My poor dog. My poor, poor dog. He’s whimpering. He knows. My mother wouldn’t believe it if she was sitting across from me, on that ugly white sectional that came with the apartment. The carpet is dirty and white too. When white’s dirty it’s almost blue. Blue-grey. Like a lifeless body blueish grey. There’s no crayon or magic marker that’s that color. Crayola. My fingers are stained blue—not the dirty white kind of blue—but a real blue, inky… it’s a permanent mark on my skin from the kids I watch. I should go to work on Monday.

I’ll go to work on Monday. Linda, the lady whose kids I watch, is so nice. She has a babysitter for no reason. So, I cancel and she’s like, “Oh, ok, honey.” I don’t think she’s ever gotten high. Some people just don’t need to do it. I’ve only stolen from her once and I felt so bad about it. Sometimes I don’t go to work just so I won’t steal from her. That was awhile ago—a year?—when she first hired me. In May, during my last big run, I had this string of misses. One real bad one. Little bumpy abscess. Ya, know? Linda saw me picking at it and I told her it was a splinter from the post on the swing set that the kids were playing on.  She says, “Poor thing, let’s have a look” then spends fifteen minutes looking for something that didn’t exist. I was dying, because I was dopesick and she was digging at it with a sewing needle. A needle in a haystack or actually: looking with a needle in a bump made by a needle. She sterilized it with my lighter. She looked at her kids and nervously said, “I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I’m trying to quit. I don’t smoke around them.”

“Oh, ok, honey. That’s good. You’re too pretty to smoke.”

She resumed the excavation of the phantom splinter, and I remembered that I am pretty.

The only reason I went to work that day was to go get money to get it in. Dope’s stupid. I don’t even like it. Just tried it and poof! All of a sudden: need that too. Maintenance. I really don’t even like it. I love crack though. I can’t stop with that stuff. Anyway, Linda found nothing—obviously, but she insisted on a bandaid. Spongebob. Cool. I just can’t steal from someone who gives me Spongebob Band-Aids. I don’t want to steal from someone who gives me Spongebob Band-Aids.

The sofa’s so, so, so dirty. Everywhere is dirty. My teeth need to be flossed. I have the best smile of any crackhead probably in the universe. Jimmy has a sort of teeth fetish. So, I do the vinegar thing. I shoot crack. I’m one of “those people” who “wastes it.” Don’t bother. Don’t tell me that I should just buy coke—shoot an eight ball. I know what I want and what I’m doing. I’ll never let it wreck my gums. The bowstring of floss, that cat’s cradle tension, digs into the side of my cheeks giving me a wide grin. Why so serious?! I work through the canines and molars and draw blood. Drawing blood. I once drew with blood on the wall of a bathroom. Blood is also a bit of nameless, impossible color. “Blood red” never looks like actual blood. There’s so many shades of blood. Are the types different too? Like color-wise? What’s my blood type? Shouldn’t I know my blood type? There should be a tattoo on my wrist for that. Nut allergy. Type O. Best just go with “O.” Universal donor, right?

My dog’s still dirty and hungry. My poor fucking dog. He’s looking at me and I can’t make eye contact. I can just feel it and I can hear him. Quivering. Shaking. His little tail. I can hear it not moving. It’s starting to freak me out. It’s making the spoon shake. I’m good with a needle. I look at the rock dissolve more and more and I’m in love. I’m so, so, so good at this. I’m so, so in love with this.

It’s wearing off. It wears off and I need more. I cue up the next one before it’s even in. I miss a lot because I’m such a nut-job, and believe me it burns like a mother-fu—(I’m trying to stop cursing. I don’t want to keep slipping around those kids. My parents never talked like I do.) So, even though it really “stings,” I do it to go even faster. I can’t go fast enough. Again. Up. In.

The dog. I can still feel his eyes. He has eyebrows. Little wisps. Isn’t it cray that Chihuahuas have eyebrows? They do. At least, mine does. It’s cray. I can’t look at him right now. More.

