As descriptions of literature ‘Brutal’ and ‘Honest’ (see also: ‘brutally honest’) have been pillaged to a degree that would leave even Genghis Khan gobsmacked. That being said, sometimes it really does apply. Enter Juliet Escoria: the short stories that make up Black Cloud (out on Civil Coping Mechanisms) are nothing if not sorely-needed proof that the Mongol Hordes have yet to ride off in to the sunset with the last severed head of its meaning on the end of a very sharp stick. A sometimes-heart-ripping, sometimes-gut-wrenching-to-the-point-of-legitimate-nausea 144 pages of stories about life, death and everything in the grey area between the two, against the backdrop of the "California of the Zodiac killer and the Night Stalker."
The heroin story I know best is about a couple. I met the boy a long time ago. He told me he was single but that was a lie. We slept together for a while, off and on, despite his unsingleness. We fought a lot and hated each other sometimes, until one day I looked at him and realized he had become my very close friend. Once I smoked some DMT because someone gave it to me, and it made me giggle and I couldn’t stand up from the bed I was sitting on. I had a dream, and in the dream I was a lot older, I knew I had aged because my skin felt light like paper but the inside of me was solid and dark. The sun was low in the sky and thick yellow like tree sap, that gorgeous time of day right before the sun begins to set. I was with the boy and he was older too, a man now, and we were married; there were vines growing up the fence and the leaves were buzzing with new growth and his skin was warm under my fingers as I kissed him. I looked in his eyes, the man in the dream, and couldn’t believe that I had known, and hated, and loved this person for so long. In him I could see who I was, who I had been.
But the problem with DMT is it makes you dream and the dream seems so real, but it lasts so short and goes away so fast. I was back in the bedroom and the light dragged trails.
I hadn’t known the girl as long. The boy had to wait for us to be just friends before he could introduce me to her, because he’d been the girl’s the entire time we were sleeping together, plus a year or two before that. It turned out that when I’d met him she’d recently smashed out his car windows with her bare fists, and also given him genital warts. She told me later, much later when we too were friends, that she’d known she had warts but she wanted to keep it a secret from him, just to have one, something that was not his but would be soon, like a baby. She cut them off (there were three, triplets) with a pair of manicure scissors and taped them in her journal like they were old scabs. When he asked her what the cuts were from she said she was fucked up and shaving. She said it was a hard spot to shave. He didn’t pass the genital warts on to me, but still, it was a pretty shitty thing for her to do.
Oh, but I didn’t mean for it to go like this. This story was supposed to be them: the couple, two people, symmetrical, no piece of me. But with every breath and every step, I find myself more entwined with them. We are braided around each other like snakes.
Some days I don’t wake up till the sun’s going down and my role in things weighs down so darkly it near chokes me.
Anyway. Here is the story of the two of them, the short version. He started heroin and then quit. They got together. They fought a lot. They broke up. She started shooting. They got back together. He started shooting again. They both quit. They broke up. They started and stopped many more times, both with the drugs and each other. Eventually they realized that no matter what they would still be unhappy, and this made them perfect for each other. They were soulmates now. They quit doing drugs for a long time, and stayed unhappy and in love. They lived, and when they were very old they started shooting again, for no reason at all. And then they died.