„Heroin,š said Leo, sipping his morning coffee. „The strongest thing you can get without a prescription.š
„You‚re a∑a∑ junkie?š Sam‚s tea cup rattled as she attempted to maintain her composure.
„It‚s the only thing that works, Sam.š He reached across the breakfast table for her hand but she jerked back. He knew he had to talk fast.
„Look honey, I‚ve been reading about my condition. It‚s called post-traumatic paranoid dementia. It sometimes lasts for years. Eventually it does goes away but I need help to get through it.š
Sam‚s eyes narrowed. „Yeah well while you were getting your so-called help Amy found those drawings of yours. How am I supposed to explain them?š
„Oh Jesus.š Leo stared at the floor. „That‚s the last thing I wanted.š
„Leo, I hardly know you anymore.š Sam‚s eyes filled as she spoke. Leo looked so tired and abandoned. „I - I love you,š she turned away, „but I just can‚t marry a heroin addict. I have Amy to think about.š
He looked up, distraught. „What did she say when she saw the drawings?š
„She thinks you‚re a closet comic book artist. She wouldn‚t believe anything bad about you.š Sam broke down sobbing. „I don‚t want to either. God I don‚t know what to do∑.š
Leo‚s heart ached to see the strain she was under. He fished a handkerchief from his pocket and gently offered it to her. She took it, dabbing her eyes.
„Sam, you know that I love you and Amy more than my life. Tell me what I can do to make things right.š He spoke slowly, deliberately, trying to bridge the gulf that separated them. „You‚re my family. Please. Don‚t push me away.š
Sam saw him through a curtain of tears. Her heart swelled with love in spite of herself. She knew couldn‚t say good-bye, not without a fight.
„You say this is a passing condition?š she asked.
„Yes.š Leo‚s words tumbled out, desperate. „It‚ll pass. Really. I just can‚t predict when!š
„Well that means you‚re not crazy.š Sam‚s voice grew stronger, more determined. „Leo, you‚ve got to stop screwing around with heroin. If you call Dr. Simms and enlist her help, we‚ll beat this thing. The three of us will win.š
Suddenly Leo pushed himself back from the table and strode into the bathroom. Sam heard the sound of flushing. When he returned, he smiled sadly.
„Is the heroin gone?š Sam asked?
Sam stood up from the table and grabbed Leo‚s hands. „No more slip-ups. OK?š They hugged for a long time, not speaking.
The withdrawals started the next day. In a cab speeding to Dr. Simm‚s office, Leo watched shapes, parts, and shadows appear and vanish. He tried to focus on his physical discomfort instead the hallucinations. These are delusions, he thought. They have no power if I just stop believing in them. But he shuddered as his cab passed a shrieking knot of creatures flapping and jostling over an old man asleep on a park bench. Buzzards on a carcass, he thought.