fbpx

On Delivery

The overdose crisis as a logistics problem

Lili Huston-Herterich, Forever Fever (Untitled 2). 2021, multiple exposure silver gelatin print. 27 1/2 × 39 1/2". Courtesy of the artist.

In the car, Sean is telling me about obscure drugs. The kind that don’t have normal names but strings of letters and numbers. 3C-E, GHB, 2C-B. He’s done most of them. He tells me about a psychedelic that only affects sounds. Another drug that, for two minutes, made him hate all his friends, and then love them, and then forget them. Those sound terrible, I say.

We get to our next stop, a parking lot outside a hockey rink. We pull on our hats and shuffle out of the car, and a woman walks over to meet us. I ask her how she’s doing, she says all right, despite the cold. Our breath freezes on our eyelashes. I ask for her first and last initials and date of birth, and then write them on a piece of paper.

“What do you need?” I ask her.

“Everything,” she says.

Every Tuesday night, from December 2020 to August 2022, Sean and I drive around Minneapolis distributing syringes, alcohol pads, naloxone, Band-Aids, ointment, tourniquets, little cotton balls, small metal dishes for cooking drugs, glass pipes, fentanyl test strips, biohazard bins, condoms, lube, N95 masks, and (if the office has them that day) snacks. Drug users around the city text a hotline, and we drive to them and hand out supplies.

In between, we smoke cigarettes. We usually have about one every hour, from five-thirty until nine, for all the normal reasons. To help us calm down in traffic, or pass the time when someone’s running late. Sometimes, people tell us terrible things, and afterward the only thing to do is smoke.


Tuesday night, sunset, and we’re headed over north on an eight-lane freeway that bisects the city. We’re crawling through rush hour traffic past the old warehouse district. Sean is pale and thin, with long hair he keeps under a baseball cap. Tonight he’s persecuted by every idiot driver on the road. He sees a cop and yells GO HOME PIGGY out the window as we pass by.

My phone is filling with messages from people who need supplies, and I’m trying to keep up, mapping out their addresses. I try to arrange them into a sensible route, downtown first, then north, then northeast, then south. By the end of the night it will go awry, and we will be doubling back and forth across the river, or driving in circles around the frozen lakes. We most likely won’t get to everyone, and I’ll have to tell some people to try again tomorrow. I text the person we’re supposed to meet next that we’re going to be late, sorry. He responds that we need to hurry, he’ll be moving locations in a bit. I don’t know his gender, only his phone number, but he’s a rude texter so I picture a man.

He sells me molly from the dark web, and I do it with my friends in the dead of winter and we all get married.

Tweet

Some people are always in transit. They’re borrowing their buddy’s car to drive to the store, or they’re walking over from the gas station a few blocks down, or they’re just one bus stop away, never mind, actually two. They can meet in fifteen minutes or not for an hour and a half, unless their sister could come pick it up in forty-five. Poverty has a swing tempo and so does drug use. We try our best to meet these rhythms, and this means our intervention can end up feeling haphazard. Serendipitous rather than systematic.

Our informality is, in many ways, on purpose. It’s why they text us when they can’t get to a syringe exchange during working hours. It’s why they trust us more than the social workers, when we pull up in Sean’s trashy CR-V that’s filled with candy wrappers and bins of used needles. It’s also why they tell us to hurry up, why the fuck aren’t you here, please, you promised me. Sean and I hate it when people beg, because it reminds us of our inescapable power over them: we have something they need.

But one thing about giving away free paraphernalia is that everyone does drugs. We go to the projects, we go to the suburbs, we go to the fancy high-rises downtown. We deliver to old guys and lesbian couples and single moms and yuppies in suits. We go to the Indigenous community in Phillips and the Black neighborhoods up north, the Somali projects in Riverside and the white gay condos in Uptown. We deliver, mostly, to people who have been marginalized, both because of their drug use and usually also prior to it. But the margins are vast.


At the start of the pandemic, the harm reduction organization tried to provide services “contact-free,” but by the time I joined, everyone had given that up. None of it works without contacteven if it’s just talking next to a car, with a mask on. I’m grateful for this contact on all my delivery shifts, because it is the only part of my life that consistently makes me feel as though I belong to a city, and not just an apartment, a remote job, or a small circle of friends.

