my friends,
Everyone of them met tragic ends,
With every passing day,
I’d be lying if I didn’t say,
That I miss them all tonight…
And if they only knew what I would say,
If I could be with you tonight…
I would sing you to sleep,
Never let them take the light behind your eyes…
One day, I’ll lose this fight…
Everyone of them met tragic ends,
With every passing day,
I’d be lying if I didn’t say,
That I miss them all tonight…
And if they only knew what I would say,
If I could be with you tonight…
I would sing you to sleep,
Never let them take the light behind your eyes…
One day, I’ll lose this fight…
The Light Behind Your Eyes
My Chemical Romance
The circumstances surrounding my introduction to the notorious, three time ex-convict, illicit-drug manufacturer, dealer, user and all around Bad Motherfucker known as Bull Gunville would be considered reasonably normal and perfectly acceptable by the people who existed within my subculture. People who existed outside of the subculture of methamphetamine users and the dope cooks whom they worshiped with the blind adoration which was most commonly associated with misunderstood members of some bizarre doomsday cult, would find my insistence on meeting the man who created pure excellence in smokable, snortable, injectable, ingestible, crystalline powder form absolutely unfathomable. As I sat alone in the gravel driveway of this rundown, southern Illinois farmhouse set on eighty acres of bone yard cars, old farm buildings intermixed with piles upon piles of what appeared to be scrap iron and other valuable salvage materials… I was actually beginning to second guess my decision as well.
The dismal, rippling sky and persistent, misting rain of this late November afternoon eerily complimented the decaying images and drab color scheme of the world just outside the fading warmth and brightly colored interior of my car. I had been waiting alone out here for what was getting uncomfortably close to what I felt might be too long. I had only heard rumors about Bull Gunville up to this point, but I was given the impression that they call him ‘Bull’ for a reason. Just as I started to roll every possible, horrible outcome of this impromptu meeting around in my head, my drug buddy and occasional hustling partner at the time poked her head out of the loosely hung, heavy-looking door at the front of the decrepit-looking farmhouse and waved me out of the car. I called her Milly, and I was under the impression at the time that she was the only mutual acquaintance that I shared with Bull. Our appearance out here today was unannounced as Bull’s cell phone was apparently out of minutes or without service and wouldn’t accept the usual texts advising him of an incoming visitor to his home. When we had arrived earlier, Milly left me alone in the car while she tiptoed cautiously along the muddy path to the ramshackle porch spanning the front of the house and sheltered by several weathered, flailing, blue utility tarps which appeared to be barely concealing what looked like surveillance cameras peering off into either direction of the gravel road which ran past the property and led back to the paved roads which provided access to this rural corner of the world. Milly had left me alone while she cleared my presence with the expectantly sketchy Bull Gunville. Apparently I had been determined an acceptable risk.
While she waited, watching me from behind the door of the farmhouse, I opened my car door and stood on the muddy earth outside of my car. The weather was truly foul, and the air was thick with the smell of soaking, late-autumn rot. I closed the car door after hitting the automatic locks. For just a moment the feeling of butterflies fluttering about in my abdomen drew attention to my growing apprehension of this impending experience. I walked the soggy path to the shoddy porch, trying to step only in the footprint impressions Milly had left earlier. When I reached the porch I took notice again of the expensive looking cameras positioned at opposite corners of the house. I was a bit of a techno-file and I couldn’t help but be impressed by this hardware despite its out-of-place appearance on this particular house.
“Is everything cool?” I asked.
“Yeah goddammit…” she was nodding furiously as if the question was borderline inappropriate. “Will you just get in here you fucking slow-mo? I’m fucking freezing already! Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ!” We both stood looking at each other for the briefest of moments before she yanked me into the house by my forearm. I was standing in a dark room, dimly illuminated by the light escaping from behind a heavy blanket hung in the doorframe which provided access to the adjoining room where I heard the muffled sounds of quiet conversation. The dim rays of fluorescent light escaping from gaps the makeshift blanket-door wasn’t covering gave just enough illumination to make out the silhouettes of a couch, recliner and entertainment center to my right.
