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Once An Addict . . . Tall Tales From The Mekong Delta

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Once an Addict . . .

A sudden feeling of ecstasy; all of your senses are changed, transformed, falsely seeming to be true. Everything is really wonderful, powerful, creativity flows freely from your mind. You feel indestructible, confident, and prideful. The sun is jolly and as you inhale the air seems to suck through you effortlessly. Everything is blue, no, not blue with melancholy, this blue is "the blue that knows you and where you live and it's never going to forget" (107). The blue is the faÐ*ade and excitement an addict gets from drugs. Addicts look for an escape, a better life, and something more gratifying, instantly. In Kate Braverman's short story "Tall Tales From the Mekong Delta," she describes one woman's struggle with drugs and how she eventually turns back to them after being sober for five months. Through examining the manipulative personality and changing appearance of the antagonist Lenny, the narrators longing for escape from the ordinary, and the influence of colors, it is evident that her temptations will get the better of her and destroy all that she tries to maintain when sober.

Lenny is the essence of her addiction. When first introduced to Lenny, she describes him with some sort of disgust, he is undesirable to her. "He was short, fat, pale. He had bad teeth. His hair was dirty" (89). She isn't attracted to drugs anymore, they like Lenny, are disgusting. Lenny is there, always, wherever she looks, like a barnacle to a whale. He is a mystery that becomes a temptation, as though she always secretly wants him to be there. He confirms her desire to be there, " 'Yeah. You're glad to see me. You were hoping I'd be here. And here I am'" (91). Was she just thinking that? He said she was, so maybe she was, maybe she did want him there. Manipulation transforms her temptations. '"You want to get in over your head. You want to see what's on the other side. I'll show you. I'll take you there. It'll be the ride of your life"' (91). The more persistent he is and the more he is always around, the more she is gradually attracted to him, and in turn the drugs that she has tried to quit. She seems almost hypnotized, "his face seemed younger and tanner than she had remembered" and "the sun was strong. The world was washed with white. The day seemed somehow clarified" and yet she was letting Lenny lead the way (93). When she first comes across Lenny "he fell into step with her" possibly a few steps behind, familiar, but something she was trying to leave behind her (89). As time passes, her urge to do drugs grows stronger and stronger through the manipulation of Lenny and her weak self control. '"I was expecting you," Lenny said. "I told you. You can't get away from me' " (96). He pampers her with lavish stories and promises beyond his reach. It is all a temptation. He even tricks her into smoking again, she knew she wanted to, but hadn't made the commitment to try smoking again until, "She closed her eyes. She opened her mouth. There was something pressing against her lip. Perhaps it was a flower." "It was a cigarette." "Her hand began to tremble" (99).

Eventually there is a charm to Lenny, "'you look beautiful,'" a charm that she tries to escape from, but like a bee is attracted to honey, she is drawn back, " 'I have to go,' she said softly, over her shoulder," afraid to look him in the eye, " 'You don't have to go,' Lenny said" (91). This woman wants to appear beautiful to someone? This woman is attracted to the sparkle and shine of glamour? "Silence. She was thinking that he must be drawn to her vast emptiness, could he sense that she was aching and hot and always listening?" (98). Lenny begins to look successful, "like a lawyer on his way to tennis" he's even got a tan (93). Lenny is able to let go of time. He urges her to get rid of her watch, life is simpler when you don't have to pay attention to time, and "'you don't have to know what time it is. You're with me' " (94). Without time she is able to slip back into her old schedule, or lack thereof. She sees herself at lavish houses, driving in Ferraris, or enjoying life much more than she normally would. She can eat at whatever restaurant she wants, whatever she desires. She can lounge around in the park, stay in a hotel as nice as the "Beverly Wilshire" or "the Four Seasons" (98). She rides in a fancy "A hundred forty grand" Ferrari, "nice interior, nice stereo" everything is nice (100). There is a reality though. Drugs do not represent something nice, they only represent an instant gratification, she knows this, "how curious the blue becomes when clouds cross the sun, when the blue becomes broken, tawdry" (106). Just as the color blue becomes tasteless and cheap, so will her life if she continues down this path of addiction.

She is constantly reminded of the dangers, "I can't go to the Beverly Hills Hotel. I got a problem there" (98). "The water beneath the shadows looked remote and troubled and green. It looked contaminated. The more she swam, the more infected blue particles clustered on her skin" (103). She is a creative writer and when she does drugs, it is possible that her true artistic spirit is portrayed. She reaches her peak creatively and in turn is able to convey it onto paper. When an addict is high, they have no worries. When they come down, however, their only thought is getting high again. If she doesn't satisfy the urge she could get sick and go through withdrawal, she knows this. With the introduction of smoking, drugs, and alcohol back in her life, she won't be able to say no twice. She will let her habits get the best of her and will lose track of everything she thought was important. The meetings, her daughter, and her health were all that she had. She will have no desire to return to any meetings and her daughter will take notice of her changing mother. She will be too caught up in the joys of drugs that she will not notice everything she worked so hard for to come crashing



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