“Chasing” by Carly Milne
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Carly Milne details the emotional whirlwind of living with an addict.
I didn’t know he was hooked on smack when I moved in. That confession came two nights later.
He talked such a good game. Sure, his darkened eyes bore the mark of a life hard lived, and there was a weariness about him that suggested more was at play than your basic end-of-the-work-week fatigue. But other than that, he was lively. Smart. Had a great sense of humor, and knew how to wield it effectively. Our late night discussions sounded like well-scripted patter from an Emmy-winning cable series, rolling on into the night as we shared and bonded over our respective life experiences. Me, on the way out of my darkness, my addictions muted from blackout alcoholism into intermittent stress-related cookie binges—and vegan ones, at that. Him, openly sharing his addiction to pain meds for injuries sustained in a car accident, chugging beer during his most revealing moments, avoiding my gaze when talk of his demons became too real.
I thought nothing of his periodic nodding off during our talks, chalking it up to a hard day at work. Nor did I make any bones about his frequent and lengthy bathroom visits.
His confession came after about half an hour of setup, promising me he felt ashamed for what he was about to admit. Explaining his physical and emotional pain. Admitting to an addictive personality he had no control over. He fidgeted, sitting on the opposite end of the couch, as far away from me as possible. His darkened eyes watched his fingers as they picked at each other, peeling at his cuticles. I waited patiently, expectantly, my eyes taking note of his various tattoos and finally resting on one I hadn’t seen before: a coiled black snake with red eyes and bared fangs, seemingly ready to strike.
And then he said it: heroin. He was hooked on heroin.
A flash of fear raced through me as my mind leaped into action, trying to figure out where I could go next. My old life had fallen away due to my own toxic detox, I was down to my last two hundred dollars, and I didn’t have any acquaintances to couch surf with, let alone enough money to rent my own place. He assured me I was safe. He wasn’t going to steal my cash; he wasn’t going to bring shady people home. And he wanted to kick. Desperately. Badly. But he’d become stuck in the cycle, having experienced the famed dope sickness that rears its head when one tries to go cold turkey. So he kept doping to keep the sickness and pain at bay.
I thanked him for his honesty. Reluctantly, I stayed. There was something here for me to learn, apparently. I just hoped the lesson wouldn’t take long.
What didn’t take long was discovering how allergic I was to the situation. At first, I thought it was cigarette smoke poorly covered by copious amounts of air freshener. I told him it was making me sick, and he swore to smoke outside from that moment on . . . but that the heroin had to continue. He would smoke it in front of the window, he promised, and blow the smoke outside. I don’t know why I thought that aspect of his addiction was taking place somewhere else—naively, I wanted to believe he was shielding me from it. That his shame was keeping him from doing it in his own home.
My emotions swirled around me like a tornado as I went for a walk to calm myself down. How the hell did I get here? After all the hard work I’d done to try and heal my own muddled history, how did I wind up rooming with an addict? How was it he had a great job that paid spectacularly, a roof over his head, nice furniture, and food in his fridge . . . but he was a junkie? And how was it that I was clean, had a marketable skill and the resume to back it up, the wits, self-confidence, and self-care to survive a fucked up life and come out standing tall . . . but I didn’t have two nickels to rub together?
I tried to talk to him. He wanted to gloss everything over and make it okay. I tried to cut through the bullshit firmly but gently. He ran. The next morning, I tried again.
“Nothing you’re going to say is going to make me quit,” he said defiantly.
And while that wasn’t what it was about for me, I knew that’s what it was about for him.
I would never catch him. And it wasn’t my job to.
I moved out soon after.
CARLY MILNE is a multi-published author, journalist, and screenwriter. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Esquire.com, TheWrap, Maxim, Glamour, the Hollywood Reporter, the Chicago Sun-Times, and countless others. Her memoir, detailing her experience of working as a publicist in the adult industry, is coming soon. You can check out her website at www.carlymilne.com and her blog at www.sexandentertainment.com. Follow her on Twitter at @CarlyAtTheWrap.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Jul 31, 2014
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