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She was really reluctant, but I eventually wore her down. I watched with fascination as she melted an off-white Pez-sized rock into the Chore Boy scouring-pad copper stuffed into her stem-shaped glass pipe, which she kept caked inside with visible brown residue (it was a while before I found out why). When I took that first hit and heard that crackling sizzle whence rock cocaine derives its nickname, all the pain that had been wracking the bottom third of my body suddenly -- magically -- vanished! The "buzz," though substantial and momentarily debilitating (double-wheee!), was only a secondary thrill. The instant pain relief was, well, magical. No better word. And I was off and running....

At first, I preferred to sprinkle rock on marijuana, which tempered the intensity of coke's effects. Around early 2001, however, I bought my own glass pipe at a liquor store, ostensibly a vial for single-stem roses, very popular among dopers (the vial, not the rose), along with a package of Chore Boys. I smoked every second or third day, mindful of the potential for addiction, which was something I hadn't really experienced, never having even smoked cigarettes.

I was winding down my publishing business, gradually abdicating as managing editor to S.S. Crompton, a creator who'd been working with us since the early '90s. I had far fewer things to do than previously, but money was still coming in, and several months' worth of accounts receivable were due to arrive before my income would drop. For the first time in my adult life, I had lots of time to myself, plenty of cash coming in, and a growing addiction to feed...you don't need Dionne Warwick's psychic friends to figure out what happens next.

I never ran out of money. Especially once I decided to stop paying rent and let my landlord of nine years keep my two months' security deposit in lieu. All my work-at-home deadlines were still being met, and I was paying my other bills, but I consciously decided to strip down my life as much as possible. I figured I'd give up the house and crash with friends for a few weeks, maybe save up for a little studio apartment someplace where I could follow my increasingly smoky muse, wherever it might lead.

Either that, or I figured I'd die. Though now managing my pain, I did nothing about the underlying causes, and I was loathe to admit, even to myself, how sick I was. As long as I wasn't feeling it, I wasn't thinking about it.

Besides, if I was to die soon anyways, which seemed entirely possible, why not die with a stoned smile on my face? I'd been sober 20 years...for once, I told myself, convincingly, it was finally my turn to get messed up. I was tired of being the responsible one, the straight guy, the inveterate designated driver and sole voice of sober reason amidst a perpetually mind-altered mob.

I started packing my lifetime collection of debris for deep storage, had lawyers draft my will, and there was even this eulogy that I kept trying -- and failing -- to write for myself. It came as a surprise, though I suppose it shouldn't have, that I couldn't think of a single positive thing to say about myself or my life.

Up until that point, I'd always had my drugs delivered. All those dumbasses who get busted on Cops, they're usually spotted leaving crackhouses or tossing vials out the window when they get pulled over for a broken headlight. I was having $25-$50 worth of deliveries a day, sometimes more but rarely less, plus an extra $10 each time to cover cab fare, gas, and/or risk assessment.

Then, my main supplier's car broke down, and he asked me to come to him. The first time I found myself sitting in an actual crackhouse and "waiting for the man," as Lou Reed so aptly sang, I was in a Rolando apartment barren of furniture other than milk crates. Sheets and blankets were tacked over the windows, and an old TV set played hard-core porn with the sound off (or broken). I'd driven past the place a thousand times without ever once thinking "crackhouse." My guy wasn't there yet, though his name had gotten me in the door. I was by far the smallest and whitest guy among seven or eight disturbingly twitchy dudes.

They had a bit of rock and were passing the pipe around; when it got to me, I declined. I'd never smoked in front of anyone besides Olivia, and I frankly wasn't jonesing. I could still go days without smoking and not miss it -- much -- other than having to deal with the pain and spending an inordinate amount of time sleeping.

I learned that when you're in a crackhouse and you turn down crack, you're automatically assumed to be a narc. Later that day, several of the same guys jumped me alongside the 7-Eleven at 70th and El Cajon Boulevard, a block from my house on Amherst, dragging me behind a Dumpster. I have a missing back tooth from that beating. They stomped me so bad that I passed out through part of it. It hurt like hell, but not for long, because once I limped home, my elusive supplier finally arrived by cab. No hospital; I was so sick of doctors that nothing short of a severed limb could get me to see one.

