Patrick Trotti

Posted on November 13, 2017

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Editor’s Pick

Taste the Rainbow

She was eating some sort of candy. I could hear the television on in the background. I got out of bed when she began laughing. She always laughed like a hyena, cackling and obnoxiously loud with a snort at the end when she tried to catch her breath. Chelsea Handler was on when I came into the living room. She was dressed in an oversized t-shirt and underwear. She was cuddling with an oversized stuffed animal, which meant something was wrong.

As I got closer I noticed blood. She’d been picking again. That was the easiest way to tell that she’d been getting high. This time she carved out a fresh spot on her forehead instead of scrapping off an already formed scab from a previous night. A stream of blood ran right down her nose, dripping off drop by drop onto her teddy bear.

Skittles were all over the floor. On the couch next to her was an overfilled ashtray. Her shoebox was there as well. It was filled with a different type of candy. Its mere presence dominated the room. Everything around it, around her, was based off the contents of the box. If I went near it she’d scoop it up and dart off towards the bedroom or bathroom. Any place that she could put a door with a lock between us, between her nasty habit and my judgmental looks.

Burdened by expectations and haunted by her scarred, fragmented history she found comfort in things that made her forget, allowed her to escape, to be absent. As she jabbed at her arms in a perpetual search of that perfect vein I’d put out cigarettes on my forearms. I’d allow the ember to slowly continue to breathe against the odorous smell of my burning hair. As the sting radiated outwards from the burn spot I closed my eyes and waited for a deeper level of pain to overcome my thoughts and insecurities. Soon all I could think about was the here and now, the burning of flesh and the makings of a new scar. In those last few moments I felt it all, internalized the pain as a way of controlling what my body could feel and for how long.

We both smoked a cigarette as her high set in and my arm began to throb. She slouched closer to me in a drug-induced fog. She mumbled something about the show we were watching. The specifics weren’t important. If she stayed quiet for too long I’d have to start monitoring her breathing to make sure she didn’t lose consciousness. When the commercials started, she turned towards me, her droopy eyes searching for something in me, some sign that what she was doing was okay by me. I tried to keep my emotions neutral but she knew how to read me.

I wanted to go inside and read but I knew I couldn’t stray too far from her until her high wore off. She was going to be in and out for a while. I was being held hostage by a needle.

As the show came back on she jumped out of her slouch and bolted straight up. She kept her eyes open for a few moments before she began her slow process of slouching back down to her previous pose. When the show’s guest made a crude joke she began to laugh. The next joke wasn’t even being set up yet as she began to choke. She hadn’t eaten anything in hours so I knew this was drug related. It wasn’t like her coughs, the typical phlegm ridden ones from deep down in her chest. This sounded worse, more immediate. She was hunched forward, head in between her legs, her back quivering from trying to loosen whatever was impeding her breathing. The hate, the judgment, and pity escaped in that moment. She was choking on her tongue.

I started the Heimlich, half unsure of myself, my movements. I knew that I couldn’t call an ambulance. They’d take one look at the place and the cops would be called. I couldn’t take that chance and I couldn’t waste time. She needed help now.

As she came to she gasped at the air between us, her mouth wide open like she was trying to gather as much air as she could just in case it happened again. Her eyes didn’t bolt open; it was a casual, slow opening. The droopiness of heroin had been replaced by the confusion of what had happened. I lunged forward to hug her. She shook free from my grip and began to yell, tears in her eyes.

“What the fuck, you made me miss my show!”

She reached back and found a cigarette and lit it before she stood up and took her shoebox with her into the bathroom. As I turned off the television I could hear the door lock behind her.

I’d be forced to spend another night with her teddy bear, smelling the fur for faint hints of her fragrance to get me through the early morning hours.

****

Patrick Trotti is a freelance writer based in Rochester, New York. His short work has appeared in a few dozen literary journals, both online and in print and he’s the author of several full-length books. You can find out more at http://www.patricktrotti.com.

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