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Injecting Joy

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I remember Flo’s skirt, its layers fanning out into a blurred mass of soft color as she twirled herself into a state of dizzy euphoria before collapsing onto the ground and mumbling sweet nothings into the grass. On watching her, I was unable to control my laughter, and soon enough I was bunched into a convulsing ball, gasping for air between fits of giggles. Flo, as though amused by the concept of laughter itself, soon joined me, and it was mutually understood that we were both too high to ignore the hilarity of life and all its farcical nuances. Time didn't exist for us, but for the world, it crept on, and night fell all too quickly and all too slowly, all at once. We may have been lying on the grass in an abandoned backyard for five minutes or three days, but it didn't matter because we were just alive, glowing, embracing the world and the city and each-other and all our glittering potential to be more than just ourselves.

As dark drew on, we danced under the streetlights like moths, lost in the joy of it all. The shadows were filled with wonder, too; Flo said they made her feel like she could creep into an alleyway and disappear without leaving the slightest sign that she ever existed at all. The multitude of lives co-existing in the city fascinated us, and we watched as the inhabitants of the night staggered on legs made of whisky into yellow taxicabs to be driven away to the suburban houses that were home. There was no such house for Flo and me, but for us home was a feeling. It was the feeling of twirling under the streetlights and laughing into the grass, of hiding in the shadows and watching lives that weren't our own pass quietly by. The world continued on without us and we were ghosts on the frayed edges of society, a haze of chemical joy making us forget that our glimmering potential only twinkled for as long as happiness remained in our bloodstream.

We were okay with what we were for a while. Time slipped by as it always did, and we clung on to one another through the familiar, sickening withdrawals; a hefty price we reluctantly paid for our kind of happiness. Slowly, our lives became vicious cycles. Our days of dancing and uncontrollable laughter were over, and we lurked in the shadow-lands of the city, only venturing into the streetlights to meet with those who received our welfare payments in exchange for the drugs. We had flown too high, too close to the streetlight, drawn in just to have our wings blackened and burnt. We couldn't fly anymore. We’d been falling for months, but Flo fell faster than I did.

One morning, we were huddled on a rickety park bench; Flo with head resting on my shoulder, me watching her peel layers of yellow paint from the splintering wood with her fingernails. I’m not sure if it was the way the sun cast clean morning light on her features or the fact that I was sober, but when she turned her face up to mine, I did not see my Flo. I saw hollow cheeks scattered with pockmarks, and sunken eyes free of colour and light. I saw a cloud of brittle hair, laced with grey that shouldn't have been appearing for another twenty years. It wasn't just her physical appearances that sent chills down my spine. It was her expression of the purest breed of dejected sadness. It echoed in her eyes and tugged at the corners of her mouth; it was as though she’d been crying for her entire life and now she had no tears left to spill. It was this that lead me to grab her sunken face in my hands, telling her we needed to find a different way of smiling through the harshness of this life. We needed to escape from these shadow-lands before they swallowed us whole. My Flo couldn't listen, but as I held her skeletal figure in my arms, every angular bone, every rib that I could feel through her tattered hoodie, told me that we needed, SHE needed, to get clean. It was with vacant eyes that she took my hands form her ribcage and placed them gently in my lap, before whispering with rare tenderness, “I love you,” as a singular tear that held a thousand hurts trickled down her sunken cheek and into the corner of her determined mouth. She was lost already, and as the world raced on Flo hit the ground with broken wings and a fractured spirit. Her little frame wandering off into the morning light was the last image I would keep of her glittering potential to be brilliant.

She overdosed that afternoon, and no one would’ve told me because I was as invisible as she was. I would never have known if it wasn’t for the crumpled piece of paper I found in my pocket that night. Scrawled in a shaking hand, she told me that she was sorry; that she’d gone to find a permanent kind of happiness without a fear of coming down.

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