Soon after the beating, I taped cardboard over several windows of my house, something my heroin-addict ex had also done, probably for much the same reason. Daylight, like everything else about the world outside, was scary, even painful, and definitely to be avoided. Not a good frame of mind for someone days away from becoming homeless. I found a more mobile supplier willing to make (now daily) deliveries to the house I was still packing up.

More and more, I dreaded venturing out. Ed McMahon could have been standing on my porch with a Publishers Clearing House camera crew, and I still wouldn't have opened my damn door -- not unless he had something to smoke and/or the correct lighter to smoke it with (durable torch style was preferred over fragile Bics, which Olivia claimed could explode).

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:23 a.m.

Narc Notes I read the cover story (20 pages' worth) by your contributing writer Jay Allen Sanford entitled "A Yearlong Trip Down Crack Street" in the November 1 Reader. However, I could not figure out why this story got front cover.

Was this the Reader's way of supporting Red Ribbon Week? In the article, Sanford confesses to his sins and shenanigans during the time when he experimented with almost every illicit drug known to mankind. How much of this confession is true, how much is hyperbole, and how much was not disclosed the reader has no way of knowing. It was interesting to note that during this same period, Sanford continued to contribute his work to the Reader. By the way, does the Reader have an in-house drug policy? Sanford's catharsis sounded like the same old song sung by many a drug addict. By the time Sanford got to the end of the song or story (whew!), I was exhausted from just thinking about all the energy he expended in pursuit of drugs. And like many a drug addict, Sanford persistently focused on one objective -- to score his next hit.

Sanford claims he is clean now and that his life is in order. If that is true, good, and he should be commended. However, with drug addicts one never knows. It has been my experience to observe them do and say the damnedest things. I will close by saying that Sanford tries to make a case on his behalf that he was never very good at smoking crack (yet he gave it the old college try).

Interesting point, which leads me to ask: Could this lack of crack-smoking proficiency on Sanford's part have played a factor with the Peter Principle? That is, did Sanford reach his level of incompetence as a crack smoker, and did that incompetence help him to survive?

Mr. Laurence J. Peter, inventor of the Peter Principle (may God rest his soul), is probably rolling over in his grave at the thought of this. And the beat goes on. Perspective of a retired drug agent San Diego

drknow 26 points 2 days ago The list on how to not become this guy is very complex, but yet somehow I am capable of understanding it: 1. Dont do crack. Thats the whole f-ing list people.

jlks 1 point 2 days ago drknow, you don’t know. many famous people have such agonizing daily pain that they don’t want to live. Some do commit suicide. a very famous NFL player had to break a painkiller addiction before winning the super bowl. I commend the author. it’s tough beating addictions. Now if you’ll let me be as judgemental as you: be thankful you’re not in this position.

contrarian 12 points 2 days ago He used crack because he had a medical condition. It can just as easily happen that you become addicted to pain killers and find yourself aching to get them illegally when you can no longer get them legally.

There’s a lot of reasons people can become homeless. I wouldn’t say people are wholly to blame for some of the predicaments they get them self into.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:13 a.m.

Posted by Steve Crowley on 10/31/07 @ 2:00 pm Ohhhhh! What a fun story to read, WoW! You are really cool, doing drugs for a year and glamerizing it, its got it all, drugs, girls, good guys,bad guys, action. . . A**HOLE

Posted by Sage on 10/31/07 @ 10:54 pm Dear Jay, It takes alot of guts and ambition to be down that road of hell and lifestyle and come out with grace and dignity! I am very proud of you for learning from your failures and in my book it just adds another success to the many successes that you have now!!

Posted by pete on 11/1/07 @ 4:25 pm Ain't nothin' wrong with smokin' crack in the ghetto.

Posted by RoRo on 11/1/07 @ 8:04 pm Interesting story......I've smoked crack before, a ton....When I was a teenager in Florida. It was everywhere in the suburbs...I have rare self control, so it never addicted me...Many friends lost everything to it, some still are addicted now 15, 17 years later. I too had smoked it of some dealers mouth, no big deal that is FAR from rock bottom. I have heard firsthand of women being sold for crack.....The s*** tastes like nothing else, the high is unreal [ going from memory]. I'm an exec with a tech co...so I guess anything is possible. Good luck overcoming your addictions......

