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Author's note: Based on true events.I hope someone can identify with this story and understand that they are not alone in their fight with addiction.
Daylight. It shone in to the small room begging me to wake up and begin the brand new day. Each individual ray of light sliced in to my body, further awakening and exciting the already vibrating cells rumbling around in my flesh. This was the day I would leave, the day I start my new purposeful life. Birds chirped outside the thick bulletproof glass, signaling the others to wake up and engage in their daily activities. The unmistakable glint of dew on the morning grass signaled the time. It couldn’t have been seven o’ clock I thought. As I looked around I noticed the rest of my roommates were fast asleep. They were all dreaming of what I would be granted today, my discharge, my escape, my return to society. I attempted to return back to sleep but my psyche was already bustling with anxiety and exhilaration. I could sense my blood flowing throughout my body, urging me to hasten my escape from this place. I proceeded to relax myself with meditation and positive thoughts, but as usual, my body resisted. Adrenaline pumped from my glands to my limbs, shaking every piece of skin and organ. I reflected on how often my body would respond in that way, occasionally instigating me to make impulsive decisions based on physical responses. It seemed there was constantly a battle raging between the two, the mind and body, each part dutifully fighting for its rightful place. Minutes in this place sometimes went by like days. The mind fights itself to preserve some kind of sanity, persuading itself that it is not too long now before it is out of this prison. I am acting asleep with thoughts running at a thousand miles per hour, when suddenly a man walks in. Black and thin with glasses that made him look intellectual, he shouted out and knocked on the door. His squeaky high pitched voice entered the room, shooting in to everyone’s ears worse than the most annoying alarm clock. Wake up he would yell, time to wake up. I moaned and groaned, acted as if I had been asleep and apparently woke up dazed. Insults flew at the men from the other three in my room. If there was one thing I learned about this place, it was that my kind of type doesn’t like being told to wake up. They wake up whenever the hell they want to. The man shrugged off the insults, with his usual bright white smile and moved on to the next room. Wake up, wake up I heard in the distance. This would be the last time I’d hear that familiar voice motivating me to start the day. Saint Louis, Missouri- Earlier That Year Who the hell is that black girl sleeping on my couch? I saw empty beer cans, half filled vodka bottles, still lit cigarettes hanging by a thread on to ashtrays, a dusty brown weed pipe, a bright green bag of weed on the table, a friend lying on the floor next to me snoring off his imminent hangover, a giant stain on the ground that did not smell like alcohol. All this I saw in the small living room in the duplex I had once lived in. In a matter of hours, the respectable clean rooms had turned in to the hotel out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The duplex reeked of sex, teenager, smoke, and something burning. Wait. Burning? Overcooked cheese filled my nostrils, awakening me from my slumber. I hopped up in a manic frenzy and raced to the oven, pulling it open. Smoke erupted from the oven, flooding my face clogging my breathing. I coughed, and hurried to shut the oven door back closed. Once it was closed, I turned the knob all the way to the left to turn the oven off and waited a minute before opening it back up. Once the smoke had gone past my closed eyes I saw a black pizza lying in the middle of the oven rack, burnt to crisp with pepperonis. Without thinking I grabbed the pizza from the sides and shrieked out a number of cuss words before stomping the smoke out of the pizza lying on the tiled kitchen floor. It splattered all over the place in little crispy shards. “Ok!” I screamed. “Who the f*** put the goddamn pizza in the oven and turned it on 450 degrees!” Startled, my friend grunted what and leaped up next to me. He immediately began sweeping of the charred pieces. “Dude, my bad chill out. I got munchies and forgot to take it out. That was some party though. Kicked off two thousand and nine in style nigga!” I sighed and resiliently began to face the facts and consequences of my decisions that night. I had literally run my dad out of his own house because of the atrocious behavior put on by me and my fellow disturbed adolescents. Seeing the damage and remembering bit by bit what happened, the idea of running away to Mexico started to sound like a good idea. The night started off with me and my childhood best friend debating just how we were going to go about this night. It was New Year’s, two thousand and nine. The truth was I had never really been to a new year’s party. I kept this fact away from him. I was always caught up with family gatherings, hating being there and thinking of all the fun and benevolence that was occurring outside of my trapped fortress they called home. I had sworn that night that I would throw a party so amazing, tales of it would be told for years to come. I was at my father’s throughout the entire day drinking five dollar vodka with batty hits, preparing the duplex for the upcoming night. My father lay in the room next to me, smoking his Mexican brick weed, talking on the phone, and somehow performing yoga all at the same time. Our house had become the type where you don’t really talk to one another unless you had something to offer such as money or drugs. It didn’t use to be that way, but priorities change when you are in the middle of a teenage crisis. My friend and I by the name of Geoff contemplated the great teenage questions of the day. How we were going to get beer, cigarettes, what hot girls we could get to go, and why we didn’t want ’that person coming. He is a fag, he will scare all the girls away, or he is weird, he’ll just sit there and not talk. When we got a good buzz going, we started to clean the basement. The basement included a washer and dryer, a drum set, other musical instruments that hadn’t seen playing in months, and a garage that was akin. The garage smelled of old gasoline and marijuana stems and seeds littered the ground. This wasn’t exactly the type of house where you invite forty people and get drunk, but it had a lot of spirit and what I thought were good memories. After the cleaning, we confronted my father about the crisis. “Come on dad, please, please just a thirty, that’s it then we won’t bother you. This is our last hurrah then I’m done with all this s***.” I begged and begged until all my dignity had been cast in the shitter along with my future. Finally, as usual, he gave in and strode out the back door with a slam in to his ford pickup. I looked at my friend and laughed. My dad had always been the giving in type. Ever since childhood I remembered getting my way. Granted, I didn’t ask for much, but I knew how to put on a guilt trip. In truth, I felt bad at how much our relationship had sunk in the past two years. I remember him coaching my baseball teams in parish ball, taking me to the science center and the zoo, playing catch in the backyards. But he had his demons as well, and lately had sunk in to a mid life crisis parallel to mine. He locked himself in his room and reminisced of old times when he played college soccer and was the life of the party. Now, forty five, alone, single, with two children who showed nothing but annoyance at his appearance, he smoked his problems away. He got back with a thirty of Budweiser and a bottle of vodka. He dared not drink any. Drugs can have a harsh affect on a man, but drinking is the absolute worst. There is nothing as nasty as the sight of a man with no hope on a drinking binge. I took the beer and set up a beer pong table downstairs. I never understood beer pong, I was always a fan of lets all get wasted and have lots of unprotected sex while playing monopoly or something like that. I guess that’s just another example of how I’m different than my generation. I hate my generation. What we will be known for. Cell phones, iPods, maybe the end of the world as we know it. People began showing up at around nine. My anxiety settled in. When I’m high, I swear I’m the most awkward f*** you’ll ever meet. Too scared to even talk because of what others will think of me, I turn in to a recluse and turn to my dark inner world. I persuade myself to gobble down a few drinks and let the liquid courage take a hold of me. My other best friend Tony shows up with a wide array of ugly looking girls. I am not so upset, as I have had six beers and a pack of cigarettes, which in effect always leads to a great night. The stacks of beer are starting to pile up. I am eyeing a South American looking girl who I recognize from school. Who the hell is she, oh yes; she is in my gym class. But she doesn’t party does she? I swear I’ve seen her at church before. Yep, I remember specifically scoping out her ass on one occasion. That’s what church is for me, the chance to check for good looking girls with low self esteem who are forced by their parents every Sunday to confess their sins to a God they don’t believe in. They are aching for it, so I oblige them. I consider myself Saintly. She eyes me back, I look to my friend Geoff, and he is talking to the girl’s friend, a blonde. I always admired the way Geoff was able to talk to people. He just had a way with women. In all truth I hated him out of jealousy. Wondered why he was blessed with such abilities. I pretended to be like him in order to forget my own personality. It worked out on some occasions, but left me with a gaping hole where my morals used to be. She keeps looking at me. The crowd is wildly partying in ignorance. The liquor has created several different groups. There are the shot takers, the weed smokers, the pukers, the guys who hit on ugly girls, the guys who hit on hot girls, and me. My friend introduces us. “I know you! You play soccer! You’re pretty good. My friend thinks you’re hot.” Her mask of makeup covers her orange tanned face and the fakeness of her oozes in every poor. I am disgusted by her appearance, let alone her nasally voice. Her friend says hello. I say hello back. She is shy, looks at the floor when she talks. She has shoulder length hair with that South American tint to it so it always looks like she just got out of the shower. Her body is well made, and I start my game. “Ok enough of all this nonsense. Shots! All around let’s go you first. Come on Geoff” “Alright line me up.” He says with his usual confidence. He has a way with girls, and can convince anybody to do anything, and is a talented person in general. But my friend cannot take shots, it hits his blood and his body reacts in a way God did not intend. With the first he spits his tongue out and yelps at the moon much like a wolf. I follow suit and soon I am upstairs in my room with this amazingly hot Incan woman who is pulling my clothes off. I am quick to point out that she is an avid church goers and I would not like to be sued for rape or any of the charges she could make against me. She tells me to shut up and stick it in. I try, she cries out. Something is not right. I ask if she is a virgin. She replies yes and to shut up and sex her. I do feeling guilty thinking this girl has a mother. Little did I know I would eventually have the pleasantry of meeting her later that night? In the darkness of the room, my first sexual experience shows me the wonders of a woman. I get the feeling that this is what men feel like. I could be doing this every day, what the hell have I been doing. I realize that this is my reaction to everything. Why does this always happen. Instead of just complying with my human nature suddenly the questions pour out. Do I want to do this? Her friend comes to the door an hour later. Calls her name, tells her that they must leave. Half naked, I step out to the chaos ensuing outside the door of our lovemaking. First, there is my father. Standing there with a wide eyed look, as if about to cry, panic, or flip out. My guilty conscious roams in. Then a sound enters my ears I will never forget; Geoff’s girlfriend Laura, balling her eyes out being comforted by the neighbor upstairs. She is sobbing uncontrollably, screaming at Geoff. “You are a f*ing pig! I have done everything for you! Is this even the first time? I came over because I felt bad, I felt terrible that I ditched you! And this is what I get? Don’t ever talk to me again you f*ing asshole!” She stomps out of the room. My dad gets in on it. “Man, you said this would only be a couple people. This is crazy Joe, I can’t do this anymore. I’m not a f*ing doormat man; you need to tell everybody to leave.” His tone of voice is low, making the guilt even worse. “I can’t dad, they just got here a while ago, and I’ll tell them to be quiet, promise. Just chill out, Laura will relax. And I’m sorry you had to see this, I wasn’t even doing anything, really. I have a condom.” Lie “You don’t get it do you, you don’t get it.” He walks out the back door and I see his truck lights turn on as he pulls away. I look to the ground, and see some random people standing beside me talking in frenzy about the drama that just unfolded. I go back in to my room to meet the Incan. The last thing I remember is taking a drink, and seeing my father’s disappointed face before I pass out. Later Ok, the black girl has got to go. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name but do you have a ride or some sort of transportation to get you home? My dad should be home anytime and he’s probably really pissed off
The Car Ride
I dusted myself off after we exited the administration building. Stress should have been at an all time high. My mind should have wondering what I was going to do; how I was going to comply with this extraordinary punishment I had been given, and for what? A simple pipe. Consequences were starting to build up on me, and I brushed them off like last week’s news.
It was a gloomy day in Webster Groves. Thick clouds pushed eastwards trying to reach the river by three. Raindrops fell every now and then, staining my recently ironed khakis and collar shirt. It was the first time I had taken a shower and dressed nice in at least a month. My hair shagged almost to the edge of my eyes and my frame had grown thinner in the recent months. My eyes were bloodshot, and purplish bags hung under them as if weights pressed on my eyeballs. My red hair shone brown in the grayness above me. I walked with an air of arrogance and foolishness, with sadness creeping in.
After seeing my principle I learned that I would be receiving an out of school suspension for ten days, and that I was to get an assessment from a psychiatrist. I thought nothing of it, even though it had been my first suspension in my school career. I was filled with anger and hatred for the way I had been wronged. Other people sold drugs at the school. I was in trouble for a pipe.
It was a normal day in your every day routine suburbia. I woke up, showered, brushed my teeth, ate my cereal, packed my bowl, and strutted out the front door without saying a word to anybody. Unlike later it was sunny out, not a sigh of clouds in the sky. I didn’t notice however, my mind preoccupied. I took a left and then a right up a long backstreet which led past a church called Saint Michaels to my friend’s house. His mother’s garden spelled perfection. I jumped over the daisies and up the green paint crusted front steps. I knocked on the wooden door before letting myself in.
My friend’s rather overweight mother said a typical good morning hello in a tired voice. She still wore her nightclothes and grasped a cup of coffee in her left hand. She asked me if I would like any pop tarts, knowing my modest reply would be no thank you. I waited at the kitchen table for my friend to come downstairs. Anime was always playing on the television set, and I found myself laughing inside at how nerdy of a family these people were. They were middle class, nerdy, gluttonous, nice people. Good people.
My friend Nathan’s loud footsteps beat down on the wooden stairs to my right. I gazed over and nodded to him. He said good morning and asked me a couple of ridiculous questions about my soccer game, how my dog was, and all that jazz. He was a very good kid, Nathan. He was the most awkward looking fellow you would ever see. His daily apparel was a white T-shirt with cheese stains on it, workers jeans and Adidas shoes that had been worn out five years ago. He had a face that highly resembled a chubby bird, with a pointy nose and beady eyes. He was like the rest of his family overweight as he indulged in hand foods like peppers, string cheese, and the like. I never understood what motivated him through the day. Perhaps it was the eight hours of Call of Duty he would play on his computer after school.
I had grown accustomed to walking to school in the morning with Nathan because he lived close, his brother and my sister had been rather long term friends, and he always wanted to smoke with me. The latter being my prime motivator and my excuse to my mom for walking. Smoking weed was a must before school; there was no question about it. If I didn’t smoke, I could not focus, or involve myself socially. However I would get tired by the afternoon, and not do any homework and just sleep. It had grown from weekend fun, to weekly habit, to finally an addiction.
We headed out the door past the garden to the usual smoking destination, a wooded area at the end of the street. A footpath led in to a canopy of trees that provided good cover. A large log that had been knocked down in a storm was at our sitting disposal. We sat down without speaking, his heavy breathing making me uncomfortable.
I unzipped my backpack, and pulled out my pipe. It was a cheap peace with green bubbly circles and blue contorted shapes running down the sides. The inside was nearly always jammed with resin, seeds, or stems. I didn’t even care at this point about my pipes; I just needed to get high.
I blew out the excess, and pulled my weed bag out. Finally feeling awake, I began to chat with my friend about daily occurrences. How I got in an argument with my mother the night before because of skipping my sisters soccer game to get high at home and watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force. How the dog pissed on my leg. How his little sister annoyed him to the point where he threatened her with a knife. All these things were the primary basis for our rebellious conversations. It was in this that we found a common bond, and a common reason to smoke.
We packed it with as much bud as we could, until it almost overflowed the sides. The weed was light green with purplish crystals, a beautiful sight that drew my breath every time. It had the appearance of a regular plant, but the power of the devil and god combined. It stank up everything within a three foot radius.
I looked around before I hit it. The coast was most definitely clear. I pressed the white Bic lighter flame to the sticky green plant and inhaled violently. Fifteen second of this avid breathing and I finally took the pipe out of my hand, looking straight ahead, eyes watering.
Ah, the feeling. That all too familiar relief, the loosening of the shoulders, and the disappearance of tension. The euphoria of happy thoughts and dreams flooding in to my brain, clearing everything else, fighting all my past doubts and anger. Like a wave from a tsunami neurons charged in to my brain, wiping away all that had happened in my sixteen years and forming a new person. I swelled with ambition, kindness, and courage. My blood was on fire, limbs shook from the exhaustion of living. My head dazed and became blurry, showering me with coordinates that did not comply with the earth’s physical nature. Ah, the feeling of that first hit.
Then I take another, and another. We passed it back and forth until forty minutes and six bowls had perished in to the sky. My mind dealt with the reality in a subconscious way, knowing that my body had to move, get going. Dazed with confusion, I knew that this was my reason for living. To elevate myself to a superior being, compatible and capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
We slowly awakened ourselves and leaped up for the mile and a half walk to school. The walk flew by in short time periods, my brain foolishly trying to cooperate with the environment in a fundamental way. The thirty minutes felt like thirty years, time knew no bounds. I arrived at school, ready to face the challenge of the day with my head on backwards; knowing not that what was ahead of me would change my life forever.
