The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Ivan is eighteen years old recovering from multi-substance abuse. He has used heroin, methamphetamine, benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, etc.), alcohol, cocaine, and other prescription pills. Recently, he tried to buy and use drugs, but his attempt was thwarted when his would-be dealer robbed him. He is still clean.

I’m sick of drugs. 

I really am, so why am I on my way to get more? The voice in the back of my head, the little nagging in my stomach, is telling me it’s because I’m fucked up and so the only solution to that problem is, well, to get fucked up. 

You’re anxious. You’re depressed. You want to put a bullet in your head. Do you want to keep feeling like this or do you want to feel okay? 

It’s that voice that tells my feet to move, that guides my feet down the street into territory that is all too familiar to me. My worn out skate shoes step over broken bottles and old cigarette butts, leading me to an old friend. 

The light rain has matted my middle-length hair and caused my black t-shirt to stick to my body, but it washes the nervous sweat from me as well. I OD’d once before and I got my life back. Do I want to risk that again?

What are the odds that you’re gonna OD again? Just don’t shoot too much, you’ll be fine. 

My hook-up is exactly where he said that he would be. He’s a sleaze ball if I’ve ever seen one. His head is shaved, his clothes are filthy, and his winter jacket is torn. He looks around every few seconds nervously, tapping his foot and intermittently jamming his hands in his pockets before removing them again. 

It’s a familiar spot. A street corner that leads into an alley. Hundreds of kids go in each week. If those walls could talk, man. There would be some terrifying stories. Nothing bad has ever happened to me in there before and I’m hoping to keep it that way. 

Nothing’s gonna happen. Hurry up!

The nagging voice is right. For whatever reason, the dealer is looking incredibly sketched out. 

I approach him slowly because I’m scared. I’m scared of using again and I’m scared of not using again. The anxiety is crushing my stomach and chest; it feels like I am being suffocated. 

“Hey, Tom,” I say to the guy on the corner.

“Yo, what’s up? It’s been a while.” His voice is high and quick, breathless, like he ran to get here and hasn’t cooled down yet. 

“Yeah, it’s been a while but I always come back, I guess.”

Stop talking. Get the drugs and leave. 

“So, you got it or what?”

Tom laughs nervously. “Jeez, you’re a little short today. Yeah, I got it. Twenty bucks.”

I hand him the twenty without ever thinking about the fact that I haven’t seen the drugs yet. Tom snatches the bill from my hand and pushes me, hard. 

Before I can finish steadying myself out, he is running.

Come on, go chase him! He has your money and drugs!

I start forward, but freeze. I know where following him will lead me. Back to ODs, crackhouses, and dead friends. Back to places I don’t want to go. 


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