It begins again, the voices of the women singing in the background as the morphine kicks in. I can feel the first wave now. The troll is in the kitchen with Ron de Veux. There is a knock at the door of his subterranean apartment.
The evening has been particularly disturbing. I have been nursing the last few milligrams of The Drug, and have not been able to drown out the piercing cries of the tenants above me. In between the cries I hear the frantic fluttering of wings. “Angels,” says the troll. The other junkies believe him. I’m not quite sure, but the fluttering of the wings always gets to me. I can hear those wings even in the deepest junk nod.
I answer the door and it’s Nadia Chance. She kisses me on the lips; her breath is musky and heavy, reeking of promises kept and hearts broken. She holds up her hand and there is a vial in it.
Samuel, the pharmacist who is completely taken with her, supplies her with morphine. Hot whispers and a burning mouth that makes him wake, shuddering in the night requires one-hundred tablets of 15mg morphine, three times a week. One day it will cost him his license and his frigid wife. Nadia’s mouth will cool, his store will close and his wife will sue him for what is left. Instead of sucking Nadia’s open places, he will suck his double-shot .38, and spray the bathroom wall with brains. But this is yet to come.
One night, during yen sleep before Nadia had even met Samuel, the troll had one of his dreams. When he woke he asked Nadia to go to the pharmacy on the corner of 88th street and Broadway. She had asked why she was to do this and the troll just smiled and said, “Hurry. Just go.”
And she did. Four hours later she returned with pinned eyes and a bottle of morphine tablets, enough to fix every junkie in the apartment. After we had all fixed, the troll spun the tale of Samuel and Nadia. At the close of the story, when Samuel lay dead in the blood-spattered bathroom, the troll admitted that it had only been a dream.
After hearing the tale Nadia went out walking the streets of the city and did not return until the sun was rising. She immediately swallowed three tabs and shot two. She then made coffee and stared at the basement window for a few hours. All the basement windows are curtained. Beneath the curtains the glass has been painted black.
She has been seeing Samuel regularly for seven months.
My hand shakes with sickness as I try to fix. Nadia reaches over and gently takes the hypodermic needle from my hand. I hold the belt tight around my arm and she places the needle directly over the scab from my last shot and taps it in. A blood spot appears at the bottom. She nudges the plunger back and my blood flows into the barrel. Slowly, she pushes the plunger to the bottom of the syringe and I disappear into myself.
I look up at her as she kisses my forehead.
There is a knock at the door.
I function as the gatekeeper and open the door. Sunken eyes are the first thing I see, dark with night. The darkness seeps into my own eyes, and I feel the tears rush to the back of my retina. He has a forehead with cavernous furrows, yet his cheeks are smooth and appear to have no hair at all on them. His lips are soft and inviting, likely kissed frequently. Above his lip, just below his nose, the normal ridges of the upper lip are absent. It’s just a smooth track from one side of his mouth to the other.
I recall a tale that my mother told me. It was an old fable about the child in the womb. She said that we, as unborn, contain all the knowledge of our past and future lives within us. The ocean of time connects us to all the things inside of our mother. Then, in the few moments before we are born, an angel visits us in the womb, whispers into our ears and then says, “sshhh,” as it presses a hot finger onto our upper lip below the nose. We forget everything with that touch, but the impression of that finger never leaves us. That is why we all have the indentation on our upper lip. It is the fingerprint of an angel of mercy. We are born clear, more pure than freshly fallen snow.