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Percocet Helps photo

Percocet helps, but not as much as Oxy or heroin, and that’s because you can’t take enough of it. This is on account of the Tylenol. It fucks with your liver, makes your lower back hurt. Take too many Percs and you feel like Gervonta Davis used your kidneys as training bags.

The maximum dose of acetaminophen an adult can ingest safely within a 4-6 hour period is about 1000mg. A single $10 Perc sold in front of Lexington Market contains a meager 5mg of oxycodone hydrochloride and a whopping 325mg of acetaminophen. This means that three Percs is the max you can take before you cause yourself more pain than whatever pain you’re trying to numb with the Percs in the first place, and three pills ain’t shit. Certainly not enough opiates to do anything beyond make you frustrated and wish you had more.

There is something you can do however. There is always a solution, always a way out. This solution has an air of mystique to it. The formula is treated like an esoteric text, like forbidden knowledge. Like the Necronomicon, or the Tabula Smaragdina, but for drugs. So many people don’t even know it exists. But it’s so easy it’s stupid.

This is what you do:

Crush ten pills into a fine powder, then stir thoroughly in a glass of warm water. Put the glass in the freezer and let sit for twenty minutes. At this point, the mixture will have separated. Take the glass out of the freezer and get another glass of the same size. Place a coffee filter on the mouth of the new glass. Pour the liquid slowly into the new glass through the coffee filter. If done correctly, after passing through the coffee filter, the liquid should now have a gray color, like industrial waste water. See that muddy white residue caught in the coffee filter? That’s the acetaminophen. That’s what you don’t want. Throw that shit away. Repeat the process one, maybe two more times. Now drink that glass of gray liquid. It tastes like shit. That’s your pure oxycodone.

I typically keep my mix in a Stanley Quencher H2.0, stainless steel, vacuum insulated tumbler. It’s from Stanley’s Soft Matte collection. I went with Stormy Sea, which is a dark, teal color. I like how the rubberized finish feels on my skin.

Daneen and I mill about in the halls of L&D until a woman who looks like Frankenstein’s monster arrives. She’s covered in scars that look like her wounds were stitched back together with shoelaces. She’s had no prenatal care and she tells us her name is Numi but we don’t know if that’s her real name. There's no way to know for sure. There’s a man with her who doesn’t give his name at all, the father, maybe. Their arms are blue with track marks, translucent like jellyfish. The guy is pretty far gone, chin hitting his chest, nodding while standing up. The woman is screaming; her eyes are bright, white globes, wet, and rolling around in her head like soft boiled eggs.

I take a sip from my Stanley Quencher H2.0 and grimace. The swallow is grainy, bitter.

Daneen and I watch as the nurses wheel the woman in on the stretcher and immediately transfer her to the hospital bed. They start assessing her condition, arms and fingers jumping, rapidly moving around the room like ants. They check the woman’s vital signs and stick an IV in her. They strap a fetal monitoring band around her gravid belly and she throws up on one of the nurses shoulders. The vomit is a golden orange, the color of ambergris.

This woman is in hard labor but I can tell that she doesn’t understand what’s happening, that she didn’t know she was pregnant, doesn’t know she’s about to have a baby.

I feel something mechanical tickle the inside of my cheek then slip back in place.

I watch nurse-ants skitter around the screaming junky woman. She pisses and shits on the bed and I can smell it from outside the curtain that poorly partitions the room. I lick the curtain and Daneen sucks her teeth.

“What the fuck, Jada?” she hisses.

Daneen and I watch until the woman drops a baby maybe sixteen or seventeen weeks old, nowhere near the age of viability, not even a micropreemie. Intubation is pointless; a ventilator futile. No intervention.

One of the nurses carefully wraps the tiny package—which turns out to be a her and who is somehow still alive—and asks the man if he wants to see her, hold her.

“What?” He scratches his head. The movement is cartoonish.

“You’re the father?”

“What?” he says again, not really asking. “Yeah.”

“Would you like to hold her?” the nurse asks.

He accepts.

I feel the mechanical needle tickle once more, this time at the back of my throat.

The nurse holds the tiny package towards the man and unwraps her. The man screams. It’s more like a shriek. Animal. The nurse jumps and pulls the tiny package back. The mother moans. The man snatches the mother’s imitation MCM bag off the chair and bolts out of the room, pushing through the curtain and nearly knocking me over.

The mother sits up. “Where’s my bag?” she asks.

The nurses don’t know what to do.

“My bag. I need my bag. My bag. It’s got my medicines in it. I need my medicines.”

The mother tries to get out of the bed. The nurses try to keep her in the bed but it doesn’t work.

“We can get you help,” one says.

The mother gets a leg, and then two legs, over the side of the bed. “My medicines.”

“We have medicine here. We can get you whatever you need.”

The nurse holding the somehow-still-alive-baby says, “You could bleed to death.”

Two of the nurses try to hold the woman down. They’re not strong enough for her drug-strength. The mother runs out of the room too. It’s quiet now, save for a few lonely beeps from the monitoring equipment.