“Go on dude! What are you dragging your feet for? They’re gonna think we’re making out in here or something…” Milly giggled behind me as she shut the door quietly. “Heeeeey… we could give ‘em all something to talk about, right sexy?”
“Hush your mouth, hooker…” I laughed uncomfortably. Milly knew I was married, and I always hoped she was kidding when she joked like this, but sometimes I got the impression that the institution of marriage meant very little to her.
“Fag…” She huffed. This had become her fallback insult as I had become increasingly immune to her playful advances during our friendship. “Go on then… get in there. He’s waiting to meet you.” She pushed me towards the blanket hanging in the doorframe. I had expected her to introduce me, but clearly I was to make this appearance on my own while she fumbled around with the dead bolt and chained the door behind me. I pulled the blanket back and ducked underneath my arm to gain entry to the next room. I stood quietly and took inventory of my surroundings while I waited with what I hoped would appear to be reverence. My building sense of anxiety and skewed perception of things was not at all being aided by the large amount of dope that Milly and I had smoked just before embarking on this particular adventure.
Directly in front of me was a large, heavy-looking, round wooden table that appeared to be much older and far sturdier than the house it was accessorizing. This is truly saying something… as my first impression of the house let me to believe that it had probably stood on this spot for better than a century. When I appeared from behind the curtain all conversation had ceased and three sets of eyes were focused on me at the moment. Sitting farthest away, and with a commanding enough presence to assure me that even though it was a round table, he indeed sat at the head of it… was a man in a dark gray, wife-beater tank top with a brawler’s build, carrying at least 195 pounds of what appeared to be lean muscle, and the sculpted physique of someone who has spent a lot of time doing awfully hard physical labor and probably enjoying every minute of it. His bald head was meticulously shaved and shining in the fluorescent lighting of the room. He wore a neatly styled mustache and soul patch just above his chin. I could tell that he was graying, and he appeared to be in his early to mid-forties. He was missing most of the teeth at the front of his mouth, but this didn’t draw away from his keen and distinguished appearance. Even from the distance I was now standing his eyes appeared to glow with the bright blue intensity of a propane torch flame, and I could immediately feel their inquiring stare as he sized me up. Before I could give him the opportunity to assume I was nervous I introduced myself and leaned over the table while holding out my hand to give a traditional handshake.
“What’s happenin’ man?” He stood up and instead of meeting my open palm he instead offered me a closed fist. Fortunately for me I didn’t look like a jackass, as I had given plenty of fist-bumps as greetings or parting gestures in the past. I balled my fist and bumped his knuckles with enough effort to bend my elbow, as his arm didn’t budge. The message I received was that he was physically superior to me and prepared to let me know he felt that way. I was comfortable with that message. I was simply here to establish a potential contact and hopefully to get high… definitely not to pick a fight that I would clearly lose. He was the presiding alpha-dog and I was just starting to sniff asses near the back of the pack. When our fists lowered he continued, “I’m Bull… nice to meet you and all that shit, I guess…” He laughed and sat back down.
“Likewise,” I offered. Milly appeared from behind the blanket and stood close to me.
“So… Milly tells me you’re a friend of hers.” He reached for a pack of cigarettes in front of him.
“I guess that’s a pretty accurate assessment of our situation...” I offered with a sneering grin. “Another way to look at it might be like this…” Bull raised his eyebrows in anticipation as I continued. “She uses me to satisfy her insatiable sex drive, and I use her to find good dope.” Milly yelped in shock while elbowing me hard in the ribs as the room erupted in laughter.
“Milly! What the hell?” I was rubbing my ribs and laughing. “You were the one who wanted to give them something to talk about, remember?” Bull and his company were still laughing softly. Milly was blushing deeply and doing her best not to laugh while she smacked me repeatedly on the shoulder blade.
“Yeah… ass… you’ll fit right in around here if you keep that up,” Milly growled. “You’re a jerk…” Now she was trying to pout.
