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by Alle C. Hall

I used to keep a shaving blade in my mouth. I was injecting into big veins by then, the ones in my legs, injecting at a 90-degree angle. When those veins collapsed, I injected into my groin. I had abscesses coating both ankles and kept a piece of razor blade in my mouth. When the neighbors or the cops caught me stealing, I would cut the insides of my cheeks and pretend to vomit. The crowd would see the blood and think they’d thumped it out of me and would leave me alone. I come from a middle-class family. Seventeen criminal cases against me. I was the sixth most notorious criminal in Delhi. Car theft. Armed robbery. Norphine. Promethazine. Benzodiazepine. At university, I only smoked heroin. Then a friend incantated the names: Norphine, Promethazine, Benzodiazepine. We broke into a pharmacy. Within six months, I was injecting five times a day. Fifty milliliters a day. One-quarter cup of liquid. I had abscesses coating both ankles. My sister threw me out. That night, I slept on a bus stop bench. I felt ant bites, felt them prick like needles. I yearned for what was to come, puffing out my nostrils, the alcohol smell, and then the pirouette; craving more and more, the nonbeing, until I craved again. On the bench, no puff came. The only dancing came from the ants. They wanted my ankles.

I dreamed I was sent to prison for a third time. There was a Bollywood star with us in the men’s section. The pretty Bollywood star and me, loving the prick of that needle.

When I woke, I was still on the bench. The sun was high and hot. Flies covered my ankles, as thick as socks. There must have been fifty people around me. I heard someone say, “He’s moving!” and someone else say, “He’s still alive!” I pushed through them, pushed through fifty people, and wanted to shout I come from a middle-class family! I found another bus stop, I lied to the conductor, “ … I want to go to hospital … treat the wounds on my ankles … ” He did not let me on the bus. My friend and I, eventually, we sharpened our needles on stones.


Alle C. Hall’s work appears most recently in Dale Peck’s Evergreen Review, as well as in Tupelo Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction Magazine, Brevity (blog), and Literary Orphans. She is associate editor at Vestal Review. “Wins” include a Best of the Net nomination, first place in the Richard Hugo House New Works Competition, and finalist or semi-finalist in contests at Boulevard Magazine, Creative Nonfiction Magazine, Hippocampus, and Memoir Magazine. Claim to fame: interviewed Leonard Nimoy. He was a bit of a pill; disappointing. Twitter: @allechall1. Alle blogs at About Childhood: Answers for Writers, Parents, and Former Children. (allehall.wordpress.com)