It's go time.
You gobbled the last of the oxy this morning and the cottony calm in your head is starting to fade. Anxiety is creeping in like an army of ants. Your nose is running and your stomach is roiling. You try to think your way out of this mess but your thoughts are cloudy. Ideas race through your mind and then vanish, like small animals darting through a jungle.
Desperate, is what you are. You lost the job two months ago because you kept screwing up, were frequently late, sometimes didn't show up at all. There's the state check but you won't get another one for weeks. Your connection won't front you a single pill and these days, you don't have any friends at all who are willing to lend you cash.
It's a pickle, all right. The more you sit here thinking about it, the more jangled your nerves become. You need an opiate just to form your next thought. Oxy would be beautiful, but you'd take a Vicodin if someone offered it. You'd let a dentist pull three of your teeth for a prescription, but they're onto you. They're onto you like the medics in the emergency rooms are onto you. Nobody's buying that you have back pain, or head pain or hip pain, anymore.
You've reached the end of the line, chum. Your world has become a big prescription bottle and now it's empty.
Or is it? Somewhere in the revving engine that is your mind, you imagine all the glorious pills heaped high in bags and bottles at pharmacies everywhere. Pharmacies are all over the place these days. In Lewiston, they build them in clusters so that you can find two on one block. Just sitting here in your misery, you count four within walking distance.
The idea of all those pills becomes a fantasy that is almost lurid. No pirate has ever dreamed of riches the way you dream of that dope. Pills no bigger than the tip of your finger are to you as alluring as any gold coin or nugget.
Now you're sweating. Which is odd because you feel cold. Anxiety is rising in your chest. It feels like a spider is spinning a web in there.
Why not do it? Everybody and his cousin is robbing a pharmacy these days. You read it in the newspaper all the time. Most of them get caught, and that's worrisome. But the worry is less than the discomfort of withdrawal, which grows more intense by the painful second.
In the end, it's not even really a conscious decision. You simply get up and walk out the door. You don't have a gun or anything as extravagant as that. You had a pellet gun that looked pretty damn authentic but that's one of the things you pawned when the pill habit really got going.
You work on the plan while walking to the pharmacy. Nothing fancy, really. You don't need a note or anything like that. You'll just pull the hood over your head and the cap down below your brow. These days, it's a common look. Everybody looks pretty much the same with a cap and hood.
You'll simply tell the pharmacist to give you what you want. You'll be assertive, maybe even snarl. It'll be easy. And even if it's not easy, it has to be done, because man, now your whole body is aching and your stomach is a bubbling cauldron. You need the meds. It's no longer a matter of recreation. If you don't get some of the junk inside you soon, you just might fall apart, limb by limb, here on the street.
Later on, you'll barely remember the heist. You'll have some dim memory of barking at the pharmacy clerk in a tone that surprised even you. You'll remember her shaking hands as she handed over the bag. You'll remember a store customer gasping in the vitamin aisle. You'll remember gobbling a handful of pills as you fled the store and you'll recall, with shame, that your bowels betrayed you as you ran.
Later, back home, the reward is yours. The nerves are starting to smooth out. The aches in your joints fade away. The stomach evens out and the mind becomes sharp again.
The joy is brief. With lucidity comes realization. The police are looking for you. Even now, the television news is flashing your image, captured from security cameras. The hood and cap didn't hide your features as well as you thought they would. How many of your friends are going to see that image? What about your landlord, your former employer, the people who live across the hall?
The agony of withdrawal is replaced by the assault of paranoia, coming at you from all sides. Step outside and you'll fancy people are looking at you. A quick jaunt to the corner store is a clinic in terror. Was there a spark of recognition in the clerk's eyes? Is that lady on the cell phone calling police?
Fear will undo you every bit as effectively as the earlier bout of drug withdrawal. You'll hide in your apartment and still not feel safe. You'll watch in horror as the pill supply dwindles. There's only enough for, what? Two? Three more days? And then what?
The damnable news stations keep flashing your picture. Now it's in the newspaper, too, so that people waiting in doctor's offices, auto shops or corner stores have time to really study it.
Which of your friends will rat you out? Are those sirens coming closer?
You can't eat. You can't sleep. Your nerves are jumping like live wires in spite of the pharmaceuticals. Is this really better than what you were feeling before, when your supply ran out? It's a by-God toss-up.
It won't last long. Pharmacies have a few tricks up their sleeves these days. Police have become better at investigating these kinds of stick-ups, too. With a well-planned heist and a ton of dumb luck, you might last a week. But you have neither of those.
A day after you went all Jesse James downtown, the cops are coming through your door. They're screaming at you, pointing guns, wrestling you down. It feels like watching a police drama at high speed. The next thing you know, you're at the county jail and wouldn't you know it? Nobody's buying that you have a toothache, or a headache, or any other kind of ache that might get you what you need.
In the end, your choice came down to this: Come off the pills in the comfort of your own home, or do it on a tiny cot in a tiny cell where there's no opportunity to pace, or smoke, or call someone who cares.
You've got a long time to think about that choice, Bub. Years and years.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. He has covered numerous pharmacy heists, Bub, so don't whine to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.