She took a small razor out of her coin purse and cut the cocaine into four neat lines on her compact mirror. She  saw herself in the reflection, her fine blond hair in a short bob, ivory skin, and wide blue eyes. Her hands were a little shaky but she moved with a force of habit. With one hand she scraped every last crystal she saw into a queue then dropped the blade back into the bag. Every part of this ritual  both thrilled her and increased her anxiety. The tiny, knowing movements building up, stacking, line on line, marching towards a feeling of elation. Jessica worshipped her blow.

The third toilet stall in the 17th floor women’s room was not exactly a sanctuary, but it was where Jessica communed with her god. It had been ages since she thought about anything else. Her god helped her to crank out documents, more than the per diem quota the law firm asked of proofreaders. She always got excellent performance reviews, and twice she had gotten commendations for her copious production. Her prayers were always answered, it seemed. The drug made everything better except her bank account.

“Jess? Are you back there?” a voice asked abruptly.

Jessica was startled her out of her meditation. The compact slipped from her knee and clattered to the ground, spilling powder all over the floor of the stall. “Yes… Yes… I’m back here, um, trying to cover a blemish without anyone noticing.” she said, her voice flat and hesitant. “Tina?”

The small dark woman answered in a whisper, “Yes it’s me! By the way, Grimaldi is looking for you. You’ve been gone an hour.”

The outside door slammed shut and Jessica got on her hands and knees, brushing the drug with a wad of dry tissue paper, She scooped up what little she could find and set the mirror back on her knee. Once again she was drawn into the ritual, but this time she was a little desperate. She had reclaimed only a line and a half from the floor. She tried not to think about what else she may have swept up. Her breath raced as she rolled a crisp dollar bill with her right hand and put it up to her nostril. As she bent down, the bathroom door banged open. She dropped the compact once again.

“Jessica!” Sharon Grimaldi said sharply at the row of stalls. “Jessica! Are you in here?” She bent down to look for shoes and saw nothing. She blew a hard sigh and stormed out of the bathroom.

Jessica sat on the toilet, her knees tucked up under her chin. She briefly put her lips against them, feeling the stubble of a needed shave. The cocaine was hopelessly scattered now. She briefly considered licking the floor where it spilled. She looked at the compact and licked the mirror instead, hoping for residue. She gazed at the streaky reflection. Years ago she had been a pretty blond girl from east Tennessee, looking to make it in the big city, a cliche’, a basis for a TV movie. She had begun working at the law firm because they paid per document and she was the fastest proofreader around. But now, here she was, sitting in a toilet contemplating putting her tongue on that floor. She hit her low.

Fighting the urge to cry, she left the stall and looked at herself in the big mirror over the sinks. He hair was straw. She was anorexia-like skinny and her finger joints looked like cherries. She stroked her hollowed cheeks, letting her fingers trail down to a beginning of a neck wattle, She was old now, hooked on coke, no longer fresh, just barely keeping things together. She looked at herself deeply. Later on she would tell a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that this was the point where she knew there was no place to go but up. She considered it a treasure.




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