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

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Awake Hours
A - A - A
Charles Bowker
Mar 10, 2018
16 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!NrNxOH25yoSO8EGFsxAHposted on PENANA

Part Icopyright protection27PENANA2YYAGf7R9l

***copyright protection27PENANAHWMuuAbwGK

[Again.]copyright protection27PENANAVyy3deJFLj

[Again].copyright protection27PENANAmOikoZAwRJ

I’m shitting my brains out. On a toilet, fortunately.copyright protection27PENANARyGE3aefHU

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 protection27PENANAZDtxGGMqly

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 protection27PENANAKIm23L2DhT

“And. If. You. Feeeeeeeeel that you caaan't go ooon . . .”copyright protection27PENANAn9r4Nve2KW

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 protection27PENANAXJzqhg63Gs

Hey, you okay in there, buddy?copyright protection27PENANABqaYtdJvR1

The sudden contraction of my esophagus brings me back to the physical, as vomit finally joins the party.copyright protection27PENANApebRiZmx26

“Jesus!” the man at the door yells.copyright protection27PENANAtZP3q6jwa0

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 protection27PENANAYMq9KUmuqe

Long story short, I even suck at doing drugs properly.copyright protection27PENANAwPsIGLH2jK

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 protection27PENANA9NJYQa5aGf

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 protection27PENANAaF1BPMvchV

The girl in white and I share a gaze, and I feel . . .copyright protection27PENANAqNLTvrFduY

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 protection27PENANAXDMHCCRHNy

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 protection27PENANAXXeYz3L4f2

Or at least try not to sound like I’m whining so much.copyright protection27PENANA0GPLzldfzI

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 protection27PENANAdxlZeXC6Fq

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 protection27PENANAFCoTBXXm2c

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 protection27PENANAo2TeOsA2H9

The bad drugs list contains some illicit substances, but the majority of them are widely prescribed.copyright protection27PENANAKVG5VV3y1I

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 protection27PENANAYGlmAWkxjm

But don’t take my word for it.copyright protection27PENANAKIpDXd6xfO

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 protection27PENANAH0Ko6Gj9el

Ten years after I offered a bug some real estate in my brain. I figured I could evict him whenever. A cliché.copyright protection27PENANASd2dACaU9u

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 protection27PENANAgUcFx9TDH9

Of course.copyright protection27PENANAso9cNfS6p7

[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 protection27PENANArhktvV6GQg

“Okay, Mom!” He shuts the door. “Alex—damn. Bro, you look like shit.”copyright protection27PENANAa7anNHxGle

“Thanks. Can I get that now?”copyright protection27PENANAQOD00qfTxF

“Yeah. Where you gonna do it, your car?”copyright protection27PENANA0ZWltshz97

“Wherever. Yeah.”copyright protection27PENANAPje0G1IeI3

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 protection27PENANAszS6zSxPM4

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 protection27PENANAuM3r8wTp62

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 protection27PENANAxWmMW3OEhw

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 protection27PENANAIK5ARFtouf

“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 protection27PENANAtY2xpa4jAa

“Fuck, man. I was dying.”copyright protection27PENANAm77IU3LII3

“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 protection27PENANAeqOk0F0t4u

“You know that shit’s fucking unbearable. I’ll quit tomorrow.”copyright protection27PENANAJxsL5SW9bw

Mike laughs, blowing a menthol cloud over my dashboard. “Why’d you sub?”copyright protection27PENANAkyErgyu2gc

“Because I had it. Fuck. I’m still nauseous.”copyright protection27PENANA6vDUQDzQ7D

“Some weed might help. Let’s smoke and get some food.”copyright protection27PENANAkRbNCgGypS

“You know I’m broke.”copyright protection27PENANA4JqJaHhFJy

“Come on, I got you. I’ll drive.”copyright protection27PENANASP3vJU9jKh

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 protection27PENANAW588TKoziO

On the way there, Mike asks me twice to take the wheel while he snorts some powder.copyright protection27PENANAsnyS7Jzpoj

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 protection27PENANAXh91MSWWcG

“Hello? You can go ahead when you’re ready.”copyright protection27PENANAd9MlhF6Gfp

I give Mike’s shoulder a shove. “Mike? Mike.”copyright protection27PENANAuIN2AULaja