Spoon isn’t shaking. We’re bakin’. We’re rocking. Screw Jimmy. It’s only good getting high with him sometimes. Other times, he ruins it. He can’t totally ruin it, but he makes me ruin it for myself. Somehow, he does that. But, this is good shit right now. Goood Goood shit. It’s gotta go in my toes. I play with them along the way. Feet are funny all the time. Not just now. I won’t do the space between the big guy and the—the. I don’t know what you call his neighbor. The big guy’s neighbor? If I split the difference, I won’t be able to get him food. Even if I hit the vein, my foot is going to need an hour? At least fifteen minutes. Can he wait? He can’t even bark. I can’t look at him. I can’t shoot between my big toe and whatever the one next to it is called. I won’t be able to walk in my flip flops and I can’t find any of my other shoes.

I missed. I went for the space between the pinkie toe and whatever the one next to it is called. I missed. I wasted good shit and if I don’t get it in right now this won’t be good enough. I have to go out with a bang. I can’t quit after a bad run. Day three and I’m on a roll. I’ll just do the left spot between the big guy and his neighbor. I can wear one flip flop and make it to Publix, aisle whatever, for something.

It’s in, so I’m out. I’m getting this food. I am not “not looking” at my dog anymore. I need to be able to sleep eventually and I can’t sleep with him breathing like he’s about to die. I’ve come down before and self-detoxed. It’s no fun. I need peace and quiet for that. It will be easier this time; I have a few subs left. My left foot is on fucking fire. I should have went into the bedroom and got Jimmy’s Jordan sandals. The slides without the toe thing. What the hell is that called? What the hell is the neighbor of the big toe called? Pointer-finger. Pointer toe? I’m taking this flip flop off. The pavement is on fire. Florida is on fire. I’m on fire. I’m putting it back on. I love my puppy. I love my puppy.

Cold, cold Publix. Now I’m freezing. Where have they hidden the chow for chows? My foot still hurts, which means what I shot is not going to be enough for tonight. It means I need to make a pit-stop on the way home. I get the bag of food. Whatchu got in that bag? Why don’t they sell crack at Publix? Wouldn’t that be the shizzles? I don’t even think about buying human food. Eating is something I rarely do when I’m hammin’ on crack. Ham. Bologna. I can’t spell that word. I find my doggy food and I check out. The guy looks at me weird. The bill I handed him is a little scorched. No need to get rude. No need to judge, mister. I walk out and grin at the security mirror. I need to brush my teeth.

Jimmy is probably at the apartment I’m going to. I feel like my feet are getting slapped walking up these concrete steps. Fourth floor. Two units over. The yellow one. Door 403. Four-oh-three. I reach the second landing and my foot is screaming so I drop the food. Luckily the bag doesn’t split but the squat lift really makes my toes hurt. Ya know how some leaves back home have veins? They bulge. I can feel my foot-veins bulge. My feet are big green tunnel-ridden leaves. I knock. I knock again. Where the hell—oh hey! “Oh hey!” Is my way of being cool. They’ll never know how much my toe hurts. They’ll give me a fair break and quickly. I’m in no mood to negotiate.

“Why you limping?” says Rico, my dealer, from the clean brown couch in the corner. He’s a black guy with beautiful teeth. Clorox grin. Jimmy thinks I fuck him more often than I do.

“I’m not.” I kick my flip flops off and have the closest thing I can have to an orgasm: the relief and excitement of getting more crack.

“Yeah, ok. You need something?” He squints his eyes and his forehead creases. He wants me to give him head today. That’s what I see in his forehead. I’m ok with that. Anything to get me off my feet.

I use the bathroom after. No time to shower. No time to wash my hands. My dog is waiting. Rico’s moved into the living room. I sit down just for a second. He pulls my head into his stomach. I can feel his sweat through his t-shirt. He has nice abs. If I was able to feel things, maybe I’d feel something.

