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Awake Hours
Writer Charles Bowker
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
31 Reads

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Awake Hours
A - A - A
Charles Bowker
Mar 10, 2018
16 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!N5xVqhvmNdAfNdQfQXVsposted on PENANA

Part Icopyright protection10PENANAyNrBT2Ay8T

***copyright protection10PENANAfVYMRp3mMR

[Again.]copyright protection10PENANAAm7ozXDqVy

[Again].copyright protection10PENANAStmk5fnGOv

I’m shitting my brains out. On a toilet, fortunately.copyright protection10PENANAA3ryQjXUGJ

I actually almost laugh because it’s so intense the way my colon is spasming, but then a sneezing fit takes hold of me. I put my tongue to the roof of my mouth to try and stop, pouring from the eyes and nose and feeling as if I’m about to break a rib. The sneezing subsides, and the muscles in my torso get a chance to relax before a wave of nausea makes them tense up again.copyright protection10PENANAMg6TEFRi6N

The flu-like chills rushing up within me begin to converge in a dissociating head rush. Converging, compressing into vibration, sound—a long, drawling buzz that opens up into a melody, both ancient and familiar, and sends fire ants crawling across my skin . . . some song I can’t quite remember . . .copyright protection10PENANARZhejmuH3i

“And. If. You. Feeeeeeeeel that you caaan't go ooon . . .”copyright protection10PENANAcDmEccXa7D

In my head with black images of rot and death, enemies and loved ones from my past are harassing me. They grab me by the head and press their suddenly corpse-like faces into mine and scream, then burst into laughter at my reaction. Their bodies darken and distort, stretching upward until they stand fifty feet tall—formless demons jeering, saying—copyright protection10PENANAUTU0MzGERM

Hey, you okay in there, buddy?copyright protection10PENANArILIW55qM9

The sudden contraction of my esophagus brings me back to the physical, as vomit finally joins the party.copyright protection10PENANAJZN6E0jBaq

“Jesus!” the man at the door yells.copyright protection10PENANAf5ja56JMLA

There’re worse things, but precipitated withdrawal is still bad enough to put real Pavlovian fear into you. Any normal person who experienced it would quickly decide once is enough. But addicts, and junkies especially, are relatively abnormal, in that they tend to take illogical risks with things such as their health and reputation.copyright protection10PENANAycjkVgp1Hc

Long story short, I even suck at doing drugs properly.copyright protection10PENANAarcYxQYQs9

Stumbling out of the gas-station bathroom, visibly sick and still hearing Led Zeppelin, I run into two gorgeous women. As they’re walking out the door, one of them looks my way and then turns back to her friend to say something and laugh. I’m doing nothing to mask my misery, so I can’t say I blame her. A man without his pride is, everyone knows, hilarious.copyright protection10PENANAhHeASjHB5s

The other one looks at me, neither frowning nor smiling. She just stares from behind her white sunglasses, wrapped from shoulder to ankle in a white dress that she’s wearing like a sundress. Her sandy-blonde hair is wet, the skin around her cheeks and on her shoulders a little red. Her bare feet are covered in sand. She’s fresh from the beach, looking like a kind of runaway bride.copyright protection10PENANAcEFvYBMoCu

The girl in white and I share a gaze, and I feel . . .copyright protection10PENANABNVNLtDKj5

I feel an awful bubbling in my gut. I also hear it, and probably so do the two girls. I wave a hand to dismiss myself, then turn away from the Florida warmth and sunshine just out of reach, back into the cold stink of the bathroom.copyright protection10PENANATAN7bFrTgw

America, they say, has been dealing with an epidemic of opioid addiction. If that’s true, then chances are you’ve heard some of this kind of bullshit before, so I’ll try not to whine so much.copyright protection10PENANAlta1Y9CLyf

Or at least try not to sound like I’m whining so much.copyright protection10PENANAf92bWOEAzY

I’ve been an addict almost my entire adult life. My plan for the past few days has been to get clean. For the last time. And on my own, this time.copyright protection10PENANAGsztAL91Eq

My previous bouts with sobriety have always been forced upon me by circumstance. There was always someone else with a vision of what my life should be like. In the depths of my escapism, I would dream, but I had no vision. I had no plan. Now I have a list.copyright protection10PENANAx0TI1SSEDq

