Philip Seymour Hoffman


Last summer I found a small box stashed away in my apartment, a box filled with enough Vicoden to kill me. I would have sworn that I’d thrown them away years earlier, but apparently not. I stared at the white pills blankly for a long while. I even took a picture of them, before (finally, definitely) throwing them away. I’d been sober (again) for some years when I found that little box, but every addict has a little box—metaphoric or actual—hidden away. Before I flushed them I held them in my palm, marveling that at some point in the not-so-distant past it seemed a good idea to keep a stash of drugs on-hand. For an emergency, I told myself. What kind of emergency? What if I needed root canal on a Sunday night, say? This little box would see me through until the dentist showed up for work the next morning. Half my brain told me that, while the other half knew that looking into that box was akin to seeing a photograph of myself standing on the edge of a bridge, a bridge in the familiar dark neighborhood of my mind, that comfortable place where I could somehow believe that fuck-it was an adequate response to life.

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Nick Flynn has worked as a ship’s captain, an electrician, and as a caseworker with homeless adults. His poems, essays, and nonfiction have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and National Public Radio's This American Life. He is currently a professor on the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston, where he is in residence each spring. His most recent book is My Feelings (Graywolf, 2015), a collection of poems. In 2019, two new books will appear, Stay (Ze Books), a collection of collaborations and writings, as well as I Will Destroy You (Graywolf), a collection of poems. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. More from this author →