I talk to my mom on the phone, and she asks why I do it. She says it’s great but it must be hard. A year ago my friend died in an overdose: she knows this and I don’t want to talk about it. So instead I give her the usual speech. About harm reduction in theory (punitive responses to drugs are inhumane and ineffective) and practice (giving unquestioning, material support to help people use drugs safely). I tell her about the Young Lords setting up a methadone clinic in a Bronx hospital and ACT UP starting a syringe exchange program. I repeat the often-repeated comparison between harm reduction and seat belts: cars kill many people, but we do not criminalize them; rather, we support using them in the safest possible way. (Like many people I find this metaphor useful, but I also privately bristle at it, because getting high is not very much like driving a car.)

I feel bad for lecturing her. Instead I want to sayit wouldn’t be wrongthat I do it because Sean gives me cigarettes.

Almost everyone in the organization smokes. During meetings in the church backyard, packs travel silently through the circle whenever someone whispers to ask if they can bum one. When the meetings end, people talk to one another about their day jobs, the punk baseball league, or camping trips up north. The group is mostly white, mostly queer.

C. asks another guy where to buy drugs, in the same tone he might ask about where to get a tattoo. E. talks about her dog, a tiny mutt who she says saved her life from heroin addiction. Distinctions between volunteers and participants, between use and recovery, fade here. People arrive at harm reduction from many points on the spectrum, active users to recovering ones alike. The work sees these groups as aligned rather than opposed, solidarity being among other things more productive than pity.


Our route is fucked heading downtown because of the giant barricade around the courthouse where Derek Chauvin is being tried for murdering George Floyd. In a suburb north of Minneapolis, protesters are gathering every night at the precinct that killed Daunte Wright. The city is skittish, the precincts are fenced off with barbed wire, and businesses are boarding up again, just like last summer, just in case. The mayor called for a curfew. At least they’re scared, Sean says.

We hear updates from the trial on the car radio. The defense’s argument is, simply, that George Floyd had fentanyl and meth in his system when he died. In his closing speech, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, compared Floyd’s death under the officer’s knee to someone getting a blood clot during hip surgery. “The hip surgery didn’t cause the death, the death was caused by the blood clot that complicated the surgery.” Barely concealed within this argumentthat drug use had already put Floyd at so much physical risk that the officers couldn’t be blamed for killing himis another one: because he used drugs, he deserved to die.

In the video of Floyd’s death, while Chauvin suffocates him, one of the other officers makes a joke to the outraged bystanders. “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids.”


“These kids,” a man outside the giant apartment tower in Riverside tells me. “I feel bad for them. They don’t even know what heroin is like. They’ve never had it!” Fentanyl is less smooth; it ends quicker and crashes harder. It’s a cheaper drug with a cheaper high. And it’s everywhere. He says he hasn’t had pure H in years. He misses it.

By the end of 2021, 1,286 people in Minnesota will have died of an overdose, a 22-percent increase from the previous year. The numbers would be similar around the country, as that year set a new high-water mark for overdose deaths. Most of the rise is due to higher levels of fentanyl in the drug supply.

Accompanying the apocalyptic numbers is an increasing media frenzy, reminiscent of the early panics of the war on drugs. Fentanyl coming across the border, fentanyl in the Halloween candy. Every other week, it seems, another bullshit news story about a cop ending up in the hospital just from touching it. The public fear of fentanyl is uninformed and alarmist, but more than anything it happens in bad faith, mobilized against drug users rather than on their behalf. Drug users tell us all the time that they’re afraid of fentanyl, too, not because it’s mysterious but because it’s so familiar. They don’t need to make up stories because their friends are dying.

I ask a woman if she wants some fentanyl test strips. “No use,” she says. She tried testing for a while but found it in everything, and either way she’ll keep using. Weeks later, I ask another person the same question, and she laughs and tells me, “I sure hope it’s fentanyl, that’s what I paid for!”

Naloxonebrand name Narcanis the most effective tool in saving people from opioid deaths, but it has to be on hand in the moment of overdose. We distribute the injectable kind, rather than the nasal spray, because it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. It comes with a little vial and a syringe, and we’ve been trained not to worry too much about air bubbles, like you see people do in the movies, because it’s an intramuscular injection. You’re supposed to stick it in a meaty place, shoulder or thigh or ass, then start rescue breathing, and thenthe most controversial part of our trainingcall 911. (This is harm reduction, always compromised, always the better of bad options.) On the phone, volunteers learn, if you just say “someone’s not responding,” rather than mentioning an overdose, they’re less likely to bring the cops along. If other people are around, they should leave the area, especially if they have drugs on them. There are laws that protect people from being criminalized during an overdose, but cops often ignore them. Naloxone is unpleasant. It can send the user into immediate withdrawal, so sometimes when people wake up they’re angry. One person I know got punched in the face right after saving someone’s life.