Bull’s laughter faded as he put a cigarette in his mouth and pulled a lighter from his belt on a retractable chain. “Anyways… sit down you guys. Do you know everybody?” The question was directed at me. “This is my girlfriend, Dayna,” Bull nodded to his left as he pulled the chair closest to him on his right away from the table and motioned for me to sit next to him. Milly sat between the two girls who had been seated since I appeared from behind the blanket.
I recognized Dayna after he said her name. I had met her at Milly’s house a couple of months earlier. At the time another one of Milly’s drug-buddies… a particularly scummy low-life, needle-banger that everybody called Coffin had just broken up with her and kicked her out of the apartment they shared. The day that I met Dayna she had tracked Coffin down to Milly’s house and showed up angrily demanding some answers. The whole thing escalated pretty quickly as the former squeezes took to screaming and beating on each other in Milly’s front yard for anybody within eyeshot to see. I’m usually not the type to get between a couple while they’re working some shit out, but Milly’s house is in the middle of a very quiet, small town where we were often engaged in highly illegal activity on an equally quiet and small scale. A domestic dispute escalating the way this one was signaled all kinds of trouble for everybody there at the time. So before any of Milly’s nosy neighbors had the chance to call the town constable and potentially blow the lid off of everything we were doing inside, while simultaneously fucking up everybody’s good time… I decided to drop Coffin in the front yard with strategically placed fist that landed squarely between his eyes and just above the bridge of his nose. While he was out cold I dragged him into the house and then I packed Dayna into her car where much to my dismay I discovered her three-year old son was sound asleep and secured in the child-safety seat in the back. I drove with her out of town and talked her down. After I had convinced her to wait until another day to pursue Coffin, I pleaded with her to also choose another place if she chose rattle Coffin’s cage again. I then drove with her to the gas station in town, bought her and her son a pizza and some soft drinks and wished her luck. She hugged me and thanked me through tears when she dropped me off, and that was the last I’d seen of her until this moment. I watched her face brighten as she suddenly recognized me.
“Oh…My…Lord… Milly, I didn’t know this was the guy you were bringing in here!” Dayna stood up without a word and squeezed out from behind the table to walk around to where I was sitting. “Stand up you, stand up!”
I stood up and turned to face her, confused and a little worried. Then she wrapped her arms around my mid-section before I could raise my arms to reciprocate. She put her head on my chest and squeezed hard enough to make my face warm, but I’m sure half of that reaction was concern for whatever Bull, her current boyfriend, was thinking at the moment.
“What’s all this?” Bull asked holding his hands out inquisitively.
I looked at him over my shoulder and shrugged.
Dayna let me go and stood in front of me beaming. Her eyes were glazed like she might cry. “Bull, if he wasn’t standing here in front of me in the flesh I’d still believe that he must have been an angel. This guy probably saved me from going to jail and losing my kid… then he bought pizza and juice for us, wished me luck and disappeared.” A tear slipped from her eyelashes. “Do you know where I went that night, Mr. Good Samaritan?”
“I don’t have a clue.” I was stunned by this attention.
“I came here! I didn’t have anywhere else to go after Coffin gave me the boot.” She looked past me and directly at Bull. “Bull… this guy is the reason that I showed up here that night.”
“Wow…” Bull sounded curious but was trying to remain above the melodramatic emotion being shown by his girlfriend at the moment. “Ok then… c’mon sit down already. I thought we were trying to figure out if we were gonna get high.”
I sat down in my seat and Dayna walked around the table to sit back down where she had been. She was still looking at me strangely and smiling. It made me uncomfortable, but I smiled back.
“Well,” Bull broke the silence, “that’s weird, huh?” Bull asked me.
“Just a little bit, yeah…” I responded.
“It reminds me of when my grandpa told me that this house had always had the ability to bring people together who need to be together for reasons they shouldn’t try to puzzle over. He told me that my great-grandma met my great-grandpa while he was building this house and it was the reason he and my grandma lived so long and were so close to their kids. Now that I’m thinking about it, nothing too awful ever happened to anybody in my family until after they left home. He told me this house brings people to it when they need one another. I never really gave it much thought until just now.” Bull reached underneath the table.
“This house?” I asked playfully. I immediately wished I hadn’t tried to make a joke about the house, but Bull didn’t flinch or give any sign of offense while he was working to bring whatever he was struggling with from under the table in front of him.
