We didn’t know it then, but at least we still had the glinty white sunlight of the 90’s to fall back on. I was 22, and it had been a while, a bit more than a year since I’d dropped out of college. I’d left to work at a stock footage archive. It was a cool job. Interesting. Fun. And my desk was tucked in amongst the rows of ¾ video cassettes and old timey film canisters. It was all mine too. I didn’t have to share it with anyone. But now I was quitting that gig. Quitting to move back in with my mother. I was leaving NYC, going to rural Massachusetts to get off drugs. Going to the tiny house I’d grown up in, in a small town north of Boston, because I could no longer keep it together. It was January and I was about to go cold turkey. I was about to try and kick my first real dope habit.
I’d hardly gotten out of the gate in life, but I was already beaten. I was a loser, a non-functional human being. Given my age and my station in life, I should have been on top of the world, instead, I was sick in bed with the runs, unable to stand, but also unable to sleep, every cell in my body screaming out for drugs, awash in self-pity and mortally depressed. Three months prior to this, you’d have never known I was a junkie. I’d had it all under control. I’d kept up. I was running the rat race with my steadily increasing drug habit on the down low. Then, one day, I could no longer keep up. I couldn’t afford rent. My roommates wanted me out. My boss caught me nodding-off in a meeting. It was game over. I quit the job before I could get fired.
Deep in the snowy New England woods, I pulled the comforter around myself (the same ratty TJ Maxx comforter I’d used all through high school) and tried to keep warm. The January winds whipped through the thin walls of my mother’s colonial home – the house had been built in 1750 – and you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that horse-hair doesn’t have all the insulative qualities you might imagine. It was always so cold in that house, always just really, really cold.
I hated it. Hated being there. Hated myself. Hated Massachusetts. How had I ended up here? Of all the places? The Pilgrims could have gone anywhere, why had they stopped here? Had they no sense?
And then there was my poor mother… I’d sand-bagged her when I called, begging for her help. She’d had no idea.
The disappointment on her face was wrenching. I’d failed her. Not only did she have to suffer the indignity of her eldest son returning home penniless, hooked on drugs, but she couldn’t stop to catch a breath. She had to work. To support herself. To support me. Each weekday she woke up before dawn to commute into Boston – an hour and a half, and usually much longer – to work as an executive assistant. I was left, shaking uncontrollably over the heating vent, watching the ‘Price is Right,’ reflexively, joylessly, masturbating and drinking cough syrup in the mind-bending cold. I was stuck, carless, deep in the snowy woods in January. The closest convenience store miles away. If I ran out of smokes, the only option was to walk.
This wasn’t how life was supposed to go. Why hadn’t anyone warned me? They’d told me I was smart, that I had much to look forward to. I did well on the SAT’s. I’d gotten into NYU for god’s sake! I was supposed to have made something of myself by now, instead, I was back where I’d started, stuck in the freezing cold of my childhood home. Alone.
When there was no more cough syrup, I drank with desperation the only alcohol left in the house: a half a bottle of cooking sherry.
To be continued
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