By Beth Cortez-Neavel
There is this powder, so light so grey and it sticks to my fingers and I place them in my mouth and my throat rebels with my tongue at the taste. I stir it into an iced tea and chug it down gulp, gulp, gulping and it tastes so earthy – like white potter’s clay – and prickles down into my stomach like the cactus it came from. Then I am so aware of everything, so happy, flying on my feet and it brings me up. I am no longer depressed. Opressed. Repressed. Supressed. I am a million atoms and particles of matter buzzing into one almost impenetrable form. Only the half-moon’s light can soak into me. I drink it up. I need no other sustenance. I am dancing with the small breeze that escapes from the coast through the skyscrapers and office buildings into the inner-city atmosphere. The night is warm and in this city you can see the stars from the broken sidewalks and rutted tar. I stand on my wooden porch, the dirty gray paint flaky underfoot as my feet shift of their own accord; I cannot stand still. Every hair stands on end in its follicle. The slightest movement of a leaf on the ground next to me causes me to startle, intensely amazed at the ability for the breeze to pick it up and move it a half-centimeter after spiraling through the thick, end-of-summer night air as if it were nothing. Everything begins to feel heavier around me as I sink into my own thoughts. The forefinger and middle finger of my right hand are fully aware – on their own – of the nicotine woven in the smoke curling up around from the butt nestled almost forgotten between them. I study the black writing on the side, thinking that even the way the ash I have yet to flick off the end retains the letters gracefully. Death comes elegantly wrapped. Something in me remembers to raise it to my lips. I receive it like a lover’s kiss: breathing in deep, feeling every sweet toxin enter me. I feel the cleanest I have felt in a long time.
Somewhere I hear an owl and am reminded of home and how far I am away from it. I have become enchanted with the glittering of the asphalt and the un-silences of the city at night; the ambulances in the distance lamenting that all is not well. The sounds of badly-played drum sets beating mercilessly down the street. The zoom of cars passing the entrances to roads in between the dilapidated aluminum-sided houses and the brownstone condos. I feel tears trailing down my face, leaving wet salty sticky trails on my cheeks and think with an awed detachment that I am maybe homesick for simpler times. More wholesome times. Times when I could feel this rush of life without swallowing a pill, taking a hit, eating a gram, or drinking powdered tea. Sandi who is fragile like seashells but strong like the waves off the Florida coast tells me that this sadness is a part of who I am. She tells me that I need to stop taking all those pills because they are just screwing with my mind: Those pills will fuck you up, girl. She passes me the bowl. “Drugs are different.” They make you more of who you are.
I wake up the next morning so nauseous I don’t want to move. My mouth tastes like vomit and I walk through the next day like it is the dream. Last night was the reality.

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