Too Much Of A Good Thing

You know what they say about too much of a good thing. For a while, it was great, but drugs, alcohol, sex... it can ruin a person.

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She sniffed loudly through her nostrils, quickly, like a rodent. Her arm arcs upward, scratching away the grit collected around her narrow mouth. Her lips are thin and cracking, and a paling tongue darts out to lick the length of a tiny leaf of paper. She rolls it up; brown strings of tobacco sticking out like a mess of leafless tree branches.

"Can't smoke one like this without a filter for too long. It's too overwhelming," she comments off-handedly, striking a match into life with a harsh scrape of her thumb. The air of the room is acrid, in sensation and scent, and the homemade cigarette being lit in her hand doesn't help matters. She takes the unlit end into her mouth and inhales lightly; it's much heavier than the mass-processed stuff people buy in their favorite general stores; she'll start hacking violently if she takes too deep a breath.

The walls, the chair, the carpet has an oily, dirty, all-over disgusting feel to it. Like someone sprayed PAM all over the walls and furniture and let the dust collect. Underneath that gross grey grit are: once white walls, cobalt blue carpet, olive green couch and plush chair- old fashioned, but sturdy and comfortable. That's what used to be there, everything now has lost its color somewhere between the layers of dust and dirt. The carpet is beaten and stiff and grey now, the chairs seem brown and the walls are a color closer to urine than eggshell white.

She isn't what she was before either: a creature with a round, splotchy face, too-wide hips and swollen feet. Her hair is thinning, though she's styled it to make it at least look bigger.

"I bet you're wondering why you're here," she began. Her tongue came up over her teeth, wide, yellowing stumps, and she took another snuff of her faggot. "It wasn't always like this, you know. Things were good for a while—better than good—but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. As kids, we always wave off that sort of thing. You may think you know all there is to know, but you're a kid until you're twenty-six, give or take a couple years. Any fifteen year-old who believes he's as worldly and well minded as any brat of legal drinking age needs a belt against his backside. Teenagers don't know shit, and neither do 'young adults.'" It's an arrogantly spoken statement, mean to rouse anger and to irritate, but with true, honest meaning behind it.

She pulls the cigarette out of her mouth and juts out her fore and middle fingers, pointing. "Now, you're going to sit there and listen and keep your snotty little mouth shut about what I've got to say. I don't care if you like it or not. You're here and the reason you're here is because I've got a story to tell."

-

I grew up in a good town, not underly populated, not overly populated. The old women and the young women had their gossip circles, and if so-and-so cheated on so-and-so with so-and-so well then the whole town would hear about it before it was time to go to church and confess our sins of the week. Any sixteen year-old that strutted around town in a brand new car for his first vehicle got his ass kicked for thinking he was better than anyone else.

No one was of fine breeding; no one could trace his or her long heritage back to King Henry VIII or some unpronounceable Roman emperor. Honestly, it was a town full of mutts, a bunch of misfits from all over the world that settled in the same place by chance and built a functioning community with only what they had in their wagons.

Sound like utopia? Well then, stick your foot in your mouth.

"Utopia" doesn't even come close. To the people that founded it, I'm sure that's what it was, but to those that came after—hardly. To me, it might as well have been hell. Beatings were only considered child abuse if a bone was broken, retards were locked up where they couldn't been seen so they wouldn't embarrass their families, and if a kid decided he wasn't going to sit still while his daddy beat him blue, well then, hold on tight to that sanity of yours because you were definitely poisoned by the devil!

"Don't you dare talk back to your father that way!"

I think I was thirteen the first time I decided to try smoking—not cigarettes—Mary Jane. Wasn't willing to get my ass whopped for stealing, and the adults didn't fully understand what marijuana was, exactly. Then again, I guess we didn't either, but we thought we did.

Every day, save for Sundays, I'd hurry through my homework, change out of my suffocating school uniform and meet several of my friends at the soda fountain—that way, if our parents came asking, we really could say that we were where we said we'd be. All of us would split a table of burgers and cherry cokes, and after a few minutes, someone would get up to go to the bathroom. That was the signal. She'd go to the toilet, and then a few minutes later, someone else would go, then another girl, and another girl. We took turns slipping into the loo to take turns smoking a joint of Mary Jane, sometimes two joints. We didn't do it for the same reasons kids these days do it. Those brats do it to get "high," we did it to relax and forget the lives that waited for us outside of the restaurant. The lives we had behind closed doors.

Then, we got older, and we got cockier. We didn't discreetly share a smoke anymore. We bought our own, rolled our own, and snuck into the alleyways for little midnight gatherings. Mary Jane wasn't enough anymore. It relaxed us, but we felt things were too horrible at home for it to make us relax enough to not worry.

"What was that shit you got me lost time? My parents could smell it on me! Do you know how badly I got railed on?"

So, we moved on to bigger stuff.

Some got others to buy them alcohol, or stole it themselves. Some experimented with stuff like Angel Dust. There were a couple other things out there, but Angel Dust and liquor are what I liked. Looking back, it was some of the stupidest things I did, but at the time it was great. The two could be covered up better than Mary Jane as long as I had a peppermint hard candy in my pocket. With that stuff, daddy's beatings couldn't touch me. My grades even went up. At night, I crept out of my bedroom window like Juliet from Romeo and Juliet and meet up with guys. I was beautiful and desirable; I got every guy I wanted, often sharing a joint with whoever he was at the time.