I was sitting at my kitchen table, staring at homework that had been given to me to complete over my suspension. I had no intention of doing it, as I gazed at the wall waiting for somebody to call me so I could leave the house and cause mischief. My mother sat menacingly in the office room listening for any sound I made to try and escape my house. I had run away several times in the last three weeks, two of those times caused by altercations between me and my mother, the other a near fight with my macho stepdad. It’s not that I quite hated them, just that I couldn’t stand their style of living. Their boring suburban lives, the way they manicured their lawns daily. It all went against my idea of living. My head was in a daze, I could not focus on anything. I had stopped taking my anti depressant medication against the advice of my family and friends. I didn’t need any crazy medicine I thought, I was perfectly fine. I had done my research and convinced myself that it wasn’t even as affective as people thought, mostly just run on placebo effect. It caused me to feel dumb and made sleep impossible. I twirled the pencil in my left hand, considering making a run for it through the front door. Everything in my mind said this was a terrible idea, but my body spurred me on, missing that all too familiar rush when I left with my belongings toward a world unforgiveable and action packed. Running away was the only way I knew how to deal with things, as it provided an escape from my own conscious, leading to nights filled with highs and that badass feeling you get when you are breaking the rules. I had no idea that this was normal behavior for an addict. My mother had dealt with me and my crazy behavior for a whopping two years. Not that I hadn’t been a trouble maker before the age of fourteen, but that’s when I discovered the amazing qualities of highs and lows. She would stay up calling friends mothers and fathers trying to find out where I was, what I had been doing. She sometimes checked jails, or police stations to see if I had been picked up. She was a trooper, knowledgeable on my disease. I would return home on most occasions angry and ashamed, pissed that she had ruined my escapades. I was weary of her anger when I walked in the door, for she could be the scariest person on the face of the earth, and I feared nothing more than her. I fell asleep, the table’s lines etching marks in to the left temple of my head. The stomping of her feet echoed as I heard her come down the hall. I startled up, acting like I was doing work, writing fake numbers on a math worksheet. She looked at me. “Nice try. Get your shoes on; we’re going to get an assessment.” “What kind of assessment?” “It's for school. They told me you have to get one and I can’t say I don’t agree. Your behavior over the past two weeks has been atrocious. I just don’t understand why you do the things you do.” “Yea yea I know. But like what is it about. Like a shrink? I don’t need a f*ing shrink. I’m not crazy.” I am a very defensive person. Anybody accusing me of some kind of wrong was absolutely wrong and knew nothing about me. I was worried to say the least; I had never gone to get whatever this assessment was. I had seen a shrink once for three sessions, and like everything else I soon gave up on it. The first time I went, we talked about voices in our heads that told us what to do. He said I had two kinds of voices, one that wanted me to do what seemed fun and exciting, and another that would be ashamed of what I did after. He said this is the reason for my downs. I blew him off, but accepted that he had cut right through me. I told my mom later that I never wanted to go back to any kind of shrink. It scared me inside. “Joe, you need to do it. Just do it for me, please.” It was almost like she had given up, pleading for me to fight my pride and go. I gave in and put on my sambas, buttoning my nice dress shirt. Before I left I went downstairs and snorted an Oxycontin which I had made sure to get from my friend earlier to fight withdrawal. I had started to eat them like candy. There was no way I was going to feel those aches and pains, that burning of fire on your bones. My mom called down loudly. “Come on, let’s go!” “Ok f***! I’m coming.” We strolled out the back door in to the soggy day full of grey clouds. My black Labrador retriever ran up excitedly for me to pet him. I stroked his ears and spoke in high words his name that I had given him, Augustus Octavius Aurelius the third. Sometimes the only being in this world I respected and loved was my dog. He loved you back no matter what, always giving love and never expecting anything back except maybe a belly rub. I looked at my backyard, not knowing that I would never look at it again the same. The hammock rocked back in forth in what we called the back back yard. A fence separated it from the rest of the yard, and a tree grew on a hill overlooking a fire pit. The porch painted rich brown smelled of winter, threatening to splinter anyone’s hands that touched it. I felt overwhelming doom, like something big was about to happen. I watched little toddlers playing soccer across the street, remembering how I used to play tennis at the clay courts. How I would ride my bike down the steep hill across the street next to the police station. How me and my buddy Geoff would walk up the big street to the recreational center and play hide and go seek. I realized I did nothing I would consider fun anymore. My life consisted of doing drugs, trying to fit in, and pleasing everybody. Then when I went home, I’d irritably shrug off the people that truly loved me. It was a thought that came and passed as quickly as it had come. I tenderly walked down the stairs and in to the blue ford explorer parked in my driveway. I hopped in like an inmate getting ready to be taken to prison. In a way that was what happened. My mother and stepdad were in the front seats obviously tired and stressed from all the havoc I had created. I felt awful, but not enough to say sorry. Not like it would have mattered. I had done way too much to earn back their respect with a simple sorry. She revved the engine on and we headed north. We drove past all the familiar sights I had associated with in the past four years. The high school loomed close, and my eyes noticed the bushes where we used to go snort coke at. It provided just enough cover from assistant principals roaming the grounds for inconspicuous teens. Past the University playground where we would get stoned off our ass and sing songs like Bohemium Rhapsody at the top of our lungs, not worrying about waking the neighbors. The last spot I saw was a soccer field. It was the place where I got my first concussion, scored my first playoff goal, and smoked my first joint. I thought it was quite ironic at the time. Eeriness crept about the car. No one said anything, yet no one wanted to be quiet. To soothe the situation, I passed my mom a scratched up Led Zeppelin CD. Physical Graffiti was my favorite, side one of course. The rover blasted in the car as I turned it up. My mom quickly turned it down, and I groaned. Leaning back I watched the highway lines flash before me. We were really starting to get further out of the city now. Suburb after suburb came by, city limit sighs going past. We crossed a bridge over the Missouri river leading in to Saint Charles County. I put my head back and let the music enter in to me. I started to feel sleepy…..
I was sitting cross legged playing video games on the thirty inch television. The carpet was stained with dark spots filling in voids where brown should have been. My dad’s voice called out to me informing me he was going to bed. I heard his door shut with a soft thud, leaving me to the duplex all alone. I was younger, much younger. My red hair was long draping over my eyes, curving to the left. I had to flick it every once in a while to be able to see. My eyes were much different, innocent and wide. Sitting with intention, and confidence, I pressed buttons on the black controller. Unaware of the darkness of the night, I continued playing for another hour.
Bored, I leapt up and grabbed a book. Exhausted from the baseball game earlier in which I had three hits and a miraculous play at short, I thumbed through the pages of the geography book, quizzing myself on the capitals of different countries. I made little wars in my head, conquering small countries with my mighty armies. The book was wrinkled from being soaked in water, and I remember the smell of it as I waded through its pages. The phone rang and I left it alone, not caring who was calling and considering rude as it was nearing twelve. It is almost time for bed.
Suddenly, I hear the sound of the back door opening. Voices fill the apartment. The screen door screeched to a close and I pounced up on the couch not wanting anybody to see me reading on a Friday night. The footsteps echoed and then my roommates entered.
They were older than me. My sister had known them for a long time, going to school with them for four years. She was in high school, and her friends were seniors. One of them was black with a goatee and skinny frame. The second was thick headed and had a beer belly developing. He was rather funny and spoke with not a note of seriousness. He had curly black hair and blue eyes. The third and final roommate had a crew cut and big lips. He looked Slavic with his strong features.
They came in loudly, laughing and speaking of times at the bar. I pulled the blanket over my body and pressed play on the remote for the VCR, turning on O Brother Where Art Thou. Acting cool, I tried not to look too interested in the movie. Honestly, I was pretending to get ready to go to sleep so I had no questions about why I was home instead of out with friends. I was self conscious about the fact that I didn’t like people too much, and over the past year had started to become more isolated.
They turned towards me in the hallway.
“Watsup Joe!” The curly haired one said.
“What’s up? Where have you guys been?” I asked knowing the answer.
“Oh we were doing big boy things at the big boy place if you know what I mean.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Is your sister around?”
“No I think she went to Lizzy’s house to spend the night. And dad went to sleep so try to keep it down.”
“No need to worry my Niño, we are headed in to our fortress soon enough. You want to come play some Halo with us or something?” He had a little nod to his words, insisting something. I knew what he meant and usually I refused. But tonight was different. I was tired of being alone. Of not doing crazy things like everyone else did on Fridays. I wanted to have fun, and talk the next day about all the adventures I had the night before.
I sighed, acting like I was too cool for them.
“I guess… Swords and rockets, I hate all that pistol stuff you guys play. Let me get a soda first.”
They cheered. I smiled. I belonged. Walking in to the kitchen, I grabbed a Gatorade and thought about what my dad would say. He liked the roommates, even hung out with them in their room. I knew what they did in there, but didn’t really push it or act interested. I knew they smoked weed all day and drank, but I was repulsed by it, disgusted even. It just wasn’t my thing. I was an all A student. I played soccer for a club team and baseball. I had a lot of friends, girls liked me. Everything was fine, and I didn’t want to try smoking or drinking. It scared me. I can honestly say the reason for it was that I was bored one night, so I decided to do it.
I ventured in to what the guys called the pit. My old room had been turned in to the shithole of all shitholes. There was a musty stench of weed, bong water, and three teenagers. Try three male teenagers at that. Food wrappers from Jack in the Box and Taco Bell lay scattered across the ground. Pipes were on the floor along with game controllers, seeds, clothes, and movie discs. The smell almost made you cough when you walked in. I tried to sit where there wasn’t a dark stain.
Alex, the black roommate, turned on the Xbox, sipping on a Budweiser. He did his pregame ritual of silliness. Talking in a stoner way I can only describe in slow motion.
"Mass butch! Prepare for battle young one.”
I laughed, and the guys sipped their beers chuckling. The Slavic one brought out a box that was covered in grandma red. He opened it with a key, and delicately held it up in the air. I started laughing; wondering what was so precious in the box.
“This, my little red haired friend, contains the holding place of Mark Mcfire, the one and only golden pipe you can find in the Tri state metro area of Saint Louis. Only rumors have been told of it. It wasn’t until two nights ago I came across her at a pawn shop. How much was it you ask? Well only fifty four dollars. Only fifty four dollars for this wonderful piece of engineering. Have you ever smoked little man?”
“Like cigarettes? I tried one once with my sister but it tasted so gross. I almost threw up.”
They laughed. He put down the box and opened his mouth.
“No not cigarettes, but the one true plant. I think I was but your age when I tried it. Pot. The savior of my existence.”
“Oh, no I haven’t.” I replied anxiously.
“Like, you haven’t in a week?” He asked stupidly.
“No, like never.”
He stared at me with a confused look on his awkward face. The thought of somebody not smoking weed regularly stunned him, scared him even. Even I, as young as I was, should smoke according to him. These are the people who truly believe in drugs; the people who don’t consider you human if you don’t use. My first lesson in drugs.
“Well, I remember when I was your age, I was getting pretty curious. Here, try this, see if you like it. But here are the rules. First, don’t tell anybody you’re doing this with us. Second, don’t tell anyone your doing this with us, and third don’t drop it.”
Everybody laughed, and I just grinned apprehensively. He stuck out his hand with the golden pipe. I looked at it closely. It shone off the darkness, having an aura to it. I thought it was stupid honestly. I didn’t really want to take it, but peer pressure persuaded me. I grabbed it by the end, and looked at him. I didn’t know what to do.
He laughed and reached his yellow lighter to the bowl. His thumb pressed on the gas and the light flickered on. It burned the bowl. I looked at him. He told me to inhale, inhale, and inhale. I followed his directions. The wispy vapor suddenly whisked down my throat, in to my lungs. I felt the urge to cough and throw up, but not wanting to embarrass myself, I held it back. For twenty more second I inhaled, and then gave the pipe up. I slapped my knees and held it in. Finally, after a minute of agony, I let it out. A giant ball of smoke shot out from my body, lunging unto the room. My eyes became blood shot instantly, and I started to cough insanely. The black guy hit my back hard, while they all laughed hysterically. I was their entertainment.
I finally recovered, sitting up straight and getting the last of my coughs out. They were all looking at me, waiting for me to say something, so I thought of the first thing on my mind.
“Let’s do it again.”
My eyes bolted open. The car had stopped in a newly paved parking lot outside an office building two floors high. It was still raining out, but the sun was pushing to make an entrance in to the sky. I had drooled a little bit on my hand, so I wiped it on the back of the seat. My stepdad and mother were getting ready to get out of the car. They motioned to me to get out, so reluctantly I followed suit, hating every bit of this demeaning assessment I was too get already. The building was wide, above the highway that took us here. A green hill led up from the road to a fence, and beyond the fence was the office center. A two lane avenue swooped around the building making an oval shaped drive in. To the left was a parking lot with ten or so parked cars. It looked like the most boring place on the face of the earth. I walked a couple yards behind my mom, not daring to let her see my face. I was anxious, suddenly aware that people were about to start asking questions that would dwell in to my conscious. That never suited well with me. I hated being asked questions, especially when the answers were screaming to be let out. It made me feel vulnerable. I was too proud to admit I wanted to shout them out. The rain stopped hitting our heads and we opened the glass door that read Preferred Family healthcare on the front. I got the hint that this was some kind of family shrink helping kind of place. Inside I moaned, not ready for all these touchy feely s***. I thought my mom would cry, or my stepdad go nuts. I hated emotion. The doors shut behind us quietly. The building smelled new. The waiting room was cozy and had several comfortable chairs with nice fluffy cushions. Art hung on the walls created to represent how drugs ruined lives. That made me nervous. This place seemed legit. Magazines lay on the coffee tables from nineteen ninety nine. I immediately sat down, glaring at the pages, acting interested. My mom went to the receptionist who was a blonde haired chubby lady with an all too happy attitude and dimples. She greeted her with an ecstatic hello and told mom that it would just be ten minutes and someone would come back to get us. I listened before deciding to act asleep. I do that sometimes, just because I don’t want anyone to bother me. A couple minutes later the door opened and in walked a petite looking brown haired lady who must have been around fifty. She waddled through the door with flip flops and Capri’s on, waving for us to come back with a smile. I was not fooled by her devious grin, and as she smirked at me I shot a menacing look at her. She seemed not to care. We walked down the hall to the first door on the left, in a cramped office with a bunch of paperwork piled up on the desk and one computer. There were only two chairs so my stepdad went to the waiting room to let us talk to the happy lady. She said her name was Sheryl. I remember thinking that’s such an old name. She somehow squeezed in to the tiny chair, her rolls flapping over the sides. Stroking the keyboard, she said nothing for a minute or two. All she did was stare at the computer and squint at the monitor, apparently not to fond of these modern devices. Finally, after another minute of awkward silence, she spoke, interrupting the airwaves of quiet. “So, you must be Joseph! I’m very excited to meet you, now I know your probably wondering what the heck is going on here but I’ll tell you not to worry your in good hands ok now. We’re just going to ask you a couple of questions, and hopefully you’ll answer honestly and be on your way ok?” I nodded. She spoke with a northern accent, like Minnesota or Wisconsin. She reminded me of an older version of the main lady cop in Fargo. I half expected her to ask me if I wanted some eggs. My mom put on her fake smile and began to ask Sheryl questions. “Now is he going to just answer questions here or go with a counselor? I don’t really know how this works.” “Oh well first we’ll I’ll ask some simple questions such as basics. Age, zip code, social, stuff like that if you know what I mean. Then he’ll go see a social worker and a counselor. They’ll ask him some more personal questions about the incident and such. “She recited as if she had gone through this hundreds of times. She probably had. Counselor, social worker? This was serious stuff. Up until then I did not know exactly the consequences of my actions. How serious the charge was I was facing now. I could have gone to jail, could have had a felony on my record. Now I had to see someone sent from the state to make sure I wasn’t a menace to society. The truth hit me hard, causing me to suddenly feel ashamed of the position I was in. Guilt began to flood through me. Where had my life taken me? I was so happy a couple years ago, and filled with hope. Now I was here, a ward of the state, forced to take an assessment to question my sanity. Sheryl began asking questions, once again, basic information such as social security, sex, address, and the like. I answered patiently, wondering where all of this was going. I didn’t show and resolve, as it had all been sucked out of me. I was tired, depressed, unwilling, and ready to give up life. I was sixteen and had nothing to show for it. What had I done to help myself or my family? Nothing. My life was drugs, running away, and pain. My head ached from the mind questioning itself. All of the past two weeks pushed down on me like I was thousands of feet under the ocean. The pressure built and built until I had combusted, given up. I was drowning, waiting for somebody to save me. After about ten minutes of questioning, she gave me a stack of papers to sign. I knew this wasn’t normal. What was I signing? Exactly I didn’t know. I just pressed pen to paper when she asked me to sign. This is a form of confidentiality, a form of inpatient (just in case she assured me), of human rights assurance. I didn’t really understand what any of it meant, so I looked at my mom before signing anything. She just nodded at me to do it, so I complied. The amount of papers to sign was ridiculous. It took nearly twenty minutes to finish it all up. When all was said and done a stack of papers a foot high were on her mahogany desk, overflowing. I sat back, exhausted from just writing my name. She talked us through every paper, but I had tuned her out after the third one. She sighed and pushed the papers to the side. “Ok Joseph, you’re going to go with Kim now. She is a social worker who will ask you some personal questions so we can gage where you are at right now. I know this is all new to you but we just want to get it out of the way so you can go on home.” She said it as if reading my mind. Just then a tall thick black lady with her hair tied back in a pony tail walked in. She waved and smiled introducing herself. “Hi Joe, my name is Kim and if you can follow me down the hall here we can go to my office and talk for a minute so your mom and Sheryl can chat. I like your shirt by the way, very cool.” She pointed to my Jimi Hendrix shirt. “Thanks.” I mumbled. She had a very strong voice, almost manly. I personally thought she was quite sexy, in a motherly sort of way. She was definitely thick with nice features, and a great bosom. She must have been thirty five or so, as I could see that time had found its way on her face. I followed her down the hall, sulking. She trounced around with a sense of authority around the thin hallways. The place reminded me of a Vietnamese tunnel in nineteen sixty eight. The hallways almost squeezed you tight, and the rooms were all cramped. She led me back to her office, a nice room with the smell of lotions and perfume. Its smell was strong and stung my nostrils with each intake of breath. She pointed to the chair facing her desk so I sat in it. It was nice and comfy. She squeezed in and typed on her computer for a minute then looked at me. Her eyes bore in to mine, searching for something. I quickly glanced away. I hated eye contact with strangers, even when it wasn’t necessary. If I was walking down a sidewalk, I didn’t even want to look at the person coming opposite. I don’t know why, I just hate communicating with random people. It all seems a game, life is a game. Some people are good at it, some people aren’t, and then there is me. The non-player. Her face was glued to the computer for a couple more minutes. I began to get antsy, wondering when the hell this whole thing was going to be over. I hated waiting. Patience in my opinion is no virtue. Time for me was not money, but drugs and sex. I could think of a million things I’d rather be doing at the time. So I moved around trying to get comfortable. Then finally she asked me a question; one that caught me off guard. “Joe, what is your drug of choice?” I just looked at her. First of all, drug of choice? Drugs weren’t a choice. They were a necessity. I had to have them or I don’t know what would happen, but I’d probably flip out and hit something. It didn’t matter what drug it was, as long as it f*ed me up to the point where my reality was the drug, and they all did that. The question certainly puzzled me, so I scratched my head and gave an anxious laugh. “What exactly do you mean?” I replied. “Many young people who come in here have a certain drug that affects them the most. Some prefer meth, some heroin, some are fortunate to not have tried harder drugs and stick to marijuana or alcohol. Everybody has a drug that is their favorite. Mine is food. I love food, can’t get enough of it. So tell me, what is yours?” I become aware of my surroundings. I am bent over, hands and knees on the cool green grass, my mouth leaking, head cramped. Everything is so blurry, images are distorted. Nothing makes any sense. The sky is green, and I can see my lungs in my head gasping for air. Their screaming, telling me to make it stop, to please make it stop. I can’t. I panic. I try to calm down, find out where I am. There’s a street sigh straight ahead of me, maybe twenty feet away. I squint to make out what it says. There’s an M at the start. I fade out, everything turns black, and I fall back down on the grass. It feels nice. “I’ve tried everything. I like it all. I don’t prefer one drug over any other, their all good to me.” She is taken aback by my remark. I’m assuming she doesn’t get an answer like that very often. I can tell she has had a long day, and wants me to just give a straight answer and be done with it, but I can’t, I’m rebellious in the weirdest ways. I will be the difficult patient, not giving in to her ways. I won’t sit here and cry spilling out my entire drug crazed incidents and secret depressive thoughts. I won’t even tell her I’ve been suicidal the past few months, twice coming close to finishing the act. I won’t give in. “Well, if you could just give me the name of the drug that has most affected your life, or changed it, that would be fine. Remember, I’m here to help you, not to judge. You can trust me. I swear it. Don’t lie just to make me think that you’re ok. I can find out somehow, it’s my job. Give yourself a break, let it out. Manchester. That’s what it says. I am in Rock Hill. I try to imagine the last place I was at, and who I was with. I must have been with Nick, because he lives on Manchester. We were at his house playing guitar. I remember saying I was bored. He mentioned he had bought something from the loop the day before. I ask what it is, so he shows it to me. It is the greenest cannabis mixed with something that I can’t tell. He tells me to smell it, so I put my nostrils over the substance. It reeks, but not of weed. It has a different stench, like rubbing alcohol. I ask him what it is anxiously after I pull my head away quickly. He laughs and tells me not to worry, it is the best feeling I’ll ever have. “Well, there was one time I got really sick. I passed out next to a McDonalds and the busiest street around Webster. I slept for two hours next to the road. My friends….they abandoned me. I got very sick to the point where I couldn’t feel anymore. I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t touch. Then, as I was at the boiling point, I felt a wave of relief come across me. I thought I was dead. It was the happiest I’ve ever been. When I almost knew I was done here, going somewhere else, everything just felt right. I don’t know how to explain it.” I realized I was tearing up. I immediately straightened up and tried to act tough. But she had seen the other side of me, the little lost boy inside the rough street teenager. She glared at me like I was an animal, or maybe the savior. She jotted notes on her pad and cleared her throat, getting ready to ask another question. I inhale it, it feels good, but burns my throat. It has a smooth texture as it flows down my throat unmercifully. I lean my head back on the wooden fence and exhale. All my problems leave me right then and there, including my mother yelling at me, shouting how I’m ruining the family, my dad drinking while driving me to his soccer game when I was six. How he swerves around cars telling me yes he is alright, my sister moving out, leaving me to fend for myself, all of my friends getting sent away to military schools for getting in trouble. One of my best friend’s dads dies. All of it leaves me in a wisp of smoke. I smile, cackle, hysterically. My friend nick looks over at me and asks what is so funny before he hits the pipe. “Life nick, life. It’s all a f*ing joke man. Family, friends, f*** them all. I don’t need their s*** anymore. I’m tired of being the f*ed up middle child. I mean look at me for Christ’s sake, I’m a disgrace. But I feel like that because of them. They made me like this.” I’m rambling, starting to make him feel nervous; he glances awkwardly to the side and questions the immediate affect the drug is having on me. Only he knows what is in the pipe. He bought the stuff from a random black guy in the loop, not far from the metro link. The man tells him what he is buying. “This is PCP. Top line s***. Make your f*en hair fall out. Just make sure you don’t take too much of that s***. That’s mean s*** right there. No more than four hits.” “Dude, chill out. Don’t think about dumb s***.” That’s all he musters before hitting the pipe. We sit there, passing it back and forth, surmounting the amount the man had told nick tenfold. Suddenly shapes start to move, the ground changes colors, our feet become wobbly. My vision distorts. What I see out of my left eye is really coming out of my right. We decide to get some food. We stroll across Manchester trying to act as casual as we can. It is not too effective, as I almost get hit by a Land rover going thirty miles an hour. We laugh after. We are safe, at McDonalds, where we have tripped many times. We know the employees are cool and won’t cause and problems for us as long as we keep it down. I start to fade in and out. I wake up after seconds have passed finding I'm now sitting at a table. My body is so hot, I feel like I’m going to combust. Sweat is dripping from my pores on to the round table, causing a pool of sweat. I look at nick with my head in my hand, seeing that he is not doing too well either. His eyes are droopy and his pupils are barely visible. I hand him five dollars and tell him to get me something to eat. I see him walking up to the counter, and then I slam my head on to the table. Something patting my shoulder, I wake up and see him, slamming me now. With a wave of the hand I tell him I’m good. He hands me my food, I tell him to go ahead and eat it. My stomach nearly lurches at the sight and smell of food. I’m gasping for air. Suffocating. I see visions. My lungs are in a green X-ray, palpitating, going up and down with my breathing. It starts to slow down. Slower and slower it gets until I think I’m going to die. I am happy. But survival instincts kick in. My eyes are watering and my brain tells my body to move, but it can’t. I struggle away from the table. I look like the village drunkard, swinging table by table to the door. People are looking at me, pointing, and some laughing. I pay no mind, I must get outside. I open the door, and as soon as fresh air reaches my lungs bile comes out of my mouth on to the grey pavement. Three times I gag forward, unleashing all my entrails. I walk in it, towards a bench. When I reach the bench I feel my heart stop. Peace. Slowly I begin to think of my mother, her face looming in and out of consciousness. I miss her. She doesn’t ask it. She just sits in silence, waiting for me to talk again. I say nothing. This little game goes on for several minutes. Then she fires away a round of questions about my past. Where I was born, when did I start using occasionally, why I did it? I answer her honestly. I didn’t know that it probably would have been better for me at the time to not answer at all. That it would get me in to a pickle I couldn’t get out of. But I didn’t think of that, and my life would change forever because of it.
“Take off your shoes please.” I stare at him, with my head cocked to the side like a dog. What the hell does he mean take off my shoes? I have just gone through two hours of questioning, exhausted my mind, and relived my whole life over to a complete stranger. Now I have this overweight body guard looking black guy telling me to take off my shoes. “Um, what did you say?” “Take off your shoes man.” “For what purpose? Why the hell am I taking off my shoes?” “Look man, I’m just doing my job. And right now my job is to tell you to take off your shoes. Don’t ask why, just do it and you’ll get out of here faster. Take off your shoes and set them over by the door.” “It’s kind of hard to walk out of here without shoes don’t you think? I want to talk to my mom, where the hell is she. If you think I’m staying longer you can just shove your foot up your ass. I know what that means.” I stride down the hallway to the room where my mom was talking to Sheryl. I look left and right inside the doors, tapping the walls. The man follows me calling me to stop. I ignore him and keep going, searching. Then I come to the fourth door on the right and see her and my stepdad inside. She is crying. I stop in my tracks at the sight of it. Why the hell is she crying? My stepdad is caressing her back, supporting her while she puts her head in hands and weeps. Sheryl has a fake sad look on her face, like a guy who works at a morgue telling a family he is sorry for their loss. “What is going on? Why are they taking my shoes?” They look up at me, nobody saying anything. I turn from face to face to face, pleading for someone to say something comforting. I want to be home, smoking a joint or watching television, not in this suddenly all too tight atmosphere. Not in this place. It then hits me that this was the plan all along. I was to stay here. I had been setup by them, my parents. Betrayal hit me. “Now I get it. Real nice. Send the jail bait teenager to get locked up for having a pipe at school. Now I’m supposed to take off my shoes and nicely follow this big black guy in to lockup. That pretty much sums it up, am I right?” My mom chimes in. “It’s for your own good. I don’t even know who you are anymore. You cuss me out. You come home late after being out all day, irritable and angry. I’ve tried to be nice, tried to help you. I took you to a therapist. Nothing works. Don’t you want to be happy? Aren’t you tired of all this?” I stop. Just smile at them all. I know it is either stay or live on the streets, but I will not give them the satisfaction of me complying with what it is they want from me. I glare at my mom, smirking in an evil villain way, daring her to test me. Inside I am panicking, racking up ideas that will help me get out of this situation. “I’ll do better. I won’t even use or go out. I’ll just stay home and do my homework. I promise. Mom, don’t do this to me. Don’t you love me? Why would you make your own son do this? If anyone should be leaving it’s that asshole right there.” I point to my stepdad, who gets his word in. “You’re going to stop calling us names! I’m tired of your bullshit attitude and asshole approach to life! You have done nothing but bring hell to this family, and I’m not going to sit by and watch your mother suffer through it! Don’t try to play that guilt trip on her; you think that’s going to work! You are in serious trouble! The law is now looking at charging you, and all you can think about is saving your own skin and using. I’ve had enough!” He gets up and walks out of the office towards the entrance. Now I have my mother all alone to myself. But my stepdads yelling has attracted the attention of workers there, who are now standing by in case anything gets physical. Sheryl tries to calm me down. “It’s only temporary, we don’t know how long for sure honey. Just calm do-“ “Don’t tell me to calm down! All I’ve done is been calm the past two hours! F*** this, I’m leaving!” I am yelling at the top of my voice. I punch the drywall to my left, making a whole. My hand soaks red in blood, skin flapping out of the knuckles. Everything is going wrong, but I feed on the chaos. My blood is running, adrenaline pumping. I want someone to challenge me right now, to try and catch me. So I do the next thing I’m best at, and bolt for the door. I stick my hand out to turn the knob before two arms wrap around my chest. It is the huge black man. “Take it easy dog. Don’t make this difficult.” “Get the hell off me, this is illegal. Mom why are you letting him do this? Get off me you f*ing fat ass! Get off me!” His arms have a solid drip on me now, hands meeting around my chest, interlocking fingers. His grip is back breaking, causing me to wheeze. I throw myself around, kicking and screaming, punching what I can of his body. My mother is up now crying holding her arms out, with Sheryl on the phone calling for backup. I am throwing body parts around, landing some and missing others. Then, my elbow joint meets his face, and like the sound of a baseball hitting the sweet part on a bat, I know I’ve hit my mark. The man let’s go and I hit the ground running, swinging the door open, and just when I think I am free from this awful place. WHAP! My head goes black. Down, down, down I go in to the abyss.
I see my dad. He is posing in the dugout, watching me with his chewing tobacco spewing out of his mouth. He wears the same blue jersey I am wearing on the mound, except he is the coach. I am the one in charge though. I am in command. The baseball is in my hand. The game is waiting for me, the driver, to press on the gas. I soak it all up. My mother is in the crowd waiting in nervousness for what I will do, win the game or lose it. It’s all on the line, right here and right now.
I smell the grass; feel the dirt underneath my cleats. Mud is packed on my shoes, so the effect of the cleats is omitted. My blue socks are pulled high on my pants, giving an old fashioned look. My hat with the letter O, standing for outlaws, is cocked to the side. Everyone on my team is anxious, kicking around dirt and getting ready for the pitch. The whole crowd glares at me, impatient after I take my sweet time to deliver the perfect pitch. I look at my father again, swearing I will make him proud, as he did his father when he played college soccer. I will keep the tradition going.
I step on the rubber with my left foot, then my right. I look down at the ground, then towards the catcher’s mitt, anticipating what pitch he calls. The sun is going down now, making it hard for the batter to get a good look at the ball before it reaches the plate. He is big, athletic, and powerful. I know him to be a good hitter, as we have played against each other in other leagues. He fears and respects me, as I do him. He hits his cleats with the bat, and steps in to the batter box. I give him a wink and a smile, and he gives it right back. The count is full. Out of the corner of my eye I see my dad lean forward, eyes so intent on the ball he could kill it if he had laser vision. The catcher calls for a changeup, I shake my head no. I’m bringing the heat, living life on the edge. This guy is a fastball hitter, literally destroys them. But I want to compete, give my best and see if he can top it. He calls number one, and I nod intently, making sure he sees. I move my left foot back, bring my leg to my chest, take the ball out of my glove, and sling it over my shoulder. I am bent over, watching the ball. It spins manically, hitting its target. High and in, he swings and misses. I throw my glove up in relief, and the catcher runs out to plow me over. My team celebrates, jumping up and down, dog piling on top of me. I am laughing insanely, enjoying the moment. I look at my dad, and he is smiling. I have made him proud, I am happy.
My head is throbbing.
I am in a small square bed with bright white sheets. The blanket that covers me is brown with black stains in several spots, encouraging me to pull it off. The room is dim, dark enough so when I look in the direction of my hand I can barely see it. My head is pounding on my left temple, and as I put my hand up to it I feel a welt the size of a baseball protruding. It takes me a minute to regain my memory, as the impact of whatever it is that hit me caused some other problems than just the physical affects. I remember running out the door and for a flash of a second seeing a huge bald cop with a nightstick headed right for my face. He was in full uniform and reacting to a call of a potentially violent situation at the building I was in. Apparently I had caused quite a ruckus, for a handful of kids had started to mill around and watch me go crazy before being sent back to their rooms.
