Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It had to be no later than 1987.

Jack Rabbit and I were sharing the front room on the third floor of the squat at 4821 Baltimore. It was cold outside. We had a little oscillating heater fan in our room, so when people came over, which was pretty much every night, our room was the hangout. We had lots of blankets, books, pillows mattresses, and a door that led to a small deck overlooking Baltimore Avenue.

Next door to our room, was a small room that was forbidden. There was no plumbing in the building except for a bucket of water in the basement for solid waste. The bucket became horrible over time, and no one wanted to deal with it, so only in solid waste emergencies would people venture into the basement. For liquid waste, it was 40 ounce beer bottles. The beer bottles, when full, would be kept in the forbidden room. It was the plan for someone, eventually, to deal with the stacks and stacks of piss bottles by taking them away. This plan never came to fruition over the years, and the bottles piled up. The smell of the room became so bad that we sealed it off and clearly marked it with red paint, “FORBIDDEN”.

One freezing cold night, a bunch of kids came over on the PATCO train from Jersey. One of the kids, named Max, was the younger brother of an ex-girlfriend of mine, and that was good enough to earn them admittance. They were very drunk, and they had dropped acid earlier that night. None of them was older than 16. Max was adorable. He had recently gotten his first Mohawk, he was wearing a brand new leather jacket that had a stencil of Wattie from The Exploited on the back, and he had gleaming new oxblood Doc Marten’s. The kid looked so cool in all his new punk gear.

At some point during the acid trip, Max felt comfortable enough to explore the house. We definitely did tell him to stay out of the forbidden room. We really did.

Let me pause here briefly to say that one should never tell a teenage kid on acid not to unblock a door and go inside a room.

There were four of us in our bedroom, next door to the forbidden room. Jack Rabbit, myself, a henna-haired punk rock chick, and a blond-haired punk rock chick.

After a while, we heard the crash. We knew at once what had happened. Max had entered the forbidden room.

Next thing we knew, Max barged through the bedroom door, soaking wet. He had fallen into the room, broken a whole mess of the piss bottles, and landed in a huge puddle of urine. Some of this urine had been fermenting for up to two years. Before the staggering reality of the situation became known to us, the smell came.

Blond-haired punk rock chick immediately began vomiting furiously. Jack Rabbit screamed. I couldn’t stop gagging. The tears were streaming down my face. Red-haired punk rock chick had the presence of mind to open the door that led to the deck, and barely made it outside to projectile-vomit three stories onto the Baltimore Avenue sidewalk. The air was caustic, like mustard gas. It was positively the most foul, crippling, devastating stench I have ever experienced in my life. The odor was so powerful, so acrid, so paralyzing, we honestly feared for our lives. This was not a smell, it was a living sentient creature that was killing us, and we were powerless to stop it. We didn’t have much time. We had to act quickly.

We had to get Max out of there. We rounded up him and his friends, ushered them to the front door, and made them leave. I felt terrible about it, but there was nothing we could do. We had no shower for him to clean himself, no clothes for him to change into, and the smell that clung to him would surely kill us if he stayed in the house for one minute longer.

He had to ride back to Jersey on PATCO smelling like that, drunk, and tripping on acid. I often wonder if he made it home okay. I never heard from him again.

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