Clatsop County, Part Two: Kevin

by Tamuira Reid

It’s nearing lunchtime when I make it over to Kevin’s, and beautiful out, but his window shades are still drawn closed, outside light on. I notice the porch slopes ever so slightly to the right, where a few forgotten footballs and beer bottles have now collected. I knock. Wait. Hear some movement and bustling. Then silence. I knock again. Silver masking tape covers large rips in the screen door, big enough for a head to push through. More movement. Finally Kevin emerges, a cigarette hanging from his lips.

He doesn’t say hi, but rather ushers me in, a quick gesture of his skinny body, a bony hand-to-back motion that says hurry.

I am used to this with Kevin. The hurry up and go of it all. When you’ve made the conscious decision to hangout with crystal meth addicts, life becomes a constant hurry-up-and- go, even if you’re only going to the bathroom.

I like Kevin. He’s thoughtful and smart and ridiculously resourceful. He’s also one of the worst addicts I’ve come across during my time in Clatsop County – or in my personal life – which is saying a lot. He will likely never get clean. He might commit more than a few crimes. And he will probably die too young. His life is already pedal to the metal, as he’d tell you. Pedal to the fucking metal.

“Don’t touch anything.”

“I know.”

I squish on the couch between two piles of do it yourself books and stare at the growing piles of wires and circuit boards and other electrical bits I couldn’t tell you the name of on the coffee table in front of me. He’s making a radio. Or a television. Maybe a microwave. Last week it was a tattoo gun. I notice a new trio of skulls inked onto his pale left forearm. They look almost professional. In the corner near the door, flies swarm over a heap of garbage that hasn’t made it outside yet. While something as detail-oriented as electrical engineering is no problem for Kevin – last week he built a walkie-talkie for my son in under an hour – something as mundane and everyday as taking out the trash seems to stump him completely. I mention the bags, the stench. “Hmmm”, he mumbles, not looking up from the mound of hardware in his hand.

In a different world, one without addiction, let’s say, Kevin might be a mechanical engineer for Apple or Facebook or Tesla even. He’d make a shit-ton of money and have a cute family and an even cuter car and his wife would be busy decorating their starter home somewhere in the Bay Area.

But this is not that world.

“Want a coke?”

“Sure.”

He throws me one from the fridge and I let it settle before popping it open. He opens his immediately and it explodes all over his face. “Whoopsie,” he says, and smiles, revealing dark gaps where teeth used to be.

He sprint-walks over to where I sit and plops down on the mound of books next to me, crossing his legs and looking at me very seriously, tucking his long blond hair behind his ears. His eyes are huge, partly from the drugs, partly genetics. “You never ask me shit,” he whines. “I thought you were a writer.”

“I’m more of an observer.”

“Well, observe this,” and he flips me off before springing to his feet and returning to his work.

****

What I do know so far is this:

Kevin was raised by a single father, a truck driver, who is gone most of the month. The food and “supplies” money he leaves his son immediately goes to drugs.

Kevin’s dealer, Chuck, beat him up once. It was bad enough that Kevin couldn’t “breathe right” for three days. Chuck is also his best – and only – friend. “My old friends from school are all jocks and shit. Or pussy chasing. I’m building my own empire over here. Don’t have time for their dumb shit anymore.”

Macy, Kevin’s little sister, lives with his biological mother somewhere in Arizona. “They’re both whores,” he says, like he’s said it a million times before. Like it’s too scripted to actually be true. An easier pill to swallow.

Kevin loves to read and always has. “My dad said I used to read the back of shampoo bottles and shit when I was like four.” He remembers his dad struggling to read to him at bedtime and getting so frustrated that he’d end-up hurling the book across the bedroom, making Kevin laugh.

The first time Kevin did meth was with his neighbor, a recently laid-off schoolteacher who often had Kevin over for dinner when his dad was out on another long haul. She’d order pizza and they wouldn’t touch it. They’d just hit the pipe instead.

Kevin’s favorite color is green. “Put that in you’re your story,” he jokes. “That is some important ass shit right there.”

****

When I eventually leave Clatsop County, Kevin says he’ll miss me. “Really?” I ask. “Damn girl,” he snorts, lighting a cigarette and blowing the smoke through the busted screen door between us. “Don’t you know never to believe anything a fucking druggie says?”

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