The first line barely made a difference.
"You must not have snorted it in hard enough, Gwen." It was 2 P.M. and 85 degrees in sunny Marina del Rey, a wealthy beach-and-boat community just west of Los Angeles.
Gwen removed the rolled up one-dollar bill from her nose, pulled her teased-and-sprayed yellow hair back from her face, and looked up. What was she doing? When the Las Vegas-based investment bank for whom she just started working sent her to Los Angeles to conduct due diligence on a new internet start-up that was going public, she had no idea it would amount to this. Four surf-haired skatepunks stared in her direction. If her boss found out, she'd be fired. Which was so hypocritical because she knew those assholes were coking it up at every opportunity.
Gwen gazed back down at the three lines laid out on the Minor Threat CD. The scene faded.
Bikers. Kitchen labs in desert trailer parks. Stomach ulcers. Violent assault. This is what crank, or Bathtub Crystal Methamphetamine, meant to Gwen. A USC grad who lived in Manhattan Beach for five years, she knew the scene; Gwen had friends on the club trail who were total methheads, smoking, snorting, and dancing all night long (and the next night, and the next). But Gwendolyn Edmunds had never been one to meth out, preferring the luxury of her lucrative yet somewhat mindless entry-level-with-promised-promotion job over a week of combating the urge for recovery sleep that inevitably followed.
Gwen considered herself, for the most part, a Good Girl. Of course, she would bend the rules every now and then, but she always seemed to need an excuse to do things that she knew she wanted to do, but that she suspected she should not do. Sometimes the excuse was that she had too much to drink and that that young executive was Right There. She had done coke before; it was glam and sexy. She kind-of wanted an excuse to do something more dangerous. But so far, none appeared.
But that day in June, it happened. She had spent the last three nights in Los Angeles partying with old Greek buddies from SC, and now had two days to write the report that was going to make or break her job. Most of the documents she needed were with her in Los Angeles. A few were at home in Vegas. She was tan; her blue eyes were bloodshot red; her head pounded with a three-day hangover. She needed to get this done. Fuck it that she was now trying to snort the drug that has been blamed for so many of society's problems up and into her whitegirl freckled nose.
She pondered the aesthetic. Crank: the drug of choice for the account rep's lackey; for the not-quite-yet-fully-disillusioned midwestern white trash homegirl with a no-voice-no-responsibility sidekick gig trying to make a name for herself in the Entertainment Industry; for the finance degreed private university graduate still paying her annual dues to Kappa Kappa Gamma; for the nice girl people find disarmingly susceptible of all-night chains-and-strapons-booty-calls.
And there she was, in a not-quite sunny side studio on the beach-side of the Marina del Rey, surrounded by powermac computers, hi-8 recorders, punk and metal CDs, and four obviously-not-young-executive UNIX programmers and CD-ROM burners. Getting high with the client's lackeys was the ultimate rebellion against her corporate employer who viewed Gwen as too timid to pull such a stunt, as well as too stupid to get away with it. But that was just the image she painted for the public, somewhat like the Barbie doll sundress that hung on her that day.
But Gwen, in her own mind, was far from floozy. She knew what she was getting herself into, and even went as far as looking it up on a web search engine the previous day. Crank was first discovered by Japanese scientists in 1893, and soon after it caught on in Southeast Asia as a whole, its popularity spread to the rest of the world. Recognizing its benefits as a performance-enhancer, many national governments began to "crank up" soldiers in order to prolong fighting ability. The Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan) used more crank than the Allies, but, in general, so much crank was used in this war that many historians refer to it as the "Speed War." Gwen visualized Kamikaze pilots racing on Methamphetamine and crank, slamming into American battleships, high on the artificial courage she was attempting to snort on up to her brain. She needed that edge.
"Well, you do know that one of my friends lost her sense of smell with this shit? Taste too." Gwen's trance broke.
"Snorting is burly. It's a good pain."
Gwen tried not to listen. To her, the only good pain she could think of meant having her boyfriend Mole stick his hand up her ass while they were fucking, but certainly did not involve burning off her olifactories. Somehow, however, she was compelled.
Gwen picked up the rolled up dollar, exhaled, covered her left nostril, bent over the CD, and sniffed in as hard as she could.
Moments after she straightened up it hit her. Her right brain lit on fire. The burn exploded in her ears. Wasps stung down her throat, burrowed into her neck, settled in, and slowly disintegrated.
Wordless and grimacing, Gwen left the room and sat behind her laptop in the foyer. She picked up her pile of papers. She was alert. Her heart pounded in her chest. She was aware. She started typing.
Crank is made by combining ephedrine -- a common stimulant found in many cold medicines, ginseng capsules, and diet pills -- with hydrochloric acid and red lye in a solution. The whole mixture is pressure cooked until ready for sale. It emerges a crystal powder, with colors ranging from white to red depending on its origin. Mexico serves up a yellow crank specialty, like tortilla soup: mixed with urine. Gwen was relieved that this stash was white, most likely from the United States or Asia.
"I should get this down," she told herself. "There is so much I need to do. I need a list."
Write report, organize files. Alphabetize. Call Bob. Get back to Vegas. Add charts. Proofread. Fax. Mail. Send. Laundry, dishes, cat, iguana. Recycling. Gynecologist appointment. Present for Mole. Mmmmole.
