My name is Nicky and I live in a world of cork.
No, I donít mean Ireland, and I donít live inside a bottle like a Aladdinís genie.
I offer no wishes to anyone except those people buy, a joint or a bag full at a time.
This is 1970, man.
I love the fact that Iím hip enough to know I should live on the Lower East Side of New York City, and that I am the magic man to nearly everybody I know, supplying them with their needs and fantasies.
Sure, the straights think Iím the scum of the earth, an evil wraith preying on innocent children, mounting monkeys on peopleís backs so I can get rich.
I see myself a healer, helping to cure the afflictions society causes, a shaman with magical properties.
I make a bad boss more tolerate, a nagging wife less shrill, a lonely life less lonely.
Sure, itís all really smoke and mirrors, a Wizard of Oz trip I pull on people, each chemical something out of a bag of tricks that doesnít really change anything, and certainly isnít real.
But who is to say what real is and isnít?
Isnít life just how to perceive it?
Call me pusher or pimp or purveyor of good will, I donít care, Iím not nearly as greedy as the bank down the street that steals your home if you donít pay, or the credit card company thatís has vicious as any mafia guy, or the gas and electric company that would let you freeze to death if the law didnít keep it from shutting off services in the dead of winter.
I make just what I need to survive, and unlike the Wall Street jerks, Iím content to live in a room and half in a walkup tenement just like most of my customers do.
I know better than to get involved with my own merchandise: pot, coke, heroin even LSD canít take me any place I havenít seen too much of already, and have no desire to see again.
Thatís where the cork comes in.
How does a man living in a space so small as mine expand his universe so it doesnít seem so dull?
Some people want broad horizons, some even paint their walls to look like great outdoor scenes.
I break down my little world into even smaller pieces, building a maze inside my rooms and tiny cubby holes into which I can crawl, each just different enough so that when I get bored I move onto the next little cave until I get bored with that one, too, and move on to the next, padding all the walls with cork so as to make the journey to the kitchen in the back seem less harsh.
Sometimes I feel as if I live on a ship or a submarine, sometimes, inside the belly or a whale, spending my days navigating the beastís massive intestines .
Somewhere deep in the maze Grateful Dead tapes play, an endless loop that keeps me company in no matter what cubby hole I occupy at the time.
Guests marvel at my maze and ask me if I ever get lost inside it, when Iím stoned.
I dare not admit how lost I would feel without it, if I have to live my life inside a more ordinary box-like rooms the way they do, if I could not feel the walls of cork touching my shoulders as I move.
Some days I crawl so deep into that world, I forget there is any other world. I forget where the real doors are and the real windows.
Sometimes when I get stoned enough I even think I am the boy I was when I grew up on these city streets and lived in tenements, remembering that one time when I really did love someone enough to want to box myself into a house and marriage.
I remember how much her father hated me and promised to get his shotgun out on me if I didnít leave his daughter alone.
I remember, too, that one time he caught me with her and how I had to hop out onto the fire escape without my pants, running nearly naked up to the room, in space so open his shotgun found my flesh and easy target.
I remember howling with outrage and pain as my father plucked out each tiny pellet, and how in the back of my mind I vowed to avoid open space and ordinary boxes in the future.
Sometimes when I get too stoned and crawl too deep into my cork cavern, I still cry, feeling each pellet popping out of me as if have carried them around inside of me all of my life.