The tubinj is like fireworks in my veins, sharp and bright and chaotic, leaving me full of awe and wonder. The drug courses through me like a joke I’ve heard a hundred times that never stops being funny. Every cell in my body erupts in pleasure. Every fibre of my being cries out in the face of such bliss and asks for more.

The images come to me in flashes and fragments. I forget them almost as soon as I see them. I see garbage on the streets melting into colours and shapes I know but don’t seem to recognise anymore. Men in uniforms appear, their hands coarse and calloused. Waves of pleasures crash over me. I’m soon floating in an ocean that rocks me gently and violently all at once.

My own face, the lines of age and a life tended to like an absentee landlord stretch across it – cracks in old clay. My name, scribbled at the bottom of pages of inscrutable babble. Luminous, distant stars, quickly growing dimmer and dimmer. A small hand—each time it seems smaller—trying to hold on, letting go, being pulled away from me. Explosions of every tint and hue and sound crackling between my ears. The cacophony slowly fades. My senses gradually return. But the tubinj lingers, wisps of bliss lacing the shadows of my thoughts.

“Westa?” The voice is calm with a hint of impatience. “Westa, are you still with me?”

She’s young and new. She cares. She’ll learn.

“Westa, I can’t finish the test until you tell me how you feel.”

“I’m fine.” I struggle to form the words.

“Do you feel sick? How’s your head? Can you move?”

“I’m fine. It’s a good dose.”

She sighs. “Westa, we’re not here for fun.”

“Is this what you think fun is?” I chuckle and cough, and she gives that same look of disapproval I’ve seen on a thousand different faces.

“I need you to take this seriously. This is important work. A cure could be–”

A laugh escapes from my lips, a good strong one this time. The people who matter don’t care about fixing people like me – not really.

“Tell me sweetie, how many people have to tell me they’re going to cure me before I get a prize?”

She looks down at her shoes. “I just want to help, Westa.”

“I know you do.” I smile, and she seems reassured enough to let me rest.

She helps me to my room, a quiet place where a woman of my age can have a bit of peace. I can feel the leftover firecrackers inside me fizzling out. I lay down in a bed designed for a soldier and drift off.

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