“I know, right?” He shrugged indifferently. “It doesn’t look like much does it?” Bull brought a large square mirror from under the table and set it in front of him. “But sometimes…” he contemplated, “I have to admit that there are things I experience around here that will just bury the needle on my weird-shit-o-meter.” He reached under his chair and pulled out a squat blue propane tank with a torch attachment. “I suppose I can probably attribute some of that to my current profession and the usual sorts of people it brings around here…”
I looked around the room while Bull was occupied with whatever he was assembling in front of him. Milly was already busy texting on her phone. Dayna was watching Bull contently and the awkward looking girl who I didn’t know and hadn’t been introduced too was leaning back in her chair while dragging deeply on a cigarette and sending thick, white smoke rings across the table. Over her shoulder I noticed what the cameras I had seen outside were watching. There were several flat screen monitors hung on the far wall of the room opposite of Bull’s chair. Two of the monitors constantly showed the view in either direction up and down the road that ran in front of the house. The other monitors led me to believe that there must have been several other cameras stationed elsewhere around the property as every couple of seconds a different view appeared. Before the views had had cycled completely Bull was demanding my attention again.
I turned my attention back to where he was now busy splitting what looked like nearly two grams of dope into five huge lines. One line was significantly larger than the other four, but even the smaller ones were still larger amounts of dope than I had ever thought of ingesting at one time. I suddenly felt like I had to poop.
“Holy shit! Are those for us?” My jaw dropped and eyes widened.
“Well, these are for you guys,” he directed my attention to the four smaller lines. “This one is for me.” He grinned and tapped the razor blade in his hand close to the largest line and tossed the blade onto the table in front of him then ignited the propane torch. Suddenly everybody’s attention was focused on Bull. Milly dropped her phone in her purse and smiled widely.
“Janice, are you gonna do this with us or do you wanna take it to your trailer?” Bull’s eyes focused on the vacant-eyed skinny girl to my right.
“Can I take it to the trailer?” Janice’s voice was mousey and high-pitched. She had a wicked overbite and thin, dry lips that barely covered her teeth.
“I don’t care what you do with it… it’s your line.” Dayna rolled her eyes while Bull fished around on the table for a baggie and finally decided to use the cellophane wrap from an empty pack of smokes. With the torch still burning he used the razor blade to slide one of the lines off of the mirror and into the cellophane. He twisted the top twice and found a piece of twist-tie on the table to secure the contents. “Here you go.”
Janice stood up from the table and walked behind me where Bull deposited the packet into her tiny hand. “Thank you.”
“Be careful. I’m kinda proud of this shit.” Bull smiled until Janice disappeared into what appeared to be the kitchen located behind the wall Bull sat in front of. Bull was shaking his head and mumbling softly while he unzipped what appeared to be a small tool-kit or screwdriver set. A moment later I heard a door at the back of the house open and shut. When the tool-kit was opened I saw that the screwdrivers or wrenches had been removed and in their places were various glass pipes and other devices that I assumed could be used to smoke dope with. Bull retrieved a stainless steel tube, a spark-plug boot and a charred looking piece of what was once the stem of a glass pipe. He assembled the pieces by putting the stainless steel tube into one end of the rubber boot, and the glass stem into the other. With this accomplished he held the metal end in his hand and placed the glass piece directly into the propane flame and spun the device happily.
“Um… I hate to sound like I don’t know anything, but what the fuck are we doing?”
Bull’s eyes widened and his brow furrowed as he melodramatically looked from me to Milly, back to me, to Milly again, and finally back to me. He never stopped spinning the device that he was holding in the flame, the glass end of which was now starting to glow red.
“I know… I know…” Milly laughed. “He barely knew how to use a foil when I first met him. Look at him… he’s completely lost and totally freaking out right now.”
I raised my middle finger in Milly’s direction while Bull greeted this news with the most genuine and friendly laugh I could have imagined coming from him. He smiled as his eyes focused on me, and I felt like he was sizing me up again. “Well… WE are going to do hotlines. Are you cool with that?”
