Playing a Junkie

This past weekend was a strange one. I walk through life rather oblivious of things. I nod a lot and go, “Yea, sure! OK.” So, when I found myself convincing my friend Joe to use my room for a book film trailer, it didn’t strike me as odd. Even if the film was about junkies, and my room was to be a piss-in-the-sink hotel.

I’ve never been a heroin junkie, but I have lived in the Tenderloin in a piss-in-the-sink hotel. I figured, why not help a fellow writer and friend out and let him use my room in a nice quiet neighborhood of Oakland, instead of a hotel where, as Joe put it, “People might assume we were going to shoot porn.”

On a related note, last Saturday night Paul, who runs Bitchez Brew, invited me and some other local writers, including a friend of mine, Joel Landmine, to read our poems at Era ART Bar. It went well, was a lot of fun.

I introduced Joel to Joe at the last Lip Service West reading I attended, the one where Zarina Zabrisky, another local writer, was on fire and wowed the entire audience, and the one where Paul invited Joel and I to read at this past Bitchez Brew. Joe and Joel became Facebook friends.

Meanwhile, Joe was searching desperately for the best younger him to play a junkie in the film trailer for his upcoming book, Junkie Love. He posted about the trailer on Facebook, having learned Evil Ed from Fright Night was going to be a part of it, and Joel posts something like, “That guy’s really nice.” Joe sees an opportunity, and follows up with, “Hey, you look like a young me (a junkie), do you want to star in my film trailer?” To which Joel says, “Sure.” Joe doesn’t beat around the bush.

Some time goes by, and a thread starts on my Facebook, but gets sidelined by discussion of the best place to film this trailer. My bedroom gets volunteered.
Then, the night of the Bitchez Brew reading, Joe approaches me and asks if I want to play in the film trailer too. I shrug. “Sure,” I say.

(It strikes me that if I had gone through with my threat of deleting Facebook for good, none of this might have gone down.)

Sunday morning, Jamie DeWolf, the director, Joe and his wife Justine, and Joel arrive at my apartment. My roommates let them in, and thankfully I was awake, had a cup of french press coffee in my hand. I was up until 3am the previous night. It was now 9am, so I was still kind of like, “Duh.” We moved all my musical instruments out of the room and Joe and Jamie start making it look like a junkie den. Syringes, spoon with “tar” and cotton in it. The mattress is already on the floor, a sheet over the window, etc. I kept looking over and seeing Joe making little “heroin” balloons by my bookshelf.

Justine tells me she needs to make me look like a junkie, so she starts putting makeup on me. Joel by now looks like a bonafied junkie, bags under his eyes, pale complexion (he’s a skinny dude, with that James Dean kind of rough-around-the-edges look about him) and I give him a thumbs up. “Great job. You look like the perfect junkie.”

Then Jamie asks if I can take off my shirt, because he wants it to look authentic. So, soon I’m lying on one side of my bed, Joel on the other. I’m half naked (in a bra) with a blanket over me, Jamie filming, and Joe giving us directions on what to do. Insert lots of Boom Chica Bow-wow jokes about bedroom filming.

I didn’t know the script for the film before hand, which was probably good, because if I had thought about it too much, I might have freaked out. Basically, Joel is my junkie boyfriend in the film trailer. I’m sleeping. He wakes up, goes out to score dope, gets beat the hell up, comes back, then wakes me up. I kind of roll away, go “WTF,” with my facial expression, then spy the balloons he is handing me in his outstretched hand. I perk up. He smiles. I smile. Junkie Love. It’s pretty devastating, if you really think about it. There’s even one point in the film where we were filming in my bathroom with syringes and fake blood for a scene using my bathroom mirror.

We finish filming, go out and eat lunch, and they all head to the city to do a different scene. At this point, I’m actually starting to wake up. I walked through the rest of the day with kind of a blurry, heavy feeling going on. I went and hung out, talked with friends, but I couldn’t shake this raw, intense feeling in my chest. The feeling stayed with me the next day and is still lingering today.

I’m kind of an empath, and so there’s a part of me that is taking in the fact that Joe lived this life, and it’s a life many people live. He must be feeling pretty wack, watching his friends enact scenes from his past. The junkie life was a life I wanted to live as a teen, because I was an idiot, and a lot of my heroes in pop culture were junkies. But as revealed in a short non-fiction piece I’m writing, I was spared that road due to what must have been angels looking out for me. Instead, I just became a raging alcoholic by age 15. The junkies I traveled with at age 15 didn’t like to share, is what it boils down to.

Maybe I’m tripping because had it been different, that might have been my life. Or maybe I’m tripping because at 15 I was a street kid and me and my boyfriend’s two best friends were junkies, used to shoot up in front of us on a mattress in Golden Gate Park. I glamorized them. Now, at 31, I don’t glamorize that lifestyle at all, and re-enacting it was somewhat brutal. Things just seem to affect me much longer these days.

But I’m glad I could help. That was a good thing to be a part of, in my opinion, although I don’t know if I can ever actually WATCH that book trailer when it comes out. Me as a junkie ain’t pretty. See below.



  1. Joe Clifford says:

    You were wonderful! (And it really didn’t hit me just how…bizarre…all this was until the day was almost over. Like you, I don’t think I wanted to think about it too hard, knowing on some level I’d freak the fuck out.) (I owe you one 😉

    • Yea, totally struck me how bizarre it was over the next few days, but as it was happening, it was just art. I’m sure residuals will be hitting all of us for a while. Too close to home!!

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