Walk Down Misery Street

“Every drug alters your mood in a different way. Tell me what drug you use, and I’ll tell you who you are, what kind of person you are,” Liza began her lecture. “Let’s take cocaine, for instance. It’s like you’re soaring; you feel like you’re on top of the highest mountain. And from there, from the peak, you look below. You’re the king of the world! There’s nobody higher than you, more powerful or smarter than you are! What do you think of that? Just imagine: A minute ago you were in rags, a pathetic worm. Everything around you was dark and damp. Suddenly the sunrays break through, everything lights up, and you’ve gone from being a rat in a dirty basement to becoming the Almighty Lord God Himself!” Liza’s beautiful dark brown eyes sparkled and a touch of madness flashed briefly across her face.

“Yes, but . . .” I said, wanting to bring Liza back down to the ground. “Heroin? What about that? Doesn’t a heroin user have the sensation that he rules the world?”

“Oh, no. Heroin is a very subtle substance. Dope is a secret. It’s mystical, a world of half shadows and mysterious whispers.” Liza lowered her eyelids and relaxed slowly into her armchair as if she were sinking into an invisible hot tub of bliss. “The dope addict is calm and cool, like a python. He doesn’t hurry or jolt himself into the clouds. The dope addict’s whole being gets into the high, into all its nooks and crannies, and he relishes and captures every nuance of it.”

In her black pantsuit, Liza began to make slow, swimming movements; she wriggled her hands, and her whole body squirmed. She resembled a soulless snake. Or rather, the soul of this snake was heroin.

“The heroin addict is cleverer and craftier than the cocaine addict. He’s secretive, and all his senses are buried in the deepest hiding places. He calculates carefully; he is a psychologist of the highest order. But he knows the prize: dope lowers you into such blissful warmth, enveloping your entire body and soul, so that you’d give everything on the earth if you could only to stay there and not return to this cold world. Understanding the heroin addict, Pete, is not that simple. It takes a lot of time.”

“And an alcoholic? Does alcohol really work differently? Alcohol also submerges you, warms you up. It even burns your throat and stomach,” I countered, not taking my eyes off Liza, who continued to flutter about on warm waves.