Nova - 2
For everyone who struggled and survived.
I wake up every morning feeling content that I’m drowning in darkness. Blissfully, mind-numbingly content, without worrying or being haunted by my fucked-up past because I can’t feel a fucking thing. At least after I take my first hit. Once I get the taste of that bitterly sweet, wonderfully toxic, white crystals up my nose, it’ll burn out the back of my throat along with all my emotions. Then I’ll be good to go for days. The guilt that I carry around in me will briefly die and I’ll slowly die right along with it. I’m glad because I want to be dead.
And I’m working on getting there, one numbing line at a time.
I can’t remember the last time I slept, just like I can’t remember the name of the woman lying beside me in my bed, passed out with her top off. I met her last night when she showed up with Dylan and Delilah and somehow we ended up in my room where we had meaningless sex and then she passed out from whatever she’s on. It’s become a routine, a painfully longstanding routine that I’m addicted to. Part of me wishes I wasn’t, but the other part knows that I deserve exactly what I have—nothing.
After struggling all night to shut my eyes, seeking sleep but never getting there, I finally climb off the mattress on the floor. I’ve been going for days, strung out on line after line, my eyes bulging out of my head, my body and mind so tense and worn out from the energy overload, yet still fighting to stay awake. If I don’t get more into my system soon, I’m going to crash.
I grab a pair of jeans from off the chipped linoleum floor and pull them on. My bedroom is about the size of a closet and contains a shitty mattress, a box with stuff that I never look at anymore, a lamp, and a mirror and razor that are always within reach. I pick them both up off the floor and then the empty plastic bag next to it. I must have finished it off last night…although I can barely remember doing it. I can barely remember anything anymore. Days and nights are blurred together in pieces that are quickly fading.
“Shit,” I mutter, wiping my finger along the mirror’s dry surface, and then lick my finger clean, sucking every last drop off it. It doesn’t do anything for the starving beast stirring inside me, ready to wake up and claw at my skin if I don’t feed it. I toss the mirror across the room, watching it shatter against the wall. “Dammit.” I snatch a shirt up off the floor and pull it on as I hurry out into the narrow hall, tripping over a few people passed out on the floor, none of whom I know, but they always seem to be around.
When I reach the door at the end of the hall, the room that belongs to my cousin Tristan, I turn the doorknob but it’s locked, so I hammer my fist against it. “Tristan, open up the fucking door…I need to get in there. Now.”
There’s no response, so I bang on the door harder, slamming my shoulder into the wood. My body starts to shake by the third slam…my mouth salivating by the fifth…by the seventh I feel like I could fucking kill someone if I don’t get my goddamned dose in me.
Finally the door weakens and starts to cave beneath my violent slams, but it won’t give in completely. The need to feed the irrational and unstable monster inside me becomes too much, and I kick the door over and over again as hard as I can. Panic starts to set in as a stream of images of the people I’ve lost flow through my head: Lexi, Ryder, my mom, whom I never met. They all ram me in the chest, sucking the air out of my lungs. Then, at the end of the images, I see Nova’s eyes, which look blue at first unless you look close enough to see the green hidden in them. I don’t know why I see her. It’s not like I lost her. She’s still alive and out there somewhere in the world, hopefully happy. But for some reason I can’t stop thinking about her, even though I barely know her, only spent a couple of months with her last summer during her brief fall into the drug world. Yet I can’t seem to get her out of my head, at least until I get my dose of fake bliss, then all I’ll be thinking about is where to channel the burst of energy. If I could get this fucking door down—
With one last kick, the trimming splinters apart and the door opens. I stumble into the room, sweating and shaking like a rabid dog. Tristan’s passed out on the mattress with a girl lying beside him and her arm draped over his chest. On the floor beside the mattress are a spoon and a needle, but I don’t go for them. It’s not my thing, not what I want. No, what I want is in his top dresser drawer.
I rush over to it, kicking his clothes out of the way, the memories of everyone I lost swarming around me, surrounding me, pounding at my skull and making me feel like I’m going to hurl. Lexi dying on the side of the road, soaked in her own blood, and me beside her with her blood on my hands. The life I never had with my mother, the heartbreaking look in Tristan’s eyes whenever he mentions his sister, Ryder. Nova in that goddamned pond, where I ultimately left her to cry her eyes out alone because she was going to hand her virginity to a piece of shit like me. Then I see her face at the concert when she saw me dealing and then when she got in her car at the trailer park, ready to drive away and leave me forever—the last time I saw her.
That’s how it should be. She should be away from me and this shitty mess that’s supposed to be a life, because I’m too much of a pussy to fully give up, die, finally just take that last step and end my life, instead of slowly doing it. Finally dose my body up with so many drugs that my heart will stop beating and for good this time, in the dark, where no one can save me.
I jerk open the dresser drawer and snatch hold of the plastic bag, my hands trembling as I open it. I don’t even bother looking for a mirror. I need it now. I dump a thin line out on top of the dresser, grab Tristan’s driver’s license, and chop up the clumps of crystal with the edge of it. My heart is thrashing deafeningly in my chest and I wish it would shut the hell up, because I don’t want it making any noise at all. I want it to be quiet. Silent. Nonexistent.
