Still Ill by Clara Roberts

I’m emaciated, wearing blue corduroy’s—sitting on the splintered wooden floor.

I look at the man, Kevin, who injects himself—the needle permanent as it pierces the skin. When I watch him, all I think of is when it’s going to be my turn. He’s used heroin intermittently for fourteen years and fights to find a vein.

Injection. Almost everyone is intimidated by it their first time when they first see the flick of the rig up by the ceiling light. When I was a child, I would fight nurses and doctors—kick and push them away as they came towards me with a filled syringe. Now, I feel impassioned and inspired when I plunge a poke into my body—the dreamland of my mind relishing in the rapture of the drug’s power.

Everything is wrong.

There’s a gallery in his backpack—used and dull syringes, plastic tubes of water, cotton, a tin cooker, and three Bic lighters—all of his most prized paraphernalia. He tells me to stretch out my pale arm. I roll up the purple sleeves of a winter jacket Mom bought me, ready to cross a monumental threshold for the umpteenth time. I look at him while he licks the blood running down my limb.

Everything is wrong.

How do I return to normal when I feel like a naked person in the street? The drugs bend me and I wilt, even though I never grew into a flower. The word melancholy sounds like a lullaby of death. I know not to fall in love with Kevin because we are already in love with heroin. The drug is meant to envelop my soul, promising me a life I will not be able to escape from. The drugs are patient, but not virtuous. I try to hold onto the sunlight. The cracked window is being held open by an old prescription pill bottle. My lost legacy is now a daydream and a tuneless song, not a timeless melody.

Kevin kisses me and holds me close. Then he steals my medicine. He steals enough to know that two capsules are now missing from my five. I don’t know if you know, but I tasted what I never should have known.

“Make me cry. No one says that.”[1]

Everything is wrong.

[1] Aya Elizabeth

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Clara Roberts

Clara Roberts is a graduate from the MA in Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. Her nonfiction and poetry have been published in Gravel, Heartwood Literary Magazine, Back Patio Press, From Whispers to Roars, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Fearsome Critters (May 2020), among othersShe was a resident at the Lemon Tree House Residency in Tuscany, Italy September/October of 2019. She currently lives in Baltimore where she finds material to write about every day.

Twitter: @ActDaFool3