I turn on the light switch after searching the walls for several minutes, finally finding it next to the door handle. There is a mirror in the room, a bed, a table stand, and nothing else. I casually walk towards the mirror and put my hand against the wall to look at the welt on my head. It is grotesquely red and yellow; palpitating like it has its own brain and organ system. I dab at it with a towel lying on the night stand, all the while looking at the mirror.
Then, I slowly lower the towel down and look harder. It must have been months since I looked at myself. Besides the huge welt on my face, I stared at the rest of my face. Most of the time I was too scared to, and after playing the tough guy all the time, it suddenly hit me that I hated looking at myself. Sometimes I would turn my head the other way while walking out of the bathroom, just so I didn’t have to see my ugly face staring right back at me. I would turn away when people took pictures, never being the one trying to make a goofy face or throw up bunny ears. I tried to become inexistent. If there was no recollection of my face, nobody could make fun of me or see me for what I really was. I really had believed that.
I looked really hard. I was….disgusted. My eyes are light blue with a tint of yellow in the middle, sagging in to my face out of exhaustion, depression, and fear. There are bags under my eyes, purple and droopy. Lines had started to etch in to my face, probably because of the constant worrying that people would see me for who I really was, a lost little boy not knowing how to simply live in the world. My mouth seemed to permanently slope downwards, making a frown. My dark red hair had grown nappy, long, and untrimmed. My cheek bones had hallowed out, because of lack of nutrition and water. My neck was long and skinny, with hairs sticking out in certain places. I had not shaved in weeks, as stubble occupied the lower half of my face.
I saw something that day that scared the living s*** out of me. A boy lost, trying to kill himself. Maybe not in the traditional sense of taking too many pills or shooting oneself in the head. I mean a boy who felt so miserable all the time and was so scared of success and happiness; he tried to kill himself by isolating and living on fear. Driven to the point of a severe depressive state, a maniacal thinker, and a master deceiver. All this I saw in my face.
I saw the many lies I had told in the past few years, lying deceitfully behind my eyes, lurking, waiting to be found. Manipulation and loneliness, etched in to scars of running from police officers and bruises from falling while drunk. Always, I was running away. Carrying myself to places unknown, with the same result in sight. Death. It was my goal in life, my hobby even. I challenged my body to its greatest limits, shutting down everything on the outside, and possibly on the inside.
It flashed by going the speed of light, a single thought shot to the brain and then in to storage. For the first time in a long while, a question came. It was simple, hysterical even in its simplicity. Yet, it was so important and habit changing that I still remember that second today. I remember the smell of fresh paint going through my nostrils, cascading in to my brain, the touch of the drywall, prickling my fingers, causing marks that etched in to my hand for seconds, the taste of blood in my mouth from the hit, iron like in its deliciousness. As I stood there, watching myself in the reflection, a question came.
Why am I doing this to myself?
Why do I use?
Why do I push everybody close to me away?
Why do I isolate myself from everybody?
My brain entered panic mode. After the thought flashed away, the impulse kicked in. I was not comfortable with the situation, needless to say. I was now questioning my behavior; a major flaw in what I thought should be the rebellious non-conformist attitude I so adored. My temperature was heating up to one hundred degrees, boiling my skin. Thoughts raced through my head of all that had happened so recently, the assessment, the suspension, and the running away. Ten voices were speaking in my head at once, pointing me to every direction I could possibly go in. then, the most logical solution comes to my mind I have heard so many times from the devils occupying my head.
I will run.
So I do. In one motion I swing the door open by the circular doorknob, and turn right at a fork in the skinny hallway I recall from earlier. I run down the hallway, tears flying from my eyes, looking for an escape from this place. It all seemed so distant, so sudden. The rush of feelings trampled me, causing an instinctive reaction to fight or fly. So I flew like a bird to the door I remembered coming in from.
I came to a stop and turned the doorknob. Locked. I put my head against the wall and kept crying. Not even crying anymore, I was practically weeping, spilling my fear onto the ground in a liquid form with salt in it. Pools of water splurged forth, launching a feeling in my stomach that craved something to change it. So I banged on the door. I banged and knocked and scratched, begging for them to let me out. I yelled with a high pitched voice, only stopping to wipe the tears from my eyes.
“Let me out! Please let me out! I swear I won’t do anything bad anymore, just please let me out! Hello? Does anyone hear me, get me out of here!”
Still nothing. My legs gave out after a minute for the amount of adrenaline that had been pumped in to my veins resulted in a large crash. I sat back next to the door, legs arched up with my head on my knees. Crying, desperate, and alone. Terrible thoughts raced in to my mind, body and mind fighting again for its dominance.
“Run, run, get away, break the door down.”
“Stop, you’re overreacting, you'll be in serious trouble if you do anything stupid.”
“What is the point, you’re not going to get out. Might as well wait, act good, get out, and then you can do what you want.”
“Just kill yourself. Find something to do it with. End it. End it.”
All the voices chimed in, getting their say on what I should do. I was not new to these voices. They were in my life full time, affecting my every decision. Sometimes I chose one voice, sometimes another. Whatever seemed best in it for me that was the voice I chose. But for the first time, I didn’t listen. I shut down completely, ran on basic motor skills. I didn’t care anymore. There is a certain freedom about not caring that lets you feel everything is going to be alright, no matter what happens. I could have died at that moment, and not regretted anything. In fact I begged for it. I just didn’t care anymore.
“Joe, I know your upset, and I know you don’t understand what’s going on, so please come with me and I’ll let you know. Its ok baby, it’s going to be all right.
I raised my head up to see where that beautiful voice had come from.
I step out the front door and breath in the sweet March air, so irresistibly smooth and nice as it courses down my lungs and back out. My chest heaves and exhausts all the emotions and feelings I’ve come to face in the past two and months. Everything a human being can possibly encounter; fear, depression, mania, happiness, relief, joy, sadness, and love. For the first time in years, I know what it is like to love again. I learn to love. I learn to love my situation in life, my ups, my downs, my family, my peers, and myself. I learn to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference between what I can and cannot. I learn how to be in a good relationship with all those who want one. I learn how to be a human being again. But as I step out that glass door in to the world, I feel and overwhelming wave of fear rush in to my body, strangling me and taking hold of my organs and thoughts. Its stretching me thin, pulling everything in the opposite direction of where it should be going. Uneasy and scared, I stand there at the entrance examining and breathing through the fear. They said it would come. They said as soon as you head out that door, in to the giant and dangerous world out there, a rush of feelings would tear you to pieces. Despite all the learning and coping you have gone through, there will be amoment when you will feel like a helpless baby, stuck in the moment, fearing all the old faces, places, and things. You will want to go back, want to stay, forever. But you have to move your front foot forward, stay the course, grow. I have grown exponentially, expierenced things I thought were only a dream so short a time ago. I have witnessed the amazing miracle that is starting fresh. Oh how glorious I was in my recovery, sticking to the plan, cooperating with every single therapists, listening to every counselor, following their every directions. But now, I faced the real world. The harsh society I had known to break me down from an innocent playful child in to a maniacal, filthy human sack of fear and depression. All the memories flooded in to my conscious. The getting high, the stealing cars, beating little kids up for drug money. If I had known that this would happen I would never have walked out that day, or even put forth the effort. It scared the living s*** out of me. I had been doing so great that I was now so frightened I would screw it up. They told me self fulfilling prophecy is the worst thing your brain can set upon you. I now realized why. I step towards the curb over cracks in the sidewalk and look to the sky. It is a beautiful day. The sun is gleaming on my pale white skin, exerting its force. I close my eyes and take it all I, the freedom, the anxiety, the worry, and the excitement. I let it soak in my pores, clogging up all the bad energy I am building up. I pull a coin out of my pocket, and read that all too familiar slogan. One day at a time. Well today is today, and I am going to make the best of it, no matter what comes my way. December 2008 I am sitting on my favorite place in the world. My soccer ball tiles bean bag in my fathers living room. The blinds are closed and it makes a gloomy outlook upon the small duplex, shading my eyes from the hated sun. It is beautiful out, yet I tend to like the darkness of the house better. The television is on, playing jokes witty jokes from chalie sheen to his single doctor brother. I watch without really watching, as there are only five channels on the damn television. I have started to become familiar with late night shows like Everyone Loves Raymond, King of Queens, and Two and a Half Men. They are not neccassarily funny but take of my minds attention. The floor is littered with clothes, and a smell of fish water is in the air. Loud stomping noises come from upstairs, dominatingly pounding vibrations in to the ceiling. The neighbors make a ruckus all day, between drinking too much beer and falling, having a two year old baby run around with no parent watching, and loud techno party music blaring. They are possibly the worst neighbors ever. Their rooms reek up the whole building, pungent with alchohol, sex, and something I can’t put my finger on. They have no job, go nowhere except the gas station to buy cigarettes, and come downstairs once a week to do laundry. I am convinced they are making and dealing meth, so I tell my father to call child services and have them evicted. “Dad, they are f*ing meth heads. Do you see the way they come downstairs? All wide eyed and creepy looking. That baby has no chance. Might as well get it out of there as soon as possible, before she grows up and becomes a stripper or something.” My dads existence is based on hating the neighbors, or doing war with them as I call it. He will bang the broom on the ceiling, or blare his music in response. So they turn it up. I tell him this will only escalate it, but he pays no mind. His life centers around the neighbors, his job selling Frito Lay chips at stores, smoking pot, and doing Yoga. I tell him he needs to go out and get some friends, but he just tells me he’s to tired to have friends. I tell him we need money for groceries, he says he’s broke. Then he goes and buys an ounce of weed, so I steal some of it justifying it because we have no food. I wake up, go to school an hour late, sleep through it because I’m high most of the time, wait for the day to be over, than go home. Most of the time I will take a nap at home and then call my friend Geoff to come over so we can smoke and plan our night deviously. It usually constitutes finding more drugs, skateboarding, trying to pick up girls, or all of the above. It is a boring, miserable life. I am withdrawn from everything, occupied with my own thoughts and self pity, living a life of non existence really, wishing I was dead all the time but not doing anything about it. I wait for the weekends always, celebrating joyously when they come. It is time to party, pursue false highs, and get so ridiculously f*ed up hopefully I won’t remember all my problems. I’ll forget leaving my mothers house, leaving my little sister to not have an older brother. I’ll forget my dog, who I love more than most humans. I’ll forget my mother, who has sacrificed so much for me and done all she could to help me. But mostly, I’ll forget my old life, when I used to be happy and do things I loved to do. When I used to be active and hopeful for the future. If I don’t get f*ed up, I will remember, and then I will die inside. Not that my dad was a terrible guy. In fact, we used to have tons of fun together. Me, my older sister, and my dad would often play soccer in the park, go to the movies, run around at the science center, or go to family gatherings. We all were very close, especially me and my older sister who was four years older than me. I felt she was the closest thing to me in the world, except without the problems. Later I would learn everyone has their problems, including my idol sister. She had a codependence problem, chaining on to every guy she dated. Sometimes I got over defensive. Sometimes the guy got beat up. Sometimes he didn’t. We would all sit at the house and watch movies, mostly comedic like Galaxy Quest, Bull Durham, or Mystery Men. It was a very uncensored accepting aura when the three of us were together. We were all very mature and fun loving. We would cuss, eat soup, drink soda, smoke cigars together (when I was younger I wasn’t allowed), play instruments, and talk about politics. As a young teen, I loved to read about history and ancient civilizations. I loved sports, but I felt like I was always deeper than everyone else, having this side to me I just couldn’t bring out to other people. My dad and sister were the people I almost showed it to. I loved music and idolized Jim Morrison, Robert Plant, Leadbelly, and other old rockers. While everyone was listening to rap and shitty music, I was listening to vintage zeppelin and blues. Only my sister and dad understood this. There was once a time when Friday nights were perfectly fine with the three of us sitting on the couch, eating ice cream, watching a movie. But all was not great. There was a lot of tension between my dad and my mom. He was a peace loving, laid back, sometimes too much kind of guy. He gave no punishment while my mother strictly enforced it. She was stressed having two kids running away to their loving father who let them do what they want, and having another daughter who’s father was a sociopath and threatened to kill her occasionally. She also was codependent on men, but more for the material side. She had a angry side to her, when she would rage at us when the stress levels were just too much. She would throw a chair, or hit us. Only rarely, but it was enough to chase us down the road to our dads. She strictly prohibited alchohol and drugs, not even giving us a chance to try it. I hated how we never sat down together like at dads and talked about things like politics and fart jokes. It just wasn’t her style. We had fun, but not in the way I would like to. All this buildup and emotions flooded through me while I was young, tearing me in to two different people. The divorce that had happened when I was younger taught me a lesson. When you were with mom, you were one way, with dad, another. Pretty soon I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know how to choose friends, how to act, or what I wanted to be. By the time high school came, I was ripe for the addicts personality. My dad began to smoke weed. He changed in to a person I couldn’t recognize. He was always in a midlife crisis, fending for himself, giving pity to his own image, never worrying about his own two kids needs. Hope had lived their full time by now, deserting me from my mothers thus giving me no outlet to talk to when I was all alone. My little sister was too young and different. Hope had her own life, friends, and plans. She was very successful in school, smart, and hardworking at a flower shop. She also smoked weed and drank, so as I looked up to her and my dad I began to mimic their behaviors. I would go to my dads and sneak out late at night with my friend nick and smoke cigarettes. Ciggarettes turned in to weed, and weed turned in to alchohol. Pretty soon I had absorbed myself in to the lifestyle, slowly slipping in grades and activities. I ran slower, studied less, disappeared more. My dad and mom didn’t want to believe that I was headed down the dark road, so for a year or two they let it go, thinking it was a phase. I started lying to them, going out with people they had forbade me to be with, blacking out at parties, and stealing from stores. All the warning sighs were there, especially as my dad and grandpa were known to be alchoholics and bipolar. The truth was, I didn’t even know about depression or addiction for years, but I represented it pretty well. I slowly went in to a dark whole, losing friends and family. Respect diminished, my look from happy to somber, I cried late at night. I didn’t know what was wrong, or didn’t want to think anything was wrong. For two years this went on, feeling nothing, wanting to end, wanting to die. When I got high, i didn’t worry about any of this. The neighbors bang on the ceiling again, stirring up my anger. “SHUT THE F*** UP YOU F*ING WHITE TRASH SCUM!” Three bangs on the floor ensue, followed by inaudible shouts I can’t make out. I grit my teeth and think violent thoughts, wanting to literally tear apart the neighbors. The little kid especially, as recently he smashed my drum heads on my new four hundred dollar Ludwig set, tearing them to shreds. I hadn’t confronted the neighbors, but they knew that I was pissed when they found a dead squirrel in front of their door. The statement was clear, that f*er was going to get it if he did one more thing like that. I contemplated going upstairs and punching the father in the face, but somehow my dad talked me out of it, saying that the neighbors will soon be evicted. He said the landlord had told him himself, reinforcing my dads obsession to get the neighbors out of our duplex. What he failed to mention was that we were close to being evicted. My dad was several months behind on rent, blowing most of his money on weed and fast food. Mcdonalds wrappers were common in our house, next to plates with weed on them, mounded up waiting to be smoked. Sometimes I would just walk down the hall, grab a nugget, and f*en smoke it without a pipe. That was our house, joyous and good natured. My dad came from his room red eyes adjusting to the dark living arrangement, meeting my eyes. He looked a lot different than what he used to look like. His short blonde hair had turned long thin and nappy, with a shade of dirty brown. His face looked like a different person, droppy eyes, sighs of depression oozing out of his features. He walked with this outlandish stroll, always finding that his feet would step in akward places, like the television. He was not as toned as he used to be, with a beer belly just starting to appear on his gold skin. I looked at him in disgust now, judging him while I was changing in the same kind of ways. But it was ok for me to judge of course. I would react sharply if anyone ever questioned, accused, or poked fun at me. My sister used to say I was the most defensive person she had ever met, so I told her to f*** off and no I’m not defensive. I didn’t realize that it was a safety mechanism to protect me from myself. Later I would realize that I hated myself so much, I refused to take in any constructive criticism, let alone get made fun of. The last person to make fun of me wound up in the hospital. I was fifteen when it happened, developing in to the menace I would become. I had started to wear hemp necklaces, Jim Morrison glasses, air max three sixty shoes, and badass shirts that threatened anybody to much to talk to me. Some middle school kid was walking down the street with his buddies and passed me and my buddy Geoff. They skateboarded and practically shouted when they talked, trying to gather as much attention as they could. I f*en despised middle school kids, as that age is the worst age for any human being. Confused, loud, and obnoxious, they strolled by continuing their shouting match, speaking of who could do a better kickflip. “Hey kid, let me see your board, I’ll do a kickflip.” I said it cheerfully, trying to be friendly to the little punks, maybe be that older kid cool guy that those kids looked up to. Little did I know that these were the so called popular children who thought they could take on the world. One of them retorted back sharply. “Yea right firecrotch! You can’t skate you f*ken poser! I’ve seen you at the skate park, you suck ass!” Geoff looked at me and laughed, as did the rest of his cronies. No way I was going to get made fun of by this little kid. He had blonde hair that went to the side, so he flicked every two seconds. He couldn’t have been five foot, and wore a Good Charlotte shirt. What a little douche. “Shut the f*** up you little s***. Hey your related to the Derennoux’s right? I f*ed your mom real good last night. She’s the hot one right? With the fat old tits and the mole right above her eye. I made a humping noise and motion as I said this. I knew the little f*er was related to a guy at my school. His name was hunter, a poser and a pothead who hung out with the weird kids. He lived not to far from me, practically down the street. Sometimes I saw his mom at soccer tournaments and community events, so I would say hi and sometimes try to spit game even though she was twenty years older than me. She was a real babe, practically an urban legend. But she had been known to get around, and recently she and her husband had broken up after he found out she had a threesome with some other parents from the high school. Even my dad tried to get on her, without success. “That was before the divorce though, so keep it secret. I don’t want anyone running around telling the school that I f*ed a married woman. Actually, go ahead and tell everyone, I think that’s pretty goddamn cool!” I surprised myself at how mean and hurtful the words sounded when they came out. It wasn’t like me to tease, but I felt a sense of power over the little ones. I could turn all the hatred of myself on to them, and give myself a moment of peace and satisfaction. I laughed afterwords and sat back down on the bench we were posted on. My friend Geoff was tapping my shoulder telling me to chill out, but I wasn’t done. No way in hell, I was going