I shrugged, “Sure… you’ll have to walk me through it, but I’m positive that I can manage.”
Bull laughed again, “I’m positive too… positive that we’re all about to get fucked up!” The glass end of the device was glowing bright red and Bull removed it from the flame and inserted the metal end he had been holding into his nostril. He leaned over the mirror and slowly dragged the hot glass tube through his line. This instantly vaporized any dope in the path of the red hot glass as he inhaled softly through his nose. When he was nearly a third of the way through his mammoth line he lifted his head and the device from the mirror and continued to inhale until he was satisfied that he had taken in all of the smoke. While he held in his hit he returned the glass end of the device to the propane flame again. While he spun the tube in the flame he began to exhale a massive amount of thick, rolling, heavy smoke. I was dumbfounded by the length of time it took him to finish exhaling, but by the time he had finished expelling the last of his hit the glass end of his device was ready again and he repeated the process. After one more attempt his line was gone except for the dope that had melted and recrystallized on the mirror. I was sure that this would be recovered later. I watched as Dayna repeated the ritual and then sent the mirror to Milly, and then finally it was my turn.
The only thing I had ever snorted before this moment was cocaine. Yet, even during the height of my cocaine use I could have never imagined heating glass to nearly it’s melting point and holding it close enough to my face to feel the heat radiating from it while inhaling copious amounts of fresh, hot, and instantly effective smoke through it. By the time I got the hang of this new process and had finished my line I was higher than I had ever been before. The lines that Bull carved out for us were seriously bigger than most of the amounts I was buying at the time which could normally last me several days or even a week. I felt as though I had instantly become a fountain of relevant, interesting, and funny conversation. Dayna soon occupied herself with a large box of crayons and several coloring books while Milly alternated texting on her phone and listening to Bull and I talk for what seemed like hours without an awkward silence occurring between us.
“Where did that other girl go earlier?” I asked at one point.
“Who? Janice?” Bull was dismissive and shook his head.
“She’s what we call a Backyardigan.” Dayna replied. “She lives in one of the trailers further back on the property… in the back yard. She and Bull had been kind of a thing once, but she drifted off into slamaramma-ding-dong banger world a little while back and we haven’t seen much of her since.”
I didn’t quite understand so I turned and looked at Milly.
“She took her line and went out to her trailer to shoot up.” Milly said flatly.
“Oh…” I understood now. “I’m sorry to have brought it up. Is it a sore subject?” I asked.
“Hell no, I don’t tell anybody how to get high,” Bull stated, although I wasn’t sure he sounded convincing, even to himself. “I don’t judge her because of it, and I really wouldn’t care if she did it right here at the table while we watched. But generally bangers are reclusive and tend to geek out real bad after slamming a good blast into their arm. They get kinda paranoid about what they think people around them are thinking or how people are interacting with them… so they have a better time by themselves… I guess.”
“It doesn’t sound appealing to me.” I smiled and continued, “This was pretty cool though, and I have had an awesome afternoon. I’m really glad that Milly introduced us.”
“Hmm…” Bull jumped in, “Remember that thing I was telling you about before? What my Grandfather told me about this house?” Bull asked.
“Sure…” I sat back in my chair.
“Well, no offense Milly… because I know you instigated this little introduction today… but honestly, after thinking all afternoon about Dayna’s reaction to seeing you here and taking into account the real easy way that you and I found our stride… I’m starting to think that you were probably going to show up around here sooner or later anyways.” Bull reached for a smoke and offered me one. I denied his and took one of my own out of my own pack.
“You think so?” I asked genuinely.
“For-Fucking-Sure,” Dayna chimed in, never looking up from her coloring book and crayons, “I’ve been sitting here listening to you two Chatty Charlie’s gab all afternoon like you’ve known each other forever. Bull doesn’t talk with people that he’s known since he was a kid like I’ve heard you guys talking today.”
“Really?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Interesting,” I added.
“Well, in my defense…we’ve both smoked a lot of dope this afternoon.” Bull laughed briefly.
“True. I guess only time will tell.” I turned to Milly who was busy texting away on her phone. “Milly should we get some take-out for your mom and the rest of whoever shows up?”
