Ever since beginning work on my book, Dreamland, I’ve been struck by the way opiates isolate those addicted to them.
As I wrote and researched, they grew into a metaphor for modern American life.
We exalt consumption and the individual over community and have for a long time now.
These drugs seem to fit that; they turn everyone who abuses them into self-absorbed, lonely hyper-consumers.
The poem below was written by Andrew Smith, one of the thousands of Americans who died in 2014 of a heroin overdose. He was 24.
His mother, Margie Borth, discovered it after his death.
Simulate the Static
by Andrew Smith
The waiting, oh god
The parking lots, the bathrooms, the empty parks that close after dark
The driveways, the bus stops, the car backseats
The posh bank lobbies, flea bag motel rooms, gas station pumps
Oak trees, palms, and retention ponds meant to beautify
The ditches, the swamps, and one off dead roads that lead to nowhere
And the loneliness of that trap.
The broken windows,
The made for TV dinners
The busted speakers blaring bass on a burner cell phone
The children going hungry, ignored in the corner
Staring at a broken television; simulating static.
The hangers-on, the worn out, the washed up
The good, the bad, the ugly
and the pretty young white girls with the blank eyes
Staring in awe at this newfound world.
The sun is setting and it’s starting to rain
My eyes are closed and I’m wishing I’m somewhere else.
When I hear a tap on my passenger window
Within 30 seconds, he’s gone
And the wait seems like a thousand centuries ago.
In this moment, I rest my eyes a second
Breathe a sigh of relief and know that all is right with the world
At least for these brief few hours.
The rain falls and my windows are up
It casts shadows across the dashboard
And the radio plays a news story
From a country whose language I do not speak
And a land I do not know.
Life is a quest
And we all search for something:
Money, fame, power, an identity.
For most they never find it;
And like a mirage in the desert,
it wavers in allure on their weary walk forward.
For others, they do.
And what’s worse,
They’re left in the emptiness of what it means.
But in this moment a fleeting comfort comes to me
And I know I’m not alone.