By Chris Thompson
The discipline it takes to go all the way, to have the end in sight…only to turn back around from whence you came.
He starts the best of days with a challenge. A test. A grim measure of his resolve. Rising from crumpled sheets, he gropes blindly for the buzzer on his alarm. Contact. Success. The silence rushes in, effortlessly dominating the landscape of his small disordered bedroom.
He yawns and stretches, running his calloused hand slowly across his sleep weary face as if slipping on a mask. The itch is already there. He feels it. The want. The desire. He senses its vibrations, tastes its presence on his tongue. It’s strong today. Perpetual.
He sits on the edge of his bed, bare feet firmly planted on the floor, bedside table to his left. Looking down he finds the object of his desire, grasps it firmly in his hand. A syringe…ordinary and plastic. Nondescript and disposable, identical to the millions that came before it and the millions more to come along after…except that this one is his. Weighing it in his hand he judges its worthiness in the world. Finds its heft reassuring. Familiar. Satisfied he places it back down on the bedside table.
Rummaging through the cast-aside ephemera of his vices–stamped out cigarette butts, candy bar and junk food wrappers, empty cans of soda and beer–he locates his instrument. It’s simple and deliberate…a tarnished metal spoon. Bent and weathered, its surface is scratched and dull from an excess of handling. He picks up the spoon, grabs a lighter and his stash with his other hand and begins the dance. The ritual. The quiet moments of anticipation drip slowly from the faucet of time, each second lasting a lifetime.
Finally, he’s done…
He picks the syringe back up. Deftly dips its precision beveled tip into the clear, slightly viscous liquid slowly cooling at the bottom of his spoon. A motion, simple and fluid ensues and the plunger pulls back, rocketing the liquid into the syringe’s cylindrical void.
He ties off his arm with an old silk scarf. His grandmother’s. It’s weathered and soft and smells of perfume. Her favorite, Eau de Fleur. As he moves, delicate golden paisleys dance with glimmers of embroidered green and blue across the fabric. But their beauty is wasted on him today for he’s a focused man. With a white-knuckled fist he clenches one end of the scarf, the other end he grabs menacingly with his teeth and turning his head ever so slightly, he causes the scarf to tighten. The most elegant of tourniquets.
His veins bulge, swell with the increasing pressures. Rapidly he taps a vein in his forearm, sending a staccato note echoing across the room. It’s as if he’s knocking on the door of an old familiar friend. The vein emerges from his skin, rises up quickly to meet its destiny like a newly hatched bird yearning to be fed.
He brings the fluid-filled needle to his arm, its glistening cargo dripping from the tip. With a criminal focus he zeroes in on the pulsating vein, setting the target within his sights. His blinders come on as the rest of the world vanishes. His hand trembles, his pulse quickens. A roar of noise rises in his ears, a thousand voices screaming as one. Yesssss! They scream. Do it! They cry.
He brings the sharp point of the needle down onto his skin, deforming the soft dermis around it like a footprint sinking into wet sand. He breathes in deeply and begins his slow dance with infinity, imagining the rush as the drug enters his bloodstream, rounds his heart on the way to his brain. A heat-seeking missile in liquid form. The fluid seed of the dripping dream. Blissssss he thinks to himself as he exhales between clenched teeth.
Teetering on the verge of escape, on the edge of the abyss, he pauses, waging a battle against the force of his addiction. He struggles to place the syringe back down besides him. Only its weight has increased a thousandfold. It’s as heavy as a brick now. He fights to turn away from his task, to gaze upon the open window and the greater world beyond, but his head resists, turns slowly on rusted gears. It’s an uphill battle. It’s him against them. A whisper lost in a tornado.
As he labors on a thought forms within his mind, a catalyst of change that banishes away the darkness with radiating blossoms of light. It focuses him, breaks his link with absurdity and hardens his resolve. This is all just a test. It is only a test. He tells himself. It’s his mantra, his verbal instrument of transformation and he repeats it forcibly. And with a final push he sets the syringe down.
He rises on quiet steps and confidently walks away. This was just a battle for him. A skirmish. A test. But the war, the real struggle, is to continue to win…