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Portrait of a Sister with Insects

What can I say? I'm a sucker for junkie lit. People talk about heroin in all sorts of ways. Some romanticize it. Some vilify it. Having lost ten years to the bitch, I can tell you one thing. It's a little bit of both...

Portrait of a Sister with Insects by Isaac Kirkman


Have you ever observed an insect thrash about in the thick syrup of a warm soda, that perfect storm where success and defeat have found fusion? The form inside the exoskeleton immersed in sensation, absent of pain, inhabiting that space between drinking and drowning?

It was in a moment like this that the young lady, deeply in love, annexed herself further into the habits and rhythms of her lover, poised surreally before him as he prepared to shoot her up for the first time. Entombed in this love she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let him introduce the dark canals to a brighter sun. It all took place, in one of the better neighborhoods in the city. Perfectly manicured landscaping, good fathers, good kids living in rhythm to Starbucks, soccer games and episodes of Glee. The last place where children should test the boundaries and limits of their little worlds. But they do. Testing how high they can swing on the swing set. How fast the merry go round can go round. Pushing the perimeter of experience just as the young lady prepares to do now.

And there she sits on the couch with her lover, her arms as bare of needle marks as his are coroneted with them. He looks at her with affection before being distracted with extracting the plastic bag from his back pocket. Across the surface of his skin goosebumps rise like blades of grass towards the sunlight. He parts plastic clouds, a garland of sunspots crumbling off the corona of Afghani heroin as he breaks a piece of starlight.

He mixes it all together, citric acid, water, till it swells a solar storm on the spoon. Thus begins the ritual. They exchange smiles and a kiss, then he readies her vein and opens a tiny sky light in her arm. One warm petal after the next blossoms through her body, each more expansive than the last, till an entire garden grows inside of her.

Before he even had a chance to join her, her body was orphaned of motion, empty of life. And before her body had a chance to grow cool, he was gone.

He left nothing more than an open back door and footprints through the back yard.

***

Now I find myself anchored over this kitchen table, peering down in a daze at an insect floating in this cup of soda as another, some sort of beetle, same as the one floating belly up, makes its way to the Styrofoam cup. I watch as it climbs the rim with its feelers, as it examines the perimeter where foam ends and drink begins, where drink ends and drowning begins. I find myself now like this insect. I want to simply approach and hover safely above the dark warmth of your memory. But every time I find myself thinking of the moment I found your body there enshrined in silence, motionless, my sister, my heart, I fear losing myself in the vertigo between drinking and drowning, between remembering you and being with you.

Born in Greenville, SC, and currently living in Arizona, Isaac Kirkman is a student at the Tucson branch of the Philip Schultz founded Writers Studio. He is also a founding member of the Low Writers collective. His brain is what happens when Southern Kudzu crossbreeds with a Sonoran Monsoon.