A Story From An Editor: “Shallow Angles”

I wrote this towards the beginning of high school. I didn’t know anything about shooting heroin (not that I know much more now), and while I was researching online I found a forum full of posts and comments detailing the process. I remember thinking it was a very strange place online for me, a 14 year girl at the time, to be at 3 in the morning. But it was also a lot of fun and one of the first times I really enjoyed the process of writing, so I hope you like it! – Molly 

Shallow Angles

Molly Caisse

You are eight years old when your mother overdoses on heroin. You’re eight years old, on your living room couch – green corduroy with specks of red – when you hear a splash from the bathroom. Over the dull hum of Alice in Wonderland, corduroy pressing indents into your left cheek, there’s a splash, sixteen steps away. Splash. Splash. Splash.

There’s a ten dollar pack of diacetylmorphine from your older brother, emptied on a stolen silver spoon from the kitchen cupboard. Add water. Heat. Cotton swells up when it hits heroin, the way your face will swell when you’ve had enough, when you stand and slip and fall and crack your cheekbone on the tile floor. The cotton swells and there’s liquid drawn into your syringe.

With practice, anything is simple. Hitting a baseball. Multiplication. Shooting heroin. Shooting heroin is like hitting a baseball. Don’t miss the ball. Don’t miss the vein. You tie off your arm with a brown leather belt. A Christmas present. You always hated your aunt.

A hematologist presses a needle into the bend of your arm at a shallow angle. Easy does it, they say. You were just a kid when they took your blood. Deep breaths. Good. You draw up blood, a red cloud swirling through dark brown water. Jaws taking place in a murky river. You could have been a doctor. A swimmer. A shark.

Press the plunger. An intravenous injection takes seven to eight seconds to reach the bloodstream, to turn glitter to gold. Eight. Your bathwater is tepid. Seven. The bullet of a typical nine millimeter handgun will move at fourteen thousand feet per second. Six. Your toes peek out, break the surface. Five. A bullet will turn your skull into a game of pinball. Ping ping ping. You’re the winner. Four. Brain matter is a bitch to clean. Ask anyone. Four. Your head is about to explode. Three. You stand.

Two.

One.

Crash.

I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” the White Rabbit calls. It’s sixteen steps from the red speckled couch to the bathroom door. You counted. You’ve always been good with numbers. Sixteen steps, through the kitchen. The dishwasher is humming. Easy does it. The door is unlocked and you push. Good. Eight years old and your mother overdoses on heroin, the dishwasher humming as she convulses on the floor.

Twelve steps to the phone. It’s a twelve step program to the break the bottle, to call your dad and smash it over his head.

“9-1-1,” he says. “Call 9-1-1.”

Numbers are easy. Sixteen steps to the bathroom. Twelve steps to the phone. A puddle of yellow bile and rich brown blood pooling beneath your mother’s head as the operator asks you questions.

“My mom is on the floor,” you say. You are standing by the kitchen counter. The bowl of bananas keeping you company will rot, soon enough.

“Where is your dad?” The operator asks.

“My mom is on the floor.” Your mouth won’t work. Your tongue is turning purple. Your lips are swollen like cotton.

“The paramedics will be there soon, hun,” a woman says, not sixteen steps but miles away.

“My mom is – ” There’s a hand wrapped around your throat. A hand made of wax. It’s your hand. A bullet is ricocheting inside of your skull.

“Jesus Christ!”

I’ve found my dad, you want to say. There’s a woman miles away, asking questions. My dad is here. But the phone is on the floor. Your mom is on the floor. “Andrew. Go next door.” Your dad is in front of you, his hands on your shoulders.

People who are brain dead, their eyes move along as you turn their head, like dolls with a few screws loose. Your dad’s eyes move everywhere. His pupils are huge. Twenty steps to the front door. No need to push, the door is wide open. Deep breaths.

There are blue and red lights flashing outside your house. You are blinded. Red blood is pooling beneath your mother’s head in a bathroom twenty steps away. You’re eight years old and there’s a crowd on the sidewalk in front of your house while the dishwasher hums and your mother overdoses on heroin.

“My mom is on the floor,” you say to whoever will listen. Miles and miles away a woman is on a phone, wondering where your father is. There’s a crowd on the sidewalk and a stretcher rolling through the front door, vomit on the bathroom tiles. Alice is still lost in Wonderland.

You are eight years old.

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