Absolution

Hi. Emily. Em, I.…

I guess you must be out. I like your new voice-mail greeting, by the way. You sound—more serious? More professional? Well, no—I just mean, you sound good. You sound strong.

But, uh, yeah, that’s not really why I’m calling. I’m calling because … well, you said you wanted to know what it was … that you wanted to know why it was so hard to quit. That you wished you knew what it felt like. And I’m … kind of in the middle of it right now.

What you get is halfway between sugar and dust. I can still see some of it on my fingers, barely, from the light of the streetlamps here. When you take it, it mostly feels like tickling your nose hairs, and then it hits you. It hits you right away.

Right now, I’m floating on it. Oxycodone. That word—God, that word is a rosary. My patron saint. And it feels like …

Do you remember that time up on the hill by the old library? How we kissed like no one could see us and got grass stains on our clothes? And then, a month later they tore down those musty stones and tore up the grass and made it all into a giant pit, and we always said that was our hill. That no one else could ever have it again. This feels like … it feels like how we would have felt if we knew the wet grass would be gone in just weeks. It’s like being the most beautiful sort of terrified.

And it feels like that first moment when someone lets you go after a long, tight hug. That moment when you can still feel their skin imprinting into yours, and you don’t know who the heat of your body belongs to. And it feels—

Em? Is that—I thought I just heard … no. No, of course not. Sorry. I just thought I …

nevermind.

Anyway, I guess I should just say goodbye and everything.

And, Em? I’m sorry. For all of it.

And really, your new voice-mail is a ton better. I mean, who likes those cliché couple greetings anyway?

I’m not even sure—how long have I been talking, anyway? Your machine probably cut me off. I’m probably just talking to the air now. But, Em? If I pretend it’s still you, is that okay? If you can’t hear me, can I tell you—if you’re not really there, am I allowed to—

I miss you like crazy, Em. And I’ve been trying so hard to quit. It’s just, these pills.

When I was a kid, the priest told me that sins could be absolved but they didn’t really go away. That I was forgiven, but the marks were still there underneath. Like dents you could see through the paint even after you’ve whitewashed something. Or like scars, where the wound is healed but you can still … you can still trace it. He said that in purgatory we became perfect and even our scars were healed.

These goddam pills. Everything goes so colorful, and then the white bleeds in like winter making its slow and total conquest of the world. Whitewashing it all, like winter’s trying to hide the dents that ripple up from underneath. I feel like I’m finally starting to understand.

I didn’t mean to call you, Em. I’m sorry. It’s just, these pills.

Did you want to know what it feels like, Em? Are you listening?

The grass is cold on my back. My skin is tingling, but my body doesn’t know if it’s numb or in bliss. The lights on the streetlamps swell up like little suns, and I can see a halo of light around them, rainbows going in and out.  And I’m honestly not quite sure if it’s actually snowing now or if that’s just in my head. But everything’s glowing, and I’m not—

… Em? Em, is that you? I thought I heard … I thought I heard.…