8:00 p.m. April 20
“...And I know it's hard, but bad things happen. That's life, and you just have to learn how to deal with it. I thank God every day that I'm alive and I can still live. So I make up for my mistakes and take it one day at a time. I found Jesus and he saved my life. My name is Brooke and I'm an addict.”
All the people in the room stand up and clap encouragingly. The woman, barely out of her mid-twenties, smiles at the gesture and steps down from the wooden podium. One by one, she exchanges handshakes as she makes her way through the crowd to the back of the church room where the complimentary donuts and coffee are provided. I just happen to be standing there enjoying a free Boston Cream.
“Excellent speech,” I say to her.
“Thank you. I've seen you here the last couple of weeks, but you never share.” She glances down on the piece of paper stuck to my shirt “Dylan is it? Funny, you don't look like a Dylan.”
“Umm...you got me. That's not really my name.”
“It never usually is,” she smiles and continues, “and you look a little too...” She pauses, “healthy to be an addict.”
I think she just called me fat. “Can you keep a secret?” I ask.
“You're right, I'm not an addict. I'm just here to do some research for something I'm writing” The free food was an added bonus but no need to inform her of that. She already thinks I'm fat.
“Interesting. What's your piece about?”
“Redemption and Religion. I never quite understood the correlation between Jesus and kicking a bad habit. And I figure no one can be more of an expert on the subject than someone like you. If you have some time maybe you'd like to grab a drink or two and I can ask you a few questions? Help me with my research. Drinks on me, of course.”
“You do realize that I'm a recovering addict right? I don't think drinks would be the best idea.”
We laugh and exchange numbers. I finish off the last of my cream filled donut and leave as I see her gather up the attendees in what I'm sure is a “praise Jesus, I'd be dead without him,” prayer circle.
12:05 a.m. May 1
It's around midnight and the drugs, alcohol and paranoia are beginning to take hold. I'm held up at some party in an obscure, dingy basement apartment on the lower east end, somewhere between Broadview and Pape. I'm here with a childhood friend, Terrell, who ironically is the same person who introduced me to the Narcotics Anonymous group I've been attending for my research. He was, at one time, a drug counsellor. But at this very moment, he's tucked away in a corner under some blinking Christmas lights that hang above the entire place, fiercely and manically crushing and mixing a remarkable amount of OxyContin with other substances. He's a mad scientist busy at work - no one quite knows how to mix narcotics together like a former drug addict.
After he finishes, he makes his way towards me through the sea of people, who are drinking and talking. He takes a seat between me and some stranger with a funny-shaped head that I've been chatting up for God knows how long. He offers a tray full of his alchemistic concoction to both of us. The stranger politely declines his offer. Good, more for us. We both blissfully inhale and fall back into our seats staring at the flashing, out-of-season lights. My skin warms, and suddenly I'm raving and jabbering at this poor guy sitting between Terrell and I, saying something like, “I feel good - do you feel good?”
I turn towards Terrell and he's stroking the fabric of this misplaced stranger's sweater, asking him something like, “Is this cashmere?” But before he can answer, Terrell starts laughing uncontrollably and shouts aloud, “Dude, this is the way to live!”
“Calm down man,” I say.
I turn my gaze towards this stranger who has unfortunately found himself seated between us. He's got a phony smile and his eyes look nervous. He's beginning to make me nervous. What if he leaves and reports us to the cops? What will happen then? Or maybe he wants to jack us of our substances while we're under the influence? Either way, it goes without saying that I can't just let him leave. Wait, oh Mary Magdalene, did I think that or say it aloud? Was I talking? Did he hear me?
I smile at him. He's still silent but noticeably a lot more uncomfortable. I glance back at Terrell and he's still laughing like a hyena. I think I better have a talk with this stranger. I'll explain to him that we're good guys, just out having a good time. That we're not avid drug users – there was a purpose behind our evening's drug binge. That we were actually on an essential post-existentialist journey and the only vehicle to reach that destination were these illegal substances. Then he'll understand and we won't be imprisoned. It makes perfect sense. I mean, I really can't blame him. I would have a look of absolute fear, too, if my sweater was being stroked by a six-foot-three black man delirious on God knows what chemical mixture.
“Listen here man,” I say. “This here is Terrell and he is a guru of music. Don't let his racial...” But before I could finish, Terrell interrupts and firmly grabs the poor guy's arm.
“You're not racist are you?” asks Terrell.
“Oh, god, no sir!” shaking his head.
He just called Terrell “sir”. We're screwed. Terrell's gone and done it. There's a look of absolute fear on this poor sap's face. He's sure to rat us out to the cops now. I wanted to shut Terrell up and reassure this guy of our fun-loving yet philosophical journey. But at this point, I've also become completely overcome with laughter. I'm helpless. I can't seem to get any words out. Nietzsche be damned!
The poor guy is squirming in his seat. He finally builds up the courage to get up and attempt to leave. He says something like, “You guys are cool but I gotta' go. Here, my treat.” He proceeds to buy his freedom from Terrell's demented clutches by handing him some free pills and then swiftly disappears around the living room corner.
Terrell immediately crushes the pills with the butt end of his lighter – again mixing them with God knows what. He commences to snort the powder, and I follow his lead. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I feel light brisk brushes from behind me like cats gently pawing at my shoulder. I frantically look around but there's nothing there.
“Did you feel that?” I ask aloud.
I don't know what was in those pills but I went from humorously paranoid to dangerously twisted. Somehow, I don't think this is what Kierkegaard had in mind. I start to feel exceedingly detached and estranged from reality. I'm seeing and hearing things. Maybe it's the lack of sleep combined with all the extracurricular activities that I've turned from habit to routine. Or maybe it's my conscience finally speaking to me. Or maybe it's just those Goddamn pills that funny-shaped head motherfucker just gave to us. Whatever it is, it's beginning to take hold. I'm trying to keep it together in the midst of falling apart, but I'm clearly unravelling. I'm tripping the fuck out.
Time is moving in snap shots: One minute I'm sitting on a couch attempting to calm myself down. Now I'm standing in front of a marble sink splashing water onto my face. Then on my cell phone, frantically panicking to someone on the other end. Now I'm in a moving streetcar - half awake - on my way to God-knows-where. And finally, I'm aimlessly walking the city streets.
Where am I? Why did I get off the streetcar? Why am I walking on this particular street? Did I have a specific destination in mind? I somewhat remember having a reason for being wherever I am now but I can't for the life of me remember right at this moment. Then, out of nowhere a car pulls up slowly beside me. The windows roll down and a soothing voice from inside the vehicle says, “Thank God I finally found you. Get in.”