If Tomasz Piątek’s Heroin does not cause a scandal, or even a stir, it will mean that we have become very hard to shock. This first literary work of a young linguist (published by another writer, Andrzej Stasiuk) is a moving study of the soul (and mind) of a drug addict, different from anything that has been written on the subject so far. The author, who was a heroin addict himself years ago, does not overwhelm us with detailed descriptions of excruciating cold turkey. On the contrary, he talks with admirable honesty about the bliss afforded by a dose of heroin, bliss that is unattainable in the ordinary world. Initially we even get the feeling that this is a panegyric to drug-abuse, since we are bombarded with words such as ”rapture”, ”sweetness” and ”absolute happiness.” The world on a high is colourful and joyful. Is the author trying to convince us how much we lose if we’re not addicts? On the contrary. He exposes the paradise as an illusion, attempting to explain why so few manage to kick the habit. ”Don’t say: I do dope. There is no I when you do dope. Doing dope kills the person. The thing that does dope is no longer I,” says one of the characters, a well-known TV presenter who has admitted to once having been an addict. Piątek’s novel has no happy ending, although his personal story inspires hope. Like all those who have had a close acquaintance with heroin, the author is perfectly aware that he will have fight it all his life.
- Justyna Kobus
Tomasz Piątek (b. 1974) graduated in linguistics from the Universita' degli Studi di Milano. From 1995-1999 he worked as a journalist and psycholinguistic expert, analysing the uniqueness of human speech (Canal Plus). From 1997-1999 he was addicted to heroin. He lives in Warsaw and works in an advertising agency. Heroin is his literary debut; his next book will be published soon, also by Czarne, a sensational novel entitled Kilka nocy poza domem (A Few Nights Away from Home).
”Lie down,” says Robert, dressed in a suit, opening the rear door of the car. ”Here, on the floor, in front of the seat.”
He grabs me by the ear and twists it.
Luckily, something that doesn’t feel pain and doesn’t give a damn has stayed in me from chasing the dragon yesterday. You have to have gone through a lot of shit to feel like this.
”You’ll find out if you listen,” adds Robert, covering me with old towels and some other stuff. ”Don’t move and keep quiet. Just listen to what’s going on.”
Then we start a terribly bumpy ride through some rough terrain. When you’re lying down, it isn’t such a smooth 4WD experience as the ads promise anymore. But the darkness makes it not so bad. I close my eyes to focus on all that is still stoned in me. And I succeed, because I feel light and happy again, only I don’t care what happens any more. Just like after the brown stuff, I want to find someone as nice and good, although, of course, I won’t find such a person under the rags in the car. And I stay that way until the car comes to an abrupt halt.
”Good morning,” I suddenly hear the gentle, warm voice of Robert, ever the polite and kind businessman.
”Good morning,” answers an embarrassed, slightly hoarse man about forty years of age.
”Please, have a seat in the car,” says Robert, lowering his voice. ”You know, we don’t want the deal to be too conspicuous.”
The guy is probably hesitating. He is afraid. And he knows that if he does not get into the car, he will not get the goods.
”Do you want to chase the dragon right away?” asks Robert. ”Because I’ve got some tin-foil.”
The door slams and the car rocks. The guy, who is getting in, must have liberally sprinkled his feet with deodorant, because I can smell the perfume even through all the towels. He must be the kind that sweats a lot.
”What do you think, how much would see me through the weekend?” he finally asks.
”The first time you floated was two weeks ago, right?”
”Oh, then half a bundle should be more than enough. But I can see you’re tense. Please, don’t be afraid. We can’t be tracked down here. We have ways of giving our clients complete security.”
”Are you nervous? Do you feel guilty?”
You do know that this isn’t hash?”
”Yes,” the guy almost groans.
”You’re afraid. You know that you’re taking the strongest drug on the market. You should kick it at once. What stops you doing that?”
”I thought you were selling the stuff,” says the guy, rather confused.
”It’s okay, I’ll give it to you in a minute. But can I ask you a question first? Why aren’t you trying to escape? Why did you make an appointment with me when I rang you?”
”I’ll tell you why. Because you’ve never experienced such bliss. Nothing else comes close to what you felt then.”
”It’s true,” answers the guy. ”It’s unbelievable. It’s like something you just have to have but never get. I’ll be honest with you, of course I had to stop my son from doing it. He’s seventeen. I sent him to a detox centre. But I can’t stop myself.”
”Exactly. You can’t live without it. But you die from it. You don’t know what to do about it?”
”Then I’ll tell you. You chase the dragon only at weekends. Only once a week. Once a week is the limit. When your wife is away, or at night when she’s asleep. If you can manage not to smoke at work, during the week, you ‘ll survive.”
”And have you ever heard of someone actually managing it?”
”I know a lot of blokes who do. Myself for one.”
This is a lie. Robert does not chase the dragon. He has never smoked heroin.
”And all my clients,” he keeps lying. ”I don’t sell to teenagers, nor do any of my people. I am in touch with those who do that – it’s from them that I learned about you. But you have nothing to worry about, no one will know about you if you take my offer. And the offer is to make me your exclusive supplier. Because I don’t want my clients to die. This is business, not murder. I’ll sell you the goods only once a week, in adequate quantities. Even if you tell me you want more, to have a party with your friends, I’ll refuse. You shouldn’t stock up. Partying with friends is also off-limits, because no one should know that you are doing it. I want you to live a normal life and stay out of trouble. Because I want you to be my client for as long as possible. That way I’ll make a lot of money, and won’t kill you in the process. If you agree, you’ll stay alive. And you’ll have the purest, best stuff. Do you accept my offer?”
Silence, and than something that sounds like a quiet ”yes.”
”Let’s shake hands on it. Thanks. Of course, if you go back on our deal, I’ll never supply you again. I’m not going to be a party to your dying. And now give me a hundred złoty and I’ll give you half a bundle.”
Translated by Tomasz Bieroń