31 August 2010


His hands always shake when he does this.

He takes a plate out of the dishwasher and sets it down on the table, then grabs a handful of paper towels. He sets everything down on the plate--the needles, the syringe, the ampules, the alcohol pads--and sits down at the table. He pulls his shirt off, throws it on the couch. He tears open one of the alcohol pads and rubs it on his left shoulder: on his left medial deltoid, to be precise. The alcohol feels cool as it evaporates and he puts the pad down.

He's warmed the ampule under hot running water already. The oil inside is thick, but now it's more liquid. He hopes it's what he paid for and so far, he hasn't gotten an infection. He takes hold of the ampule with both hands and with one quick motion, snaps the top off. Dozens of microscopic shards of glass dust have entered the liquid. He knows this. It's part of the risk; part of the game.

He sets the ampule down and carefully opens the syringe, removing it from its sterile packaging. He sets it down on the plate and peels open an inch and a half long 18 gauge needle that he carefully screws to the barrel of the syringe, being careful not to touch the steel. An 18 gauge needle is a firehose: what they use to draw blood. He picks up the ampule and slips the needle into the oil, then slowly pushes the plunger out, drawing the liquid into the oil. A few bubbles form, but he's not worried about. He'll tap them out later. He turns the ampule to make sure he draws the entire cc of oil into the syringe, then sets the empty amp down.

He pushes the plunger down, expelling most of the bubbles, then caps the needle and unscrews it from the barrel. He opens another needle: an inch long 23 gauge needle and screws it onto the barrel. You never shoot with anything bigger than a 23 or shorter than an inch. Some guys will put an inch and half long spike into their shoulders, but it's not necessary unless you're really fat. He's not fat.

He pushes the plunger slightly until the rest of the bubbles disappear and a tiny drop of oil appears at the tip. It drips down the length of the needle.

He relaxes his left arm, lets it hang freely at his side, then reaches over with his right hand holding the syringe and buries needle in the muscle. It's sharp and slides in easily.

His hands always shake when he does this.

He aspirates: draws the plunger back. If he's in a blood vessel, red liquid will jet in and cloud the barrel. Push oil into a blood vessel and it can kill you. He looks down. No red. He pulls back a little more, just to be safe. Still no red.

He is starting to sweat and he has to force himself to relax.


He depresses the plunger, pushes down firmly and slowly. At first the plunger seems stuck, but he realizes that it's moving. It takes a while for the oil to enter the muscle. He feels nothing in his shoulder except a slight pinch inside his shoulder where the needle is moving. He finally finishes pushing the plunger all the way in. He slides the needle out of his shoulder and sets the syringe down on the plate, then tears open another alcohol swab and wipes his shoulder.

He takes a deep breath and then feels something strange.

He feels a sharp pain in his chest and suddenly he can't breathe. He stands up, trying to find air and feels as though his heart is swelling, expanding, pushing his ribs apart with hot knives. He looks down at the plate at the syringe. The inside of it is smeared oily and red. He is tearing at his throat trying to pull out a scream that won't come. The world goes cloudy at the edges.

Then nothing except the smell of hot metal in his nose and darkness.

His hands are still shaking when his head hits the floor.

And then they stop.


James said...

Damn,that was one of the best pieces I have read anywhere lately. Well done.