Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm in line at the nearby Chick-Fil-A because my lunch, a delicious North Indian curry I made the night before, was accidentally thrown out in the garbage at work. We all take turns cleaning the fridge out on Fridays, but apparently one of my co-workers forgot and in a quick panic did it on Monday morning without pause to think that brand new Monday lunches may be in there. As such, a few of us are eating out today.

It was a simple mistake, it happens. I didn't label my tupperware, that's my fault, but my roommate and I share it so it doesn't make sense for us too. Anyways, what's done is done, so now I'm in line to get a chicken salad sammich on whole wheat. I have to admit, for fast food, the place is surprisingly healthy.

I look over to the line next to me and am immediately caught off guard by the sour smell of the guy beside me. His hair is matted and greasy, his face has a slick sheen that reflects the fluorescent light overhead. I can tell his clothes haven't been changed in a few days. Judging by his rheumy, bloodshot eyes and the blistered cracked lips I would surmise that he's just woken up from a hard drug run.

I've had my drug using days myself. Nothing too crazy or extreme, but getting sick with an awful hangover and the depression that ensued from me burning through any reserve of dopamine my brain had for the next few days was enough to make me quit quickly. The same experience most kids in college have. I remember the story my dad told me of trying Mellow Yellow back in the seventies and telling me it just tasted bad and left your breath rancid for days.

Still, aside from the bodily pains foreign chemicals can deliver and physical addiction that some drugs exact on you, the emotional subservience to them is far worse. There is nothing as great as the false but irrefutable personal belief you have of being the sexiest and most immortal, invincible creature in the world. It's intoxicating. It's a feeling not equaled in many instances of sobriety. No matter how great your job, love life, schooling, family or anything else is in life your brain always niggles at the back of your brain some inadequacy there is. Some hurdle left to jump. Some inauspicious crack to smooth over in order to achieve that always out of reach goal we call a complete life.

But on strange substances? You don't think that. Those little annoyances go away for just a moment and you really are The Ultimate. It's no wonder people become addicted. The supersonic rush you feel is intense and breathtaking. Enough to make you ignore and put up with all the epic amounts of crap you deal with afterwards. The physical breakdown. The eventual loss of friends, family, money, time and employment. The gamble you play every time you light up, or stick, or drink, or pop for the few moments of near-Norn like clarity in your own foggy mind. I have seen plenty of people go through it, even one die by it.

I've seen a lot of this due to my work in social work, and sadly it's not exactly uncommon in the gay community to see it happen either. I see this kind of thing far too often sadly; in people as young as 15 even.

This guy in the line next to me is no exception. He's hungry. Tough thing too. He probably can't taste shit. A side effect from drugs is the lack of taste. Things taste like cardboard and chewing a burger is like gnawing down a sweat sock filled with sawdust.

It's a main reason a few people I know have actually quit. When something as primal and decadent and enjoyable and sustaining as food is turned into a chore, you know it's bad. Something that becomes unpleasant and gag-inducing, well, it's a salivary slap in the face that some part of your life is very 'effed up.

Suddenly the guy next to me nose begins to bleed. I guess a deviated septum.

"Hey guy," I tap his shoulder, "you're nose is running pretty bad." What started as a trickle is now a high powered faucet of bright red streaming down his face and on to his shirt.

"Oh..." a pause and he turns and in a swarthy manner turns to get some napkins nearby. He grabs a handful of them and covers his nose. He tilts his head forward and pinches hard below the bridge; at least he knows how to take care of the problem. Must not be the first time. Guessing by the gush, it's definitely a deviated septum brought on by snorting coke or tina.

There is no way he'll be able to taste a damn thing today. That's the other thing, his body is demanding food, but it's going to be a real labor trying to choke down those tasteless wads of fuel he needs. A pepsi (not diet) would do him well too, he desperately needs the calories. Calories and sleep.

I order my food and get back on my way to work. It's a shame, that guy. Hope that he can get his shit together sometime. Maybe those bland fries will hit home for him, but I doubt it. It only took a few tries of drugs and some trying-to-choke-it-down meals for me to quit. This guy is a chronic user, so it'll take more than a few bits of fried potato to do it more likely than not. I bite into my sammich and pull into the parking space and go back to my day.

The chicken salad sammich isn't amazing, but tastes pretty darned good.


  1. This is sort of hearbreaking. Another reason to add to my list of why not to do drugs. I hope that I can "stay above the influence" as I transition into high school. If I am ever, ever tempted in the four years to come, I'll just read this. Thanks.

  2. that "healthy" chicken salad sandwich has 20 grams of fat, unfortunately. stick with the chargrilled - only 3!

    amazing blog, btw. i wouldn't mind seeing more of your non-food writing :-)

  3. Starfruit - Thanks so much for that. =)

    Unmatched - Thanks, though I think this sort of falls under food writing in that the story comes back to food and taste. Kinda. ;)

    Sonya - You're welcome!

  4. I'm very tempted to print this and hand it over to my younger siblings. Both are in college now and I sometimes worry about what they'll do. They're smart, but I still worry.

    Thanks for the insight into that side of life :o)

  5. Ugh. This should be printed and posted in every high school. Gave me the heebeejeebees just reading it. Thank you for always being so honest. - Preeti

  6. I came here looking for your latest food creation...but was intrigued by your social commentary.

    Ok, intrigued is the wrong word...appreciative, was visual and reminds me that we live in complex world.... the food guy is next to the druggie but can see that he is human.

  7. Garrett- I hope you don't mind but I linked back to this post from my Friday Random post. If it's an issue I'll cut the link. :o)

  8. Just_Me - Not a problem at all. =)

  9. Really makes me appreciate even the taste of the Lean Cuisine I had for lunch. Thanks Garret.

  10. 2 things:
    1. Your descriptions! You are such a talented writer. I could really go on about this...

    2. Your honesty. Thank you.

  11. This was a great read. You really pull the reader and in and make them "think." I love your writings because on a level I perceive things or maybe I'm in tune with the world like you. One of favorite places to come and read in the middle of the night when I have trouble sleeping. I'm feeling very grateful now for my little place in the world thanks to the post and I needed this.

  12. Most of the people I knew at college didn't do anything more than occasional dope so I'd never have recognised what was wrong with the guy you saw. Only one person I knew went onto heavier stuff and after seeing him high once, I was put off for life, not even knowing what it does to your sense of taste.

    Thanks for a very thought provoking post.

  13. Wow! Crazy stuff. This is was really well written, and sadly, something that's really out there.

    On a lighter note--where's this Chick Fillet? My friend is obsessed with it...I'd win big points if I told him where one was!

  14. Garrett,
    great post!

    what's that neil young quote "every junkie is a setting sun..."
    how true.

  15. I work in a rehab. Some people will never change what they're doing.

    And other times all it takes is for someone to treat them like they're still a human.

  16. That was a lovely piece of writing. You touched my heart with that bit about "complete life"- it is so true....that small bit of wanting that is left keeps us going the rest of the way!


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