A $20 bill and a note handwritten in Spanish is what I was ordered to hand the cashier. He read it quickly before putting it down to glare at me, and not until then was I scared. No one else was in the store, the music was too loud, and any second I was going to pee through my favorite white shorts. He turned into a magician before my eyes as I watched him grab a bag, two beers, two packs of cigarettes, rolling papers, and what looked like a gun before handing it to me without saying anything. But I’d become frozen and didn’t move, not until the bells of the store door rang to announce the arrival of another customer. That’s when he decided to yell at me in Spanish, and it was the encouragement I needed to grab the bag and run.
I could only guess what the note said, and what he’d yelled at me, so I made it a point to learn the language of addiction, and I did, but only some will ever understand how near to the heart its shots of desperation come to striking ourselves and others dead.