“You know I like you.” That’s Rico’s way of saying he’d be ok with me living with him.

I look at Trisha shoot up in the corner. She’s wearing a ripped t-shirt and purple underwear. Her hair’s a mess and the mascara she’s wearing is so thick that it looks like beetles are resting on her eyelids. She blasts off and leans her head into the screen door that leads to the balcony, then she closes her eyes and lands back on the floor. She collapses into a smile, but her brow is tense. She already needs more. Rico sees me looking at her.

“It wouldn’t be like that. I wouldn’t make you go out. You’d be mine and that’s all you’d do. Me and your maintenance.” He laughs, because he can remember me telling him this. I can’t remember telling him this. “You can go work with those kids and come back here.” He holds me by the shoulders and smiles. His teeth are so white that I could cry. Instead, I go back to Jimmy’s place to floss.

I walk in and can tell that Jimmy’s home. I can tell by the way my fear shifts around. I can feel my high float and bounce off the walls. I’ll catch it again. I finger the rock and the bundle in my pocket and put down the dog food. I hear him open the door and the loud slam, then he’s in front of me, in my face and then I hit the floor. My cheek is stinging. Hot against our dirty white scratching carpet.

“Let me see. Let me see your mouth,” he says.

I roll on my back and open my mouth. He drags me by my ankles toward him and then sits on my chest. I bite my tongue, because he sits all the way down. He talks to me with his body. He tells me he’s mad and that I’m shit with his body. He starts to choke me and looks in. The hand that isn’t on my neck is in my mouth. Two fingers separate my cheeks and I feel his nails. He feels the top row with a finger sliding it over my teeth like the legs of a chair being dragged across a tiled kitchen floor. He presses my tongue down hard with his thumb. I start to gag and my eyes begin leaking; it always happens around this point and it means he’ll stop soon. It takes him a full minute to make sure I did a good job today. He takes his fingers out of my mouth and puts them on my chin, swivels my head from side to side like a doll, and tells me to move my tongue back and forth. He tells me I’m dirty.

“OK. They’re better than yesterday. Get up and wash him out. Go get his juice out of your mouth—for fuck’s sake. GO!”

He leans back and let’s me go, then kicks at air behind me, as I crawl to the bathroom. Big mirrors aren’t allowed. I don’t even know where he put them or when that happened. He gave me a makeup mirror, something cheap like RiteAid brand blush. He doesn’t want me to wear makeup. He says it makes me look like a whore. “Use this to check them. You can look nice if your teeth are clean. I like when your teeth are clean.”

I take my mirror out and wipe off some powder that might be blush residue or might be drugs. I floss first, then brush, then gargle. He comes in behind me. He never leaves me alone. He loves me that way. Jimmy’s like a blanket of arms and fingers. It doesn’t feel right to just look at him. He has to touch me and then it’s all real and good. He rubs my back, puts his head on my shoulder. If there was a mirror, we’d look up and smile at each other through it like some sort of married couple or something. He’s different and gentle now. Touching me like this. Putting his hands on me like he’s addicted to the way my skin is smooth. He tells me how good my teeth are when they’re taken care of and when he really loves me, when we’re in bed, he tells me how soft I am. How no one is as smooth as his baby. That’s me. I’m his baby. I think it’s the dope. Girls that do dope glow. I guess it’s not the worst drug to do.

“How much he give you this time?”


He kisses my neck and pushes my hair back. His tongue hits my pores and I feel a bolt through my veins like I can’t describe. I can’t wait to get high with him.

“Maybe. Maybe if you promise to be nice.”

He bites my neck, the part right below the back of my head. He hates to see bite marks. Jimmy only bites me where no one can see. It’s another one of his things.

“Let me feed Henry first,” I say, knowing that he wants to shoot up now. To go to the bedroom and do what we do.

“No. Baby. I’m real sick.”

