An almost white drop of sweat made its way down her scarred right cheek. Her cold, pale hands trembled as the beating sun shone through the window onto her frail body. Her faintly colored veins pounded in anticipation. She calmly shut her eyes, as had become procedure. Her body remained in place, swaying from side to side as she’d lost her sense of balance; her mind, however, drifted far from her putrid, cheap motel room.
“Come on Nicole, just try it.”
“My sister did it once and she was fine. Don’t be such a little bitch.”
Nicole stared at the needle. The moonlight reflected off of its point, creating an alluring glow.
Nicole was a rather reserved young woman. Her nightly routine most often consisted of homework and a dash of television. Though once content with a life so bland, the grips of monotony had transformed from comforting to insufferable. She felt trapped in an all-too-typical fantasy. As any normal adolescent does, she began to develop a craving for excitement; something to free her from the prison of perpetual predictability.
Nicole examined every inch of the needle. Her heart was throbbing, nearly protruding from her chest. Caroline continued to pester her, but Nicole couldn’t hear.
Time began to slow down.
She gazed at Caroline and noticed an expression of carefree relaxation. It was not an expression that comes as a result of perpetual predictability; it was an expression of independence, of sheer contentment. Caroline’s words were coarse and tone assertive, but her mouth nevertheless curved upward at its corners. When she concealed the smile, the easiness of her voice and drooping of her eyes served still as indication of her altered, seemingly more thrilling state.
Nicole’s subconscious had already determined her course of action. She was tired of analyzing every aspect of her life. She was tired of relying on television characters through which she could vicariously live. She was tired of turning to her novels, which she so often got lost in, for a taste of adventure.
Rejecting all logical reasoning, Nicole reached for the rubber rope that was resting on the glove box. In a heap, she tied it around her arm, choking her vein until she could nearly see the blood pumping through her body. With the edge of the rope in her mouth and caution to the wind, she shifted her focus to the needle that was made all the more enticing by its illumination. She began to reach for the glistening light, but the uncontrollable shaking in her hands inhibited the endeavor. Determined, she took a deep breath, bit the rope with might, and wrapped her hand around her escape.
When the needle slipped into her arm, she felt liberated. She felt alive.
Nicole, with her eyes still shut, remained standing in her run down motel room. Suddenly, a plethora of memories began to flood in. She recalled what followed that night: The partying. The stealing from her parents. Integrating herself into a dangerous crowd. The first arrest. The second. Third. The first of what would be many interventions. The moment her parents kicked her out and cut her off. The first blow job she gave for money. The miscarriage. The times she woke up in the hospital, entirely unsure of how she got there. The overdoses. The attempts to get clean. The withdrawals. The apologies. The failed twelve steps. Relapses. Heartbreak. Failed suicide attempts. Hopelessness. Hatred.
Nicole’s eyes opened. She looked at the glistening needle as the sun reflected off of its tip. Her mouth salivated. As she reached for the alluring, shimmering silver, she found herself inhibited by that ever-familiar trembling. For the first time in four years, she experienced the reluctance that she’d once foolishly ignored.
Overcome by emotion, Nicole dropped to her knees. She buried her face in her hands and began to sob. Peace of mind, stability, simplicity - all of the things she’d once so vehemently wished to escape - had now become her most desired, yet elusive, objects.
Suddenly, Nicole heard a voice in her head. It was her mother.
“Our most determining moments come while on our knees. How we got there isn’t what defines us, though. Where we go upon getting up is.”
Nicole lifted her head up enough to gaze again at the needle lying so seductively on the coffee table. She summoned her deepest sources of strength and began to push her frail body upward. Her sobs turned into determined grunts. Her face grew blank. She experienced a feeling that she’d almost forgotten: empowerment.
Nicole turned and made her way to the door. She opened it with haste, stumbling into the parking lot of the motel she’d come to know as home. For the first time in years, she saw the light of the world from its source. She no longer required an instrument off which the sun reflected to give her hope. She no longer felt the need to remain living vicariously through the needles that had come to define her.
When she walked away from that coffee table, she left her past in the dark. She was finally, truly, and eternally free. She was, for the first time in her life, independently alive.