The table salt didn’t work. He always doubted it would, but it’s hard to be skeptical as someone lay dying on your bathroom floor. Holding the flame from his lighter under the same charred spoon she overdosed with, he found himself thinking of bees. He remembered how one summer, he and a childhood friend spent an entire week finding new and exciting ways to drown honeybees before burying them in mounds of salt and watching them twitch back to life. And for a moment,he felt something like hope.
“Come on, baby. Wake up,” he said, dragging the tips of his fingers across the edge of her hairline. “Just wake up.”
As he waited for a breath, a blink—anything—hewatcheda trail of blood drip down her arm and mix with the mold and grime between floor tiles. When she didn’t wake, he scooped her clumsily into his thin track-marked arms and headed down the hallway.He stopped at his roommate’s bedroom door and nudged it open with his shoulder.
“Do you know anyone with Narcan?” he asked.His roommate, John, sat at a small wooden desk in the corner of the room, his left arm tied offwith aleather belt, the smell of burning aluminum and vinegar floating in the air.
“Narcan? No,” John said. “You try shootin’ table salt?”
Yes, he explained, watching the flower of blood bloom as John registered a vein. Hetried the salt. He tried the cold shower. He tried putting ice cubes in her armpits and down the front of her panties. As he yelled about how none of that stupid junky cure shit really works and how all he needed was somebody who’d taken a goddamn Narcan class, he felt something that bordered on anger.
“Well, don’t call anyone, man,” John said. “We don’t need the fucking cops here. Just drop her off at the hospital.”
He despised the nonchalance on John’s face when he said it, but knew he was right.
The first snow of the season fell onto the windshield as he maneuvered her sagging body into the passenger side of his Lumina. When he made his first turn out of the driveway,he felt the weight of her head fall against his shoulder. He nudged her back, using his hand to cushion her head as he leaned it up against the window. He checked on her each time the inside of the car lit up under the passing streetlights. By the time they passed the fourth one, a small patch of moisture from her breath had collected on the window. He drove as fast as he could without getting pulled over and he almost hated himself for it—for not going faster, for fearing he’d get caught, for even caring about what would happen if he got caught. He thought about the blind faith his world was built on. How, to live in it, you had to trust in every cracked link on a rusty chain. Links who sold dope that was too pure, or that wasn’t pure enough.Whotold stories about friends of friendswho saved someone fromsure death with nothing more than a syringe and a pinch of a condiment meant for French fries. Who never carried you into the hospital when you needed it, but instead pushed your body out of barely-stopped cars and onto the cold concrete of Emergency Room sidewalks.
He turned at the hospital driveway and headed for the emergency lane. A maintenance man was pushing a salt spreader past the front entrance, so he had to loop around. As he passed the man—“Frank” was the name on the breast of his work shirt—they exchanged glances, and for a moment, he admired the man. He wanted that life—onethat was simple and honest and all you had to do was keep the sidewalks clear. On the second pass, Frank was gone, so he got out of the car and hurried around to the passenger side. He opened the door, grabbed her by the arms and eased her body down onto the pavement.
Pebbles of salt clicked under the toes of his shoes as he ran back to his side of the car. He pulled back on the gear shift, leaned on his horn and sped away. Heglancedat the spot on the window where her head had been resting, but the small circle of condensation was gone.Checkingthe rear-view mirror as two nurses wheeled a gurney out the front door, he felt his shoulders wilt, the blood wash out of his cheeks, and his stomach twisted in shame.He turned out of the parking lot, but not the way he came in.He was tired and wanted a fix, but knew the one he needed wasn’t back home.
Joshua Chase is a fiction writer and poet. He lives in Anoka, MN with his wife and two children.