But overdose deaths keep rising. Ideally, there would be naloxone present at all the uncountable places where drug use occurshouse parties, glove compartments, sidewalks, restrooms, city buses, and so on. Our organization gives out thousands of doses of naloxone on deliveries, on homeless outreach, and at community events. Sean resents the community trainings, where a lot of the people who attend are like usyoung, white, non-heroin-usersand they all leave with free doses. It’s inefficient, he says. Far more overdoses occur in private, alone or among other drug users, than in public next to well-meaning strangers.

I sometimes think of the whole overdose crisis as a logistics problem. How to get naloxone to everyone who needs it, when they need it?


My 10-year-old self, learning the language of recovery during his father’s brief stint in AA, would think I’ve become the second-worst kind of person: an enabler. I have no defense except to say, like a parent to a child, that stuff gets more complicated.

On deliveries, we don’t try to get people sober. Sobriety is beside the point. We offer resources if they ask, but we never push it. We never even mention the idea of getting sober unless they bring it up, because otherwise they wouldn’t trust us. We are, for many people, the only service they receive that doesn’t try to make them do something, that doesn’t demand shame as the price of care.

So we are uncompromising enablers. We deliver to people at homeless shelters, knowing that if they are caught they’ll be kicked out. We deliver to people on parole, knowing that drug use could send them back to prison. We deliver to people in the dark corner of the parking lot outside the rehab facility, where they once hoped to get sober.


At an emergency meeting in the spring of 2021, the director of the organization tells us that we’re about to enter a naloxone shortage.

Most harm reduction groups in the country source their naloxone from Pfizer, which supplies an injectable version at low cost. This summer, because of supply chain issues, they aren’t able to make enough of it. We only have enough for a few weeks, so we’ll have to start rationing. We brainstorm ways of getting more. Someone suggests asking local hospitals to give us their expired doses, since expired naloxone still works. As the city rolls out the new Covid vaccines, I go to Walgreens and try to buy some naloxone, but even with insurance a dose costs $60.

On deliveries, we switch from our usual question, “Do you need any naloxone?” to a new one, “How are you doing on naloxone?” How they’re doing is they need more. The number of doses they need is increasing, tooI hear stories of people who needed four, five, six injections before they came back. One used to do the trick, they tell me. Not with this new stuff.


When he has it, Sean shoots ketamine into his leg every night and sees the face of God. He sells me molly from the dark web, and I do it with my friends in the dead of winter and we all get married. I take some Adderall and spend an hour cleaning the kitchen. I go home for the holidays and find a few forgotten Vicodin in a bathroom cupboard, and I take them because I’m bored. We are not criminalized for these because we are white people doing white drugs.

Not to mention the more banal, daily pleasures. The cigarettes, my morning coffee, the internet. It is often said that addiction is the point where wanting becomes needing, where desire gives way to pathology. Instead of the stigmatizing language of “addiction,” many harm reductionists use the term “substance use disorder.” The idea being, and I think it’s a correct one, that there are healthy and unhealthy ways of relating to any object. But is it possible that desire happens separate from dependency, or that needing takes place on some timeline after wanting?


I live down the street from what I call Car Corneran intersection anchored by a tire shop, a car dealership, an auto-parts store, and a mechanic. On the other end of the block is a bike path that cuts through the city, a converted railroad track. In the warmer months it buzzes with cyclists, skateboarders, police cars, boom boxes, firecrackers.

Down the alley there’s a homeless encampment, maybe fifteen tents in an undeveloped lot between a house and a small church. It cropped up many months ago, one of several scattered throughout the city, and it survived the winter despite constant neighborhood complaints, police calls, and two fires ignited by the space heaters people keep in their tents to survive.

Now the neighborhood association is holding a “community conversation” about how to proceed. We’re sitting in a circle and going around, stating our feelings. One man says a bullet came through his living room window. But most people talk about drugsdealers coming and going, syringes on the sidewalk.

