First things first: don’t start. Maybe you think you have the willpower to be a tourist, to chip on weekends, on payday, when you’re stressed out because your mom phoned you up asking you to send her another moneygram so she can buy groceries, or because your manager keeps following you around the restaurant saying you might not have such a crap schedule if you’d just go out for drinks with him once in a while––but guess what? That gray glob of fat riding around in your skull works like every other human brain on the planet. It won’t be long before that stuff owns you. Seriously, don’t start.
And if you do start, don’t eat/snort/smoke/shoot/boof and drive. I know a woman who nodded off, smashed into a utility pole outside the Quik Chek, woke up to being Narcanned in an ambulance, and was taken straight to County where she got to go through withdrawal in lock-up. Another guy I know railed percs in his bedroom one night, decided he just had to have a 10-piece McNuggets and ended up flipping his mom’s Celica. Dude walked away with nothing more than a nasty bruise on his shoulder, thanks to Junky Jesus, but the car was totaled and of course his mom only had liability. A year later she’s still taking the bus to work.
If you decide to drive, don’t keep your stash in your glove box or your center console. You get pulled over, that’s the first place they’re checking. Even if they don’t have probable all they do is pretend they smell weed and just like that your car’s being searched and you’re being felt up by a rubber-gloved deputy sheriff. Do yourself a favor and hide it in your fuse panel. In the overhead light fixture. Luce always took out the padded inserts on her bras, which left a couple handy pockets for storage that no one ever found no matter how enthusiastically she was groped. I’m not sure this would get past a sniffer dog if it came down to it, but hey, she’s never been busted. Then again Luce has always been lucky, for the most part.
Don’t steal your grandma’s pain pills, it’ll haunt you forever. Don’t steal her fent patches. Don’t volunteer to drive her to her friend’s house for their weekly cribbage tournament, ask if you can use the bathroom, and go through the medicine chest. Don’t get mad at your grandma when she starts hiding her Dilaudid from you. Don’t dig through her garbage so you can smoke the used patches. Don’t take her cash out of her purse. When she asks you about the missing dough, don’t lie to her face and make her worry even more about her failing memory. Don’t steal her ATM card and try out your birthday for the password––she loves you so much that it will work. When she dies, you will 10/10 feel like a piece of shit for having been the worst kind of grandkid imaginable but even if it hurts so bad you think you might black out, definitely don’t leave her funeral early and hurry back to her apartment and search her bedroom until you find her meds hidden in the lining of her old winter parka. You’ll end up sharing that story at meetings for years and it’ll never get easier.
If you can quit now, do.
It’s true that Junky Jesus will often help out if you need it. I can’t tell you how many people I know who’ve been sweaty and feverish and almost doubled over in pain, and then they look on the ground and find a legit OC 80 just waiting for someone to come along and eat it. A Ziploc of roxies. A strip of a215s still in the blister pack. Once Luce and I were so sick we thought we were going to die right there at the Chevron and of course the rain wouldn’t stop and none of the regulars were around and no one was answering texts, not even the shady middles or the dudes who took pleasure in ripping girls off. When the cashier came out and said she was going to call the cops if we didn’t get a move on, my bowels cramped up so bad I thought I was going to poop my pants like a little kid. And then in rolls this beat-up Volvo 240, same exact year as Luce’s only this one is midnight blue instead of green, and a girl with candy-pink hair and a weirdly cool chambray jumpsuit climbs out and starts filling her tank, her head bobbing in time to some private interior music. She also has this giant corduroy purse she hugs close to her body instead of leaving it in the front seat like most people––and this is what tips us off. We go up to her and Luce asks if we could maybe get directions. Directions to where exactly, Luce doesn’t say. The girl flicks her eyes over our gray sweaty faces and then she tells us to hold on a sec because she has to pee like a mother. Goes inside, comes out a few minutes later, hands us a plastic sack. “Got you a couple Gatorades, some Sour Skittles. Threw in a little extra something on me. A get-well treat you could call it.” She slides into her car and goes zooming off into the distance. At the bottom of the bag are a half-dozen dillies. Junky Jesus for the win.
If your plug tells you it’s so strong that dudes are falling out all over, listen to her. If the pill looks faded or crumbly, if the numbers are blurry or the lettering isn’t tight in the corners, do a test bump no bigger than the size of a match head. It’s probably fent-pressed. If you’re trying not to use don’t go on r/opiates and look at the dope porn because it’ll just put you at risk for slipping. If you need to cold cop buy a small amount at first so you’re not out a lot of dough if it ends up being trash. If you get shorted, say something. You don’t have to be a dick about it but stand up for yourself so you won’t keep getting taken advantage of. If you decide the game has gotten too exhausting, too stupid, that it costs too much and gives you a whole bunch of nothing or worse in return, maybe go a meeting and see what happens, just for today.
If you’re sick and no one’s answering, J.J. has also been known to work his miracles on Craigslist. Look for listings under roofing tar, Missed Connections named Roxy, or designer blue jeans size m30. Also some folks swear by the DNM. Install Tor, get some BTC (localbitcoins.com), and check r/DarkNetMarkets for a good OPSEC guide and the names of some reliable vendors. Although Luce and I never really got into that scene, even when we were flailing around in the snake pit, I’m told the quality can be off-the-charts fantastic and you can find rare stuff you’d never be able to get from your local dgirl. Then again now that the feds have been seizing markets I hear it’s turning into a real cluster. Nothing’s as easy as it used to be.
Make sure you and your friends have Narcan and know how to use it. If you can’t wake someone or if their breathing is slow/shallow and their eyes are pinned, they might be in serious trouble. Call 911, stick the device up their nose, press down on the plunger. Sometimes you have to administer repeated doses before they regain consciousness. Also be aware that it basically puts the recipient into instant painful withdrawal so don’t be surprised if they start howling in anguish. After a little time has passed they’ll be grateful you were around to revive them––but in the moment they’ll think they’re about to go meet the great dealer in the sky. And since you can never predict when someone you know will slip after an extra crap night at work followed by drinks with their pervert manager or after a surprise visit from their mom during which an entire weekend’s worth of tips vanishes out of their bag, or if you’ll happen upon a stranger sitting outside the Food Lion in a dented green Volvo, slumped against the dashboard, circling the drain, you’ll want to keep a box of the spray in your purse or backpack. There’s a real crisis going on out there. Take it from a former high school mathlete whose best friend was almost snatched right off the planet not so long ago: the real Junky Jesus = Narcan + someone to give it to you.
TL; DR: ffs don’t start if you haven’t already. If you have, be safe and happy nods fam.
Karen Tucker’s short fiction can be found in The Missouri Review, EPOCH, Tin House Online, American Literary Review, Salamander, and elsewhere. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.
image: Catholic holy card depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus, ca. 1880. Auguste Martin collection, University of Dayton Libraries. (Credit: ‘Turgis’, via Wikimedia Commons)