Methadone Mary

the music goes well with the words


I walked across the river to a spot on the east side that I’d never been to during daylight hours. A comfortable little coffee shop with cutie baristas; I went there on Monday nights to listen to yuppie royalty read their crappy poems. I usually left at the intermission, but I still enjoyed the normalcy of it all and occasionally it was really, really good. Set in a lower middle class, funky little neighborhood, next to a trendy hipster bar, a couple blocks from an industrial section in southeast; it looked exactly like it was supposed to.

Today, the barista was not female, and while somewhat unnerving, it was not particularly important. I posted up with a hot mug of black Stumptown in the back, and started the process. Type type type, pause, read, sip, type type type. And repeat. For hours, for days, forever. Until it sells or I’m forced to get a real job. Exposed as the fraud I’ve always suspected most writers to be.

Me and Jonny Two Times

In the meantime, type type type my life away until the productive peace is shattered by a rather large woman slumping down onto the couch next to mine. Peer at her out of the corner of your eye, just over the laptop, make her think that you’re not actually studying her intrusion, her disruption. She looks like a junkie or a bum, with tattered worn clothing; layers upon layers of it. A bulging backpacker’s bag and a rolling duffle besides, her hair is ragged but her face is kind. It’s better not to establish contact.

“Didn’t I see you in here earlier?” She screeches, way too loud for the setting; people glance in our direction, but quickly look away. “Umm, I don’t think so, I just got here,” I reply, quiet but firm, direct and clear. She mumbles something else, but I don’t look up, I try to bury myself into words and headphones.

Glancing at her again, she’s pulled out a gallon carton of ice cream from some place, and gone in search of a spoon. Not even trying to hide my curious stare, I smile sadly at her in question.

“The Methadone makes me crave ice cream, makes me crave this stuff,” She slurs, face full of cookies and cream, “I got another one that he put in the freezer.” She gestures with her spoon towards the barista, who doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. A junkie. Of course. I guess ice cream is better than heroin, though probably not as satisfying. Like every other trade off that occurs in the pursuit of respectability, of normalcy, of mediocrity.

I sigh and lean back into the couch, this dingy piece of shit couch in this crappy run down coffee shop. I suddenly feel very old. In the day light it was easy to see the peeling paint and the water marks in the ceiling. In the daylight “funky” looks a lot like “run down.” This is my life; this is my Masters of Fine Arts program. This is where I’m putting my finger on the pulse and learning to become a writer. The yuppie royalty can drive home to their comfortable upper middle class existence after the show in their Subaru or their Prius or their massive SUV. I will walk back down Burnside, a shady section of Burnside, across the river to Oldtown; past strip clubs and drug deals and men huddled together in moldy blankets, just trying to stay warm. We’re all just trying to stay warm. The junkies and the hustlers are my professors as well as my peers, and also my twisted inspiration. Tomorrow is more of the same, as I’ll type type type some more, struggling, dreaming, above all working hard.

Working hard so that someday I can trade in my Methadone Mary for a cleaner model.

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9 responses to “Methadone Mary

  1. Oh, I know her! I see her at my corner cafe all the time. She shares a table with Heroine Harry whose constantly bouncing feet create a nice counter rhythm to the staccato bursts of the espresso machine.

  2. See? The thing about trading her in, would be that you’d have far less interesting people to write about. I bet she has an enticing history. The yuppies aren’t going to ask her about it while they are texting from their SUV’s………..

    • seanmcdonnellbrown

      Ah Junket, you are, of course, correct. And I do love the flavour of my life. Thanks for the reminder

  3. I often feel like I’ll be exposed as a fraud when I tell people I’m supposed to be a writer.

    I’m always looking for interesting characters at work (I’m a barista…you can people watch better from behind the counter…I’m so unassuming.)

    Not a cute barista though…I must disappoint my male customers.

  4. All baristas ARE cute. I don’t know if it’s the aprons…or that they control my caffeine intake, but there is definitely something to them.

    I know exactly what you mean about things looking different in the daylight. I mean, even more than the obvious, like waking up next to a girl who was beautiful the night before. It’s kind of how I feel (so far) about Los Angeles. With all the lights and action, it looks amazing at night, but ugly and dinghy by day.

  5. “we are all just trying to stay warm”
    Thanks Sean.

  6. Really? I feel like a dork in my apron. Next time I go to work I’ll try to think about that differently.

    Sean: What is Stumptown? Is this a type of coffee?

  7. I’m suddenly extremely jealous of your move to hole up somewhere – not the coffee shop, but PORTLAND itself – and just write. I’ve always loved it and thought “that would be cool,” but I’m starting to strongly envy what you created here. 🙂

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