We visit him in the hospital at three in the morning and eat bags of chips from the vending machine. It is 1990. We wear our pajamas under our coats and play tic-tac-toe on the backs of our mother’s crumpled receipts. We are giddy to be up so late. We feel like explorers in a parallel universe, a place children seldom go, and we plan to report back. When he comes into the waiting room, he looks just like our father, only minus two teeth and with a nose we hadn’t imagined could get any crookeder. We give him hugs and potato chips. He smiles with his lips closed, then he starts to speak and we get scared and cry. His mouth is a deep red cave with shards of teeth dangling like stalactites, which I am also reading about in school.

A Letter To Eric, which Jessica Hendry Nelson calls “a love letter to my twenty-six-year-old brother Eric, written shortly after he overdosed on heroin. He survived.