Harmony in the Night

By the time she was twenty-two, Harmony had tried nearly every drug that crossed her path. She loved altered consciousness, and drugs also served as a way for her to cope with various stressors in her life. They were always easy to get, too, and usually nearby. Her friend Belinda’s father was a coke kingpin in Boulder, which meant that sometimes at late-night gatherings, lines of coke would take up the length of Harmony’s six-foot coffee table. In fact, since Harmony’s place was the perfect party spot, every drug imaginable found its way to the table at one time or another, which is how Harmony preferred things. Being a night person, she liked the open camaraderie these anything-goes get-togethers could inspire. These were the hours when she felt comfortable in her own skin and connected to others.

Things began to unravel when Harmony started shooting up coke. At one point, she was down to 100 pounds and had to wear long sleeve shirts to work at her restaurant job to hide the marks on her arms. When her boss pulled her aside one day and said he was worried about her, she realized that her problem was now transparent to others and the situation might be out of control. This didn’t stop her from using, though. One night, Harmony and Belinda decided to shoot up coke at Belinda’s house. Although they were experienced users, they were also really drunk and high. As a result, a tiny piece of cotton got in the syringe and then into Harmony’s bloodstream when she injected. She felt weird almost immediately but decided to walk back to her apartment alone and handle the situation on her own terms. She spent the entire night alternately shivering with fever, vomiting, and fading in and out of consciousness. She didn’t call anyone. She didn’t go to the hospital. Somehow, she managed to survive the ordeal, alone, terrified, and confused, and she was never happier to see a sunrise.

After that, Harmony never shot up again. Initially, she didn’t tell anyone what had happened to her, either. In fact, she stopped doing drugs altogether and realized it was time to reprogram herself. She decided to treat her drug habit as a behavioral issue instead of as the symptom of a disease. The first thing she did was break up with her boyfriend Oscar, who was a nice enough guy, but he was too obsessed with drug culture, and he showed no interest in altering his lifestyle. “These are the best years of our lives,” he told her. “There’s no way I’m going to waste them by missing out on the party.”

Needing to fill her hours with healthier alternatives, Harmony became a voracious reader. First, she read the entire Harry Potter series, then Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time books. After a while, she was reading a book a week, and her selection of literature grew more diverse and sophisticated with every passing month. Eventually, she fell in love with Jane Austen’s works, and halfway through Emma, she realized her calling — she would become a writer and English professor. She started posting all sorts of different stories to fanfiction sites, and she re-enrolled in college. After several years of hard work, she completed the Colorado State University MFA Program in Creative Writing. Soon after, she secured a position as an adjunct composition instructor at a Denver community college and managed to get a few short stories published in literary journals. She was on her way.

Although Harmony dated every so often, she preferred a quiet, solitary life. She didn’t even own a pet. Writing had become her only true love. Still, some things never seemed to change — she did her best writing in the dead of night. She usually began at around 10 p.m. and would continue well into the early morning hours. Believing that her only real purpose was to help others understand themselves and the world around them with greater clarity, she chose to actualize her goals through teaching and writing. Her sense of community came from her students and her readership, so she worked hard to grow her audience in order to share in a broader relationship with those who cared about what she had to offer them. She even started her own blog and promised herself she would never let her readers down by writing empty, low-grade stories for the sake of attention or a buck. She had been given another chance, for whichever reasons, and she would continue to return the favor in the only way that seemed to matter. On the tenth anniversary of her last cocaine injection, she composed the first chapter of a memoir that opened with a description of the night she nearly died from a piece of cotton in her bloodstream.