A/N: Junkies are pretty peculiar. Er, there's a whole history and a mythology... and we sort of glamorize things. I tried to avoid that. IV drug use is gross, not fun. It's true - the flash of blood that appears when you draw back the plunger is surprisingly beautiful. Like a rare sea creature. Though you shouldn't ever shoot up. Loads of people die. I didn't, as you might've noted, but I'm lucky.
That morning, when I woke up, I'd already begun feeling dopesick. My nose ran and I couldn't help but shiver. My poor pupils were large and sad, like Marvin the Paranoid Android's brain. Everything - from the sun's rays to my beloved bookshelf - annoyed me, for basically no reason. I need a fix. Badly. Sadly, I'd run out of drugs the previous evening. I didn't even have a bottle of codeine syrup or a few pills. So, I decided to boil some of my old cottons. That's a junkie thing. Er, perhaps I ought to explain…
When someone prepares a shot of heroin they filter out any adulterants or eyelashes or whatever with a cotton ball. You've probably seen it in a movie (such as Trainspotting a great time I am a child or Drugstore Cowboy). It's a well-known practice - and an important one. If you forget to filter, you could clog up the needle… or, worse, your veins. That's called an embolism and it ought to be avoided, unless you like amputations and/or certain death. Anyway, people save the used cotton balls in case of an emergency. If you run out of drugs you can always try to extract the remnants of an earlier dose. Though that's harder than it sounds. Also, I had a pretty high tolerance at the time. I was doing about a gram every day (separated into four evenly-spaced shots). That's a lot.
And I needed something… anything…
So I soaked all the used cottons I could find in a mostly-empty bowl of warm water, stirring them around with a capped insulin syringe. Then I uncapped it and sucked up all the liquid I could. I stuck it in my right arm and pulled back the plunger. A spiralling swirl of red flashed through the already-murky water. Carefully, I pushed the plunger towards my heart. It stung, slightly, which doesn't usually happen. I waited impatiently for the drug to reach my brain.
For a moment I contemplated calling a friend and asking for help. Had I made a mistake? Or was my tolerance that high? After all, I'd only saved about four cottons. It wasn't much.
Frowning darkly, I called my dealer. He picked up pretty quickly.
"What?" he muttered, sleepily.
"I need… um, help. Stuff. Twenty dollars worth." I try not to be too explicit when buying drugs. After all, someone might be listening. And using code-words isn't lying. Well, not really.
"It's 9AM on a Saturday, Paula."
I sighed. "Can we meet later? Noon, perhaps?"
"Is the library alright? There's that nice little pizza place nearby. I could buy you a slice of the pepperoni."
"Sure, sure… the library at noon."
Then, I hung up. Three hours of miserable, hysterical, sickly sobriety… that seemed like a lifetime. Though I'd waited for longer before. Once, I suffered three entire days of sickness before I could score. And I'd gone through cold turkey in its entirety. Five times, in fact… back when I still thought quitting was possible. It never lasts. It doesn't work. Well, unless you can get rid of whatever it is that made you start using and abandon friends and attend loads of doctors appointments and fight really. That's harder than it sounds.
I can't erase the past or change who I am. That means I'm stuck here. Though I've come to terms with this. Anyway, I'd rather suffer through the problems I already understand than fly to others I know not of. That's from Hamlet, isn't it?
Anyway, I got dressed and spent a few hours finishing up an assignment for the site I worked for at the time. Mandatory Media. It's basically a second-rate Buzzfeed meets a third-rate Vice. For some reason, a large percentage of the articles involved 'hot babes' with Instagram accounts. They never assigned me I any babe-related projects, though. No, sir. I usually ended up writing about drugs, history, or movies. Though I never directly told the editors about my H habit, it's pretty obvious. I'm sure they knew. How could they not? All of my 'top ten _' film articles referenced at least one druggie movie (from Gia to Trainspotting, Drugstore Cowboy to Christiane F.).
That week I'd been asked to write two articles - "Six Most Influential Proto-Punk Songs" and "Ten Iconic 1990s Characters". The former mentioned 'Heroin' by the Velvet Underground, while the latter included Mark Renton. Since it was a Saturday, I'd already finished the first article and most of the second. Though I still had to explain why Jurassic Park's Ellie Sattler and the chick from Pretty Woman deserved to be on my list. So, I spent about thirty minutes researching and planning and writing the last few paragraphs of that article.
Working helps distract me from the cravings and other mental symptoms of withdrawal. Alas! It wasn't enough. Also, finishing up my latest assignment hadn't taken very long. So I decided to go to the library early. Without eating breakfast or anything. After all, my stomach didn't feel so swell. Food, I foolishly thought, would only make me feel worse…
The library wasn't too from my parents house (and that's where I lived, at the time). In fact, it only took a few minutes to walk there. Yet it seemed like forever. Sweat began to drip from every pore and one of my special 'withdrawal headaches' began. Though I trekked on. Past McMansions and soccer mom SUVs.
Finally I reached the library. After waving vaguely to the librarian at the front desk, I went looking for some Kurt Vonnegut. A few weeks before I'd come across Cat's Cradle and Bluebeard, and really enjoyed them. Now I wanted to read more. Satire's such an interesting genre. And Vonnegut's basically the Elvis Presley of satire, meaning the king, so…
It didn't take me long to find his books. There's no special satire section so I just looked under 'V' in general fiction. I picked up Slapstick, mostly because the cover amused me. Then I wandered over to the sofa near the door and began to read. This wasn't as easy as it sounds. When I'm dopesick my brain gets all mushy. I can barely focus. It's like being half-asleep, in the most distressing way. This annoys me terribly. Then again, so does everything else. From our mad, mad president to the state of my nose. The world seems like such an awful place. And there's all that guilt. Nobody hates junkies more than the junkies themselves. I feel like some sort of revolting, evil, track-marked untermensch. Why can't I be a good girl, getting a degree in creative writing from a local university? Why can't I be stronger, better?
I began to cry. Hot, wet tears rolled down my acne-peppered cheeks. Wiping them away seemed like I waste of time, so I just… let it happen. Like some sort of hysterical teenager mourning her most recent breakup, I wept and wept. Loudly and grossly, though I honestly tried to keep it down. Libraries aren't supposed to be noisy.
Soon enough an elderly, grannyish lady - wearing a running suit that seemed to be from the 1980s - spotted me. She walked over, looking very concerned. I tried and failed to stop crying. It's pretty hard to do that once the waterworks start. I'm like a broken fountain without an 'off' button. How horribly humiliating.
"Are you okay, sweetie?" she asked.
I nodded. "Yeah."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." I paused, then added. "Okay, fine, I'm not. I'm a stupid, sickly skaghead who deserves to die. I don't even WANT to be alive! I DESERVE to leave this stupid mortal coil! What's the point, anyway?"
By the end of that unintentionally hilarious rant I'd begun shouting. Also, I beat my knees once or twice for emphasis. Like some sort of childish little girl, full of self-loathing, That only made me feel even worse - even more foolish. I haven't had a serious outburst - a total meltdown - in years, you know. Not since middle school.
In response to my heightening hysteria, the lady went into full-on 'comforting old lady mode': "Oh, honey. It's alright. I don't quite know what you mean by 'skaghead', though you seem like a nice enough girl. You're dressed very prettily. Now, what is it you're reading?"
"Kurt Vonnegut," I sobbed, miserable. "Cat's Cradle amused me, so I'm reading more Vonnegut."
Before she could reply, we heard police sirens. This only upset me even more. That's the sound of something bad happening, the sound of a criminal being caught, the sound of a dying person about to be rescued. The sound one hears as a friend begins to OD. It terrified me, though I forced myself to calm down. I stopped crying so openly. The nice old lady handed me a tissue.
"Thank you, ma'am," I said, wiping my nose messily. How gross I felt.
Just as I was calming down, three policemen and a paramedic entered the building. And, too my confusion, they walked straight towards me. Looking shocked - frightened, even - the helpful old lady backed away and disappeared into the forest of shelves. I froze, like a deer in headlights. Or, more accurately, an ant under a magnifying glass. Deer, you see, can actually damage cars pretty badly if hit. Ants can't really do much. Being small and sickly and helpless, I resembled the latter more than the former. Depressingly enough.
"What's going on?" I asked shakily.
"We got a call about a kid self-harming" said one officer - a tall, strong man with blonde hair and an extremely cruel expression.
"So? I'm fine now," I explained, as calmly as possible. "You can go."
"We need to make sure you're okay," said another man in uniform. A paramedic, apparently.
He grabbed my eyelid and held it open, staring into it. "Yeah, she's clearly on something. Probably a stimulant. Her pupils are huge."
Before I could explain - or even move much - the blonde cop spoke again.
"We need to search your bag."
"W-w-what?" I stuttered. As usual, I had a few needles in my purse… along with a cooker or two and some unused cotton balls. I couldn't let the cops see these things. My HIPS card - a small piece of cardboard that says I'm allowed to have needles, because I'm an officially registered IV drug user - probably wouldn't work outside of Washington, DC. Then again, I didn't know I had a choice. I thought I had to listen to these violent, noisy psychos.
"Give us your bag," he barked viciously. "We need to check for weapons. You're clearly a threat to yourself and others."
I was a sickly, frightened 106-pound girl cowering in fear and crying like a child. What kind of lunatic finds that threatening?
Still, without further ado I handed over my purse. They unceremoniously dumped everything onto the floor. Carelessly, they looked through my most private notebooks and half-forgotten trash. Secret poems, candy wrappers, old receipts, and so much more. Strewn across the ground for the whole world to see. I began crying again. Those papers mean so much to me. And nobody's allowed to read my poetry without permission. It's private. Who do these heartless fiends think they are?
It didn't take them long to find a few old insulin needles. Some still had blood in them.
"What are these?" the blonde guy asked.
"Insulin syringes," I replied. "I've got a card saying I'm allowed to have 'em. It's in my wallet."
"Are you diabetic?"
"Ye- you know what, no. I'm not. But I'm still allowed to have those. Please stop throwing my things everywhere. You're scaring me."
They didn't listen, of course. Why would they? Clearly, they were enjoying themselves. What's more fun that scaring the shit out of a quiet, crying girl who just wanted to read Vonnegut? Shooting black children, I suppose. That's your average police officer's favorite hobby. Those sick, sick bastards. You know what? These are the same guys that refused to help me when I tried reporting an ex-turned-stalker who'd followed me in person and threatened me online. They refused to do anything. Those stupid, uniformed cunts don't actually care about protecting citizens.
"Can I see your arms?" the paramedic asked.
"Fine," I replied, too scared to protest.
He rolled up my sleeves and saw the marks. Those embarrassing not-scars. The thin, red lines and ugly bruises that cover my veins. Only druggies have injuries like those. They're embarrassingly distinct.
"What're those? Track marks?" the blond cop asked, sneering evilly.
"I'm sorry. I never meant for this to happen. Please let me go, I'm just a kid. I'm not hurting anyone… save for myself, perhaps," I rambled, sinking deeper into the old armchair.
"Put her in handcuffs and take her to the car. We're arresting her for possession of paraphernalia," he said, triumphantly.
A/N: Police aren't that evil in real life. I sort of played up their awfulness... and made fun of myself. I suppose everyone's a bit more extreme in this story.