Where the Party Ends: When a Friend Overdoses
Today I heard about your heroin overdose.
Your blueing face swirling into stasis, your boyfriend hot-ballooning air into your throat. And how could I not think about bathroom sinks? About all the powders you chopped and giggled in through your airways as I giggled too, fermented bubbles of beer like sparklers from my hands, like a parade. This is a party. We are a celebration. Never mind the bar-top slushing into an alcoholic flood, never mind the frat boys gripping at our softest parts. We are a hunger, hovering aerial above this tiny, un-mopped room.
You are alive, thank everything you are alive, but how could I not think of you dead? How could I not rewind the blades straight back to my very own drunken hands?
There is a skipped breath between partying and addiction, a tiny moment, or collection of moments to recognize the twist in your trajectory. It is no screaming, blatant beast like I always assumed it would be. I drank and danced and fooled around because of the hunger of the weekend, because I was wanting to be everywhere at once, to have everything I never could. I wanted to be a loud, loud noise, a bottle-rocket suctioning a black plane of sky. I wanted all those who left or lied before to be wrong and to know it, that I was worth staying for, that this table was worth climbing to the top of. I wanted to convince myself again of the world and the hundred lives that hide within it for me.
I never paused long enough to consider you, never strung the moments together. I was concerned, but never enough to get up and leave the bathroom. Never quite somber enough to mute the sparklers and take you home. Everyone is trying out a savior of a different sort, and who was I to interrupt your own? But now, here, on the dead end of a receiver, there is nothing but a screeching ring in my ears— from 2001 to 2014, deaths from heroin overdose multiplied by 6—you are still here— over a hundred people died each day from overdoses in America in 2013— you are still here, this is not you—“drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2013, greater than car accidents and homicide”— the ringing, it grows claws. The cars, they crash and sputter in your blood. The knives, they still gather in my lap. All the skeletons in my closet turn into scrap metal and I am ashamed of who I have failed to be for you.
You’d think because you happened to survive, this wouldn’t still rip me wide open—the way the numbers pass right over you and hold some foreign hands in some foreign hospitals. You’d think we’d giggle it off, laughing at death and her big fat mouth and how we are rubber, never glue, but I can’t. I won’t. Somewhere a hundred friends slip into a hundred shades of blue and a million friends dance around it, raise a glass to it, say ain’t it pretty in the light.
People always speak of drugs and mean that hunger of mine, but no one ever really considers the lack thereof. In you there is no beast, no constant and widening tongue. There is no sea monster wanting and lashing and aching. Instead the creature funnels the water in because he knows he is expected to, knows in krill he is supposed to find sustenance. Reemerge. Swim strong and straight. But the rocks and the fish fail to touch him at all, so he suckles in the entirety of the sea, plants and corals and ships sunken in storms, and it has to be working, right? What could fill you if not treasure, if not salt? What could submerge you into yourself? How can you feel okay?
But the truth is the monster never expects it to work, never trusted “okay” as anything but an old sailor’s tale. He drinks and consumes, and crunches his hard jaw against flora, his whole body growing blue, your face blue, your chest blue, the paramedics and their clothes blue, your hospital gown and all the stupid dumb paintings of landscapes and exotic birds on the walls blue. He knows it will all pass right through him, won’t even touch him at all. But in trying at all, in the slip from his tongue to belly, there is still room for him to be wrong. You are still here.
You are still here. There is still room for you to be wrong.
FEATURE ILLUSTRATION BY EMILY RICE