Posted by Doone on 11/2/07 @ 3:04 pm I hope your real pain has lessened. Glad for you and the period of time you got to spend with your parents coherent. I have seen first hand all of which you wrote about and maybe it is true...What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? I have had a saying for a long time acclamate or die! Glad to see you made it out alive.

Posted by David Brown on 11/2/07 @ 9:38 pm No one here or anyone should congratulate you or condemn you for your drug addiction. It is simply a story of being lost in the world he or she is living in. Does it matter how it's done? Not really. Replace the story with mental illness, alcoholism, etc and one will see the same things. You made it out alive. Good. Now you have another 30, 40 years of living yet. That's the hard part.

Posted by Snappy on 11/3/07 @ 1:52 pm Steve Crowley - first off, it's spelled "Glamorizing"... secondly - how in any way was this story glamorous or otherwise glorifying the horrible addiction that the writer and his associates went through? It's a story about pain and the horribleness of what a person goes through when addiction overcomes the ability to lead a normal life. You, sir, are an idiot, and should not be allowed to post your "opinion" anywhere. I believe the writers misshapen testicle is perhaps a better man than you.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:15 a.m.

Posted by RadOwl on 11/3/07 @ 2:43 pm Good read, Jay. I've dealt with my share of addictions and addictive behaviors, seen how drugs destroy lives. You're fortunate. I'm sure you realize that. For anyone addicted reading your story, I hope you realize addiction is a spiritual disease. What you seek from the high - along with all the other things like numbing, good times, escape - is connection that's sorely lacking in the modern world. Used to be that substances were used in controlled environments on certain occasions to get in a different state of mind to experience the divine. Today, we have lost those controls, and the sort of healthy rituals that prepared one for deep spiritual experience - with or without a chemical helper. A people without ritual is a people without soul. Seeking it desperately, they are easy marks for a pusher, like those lost souls you describe wondering down the strip.

Posted by Josh on 11/3/07 @ 4:20 pm Great story, I too have fallen from a successful creative career, been a semi-homeless drug addict, and brought myself back from the brink. It's not much fun. There's something about having a creative outlet to fall back on, to give your life meaning outside of drug use, that makes it easier to not slip into being a "good" crackhead and totally lose your life. Good read and good luck for the future.

Posted by Me on 11/3/07 @ 6:21 pm What a great read. I don't think you glamorized anything at all, you told the truth which doesn't seem very pretty.

Posted by MobileFrog on 11/3/07 @ 7:13 pm GREAT READ, i'll be reccomending this via facebook to alot of my friends i also really think you shoulds stretch this out and fiction..ize.. it a little and write a book if you do, gimmie a holler.... and a free book

Posted by Lharles on 11/3/07 @ 9:01 pm Incredible story. One of the single most impressive things I've ever read. I wish you luck and prosperity, sincerely. Take care.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:15 a.m.

Posted by Elizabeth on 11/3/07 @ 10:16 pm Thank you. Your story is a sincere look into the twilight world of drug abuse & homeless people. I will be sharing this with the hope that it may give others some understanding.

Posted by xoc on 11/3/07 @ 10:29 pm I am really glad that your tragic story has such a happy ending. You write well, and you have a good heart. I wish you the best with the rest of your life, and the strength to always look after yourself.

Posted by Yan on 11/3/07 @ 11:20 pm WoW... very well written. Scary sincerity. Thank you.

Posted by fz on 11/4/07 @ 7:43 am thanks for writing this and sharing your experience. glad you made it out alive.

Posted by B. Roberto on 11/4/07 @ 8:27 am This is a terrifying experience that many face and few overcome (still intact.) I have also faced such a perilous existence once - squandered rent and its subsequent eviction, shady dealings/encounters with scary individuals and even exalting a fix above much needed nourishment. The negative frame of mind and the contemplation of a futile existence really disturbed me. Thankfully I emerged relatively unscathed unlike many others. I can certainly appreciate your experience and am glad you made it out alive and well.

Posted by Anon on 11/4/07 @ 10:44 am This glamorizes drug use how...? If you think drugs are glamorous after that article I don't know what to say.

Posted by Anon on 11/4/07 @ 10:46 am Seems my morning head confused the posting times and I was beaten.

Posted by Steve Crowley is a BIYACH on 11/4/07 @ 5:59 pm Steve Crowley is a BIYACH.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:16 a.m.

Posted by 37 on 11/4/07 @ 6:30 pm That is one of the most intense reads from the Reader ever. Thanks, and I am very happy that you are clean now.

Posted by meme on 11/4/07 @ 7:08 pm Glad you made it ok. Where'd you put the gun rack?

Posted by drstrangelove on 11/4/07 @ 8:10 pm Good story. I felt that gurning in my stomach. Glad you're good now.

Posted by Jonathan V. on 11/5/07 @ 8:21 am You've been put thru a wringer...and lived to tell the tale! I have to say that you wrote a revealing and gripping story. You're obviously not afraid of presenting very personal stuff to the public. That takes real cojones, man, and I applaud you for being brave. I hope the pain that caused you to use crack is under control. It probably was very cathartic to you to write about this difficult time in your life. You're obviously a very talented dude: you write well (BTW, loved the "Rock Around The Town" blog post about you visiting your abandoned childhood home, visualizing winos taking a dump in the corner of your old room; and the mystery skateboarding dude who goes daily by your house early in the a.m. with some tuneage playing out loud) and draw great comics. I hope you continue to do both without any more destructive behavior that can potentially rob the world of your gifts. Bottom Line: There IS a lesson in that piece you wrote.

Posted by danny fry on 11/5/07 @ 9:03 am your very lucky,it took me down the very same road and if i hadnt cut my fingers off i would probly still be smokin.i have been clean now 5 yrs plus.the first yr was the hardest.i waqlked away from everything and everyone involved.when i left sacramento to come here ileft my 66 ford pickup in front of the bus station with a sign in the window free truck i can go on.but im not very good at this.good luck Danny

Posted by shizzyfinn on 11/5/07 @ 11:37 pm OMG, this whole time, I've been throwing out the resin! Just kidding, haven't quite gone the roca route myself, but I dug your story, and clearly a lot of other readers did too. Try to share the story with young people. There's powerful insight in sad glimpses of hard-drug reality like that of the less lucky folks you met along the way. Like when dudes are dating chicks for seven years and not busting moves, you know things ain't right!

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:18 a.m.

Posted by Chelsey on 11/6/07 @ 12:01 am Excellent story.

Posted by another reader on 11/6/07 @ 6:55 pm huh so your the on ewho wrote those comics.

Posted by La-Z on 11/6/07 @ 9:05 pm RoRo (fifth post) is still addicted to ellipsis. Be strong, my brother. You can overcome this too.

Posted by tex on 11/6/07 @ 11:35 pm your lucky. i been there. i am barely making it. not crack. meth. not homeless now, but just one paycheck away. i wish i had a future

In a message dated 11/4/2007 1:49:21 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, jville@lbop.net writes: Wow, man. I read your SD Reader cover piece. You've been put thru a wringer...and lived to tell the tale. It's a revealing and gripping story. You're obviously not afraid of presenting very personal stuff to the public. That takes real cojones, man, and I applaud you for being brave. I hope the pain that caused you to use crack is under control. Was this a hard story to write or did it fly off your fingers? It probably was very cathartic to you to write about this difficult time in your life.

You're obviously a very talented dude: you write well (BTW, loved the blog post about you visiting your abandoned childhood home, visualizing winos taking a dump in the corner of your old room; and the mystery dude who walked daily by your house early in the a.m. with the ghetto blaster going) and draw great comics. I hope you continue to do both without any more destructive behavior that can potentially rob the world of your gifts.

Thanks, Jonathan Villegas

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:33 a.m.

Shaper_pmp 9 points 2 days ago * No, he used crack because he was intrigued. He rationalized his continued use of crack because he had a medical condition.