“Good call. My mom is probably pitching a fit that we’ve been gone so long.” She finished her text. “Can you cover me till we get back to my house?”
“I guess I should probably ask if any take-out is available at this joint first, huh?” I turned to Bull who was now leaning into the corner between his chair and Dayna’s. I could hear him spinning the large dial on a safe he was looking at. A moment later he turned the handle and opened the door. He retrieved a sturdy looking black metal box and sat back up and put it on the table in front of him. He addressed the built-in lock on this box and lifted the hinged top to open it.
“Did somebody ask about take-out?”
I raised my hand and laughed.
“Milly, how much do you need me to cover you for?” I asked.
“Just a gram I guess.”
I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and retrieved a hundred dollar bill and floated it onto the table. Bull had set a digital scale between him and the black box. He was calibrating it with a heavy-looking piece of metal about the size of cork. When he finished he looked at the bill on the table and then at me.
“Oh… we’re just doing a gram?” He looked disappointed.
“Well, Milly wants a gram, yeah…” I looked at the bill on the table. “Is it more than a hundred?”
“No. A hundred will cover it, but are you getting any take-out?” Bull lowered his head and looked towards me from the tops of his eyes inquisitively.
“For sure… yeah… I just thought we’d handle Milly first.”
“Do you not want Milly to know how much you’re getting?” Bull smiled. I felt the blood racing to my face as I blushed.
“Hell no… I don’t care if Milly knows how much I buy. I’m probably going to smoke most of it with her and her mom anyways… I want two and a half grams if you’ve got it. I didn’t mean to make it weird. I just thought you’d want to weigh hers out first.” I sighed, frustrated with myself.
“If that’s how you want me to do it, I would be happy to do it that way for you. Let’s ask Milly about it first,” Bull stared past me and down the table, “Milly, what do you think? If you were him would you prefer that I weigh them out separately or all together?”
“All together… definitely…” Milly was smiling at Bull. I felt like I was missing something.
“Why?” Bull asked Milly.
“Well, the baggie and twisty both weigh something… and two bags and two twists weigh more than one bag and one twist, so if you split it into two bags then he’s missing out on the dope weight equivalent of whatever the second bag and twisty-thing weighs.” Milly looked like a smug second grader after winning the spelling bee.
“Oooooohhhhhhh!!!! Duh!” I suddenly understood what Bull was doing. He was trying to teach me something.
“There it is!” Bull grinned. “Milly did you see the light bulb go on above his head?”
“Who the hell can see anything above his head? Look at all the smoke pouring out of his ears from trying to figure out why the hell it mattered?” Milly laughed sharply.
“Nice… way to be there for me on that one.” I frowned at her.
“Forget about it, that was payback for earlier.” She smiled coyly at me.
I turned my attention back towards Bull who was busy working on our take-out package. When he was satisfied he turned the scales towards me while the bag rested open on the tray without having been twist-tied. The scale read 003.5.
“That’s without the twist-tie,” he examined my expression as I looked at the scales. I smiled.
“Well thanks… and thanks for the lesson in purchasing.” I held out my fist and he bumped it. I dropped the balance of what I owed him on the table while he tied the bag.
“Yeah man… Here, take down my cell phone number. I didn’t have it on earlier when you guys tried to text me, but that doesn’t happen very often.”
We exchanged numbers and then Milly and I made a fast getaway so we could get back to her house where her mom was probably pissed and waiting to get high. I was pleased, not to mention happy that I had apparently made a new friend. In retrospect I can admit that I was completely unprepared for how my life would change as the result of my introduction to Bull Gunville, the man I would eventually come to think of and care about as if he were my own brother. I couldn't imagine that I had just met a man who would completely change and enlighten my ideology, views of the world and the people in it, as well as how we should treat one another. I had no idea at the time just how much I would sacrifice willingly and unwillingly forfeit as the result of our time together. There was no reasonable way to conceptualize just how painful the consequences were going to be for the mistakes we would make along the way.
All I was thinking about was how cool it was going to be to have a friend who was a dope cook.
This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo.