Disclaimer: this story is based on real events, but is no way are a journalistic recording of what actually transpired. Harvey High was a real person and we had this conversation. That’s all I will admit to.
I heard Harvey High died a few months after this story took place, but I might be wrong.
I sure hope I am..
“Harvey High is dead. From now on it’s Harvey Golightly.”
He was serious.
I asked if he was still involved in the Scene.
“Look at me!” he said. “Look at my eyes. Do I look like I’m still involved?”
He said he was clean, had been for three months.
I mentally subtracted half of that, but for Harvey it was still pretty good. And I had to admit that he did seem healthy. The skin around his eyes looked less drawn, and though he still was stick-skinny he didn’t have that death’s door vibe so common to him in the old days.
“Look at me!” he kept saying.
Last time I had seen him was around Christmas. He was shaky sick from some bad shit he got from somebody he didn’t know. God only knows what can end up in your spoon when it passes through so many hands. Baking soda, laxative, even drain cleaner. Harvey was never a careful consumer, especially if he was edgy.
My guess was that it was some kind of cleaning product. He said he had scored from a tweaker, and tweakers have lots of cleaners around so they can scrub the bathroom floor with a nail brush at four in the morning.
Harvey’s skin was yellow then, covered with so many sores it was as though he’d been ravaged by a swampful of mosquitoes and left to scratch all night. He was scratching, too, eyes glazed with that far-off junky look. Mostly he just looked sick.
“You look like shit, Harvey High,” I said as I walked into the living room.
Jae and Fresno were playing fast rummy, slapping the greasy cards onto a board which lay on the carpet between them. Every so often Jae would yell out a curse as she took a trick, a grin of gloating triumph across her sallow face, Fres hissing hatred through his mouthful of scummy teeth.
They had been together longer than anybody. It was a longstanding mystery why. They loathed one another.
“Jae is a rat cunt whore,” Fres would say when she left the room. “Fucking filthy twat bitch cunt.”
Harvey said he was now living on his own.
“I’m making some money playing happy hour at Ted’s joint,” he told me.
He held out his hands, fingers splayed. The nails were clipped and clean, his eyes clear and blue as he talked.
“I was walking out of Hung Far Low on Tuesday and I heard a woman running up, so I turned. She came up and said ‘You don’t know me, but I saw you a bunch of times and I gotta say you look really good, Harvey!’ I mean, she was a stranger. I tell you, that’s some validating shit.”
I nodded, not knowing what to say.
“Harvey High is dead. Harvey Golightly. That’s me.”
He seemed so sure, but I wondered.