I give in like always. We fly together and it’s great. It’s what I want. He holds my hand and I get curious for a second about who he is. From Cleveland. He’s from Cleveland and Cleveland’s cold. OK. That’s who he is. We do the dope on the bed kind of close, then we roll over back to back and do our favorites. I shoot my crack next and he does the steroid thing. The ones that make us up. Sometimes horny. Sometime “crazy” horny. We did that dumb dope together. First time was in a red car in the parking lot of Home Depot at like three in the morning. Blood red. The car was sort of close to blood red. We used this big needle. The kind he uses to get the steroids in past the muscles or whatever. Scared me. I liked it but I didn’t. I think I only liked it because I did it with him. Maybe it’s why I don’t think dope’s something to go ham on.

My crack is in. I used a vein in my hand. I can shoot lefty and righty. I used to draw. Sometimes I color with the kids. Those markers. This ink on my hands. I have skills on an Etch-a-sketch too. Like I really can do a lot with one of those. I told Jimmy that and he laughed. I tried to show him and he told me, “I don’t fucking care, where’s the shit?” I think Rico might have cared. He might have looked and said, “That’s nice.” Rico is too good for me. My Etch-a-sketch is gone though. It got burned from a pipe and I threw it away so Jimmy wouldn’t find out. I rarely smoke, because it’s really bad for your teeth. But, I really don’t like Jimmy’s big needles. So, if I’m out of mine and can’t wait, I don’t share unless he’s right there staring at me. I sometimes ask him to do it for me. That’s how much of a wuss I am.

I climb out of bed and Jimmy gets up too. Even when he’s high he doesn’t trust me. He doesn’t know how bad I need him. I want to feed my doggy. I want him to not die. I go take a drink of water from the sink first. Rinse it out. I can’t brush and floss just yet. I feel my gums through my cheeks. I think my mouth must look like a pumpkin carved out. The inside with strings of pink skin the color of a grape fruit. I puff my cheeks back and forth. It feels cool. Soft. Hard. Soft. Hard. Fun.

I hear Jimmy flush the toilet and then he starts laughing in the hallway. His laugh is mean, “You got cat food.” I look at the bag. I look at my dog and his fur that’s so dirty. I want to cry. I want Jimmy to make me cry. I look at Jimmy and he gives me this face: this get-over-here face. I walk back to him, defeated like I’m supposed to feel, to let him scare me into forgetting that I’m alive. Jimmy’s great at that. He’s the best.

My father showed up the next morning. I don’t know how he found me this time. This time was the seventeenth. I’ve been to rehab ten times—well, I’m being dramatic. Ten including detox, but six if you just count inpatient. Only finished one time. I don’t know where Jimmy went, but he wasn’t there when I woke up, just my dad. Outside. Pounding on the front door. It was unlocked. I don’t think he’d have opened it even if he had checked the handle. He can’t stand how bad it’s gotten. I think he thinks it’s his fault.

I asked my father if he ever smoked pot. This was before I tried anything. He said, “I’m going to be honest with you, I did. It was a waste of time though.” I wish I could explain to him that I partied all on my own. One boyfriend led to the next and we go on and on until I’m the girl with the needle in her arm. That’s how it always ends. The last time I went to rehab was at place called Whitefalls; I left on my eleventh day with a guy named Tim, who introduced me to Jimmy a week later. Whitefalls. In my opinion, shit was a joke. I just hope that’s not where dad’s taking me this time. My guess is no, because we’re at the Orlando airport. Headed to… Philadelphia. Oh great, I guess I’ll freeze to death instead of die of an overdose. They’ve got great shit in Philly. I’ve heard that. I know that. They’ve got great shit everywhere if you’re me and know where to look.

Dad had maybe said four sentences to me the entire trip. Two of them were, “Where you going?” Both times was to the bathroom. What I wanted to do was exactly what he thought I was going to do: run. The first time I went to the bathroom that was right in front of him. He ate lunch at Chick-fil-A in the main terminal. I couldn’t swallow or eat anything. I was getting sick. I had three subs in my pocket. I went to the bathroom and took one. I knew I’d need it just to get me through the flight. I had to.

