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The Angel Sleeps~ Version Zero
21 October 2006
The Angel Sleeps
All of the users that live at Clara Vista have been to High Heaven. There’s only one priest there and he’ll tell you all about it; but he’ll only tell you half of the story. The depressing fact is that you get to go there once, and never again. It’s like going on an ocean cruise, and floating by a beautiful, isolated island. You can feel its magic, but you never set your foot on it and it haunts you for the rest of your life.
Whenever I hear the words crack cocaine, I remember the 1976 laboratory experiments where they made a number of monkeys smoke it. Crack was pretty much unheard of at that point. Apparently, all types of mammals by nature think twice before smoking anything. Monkeys were the only mammals who would smoke the rocks of crack without a reward system. It turned out that the monkeys liked smoking crack. They would smoke more and more of it, until they died if that’s what it meant to keep them on that one-track high.
In the following decade, crack cocaine swept through the urban streets of America, and offered a new, cheap and easy way to leave the planet. Results were very similar with the human specimens who smoked the rocks of crack. They liked it a lot. The information that was derived from the evidence was simple: monkeys and homo sapiens are the least intelligent mammals on the planet.
The funny thing about High Heaven is that it comes looking for you. High Heaven is an illusion. The priest will claim to have directions on how to get there, and he will offer to give them to you for free. He’ll show it to you, you’ll see it for about an hour, and then you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to go back there. The rest of your life will feel like a dream in which the destination is there within sight, but for some reason you have lost the feeling in your legs. It feels like you are running as fast as humanly possible, but you look down at the old sticks and they’re just not doing the job.
The ultimate result of your relationship with the priest will be the substantial growth of his retirement fund. The increase in his fortune will coincide with a slow and steady deterioration of your physical health and appearance, coupled by a creeping hallucinatory state of mind which will begin with visions of demons and the feeling of bugs beneath the skin, and will eventually result in a formidable paranoia of all moving things and finally, perpetual neurosis.
If you drive down the three hundred block of Hampton Avenue at sundown, you’ll see the street lights come on. There stands Clara Vista, which is a government project tenement building. The five story building holds sixty housing units. Twelve boxes on each floor. Convenient homes that include a living room, kitchen, and bathroom all-in-one.
The name of the building is deceptive. Clara Vista. Clear View. This place has only one clear view. You can easily see that not everyone wins. In America, somebody has to lose. This is the American Nightmare.
The lights that line the south side of the street buzz for about five seconds before they flicker and eventually emit a dull yellow light. Then the wraith-like shells of human beings will begin to trickle out the door and into the darkness.
All the users in Clara Vista know that you never knock on the Devil’s Door. On the fifth floor of the building is the home of Robert Johnson. Those who are familiar with him refer to him as Doctor Bob. His quaint and secluded top-floor home is referred to as the Cook Box. Others call it the Box of Rocks.
No one can tell exactly what you would find if you had the honor of seeing inside the Box. One can only assume that there would be an incriminating quantity of cocaine, dozens of little orange boxes containing grocery store baking soda, as well as an overwhelming array of burners, beakers, flasks, and household chemicals.
All the users of Clara Vista are so fixated on the end product that they don’t know the chutes and ladders the narcotics went through to make it to their front door and, ultimately, into their bloodstream.
It begins in a field in Colombia, nestled safely upon a plateau and naturally guarded by mountains, where young men and women chew leaves of the fresh coca plant, which is meant to “impart endurance.” As they chew the leaves of the great coca plant, they walk through fields full of the great coca, and fill baskets with the plants.
The coca plants are then cooked into a creamy off-white paste known as pasta basica (basic paste), or base. This “cocaine base” is shipped from Colombia to a midpoint, usually in Mexico or some island of the Caribbean. Jamaica is one place that is a convenient overnight stay for pasta basica. They add a molecule to the pasta, and cocaine hydrochloride is the result. This is the salt form of the narcotic, the form that the “more fortunate” Americans put up their noses in large doses.
The cocaine hydrochloride is then shipped to the third stop, the house of your neighborhood midway distributor. Doctor Bob is a midway distributor. Such a prominent position on the ‘crack ladder’ requires a brief knowledge of chemicals, as well as being ready and able to personally experiment with the final product. The midway distributor is responsible for taking the cocaine salt, and mixing it into a solution of water and baking soda with a father’s care.
Then all Doctor Bob has to do is wait and let the atoms do the rest of the work. Not long after, the mixture of cocaine, baking soda and water has crystallized into a chalky translucent rock. The resulting hunks of dirty glass vary in color from off-white to amber brown.
Doctor Bob breaks the hunks of glass into one gram increments, and disperses the tiny bags to ten of his favorite men and women. These men and women, known as ‘retail outlets’, find their way to your door. You hand them five or ten dollars, twenty if life has been good to you on that particular week. They put a bag of it in your hand, and then you don’t see them for a couple of days.
When placed into a specialized glass pipe and fired, the chalky rocks vaporize, and are sucked into the lungs of your average three-time-a-day user. The chemical shoots through hundreds of thousands of capillaries on the surface of the lungs, entering the user’s bloodstream and, ultimately, the brain.
