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Lukah shoved his hands deep into his back pocket. It’d been there just five minutes ago. He’d never been surer of anything. For the last hour since he’d bought it, his hands habitually delved into that same pocket to feel the Ziploc bag full of his favorite alternate reality. Its presence burned in his mind forcing him to feel for it and will himself to wait for the right place and time. After all, he couldn’t just lay a line out on the coffee table with a room full of moochers partying their way reckless. No, he had been waiting for the bathroom to open up to do it alone. But it was gone now.
Frantically, Lukah searched for an invisible hole. He searched in the other pockets, his shirt pocket—no luck. His heart sped up, thundering over the blaring music. Sweat beaded his forehead. Panic burst from under the surface. He couldn’t take another bout of agonizing withdrawals. He had to find it.
Clawing his way through the dancing crowd and dim lights, he retraced his steps. Nothing but weed and empty beer bottles on the dining room table. Nothing in the kitchen. Nothing on the back deck. Cigarettes, weed, beer bottles. Cigarettes, weed, beer bottles. Nothing.
He went from one room to the other, faster and faster, running from the pounding in his head, the shaking in his hands.
Finally, he stopped and leaned against the stair rails. Closing his eyes, the craving caught up to him making his teeth grind achingly together.
“Hey, dude. You okay?” He opened his eyes to happy-go-lucky Jeremy shouting over the music, beer in one hand, bowl in the other.
“Yeah, fine,” he breathed, “I’m fine.” Just leave, he added to himself. Lukah couldn’t stand a happy-go-lucky anyone at the moment.
“You sure? You look pretty ragged, man.” Lukah didn’t understand why Jeremy was smiling and pretending to care at the same time. The kid had always struck him as odd. When he didn’t answer, Jeremy continued, “Allison’s been looking at you all night, you know? I’d hit that if I were you.”
That caught Lukah off guard. “What are you talking about?”
“Allison, man. Look.” He pointed across the room to a girl smiling sweetly on the couch. She looked awkward and out of place. She glanced up and waved at them. “Told you.”
Allison had loved Lukah since they lived on the same street at age four. He, Allison and her sister, Jenny, had all learned to ride tricycles together. But Lukah had never loved Allison. To this day he loved Jenny—her darkness, her depth, her captivating presence—so different from sweet Allison, so much like his drug. He didn’t have the grace to tell Allison though; he just avoided her like the coward he was.
Seeing Allison was like rubbing a raw sore with sandpaper. It only made him want the coke more, if only to make him numb again.
He couldn’t take it anymore—any of it.
He left Allison and Jeremy behind and sprinted out the door, wanting far away from the ghostly drug. He ran and ran and ran to shed light on sensibility; never letting his feet slow for fear of turning around. He ran until his house appeared out of the night and he was able to think for himself again.
The truth was, he’d been clean for three months. Tonight was the first night he’d said yes to his cravings and planned guiltlessly to fail. Once he’d said yes, there was no going back. He’d been excited, impatient, ecstatic. When he lost the drug, he panicked and it felt like he was starting all over again from day one. He hadn’t planned on doing that until tomorrow, maybe not even then because he didn’t particularly like Hell and that’s what life was like without his crutch.
But now he was far from its presence, his body shaky and exhausted.
Morning came with the sweet rumbling of a summer storm gliding through the valleys of the Ozarks.
Lukah’s eyes fluttered open. He half-expected a headache to consume him, but then he remembered the events of the previous night and the fact that he hadn’t actually taken any drugs.
He got up and opened the bedroom window. The clouds, black and purple, drifted away towards the Northeast. Its reverberating echoes and distant slates of rain grew smaller and smaller. With its passing came the new day—bathed and purified; innocent and free.
These were the moments Lukah looked forward to. The moments when the sun broke through the patches in the clouds and the thin rays, visible to the eyes, glistened off Spring leaves.
In these moments, the world sparkled with hope and the air with enchantment. These moments made the drug powerless to Lukah. With enough of these moments, a person could patch up a mangled heart and bear to live with themselves, having not the shame of the unworthy nor the pride of the arrogant, but the humbleness of the descent.
Later in the day, when the sun had dried the charm of nature, Lukah turned on the local news. After a few headliners from the surrounding towns, a story made him lean forward in his seat.
The news anchor started with a practiced solemnity, “Another drug overdose took a life last night in Dallas County. This girl was rushed to St. John’s around 3 o’clock this morning. Police have not released any information yet…” His voice trailed off replaced by a picture on the screen. Flames of bile licked the back of Lukah’s throat.