The next time I went to the bathroom was after we went through security. I was flipping out on the inside. Not sick because the sub kicked in enough. But I knew it was going to all start to slow down and hit me. A big ton of bricks. The fucking guilt. You only feel shame when you’re high, but you mix in guilt when you’re sober. I did want to run. I looked in the mirror of the bathroom. The one four gates closer towards the exit. I could get on a hotel shuttle bus. There are a million of those at this airport. Maybe even the Disney Express. Hooray for Mickey. This wasn’t funny or fun though. My dad. I can’t do it to him again. Not while he’s watching.

The mirror. It’d been awhile. A real mirror and my face. My skin. I had eyes. I blink. I wish I was dead. I can’t stand myself. I can’t stand this. I went back into the stall. I needed to take my clothes off for a second, because I was suffocating. The floor was cold and filthy, but I couldn’t breathe. I was breathing just enough to be alive—which thoroughly sucked.

I don’t know where it came from. It snuck under the stall door and underneath my eyelids. A projected image, a lit-up neon sign that flashed, “Don’t.” I exhaled. It felt like all I had been doing was sucking in air. I stood up and put my clothes back on. Damp. I walked out and my dad was leaning against the wall opposite the women’s room. He looked tired. He looked so beat. But, he was there, so I followed him. I asked him about the dog and he looked surprised. I know he was wondering why I cared about anything but myself. That was my adjective ever since I got into this, “selfish.” Couldn’t be more true. He said, “I didn’t see any dog.”

When we land, Mom’s not there. “She’s not coming this time. We’re doing this different.” My mom alternated between being mean and being hysterical about me. A thunderbolt of emotion. Everything I can’t feel she seems to absorb. The place was called “Cloverfield Lodge.” I know enough that “lodge” in the name meant no guarantee on the length of stay. It also meant lock-down. I always felt the same at In-take. Pissed. Like a caged animal cornered in the shavings looking across the cage at the water bottle wondering which was better: escaping or going back for another hit. I didn’t lie about what I was on. This was a first. I know that eventually they get you off everything. Why delay those two days of hell? I deserve it all. I shared a room with a Xanax girl. Poor bitch. I never messed with benzos. I was in rehab for coke my first time and I saw that detox. Not for me.

I sat in on lecture my first day—also a first. Most girls my age come in and ride out that they can be down for a few days. They shuffle back and forth between the dining room and the detox nurses. Complain. They carry on dramatically if they feel inclined. I just went to lecture. I cooperated—also a first.

The speaker was a man—not a first. I sat in the front—you guessed it: a first. This guy was likeable. He had his hair and everything except his teeth hid his history. He could have used a Jimmy in his life. He said getting sober is a process. He didn’t talk about some fairy dust moment. I admit it. I’ve been waiting for that type of thing. Some illuminating burst of courage to transform a coward. But, “a process.” How disappointing for me. He said how we got to the level of messed up was a “process.” So how is the fix going to be any different? He made a joke. He said that humor helps. And yeah, he said it is the program that guides you there. Those are the rules to follow. But, it’s going to take awhile before those rules are reminders instead of punishments. This wasn’t my fairy dust moment. I already told you that that doesn’t happen. But it was my first day. Today’s a year. Wish me luck.


About the Author

Kate Scarpetta grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and spent her youth playing sports and climbing trees. Her young adulthood was spent chasing a golf ball around the world as a professional athlete. Now, she works in tech and moonlights as a comic and aspiring TV writer. Her pilot, "Under Par," is about the circuit beneath the Ladies Professional Golf Tour. Kate attended Princeton University where she studied under Joyce Carol Oates and Edmund White. Her work has been featured in the Brooklyn Review, SpltiLip, Word Riot, Liars' League and 14 Hills amongst others. @kate_scarpetta

Photo property of jchapiewsky on Flickr. No changes made to photo.