There are bad drugs, the ones that set me on an indefinite retreat—making camp for a few hours here and there to get as fucked up as possible before pulling back again. Swift, self-gratifying hit-and-run operations being played against vague ideas of what my life could be. The existential angst game.copyright protection10PENANATTzW4wLJ7k

The bad drugs list contains some illicit substances, but the majority of them are widely prescribed.copyright protection10PENANAINNhgn3qoH

My list of good or okay drugs is almost entirely made up of illegal chemicals—most psychedelics, for instance. I’m no expert, but I do have a long history of enthusiastic experimentation. If someone wanted to ask my humble opinion, I’d tell that person that the only difference between passing a prescription slip to the pharmacist in the lab coat and handing a wad of cash to some dude in a cigarette-burned hoodie is a matter of permission; that in the end, both a doctor’s word and a dealer’s are all but equal in their lack of utility when compared to your own subjective experience; that no two central nervous systems are identical.copyright protection10PENANAQWIJFJBxof

But don’t take my word for it.copyright protection10PENANAYi8yed40Wb

I know there’s not a single addiction specialist or drug counselor out there that would agree with me. A lot of other addicts wouldn't, either, which is fine. I’m not trying to sell anything. I don’t have any answers. This is all about me. Even that cult Narcotics Anonymous preaches that you be selfish in your recovery. Whatever methods we use to get clean or relatively clean are secondary to the key we have to find within: A desire to quit for ourselves. I finally found mine, ten years later.copyright protection10PENANAkEZ8WgwZGV

Ten years after I offered a bug some real estate in my brain. I figured I could evict him whenever. A cliché.copyright protection10PENANAGwRogx8R5x

Now for the cliché of being in recovery. Day to day, as they say, I’ll have to contend with sobriety. Relative sobriety, anyway.copyright protection10PENANA63PfB3sG3o

Of course.copyright protection10PENANASo3RxZ73ZN

[Of course], right now my problem has gone beyond my usual day-to-day cravings as an addict, which is why I head to Mike’s house after leaving the gas station and then text him when I pull up. He comes out, lighting a Newport, his mom shouting after him in her Filipino accent.copyright protection10PENANAYFkQ4Andss

“Okay, Mom!” He shuts the door. “Alex—damn. Bro, you look like shit.”copyright protection10PENANAKywzN7DgNH

“Thanks. Can I get that now?”copyright protection10PENANAFG6IxDIEHH

“Yeah. Where you gonna do it, your car?”copyright protection10PENANAsGnNwsnUGP

“Wherever. Yeah.”copyright protection10PENANAnqoT0c1EsP

Because he knows I’ll be coming into some money soon, but mainly because we've known each other so long, he fronts me a fat little bag of powder. It has to be fat, or it wouldn’t work right now. It probably wouldn’t work no matter what if I had taken a lot of sub, but I hadn’t.copyright protection10PENANAl7vsQ26zHN

To us, sub is both a noun and a verb referring to the chemical buprenorphine, both with and without naloxone—which, despite what some people say, makes no significant difference whatsoever. Both forms are usually prescribed to help people kick worse opioids.copyright protection10PENANAgatEX07lVN

Mike and I get in my car for the main event, and you can guess what the next few moments are like. I don’t much care for describing the act itself.copyright protection10PENANAbidzceMdSe

I put away my stuff and ritually swab the spot on my arm with alcohol again. I usually get at least thirty seconds of warmth and maybe even bliss, followed by fifteen minutes of a lesser joy, and then a contented homeostasis for a varying number of hours. With the sub still in my system, it's straight to phase three.copyright protection10PENANA2emyGdBNMi

“I never get used to seeing that,” Mike says. He doesn’t get down the same way. He prefers absorbing chemicals through the mucus membranes in his nose.copyright protection10PENANAA3t4Ir4PMZ

“Fuck, man. I was dying.”copyright protection10PENANACYiQyu4kHX

“I thought you were gonna quit.” He says it with a smile. It’s a statement we’ve probably made to each other a hundred times.copyright protection10PENANAzKcWiT9TGW

“You know that shit’s fucking unbearable. I’ll quit tomorrow.”copyright protection10PENANAch0GlI7qyU