“Uhn?”copyright protection27PENANAuhrDjdwfaI

“Hello? Are you ready to order?”copyright protection27PENANAVnRIJ9oPPD

“Yeah,” Mike says, eyes closed.copyright protection27PENANAfjl2lWX67g

“. . . Okay, what would you like?”copyright protection27PENANAgByHeRVK65

“Okay . . .” And then his chin hits his chest.copyright protection27PENANAt2tkLct92i

“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 protection27PENANANhB9kX6h4d

“Of course. Take your time.” Sarcastic static. The other cars hear it, too, is how it feels.copyright protection27PENANAylP733YYO5

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 protection27PENANA4h8yCUL53N

“Mike!”copyright protection27PENANAoQ500qX6H1

No response. There’s a decent line forming behind us.copyright protection27PENANAjgn8nqcmp1

I shake Mike some more and then check his pulse, just to be sure. “Mike. We gotta move.”copyright protection27PENANAstiB2UvN0y

“Sir, if you aren’t going to order anything, you need to leave.”copyright protection27PENANAAopGop6mwO

 “Give me a minute! My friend’s . . . a narcoleptic.”copyright protection27PENANAoP5LYtbbPA

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 protection27PENANAci4vT6poTp

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 protection27PENANAXuOmbdMizi

“What about the food?” Mike says into the upholstery.copyright protection27PENANA7X8cI7FUiv

“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 protection27PENANAuvNy0GFp4z

“Huh?”copyright protection27PENANAP14DofQayq

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 protection27PENANAsFnBR6Ix00

I go back in the store to get him an energy drink.copyright protection27PENANA2vwP4wvJWA

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 protection27PENANAjLCnp1Dgbb

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 protection27PENANAGEQ4fIbYfc

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 protection27PENANAZhHv7L1DvX

Almost.copyright protection27PENANAdPJQc9RQq3

About to end strong with his anecdote, the CEO says something like, “And you know what I told him?”copyright protection27PENANA16HSbXBmVQ

“ORGH,” Mike snores in reply, face down in a puddle of his own drool.copyright protection27PENANAyU8gqf2rSx

“Mike!” our manager shouts, horrified.copyright protection27PENANAp6n9XAjOqJ

Mike sits up, squinting around at the room.copyright protection27PENANASsQAl1xWot

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 protection27PENANAMXoVdOaff3

“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 protection27PENANANFaaP7K8Wb

Instead, Mike says, as if through a mouthful of mashed potatoes and oxycodone, “I hadda work late laz night.”copyright protection27PENANARODHoZIWV7

And he goes back to sleep.copyright protection27PENANAqI4ODhCOxS

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 protection27PENANARkx1vn9fv5

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 protection27PENANArmU54j4NfZ

“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 protection27PENANAUFHYulg69N

 “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 protection27PENANAY08w2DTbTo

“And you said you’re getting that money next week?”copyright protection27PENANAhkLbpPutCK

“Yeah, why?”copyright protection27PENANAtxqbvUwM1F

He digs around in his pocket and comes out with a folded-up receipt. “Here. Some bars. You can pay me back later.”copyright protection27PENANAzZGHwJkpUd

“That’s why you were so faded at the drive-thru. Thanks, though. I really appreciate it.”copyright protection27PENANAOcyAnYpSr2

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 protection27PENANADVz465YCRZ

“I hope you go through with it,” Mike says. “After all that . . .”copyright protection27PENANAirZZ8vItVD

“You should quit with me. You don’t need some [profound] reason.”copyright protection27PENANAHJPfkddJ6F

“Yeah . . .”copyright protection27PENANAMJAmOHsMjk

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 protection27PENANAMCLMBUhjnd

Even if it’s a [lie].copyright protection27PENANAW4XMkh0y16

“You know, one day things will be different. And they’ll stay that way.”copyright protection27PENANAeNQPaEwDrP

Mike takes a long drag and then releases it to the wind again. “Yeah . . . for sure.”copyright protection27PENANAXerI03Dim0

***copyright protection27PENANAvj5s5qJ5ZL

“Watch the fucking cable, will ya!?”copyright protection27PENANAcdy22JHym8

 . . .?copyright protection27PENANAokmQ3mTGFf

“Alright now, bring the thing inside. Not that way! The door around the corner! Damn new kid.”copyright protection27PENANAGazMDFcnLb

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 protection27PENANA8XpH0rqHZN

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 protection27PENANAPo7ceaz7Qe

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 protection27PENANAnxoWk2Cxpn

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 protection27PENANAJxl8elzF2z

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 protection27PENANAtSXA5cLEjC

