Walk Down Misery Street

More and more, I recalled my home in Russia, my parents, our garden, and the river where as a kid I had gone swimming and fishing with my friends. I was feeling like a stranger among these coarse, noisy students who were always chuckling at something I never could comprehend. They looked at me as if I was a weird overseas creature carried by some random wind to their land.

Once during a conversation, I noticed something off with Peter. He was walking next to me, responding “yes-yes” to my comments, but he clearly wasn’t hearing me. We walked to the diner and Peter was behind me the whole time for some reason. I turned around. Was this the same Peter? The jolly fellow, the jokester? No, I saw a haggard, pale, old man. He could barely keep up with me. He was trembling all over, his shoulders shaking and his head quivering on his tense neck.

“Peter, what’s wrong?” I asked, alarmed.

“I’m fine, bro. I didn’t get any sleep last night. I had a lot of work,” he answered, looking off to the side.

Having seen Sylvia with her dope-sick cloudy eyes not too long ago, I now looked at shivering pale Peter, and I saw a striking similarity. I sensed what was causing his condition. Drug withdrawal! This is what drug withdrawal looks like.

I also recalled the day I was admitted to this school, when the Associate Dean strictly warned me against the use of drugs.

Peter was able to graduate from the Institute and receive his diploma. For all his openness, he never let me into his personal life. He would offer half-hints about difficult and painful divorce proceedings, and often talked about his problems in general.

After the Institute we kept in touch, but less and less over time. It turned out we had little to talk about. Our studies had ended, our mutual assistance was no longer required, and sympathy wasn’t sufficient to evolve our relationship into a friendship. Soon Peter stopped taking my calls.