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Her or the Drugs

When people don't know how to make a decision, sometimes they flip a coin. 

Down here in the Gutter, we like to handle our business differently.

Her or the Drugs by Garrett Box



It was her or the drugs. I couldn’t tell them apart. She was the catalyst and they were the flames. We met in an off-chance way, like someone meets a stray bullet. She pretended to be lost and I pretended I knew the way. Before I knew it, one thing led to another; a mesh of sex, drugs, and heralways her—the core of my addiction, the center to my soul. But souls have a bad way of turning rotten from the inside out.

She was bleach and I was ammonia and together . . . we were toxic.

One day, when I was coming out of a deep, drug-fueled trance, I woke to her straddling me while I lay on the floor. She pressed her breasts against my chest and then pulled away. Intensity flared in her eyes when she told me, “It’s either me or the drugs.”

She stuck me with an ultimatum, like a dagger in my heart. It wasn’t long before I got high again, this time without her. I needed time to think. I needed time to not think. 

I had my drug dealer on speed-dial. I'd met her through a friend of a friend. Whenever we needed something, the dealer was just a phone call away. What started out as fun quickly became a habit, and the dealer went from  patron saint to doctor. We needed drugs to get well and I needed them now more than ever.

She slipped into rehab while I staved off the sickness. I tried to keep the needle to a minimum while she spent her days speaking to councilors and support groups. Twelve steps to get well. A thirteenth to leave me.

It needed to come to an end, but I was in too deep. You have to want to quit, they said, but I couldn’t quit the drugs anymore than I could quit her. Both were keeping me alive and both were killing me.

We fought constantly about the little things and never about the big things. Toothpaste caps and toilet seat lids. If I left the milk out, she would unload on me. If she were to leave me, I knew she'd slip out the front door with nary a word.

Only when I was high could I think clearly. Then it hit me, like the sinister smile on death himself: it was her or the drugs. I couldn’t chose which one; so I’d decided to let fate decide. The same fate that led me into her arms; the same fate that led the needle into my veins.

She'd just gotten out of rehab and wanted to talk. I was all out dope and it wouldn't be long before the sickness set in. The whole day I kept my phone in my hand, the finger on the dial button until I had the nerve to make my last two calls. One to the dealer, and one to her. 

“Come over. I’ll be home.”

I turned on the oven and left the gas going. I smelled the vapors filling up my dark apartment.  I rigged an old zipper lighter to the front door so the flint strike and ignite the gas the moment either woman walked in. It was going to be her or the drugs. My fate was sealed the moment I met eyes on her. There's no getting out alive.


***

Now I feel the sickness set in while the gas numbs my senses. My vision  blurs, but I still listen for the front door. It’s strange, between the gas and the igniter; I have this feeling nothing will happen when she opens that door. The spark will fail and I’ll tell her it was my mistake, that I was careless and she’ll insist it would be like the way it was; bleach, ammonia and all. 

A key fits into the lock and the knob turns. There’s a slight hesitation and then the door opens. A figure stands there.  Then a flicker forms a spark. It’s too dark to see her face.

The room ignites into a blaze of rage. It’s either her or the drugs and I couldn’t tell the difference.


Garret Box has B.A. in English and a Theater minor from the University of Utah. He started out writing screenplays and then turned to the master race of novels. He is married with two kids and always striving for that double-dipped goal: publication and a root beer float.