Three seconds later, the brain blocks transporters of the chemical dopamine, resulting in an immediate sense of elevated euphoria. And that sweet, empty smell sits in the stale air, slowly turning the walls yellow, and then escapes through the holes in the walls and the crack beneath the door.
Doctor Bob is a household name at Clara Vista. The odd thing of it is that no one can tell you what he looks like. He is an evasive and ghost-like character. What they don’t know doesn’t hurt them. When their rocks are all burnt up, and they’re waiting for that knock on the door, they think of the Doctor up there on the fifth floor. Then they receive the next installment, breathe in that chemical bliss, and the omniscient Doctor recedes slowly back into their subconscious. Just as the Doctor planned, the truth is never revealed, his project remains in the shadows, and the dopers keep real calm and quiet. Business stays steady, with an occasional new customer.
Every business venture has its success stories as well. Doctor Bob, like a thousand other midway distributors, hopes to become a self-made millionaire. Naturally, there is going to be a guy who is in the right place at the right time. There is a first for everything. In the crack industry, that fortunate individual happened to be a man named Rick. He provided the majority of South Central Los Angeles with their fix in the early 1980’s. He was allegedly the first man to make a million dollars selling crack cocaine, five dollars at a time. That’s two-hundred-thousand bags of crack. Talk about entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, every dream has an end. Rick’s illegal operations were hastily snatched from him one day, leaving a few thousand users very unhappy. Those poor people didn’t know what to do with themselves. A few of them threw their bodies out of windows.
I once spoke with Veronica Taylor of Room 322 about the famous Rick; she said that for every user that Rick left dry, there’d be another devil in hell waiting to torture him. God bless her soul. Vengeance will be done.
Doctor Bob is going to have one bad fucking day tomorrow. I am the wrench that is going to get thrown into the gears.
When my fellow tenants here at Clara Vista look at me, they see Jorge Lovalos. They see a washed up, Latino, middle-aged man with soiled clothing, greasy hair and a healthy crack addiction. I’ve been putting money into Doctor Bob’s pocket for five quiet months now, and he’s never even seen my face. What he doesn’t know is going to hurt him.
Tomorrow I am going to end his life. Carl Moncrief, the main distributor of the Johnston projects on the south side of Camden, will be framed with his murder. CPD hopes that the resulting bloodbath will slow down the narcotic flow. Only time will tell.
My real name is Miguel Espinosa. I have a master’s degree in police science, specializing in narcotics. I have seen enough blood and drama on the Camden Police Department in my lifetime to make any human being lose touch. The only other similar occupation, where you might see the coldness of reality with such clarity, would be a cavalry soldier in a world war. I have been through three wives, and many other nameless women. I feel that there is no hope for America. I feel that there is no hope for me. There is a loser for every winner. It weighs on me.
I do not feel anything anymore. I volunteered for this gig because I thought that it might cut me deep enough. I had this feeling that something might happen here that could bring me back in touch. Only time will tell, I suppose. Its been a little over five months now since I arrived here. My eyes are glassy. I have forgotten what home smells like. The only aroma I know now is that sweet, empty smell.
It was a hot Tuesday morning when I arrived at the Clara Vista projects. Two hours before I came in a yellow taxicab, a living baby girl was found in the brown dumpster on the west side of the building. The girl was two weeks old. They took her to the hospital. She weighed seven pounds, one ounce. Two hours after reaching the hospital, the little girl, Johanna Keyes, passed away. One of her little pear sized lungs collapsed.
Babies of crack cocaine addicts are at lower odds of survival the moment they are born. The usual symptoms of crack offspring are underdeveloped organs, including the heart, lungs, and brain. Being placed in a hot dumpster with bacteria and vermin does not help the odds.
I stood outside the main door of the building on the south side. I approached a woman who was staring off to the west side where the dumpster was located. Three squad cars crowded the sidewalk down on that end, thirty feet away. The police radio announced distant offenses, which seemed trivial to what we were seeing. The red and blue lights flickered in our eyes; their quick and steady rhythm made everything else seem slow.
“What’s happening over there?” I asked her.
“They found a baby in that dumpster over there about an hour ago. They’re looking to see if there’s any evidence of who did it, but they aren’t going to find anything,”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because the mothers who do things like that, they don’t have anything to leave behind.”
That woman was my first contact with Clara Vista. Her name was Veronica Taylor. She was the only redemption story that Clara Vista had to offer. About a year ago, the violent death of her son, who was recruited as a dope runner, opened her eyes. She had an epiphany and, against all odds, the demons of crack cocaine that possessed her were cast out. She gave her life to Jesus Christ. From that day forward, she became a living promise to God. She would shine as a light in the darkness. Sadly, she remained one lone candle, flickering in a deep dark chasm.
Many of the residents of Clara Vista don’t know what America has to offer. Their lives are largely funded by the government. They go to their shit jobs, and some of them never get more than thirty miles away from their home. They remain a piece of the machine that is never cleaned, can easily be replaced, and is seldom considered as important.
The last time that I left Clara Vista was four months ago. I left for a weekend to visit my girlfriend in Trenton, and I briefly told her about my current case. She asked me to describe the atmosphere. And I could only say one thing.
The angel sleeps in this place, and the devil has his way.