to give this little s*** everything I had. He looked as if he was ready to cry, tears welling up in his eyes. His friends just stood in silence and said nothing, suddenly scared of how harshly I had come down on the kid. They weren’t used to this reaction in perfect Webster groves. “Then she begged me to stay and take her away from her shitty husband who beat on her and the kids. Speaking of which, is that a bruise just above your left eye? Did you try and hide it with make up or something. You did you little f*er! Nice try, but your not fooling me. Tell daddy I said hello by the way.” He was getting very angry now. His fists clenched and his friends were withdrawing. Geoff pulled me up and started to walk in the opposite direction while I yelled at him, giving him all I had. He told me to settle down, not make a scene. We were in downtown Webster, in front of the Starbucks, where all the punks and dropouts smoke cigarettes and sell anything from weed to heroin. Parents were looking at us now, as I still screamed insults at the little kid. Then, he couldn’t take it anymore and rushed me. His white as snow knuckles brushed softly against my lower lip, moving my face to the left a couple of inches. He had somehow got his fists to my face between Geoff pulling me backwards and him being five foot. He pushed jeff out of the way with surprising strength and furiously lodged punches at my stomach. They didn’t so much hurt as surprise me. Completely rocked by this sudden onslaught, I instinctively put my arms to my stomach, guarding my kidneys. I am not the strongest guy, but I like to think I am rather athletic for my build, and have surprising strength and speed. He swung his little arms in to my arms, his face bursting with anger and aggression, letting out all the stress and emotion that had gripped him in recent months. I knew the face, in fact, I could almost sympathise for the little s***. For a moment, I felt overwhelming guilt. Then the adrenaline kicked in. His friends were now yelling and screaming. Some were urging him on, while the others were yelling to break it up. None of them dare rushed forward against us big kids. Geoff was now to the side, on the ground getting up to pull him away. I laughed at the kid and spit in his face, only encouraging him to keep pounding my body. Then, a fury rose up in me I had never felt before in my life. All the stress and sadness, the self loathing, the pain, it was all unleashed on the kid. With a roar I picked him up and threw him on the ground, watching as he landed on his back with a shriek. People had hurt the commotion and gathered around to see what was going on. Several people were on their phones, videotaping it or calling the police to come stop the fight. It was one of those moments of chaos. Most fights in adolescence are planned and unemotional, resulting in a disappointing or even lackluster boxing match. This wasn’t one of those. This was emotion against emotion, problems being taken out on each other by two troubled youths. With absolute maniacal anger, I pounced on him. I grabbed his head by his hair and punched him with a hard right in his cheekbone. He frantically kicked to get up, and the yells and screams to stop were blocked out of my brain. All was silence. I just saw his face, and my fists, pounding it over and over. It felt so powerful, so instinctive, so high. To take out all of ones frustrations on a helpless kid, repeatedly pounding your emotions in to his skull. His eyes became red and blood started to flow from his nose. Geoff was pulling my back, yelling that the cops were coming. I ignored him and elbowed him in the gut, doubling him over in pain. Parents were running to come break it up, seeing me bang the back of his head on the sidewalk. I got up quickly and picked up a trash can next to me, and hurled it at his body, causing a yelp of pain. He didn’t move anymore, and the only thing that stopped me from attacking him again was the fear of killing him. I seriously reflect now that I easily could have, him red face etched in to my brain. Yet I felt no remorse, no guilt, as I spit on his body before walking away. His friends rushed to him to revive him back to consciousness, and Geoff was just laying on the ground, looking at me in a what do we do now look. I said sorry quickly, and helped him up, told him we had to get out of here fast. Parents yelled at me to stop while we fled, but I didn’t stop. I started to pick up speed, running parallel with the main street, then turning left on to a dark alley by a local restraint. I hopped over a fence, yelling back to make sure Geoff was following me. Police sirens wailed in the distance, looking for the perpetrator who had beaten this kid senseless. As I hopped over a wooden spiked fence, I spat a smile that was as evil as the beating I had just given.
Everything in this place is grey. The walls are grey, the people are grey, even the cameras are grey. The room is brightly lit with powerful fluorescent lighting, giving a fake and false feeling of happiness and joy. But this is no place for that. Huge men with big bellies patrol the halls, large sticks in hand, hoping, waiting for someone to pick a scuffle with them. The doors are metal and impossible to see out of except for a little slit about six feet above the ground. It is a foot wide and a couple inches long. I stand on my tiptoes to try and get an image of my surroundings. All I see are the big men with sticks, roaming around with boredom. The room is very small, tightly knit, and has a lack of oxygen. The smell of sweat, semen, blood, and boredom permeate in the small space, choking the lungs of quality oxygen. All the walls are identical, no trace of anyone being there, no graffiti. The floor is a brownish grey color and smells of raw sewage, having not been mopped in a couple of months. Even the toilet and sink are grey, with a silver tint to them. I flush the toilet once an hour to just hear something besides my own struggling breath, to know that I am not going insane. I do pushups and situps to find exercise or meaning in this dark place. I dip the straw of my Capri sun in to the sticky tar that ties the bulletproof window to the door and run water over it. I then with great patience repeat this procedure while writing anarchic sayings on the wall. I laugh at my own cleverness, believing I have done a great and rebellious thing. But inside I am fearful for what is to come. I am fearful of being charged with a crime I committed. I am fearful of seing the pained look on my parents faces. The hours go on and turn in to days seemingly. I ask the guards every five minutes what time it is, without ever getting an answer. I take my now sweaty dirty shirt off and tie it around my head. I make funny voices to entertain myself, and look at the camera observing me to flick it off. I beat on the door in a hip hop rhythm to get some sort of reaction. It is night now, no guards to yell at me. Down the hall I hear rhythmic beating coming back in a complex beat. I retaliate with my best beat, my fists colliding with the door to make an echoing noise throughout the hallway. My knuclkles turn red in the harshness of it. This goes on for hours, occupying my mind. Music keeps me sane. It is who I talk to. I laugh after I hear the other persons beat, marveling at the hysterics of the situation. Here we are, two people in jail, probably facing serious charges, beating our problems away. Laughing in the face of society, playing a joke on the jail. My knuckles start to bleed, so I use my voice to talk instead. “Whatsup?” I yell at the top of my voice. “Bored as f***.” Nothing else is said. It pretty much sums up what we’re both feeling at the moment. Boredom to the point of insanity. My mind has been trained to be entertained by substance and others, not by myself. I run out of things to think about. After all, I don’t think much anymore, I act. Which is why I was in the place. I return to my bed and try to go to sleep without success. I don’t sleep anymore. I maybe catch a few precious hours before the day begins. To most people, life is waking up, doing their daily activities, going to sleep, and doing it again. To me, life is a continuation of days, and finding the most random things and substances to make it go by faster. Not sleeping, an idea pops in to my head. I have no idea if my parents know I’m here, or if I am being charged with something. I am completely lost with no idea of when I will come in contact with a familiar person, so the time goes by even slower. At every clink, I think that someone is coming to my rescue to let me out, or my mother is coming to visit. And every clink, I am disappointed. I see two big black men being let out, taken in handcuffs through the little slit, and then see two more black men taken in. I sigh and let out a whimper, terrified yet excited to tell all my friends my expierence. I take my dirty wet shirt and look at the camera. A box coming out of the wwall holds the camera at an angle where I can wrap my shirt around it. Maybe if the screen goes dark, they will freak out and decide to try communicate with me. So I wring the salty sweat out and wrap it around. I wait on the rock hard bed, shirtless, for an answer to come to me. Then a voice booms out of the speakers below the camera. I jump at the sound. “What?” He asks tiredly, as if this maneuver had been done before. “What’s going on? Why am I here? Does my mom know I’m here? When am I getting out?” I am surprised at the sound of my own voice. It is scratchy and helpless, indicating that I have never been in this situation before to the imaginary officer in the box. “Your being held for twenty four hours on charges of assault, grand theft auto, shoplifting, and driving without insurance. And yes we talked to your mom, she knows you’re here. Now take the shirt, off the box.” He sounds bored and unaware of my panic. I do as he says and remove the shirt, not daring to challenge him. I go over the charges in my head, assault, grand theft auto, shoplifting, and driving without insurance. They are serious charges. I contemplate that for a few minutes. Then I cry. The voice came from a beautiful mixed woman. She had shoulder length dark black hair, golden skin with a tint of burn in it, deep hazel eyes that pierced any gaze, and a soft delicate face that had wisdom written all over it. She couldn’t have been twenty five. She stood only five foot three above the ground, but her voice gave the impression of a goddess. Her features were well rounded and athletic, but she dressed modestly in a long yellow dress with flowers on it and flip flops on her feet with thongs. She had her hand up, motioning for me to follow her. I was weary, and felt embarrassed to have her find me like this. Crying, but not in a fake way. When you can’t breath, and all your sounds come out of your chest in repeated heaves. When you can only say one syllabol at a time, and it feels like your having an anxiety attack. That kind of crying. I turned silent and just looked at her, as she stared right back. There was a peacefulness in this woman I had never seen before, an absolute calmness that puzzled me. I knew people who had things going for them, and were really relaxed and mellow, but she was just so, happy looking. It scared the s*** out of me, seeing someone so peaceful while there was a war raging inside of me. I wiped the tears from my eyes on my shirt, and cautiously got up, all the while watching her. I was so crazy at this point, I thought It was some kind of trick to get me in a truck and taken somewhere. I could not trust anybody after what my mother did in leaving me here. If it had not been for the appearance of the woman in front of me, I would have broken the door down and ran to find the nearest fix. “Who are you?” I ask, calmly but with authority. “My name is Azurite. I’m here to help you. Would you like to come with me?” I pause and look around, tentavely searching the halls for some kind of a trick. She still has her hands out, grinning widely, as if this is all just a joke. I am weary of her smile. Where I had been the last few years, smiles meant that you were either getting tricked or setup/ I slowly approach her, looking like a scared squirell who is starving for nuts. She has all the nuts right now. Soon I am standing right next to her, my head searching the ground. She puts her left arm around me and I feel the comfort of her womanly touch. She smells like Dove shampoo and brand new soap. Her hair has no flakes or any knots, as I examine it out of the corner of my eye. She is perfect, except for a birthmark on the left side of her neck, and a scar just below her wrist. She grabs my shoulders and turns around, guiding me down the other end of the hall towards the room I had been in earlier. I have surrendered to her direction, letting her lead me to wherever it is she wants me to go. I am no longer crying, but watching my feet step forward slowly on the ground, to anxious to look up at her beautiful face and say something wrong. “Why were you trying to get out Joe? If you don’t mind me asking.” She says this in a calming yet curious voice. Not quite accusing me but simply looking for an answer. I think about the question for a second as were walking. Why did I try to get out? Was it because I wanted to go get high? Or maybe because I didn’t know what was going on? Or just the fact that I knew my mom had sent me to a rehab? The truth is, I was scared of finding anything wrong with me. I was so defensive about myself and my lifestyle that I had run away or at least tried to to avoid conflict or criticism. I didn’t know that at the time however so I told her the truth. “I… I don’t know. I guess I was scared for some reason. I’m not trying to get put in anyplace though.” It shocked even me when it came out. That was the first time I had admitted out loud to another human being in as long as I can remember that I was scared. Not scared of being caught by the police, or scared of my parents finding out I took the car. No, I was scared to face my emotions. I was scared to change. I was scared to meet new people. Mostly, I was just scared to get out of my comfort zone. “Do you know where you are joe?” She asks. “rehab?” I answered with hesitation. I considered the question stupid and simple. “Technically, yes. I think the better question is why you are here. You are here because something is wrong deep inside you that many people can’t understand. As of now, even you don’t understand. I’m not telling you you’re a problem, just that you need some time to get better. I know people Joe. I look at you and I see hope, pride, and intelligence. But I also see a different peson who is scared, and tired of being tired. I see a child who has gotten so far down that they will run from anything. I see a great person. This is not a rehab. This is a chance joe. A chance to get better, to not be so tired of being tired. That’s what this place is.” She turns around and looks me in the eye. Waiting for my reply. I am a little bewildered and shocked at what she has said, cutting to the core so immediately. She says this is a chance for me, a time to think. My first reaction inside is that this is all bullshit. My second reaction is maybe it is bullshit and maybe it is an actual chance. My third reaction is the thought that I haven’t had a second chance for a long time. I had ruined so many of them that I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to start over. To begin fresh. “Who says there is anything wrong with me? Who’s to say I’m not perfectly fine and happy?” It sounds stupid coming out of my mouth and I know it. I say it so unconvincingly that I am not even fooling myself. I have felt for years that something was wrong with me, I just never listened when anyone told me. I definitely was not happy. I was instinct driven, relying on substances to replace relationships and feelings. I didn’t ever feel happy, I felt satisfied. “I’ve had so many people tell me I’m fucked up, that something is wrong with me, but they never give me any answers. Why should I listen to you? Why should I believe that anyone knows what’s wrong with me? I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” I am practically in tears now, shouting. It’s been a rollercoaster of a couple of hours, emotions on edge, my mind getting tossed around like a baseball. I remember my mother yelling at me to get out, shouting that I am nothing but a troublemaker and a shithead. I remember my dad during that party, shaking his head at me with no clue as to what he was going to do with me. I remember all the people I have let down, lied to. The are rushing up at me, faces disappearing being replaced with another one. “The past four years all I’ve been told is I am a problem! I know I’m a problem! I’d rather be locked up in jail than be told that I can’t be a problem! Because I always will be! Nothing you can do or say will ever change that!” I am blurting the words out in between sobs, pointing my fingers in the sky and to the ground. Tears are streaming down my face as I breathe in deep gulps of air. Azurite just stands there and looks at me solemnly, feeling my pain. I notice that she is different from the others. She dosen’t shake her head while I rant. She dosen’t spute back words of anger. She just stands there and takes it all in, all the while having a sympathetic face. I am pacing around now inside the office, considering throwing all sorts of objects son the desk at the wall. The coffee cup would make a great noise. Or the chair would make a nice little dent. I need to make a noise, make my emotions be heard. So I grab the cup and hurl it at the wall in anger, feeling the glass break apart as if its me, rocketing in every direction. She jumps a little, but calmly sits there, obviously having experience in this type of situation. My eyes meet hers, surprised that she is not yelling for help of scrutinizing me for throwing her favorite coffee cup. No, she just gazes in to me. So I sit down in the chair and put my head in my hands, settling down a little bit. Minutes pass, and my sobbing is down to a whimper. The room gets quiet, as I stare in to the darkness of my palms, seeing all sorts of odd colors and shapes circling in the dark. Then, after a long silence, she speaks with a soft voice and sadness in each syllabul. “I was eleven when I first ran away. My father had come home drunk for the third night in a row, in a rage. He played the lotto all the time, but never won. But this night he won. He yelled it in his slurred words, signaling to the whole house. He had won, everyone come down. So we obeyed, and ran down the stairs excited. We could smell the liquor on his breath, the stench of vomit on his clothes. He wore a pair of steel toe boots and a tucked in plaid shirt. Stains were all over his body, filling in the white spots. He was as excited as I had ever seen him. He hugged my mother and showed the ticket to all of us, declaring his victory like a champion. We all smiled and thought, maybe now, we could be a normal family. Maybe he would stop drinking. Maybe he would stop beating our mom in the kitchen for us to see. Maybe things would change. The ticket was for fifty thousand dollars, a lot of money for us. We all looked at it in amazement and hoped for the future. Later that night, as we lay in our beds, we heard a huge roar. It was him, yelling in a deep voice inaudible words. I ran downstairs with my sister and observed from the stairs. There was our father, whiskey bottle in hand, searching for his ticket. He moaned and groaned, cussing in between words. He yelled where’s the ticket? Where’s the f*ing ticket? Of course my mother came in the room to help him look and calm him down. But he was so belligerent by then that he immediately blamed her. He shook her, asking where it was. She yelled back, crying, I don’t know, I don’t know. He threw her down on the floor, and began to punch her repeatedly in the head. He wailed on her until she no longer fought back. Until she couldn’t beg for him to stop. He then walked out the door, probably to the bar. So me and my sister ran to my mother, crying. We shook her to wake up, but she didn’t. We cried and cried, begged her, but she didn’t. I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do. So I did what my brain told me to do, and ran. I ran down our street. I ran through backyards, ran all the way to the city. I ran as fast as I could, trying to escape my father, my mother, and our terrible childhood. My sister stayed behind. I would learn later that my mother received brain damage and had to go to the hospital for a long time. I never went back home. I ran away from that moment for a long time. So long that it brought me to a place like this. I remember it like it were yesterday. I sat in a chair not much different than the one your on. I see me when I look at you, and the second chance that I was given.” She stopped and I just looked at her, feeling akward and dumb for all the things I had said and assumed about this lady. Sure she was calm, nice, and beautiful, but she wasn’t like me. She hadn’t had nearly the same troubles or problems I had. But as she finished the story, I saw a tear well up in her eye and knew that every single word of her story was sincere. I sat stupidly, not knowing what to say. I replied with a joke, like I usually did in any situation I felt uncomfortable in. “you give every new person that story?” She chuckled through her tears, seemingly returning back to the present. “No, I don’t. You might think so, but I don’t. I just want you to know that we all have problems joe. There are lots of people who have it bad in the world. Sometimes you have to do something about it. You could run right now, and I won’t do anything to stop you. The other people here might, but I won’t. It’s all up to you.” She had said the wrong thing. A moment ago I would have ran had she said that, buted through the door like in looney tunes and sprinted away from this place. But something she had said had intrigued me. “We all have problems joe.” It was simple really, but it sounded so new to me. I had never actually assumed other people had problems like me, never realized it. It almost comforted me, relieved me a little bit. Maybe I’m not crazy I thought. The other side of me was still coming on strong, aching me to run. She spoke with such truth and experience though, and I would feel horrible if I ran after she confided her personal story in me. That is the only thing that kept me there. I didn’t want to make this lady sad. Can you believe that? Plus the fact that I had nowhere to go. I was miles away from home. My mom would never take me back, never allow me in the house unless I did this. And then what? Live on the streets? I had done it before, but never without a home base. I would show up for food and leave, or money. But I knew she was for real this time. I knew she would call the cops on me. Keep my dad from staying in contact with me. I knew there was no choice, all along there was no choice. “Do I have a choice?” I said it jokingly, but looking for a reaction from her. She laughed again and dropped her hands on the desk she was sitting at. Looked at me and gave me the honest answer. “You want the truth?” then she stopped. I nodded. “Nope.”