You tell yourself to suck it up, this thing. What even is an addiction compared to actual war?copyright protection27PENANASH9hDtjg0I

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 protection27PENANADJgYSvjsam

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 protection27PENANA1DfZekcZZv

I just want, and maybe even have a sort of responsibility, to have the experience represented to some degree. Call it journalistic integrity.copyright protection27PENANABScL9Qft6g

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 protection27PENANAcK0sISX2k8

***copyright protection27PENANApmMEm0Zy0Z

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 protection27PENANA3CRgn07Due

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 protection27PENANATGZT8HM6K6

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 protection27PENANAe9t0OP0Nn1

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 protection27PENANANrDEI0FQD9

[ . . . ]copyright protection27PENANA5xP4qXMd4w

***copyright protection27PENANAjiGNjuCkiZ

I did end up scrounging around my car yesterday. I found nothing.copyright protection27PENANAl5rYK9Zp0D

Had to change hotels. Hotel parking lots, anyway. Think the manager or someone was checking out my car.copyright protection27PENANAy5anaBlWOp

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 protection27PENANAt8I9V1ExlW

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 protection27PENANAxG2YFM8Ec8

I have big plans.copyright protection27PENANAhKer8o2tlR

Fuck. Another bar, then. And the last of the weed Mike gave me.copyright protection27PENANATOZBYUCCrX

***copyright protection27PENANAzYECXjp6YB

The same people have seen me walking around too much. Gas is low. Whatever.copyright protection27PENANAefltHtSKXd

What-the-fuck-ever.copyright protection27PENANABQ1Ar0u4DV

Terrible gears turning.copyright protection27PENANA2cUHPR0eYY

I’m doing alright. How long has it been?copyright protection27PENANAPdebGVFyFC

Fuck.copyright protection27PENANALgtNQUOlZr

Fuck.copyright protection27PENANAg1DbJt3JH1

Maybe . . .copyright protection27PENANAIxeXIUSnty

Trying not to text Mike. Bothered him enough yesterday.copyright protection27PENANAZfPt3GnR1n

Big plans.copyright protection27PENANAiipWt8pwS6

I’m checking out for a while.copyright protection27PENANAxBDMymHrJa

***copyright protection27PENANAZJpOcsvAkw

[Writhe. Hopeless. Weak.]copyright protection27PENANAYCOnyiwXOo

I need sleep.copyright protection27PENANA4mZH8y3PZN

I’m okay.copyright protection27PENANA0YxqNJTikd

[Hate. Hate. Suffer, always, friend. Always, your friend.]copyright protection27PENANAPiPEFoWclL

My heart is beating like a bass drum, reverberating through my skull, vibrating the connective tissues to my brain.copyright protection27PENANAAp7A7g8b67

[Hahaha. You’re cute. He’s dead.]copyright protection27PENANAZ76wxUfqdA

Fuck me. Fuck you.copyright protection27PENANAD2SsHyQDKc

[Pick your dead fruit.]copyright protection27PENANAolCwVJN3VT

Another bar. My last.copyright protection27PENANAbU0iqxcGYp

***copyright protection27PENANAhBs949IVMt

[It was never going to work.]copyright protection27PENANA7bOKHKuuOp

I hate . . . hate . . .copyright protection27PENANAoZkphKXurV

[I know.]copyright protection27PENANATJwmSBvBwi

Weak. Hopeless.copyright protection27PENANA5EtTobDSGr

[Rejoice.]copyright protection27PENANAh5rBuJmrdO

Dad . . .copyright protection27PENANAn7xTtquY21

[It’s fine.]copyright protection27PENANAh7FL13XEVD

Phone’s dead.copyright protection27PENANA6dIyPdhbEv

[. . .]copyright protection27PENANA02CyV5Yq41

Out of gas.copyright protection27PENANAsl8779a4O6

[ . . .?]copyright protection27PENANAIVjqt9ELki

I could . . .copyright protection27PENANAglkSTgYSH2

[. . .] . . .copyright protection27PENANAT9o1hvbszZ

No.copyright protection27PENANAyhUSIo1mam

[. . .]31Please respect copyright.PENANAJQvsQO486y
copyright protection27PENANAFqI0jChhuZ

​[. . .]31Please respect copyright.PENANA7pWh7mHlXA
copyright protection27PENANAjn9HpqdBSN

***copyright protection27PENANABr5wkNUma4

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
6 months 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 months agoreply

TheGirlWhoseStillUnKnown - I'll be reading those then xD
6 months agoreply