If you look down at us from the ceiling, or the roof, or the sky, we form a neat little circle and each of us is an inadequate contributor. If the circle were a cake it would likely be a dried-up sponge one, mouldy and with a foul aftertaste – the opposite of full-flavoured, juicy slices of dewy honey dough. Have one of us cut out and the image of the already imperfect geometric shape will become distorted but not in a way that would sufficiently count – none of us present feels substantial enough to casually ruin imaginary shapes – just slightly uneven.

“Hi, I am Nicole and I am an addict.” The give-away is Nicole’s idling body, vibrating like a car. She is a teenager, loves to stir sh-t up and pathetically shrieks about freedom becoming a legal right for every 14-year-old. She’d drink to that right here. She is enthusiastic about losing her virginity in a bath tub at a party recently and has nothing to say about the girl whose head she damaged with a broken bottle two nights ago. Nicole can’t yet see that her future is already f-cked and her addiction has fully bloomed and is busting to swallow her every dream. If she has any. She is here because her horrible parents are those assholes who still force her.

“Hi, I am Ryan and I am an abusive alcoholic.” Ryan is lanky thin, in a faded no-particular-colour t-shirt and his wife’s cardigan. It’s not “alcohol abuse” he means. He means his wife and step daughter receive damaging slaps, nurture rainbow-coloured bruises, piss in a boot on the terrace because they won’t dare come inside. However, he would never raise his hand at them without a substantial reason, they will tell you themselves how often they ask for it. Like, they will be the first to say: Ryan’s heart is in a good place. He is here because of the court order.

“Hi, my name is Yvette and I am an addict.” Her complexion is rice-papery and her perfume is stinky. It’s meth. The worst type of addiction, which I would know because she and I share it. Like me, Yvette is sure she searched for meth her entire life: “I tried it and that was that”. If Yvette could go back and know then that she would “sell” blowjobs for a measly price of a single hit, two, if the client was extra generous, that she would sleep in the street on a piece of cardboard with cardboard for cover and a smaller cardboard for a pillow, she would do it all over again. No regrets for Yvette. Last week’s overdose left her shook. That is why she is here.

“Hi, I am Anna and I am an addict.” Not that anybody’s eyes have much shine in them today but hers are the darkest of globes. Anna ate trash off the ground this morning but couldn’t find enough of it to fill even half of her ulcer-spotted stomach. She is pissed off at people getting overboard with responsible consumption, no edible garbage left in the streets. She needs to be more agile and bend round all sorts of corners to find a quarter of a dried-up sandwich. Here because she is after the snacks.

My turn. Hi. I am Jude and I love meth. My tell-tale signs are in glorious display: jaw gyrates, voice gives out a prickling edge. It’s been a month since the last hit and I feel paranoid, sick, insane, fractured. Only when my blood stream mixes and swirls together with the miraculous chemicals can I feel bright and shiny. This drug is unique – we are friends, we are in love. I don’t know why I am here but I know I raided my parents’ house and took the money from my 5-year-old brother’s piggy bank. That a car ran over my dog yesterday and it was because I wasn’t looking after it. I know that I am tired. That if the drugs don’t kill me, I will.

This is the ways misery loves company: we try to feel relieved about not being alone – in fake bravado or in suffering – being a part of something larger, in this case, a chaotic uneven circle. Slice by slice, similar story by similar story, the greasy, wilted heads make a delicate, self-destructive and imperfectly round cake of denial and fragile hope. Everyone’s contribution equal in their lack of flavour and dysfunction. Each one learning to depend on the other. Some slices will get eaten despite their horrible taste. They will get replaced.

(October, 2018)