The alarm clock buzzes. It’s a chore to open my eyes. They spring back closed again. It’s still dark outside. The alarm clock reads 4:17 AM. I lie fatigued in my bed, trying to assimilate yesterday’s events. Trotting to the kitchen, I flick on the lights and close my eyes to escape the blinding presence of the fluorescent light. I open the cupboard, grab a white mug, and pour myself some coffee. I reach for a Danish wrapped in plastic.

To my right, rumpled fast food packaging rests on the wooden table. Chewing through the Danish, I pull up my stained shirt, look down at my stomach, and notice my slabs of fat, layered one upon the other. I’m 42 years old. I’ve been working as a truck driver since I was 27. At one point I was a high-achieving, honors high school student. I got accepted to Washington University in St. Louis.

The weed hadn’t been a problem back then because I had Adderall to lift me up when I needed to study or take a test. It was getting into Washington, that was the turning point. I guess that thinking that I had it made, made me careless. The weed became more frequent and the studying became less frequent.

I didn’t realize that there was a hole in the pocket where I had been carrying my determination and drive. They had started to slip out, slowly at first, then faster and faster. By the time I understood what was happening, I couldn’t recapture it.

By the summer, I had made new friends. Weed was just the starting point for them. Pretty soon, they had introduced me to acid, then ecstasy, then heroin. At first, we just injected the heroin; then we began smoking it. I told myself this was just for the summer, my future was set.

It wasn’t.

Washington University never happened. After some lost years and many dead-end jobs, and living on the streets – I ended up here.

I haul trucks 16 hours a day, during the day, or through the night, whatever pays most. During long drives, I build castles in the air, myself as a thermo-nuclear scientist, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, or a well-regarded author. I like to think that I could have become these if I wanted to. But I didn’t.

The summer jaunt turned into years. My parents didn’t recognize me… they tried all they could. I went into rehab at age 22, but as soon as I was out I got back into heroin again. After a long period of degradation, I went back into rehab and became clean. It’s been two years, but I still crave heroin as I did before, so I smoke weed sometimes to make it go away.

I start paying attention again. The clock reads 4:25 AM. I open the motel door, feeling the pressure in my ears, and the weight of my eyelids follow me to my truck downstairs.

Originally written for my Creative Writing high school class in June 2016.