Mike laughs, blowing a menthol cloud over my dashboard. “Why’d you sub?”copyright protection10PENANAqaSJ0qd5LV

“Because I had it. Fuck. I’m still nauseous.”copyright protection10PENANA3kGfgZ9qTP

“Some weed might help. Let’s smoke and get some food.”copyright protection10PENANAm66nMs5UTE

“You know I’m broke.”copyright protection10PENANAPjOI2P9gUU

“Come on, I got you. I’ll drive.”copyright protection10PENANAcYeSdvRmVK

Weed doesn’t help. It never does when I’m dependent on narcotics, unless I’m detoxing. I think. It’s been years this time.copyright protection10PENANAciRjGDLMyE

On the way there, Mike asks me twice to take the wheel while he snorts some powder.copyright protection10PENANAqnYe513ehY

Our tolerances for opioids are great, but now Mike is out of it, swerving. By the time we finally pull up to the drive-thru, I know he’s on more than just the normal heroin. A woman’s voice greets us through the speaker, but Mike is silent.copyright protection10PENANA9tXombTdyP

“Hello? You can go ahead when you’re ready.”copyright protection10PENANAYK8P3OtPB2

I give Mike’s shoulder a shove. “Mike? Mike.”copyright protection10PENANAu1psfvtjJL

“Uhn?”copyright protection10PENANAiTfghBrbPZ

“Hello? Are you ready to order?”copyright protection10PENANA1OJ9ENY8CA

“Yeah,” Mike says, eyes closed.copyright protection10PENANAa6BzzR43bO

“. . . Okay, what would you like?”copyright protection10PENANAPuH4KZGbav

“Okay . . .” And then his chin hits his chest.copyright protection10PENANAackUmYHl6k

“Jesus Christ, man. I can’t believe you drove us here.” I lean over so the drive-thru woman can hear me. “One sec, please!”copyright protection10PENANAVgrwQ0nU4y

“Of course. Take your time.” Sarcastic static. The other cars hear it, too, is how it feels.copyright protection10PENANAJT3rXNqDYB

It’s far from the first time I’ve seen Mike like this, but it’s the first time it’s ever happened at a drive-thru. We’re damn lucky that his foot has somehow stayed on the brake, and so are all the nearby pedestrians. I put the car into park.copyright protection10PENANA99Nt3arKvy

“Mike!”copyright protection10PENANA5qOwWExkzB

No response. There’s a decent line forming behind us.copyright protection10PENANATiuWKsJb5I

I shake Mike some more and then check his pulse, just to be sure. “Mike. We gotta move.”copyright protection10PENANANfRBIULaFg

“Sir, if you aren’t going to order anything, you need to leave.”copyright protection10PENANAILGxhDcPXL

 “Give me a minute! My friend’s . . . a narcoleptic.”copyright protection10PENANAqQ4VMOnwZs

I’m trying to drag Mike over to my side, but it’s not working. I start to think I’m going to have to get out and go around to his door to push him, but then a neuron fires from somewhere behind his glazed eyes, and he lets his torso fall toward me. I climb over and shove the rest of him into the passenger seat, hearing yells of outrage and confusion from a car behind us.copyright protection10PENANAeNI6oq19BH

When we pass the window, the lady gives us a “What the fuck?” kind of look, so I give her one back. Is this not Florida? Can’t be the first narcoleptic driver she’s had.copyright protection10PENANApjs6RKJ3zG

“What about the food?” Mike says into the upholstery.copyright protection10PENANAO0xTVjHiQH

“Yeah, you kinda already screwed yourself there. We’ll go someplace else. I’ll pass out at this one and it’ll be your turn.”copyright protection10PENANAL5utbTUd2v

“Huh?”copyright protection10PENANAUsPnyH8iKI

We end up getting some dog-meat taquitos from a gas station. There’s two for me and two for Mike. I’m on my second one when Mike takes a lazy bite out of his first and holds it in his open mouth, not chewing. Whatever. Then I hear a small thud as his taquitos hit the floorboard.copyright protection10PENANAYzIwsEQaWG

I go back in the store to get him an energy drink.copyright protection10PENANASILmcXg6bi