I’m curious - which bit of: I guess my reaction surprised her. I was in constant pain at that point and had heard coke was quite the painkiller. I asked Olivia to let me try it.

did you not understand?

FWIW, in the following paragraph he goes on to say that while the high was nice, it was the relief from his chronic pain which was the important bit.

So no, constant pain doesn’t force you to do crack. But pretending this guy did it because he just wanted to get high is frankly disgusting.

kingchiron 3 points 2 days ago The guy had serious problems beyond his chronic pain, for one thing regular people don’t date crack heads and think it’s no big deal.

tsteele93 2 points 2 days ago The guy had serious problems beyond his chronic pain, for one thing regular people don’t date crack heads and think it’s no big deal. Thanks for saving me the response. I’d also add that normal people don’t go around calling it “rock cocaine” so they will “feel better about themselves.”

aletoledo 1 point 2 days ago But pretending this guy did it because he just wanted to get high is frankly disgusting.

wait a second, you think that he was a crackhead because he was simply killing the pain? Then what explains the reasoning that he no longer does the drugs, did the pain magically disappear?

In my experience, people doing drugs look for reasons to justify their use. The average person might experience a similar level of pain and yet is able to live with street drugs for their control. The pain the guy described was not the only reason he did drugs. He’s description throughout the whole story is one where he is trying to divorce himself from life itself. He even says he wants to not be responsible for awhile.

jmackinn 2 points 2 days ago Then what explains the reasoning that he no longer does the drugs, did the pain magically disappear?

Actually, if you had bothered to finish reading the article. He says the following:

During my subsequent recovery, I finally addressed both my health and my addiction problems.

tsteele93 2 points 2 days ago * During my subsequent recovery, I finally addressed both my health and my addiction problems.

So he had health problems that caused him constant pain. He could have “addressed them” without cocaine beforehand.

But he didn’t try the coke out of intrigue or curiousity, he took the coke to stop his pain.

That means he chose a risky drug instead of whatever magical “addressing” that he could have done all along.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:37 a.m.

contrarian 7 points 2 days ago * You missed the point. Crack isn’t the only way you can find yourself down a path that leads to a life like this. While most sympathetic folk would probably say they hope you never experience such... me being a vindictive Internet tough-guy a-hole hopes you do.

Omikron -1 points 2 days ago Dude? The guy was a self proclaimed very successful business person. It wasn’t crack that lead to a life like this it was stupidity.

tsteele93 0 points 2 days ago But that’s just it - I won’t. I’m just not wired that way. And I don’t mind that other people are, but I - being a tough guy on the internet as well - don’t want to pick up the tab for those who do.

Shaper_pmp 14 points 2 days ago * I’ve known a few addicts in my time, and although some of them were clearly on their way from the first time they sipped a drink or had a cigarette, some of them started out sorted, stable, intelligent, in-control people. No matter how tough you are on the internet, if life hands you more than you can possibly handle anyone could find themselves in a similar position. You’re not unbreakable. You just haven’t experienced anything which has broken you yet.

tsteele93 0 points 2 days ago Maybe, maybe not. There are people who are “unbreakable.” Your arguments sounds good on paper because most of us could imagine scenarios that we don’t know how we could get through. Heck, I know my parents are approaching the end of their lives. Looking forward I don’t know how I’ll get through that. I’ve lost other close family members and thought, “How will I get through this.” But the truth of the matter, is outside the emotion of the hypothetical scenarios that you evoke, most people DO keep on going after horrible things happen. Many of the people you see each day have had things happen to them that would seem impossible to handle - yet they do. Human beings have had to evolve to handle tremendous loss and pain. We wouldn’t have made it this far if we hadn’t. We compartmentalize and rationalize and move forward. I’ll give you a solid, emotional example. Thanks to the governments insistence that we put children in the back seat of cars (without also insisting that we put some sort of warning device on car seats so this won’t happen) there are several people each year who accidentally leave their child in the backseat of a car and the baby cooks. As a new parent, it is hard for me to imagine how someone could live through that. Yet they do. And there is no news story about how “mom’s who leave their baby in the car seat all become heroin addicts.” People are resilient and survive horrible psychological wounds without turning to drugs.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:40 a.m.

