"You got any?" I asked my best friend Martin as I was riding toward his house about twice the speed limit.
"Yeah, why? Dude, you sound shot," he replied. Good old Martin, always knowing what was going on in my head.
"A little," I lied. I was totally shot. Now I wanted to forget that. Martin had the good stuff, the stuff that could make me forget my own name. I always was good at picking out my friends.
"I'll be there in a minute," I told him, accelerating so that it would be true as I snapped my cell phone closed. I could hear him complaining on the other end. It didn't matter. I had my paycheck fresh in my pocket and I was close to being there.
"What the hell is your problem dude?" he greeted me. I threw myself down on his couch and greeted his parents cooly. His mom smiled at me and passed the joint. I took a nice long drag and felt my nerves start to cool down a little.
"Jamie and Donald," I replied. Martin rolled his eyes but his dad leaned forward curiously.
"What'd they do?" he asked. My parents were always doing something or other nowadays.
"Just being stupid and controlling. They tried telling me I couln't see Amanda anymore," I began. "Jamie went through my room and found all the notes she's been giving me in school. She doesn't like what she's been reading. Say's we're getting 'too serious' and I need to focus."
"Here, man. You look like you need this," Martin said, passing again. He wasn't wrong; just retelling the story was making me shake.
My phone started to ring and I checked the caller id quickly, expecting the parents to be after me. Instead, it was my girlfriend calling.
"Hey baby," I greeted her.
"Darling," she returned. "Can you come over?" she invited, her tone purring. I smiled. After I was all done here, she would calm me down even further.
"Sure, I'll be down in about an hour," I told her in a low tone. The purring stopped.
"Where are you at?" she asked, her voice a bit more snappy.
"Martin's," I answered without thinking. I had too much in my system to realize what I had done immediately. I snapped out of it a half-second too late.
"Martin's," she repeated, spitting the word out. "Well, then then don't worry about it. Don't worry about me anymore either."
"Whoa, Amanda, I'm just over here for a minute, I swear!" I protested to the dial tone that answered me. I sighed. I wasn't even feeling the effects yet and I knew I had to go.
"I've gotta go calm down my girl, Martin," I said. "I'll be back if I can sneak away from her."
"Later dude," he said.
Her door was locked, as I knew it would be. I rang the doorbell for five minutes straight until she finally opened. She scowled at me angrily.
"Go away," she said, and started to close the door. I pushed through it and grabbed her arm, dragging her to the couch with me.
"Listen Amanda," I started. She picked up a picture frame off the coffee table she had and swung it at my head. I ducked and cleanly caught her hands, wrenching her weapon from her.
"Quit," I growled. "Now, you know that that's a small part of my life. But I can live without it," I protested. "I can't live without you. Why do you think I would come over here so quickly?" I asked her. My persuasion wasn't at it's strongest today. My mind wasn't entirely clear from what I did manage to smoke.
"I don't care. I told you I won't be with anyone who does that. You know this. Now get out."
"No. You invited me over, now I'm here," I said, leaning back on her couch and pulling her closer to me. She slapped me.
"Do I have to say it? Is that what you want?" she asked me cruelly. I stared at her, dumbfounded.
I went back to Martin's house for just a minute to get one of my own. I wasn't in the mood for company. On the drive to the park, I looked at the unlit contents of my hand, blotted with my tears. Drugs always were blotted with my tears, the entire black world I entered whenever I used them first. I couldn't escape; the other world, the real one, existed no longer. Amanda was my last connection to genuine happiness. Now all I had was artificial.
I pulled over by the trail I always did when I needed to be alone and started on the dim path. It wasn't long before I veered off where I always did and found the tree. It was huge, it's droopy branches touching just over the lake. It was my spot, my spot I'd brought Amanda to just once, just once to give ourselves to each other, to lose our innocence.
I swung on the lowest branch and climbed higher than usual, onto a branch right over the lake. The water wasn't even shallow directly below me. I spanned the entire park. It was beautiful as usual, but even more so today because the sun was setting. Twilight settled onto the lake and was mirrored back toward the sky.
I leaned against the thick trunk, high up as I was, and pulled out my lighter. After I lit it, I didn't take a drag immediately. If fact, I didn't take one at all. I watched as all my drugs burnt themselves away slowly. I even made sure not to inhale the smoke.
Could I live without it? Would I even function right? Then there was Amanda. I already knew I couldn't live without love. She did stupid, annoying things sometimes, but she was mine. Even more so, I was hers. Still. And I knew it just as well as she did.
I closed my eyes and imagined her face. I felt like someone hit me in the stomach. No, it was too painful. But which was more? There was only one way to find out for sure.
Her image still in my mind, I brought the joint closer to my face and smelled it's burning oregano smell. It was sweet. Her face was sweet. They were both so very, very painful.
I imagined kissing her. My eyes filled with tears that I let stream down my cheeks without interruption. It was all I could do not to get sick; I could taste her. I could also taste my drugs.
Which was sweeter?
It really wasn't a very hard question in the end. There was one thing that I simply couldn't go without, though I wanted the other so badly it was breaking my heart.
I lifted my addiction to my lips and took a long drag, my last kiss. My head went immediately light. I used the last of my strenght to fling my beautiful sin out as far into the lake as I could.
I tightened my hand around the branch as tightly as I could, or I would certainly fall. The world was spinning, flashing before me. The sun was setting a fire in the sky; too soon it would be gone.
Like her. Our love was stronger than the strongest drug. That's how I knew she would be there when I looked down.
And she was. At the base of the tree. I knew what I could live without. I let it sink to the bottom of the lake as climbed down quickly to my sweet addiction.