It was during my Senior Prom that my uses gave me that first bitter taste. As expected, my date came to my front door and sweet-talked to my parents while I finished dressing. We left the prom halfway through to forget our troubles, but we forgot too much and I didn't make it home by curfew. I didn't make it home at all, actually, until the next morning when the coppers hunted us down.

To say my parents were disappointed would be an understatement. My date was older than me and was accused and tried for rape. I was too afraid and confused to speak up for him, especially when it was revealed that he dealt things like Mary Jane and Angel Dust and LSD and all that other stuff.

Despite it all, I didn't try to do away with my "things," as I called them. It didn't occur to me.

Not many years after that, I moved out of my parent's house and journeyed to the city. Even then, I don't think I was entirely sure why I went there of all places. I suppose it was for the idea of "love." My parents had sent me off saying:

"—find yourself a nice, wealthy husband, sweetie!"

And look for love I did, though, in retrospect, in all the wrong places. I socialized with the same kind of people I socialized with at home, only these weren't small town dopers. They were big city people and had bigger, better "things."

The dealers would try to sell you different "things" depending on what you looked like, how you spoke. They'd give the "things" names that appealed to the buyer. Scummy, cheap people were persuaded into buying "things" like Magic Mushrooms and people like me were pushed into buying Diamonds. Of course, Diamonds wasn't its real street name, but it was what my dealer called it to appeal to me. I liked it. A lot. It even looked like a bunch of small, raw jewels. I didn't really like how crudely it had to be taken, but the euphoria was worth it.

I got the shock of my life when I found myself overcome by mind numbing, cramping agony and had to be taken to the hospital. A flood of gore erupted from my lower half during the episode. Once cleaned up by the nurses and stable again, I found out that the reason for what I had gone through was that I had miscarried. I had been pregnant and hadn't even realized it.

The doctors told me why the baby had died. That was the first time I looked at my "things" as something ugly. I was horrified.

After that, I would swear that my dead baby haunted me. I wanted my "things" too much to give them up, and when I went to sleep at night I could feel my would-have-been child kicking and thrashing around in my stomach, trying to get out. Finally, I felt that ghost when I was out with friends. The baby's cold, dead hands scratched at my insides, and I scratched back, screaming.

"My baby! My baby! Help me! It's going to die, we've got to get it out!"

My friends were just as high as I was, and helped me claw away at my abdomen until I was an absolutely disgusting mess. By the time we came to our senses, I was in serious need of medical attention. We didn't call an ambulance, my current boyfriend heaved me into the back of his car and drove me to the emergency room, an amazing feat considering how out-of-it we all were.

I needed a skin graph, the damage was so bad, but to undergo the surgery, I had to be clean. I underwent detoxification, my withdrawals were terrible and violent, and to be honest I remember very little other than wanting—needing—to reach euphoria. Finally, I walked out. I couldn't handle it. The first thing I did was dig out my Angel Dust. The feeling afterward was exactly what I longed for, and I fell into a peaceful sleep. Without the surgery, however, my belly was left raw and vulnerable to infection and damage. I did my best to keep it clean, but bacteria wiggled in anyway. I bought antibiotics and Poppy and, when I was too numb to feel anything, I cut out little sections of skin from my arms and legs and put them on my stomach. Didn't work, but, eventually, I 'd healed enough to go back to my usual routine. Except I didn't have a "usual routine." I sat around in my house, watched TV, bathed, and slept.

Occasionally my buddies would come over and we'd all laugh and smoke and have tequila competitions. Those were the only times I ate anything of real substance. Guys didn't fawn over me like they used to, and I thought it was because of the bad state my abdomen was in. It was only when one of the guys made a joke about not being able to look at me without a pair of beer goggles that I realized that was only part of the issue. I had changed, and not only physically. Gradually, my friends stopped coming and the only person who came to see me was my dealer.

At one point, I found myself pregnant again, and I gave birth to a not-so-healthy baby. It was taken away before I could hear its first cry, and they refused to let me see it. It was a baby addicted to the "things" I was. I left that hospital without my infant and went home. Sometime later, I was told that it died.

-

"But it didn't really die after all, I guess, since that kid is sitting right in front of me."

She takes a final drag of her cigarette before rubbing it out in her ashtray. "I sobered up a bit as the years wore on without me, but you know, you really can never be free of it all. It sticks with you for life. There's no such thing as 'I'm only going to try it once,' you're going to end up like that fucked up guy in the corner the moment you light a match. It's inevitable."

She heaves herself to her feet then, staggering. The floor creaks loudly. She shakes her head lightly, hair swaying everywhere, and turns away. "There you have it. That's my story. That's all I've got to say. Remember it, forget it, write it down, I don't care. I've said it, and I'm done."

She glimpses back, waves her hand shortly and disappears into her bedroom, closing the door behind her. The air is clogged with dust, the ceiling fan rotating lazily. The drapes cover the windows entirely, stiff, not allowing a drop of sunlight in.

Throughout the entire neighborhood, a gunshot echoes.

Fin

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I have no idea what spurred me to write this, and even in my opinion it needs a bit of polishing, but overall I'm actually very satisfied with it. What the cause of the gunshot was is up to you, the reader. Interpret it as you will.

Read, review, and all that jazz,

Meggi