“We don’t even need to talk to Marcic, really,” says one of the nurses. “Resuscitation is pointless.”

Marcic is Dr. Marcic, the neonatologist. I slip past the rough thickness of the curtain partition so I’m closer to the tiny package.

“What do you mean?” another nurse asks. “We have to tell her something.”

The room erupts. Arguing voices. Infighting and displacing blame. They don’t know what to do. I use the opportunity to claim the tiny package and make my way to the lactation room. It’s empty. I slide the curtain closed behind me. I unwrap the tiny package. She’s still breathing, barely. Rasping.

I take off my scrub top and hold her to my chest. I place her tiny conehead between my breasts. She’s warm. So warm. She dampens the edges of my bra with blood and amniotic fluid. The lactation room is so quiet. Her heartbeat is so fast. I find a clean receiving blanket and wrap her in it. Hold her closer to my chest. Her little head, no larger than a clementine. Ripples of movement in her tiny cheek against my skin. I try to speed up my heartbeat so it matches hers but it doesn’t work, I only slow her down. I can feel her heart speed skip a bit and slow. I’m only slowing her down.


When she dies in my arms, it doesn’t happen with a last breath or gasp or air suck. She just slows down. Her heartbeat, her pulls of breath, they slow. Like a cheap toy, her batteries drained to empty.

I put my scrub top back on and go back to the room where the nurses are still arguing about how to write up what happened.

“What are you doing?” asks one of the nurses. She looks at me like I materialized in front of her, like I just got here, and technically I did, but she doesn’t know that. Only now, does she realize I’m in the room. She has no idea that I left with the tiny package and came back. How dare she act like she’s in control.

“Just skin to skin.” I hold out the tiny package with care. “Here.”

The nurse snatches her from me. She looks at me differently now. There’s a contained fear behind the innate aggression in her eyes, common to so many Baltimore natives. The nurse looks at me and then looks at the other nurses. They look at each other. They look at me again. Then they look at each other.

One of them says,  “I don’t even know.”

One of them makes wide eyes and wide eyebrows to indicate that she, too, doesn’t even know.

“It’s weird,” says another.

They mumble and whisper. I don’t mind. I’m used to people talking in front of me like I’m not able to hear them because they aren't looking at me, and because they aren’t looking at me, they feel that I do not exist, and things that do not exist can not hear things to be offended by.

One of the nurses, short, with the kind of face that’s pretty but also deceptively fat, says, “I don’t have a problem with it.”

“Oh, come on, Andrea,” says the nurse who asked me what I was doing with the tiny package, the one who seems to be the ringleader of the group. I only know some of the nurses by name and I don’t recognize this one. This alpha-nurse or whatever she thinks she is. “It’s weird. She’s weird.”

The alpha-nurse who’s name I do not know turns to me. “I’m sorry, but you are.”

I can feel the look of surprise on my face because my eyebrows jump. “Huh?”

“Oh, come on, you know you are. You’re always doing weird stuff like this.”

The alpha-nurse stares at me, her mouth and nose hidden under a blue face mask, her hard eyes flashing white light under her protective face shield. I think she’s pleading with me.

She places the tiny package in a plastic tub then turns to the nurse named Andrea. “You want to tell Marcic about this too?”

Andrea shrugs and looks at her Crocs.

“That’s what I thought,” says the alpha-nurse. She looks at me. “Why are you even here?”

“It’s my j—”

“It’s my job,” she cuts me off, repeating my words in a mocking, cartoonish tone. Like she’s deaf. Like she’s retarded. Like she’s implying I’m retarded. Like she doesn’t know I could catch her in the Orleans Street garage and fuck her to death with a bottle of tropicamide. “You’re not even supposed to show up until later. At the end. When they’re about to leave. When it’s car seat time.”

I start to say something but stop. I don’t have anything. The words float around my head. My brain is a red bowl of alphabet soup. What do I say? People will apologize to end confrontations. This is the easiest way. This is self preservation. But I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t apologize. If I do, it will destroy me. I didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t apologize when I didn’t do anything wrong. I can’t say sorry. I want this to end but I can’t say it. I can’t say sorry for something I didn’t do. I didn’t do anything.

“Fuck you, bitch!” I scream, walking backwards out of the room. “You got the wrong one!”

The alpha-nurse turns left, right, looking at the other nurses as if to say, I told you so. When I walk backwards out of the room, somehow I lift my right leg high enough for my Croc to catch on the heavy partition curtain, which somehow causes me to stumble into the curtain itself, ass first, my arms flailing outward, folding my body. The top portion of the curtain comes back and hits me on the shoulders, pushing me down to the floor. I fall on my face; my hair brushes the scuff marked tile.

I get to my hands and knees. Stand up. “You stupid bitches,” I say, shaking my head and wiping my hands on my scrub pants. Pick up my Stanley Quencher H2.0. “You stupid, stupid bitches.”

Before I leave the room I hear Andrea say, “Oh, dear.”