The organization receives angry calls about this all the time. Many people are mad and they are essentially correct. We are giving out syringes and those syringes are ending up in the alley where their children play. But it’s also true that they are deprived of a clean neighborhood by the same forces that deprive drug users of housing, or even a safe place to shoot up.

Drugs are widely feared, I think, because most people basically want to do them.

Tweet

My neighbors are well-meaning people. This being South Minneapolis, many of them are on the left. But it is easy to read drug use as antisocial, and drug users as disconnected from collective struggle. In the march toward liberation, the addict stands in the road. Her desires are outside the political, in that they have little to do with what is noble, good, or “in one’s interest.” In an essay about early harm reduction projects by the Young Lords and Black Panthers, M. E. O’Brien writes, “drug dealers and drug users embodied the qualities of the lumpen masses that socialists had long scorned: unreliable, undisciplined, easily vulnerable to the pressures police put on them to rat out their comrades.” O’Brien argues, instead, for a politics that takes up the challenge started by those radical groups in the ’70sone that includes everyone not allowed the “dignity” of the traditional working class.

At the meeting, a handful of us speak along these lines. We say that evicting the camp will not solve any problems, only displace them to another neighborhood, harming people in the process. There are plans for more meetings, and dialogues between the people in the encampment and the people in houses, to try and understand one another. I want to believe these meetings would have helped, but I’ll never know. Police cleared the camp before they could happen.


The community acupuncture place uses the same red bins that we give out. They are rectangular, like small trash bins, with plastic locking lids. Sharps containers, we euphemistically call them. I watch the acupuncturist collect tiny needles from the woman next to meher feet, her wrists, her foreheadand gather them in a little bundle in her hands before tossing them in a bin.

I started going to acupuncture recreationally, in the dead of the first pandemic winter, because I needed to leave my house. It was fairly cheap, twenty to forty bucks a session, and I could take an hour in the middle of the day to do it. I would sit, every week, in the quiet room with the suburban white women being treated for chronic pain, all of us indulgently gathered indoors. I had no chronic pain, but I always felt amazing after an hour with the needles in me. Totally zonked. I would go home and sit on the couch and do nothing in a deep calm.

It’s funny to alternate my free timeabundant, this yearbetween acupuncture and syringe exchange. I am never sure what to do with the distinctions between wellness and pleasure, need and recreation. Sometimes going to the acupuncture clinic makes me angry that Minneapolis, like almost every American city, has no safe injection site.

Afterward, I step outside the clinic and have a cigarette. “It’s very balanced,” I say to a friend. “Very Gwyneth Paltrow.”


On a trip back from the woods, a couple weeks into the naloxone shortage, I’m trying to explain to someone that harm reduction is about giving people more agency over their desires. “But does anyone really have agency over their desires?” she responds. “Isn’t that the point?”

She’s right. The point of desire is its power to consume us, and drugs are that power made material. Drugs are widely feared, I think, because most people basically want to do them. What’s scary is the thought that you might want to do them so much that this desire takes charge, and the rest of you is subordinated. What’s even scarier is that the whole time you might not even dislike this loss of autonomy, because you feel so good.

Of course, drug users want many things other than drugskids and money and housing and stability and to fall in lovethings of which they are so often deprived as punishment for their poor behavior. Harm reduction, then, is built on a compromise. It aims to give people more agency in a context where total agency is impossible. We can call this context drug use or we can call it being alive. To try to resolve the tensions in this space of compromise is not the point. One arrives and quickly finds more urgent things to do.


Years ago, before it was a nonprofit, before there were grants and volunteers and a board, there was Lee and his backpack. He called it Lee’s Rig Hub. He would walk around the city and give away syringes to all his friends and any other users he met on the street. Lee is weathered and skinny. Like most of the gay men we deliver to, meth is his drug of choice, although he got heart surgery recently so he had to stop. Sean says he was doing heroin a couple months back, “But that was just for attention.” When I met Lee I had bleached hair and ever since he’s called me the surfer boy.

I often think that we are reducing harm less than we are facilitating pleasure.

