The Last Time
By: Katy Moran
This was the last time, he thought. The feeling of isolation compressed the room. Almost as if the air itself was being sucked out. The despair bound him tighter still. The only noise in the room besides for the constant thump of his own beating heart was the cigarette he tapped compulsively on the tabletop. The walls were thin, damp as well. The distorted light from the window illuminated the sweat on his brow. His mind fluttered around frantically. He could feel the thoughts almost as tangibly as the floor on which he sat. Impossible to restrain. He had not lied. Not this time. He pulled himself up and paced across the room, trying to shake off the voices in his head. He forced himself to think of where he would be if he wasn’t here, in this broken old room. Maybe he would be out. Yes, out with a nice girl. They would eat dinner. Italian maybe. Maybe she would laugh at his jokes. Maybe they would go home together. Maybe not. Either way he would be happy. He tried to paint the picture in his mind as he paced. But there was something missing. It wasn’t convincing, even to him. He tried desperately to find a happy memory to sustain him. He searched his beaten mind but the memories slipped away. Only shadows, glimpses of a long-forgotten time. He needed food. To help him think. Yes, food would help! He pulled on his jacket and closed the door behind him quickly. Hoping to lock the desperation in before it could follow him out.
The light from the street lamps bounced off the puddles on the sidewalk creating a hidden world mirrored to ours. Had it rained? He couldn’t remember clearly. It couldn’t be too late. There were still some young guys in suits returning from their jobs in the city. Striding confidently through life. On a high that no one could touch. The walking was helping. It helped to order his thoughts. He could almost imagine himself as one of those men, walking home in his collared coat with his umbrella bolstered under his arm. He could almost, just for a second, imagine the feeling. The confidence glimmered at the edge of his perception but disappeared again before he could get a good look at it. He zipped up his jacket. It was getting cooler now. His feet beat a steady rhythm on the ground. It calmed him. He was doing the right thing this time. He knew it. He was facing the demons once and for all. No one could stop him. The thought made his heart jump frantically, he was excited now. He stopped outside a diner and pulled out his cigarettes. He inhaled the dark calming smoke into his lungs. His calmness betrayed only by the shaking of his hands.
Later still he left the diner. His previous calmness feeling far away now as the food turned uncomfortably in his stomach. His arm throbbed and he pulled up the sleeve of his jacket. The patchwork of tiny holes glowed under the neon lights of the diner. The voices were louder now. He pulled at the sleeve angrily and started walking again. No destination in mind just a goal. Shut them up. He walked faster. He smoked as he walked. One after the next, after the next until his throat felt charred. The hot coals lighting the way forward in the darkness. But nothing satisfied him. The hole grew deeper the more he tried to fill it. How long had he been walking for now? It must be a while. His feet ached and his breath was ragged now from the exertion. The voices were quieter now. Only a rumble, a murmur. He should have stopped to ask himself why. All at once the aching emptiness opened up inside of him, threatening to swallow him whole. His heart raced and his mind splintered. He just needed one hit. Who was he kidding anyway? He wasn’t the suited city worker making his way back from work. He wasn’t one half of the happy couple eating pasta and sharing a bottle of wine. Those were the lies. Not this, not that he wouldn’t be back here. He became acutely aware of his surroundings, the voices egged him on now. He walked quickly towards the house. The road was empty but the light was on, he could see it emanating from behind the curtains. He pulled up his jacket. His arm was throbbing again but in anticipation rather than pain. He slid the needle easily into his arm and his splintered mind became whole once more for a fleeting second before melting into sweet oblivion as he surrendered once again to the deep, aching relief that filled his body as the hot liquid pumped through his veins. This was the last time, he thought.