“How much they want?” “Thirty oxy and an ounce.” “Kb or reg?” “they didn’t say. Let’s give them the s*** and tell them it’s some mids. That’s almost a hundred profit.” “Bag that s*** up.” Me and my buddy Geoff are cruising in my mom’s ford explorer through the streets of Webster making our Thursday night runs. Thursday night is always a busy night because all of the junkies and partiers are trying to get their stuff for the weekend without looking suspicious to there parents when their an hour late after school. We learn to stack up for Thursday, as it is the biggest selling night of the week. The week is our job, the weekend our relaxation time. We are heading to Maplewood, a couple miles down Big bend. A guy I know from elementary school called me up earlier that day and made his order. I scrounge up some s*** from dealers I know in the city and get everything set. Nine o clock I tell him, or my dad will freak out if I’m not home by ten. He has been extra watchful lately, after last Thursday I came home with my friend hunter and a cop. The cop suspected us of smoking weed next to the local Lady Bug store. I tell him we are not high but he knows better. I tell my friend to run when he pulls up but he is the dumb emo gamer type who never has to run from the cops. I start to run and then come back after seeing he is motionless, staring at the cop with a dumb look. The cop takes us home and my dad says he’ll take care of it. The cop is sure to tell us that he could have charges us with suspicion and minor in possession. I roll my eyes and tell him we’re sorry and it was our first time trying it. That is an excuse I have used hundreds of time. The panicky scared first timer excuse can sometimes spur a cops sympathy who is new on the force. I am thankful that he falls for it, not knowing that I have a couple beans of heroin in my back pocket waiting to be evidence. My dad sends my friend home and pulls me in. What is he going to do with me, he says. I listen to his speech and chime in at the important parts. I’m sorry, it won’t happen again, I was dumb. “If your going to smoke, at least do it somewhere safe. I don’t like to say that, but use your head man. Come on joe, this is the third time this month. First lighting the trash can on fire at the university, then the fight with the middle school kid, now this stupid s***. Jesus, just go away. I need to do yoga.” I laugh and he gives me the stare, so I immediately pull the grin off my face. My dad was a state championship wrestler, a partier, a wild guy. But he never ever lost his cool and laid a hand on me or even yelled at me. The craziest I saw him get was bash some trash cans downstairs with a bat when he found out I wasn’t playing baseball. Maybe he should have hit me, it would have knocked some sense in to me. I wait until he goes in the room and lights his candles. He is now deep in meditation, probably figuring out ways to get me to play sports or change my ways. I go to the kitchen and check the plate of weed he always keeps hidden under the sink. I grab a couple grams and start smoking outside in the backyard. I keep some of it for the next Thursday. Me and Geoff are usually making profit from a combination of my dad’s weed and some cheap s*** I get off a guy next door to me. As we are bagging it up before we arrive in Maplewood, he asks me where I got it. “Chris.” “The crazy black guy again? Man I don’t know about that dude. He’s f*ing crazy.” “He’s cool man. He’s just seen some s***. He grew up in East saint Louis and saw his best friend murdered in front of him.” “No s***? Damn. So that’s why he has a forty ounce in both hands every time I see him huh? Is that his mom he lives with?” “Yea.” I answer. Chris is a cool dude. He smokes with me and my sister on occasion and is two duplexes down. He’s always on his back porch smoking and drinking with some big ass black dude. He comes off as scary but he couldn’t hurt a fly. His droopy eyes signal years of drinking and keeping secrets. He gets some good weed from a guy he grew up with in East Saint Louis. He sells to me and my sister for a discount because we buy him cigarettes on occasion. I’m almost finished bagging the ounce up while I’m driving. I make sure it’s the right amount, because I have known the guy for along time and we were boys back when I went to Maplewood. He is a mixed big guy with a huge afro. We call him piggy because of his large appearance. He is a good football player and has received scholarships to several big schools. They said his only problem is his track record, which is understandable because he hangs out with me sometimes. We are going down big bend and in to Maplewood. Maplewood and Webster Groves aren’t far apart at all. In fact, they border each other. But the cultural difference is amazing. Webster is filled with rich white collar people who are wrapped up in their little suburbia. Everything is perfect in our little town. What the doctors and lawyers don’t realize is that there is a huge drug problem growing in the town. And it’s not just Webster, but all the nice parts of Saint Louis. All the bad parts have always had problems, but it is spreading at this point in time. Heroin is becoming big on the scene. I myself tend to snort it every once in a while. It is cheap, you don’t have to shoot it up, and gives the best high any drug can ever give. I’ve seen many people destroy their lives with it, but I pay no attention and continue doing it secretly. The only person who knows I do it is Geoff, who shoots it up himself. Maplewood is full of black people and hoosiers. It is a quality little town in my opinion, with a lot more spirit than Webster. The people are on the border of middle class and poor, so they have a little bit more of the real world in them. Everyone is nice to each other, and race is not a huge problem. Downtown mapleood has a nice little strip with some good restraint joints and guitar shops. It is natural to see bums walking down the street talking to themselves or retards on their way to McDonalds. I like it because I grew up their and identified with the attitude they have with the world. Life isn’t fair, but f*** it. We turn left off big bend and head to some of the backstreets. I have driven these roads for years, but I feel a weird turning in my gut as I make the turn. Something just dosen’t seem right. I call my buddy. “Hey Piggy, we still on?” “Yea dude, just pull in my driveway. Don’t make too much noise, my mommas upstairs sleeping. And I got this recruiting dude come over soon, so let’s make it quick.” “Yea for sure man. Wait out by your front door I’m coming up in a minute.” I turn off my lights and turn on to his street. It is dark and the streetlights don’t give the light needed to make the street bright. I get that feeling in my gut again and turn towards Geoff. I put my hand out and he gives me the weed. I am coming up to his driveway now and I turn in slowly. I see him sitting down waiting, pulling at his hair with a pick. I laugh and put the weed in my pocket. I check to make sure there is no cops. I am about to open my door when I turn towards Geoff. “Keep an eye out.” “Alright man. What are you worried for? We’re pros.” I chuckle and close the door. I approach piggy and open my arms for a man hug. I haven’t seen him in a couple weeks so I am excited to chat. Piggy looks a little nervous, tired. I notice this but don’t make any mention of it. He approaches me and hugs me. He is wearing a harlem globetrotter jersey and baggy blue jeans. “What’s up man?” “Ah not s*** just chilling how you doing man.” He replies. “Good good. So what’s up with the Oxy man since when you been doing that s***?” I asks. “Man you remember Eric? That little ass dude. He said what’s up by the way. That dude is going crazy on the s*** man. Remember he used to be a hyper little fucker. Not anymore dog. That dude is ate up. Anyways, we were at this girl’s house and he whipped that s*** out and did a line. I did one to and that s*** was crazy dog! So I called you up and I knew your ass would have some.” I laugh and answer, “Well you called the right guy man. Yea I got a dude down from the city who slings this s*** like crazy. I’ll make you a deal, three hundred for the ounce and thirty oxy. That cool dog?” “Oh yea for sure. Good s***.” We shake hands in agreement and I take the s*** out and give it to him. I start to make my goodbyes when he says, “Hey man your not talking about leaving man, we got to catch up!” “Oh, I thought you had some recruiter coming over. And my paps is tripping lately he wants me home by ten.” “Ah man, you got forty five minutes dog! Nah the recruiter canceled on me just a second ago. He called me right before you pulled up. Come on man, tell your boy to get out and let’s light up a joint.” I look at him and squinted. Awfully weird that his recruiter cancelled right before I got there. He didn’t seem too mad about it either. The odd feeling in my gut got bigger, and I approached the situation cautiously. If I left, I would be abandoning an old friend. If I stayed, who would know what happened. My dad would get pissed, or piggys mom would come out and yell at me. I told myself I was overreacting and decided to stay. I waved to Geoff to get out. “Alright man, thirty minutes than I got to go. Let me roll that s*** up.” “Yea that’s what I’m talking about.” He answers excitedly. I grab some papers from my left back pocket and lick it. I roll it up and Geoff comes to sit on the stoop. We talk about football, hot girls at Maplewood, and what’s going on with the heroin problem at Webster. I tell him we are the heroin problem. Him and Geoff start shooting hoops while I finish rolling the joint. I make sure it is absolutely perfect before lighting it up with my white Bic lighter. “Yo, this s***’s lit!” I yell at them, smoke in my lungs. I hold out the joint and Geoff goes to grab it. He takes it and is about to put it in his mouth before I catch something out of the corner of my eye. I see feet scuffling by the corner of piggys house. A bush lightly shakes and a head creeps up staring right at my peripherals. I look at piggy and suddenly the feeling in my stomach justifies. He is looking at the cause of the commotion. I act like I don’t notice. Geoff is hitting the joint when I try to catch his attention. I give him our signal, a little grunt with his name deep in it. He looks up at me and I point with my eyes to the corner. He casually looks over and notices the sound to. Piggy notices. He immediately reaches in his pocket and grabs something black and shiny out. His thumb is wrapped around the handle and his fingers wrap around the trigger of a small pistol. I am about to s*** my pants. How could I have been so stupid. We were being set up. “Don’t move.” He says it with authority and sorrow in his voice. I look ove rat jeff. We are both standing, ready to make our escape. The man from behind the house pops out. He is a tall muscular very dark individual holding an identical pistol. His tall shirt and baggy pants paint the definition of a thug, as his dreadlocks hang down to his shoulders. He points it straight at my face, and piggy switched his gun to Jeff. He takes the safety off. “Sorry dog. You know how it is. Money, weed, and oxy, on the pavement. Very slowly.” “Why are you doing this.” It’s more to make him feel bad then to search for an answer. My palms become very sweaty and salty water drips down my forehead. Out of the corner of my eye jeff is staring straight in to the barrel of the gun pointed at his face. I look at piggy with the most pleading face I can give him. There is something so helpless about staring in to the barrel of a gun. He could have asked me to bend down and take it, and I would have done it. The fear was so overwhelming, I thought I would break down and cry. “You Webster boys never had a gun pointed at you. I can tell. I know all ya’ll family is rich and you can get s*** whenever ya’ll want. Out here it’s a little different. I’m paying my f*en rent dog. I’m getting my own groceries. What problems ya’ll got. Which designer jeans to get?” “Man, we grew up together. I lived right down the street. Let’s just all go our separate way here. Me and Jeff get in the car, you put the gun down, and it’s all cool.” I am stammering as I talk. Fear is oozing out of my voice. I am at the point where I don’t even care what it takes. I will get out of here alive with my drugs. No way I’ll let my old friend punk me out of three hundred dollars and my pride. Not a f*ing chance. “I don’t think you heard me mother f*er, put down the s*** very slowly on the pavement. Now!” He is screaming now and I am racking up escape options in my brain. Any kind of distraction will do. I am listening for the sound of cars turning down the street. A bird to make a sudden noise. A dog to start barking. Nothing comes, just me and the gun. “No.” “What you say? Did you just say no to me?” “Yea. Shoot me mother f*er. Do it.” I answer with false courage. I know he will not shoot me. He would not risk a murder wrap for an ounce and some oxy. Jeff nervously calls my name. “Joe, just put the s*** down so we can get out of here!” I don’t listen and just look in to piggys eye. He looks psychopathic, insane. I realize the look. He is not the old friend I have known since early childhood. He is not even human. He is a machine, fueled by drugs. He is a junky, driven to the absolute limits to get his fix. Killing me is not a matter of morals, but of getting locked up and not being able to use. He’s similar to the terminator, with one mission in mind. Get high. At any cost. He advances towards me, eyes glaring at me insanely, really wondering if this white boy told him no. He is in disbelief, and even worse, anger. As he walks forward, he has his gun pointed sideways at my face. I step back an inch but no more, not cowering to his fearsome appearance. He is within feet of me. I can smell his breath, reeking with liquor and fast food. His droopy eye bags are purple from exhaustion and over indulging. Wrinkles are starting to etch in his brown skin. The gun becomes larger, my only focus. “Drop the s***.” I don’t answer. He sighs and shakes his head. Tells me he didn’t want to have to do this. I am in panic mode now, freaking out inside but trying to stay poised and calm on the outside. Geoff is begging me to put it down, but never taking his eye off the the dreadlocked kid. He cocks the gun, and points it at my left eyeball. I close my eyes. I see my father, standing on the sideline watching me throw that last pitch before we win the game. I see my sister, leading me out of the house while mom is yelling at her boyfriend. I see my mom rushing to me after I get my first concussion. Then lights. Blue and red. Sirens, taking all the mystic and mystery of death away. I open my eyes and hear the car burst in to speed behind me, rushing to the scene where two men are pointing guns straight at two white kids. I bolt. I don’t look back. I run behind piggys house, unaware of the commotion behind me. I hear yelling, mixed in with running and the sound of something dropping to the ground. I hear a motor turn to life and zoom past me. Jeff is in my car zooming by me out of sight down the backstreets. I hear the cop yelling in to his phone for back up. Still I run. I am running away from death. Prison. The end of me. I run as fast as I can for as long as I can. Then I fall to the ground and pass out.
