There comes a time in every person’s life when they question their fundamental beliefs. For some of us this time comes early, forced up by circumstance. For me, it came with the drugs.

I hadn’t yet become a man or even begun to understand what that was supposed to mean. I was a kid, through and through, shirking as many responsibilities as I could while still getting by. I was fooling myself and acknowledged that fact daily over this bong hit or that joint toke, occasionally washed down with a swig of cheap liquor laced with tobacco smoke. I never had a want of clothing, or shelter, and somehow managed to afford an expensive drug habit.

The people I knew in those days were all animals of the same stripe. Outcasts and misfits, the drug-addled and depressed. We ran in a pack, our black trench coats trailing behind us like dark flappy tails, no vestiges those but functional appendages that waggled from our emaciated butts and signaled to all who took the time to notice that we were the forsaken children, left to our own devices for far too long by a world that had become far too lenient.

But don’t let me lay the blame anywhere but square across our own shoulders. We knew what we were up to. We were all aware of our intelligence. It was why we spent the long afternoons and longer evenings blunting our senses with psychotropic substances. We didn’t want the sights the world offered us. We wandered the pre-dawn streets of our hometown, roving the blocks and watching the lights come on in the houses of the normal and wondering what kind of a life that really was, what had been prepared for and then rejected, with vigor, by us forsaken creatures of the shadows.

Our collective downward spiral was self-destructive revenge against the world. The miasma of self-medicated oblivion was nothing more than a middle finger to a system that did not love us, only wanted us in the way a furnace wants more fuel, to produce the steam necessary to keep the big machine moving. And yet even in that fire we were only flakes of tinder, not even kindling. We would only ever have contributed the tiniest of sparks to that grand enterprise of organized society. The difference was that we knew it, and we chose to burn for ourselves, and in doing so provided a greater blaze than even the billions of souls before us who’d gone, willingly, into the fire.

What had led us, as individuals, into that collective that we’d lovingly self-referred to as the “people of drugs”? I wish I could speak at length of the origins of my compatriots on that dark road, but I cannot. I was too focused on my own journey to gather the backgrounds of the characters whose company I’d found myself in. Names that were not names are all that remain: Mudger, Greenhell, Tequila, Vampyress. Call signs from a digital domain where we gathered when the physical was impossible. We were as much creatures of the fledgling cyberspace as we were stupor-laid youths resting upon filthy carpets and drinking from dog bowls.

We moved with grace through our period of rebellion, much like every generation before us and those that followed, choosing with care the vices that would enlighten and confuse us, searching always for guidance. It’s human nature to be lost, born as we are into a reality where our true creators are unknown and we’re victims of circumstance more than creatures of free will. The human animal is a fascinating thing; a walking paradoxical bundle of sublimated terror and half-knowings, reflections of reflections of the smoke in an infinity of self-facing mirrors. It is our curse to be both aware of and ignorant of any form of purpose, and so we are forced to give ourselves one, for better or worse, based on the values we manage to scrape from the detritus of our experience: that cobbled-together collage of hopes and dreams and the inescapable march of time.

2015.01.07 – 2023.08.08

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