Dear Heroin,

Everyone is talking about you ad nauseam these days.

First, it’s been all those batches in the Northeast laced with the ultra-potent painkiller, fentanyl, that has been sending fresh-faced kids to the pearly gates way before their time.  I saw footage of boys with barely enough peach fuzz to get them into manhood stagger through shock and tears as they buried one of their own.

And then Philip Seymour Hoffman fell prey to your charms.

We still don’t know much.

Rumors fly.

Was he really found with a needle dangling from his forearm?

Were there actually 70 bags of heroin in his apartment?

Is it true that he was supposed to take his three kids out that day and a friend discovered his body while checking up on him, trying to figure out why a father who was always there for his children, suddenly wasn’t?

 

It was all because of you, dearest Heroin.

 

I saw my dentist yesterday.

He was annoyed by the constant coverage of PSH’s death.

As it played on one of the morning talk shows from a television that hung casually in the corner of the exam room (a vain attempt at distraction:  no, you are not getting your teeth painfully drilled, you are safely watching Good Morning America at home with a cup of Joe!) my dentist sighed, rolled his eyes and complained:

 

“If they talk about that man one more time, I swear…”

 

I felt ire course through me as I lay in that plastic-coated turquoise chair.

 

“Who is he?” Gloria, the dental hygienist asked.

 

Gloria, I could forgive.  Gloria was from the Dominican Republic.  A single mom struggling to raise two children in the fast-paced life of the United States.  If Gloria needed some down time to catch a good flick, she’d most likely given that up years ago in favor of sleep.

 

The dentist, on the other hand…

 

“He’s some actor,” he clarified for Gloria.

My head bopped back and forth between them as if I were watching Nadal against Djokovic, if Rafael and Novak played the U.S. Open with saliva ejectors and cherry-flavored polish crusted on the corners of their mouths.

“Idiot.  Drug-addict.  Killed himself on heroin,” he mumbled on.

And with that, my dentist was callously done with Philip Seymour Hoffman.  He leaned in towards my shocked face, and poked my back molar with his explorer.

 

I wanted to shout in protest.

“No!  You are so wrong!  No!  Do not remember him like that!”

 

I turned to look at Gloria.  She had moved on from the topic as well.  I wanted to inform her the world had just lost a giant talent, one of the most iconic actors of our time, certainly the greatest of my generation.

My dentist is younger than me, by far younger, still fresh-faced and newly minted from dental school.  He is following in his dad’s dental footsteps, his dad, who has been my dentist for twenty years.  Junior has the same goofy charm as Senior and hopefully good enough skill as a dentist, but he certainly is in the dark about the cinematic loss we’ve just incurred.

Perhaps if I give him some generational context, I find myself wondering.  And then I am stuck beyond that.  “It’s like if James Franco died?  Emma Watson?  Zac Efron?”

 

There’s really no actor to encapsulate the vitality, strength, and sheer size of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s talent that I can come up with at that moment.

The back of my thighs have grown sweaty and my thoughts return to you.

Heroin, you have done this.

You have taken this actor away from us, those that admired and appreciated him, and those who should start to.

You have left three kids waiting to be picked up by their dad.

 

I know I am glamorizing you, giving you yet another stage, but I am only doing it because I am saddened by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing and upset this young dentist has condensed him to a heroin addict and nothing else.  He was way more than addicted to you, even if you are what killed him in the end.

 

“Are you all right?”  Gloria asks, noticing a shift in my usually amiable demeanor.

I snap back.  Nod.  Attempt to smile but the saliva ejector pops out.  I feel I cannot even begin to explain or enlighten these two.  Plus, the drill is nearby.

 

Gloria shoves the ejector back in and I am grateful a frown is what holds it in place.

 

I realize PSH chose to shoot up.  Knew the risks.  He was not a dumb man, by any means; I know this by the depth and complexity of the roles he chose to play.

Difficult characters.  Flawed.  Struggling.   Much like, one can now infer, he was.

 

The dentist has now got my tongue in his left hand.  He places a tiny piece of cloth over the tip when he secures it, roughly twisting my tongue to the left and then to the right.  As he does this, his gloved right hand plunges deep into the frenulum, feeling for lumps and bumps that should not be there.

I am taken aback.  It is like an unexpected strip search in an unexpected area and I am feeling rather vulnerable right now.

 

“You look perfect,” Dr. Junior announces, ripping the gloves off in one swift motion, taking a last glance at the TV and walking out of my life for the next six months.

 

The talk show ladies are discussing the difficulties of pulling off a successful Winter Olympics in Sochi.  It seems, they giggle, sipping their Cabernet Sauvignon at 9:15 in the morning, that hotels have enough beds but no functioning Internet.

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