Tweet

We finish our last delivery and pick up Lee to go to dinner. He tells us about his yearslong battle with his landlord. He’s showing us TikToks and cackling. Back when the whole city was rioting, Lee was throwing Molotov cocktails. He reminds me of the essays I’ve been reading, by the French radical Guy Hocquenghem. Writing after the uprisings of 1968, Hocquenghem described a pervasive antidrug moralism on both sides of the political struggle: “The bourgeoisie says: ‘they take drugs because society doesn’t give them a chance.’ Militants add: ‘Because they have not yet found their role in the revolution.’ In the two cases, it’s understood as a deviant behavior with respect to the norm.” Hocquenghem, expelled from the French Communist Party due to his homosexuality, was interested in drug addicts because they, like him, made for poor political subjects. Drug use has no inherent moral value, and this can make harm reduction a controversial political project, even on the left, because we like to build movements around the virtuous. I like Lee because he helped build a movement for everyone else, a movement that is inclusive in the broadest sense. It asks us to consider not just which people are invited behind the barricades, but which parts of ourselves (which desires, which vices) we might afford a place, too.

At an Ethiopian restaurant, Lee tells us about growing up in Montana and getting beat up in school. One day some guy called him a faggot, and then Lee said, “that’s not what your dad said when I was fucking him.” And the guy went red in the face, because he knew Lee was right, Lee really did fuck his dad. He finishes the story laughing, and dives back into his spaghetti.


During the shortage, we find ourselves saying something we try to never say: No. We cap each person at two packets of naloxone, each with four doses in them. Many people need more than that and we are unable to give it to them. We tell them that if they’re on Medicaid they can get some for only a couple dollarsso long as the pharmacist agrees to give it to them (many don’t).

We tell them that when they shoot up they should start small and see how it feels first, especially with a new batch. Without naloxone, they can still do rescue breathing (tilt the head back, plug the nose, breathe into the mouth every few seconds) while they wait for the ambulance to arrive. Most people are understanding, some aren’t. Some are angry at us. We are another authority, telling them of another thing they can’t have.

It’s dispiriting to be the middlemen, between users and dealers, users and the state, users and Pfizer. It can feel like throwing handfuls of syringes and alcohol wipes onto a fire that keeps burning.


Late April and Chauvin is found guilty. We’re in Stevens Square, a mile from the courthouse, and everyone’s outside, because the weather has just started to warm up and people feel like their city hates them a little less. Did you hear? people say. Finally, something good. Others say: Not enough, but still good. I’m reminded of the slogan for one of the oldest harm reduction groups in the country: Any positive change. Sometimes the slogan strikes me as deeply wise; other times it sounds defeatist.

“GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES!” a guy yells as he speeds past us, doing a wheelie on his dirt bike.


I often think that we are reducing harm less than we are facilitating pleasure. Sometimes participants are plainly excited, about to get off. They thank us for the good night they’re about to have. Other times the rules of the exchange feel more obscure, like when a Somali woman walks toward us from across the street and stares into our trunk, confused. She doesn’t speak English, and she wants to know why there’s a car giving out free stuff on her block. We try to explain that these are supplies to help people do drugs, but she stays put. We give her some Band-Aids and ointment and she smiles and nods.

On a different night in a different part of the city, a man exits his building and we flag him down, assuming he’s the person who texted us. He’s not, and I’m worried he’ll be angry, but instead he asks if we want any meat. He holds up a package of ground beef. We decline and he throws it into the dumpster, whistling down the block.

A man with a messenger bag walks over to our car and asks if we want a kitty. I think he’s referring to ketamine and I say no, thank you. He leans in and gestures down to his bag, and I see a writhing mass of baby kittens looking up.


The people we’re supposed to meet aren’t at the CVS parking lot, even though traffic made us ten minutes late. It’s a sunny summer evening, and we’re over in the fancy neighborhood by the lakes. Thunder­clouds are piling up on the horizon. When they do show upa young couple, man and womanI like them instantly. They came here from North Dakota for a couple weeks, a year, who knows. They’re visibly in love, giggling the whole time and glancing at each other.

The man has an abscess on his leg. I see it after he asks for extra antibiotic ointment, but he’s way past thathe needs to go to a doctor. I tell him this, and the woman says that’s what she’s been telling him, but he won’t listen. Everyone is afraid of going to the doctor, because the doctor will only tell them to stop using, will often refuse to give proper treatment. So people go untreated, applying Neosporin or Vaseline. I give him a number for a hotline he can call, which will connect him to doctors who won’t judge him.

