Heroin was initially marketed as a cure for morphine addiction,
before it was known that heroin rapidly metabolizes into morphine,
and is, therefore, even more addictive than morphine itself.
Stefan then slid a glassy, poached egg onto his plate. As he ground black pepper onto the gelatinous white, he grumbled to Nanette: “Why do I even bother to cook? I never eat and now you are out all the time! We were supposed to have dinner last night. You can find your portion in the icebox.”
“Oh… I am so sorry…”
“Me and my muse spent a few hours together, so the night was not totally a waste-”
“Just wasted?” Nanette tentatively smiled.
He sat down at the wooden table Nanette had recently bought. It was the same shape as an ironing board but half the size – the only table that would fit in the tiny space beside their tiny refrigerator. He scooted his chair in to avoid the flared, iron table legs.
Nanette leaned against the doorframe and sipped her tea. She knew that she had disappointed him, she knew he was depressed but her mind felt like it was gyrating – flexing its muscle somehow, in fast strokes. Her eyes hurt. Her hands were achy. She needed to calm down.
Maybe the caffeine. God, I need Guy.
“Je suis un toxico,” Stefan mumbled.“I’m a sad, lonely junkie who doesn’t want his friend to find love.”
“I missed dinner. I am the bad friend.”
She looked at him. He seemed suddenly grey.
Something happens, Nanette thought in a fire of thoughts, when you develop a need for junk, something that changes your entire scope. Your world shrinks down to small tunnels of urgency – the direction of the mouth of a needle, the second hand of a clock, the rot between someone’s teeth. Life is no longer Life – it is the blocks that make up Life. You live in the nuances, the details. And then the big picture drops into the shit catcher.
“Everyone needs something, everyone’s addicted…” she said, thinking: I wish I were sleeping better.
Stefan nodded, absently cut into the yellow placenta on his plate. “True.” He paused, then slowly: “We all wander around the radio dial until the static clears and we tune in the addiction-signal we are positioned in life to receive, whether it be an addiction to work, revolution, love, pain, books, diamonds, soccer, children. Nous tous vivons de cette façon.We all live this way.”
Nanette raised her recently penciled eyebrows and sipped her tea.
“I was up off and on in the night and I realized I was going through it. I am up to my neck in it, Nanette. Up to my neck…”
Nanette didn’t know how to comfort him. She realized she never really knows how to comfort anyone, unless it is in her role at the Dungeon. And that isn’t comfort so much as distraction or, truer, domination of that which is demanding to be comforted.
“I am not sleeping either. So maybe we can stay up together and work things out.”
“I don’t know if this will work out,” he said, “and I doubt I’d be good company.”
Stefan set his still-full plate in the sink. There was a knock – he answered the door.
Guy stepped in.
Nanette left the kitchen, grabbed Guy’s arm, waved her fingers in front of her eyes, and shouted, “Au revoir!”as Guy ushered them out into the chill. He held her roughly, walking quickly down the loud metal stairs.
Nanette felt an urge to drink or snort a line – something. The happiness – the great high she’d been feeling for a little while was eroding quicker than it ever had. What if this was the up down ride and not just “real” happiness? Did she love him? Did she only want him? Was she an empty hole of need, as she feared?
He smelled nice. He walked so confidently, she thought. A handsome man. No one makes you happy all the time, especially me, she smiled.
He held the door for her and her heart opened up again.
They walked down the alley on the north side of her building.
“Nice to be out.”
“Why do you hate Stefan?” she asked.
“I don’t hate him. I respect that he is no one’s cog, but that’s it. He lacks any political passion and therefore any love of France. He is woefully under-read, and he is too,” he paused, “feminine.”
“It is more than that! Your friend Stefan is not real.I know his type. He plays whatever role his medications prompt him to play. He’s a Chipper – at least addicts have some sense of commitment.”
“A recreational user, someone wallowing in the middle ground.”
Nanette wondered who came up with these names. What did Chipper imply? That you just chipped away at the block without taking the whole thing at once? But Guy’s hand on her arm stopped her musings.
“I am taking you for the best hot chocolate in the world…”
“Can we add some whiskey?”
* * *
“Chipper,” Stefan explained to her later that evening, delighted she was back “is actually an English word. Although it’s not the first time I’ve explained an English word to an American.” He winked.
Nanette sat back. She – the worldly cincher dominatrix – hated being so obviously naive. She’d come to France, after all, to feel more alive and involved, to see the world, to be a strong worldly, woman – not to have new words from her native language used by one Frenchman and explained to her by another.
“Words change their meaning from one coast of America to the next, Stefan. We can’t even keep up with our internalidioms…” Her irritation sounded confident. Whiskey did that to her. Made her regal and sure-footed, even when she stumbled.
“True,” he conceded. “D’accord. A Chipper is a party man-”
“Right. Just for fun. His life is not dedicated to fun, he just has fun.”
“And now that your deflated bull testicle is gone, I believe we should have ourselves some fun.”
“You know I love you. Am I forgiven?”
“If I am.”
“Yes!” she nearly shouted.
“Good then!” He lurched back a bit from the force of her hug then shook a small baggie in the air between them. “Chipper extraordinaire!”