Driving back to his house, I’m shaking and shoving him almost the entire time, until he finally chews his food and drinks the blend of guarana extract, sugar, and taurine—although I might be wasting my time. At this point, maybe his parents wouldn’t say a thing at seeing him passed out with taquito in his mouth.copyright protection10PENANAC5Lstj9BBT

By the time we get there, he’s regained himself enough, and we sit on a bench in his front yard. He lights up another Newport and asks me what happened at the drive-thru, so I tell him. It’s far from our first discussion about things we did while high as shit.copyright protection10PENANAjAt16VGW5C

Our most infamous moment was the time the CEO of this company we were working for came to our little piss-ant branch. Imagine, this CEO is giving a speech to a room of maybe thirty people. He’s trying to squeeze some laughter out of a bunch of disenchanted and world-weary call-center workers, and it’s actually working. The whole room is showing him love.copyright protection10PENANADXlpkxnAEy

Almost.copyright protection10PENANATgEEJ7YSIz

About to end strong with his anecdote, the CEO says something like, “And you know what I told him?”copyright protection10PENANAM2af4hbKeh

“ORGH,” Mike snores in reply, face down in a puddle of his own drool.copyright protection10PENANAnSeIhzgFaU

“Mike!” our manager shouts, horrified.copyright protection10PENANAd3bRHUZFNH

Mike sits up, squinting around at the room.copyright protection10PENANAfAJqQOI1yX

I’m there, waiting, praying for the look of realization to come across Mike’s face—for him to recognize where he is and that he’s about to lose his job. But Mike just keeps squinting around with his mouth open, faded beyond hope.copyright protection10PENANAiVPxD77UMh

“Hey, son,” the surprisingly charismatic CEO says to Mike. “Out partying last night, huh?” He’s trying to make light of the situation, and all Mike has to do is agree. The whole thing’s almost totally understandable—because we’d all had that holiday night off.copyright protection10PENANAOZk0R2VQII

Instead, Mike says, as if through a mouthful of mashed potatoes and oxycodone, “I hadda work late laz night.”copyright protection10PENANAyYjip967bE

And he goes back to sleep.copyright protection10PENANA4uzU2d197N

They ended up asking me to drive him home, then asked me about my pupils. When my response apparently failed to show proper concern, they let me call a cab for us both.copyright protection10PENANArWNMWEORvx

A thousand stories like these—a source of great contemplation and humility when we’re alone, but they’re only hilarious when we’re telling them to each other.copyright protection10PENANAA3wUlV4r2f

“So, you’re really gonna try and quit after today?” Mike sends another cloud of smoke sailing over the lawn, among the loquat trees, the mango. Summer’s over and the fruit is all gone.copyright protection10PENANA57KF1MT2W1

 “Yeah, I’m gonna quit. I have to.” I know he probably doesn’t believe me, and for good reason: We both know the deal too well. We’re veterans of the real drug war. The only one that’s real to us.copyright protection10PENANAQnXE9UiYMO

“And you said you’re getting that money next week?”copyright protection10PENANAwmR2hcXlE0

“Yeah, why?”copyright protection10PENANAAK7lq88jb4

He digs around in his pocket and comes out with a folded-up receipt. “Here. Some bars. You can pay me back later.”copyright protection10PENANAk2shGCcYBY

“That’s why you were so faded at the drive-thru. Thanks, though. I really appreciate it.”copyright protection10PENANAN7kEaCR7Xv

Bars, rectangular pills containing benzodiazepine, are an invaluable tool for someone in my position. People like Mike would probably overdo it and waste them, but I never found them to be very recreational. For me, bars are in a gray area between good and bad: They’re as addictive and insidious as any opioid, but I also don’t enjoy them that much. And they’re useful in my current predicament.copyright protection10PENANA8xgfTGo1Zz

“I hope you go through with it,” Mike says. “After all that . . .”copyright protection10PENANA5kBxChaOgL

“You should quit with me. You don’t need some [profound] reason.”copyright protection10PENANAM3T7I3JzbG

“Yeah . . .”copyright protection10PENANA5jely72W82

I know Mike’s addiction is partially tied to the fact that it’s also how he makes money. He has little incentive to quit: Living at home rent-free drastically cuts his overhead, leaving him with a greater amount of product he can use himself. But it’s always good to give encouragement, even if it’s falling on deaf ears, and even if it’s cheesy.copyright protection10PENANAwem8MYpWMG

