Just Once


She doesn’t really “look” homeless. She keeps to herself and washes up in the airport or nearby restaurants, making sure her face is always clean, even if it’s been months since she’s showered. She always carries a back pack and fits in quite well with the travelers by looking like one of them.

Only… unlike them, she has nowhere to go.

At the age of 16 Sophie dropped out of high school to pursue a modeling career in the city. She moved from her small town and into the city with her then boyfriend, Mark who was ten years her senior. He was a pretty well known pot dealer and vowed to clean up his act and help Sophie with her modeling career instead.

They truly were in love, despite what Sophie’s family believed. They would have been happy living in a cardboard box in the alley in a storm, as long as they were together. Mark, bought a Pentax K1000 from a pawn shop and started taking photos of Sophie for her portfolio. They would hitchhike out to the country and take pictures at old abandoned farms, or stay in the city and take pictures in grungy alley ways. Mark liked to call those ones “beautiful decay”.

Having been sober for 3 months, things were starting to look up. Mark was motivated and even had a job working nights in a factory to pay for their small one bedroom bachelor apartment. Sophie worked part time serving coffee at an independent cafe in a trendy neighborhood. They weren’t rolling in money, but they were getting by, and working towards something.

One day Mark brought a friend home from work. Sophie was just waking up and they were loud and obnoxious. She thought maybe they were drunk or something, but upon closer inspection… she knew, they were high just by looking at them.

“What are you doing Mark? Are you on something?”

“Oh hey baby, this is my friend Daz. We work together. Babe… you gotta try this shit, just this once okay. Stuff like this doesn’t come along very often. Just once… For me.”

She stared at him with dagger eyes. She hated being put on the spot, and had major issues with saying no. She stared down and then back up at her boyfriend, who she loved and trusted.

With a softer less-aggressive voice she asked “what is it?”

“Promise not to freak… okay. Promise?”

“Oh god, you’re worrying me here.”

Daz started snickering as Mark grinned ear to ear, “It’s heroin”

Sophie turned White. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her own boyfriend, who had only previously been a pot dealer had now jumped several rungs on the drug ladder and advanced to heroin.

“Did you inject it she asked?”

“Yeah” Mark said. “I know crazy right?!”

Sophie sat down on the velour couch in their living room and said “Okay, well if you tried it, then I will too. But just this once. This stuff is apparently very addictive.”

The two guys sat on either side of her helping her with the rubber tourniquet. Daz held her hand tightly and said “We’re giving you your wings Sophie. Just wait until you get up there. You’re going to love it.”

Sophie’s heart started beating loudly and rapidly. The most she had ever done in the way of chemicals was some shitty blotter acid. She was never really a fan of Mark’s dope when he dealt it because she said it made her “too paranoid and hungry”. Not good for her career.

Daz told Sophie to look away as he injected into a strong vein in her Right arm. Mark held her and stroked her hair as she breathed in deeply and sank back into the brown velour of the couch. The voices became muffled and the room became a different place, her heart felt full, her eyes amazed, and her body fluid and permissive.

Mark’s hand stroking her hair felt like the most wonderful thing she had ever felt. Despite feeling a bit nauseous, she was in heaven. It was the most orgasmic beautiful thing she had ever done. She felt the way everyone should feel… at least once.

But it wasn’t just once.

Mark and Sophie began shooting up every weekend, then several times a week, then every day. Their rent was overdue. The high wasn’t the same, and their relationship had suffered. Both of them became extremely jealous if one scored or somehow got high without the other. They started the downward spiral, their health, their life, themselves. It wasn’t long before they were both out of work, and out of a home.

They pawned everything they had worked to buy, including the K1000. It had been months since Mark took any pictures, and Sophie’s skin was breaking out in sores. When Sophie wasn’t picking at her sores obsessively, she was biting her nails (usually worrying about how to score) and sometimes they bled badly and would make her fingers raw.

For a while they couch surfed, staying in various places. That was fine, since they were almost always fellow junkies and all anyone wanted was a safe haven to get high.

One day Sophie returned from a street trek, begging for money down by the subway. She walked in to find the group standing around Mark shaking him violently. One of the guys looked over at Sophie and said “He did too much, we just got back and found him like this. I think he’s gone.”

Sophie collapsed on the floor upon hearing this and was helped up by one of the squatter chicks, Kim, who helped her fix up to ease the tragedy of Mark’s death. The guys were still arguing about what to do with his body and where to put him, when Sophie just wandered out of the room, high and looking for a way out.

That was 17 years ago.

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9 thoughts on “Just Once

  1. Drugs are bad…. Suffering from chronic pain, I always want a better one. But then I come to my senses and just deal with it…

  2. Hi Selina. A while ago I was going to ask you how you found your illustrations for your pieces. They always reflect the sad or quirky tone of your writing and finding and choosing them is a skill you use well. I hope the sad lady at the top is no Sophie, and I hope she approves of her image being used here.

  3. Tragic stuff.

    If you make it to Vancouver and check out the downtown eastside, you’ll see plenty of people who made ‘Sophie’s choice’.

  4. Makes me thankful my drug use in the 70’s never escalated to more than what it was.

  5. You really need to start publishing some of your own work. That was a great story. Tragic, but it kept me right to the end.

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