it’s all semantics.

Cheryl is shaking me awake. Okay, maybe it’s not as violent as “shaking,” just some nudging and saying my name. But opening my eyes is painful.

My lips are stuck together. I can’t speak.
She hands me a glass of water. I greedily gulp it down.

“Did you tell me that you saw Ryan last night?”
I shake my head. “No, he wasn’t there.”

“So you let yourself into his apartment?”

“Well, yeah…not to snoop or be creepy or anything. I just was worried that he might be sick or unconscious or something. Everyone made it sound like he was really fucked up.”

My head hurts. As I drifted off last night, I comforted myself with the wish/fantasy that today would never arrive. Or even better, maybe the note I left for Ryan would be blown into a dark corner before he came home. And then my visit to his place would never be real.

“No, no. I’m not saying you did anything wrong. But Ryan has called here at least five times this morning. And he was flipping out. He told me to stop acting ‘sassy’ with him. He wouldn’t believe that you were still asleep.”

I bite my lip. Fuck. Here we go. “Listen, Cheryl, I don’t want to say how I know this, but he is getting into some serious shit right now. He’s not just popping Ecstasy or something. It’s expensive and addictive. I’m not sure where he’s getting the money.”

I don’t add that there is no way I can actually speak to him–on the phone or otherwise–without revealing that I know this. I’m a terrible liar. I might have some luck at tricking him into admitting his recent activities. All I have to do is feign some concern and understanding. “Oh, Ryan…you know you can tell me ANYTHING.” Just break out the warm and velvety voice and drop some generic new age-y statements. Even though he manages to break me down over and over again, I’ve become adept at making him say what I want to hear.

But if he asks me point blank, “Did you steal drugs from me last night,” I will start giggling and stuttering. Even if he just presses me for some vague details of my visit to his apartment, I will not play it cool. My lips will be unable to hold back my confession.

Cheryl must be reading my mind. “Whether you want to or not, you’re going to have to talk to him. He’s fucking crazy right now. And wouldn’t it be better to deal with him on the phone than in person? Because you know he’s going to get mad enough to come over here.”

She’s right. I nod my head as she passes me the phone. If he shows up on our stoop, I will cave. I’ll probably offer to pay him for the pills. Maybe give him a free pass to slap me around. And of course I will cry. No, this will be easier. I take a deep breath before dialing his number.

By the time I return the receiver to the cradle five minutes later, I have already forgotten the conversation. Maybe I’m just cloudy from the OC. Or perhaps my skin is just getting so thick, that even a screaming, semi-hysterical Ryan can’t pierce it. Even the usually painful adjectives like “crazy” and “pathetic” elicit no reaction from me.

He doesn’t ask me about the pills. His accounting skills have never been that great.

I agree to go out for breakfast with Cheryl. Before I step into the shower, I take another Oxy-Contin. It’s just that easy. I don’t beat myself about it. I don’t bargain with my conscience. “Look, it’s Sunday…wouldn’t it be better for me to work my way through these before Monday?” and “Three pills do not start an addiction.” I mean, I’ve had a hard weekend. I deserve this.

Truth is subjective at best. Ryan’s catch phrase is “It’s all semantics.” And he’s right. Yes, I’m smart enough to realize that my own history proves that three pills can set the wheels of self-destruction in motion. But I can choose to ignore this fact. I can decide it is fiction. The events of the last few months never happened. Or better yet–because somehow this seems more plausible–maybe I just misunderstood the facts of last summer. Maybe everything was fine.

I remember a particular conversation from the spring. Ryan and I were having lunch at this vegan restaurant near the Music Box Theatre, still in the midst of the agonizing “friends with benefits” stage of our relationship. He started talking about this new drug he heard about at a party or something.

“It’s like, ten times stronger than heroin. But it’s legal. I mean, you need a prescription. Whatever. That never stops anyone.”

I was confused. “Why does this exist? Why would any doctor want to give a patient something stronger than heroin? That sounds dangerous and addictive.”

“No, no…that’s the thing! It’s not addictive. And it was invented for people with cancer or something. That’s why it’s so intense.”

I assume my most skeptical facial expression.

“Oh, Amanda…why would something dangerous be available by prescription? There’s no way doctors would give harmful pills to their patients. It’s against that oath they take.”

I shrugged my shoulders when he asked, “Wouldn’t you want to try it? I bet it’s great!”

Six hour later I realize the intention of that conversation as Ryan and I tossed Oxy-Contin down our throats while sitting in a booth at the Rainbo. And when my eyes were practically rolling back in my head–because I just felt so amazing that I didn’t need to see things any more–I thought to myself, “This is definitely too good to be true.”

At work that week, I decided to investigate this miracle drug on the internet. I knew that Ryan would never take it upon himself to look it up. And not just because he was vaguely confused by computers. It was just easier to assume that a conversation overheard at a party would provide the most reliable facts.

And oh yeah, it was definitely too good to be true. “Hillbilly heroin” and the robbery of small-town pharmacies. Families torn apart. Grandchildren stealing pills from their dying elderly relatives. Missing teeth and kids under the care of the state.

“Danger” in blinking red letters.

Six days later I pretended that I didn’t know this as I withdrew $200 from the ATM so Ryan could buy us some more. I would be fine as long as I only did it on the weekends. Right?


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