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“I spilled my bag of coke on the floor of my car yesterday,” my coworker, Kendall, tells me, laughing softly. “I snorted it out of the carpet.” Her bright pink hair is twisted into a bun under her hat. Her chef’s coat is unbuttoned and the sleeves are rolled up. She’s made herself perfectly at home in her uniform.
“Oh, I know that road,” my other coworker, Al, says. “I used to be a drug lord, pretty much. I used to smoke weed all day, every day.” He’s not much older than either of us, maybe 22. He’s a mild-mannered Italian guy with stout, broad shoulders. If it weren’t for his glasses with lenses thicker than the windshield of a jet, you’d think he was an old-timey wrestler.
I stand in awe, listening to their conversation from across the counter. “Really?” I ask in disbelief. To me, he’s always seemed like the kind of guy who could be a librarian, not a drug lord.
“Yeah, I used to be wild.” He laughs shyly, remembering. “The morning after my senior prom, I woke up on someone else’s lawn.”
He keeps using that phrase. Used to be. The question is burning in my mind. “So you’re not doing that anymore?” I ask before my brain can stop my mouth.
“No.” He pauses. “Not after it made me go into psychosis.”
My expression softens from an investigative one to a concerned one.
“I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.”
“It’s when you see and hear things that aren’t there,” he says.
“Like schizophrenia?” I ask.
“Oh, that happens to me too!” Kendall says. “I’ve tried all sorts of meds for it, but nothing works. They only make me feel worse.”
I scoff. “Cocaine isn’t much better for you, Kendall.”
She shrugs. She says, in the bubbly and straightforward way she does everything, “It makes me forget all the bad stuff.”
She goes on to talk about the other drugs she’s done, and what other medications she’s tried. She talks about how often she sees her psychiatrist (once a week when it gets bad), and tells me how to avoid getting caught by the cops.
Al talks about how he used to buy an ounce of weed for a hundred bucks and sell it to his friends. He talks about how he never tried to jip anyone and gave people what they paid for. He talks about how it was never really about profit.
He admits that he thinks all his friends only liked him because of his status as a dealer.
“As much as I miss it, the thought of being high while in psychosis is too terrifying,” he says.
A week later, I watch him freeze in horror while I’m talking to him. He explains that he’s seeing things that aren’t really there and that he’s hearing me saying things that I’m not really saying.
My stomach drops. “I trust you,” I tell him.
His face is blank, but his knuckles are turning white as he clutches the countertop. “Thanks,” he says. “I’m working on trusting me too.”