The next week we wait for them again on the other side of town, parked across from the still-shuttered Third Precinct in the parking lot of a Target. Sean calls it the Phoenix Target because it’s brand new, risen from the ashes a year after everyone burned it down. The couple arrives and the man still hasn’t called the hotline number, he’s been meaning to. I tell him I don’t think his leg will heal on its own. They ask for some empty dime bags we have in the back of the car, and I give them some. “In North Dakota you can get arrested for these,” she says. “Just these little baggies! It’s considered intent to distribute. But I keep my earrings in them.”


Eventually, quietly, the naloxone shortage ends. There’s little fanfare, or relief, as we return from an acute crisis to a chronic one. It is unclear how the shortage affected the rate of overdose deaths in Minneapolis, beyond the normal horrifying trends. Either way, the numbers that year were not good. Nationally, it was estimated that the 2021 shortage could have resulted in anywhere between twelve and eighteen thousand additional overdose deaths.

By the end of 2021, the city would begin to feel something like normal again, as the pandemic and the uprisings receded from public life. Plywood storefronts would be replaced with gleaming panes of glass. The police would bulldoze much of George Floyd Square, opening it back up to traffic. The Third Precinct would remain charred and gutted, and a source of collective pridecome fall someone would adorn it with a Spirit Halloween sign. The city council’s promise to abolish the police would feel like something we all remembered from a dream. The left would lose on that year’s mayoral ballot. We would see more tents than ever, in abandoned lots across town and all along the bike path, and the city would level them at random.

But as the months go by, on deliveries, I start hearing more people say no, thank you, I’ve got plenty of naloxone. The necessary hope is that this counts for something.


Sean and I pull up to a house on the north side, one we’ve been to before, occupied by a rotating group of women. The woman who meets us that night is someone I’ve met earlier, but I forget her name.

We give her syringes, alcohol pads, cookers, cottons, tourniquets, sterile water, glass pipes, and naloxone, and she asks if we have any art supplies. One of the other cars usually carries them. Meticulously packed sets of paper, watercolors, pastels, coloring books. We don’t have them in our car. She says coloring is the only thing she can do since her daughter died. Her daughter had been missing for several weeks and then the cops found the body, stabbed to death. And she didn’t find out until she called the police department herself. In the police report, they didn’t even bother to find out her daughter’s name.

What I have to offer her is unconscionably, stupidly small. I tell her we’ll make sure someone brings her art supplies the next night. She goes back inside and I light a cigarette by the car.


Sean is moving to Chicago, so he has a going-away party. Everyone comesother volunteers, his college friends, an assortment of punks from around the city. I run into Lee outside, and that’s when I realize about a third of the people here are on mushrooms. It explains why the bathroom was occupied for an hour, and why the sweaty, shaken man who emerged from it went home immediately. Lee says he needs to go look at the fire and walks away from me.

I talk to someone else about cigarettes. Her roommates used to keep communal packs in the house and smoke all day on the porch, but it got to be too much. She can’t say how she quit except she just did.


Months later I move to Chicago, too. I start grad school, and Sean has gotten a job at a start-up that grows psychedelic mushrooms. We live at opposite ends of a much bigger city, and don’t see each other very often.

One night in February I take the train down and meet him at his office after work. It’s in a brick building that used to be a slaughterhouse but now has sleek staircases and a giant indoor water feature. He shows me the lab, which is filled with gleaming white machines for growing and testing drugs. His coworker gives me a bar of weed chocolate and tells me it amounts to 250 milligrams total. For the next several weeks I will take a tiny bite of it before bed, trying to approximate a reasonable helping with my teeth.

We leave the lab for a Japanese restaurant, and then a bar, and then Sean’s apartment. He’s off cigarettes and sucking on a watermelon vape, which we pass back and forth on his couch. He tells me that the other week he injected DMT and it felt like he died and came back. It was beautiful, he tells me, he saw his whole life from a remove, and came to peace with his inevitable nonexistence. DMT lasts only twenty minutes but when you’re in it, it feels endless, he says.

Do I want to try some? I tell him no, I have no interest in being reborn, in meeting God, or in having twenty minutes last an eternity. But a little while later I’ve agreed to a laughably small dose, and he fills a syringe with clear liquid, which he gently injects into my thigh. I’ve never had a drug injected into me, and I’m glad it’s him doing it. We listen to music and my limbs start to feel wobbly. I laugh at everything. It’s subtle but nice, and wears off soon, slipping away like a thought. It’s late. Sean offers me the couch, but I take a car home.


If you like this article, please subscribe or leave a tax-deductible tip below to support n+1.


More from Issue 47