I’m home. I hold the screen door open for my mom and she practically skips in after me, in a grorious mood. The all too familiar smell of candles and roast beef cooking in the oven fill in to my nostrils. The red couches lie perpendicular in the living room across from the large flat screen television. Cnn is on, documenting the recent floods in Pakistan. The walls are a different color this time, baige. An andy Warhol picture hangs on the wall akin to the television, showing a series of akward looking modernist pictures I cannot understand. The family pictures lay on the coffee table next to a small chest. I see my little sister smiling in to the camera, my older sister playing the guitar, my stepdad holding a large trout fish, and then me and my mother grinning ear to ear in a photo booth at a mall in Springfield, Illinois, the town I grew up in.
There is an aura about the house I have never experienced in my seven years there. Happiness and love swirl in the air, creating an uncomfortable feeling in my heart. There is a hustle and bustle mood about it. Noise clanking around in the kitchen, the dog barking in the back at another dog, the television on full volume. Everything here is interconnected, peaceful, yet loud and in your face. I have somewhat gotten used to the feeling after being in rehab, where there was never a lack of noise. Yet now, it is peaceful. There are no arguments here about who gets what couch, or why he gets to play videogames and I don’t. No the house is mature, knowledgeable, and fully functioning.
My stepdad and two sister wait on the large red couch for me to step in. They shout welcome home and get up to give m hugs. I embrace every one of them with a tear welling in my left eye. I hug them all hard, and don’t let go for minutes. I want to take the feeling and put it in a bottle forever, and never let go of it. The past two and a half months had been so hard, yet here was my reward, my prize. A family waiting for me, who was proud of me, and who loved me. That, was the greatest gift I could ask for.
The night has a festive atmosphere about it. The dog nearly pees on the carpet when running in from the yard. His head bobs in the wind as he races up the porch steps to acknowledge me. His black skin is glaring in the sun, and his size has no doubt increased since I last saw him. His tongue lags all around his mouth, spewing saliva everywhere. I laugh and kneel down, tell him to give me kisses, and he does. He lies on the ground and begs me to pet his soft stomach, so I ablige him.
Roast beef is in the oven, causing me to spew my own saliva out of my mouth. Mashed potatoes are boiling in a pot on the oven, my favorite dish of all. Before dinner, my stepdad and me wrestle, as I am showing him all the new UFC moves I have learned. I am trying as hard as I can to impressively pin him, but his years of drug enforcement training have not wore off. When he gets me in to a chokehold, I slip out and he lets me pin him. I know this but still shout victoriously as my family watches on.
My sisters look the exact same, smiling and creating conversation without a stopping point. I don’t talk too much, just listen to their stories. My younger sister excitedly tells me of the recent scandal at her elementary school where the principle got let go for stealing from a gas station. She talks of her friends, boys, and the newest Disney channel shows. My older sister informs me of the recent concerts she’s been to, the Wrestlemania that is coming to Saint Louis, and inside jokes only her and I can understand. She was the only one who came up to visit me and not cry. She was solid and precise throughout the whole incident, providing a consistent and solid support system for me while I was going through the roughest time of my young life.
My mother looks on the whole time, just smiling. She sits patiently as us siblings chat about all sorts of topics. She watches the television and asks me questions every once in a while. She hops up and tends to the cooking food, making sure everything is perfect for the revival of her son. She is proud, for the first time in a long time, to call me that. And I am happy to be her son.
“ok if you would just step over here and take off your shoes for me that would be great.”
I oblige the man and take off my adidas sambas, slipping them off by the heel of my foot. I place them in front of the lengthy dark man with glasses in front of me. He picks them up and walks down the main hall to a large wooden door and opens it. He walks in and places my shoes in a cubby, where I see maybe twenty other pairs of shoes. He grabs a piece of paper from a desk and looks at it, marking several times. Every couple of seconds, he glances at me out of the corner of his eye to make sure I am staying put. My recent attempts to run away were fresh in his mind, so he keeps an extra close eye on me while trying to be helpful and kind.
After he puts down the clipboard and paper, he opens the door back up and steps out, facing me. There are in fact two doors I am facing, on to my right and one straight in front of me. The front door leads to an office he just came out of. There is a computer, all kinds of bags, shoes, and papers. There are plastic windows that give it the appearance of a pharmacy check out. The door on the right is the end of the hallway and leads out to another room I have yet to see.
Behind me I notice a hallway with door frames, none of them with actual doors on them. Two bathrooms are at the other end of the hall, one for boys, the other for girls. I count about eight rooms in all, and while he steps out I lean back and peer in to the first one on my right. I see four beds, secured to the ground and made of light wood. One mattress per bed and one pillow per bed. There is a large closet, with clothes, books, posters, and the like scattered on its shelves and hangers. There is also posters hanging taped to the walls showing sports cars, family pictures, graffiti drawings, and musical bands. The beds are lined up two by two. There is two dressers in the room, also securely fastened to the floor. Nothing is on the ground, and all the beds are neatly made. After taking this in I lean back forward and say my first words to the man.
“So what is this place, like a prison or something?”
“Nah man this isn’t a prison. It’s an opportunity.”
He is serious in his words but laughs after I say it. He wears circular john lennon glasses and has a silver necklace of jesus on the cross around his neck. He seems like a nice enough guy, although he gives me a kind of earkle feeling.
“Do you know how long I’m in here, because I really have no idea.”
“Man I have no idea, your counselor will tell you. I’m just an RT. Residential technician. My job is to make sure all you crazy crackers don’t get in fights and run away. Not that that stuff don’t happen anyway.”
“Well, when do I meet my counselor?”
“In a minute, we just got to get you all checked up and make sure your not going to die on us. Follow me in to this room.”
I follow him in as he draws his breath for a long speech.
“Rules and regulations. Your shoes and all privledges will be taken away for the first seven days of your stay. We have a client board hanging in every room which will provide you with the treatment you are promised and human rights that are guaranteed to you. If you have any problems with those rights you can fill out a complaint and put it in the complaint box. Clients will get the chance to work towards priveledges such as shoes, extra snack, phone calls, visits, and finally weekend passes. We go on a day by day system. If you do everything your supposed to do every day you’ll get out much quicker. That includes participating in group, doing your homework during the designated time, dropping clean, talking to your counselors and therapists, getting along with your peers and staff, and eating. If you run away you depending on if your court ordered or not you will be picked up by police and brought back here or sent to Juvenule detention once again, based on if your court ordered or not. Running away several times will result in getting kicked out of the program unsuccessfully. These are the rights and rules you have to abide by, anything else and unsuccessful discharge.”
He took a breath and sighed.
“I have to do that about three times a week. Took me two goddamn years to memorize it.”
I don’t laugh. I have a lot of questions buzzing through my head. I wasn’t familiar with half the things he said, but it sounded intimidating. I decided not to press the issue though as I would find out what all of it meant soon enough. Truthfully, I was most worried about meeting the people that were in their. I had this image of rehab that all the people were just wacked out sitting on a couch staring in to nothing with missing teeth and bald spots on their hair. I was hoping that it wasn’t too much like prison. Hearing him say running away and fights were common things worried me. I was already in the mood to runaway, and he didn’t particularly brighten my hopes of the place.
I shrugged it all off. My idea was that I would be in the place for maybe a week or two, suck up, and get out. Then I would call jeff and smoke a fat blunt as soon as I got out and forget everything that had just happened. Maybe this nightmare would go away, or maybe I would wake up from it. I would go home and return to school, and tell everyone of my great stint at rehab, and how I had resiliently refused to participate in the bogus program. Then, my respect would go up insurmountably.
See while I was depressed, strung out, sad, and even cashed out, I still wanted to get away. The talk with Azurite had been an awakening, but I had them all the time. My friends called me manic mabrey. Once I got an idea in my head, I would linger on for five minutes and then go completely the other way. I would want to be a great famous musician one day, then the next day a soccer star. I found that one out the hard way. When I tried out for soccer, I was in the greatest shape of my life, and clean of drugs. Then I found out that you had to be consistently in good shape, so I bbacked out. I didn’t quit, but I wasn’t exactly ronaldinho on the pitch. Often I would shoot up with jeff before games to calm myself down. I was a solid player at times, but nothing to brag about.
“Alright follow me. We’re headed to the group room. It’s in the cafeteria. This is where you’ll do all your activities during the day. You’ll learn to call it home.”
We headed out the opposite side of the room we had just been in passed what looked like a recreational room. I saw out the window a basketball hoop and a black top, before a twenty foot high concrete wall. Promising. A medium sized television with antlers was on an entertainment stand, and about twelve couches were alighned in a row seated opposite of the television. Three round tables and about twelve chairs were on the other side of the room. There were opened card decks, pencils, paper, and a miniature tv on one of the tables. A huge bulletproof glass window stared out on to the outside, where I remembered walking in to the building. The rays of light bursts in to the recreational room, as no blinds were permitted as they had been used as weapons.
We headed out the locked door. All the doors! How many doors could there possibly be in a place. Everytime I turned around there was a door in my face. I later learned that they were always locked and used as layers to protect people in the offices and to keep clients from running away.
Back in to what I began to think of as the rehab highway. That little hallway that collapsed on your body and caused you to feel claustrophobic. Offices were on the left and the right, and I saw people of all different types typing on computers, answering phone calls, and getting on facebook. One fat lady was chowing down on a milky way. Come to think of it all the people in the offices looked fat, including the physical therapist.
At the end of the hallway we reached the final door that led to the cafeteria. I drew my breath as he opened the door and led me in to the room. What I saw was about twenty five faces looking directly at me, catching a glimpse at the new kid. I looked down immediately and wondered about the specs of lint on the ground. Lorenz, the supposed residential technician, then embarrassingly introduced me to my new peers.
“Ok listen up people! This is joe and he will be staying here for a little while. I want you all to show him respect and treat him as you would yourself! Got it?”
Everybody mumbled a yes and returned to their activities. There were two cafeteria styled tables. One on the left side nearest the food window was all girls, sitting in slutty tanktops and leggings. The other in the back was all thugged out looking teenage youth with high levels of testosterone. The tables were seated on a boring blue carpet while the walls all had murals showing words like respect, responsibility, sober, clean and the like. The room was a mixture of a pediatricians office and One flew over the Cookoos nest.
Most of the boys were playing cards and the girls were all drawing or doing each others hair. A large black man with a I don’t give a f*** attitude look presided over them all, insuring that nothing fishy was going on. I quickly realized that the boys and girls stayed away from each other. Not only were they at different tables, but they didn’t even talk to one another. Also, the blacks sat with the blacks, and the whites the whites. Not wanting to be racists, I invisibly walked over to the middle of the two tables and sat down next to both. All the boys looked at me, some with disgust, and some with interest. I hated making first impressions. And it seemed like this and prison would be the best place to make a badass impression. That was the only one I knew how to do, as being friendly or happy was not in my repotoire. All I knew was rebellious. Even my act of anti racism was done out of rebelliousness.
A lengthy white teen with a bit of chin facial hair and curly black hair made a sign of friendship. He had dark black eyes and a lip ring. He definitely reminded me of someone from the country counties. Meth head probably. Yet he didn’t quite have the meth head look to him. More of a pot head. He had a long red polo shirt and really baggy pants that somehow were fitted around his little waist. Nonetheless despite his wigger appearance, I obliged an answer.
“What you in for?”
He said this while shuffling a pack of cards with pizzazz. I noticed that he was very swift in dealing and doing the bridge. I didn’t even know any card games besides old maid.
“My mom put me in. I got caught with some s*** at school.”
“Like weed or what?”
“Yea, but I do heroin and pills too.”
I said this to impress him. Yet he wasn’t impressed. He just shook his head and kept dealing out the cards. In fact, nobody looked impressed. I thought of my secretive heroin problem as intimidating, unique. When people would ask me what I did, sometimes I would proudly answer heroin. Only people that I trusted though. Jeff knew, and a couple of very close friends, yet that was it. I thought of my heroin usage as something out of a music movie like the doors or led zeppelin. I thought I was fighting the struggle, sticking it to the man. Yet I would find that it was reason for self pity, and to distance myself from everyone. When I used heroin, I used a lot, and would often nod out during the middle of driving or a conversation only to be woken up by a friend suddenly. In fact, I can remember the last time I did heroin….