Grabbing a pen and taking it apart, I lean down, put my nose to the tip of the line and suck in, allowing the white powder to fill up my nose and flood the back of my throat. My heart speeds up, but somehow it becomes quieter—everything around me does. As it spills through my veins, body, heart, mind, and soul, it instantly kills all thoughts of Lexi, Ryder, my mom. Nova.
It kills everything.
I walk back to my room, finally able to breathe again, my body and mind reaching this weird place of harmony where nothing matters, the past, the future, the present. I sit down on my mattress, pushing the woman aside toward the wall, needing space. Then I pick up my sketchbook and open it to the drawing I’ve been working on for weeks. It’s a picture of Nova, which should make me feel guilty, but it doesn’t. It’s just lines and shadings, soft movements of my hand pouring out thoughts that I’m not even aware of. It’s just art and it means nothing, like everything else inside me. And when I’m finished looking at it, I set it aside and quickly forget it, just like I’ve done with everything else. Then I lie down on my side, wrap my arms around myself, and let my mind go to wherever it wants to…
“Can you hear me?” Lexi whispers softly in my ear. “Quinton, open your eyes.”
I shake my head, smiling to myself, as I keep my eyes shut. “No way. You’re going to have to wake me up if you want me to open my eyes.”
“You are awake, you goofball,” she says, and then I feel her fingers touch my side. “Come on, we’re going to be late for the party.”
“That’s okay with me,” I tell her, still keeping my eyes closed. “I didn’t want to go anyway.”
“Only because you’re a party pooper,” she says, and then I feel her shift as she swings her leg over me and straddles me on my bed. “Come on, old man. Let’s go out and have fun tonight.”
My hands find her hips and I hold on to her. She makes me feel so much better simply by being here. My house seems less empty and it’s easier to deal with the two to three words my dad says to me every day because Lexi’s here and she loves me.
She breathes on my cheek purposefully, trying to get me to open my eyes, and finally I give in to her, lifting my eyelids and smiling when I see her. She’s leaning over me, her hair hanging down to the sides, creating a veil around our faces. Her lips are only inches away from mine, her eyes are shining brightly, and she smells like perfume mixed with cigarette smoke, a scent that annoyed me at first but now I love it because it belongs to her.
“Can’t we just stay in?” I ask her, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear.
She pouts out her lip. “We only have a few more weeks left of high school and I want to have some fun tonight. Let loose.” She pushes away and I feel a little colder inside. “Plus, I told Ryder we’d go out tonight.”
I sigh. “That just means that I’m going to spend the night watching the two of you get drunk while I stay sober and be the dd.”
Her lips curve upward into a pleased smile. “That’s because you’re the only one responsible enough to be the dd.”
I frown. “Well, what if I don’t want to be tonight? What if I just want to have fun?
She sits up, still smiling, knowing she’s gotten her way even though I’m still arguing. “You know as well as I do that you couldn’t get drunk even if you wanted to.”
“Only because I worry about you,” I say. “You always get so crazy when you’re drunk.”
“Not crazy, just fun,” she argues. “Now will you please get up and get changed so we can go? Ryder’s waiting for us in the living room.”
I hesitate and then sigh. “Fine, but I’m only going to keep an eye on you.”
She grins, then places a soft kiss on my lips. “Thank you. You take such good care of me.”
“That’s because I love you,” I tell her as she hops off my lap and I sit up, stretching my arms above my head.
Still grinning, she picks up a pair of my jeans and throws them at me. “If you love me, then hurry up and get dressed.” Then she walks out of my room, without saying I love you back.
But I know she loves me just as much as I love her, which is why I get up and get dressed, like she asked. Then I head out, not because I want to but because I love her, more than anything.
She means the world to me. Always will. Until the day I die.
May 10, six days before summer break
I remember when I was younger and everything felt so simple. Life seemed full of smiles and dancing, candy and costumes, so full of happiness and light. Dark things weren’t clear to me yet, not until I was twelve and realized that not everything was sunshine. The memory is as clear to me as the sunny sky.
“I bet you can’t beat me to the bottom of the hill,” my dad says, laughing as he pedals his bike down the hill.
I smile, pedaling my bike faster. It’s brand-new, with purple and silver paint, and has stripes on the pedals that reflect the sunlight. My tires crunch against the dirt as they spin and spin and I grip the handlebars as I speed down the hill, trying to win. Really I don’t care, though. No matter who wins, I’m still having fun riding bikes with my dad.
He stays a ways ahead of me as we wind down the hill, trees around us, a blue sky above us, and the air smells like dirt and leaves. I honestly won’t be surprised if he slows down right before we reach the bottom and lets me win. He usually does stuff like that, pretending that something happened so that it seems completely accidental.
So when he disappears around the corner and then I hear the sound of his tires slowing down I think: Aha! I pedal faster, hitting bumps, steering my bike around rocks, slowing down slightly when I reach the corner. I’m grinning, filled with the excitement of the race, but when I make it all the way around, my happiness all burns out.
My dad’s bike is on its side in the middle of the path, tires still spinning, and he’s lying on the ground on his back. For a split second I think he’s playing a joke, taking letting me win a little too far. But then I notice that he’s clutching at his heart, groaning.