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ADDICTION
Sam North


'No one you know has ever managed to quit without help, but help is hard to find'.


It’s a sensual thing, the feel of glass and metal, the anticipation, the wait for the water to come to the boil. The body can only wait for so long for the next fix, the mind begins to drive you on, make you focus only on the fix, the fix. Your stomach contracts, there is a saliva thing going on in your mouth, you can feel a tight knot forming in your stomach. You stare into the chrome, caress the metal plunger; preparation is everything in this ritual. Shame is something you no longer feel. You have bought your fix from a street-trader, you no longer care what people say. You tell yourself that as long as you can keep working, no one can really comment. As long as you keep yourself looking ‘presentable’, people will not easily recognise you as the addict that you are.
Artist: Nora B. Vlaskova

You tell yourself that people cannot see the scars from the daily multiple fixes. You fool yourself that no one can see the tell-tale signs. You tell yourself that you are not alone, others are dependant upon it too, but each fix is unique, it is only ever one day at a time. No one you know has ever managed to quit without help, but help is hard to find.

The water always takes too long to boil, you are impatient, but you know that anticipation is part of this moment too. In two minutes you will be ‘there’, the jagged edges will be gone.. You unwrap the silver foil that keeps the stash fresh and you inhale. Inhaling is the best part, the first part of the fix, but inhaling isn’t enough, you have to get the fix, mix it with your body-fluids, get the rush. Oh you’ve tried getting off the habit, you have tried other ways of taking it, iced, flavours, but always you return to the real thing, uncut, undiluted, because that’s the rush. Nothing else gets you there.

The water finally boils, you carefully measure the dose, two and a half heaped table-spoons and drop them into the cafetiere, adding the hot water immediately, filling to three-quarters of the glass and chrome container. You carefully place the plunger at the top, squeezing it in gently so as not to spill a drop. You leave it poised there, steady, secure, sealing in the aroma, keeping the liquid hot.

Now the tricky part. Bringing the milk to the boil before it burns or spills over the pan. This requires total concentration. As you wait you depress the plunger in the cafetiere - steadily and with determination. This is the ritual, this is the process, this is part of the fix. You pour the black liquid into a wide brimmed ceramic cup, filling it to three-quarters full. You must catch the milk on the rise, literally as it floods up the pan towards the rim, snatching it off the heat and bringing the froth over to the cup, pouring quickly so that all the foam will slide out of the pan and settle on top of the liquid without mixing.

Now you reach for the honey. Clear, brown, pure honey, a half teaspoon, drip into your cup and stir gently, so as not to disturb and mix the milk. Inhale and bring the cup to the table. Warm your hands on the outer extremities of the cup to ensure you are able to pick up the cup safely. Take a deep breath, exhale, now you are ready for the fix. Bring the liquid to your lips and sip. Swallow. Wait ten seconds. Feel the rush. Take another sip. The rush is still there.

You are drinking coffee, you are an addict, you will drink another one fifteen minutes later. You are not ashamed, you will walk the streets, you will hold your head up high. You cannot live without it, you need at least four fixes a day, you will not give up, you find places with dark corners or thick glass windows where you can indulge this habit with others who share your problem. You may say nothing to them; they, like you may stare out of windows at the street as they drink and contemplate life, or at other times you will feel obliged to discuss philosophy and world issues with complete strangers and not feel embarrassed. You will mock those who live with placebos, Kenco and Nescafe people who just don’t get it. It’s always the same. You’re on the hard stuff, they sip pathetic little granules or decaffinated mud. There is no life without a rush and they are hardly living. No one you know has a pot-belly, no one you know watches football. You are living in a parallel world and you cannot leave. You believe no one knows you have a problem.

© Sam North 2000

editor@hackwriters.com

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(Featured in the UK Guardian April 27th 2002)

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