This was worth it, she thought, even considering what they had to go through to cop their quarter bag. The belief that crank is simple to score in Los Angeles is an urban legend. But one of the guys at this warez joint was friends with this artist dyke speed freak, so he and Gwen cruised over to her house to pick up the stash. The whole event reminded Gwen of an episode on Beverly Hills 90210: the one where Kelly Taylor drove over to her coke dealer's house in what looked like Inglewood, and was captured there for an extended period of time. Gwen loved Kelly Taylor.
The art lesbo was straight out of "After Hours," a movie Gwen had watched many times with Mole. She drove a refurbished jalopy, had torn out her carpet and laid her own hardwood floors; and possessed the largest collection of lounge music on vinyl, Katherine Hepburn films on VHS, and vintage movie posters and original wall murals Gwen had ever seen. Although Gwen had an usually high capacity for camp, given her somewhat conventional background, she was not exactly too excited about shooting the shit with speeddyke, who was talking 100 miles per hour, questioning her about Vegas and ex-girlfriends who live there, and insisting on giving the two of them a tour of her home, including the slide collection of her artwork. Hours later, it seemed to Gwen, the transaction was complete and they were on their way back to Marina del Rey.
And now, the following day, Gwen had a report to write and a day and a half to get back to Vegas and submit it to her superiors. But she was pumped. She typed 200 words an hour. She researched and analyzed. Gwen was on fire.
If only Mole were here. Gwen remembered when they worked together at First California, how they used to sneak off at lunch break and make like weasels in the high security safe deposit room. Fast and furious, and out in ten minutes, only marginally ruffled but very sweaty. She wanted a drink.
No, she wanted more crank. Two lines were not enough. But she did not want to come off as a junkie or anything. She got up and walked outside, lit a Merit Light, and walked toward her Audi to feed the meter.
"Hey Gwen," one of the programmers said, leaning against the building's wall and smoking. "How're you holding up?"
Gwen jumped. "Good, good. Just feeding the meter."
"You should move your car to one of the free spaces, over there across the street."
Gwen squinted. Shit that was far. Could she drive? Sure. "Over there? Oh, great. Thanks, Clint."
She shot him a wide grin, skimmed over to her Audi, hopped into the drivers seat and turned the ignition. She twitched. Her car twitched. She slid out of the parking lot, onto the street and into a non metered space right there. Phew, I'm cool, she told herself.
After looking both ways a dozen times, she crossed the street, stepped into the elevator, and returned to her laptop. She wanted more. She rose and returned to the studio.
The guys were doing something with camcorders and computers. Gwen was almost a model, once. But then her father talked some sense into her. Hence the finance degree and the multimedia investment bank.
"Hey Gwen, how you doing?"
"You know. Status quo."
It was 4 PM.
"You know, we have a bunch left if you need more."
"Well, I dunno." She eyed the inventory. "Sure."
She laid out two more lines. Hey, I'm getting good at this, she thought. A natural. She snorted one and looked up. The burn slowly subsided. She snorted the second and left the room, hit the restroom, and pissed.
Pain. Oh damn, the report.
Seated back at the laptop, Gwen returned to furious typing. Facts and figures. Assessments. The rest of the office faded away. Once in a while a wind whisked in her periphery.
Wow, I never noticed how loud this keyboard echoes, she thought. I love this computer. Shit I'm thirsty.
"Hey Gwen, how're you holding up?" She did not even notice Ben approaching. He was carrying a 40 ounce.
"Cool, Ben. You?" Her legs twitched in rhythm.
"Well, I'm a little whigged out. You want a sip?"
"Yeah, awesome, thanks." She gulped and handed back the bottle. It was light.
"So we're going to check out Dose Rot at an in-store at 6:30 if you wanna come with."
"That's OK, thanks. Gotta jam on the report." Hardcore band? Unlikely. And Gwen did not feel the slightest bit social, which was relieving to her, since she heard guys in Vegas complain about how annoying their girlfriends were when speeding. These computer dudes were nice enough to get her wired and let her use their office; she did not want to annoy them.
"OK, cool. Feel free to use my computer when we're gone. You can stay as long as Jan is here. She's working late tonight."
"Great, perfect, awesome. Thanks." Was she talking as fast as Ben was?
Ben walked off.
People in the office skittered by. Wow, some folks are really hyped up by this stuff, she thought. Cool.
What was she doing? Duh. the report. But people kept coming by, distracting her. "Hey, you wanna see the turntable?"
"So what kind of music are you into?"
"You know, Jazz, Blues. I used to play Flute for a while, too." Next thing she knew she was spouting off to Curt the story of her life, as if she were never paranoid that she sounded even more annoying than the speed psychos that you sometimes get to see on TV or in movies, or that keep you too long in their house as you are trying to cop some cheap drugs.
It was 6 PM.
Shit, the report.
Ben poked his head into the room. "Hey, we should get ready to take off. Want to do a couple more lines?"
"Yeah." Curt got up. Gwen followed.
Back in the studio. "So what's up with this show?"
The guys laid out six more lines. Curt and Clint rolled joints. Gwen's back itched. Must be the sunburn. Jan poked her head in.
"Hey Jan, you want another line?"
Copyright 1996 Rebecca Eisenberg firstname.lastname@example.org. All rights reserved.