That all too familiar rush. The release of millions of endorphins flooding the brain signaling the body to release it’s clutch on the muscles. The floating of the mind to a faraway place in paradise. An island, a beach, a tower overlooking a city. How the wind blows across your face with such ease and assurance, promising not to hurt or harm your relaxed face. All the nerves in the body loosen their tight grip and return to the numbed state that guarantees no pain, no suffering. All the problems fly away in the blink of an eye, when that tiny circular needle prick enters through the flesh and in to the dark blue vein, throbbing as a result of the tightened grip on the upper forearm of a belt. How the body etches back on to the face of the couch, seemingly sinks in to the cracks of nonexistence. The couch eats you alive until you become a limb of it, working to it’s perfection of nothing. All the racing thoughts and troubled mysteries zoom through the brain’s tentacles like a pinball machine and out the eardrum in to the oxygen of the stuffy room. Accompanied by used needle on the floor, burnt spoons, out of tune guitars, and white powder in small ziplock sealed bags. The stench of youth rebellious to the point of terrified, succumbing to the inner workings of the devil himself. Images of mother and father screaming at unwanted children are temporarily disabled, replaced by sunshine, music, entertainment, numbness. The cracks of society filled in with a pavement none had thought to use, a mind alternating substance capable of unthinkable measures. All time slowed down to milliseconds, passing by in a haze of unknowing and noninterest. This is what occupies the youth of today. This is their escape. They stir for a minute, not speaking. Sometimes one of them flinches or nods out before waking up with a start. Mostly they just sink in to the couch, eyes collapsing until millimeters from being closed completely. The rooms gloomy appearance only contrasts with the events being portrayed in the quiet apartment building. We all sit in a circle of couches. When we start to regain our surroundings we slowly begin a conversation. “Dude ,where did you get this s***?” A strung out young teen asks me. He can’t be sixteen. “Don’t worry about that. Just consider yourself lucky I’m a nice f*ing guy and I share my s*** unlike you stingy bastards. Last time I was hear I had to pay twenty bucks to shoot up a bean. Twenty goddamn bucks. Your lucky I got money trees in my backyard. Goddamn this s*** is good though.” The guy’s house it is is a real asshole. His name is Ryder, and is notoriously known for being a drug dealer, graffiti artist, girl beater, thief, junky, and douche bag. I literally despise his guts, for all the things he has done to people I know and care about. He has hit one of my friends, robbed a girl I know house, shot at a cop from my town, and countless other acts of vigilance. I have actually fought him before, here at his house. But heroin can do some tricky odd things, like bring two old enemies together. Two days ago he was threatening to kill me, today we were shooting up together. Me, jeff, ryder, the young kid, and another friend of jeffs were all sitting in a daze, letting the drug take over us and our conversation. “You don’t have money. I’ll show you some real money.” Ryder pulls out a wad of bills straight out of his pocket, and counts them out before us to make us jealous, as if daring us to make a move. The only reason we were even there is because ryder is the only one around town who has an unlimited stash of clean needles. It was getting harder and harder to get them these days, with restrictions being enforced after the recent statistics of teens using heroin dramatically increased. In fact, denying use of needles probably caused more problems, as people began to use old ones more. I knew at least four people at school that had been diagnosed with some kind of hepatitis. “Whatever dude. You get money selling needles. That’s not tight.” And so these are the conversations that take up the memory of my teenage life. Arguing over who sells what, who makes the most money, and why I should live or not. Sometimes I lay off the hard stuff and seriously look back on my life and where am I at, wondering where the hell I’ve gone. I realize that I’ve taken a path where there is no coming back from. I took the path less taken, and it made a world of difference. It made me in to a drug addict, an asswhole, a shitty friend, and a poor son. Heroin brings the worst out of people. It tells you what to do, where to go, how to live, and how to cheat. It teaches you the wonders of a substance, and how to maintain living with it, and dying without it. My heroin use has never phased me, in other words I thought nothing of it. I just thought it was something I was going through, and would get off of soon enough. The only problem is that the devil is the maker of heroin. I honestly believe if satan is real, heroin would be his drug of choice. Ryder responded to my comment with a harsh look and an insult. I didn’t mind or pay any attention. I was just causing s*** to ccause s***, because that’s what heroin does. I did it to give me an excuse to be the biggest asshole alive and make people feel sorry for me. An hour later, after playing video games and tripping our asses off, we left ryder’s house and headed home on our feet. Me and jeff walked everywhere, because we were too complacent to put money in the car for gas. When we went out, it usually meant hours of walking while high and meeting up with people to sell drugs, then selling it for higher. All this was done on foot. We knew the backstreets and neighborhoods like the back of our hands. We needed to, or if we went the wrong route we could run in to someone we had jipped or were beefing with. Our walking peramater was probably three square miles. Sometimes we would get jumped out of nowhere, a blue escalade with tinted windows rolling up besides us and three large males jumping out to hammer us in to the ground. By now we had got accustomed to fighting and were rather talented at refuting attacks or finding a quick escape. This time, there was no one to challenge us. It was a beautiful day out. We walked from Ryder’s house in to the back streets of Webster groves, littered with groves of trees, half a million dollar houses, oval driveways, and black streets with no sidewalks. We cut through a park and wound up on a familiar playground where we would usually sit and talk or swing. Things like that were fun when you were on heroin. Sometimes we would even sing a song to the end like bohemium rhapsody or the song from eight mile. This was our entertainment. Most times the dogs would start barking at us too shut the hell up and nice family members would come out of their houses to check the commotion. What they saw was too stoners shouting their lungs out to a melody that was two octaves off. While we were sitting in the two swings, I struck up a conversation about what was on my mind earlier that day, and the event that had taken place the night before. “Can I talk to you about something, like something serious?” I posed the question knowing he would say yes. Anytime I felt bad, had a problem, or needed someone to talk to, jeff was there. We weren’t very good influences on each other, and made dumb decisions. But one thing is true, he was there to listen when you needed it. He may have just pretended to care, or acted like everything was alright, but he answered, and that was refreshing when everyone else in your life thought you were a low life and a trouble maker. “Yeah of course. What’s up?” He looked at me with curious eyes and his familiar ADHD look. He was hyper all the time but knew how to contain it. I looked at him then looked to the leaf I was playing with. Then I spilled the beans to him. “Dude, somethings just, not right with me. I try to act normal, I try to be a good friend to people. I mean, obviously I’m a piece of s***, but really, inside, I want to like people. You know? I want to be accepted, I want to be a part of society. But something inside me keeps eating at me, like a monster. I feel miserable, all the time. I’m never happy. Honestly. If you like could somehow look in to me, you would see how crazy I am. And dude, I’m f*ing crazy. I’ve been hearing voices lately, ever since we got back on the beans. Not like a f*ing mad man or some s***, but voices in my conscious. For the first time yesterday in a long time I felt scared that my dad would find out I was smoking. Can you believe that? That I, joe mabrey, would be scared to get caught by my dad. Not for the repercussions, but the guilt. The f*ing endless guilt I feel. For my mom, my sisters, my dad. They all thought I was going to be this f*ing super athlete, straight A student. I’m a f*ing bean head man! I’m so tired of this s***.” I stopped and put my head in my hands. He just sat there and listened like a true friend, put his head towards the ground, and nodded along to what I was saying. I could tell he was just acting like he knew, pretending to know what was going on inside my body, but he didn’t. He felt no remorse towards my feelings, wasn’t aware of the black hole in my heart. I wanted to shout it to him, to know that there was somebody like me, who knew what I was going through. The endless progression from bad to worse, worse to horrible. I hadn’t felt better in a long time. Probably years. And when a person is used to feeling worse than the day before, there is no telling what they will do. “So last night, I kissed my mom on the cheek and told her I was sorry, that everything would be alright soon. Told her better days were coming. She just sat there and hugged me, crying in to my shoulder. I called my sister and told her all the things I had done to her, stealing her bike, losing her faith, scrounging money out of her purse. I said all this, and I felt amazing! I hadn’t felt so good in such a long time, so I smoked some weed and went in to my room. I thought maybe this time, if I smoke, I will finally get relief, satisfaction. But I didn’t. I went right back to where I was, miserable. Than I got to thinking. If I can’t be happy and do drugs together for the rest of my life, why the hell would I even live?” He picked up his head and was now looking to my eyes. I was tearing up now, pacing around throwing my hands in the air manically while gesturing to my words. Every word that came out was like opening a flood gate and letting the demons out of my black hole. The sun was beating on the back of my head, spiraling energy in to my revelation. “So I sat down on my bed, in the dark, turned alice in chains on, and thought about what I could do to be happy. I thought about quitting, about doing soccer, doing this, doing that. I thought about all the things I wanted to be. But all that s*** isn’t what I want to be, it’s what everyone else wants me to be. I want to be a drug addict, piece of s*** womanizer. I want to be a terror on my family, a drama machine! What kind of person wants that? You? I don’t think so. I’m not right! So I sat there, and I picked up a calligraphy pen next to me. It was deadly sharp.” “hey man what are you talking about?” “I took it, and I cut zig zags as deep down my arms as I could. I didn’t stop, it felt great. I did it until I couldn’t stay awake anymore, and when I woke up with blood all over my s***, I did it again. I wanted to die. Then, after I couldn’t do it anymore, can you believe what I did? I f*ing put the comforter in the washer! Because I was scared of what my mom would think if I tried to kill myself! I can’t even do suicide right!” I rolled my long sleeves down and showed him the scars. Four of five long zig zags down each arm, swelling and bruising everythings in its path. Poorly wrapped bandages around both arms, trying to cover up the suicide attempt. I then rolled them back down and looked at him. “What is wrong with me?” He looked at me blankly, and then looked to the sun. He couldn’t even stare in to my eyes because of the discomfort of the situation. He just looked to the sun, and waited. I immediately felt embarrassed after sharing, but relieved that I had finally told somebody. “What is wrong with me?” I repeated it. It rang in the air for a minute, then he answered. “You need help.”
My papa and dad are both aging alchoholics. My papa, a recovering alchoholic, my dad, and active alchoholic. Often times at family gatherings, the uneasiness of the situation would boil over and result in my papa telling my dad he needed treatment. Then my dad would argue later as were in the car how he took care of my papa when he was going nuts. Apparently he needed to go to a psyhch ward and stay there for weeks to get detoxed and prescribed medication. My dad would yell about how his father verbally abused him, his siblings, and his mom when he was young. It was the opposite of my situation. My problem was my dad was a alchoholic who was too mellow and chill to enforce any kind of punishment. My papa was an alchoholic who enforced it too much. Yet there is a similarity between the three of us. We all have multiple problems.
On this particular occasion it was after I got out of rehab, in fact several months after. I had regularly attended Alcholics anonymous meetings, hung out with other sober people, and spent the majority of time with my family. It was easter dinner, at my sisters house. She was living all on her own with a roommate from high school. She worked full time at a flower shop and my mom often reminded her that she was wasting her potential by working there and not attending a four year college. My sister often retaliated with harsh remarks about my mothers treatment of her when she lived there. My mother and sister did not get along to say the least. By the time she was sixteen, my sister had moved out of my mothers several times to my fathers, staying there while taking care of my dad, who was always on a midlife crisis. She also provided the house with groceries, new furniture, and other items needed to run a house hold. Often the food would be gone byt the end of the weekend because of me and my friends weekend visits to the house accompanied by munchies. Nonetheless she never got mad, just kept on supporting us.
She was cooking an all dollar store meal except for the turkey. Mashed potatoes, biscuits, and green bean casserole. It was her, her boyfriend, me, my dad, and my papa. My papa is getting old, and must have been seventy seven by the dinner. Yet he was very active, being sixteen years sober. He had a world of advice and knowledge from music to anthropology. He was a little on the nutty side, and made lots of strange noises, but you were always enteretained with papa. There was never a dull moment.
As my sister cooked the dinner, the rest of us meddled around, played with her new kitties (Wall-E and Simba), enjoyed in playing acoustic guitars, which were a must in the family, and talked about politics. My dad and papa were on the more conservative side, while my sister and I were more liberal. This made for good discussions on why or why not slavery should come back, if native Americans should be granted better reservation land, and whether Bush was a good president or not. Usually the discussions ended up with papa throwing his hands in the air and saying a racial comment. He was never short on them, yet he said them in a non offensive way that made you laugh, if that is possible.
It was when we sat down to eat dinner, that papa completely took over the conversation and while playing around with his food, decided to engage in his story telling mode he often got in to. If there was anything in the world papa loved, it was attention. If there was anything in the world papa hated, it was not having attention. He dropped his fork and knife after we started eating and began.
“Now, did I ever tell you the story of father Michaels?”
He had a typical thirties bad guy movie voice, and influctuated every time at the end of his sentence to a lower volume. He also put his head down at the end of each sentence, and looked around to see if everyone was looking at him. Once he was satisfied he began. We braced ourself and my dad rolled his eyes, preparing himself for a story he had probably heard a thousand and one times.
“Now Father Michaels, graduate of Eden Seminary down your alley, was a very respected, well known priest in North County in the nineteen sixties.”
As usual, he said nineteen sixties with an influxuation in every single syllabul. He pointed his fork in the air as he talked.
“I had gotten to know that him while I was recovering from alchoholism and a brief period of what we call, ma-nic depre-ssive. I would head over to Father Michaels little priest house at Saint Sabina every Saturday and talk about you know, my recovery this and that. Quality character father Michaels. He wasn’t one of those cafeteria catholics, no! Wholesome family centered man. A quality caucasion, which was lacking in north county at the time if you know what I mean.”
He laughs at his own joke and we all roll our eyes at his insensitive racism. He spits out a harsh “Heh” before turning his smile off and returning towards his story.
“Well this one day I was on my way to father Michaels when I saw your grandma walking around the block with her dog. Cute old little poodle with the white fluffy hair ya know. Well anyways I saw her and I knew that was the woman I wanted to marry. I didn’t say anything to her but when I got to father Michaels house he told me he said, now Don, what the hell are you thinking? You are in no state to be flittering around with a girl right now. So I said father Michaels, I’m gonna marry this woman. You can either help me, or not. So he did. He gave me a world of advice on women. I told him all about Mary Lou, good looking gal. She had these big old honkers, big as melons.”
“Goddamn it dan, why do you always got to interrupt my story!”
My dad rolls his eyes and returns to his mashed potatoes.
“Anyways I went on a date with Mary Lou the next weekend, took her down to the movie screen by Bridgeton. The next week I went to father Michaels you know, to brag about my date and how successful it was. And do you know what happened to Father Michaels?”
We all sat around, not knowing what happened to father Michaels.
We just sat there in shock after he yelled out those two words. He put down his head and returned to his meal before looking up at the television and seeing star trek playing on the screen.
“Betazoids, telepathic powers.”
We had no idea what the hell had just happened. Papa’s one liners were possibly the best one liners in the world. He could tell any story and actually have you interested in the end, until he dropped something that made no sense. Usually it was recovery related or death related. Papa was definitely the morbid type. As he said Alchoholic dementia, which took about ten seconds to say, he looked at the ground then glared at my dad. He returned to his meal and started to make funny noises while eating.
Papa also loved star trek next generation, and could spew thousands of random facts about it. In fact, his racism often transferred in to the show, resulting in favorite species, and least favorite species. He loved the betazoids for some reason, for their telepathy.
After the one liners, and a brief moment of silence, my sisters friend looked at her and couldn’t help but laugh. My papa joined in and started laughing at his own joke, then I started. Then my dad. The total obscurity of the story was ridiculous. Everything papa said was somehow influenced from alchoholism.
“thanks dad for that enlightening story” my dad remarks.
“Well alcoholism is can be deadly lethal. Joe I’m gonna tell you that right now. Buddy you got the whole world in front of you, don’t waste it on something that makes you dumb and decrepit. Look at your father. Great athlete, funny guy. Wasted on alchoholism for twenty years of his life.”
An akward silence takes over and we resume our dinners. My sister after a few minutes decides to break the silence with an upcioming activity of hers.
“Yeah so me and zach are headed over to hall street Sunday to see the races. We’re going up there on his motorcycle. It’s going to be a fun time.”
“Hall street! What the hell you doing at hall street!” My grandpa yells.
“you know, we’re going to see the races.”
“I’ll tell you something about hall street! Me and my buddies used to go down there in the late fifties to see the races. One time we were up there and we saw a crowd of people and an ambulance with its sirens flashing. We talked to a slim loking black fellow about what happened. Two cars were racing, a nineteen fifty two Thunderbird, sharp car. Anyways he was racing an old ford. They were taking sharp turns you know, cutting in between all the people when an eighteen wheeler food supply truck pulled out on an intersection in front of the cars while they were doing about, fifty five sixty on a one lane street.”
He motioned with his hands how the cars were racing. They were going down a two laned road, one lane on each side. The thunderbird was going on the opposite side of traffic, the other car the right lane.
“Anyways the truck pulled out in front of them and cut em off. The ford took a quick right and crashed in to a old brick house head on, resulting in critical injury. The thunderbird went straight on under the semi truck, tearing the top off the car. And the black fellow in it had only one injury to his whole body.”
“Wow that’s amazing! What was it?” My sister asked.
He resumed to his meal and looked at the television watching star trek.
I bursted out laughing at the morbid end of the story. It never fails, papa could entertain any crowd on any given day.
“well that sucks.” Hope said.
“Boy I’ll tell you them negroes love to race but they can be dumb as rocks.”
“Damnit dan, quit correcting me.”
The first couple days of rehab went by in a hazy blur. Frequent outbreaks of déjà vu were replaced with odd dreams of drugs, old friends, and major moments that shaped my life. The place ran on a strict tight schedule that would exhaust emotionally any mentally any human being who was placed in its grasp, let alone a bunch of teenage troubled youth. The days began with waking up, showering, brushing your teeth, attending to your personal hygiene, taking your medicine, and going out to the recreational room by eight. I was never a morning person, so I would instantly snap at any one who made a remark to me. I kept to myself mostly, and worried only about getting out of the place.
After hygiene all the boys would lineup at the door and go in to the recreational room. People would line up at the door as fast as they could and wait for a residential technician to open it so they could burst out and get a couch as fast as possible. The races to the couch were the most intense moments of the day. Pushing, grabbing, hair pulling, and fights would often ensue in the dramatic battle for another hour of comfortable sleep. Usually the old timers would claim the best couches, or what they called their spots. They would be backed up by other old timers, and rule number one was know your place in rehab. Don’t try to upset the order of things.
The couches weren’t especially comfortable as more a status of position. The old timers got the closest couches, and usually walked out of the door, not needing to run or hastle to get a spot. The newbies or middle men would fight for the other two rows of couches, with yelling and shouting a regular occurrence. My first day, a fist fight resulted and two boys were sent away to juvenile correction. For a couch.
Some people would grab pillows, or turn on the radio. This usually resulted in a shouting match between those trying to sleep and the few who wanted to listen to the radio. There was never a question which radio station would play. The unanimous vote was one o four point one, hip hop ad r&b. I grew to like the music, yet hate it. The same thirty or so songs would play all damn day, with a new song maybe every couple of days. My ears learned to block out the music, and not get to angry over the repeated tracks.
Some people would watch television on either the mini tv on the table or the big on opposite the couches. As you guessed it, usually the volume of the tv resulted in a fight. The sleepers would tear and scream for the morning dwellers to turn it down, and they would reluctantly do do after the residential technician made them after a majority vote.
I was one of the sleepers. Anything that made the place go faster was my best friend. Sleep was the easiest choice. I would sleep as often as I could, grabbing an hour here, or an hour there. By the time I got out of the place I easily spent more time sleeping than I was awake.
After the recreational sleep was over. The girls would come out and the lights would go on much to the dismay of us sleepers. