Arts & Culture

A Flashcard History (On Drugs)

By Joel Congleton

Brunswick, Maine. I emerge from my mother, kicking and screaming and covered in goop. It might be the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me, but I don’t remember it, so I’m not sure.

Late 1990’s
Topsham, Maine. I wake up with a glistening forehead and a damp pillowcase. I’m shivering, and my head hurts. So this is what dopesick feels like. It’s finally caught up to me. Feels like the flu, really. I begin to calculate when and how I can get more heroin.

Early 2000’s
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Summertime. I’ve moved here to pursue a degree in Video Production. I’d hoped that a consequence of moving would be that I’d end my growing opiate addiction. This is not the case. Dope is much cheaper in Florida.  I’m waiting for a green light at the intersection by my friend’s house. There’s a homeless man standing on the median, peddling newspapers that were given to him through a local program. I know him. He’s the same guy that’s always there. We rap for a minute and I give him a dollar for a paper, as I always do. I intend to read it, or at least skim it, but I don’t. I toss it in the back seat and it lands on more newspapers that I didn’t read. My car is a 92’ Honda Accord. I love it; it has a sunroof. No A.C. though, which is problematic in the summer.  The light turns green and within a few minutes I’m approaching the on-ramp to the highway. As I tear down I-95 with my windows open, the newspapers in my backseat flutter to life. They dance, kind of like that plastic bag in “American Beauty”, reminding me of their presence and occasionally obstructing my view.

Brunswick, Maine. I got sober. People sometimes ask me how I did it and I tell them I went to meetings. I’m not lying, but I never really feel like I’m telling the truth. Yeah, I went to meetings, but I’d gone to meetings at other points in my life and it didn’t get me sober then. So what do I tell them? It was just my time. Or I got lucky. Or maybe there was something greater at play. But for the grace of God, there go I.

Portland, Maine. My son is born. It’s so cliche that I can’t even say it. Fuck it, I’ll say it. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Freeport, Maine. I ease my forks under the wooden pallet, and with a flick of my wrist I raise it a few inches off the warehouse floor. Another flick and I’m in reverse, as the beep-beepbeeping indicates to everyone nearby. I crane my neck to see behind me, stomp my foot on the pedal and I’m off, steering the fork truck towards the other side of the warehouse so I can drop my pallet off and pick up another one.  It’s all muscle memory now, gained through daily repetition. I could probably do it blindfolded. Not what I’d envisioned for myself, but I’m making moves in the field of videography when I’m not at my day job, and that gives me hope. In fact, I’m expecting a text about a freelance motion effects job. I’m excited about it. Perhaps too excited, I realize as I feel the familiar double-vibration in my pocket that indicates a text, and a wave of giddiness washes over me like I’m Pavlov’s dog. I park my fork truck and dismount it, careful to follow safety regulations. I look at the text and my heart drops. It’s not from a potential client. It reads: “Chris’s nephew Nathan died this morning. Ashley found him. Shits super fucked up, I remember when he was a baby. I’ll let you know if there’s a service.” I assume it was an opiate overdose. That’s a stone-cold assumption, but it is what it is. Nathan was in his 20’s. Another name on the list. Chris must be devastated. Suddenly my warehouse job isn’t so bad. Suddenly it’s not all about me.

The alarm starts screaming at 5:30a. I crawl out of bed. Meditate for twenty minutes,  get dressed, insert contact lenses, eat cereal, brush teeth, kiss my sleeping son. I’m in the car and off to the warehouse by 6:30am.  I drive a 2012 Toyota Corolla now (I blew my Accord’s engine on the way to the methadone clinic some time around 2007). I like it okay. There’s no sunroof. The A.C. works though, and I mostly drive with the windows closed these days. A controlled environment. I’ve settled into a routine. There’s freedom in routine – that’s the secret to learn. Without it, I’m left with good  intentions and promises to myself that just flutter around in the back seat with no direction or purpose. That’s not to say that the routine doesn’t get stale at times or that the chaos is never alluring, but I’ll leave the chaos for the kids. I just hope that they survive it.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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