Symphonies and Zombies

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She holds the door for me, and I speed up to catch it.

“It’s like the goddamn zombie apocalypse,” she says when I thank her. I do nothing but nod in response, wondering if I had skipped a line or two in our conversation.

“Heroin, it turns people into zombies,” she continues. “They’re not them anymore.  They’re shells of themselves. It’s not brains they’re after, but the drugs, y’know?”

“It’s an epidemic,” I respond. I go through my little countdown: at least 6 months since I last got “the news” about someone I once knew, 3 weeks since I saw a posting on Facebook about someone who had gone missing after relapsing, 1 week since I found out a friend’s sister checked herself out of rehab.  At this point, who doesn’t have a story that involves someone they know and heroin.

“He’s not Paul anymore, y’know?” she continues. “He’s mean. He’s the drug. This is the zombie apocalypse. Everyone is as good as dead.”

I don’t know Paul — I haven’t even caught her name yet — but I listen to her story. She tells me about Paul, his descent, her struggles, her desperate attempt to reclaim something in the midst of his addiction. Her unlit cigarette dances around her fingers like she’s conducting an orchestra. Her own symphony of sadness.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” she says, extending her hand to shake mine.

When I get home, I check an article I wrote for the first time since it got published. I learned a while ago to keep any comment-checking to an absolute minimum when it came to online publications, especially anything that might’ve garnered attention. Down at that bottom section, each comment has a common denominator: a chorus of, “Me too,” — which serves as a fitting encore to the conversations I’ve been having with friends since the piece went live. My part of the story a chance for others to tell theirs.

It isn’t really human nature to be vulnerable, especially vulnerable in public and unpredictable ways. But we all do it to some degree, whether it’s through commenting on something online or writing that something online. Through confiding in a good friend or unloading your woes to a group of like-minded people. Or maybe it comes in the form of blurting out what’s weighing heavily on you to the lady that was a handful of steps behind you.

At the end of the day, we’re all just desperate to have our stories told. And we’re all desperate to know our own symphonies harmonize with others. That we’re not singing solo in our own trials and tribulations.

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