A Million Little Pieces -- James Frey
I walk toward a door where a Nurse stands waiting for me. As I walk past her she is careful not to touch me and I am brought back from the happy afterglow of pachyderm memories and I am reminded of what I am. I am an Alcoholic and I am a drug Addict and I am a Criminal. I am missing my four front teeth. I have a hole in my cheek that has been closed with forty-one stitches. I have a broken nose and I have black swollen eyes. I have an Escort because I am a Patient at a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center. I am wearing a borrowed jacket because I don't have one of my own. I am carrying two old yellow tennis balls because I'm not allowed to have any painkillers or anesthesia. I am an Alcoholic. I am a drug Addict. I am a Criminal. That's what I am and I don't blame the Nurse for not wanting to touch me. If I weren't me, I wouldn't want to touch me.
That passage comes just before James has his four front teeth replaced. (He lost them when he fell face-first down a fire escape. His friends found him hours later, crack pipe still in hand). Two of the teeth only needed to be capped. The other two required root canals first. As he said, without anesthesia. It's one of the most physically painful things I can imagine. And his description of it is incredible.
Not surprisingly, the pain doesn't stop there. It was a hard book to read--but riveting at the same time. I do think, though, that if I hadn't read the sequel (which I LOVED) first, I would have had a harder time finishing it. Knowing how things ultimately turned out made reading about his time in rehab (somewhat) easier. But only somewhat. It's a powerful book.