William S. Burroughs‘ Junkie is written tight and clean, just like I like it. But there is no humor, no black humor, nor any dry humor. The book is dark and hopeless, just as Burroughs’ addiction is. There is no redemption for his narrator; he never changes. But without Burroughs’ strict attention to detail, without his lack of repenting, we would not have the literature we have today. He wrote about gay sex easily without explaining it or making it dirty or salacious. He just wrote about his life. He created a whole new genre—cult culture.
I know Williams S. Burroughs. So it’s a bit hard for me at times to read this book. I’ve got his number. We’re facebook friends and follow each other on instagram(—he only posts once every two months). I’ve danced with him. He holds my purse as I go to the bathroom. Insists on it. Burroughs is a trust fund kid. So he spends all his time looking good because that’s all he has to do. He’s kinda asexual with a perfect haircut under his hat. He is friends with a hairstylist so he never pays for that razor cut. He uses his friends’ employee discounts at boutiques so all clothing perfectly fits his skinny body. He’s friends with all the djs so he never pays to get in anywhere. And he’s friends with all the bartenders. They like him because of his quiet and falsely polite demeanor.
I have run into Burroughs at a club, we’ve talked; he’s an intellectual and had some crazy drunken stories. He’s read all the right books. He’d tell me about his friends, Kerouac, Cassady, and Ginsberg. I’d laugh. I’d know the friends he was talking about by reputation. He’d mention shooting all these asshole hipsters and I would laugh because I’d think he was joking. Because who carries a gun in real life? And then he’d suggest we go to another bar but he wants to stop by his place to change hats. He’s looking a little tired so I’m surprised he wants to continue drinking. But I go with him because it’s early and instead of changing hats he picks up some drugs and we leave. He takes no offense to my decline of his offer. There’s no peer pressure. It’s just a little habit of his he has when he wants to celebrate. (But it’s a Tuesday.) We continue on our way. He gets more drunk. As do I. And messy (I pretend that I’m not but maybe I am because after all, I’m keeping up with Burroughs but without the drugs). On again to another bar where he buys me a shot and a beer. We sit there talking. He disappears into the bathroom for long periods of time and comes back looking happier and more alert. We continue drinking. The music is loud. I have to lean in to hear what he says. Eventually he’s made too many trips to the bathroom. Too many drugs. We leave. Someone accidentally bumps into him. And it’s him and me and some strangers yelling. Four of them and two of us. Somehow we get out of the situation without getting beaten up. I walk home alone.
A few days later I run into him at another bar. I’m not sure I can ignore him; not sure I really want to because up until that last incident, we were having fun. I walk up and say hello, wondering what he’s going to say. He acts as though nothing happened. Why? Because he doesn’t remember anything. We talk, we drink, and then he asks to borrow some money. Why? Because his trust fund check isn’t deposited into his account for another two days. He just needs forty bucks to make it till then. Well, I know he’s good for it, so I lend it to him.
The next week he’s paid me back, even bought me a drink as a thank you. Now by our third drink he has another favor. His girlfriend has kicked him out of their apartment because she found him in their bed with a dude. It’s his apartment (although her name is on the lease since she is the one with a job) and he needs a place to stay. Can he stay with me until he figures something out? Sure, why not? I’ve got a couch. Why would I say no? He eagerly thanks me and promises not to be a bother.
He moves in with a duffel bag and a guitar. I didn’t even know he played music. I constantly trip over that damn thing. He asks if he can have some of my whisky; he’ll replace what he drinks. Sure, help yourself. Soon it is all gone. Empty bottles in the trash can. He’s looking for a place to move. It’s been two months. I’ve given him my computer password to look for places. Instead, I find porn in the history. Really? I come home from work and there are dirty dishes in the sink. He’s watching a program about cats on the animal planet. My cat is in his lap. And he’s asking me where we should go that night.
He’s finally found a place. He insists on throwing a party to thank me. Just a few friends. The apartment is swamped. Dudes take knives out of my kitchen and stick them into the wall outside my window. He gets mad at their rudeness. And out comes this gun I didn’t think existed. And he’s brandishing it around. People yell. I freak out and black out. When I regain consciousness, he’s standing over me, concerned. Gun put away. Guests gone. He didn’t mean to frighten me, just stand up for me. His voice is deep, slow, and calming. I don’t want to further acknowledge this incident so I tell him, “it’s ok.” I tell myself, well, he’s moving out tomorrow, I’ll never have to see him again.
But the next day is Saturday night, and he never misses a night out. He goes to the club. And everyone talks to him as though nothing happened. Why? Because it’s a story. Something unordinary happened in their ordinary lives. And I’m mad at everyone and instead of ignoring them I say hello. Why? Because we’re friends and it’d be rude not to.