I, The Junkie

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“Sex addicts…often vow to stop behaviors such as hours-long sessions with Internet pornography, infidelity or criminal sexual activity, and cannot.”

-Allen Salkin, in The New York Times

“The female form of sex addiction is likely to take the form of obsessional Romance.”

-Anonymous

I was tearing down the highway in a stretch limo, rented for the occasion. There was no occasion, but you couldn’t let that stop you. Not in Paramus. I was on a case for the police: Vice Squad, Narcotics Division. My angle: the biggest Narcotic of all: Romantic Love. 

Narcotic. Romantic. It was the same thing. It was even the same word. If you move the R and the O to before the N and drop the middle C and switch the NA to AN and stick it before the TIC, the only letter left is M. That’s where I come in. Mike. Mike Tack, Private Eye.            

I was after a caller who’d said she was hooked on a guy, wanted to turn herself in and get help. Driving along, I thought about the girl. Poor kid. She was probably decent enough, but confused. Most people were tough – learned to cope with life as it really was. Then there were the others. The impressionable. The weak. The ones who wanted to avoid life’s problems and responsibilities. They were miserable losers on their own. But one look at the moon with the right girl in their arms and they thought life was just a bowl of cherries. They had the world on a string. What did they care if they didn’t know their right foot from their left, their hat from their glove? They were dating.

It sounded fun and glamorous at first. Things started off as a game. Talking. Smiling. Dancing. Then it would turn ugly. Things would get out of hand, and they’d dance cheek to cheek. Then things would get in hand, and they’d turn the other cheek. Then the other cheek would get in hand. I didn’t like to think about that. It always ended the same way. Somebody always got hurt.

Her hotel was a ramshackle fleabag in a neighborhood as rundown as the heels of an old flamenco dancer. I pushed past a couple of punks in the hall listening to Johnny Hartman albums — I broke down the door, and crashed into the room.

And in the dim light, made out the figure on the bed. It was shapeless, hunched, shivering. Whoever it was, she had it bad.

“Okay, sister,” I said. “Come out of there with your hands up!”

The figure stirred. “Mike! Help me, please!”

“How can I help you, kid? I don’t even know you.”

She laughed, tiredly.

“Not know me, Mike? Yes you do. I was the woman who loved you. The woman who always loved you. The woman you loved.”

I looked at her.

“Mom?”

“Guess again.”

I looked closer. Suddenly I thought I caught a  glimmer of the girl I knew. “Judy?”

“What’s the matter, Mike? The change too much for you?”

I couldn’t believe it was she. When I left her, I thought she’d been cured. She was off men, I thought for good.

“Okay, kid,” I said. “How’d you get back into it?”

“I don’t know, Mike,” the girl said wearily. “How does anybody get back into anything?’  

“Try, Judy. Try to remember.”

She took a drag on her cigarette, looking out the window as she spoke.

 “I guess it was shortly after you left me. I moved out to L.A. I checked myself into a Romance Rehabilitation Center. At first, things were fine. I knew love messed me up, and I steered clear of it. Oh, maybe a little eye contact here and there after a few drinks, or on weekends. But never too much, and not for too long. But then, one day — oh, I was doing great, Mike, learning light clerical work! But then they asked, would I mind handling the mail. I must have misunderstood! I tried to resist, but pretty soon, I got the urge to flirt — bad. And Mike – I thought of you! My craving is for you, Mike! I’m hooked!”

I looked out the window. It was raining, and the street lamps shone like huge yellow moons. Out there, there were people kissing, thinking they could control it. And two kids on the corner. Relating. A saxophone insinuated itself into the night air. Its sad song matched the wails of the girl on the bed.            

“Look, Judy,” I said. “In this environment you haven’t got a chance. Maybe you should come away. With me.”

“Mike! You forget. You’re poison to me!”

“I know, I know. But living with me, day in, day out, you’ll learn to kick me.”

“I’ve tried to kick, Mike.” She pointed to the proof. Scuff marks on the wall.  

“That’s the point, Judy. You just can’t kick me if I’m not around. Will you come live with me?”

The girl looked up at me. From out of the darkness, I could see hope beginning to shine in her eyes.

“I’ll try it, Mike.”

“That’s the spirit, kid. I’ll do my best. And so will Veda.”

“Veda?”

“My assistant. She’ll show you how to get over me, I know it.” 

Veda, who’d been hiding nearby, stalking me, came forth to take the girl out to the new place we’d all be sharing together. I watched them leave.

I turned back to the window, and looked out. Another night of love defeated. One day at a time. One night at a time. One girl at a time, I would succeed in stamping out this deadly obsession for love. What was it,  I wondered, that made men and women destroy themselves in this uncontrollable way? Well, tonight I’d had a victory over the illness. There’d be setbacks, but other victories as well. And someday, I vowed, looking out at the moon, I’d settle my score with the Big Guy behind it.     

I was that kind of dick.

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