Aeiri -3 points 2 days ago * I’ve been offered cocaine. I said no. It’s not that hard, and saying this isn’t the same as saying I’m unbreakable.

tridentgum 4 points 2 days ago Congrats for you, but it doesn’t mean it could never happen to you. It just means at that moment in time you were in control. There may come a day when you no longer aren’t.

aaronx 2 points 2 days ago * I’ve said yes. It was an interesting evening. Nothing bad happened, and I’m doing just fine. This guy was on the tipping point before he even tried it.

RaldisPuppet -3 points 2 days ago You don’t know us tough people. I’ve been through hell and back but picked up nothing such as a crack / pill habit out of the deal. Weak minded people just can’t understand us.

Shaper_pmp 1 point 1 day ago * Sigh. Some people will be harder to break, some easier. People even get “harder” or “softer” over the course of their life. To reiterate: You’re not unbreakable. You just haven’t experienced anything which has broken you yet. So just have a heart for someone, like the article author, who has.

tridentgum 3 points 2 days ago No addict thinks they’ll get addicted. No one goes into it thinking “Man...I’m going to push this to the f-ing limit.”

tsteele93 1 point 2 days ago I didn’t say that people think “Man...I’m going to push this to the limit.” I said, “I’ve decided that it isn’t worth the risk to even start.” The evidence is clear. Countless statistics, umpteen thousands of lives destroyed - heck the story above for instance. It isn’t worth the risk to even start. I’m not a prude. But I’ve made the choice that there is a clear line on what controlled substances are risky and shouldn’t be messed with. I’ve made that choice based on clear evidence.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 16, 2008 @ 12:49 a.m.

Lost In Space I just put down your latest Reader, and I was deeply moved by the story "A Yearlong Trip Down Crack Street" (Cover Story, November 1). Jay Allen Sanford accurately illustrated how quickly drugs can destroy a life. I too am a writer and an addict. I was on the streets of San Diego doing crystal meth for about three years. I just find it refreshing to see that someone so talented can also be driven to an animalistic level by drug addiction.

Before I started using, I was attending Palomar College as a political science major, I had two jobs, and I had a bright future.

But I then met this guy with whom I fell deeply "in love" who also did cocaine. Within six months I dropped out of school and moved in with him, and we started doing coke every day. When we broke up, I was reduced to dancing at a local strip club and living in my car. I showered at the boardwalk in Mission Beach. I switched to using crystal meth out of a simple economical choice because I could stay up twice as long for half as much.

I really appreciate reading this article because it helps me identify with others in the fact that I am not alone in my addiction. Drug addiction can affect anyone, anywhere, no matter their age, color, creed, or financial status. Thank you for printing this article, and thank you, Jay, for being so honest. Margeaux M.

Power To Ya' Just finished reading "A Yearlong Trip Down Crack Street" (Cover Story, November 1). This is a great article written by Jay Allen Sanford. I am myself a recovering methamphetamine addict -- don't consider myself a tweaker, nor am I a thief. More power to Sanford. My prayers go to him. Susan Kolmorgan Alpine

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bulldogtrout April 19, 2011 @ 11:31 p.m.

thought that it should be mentioned that part of the addiction is denial... you may truly be a thief and you most certainaly are a tweeker to know the demons that control your actions regaurdless of the hurt placed on the people that care...own what is yours its part of the healing process

                               jim c.
                                     maui, hawaii
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Jay Allen Sanford May 11, 2011 @ 1:28 a.m.

The brutal confession I tendered by writing this article WAS my way to "own what is" mine. I also wanted to make a public apology to "Jenny," the woman I conned into subsidizing my addiction. She was far too good a person to have deserved either me OR "Timmy."

BTW, Timmy still occasionally sends me threatening and abusive emails (he used to Instant Message his rage, causing me to disable my 'puter's IM function on AOL and Facebook).

Remarkably, it turns out he and Jenny reunited and are still living together to this day. Tho I worry about whether he still tweaks and abuses her, I'm glad they seem to have worked out their problems enough to remain a committed team.

I'd like to think both Timmy and Jenny are off the drugs now and living a happy life together. That would be the best possible ending for this story, the ideal "ever after".......

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