Even if it’s a [lie].copyright protection10PENANAHyKAFsEo1P

“You know, one day things will be different. And they’ll stay that way.”copyright protection10PENANA578jtHqvDz

Mike takes a long drag and then releases it to the wind again. “Yeah . . . for sure.”copyright protection10PENANAxaNTizRIvE

***copyright protection10PENANApdc9OSBsgD

“Watch the fucking cable, will ya!?”copyright protection10PENANAhlLqFe75JL

 . . .?copyright protection10PENANAEhWsae12Xx

“Alright now, bring the thing inside. Not that way! The door around the corner! Damn new kid.”copyright protection10PENANAGmLTvzL722

A carpet cleaning crew entering the hotel is what wakes me from my sleep in the backseat of my car, interrupting a dream about yesterday. About the Girl in White.copyright protection10PENANALkowK3KS9u

Detoxing usually brings strangely vivid, often mundanely realistic dreams—if you can sleep, that is. But I haven’t even truly started coming off yet.copyright protection10PENANADOLAgWOiZM

I still feel relatively fine, but knowing what’s ahead is already sapping my motivation to get moving. I know today’s not going to be so bad, but that by tonight I’ll be twisting and turning, sneezing and yawning. And by tomorrow I’ll be scrounging around my car, looking for any sort of leftover relief I can find—an errant piece of sub, or a used cotton filter.copyright protection10PENANAPG8BAEalMc

Probably the worst part is that for the week or two—even longer with certain opioids—that it lasts, there’s no rest or reprieve. Day or night, standing, sitting, or lying down—it’s a constant physical and mental state of something you want to call agony.copyright protection10PENANAoxwN4hRP90

Then you remember a story you once heard. Your grandfather was starved and beaten, tied to a tree by the Japanese during the war. He was living in the Philippines during the occupation, with your grandmother, your father—who was the oldest child—and his siblings, some of whom didn’t live through the experience.copyright protection10PENANAjNP5n62co1

You tell yourself to suck it up, this thing. What even is an addiction compared to actual war?copyright protection10PENANAYeI7PiL0Ex

And then a minute later it’s “Oh, the agony” again. Unless you have certain drugs to help you through. If not, you just grit your teeth and writhe around as the hours become days.copyright protection10PENANAd25KQ91HYb

I know I deserve no pity, nor do I want any. I think most addicts would agree with me there—even the ones that come to you begging for change, maybe carrying around a gas can and a story about needing to get wherever for whatever reason.copyright protection10PENANAIiYxnmEqz2

I just want, and maybe even have a sort of responsibility, to have the experience represented to some degree. Call it journalistic integrity.copyright protection10PENANAsyhaF7sr77

I climb over to the driver’s seat and start my car. It’s time to go find something to eat while I still feel like eating, with the little bit of cash I still have.copyright protection10PENANAZl955Ze6Hd

***copyright protection10PENANAipvhXTDBkd

The second day, there are no carpet cleaners. I wake up far before sunrise and take another bar. I would love to take two, but my supply is already too low. I’m hoping Mike might need a ride to go get more since he doesn’t like driving his car to every deal. Switching cars is a common tactic for criminals of all kinds.copyright protection10PENANAEMLWWr3pTb

I sit up, peeling my sweat-covered back from the leather seat. I got too hot wearing my shirt. Winter would have been a nicer time to detox, but because I’ll have money in the bank soon, I can’t afford to wait.copyright protection10PENANAwSwGXCGcJn

And if the money does seem to come too soon, and I’m feeling tempted, I’ll just run myself out of options again. And again. Until . . .copyright protection10PENANAq1MViKPWl9

I do actually have plans for the future. Or dreams, whatever. I’m playing things pretty loose, but I truly do want to be clean from this shit.copyright protection10PENANA90VVWSn0ig

[ . . . ]copyright protection10PENANAbO9Iv6kbj3

***copyright protection10PENANAyJ5lFn5vkr

I did end up scrounging around my car yesterday. I found nothing.copyright protection10PENANAFtrApntMoL

Had to change hotels. Hotel parking lots, anyway. Think the manager or someone was checking out my car.copyright protection10PENANA2zAbi5iDgC

I’m not really eating. No appetite. And I didn’t buy any loperamide—itself an opioid, abusable in dangerous, cardiotoxic quantities. It’s just easier not worrying about gas station bathrooms too much, and being seen walking to and from my car.copyright protection10PENANAHOmMa1afxu

Obviously I’m still drinking water. I bought a few gallons in advance for this, probably much more than the Japanese gave my grandfather in a week.copyright protection10PENANAGcY8Nnwg9U

I have big plans.copyright protection10PENANA1cuCoMHGqX

Fuck. Another bar, then. And the last of the weed Mike gave me.copyright protection10PENANAi7MEUWG4cd

***copyright protection10PENANAzSqx1dVxt5

The same people have seen me walking around too much. Gas is low. Whatever.copyright protection10PENANAsvhW7FJOm9

What-the-fuck-ever.copyright protection10PENANAMEhyjcv0gH

Terrible gears turning.copyright protection10PENANAeQAEnCRi9l

I’m doing alright. How long has it been?copyright protection10PENANAnBQFyYkhNG

Fuck.copyright protection10PENANArzlJ8FVEGc

Fuck.copyright protection10PENANAmU2WypyqII

Maybe . . .copyright protection10PENANAL6kCLSB6ao

Trying not to text Mike. Bothered him enough yesterday.copyright protection10PENANANBY9k7OfLu

Big plans.copyright protection10PENANAr7pu4YUDoC

I’m checking out for a while.copyright protection10PENANAmaJGNvzoBJ

***copyright protection10PENANAMolLxGSmVE

[Writhe. Hopeless. Weak.]copyright protection10PENANARnMgSReMuD

I need sleep.copyright protection10PENANAoRN8yBD7Ze

I’m okay.copyright protection10PENANARMDcxbSqyO

[Hate. Hate. Suffer, always, friend. Always, your friend.]copyright protection10PENANA4pcRF4IUQd

My heart is beating like a bass drum, reverberating through my skull, vibrating the connective tissues to my brain.copyright protection10PENANAxf4lnCW0KW

[Hahaha. You’re cute. He’s dead.]copyright protection10PENANAfBITNg5GHD

Fuck me. Fuck you.copyright protection10PENANAuM3HDJLlDB

[Pick your dead fruit.]copyright protection10PENANAzaRDwegtf0

Another bar. My last.copyright protection10PENANApvC8opou65

***copyright protection10PENANA7ARaivT3Qx

[It was never going to work.]copyright protection10PENANAFpIw3eLkH1

I hate . . . hate . . .copyright protection10PENANAl6wXfVnDpt

[I know.]copyright protection10PENANAJw4BHm6BpX

Weak. Hopeless.copyright protection10PENANA85mQCq5nKM

[Rejoice.]copyright protection10PENANAo6TV38QqMf

Dad . . .copyright protection10PENANATvMY7tkd5K

[It’s fine.]copyright protection10PENANAadPx4rY9PJ

Phone’s dead.copyright protection10PENANAVePP9SYZjK

[. . .]copyright protection10PENANAedg0bnuvBz

Out of gas.copyright protection10PENANAfLN5iRwg0m

[ . . .?]copyright protection10PENANAZWAPLJHKI0

I could . . .copyright protection10PENANAuXdLYp9tUK

[. . .] . . .copyright protection10PENANA2awPfPGM6G

No.copyright protection10PENANA86DJVosD8b

[. . .]14Please respect copyright.PENANAT4E2V49cDJ
copyright protection10PENANADD8Rp7gyAb

​[. . .]14Please respect copyright.PENANAoWmJMOlsYJ
copyright protection10PENANAjClQsBF9oL

***copyright protection10PENANAQwRtfNRIq0

Comments ( 3 )

TheGirlWhoseStillUnKnown - To be honest, when I started reading this I thought that I should stop. This is not something I like reading. But--then, I just couldn't stop reading. And before I realized it, I was done with it. 

I'm not sure if saying that this is good is right but I actually enjoyed reading it. 

Too dark though. xD
1 week agoreply

Charles Bowker - Thank you. It's based loosely on some of my experiences, and it does get a little dark. But there are also plenty of funny parts to come!
6 days agoreply

TheGirlWhoseStillUnKnown - I'll be reading those then xD
4 days agoreply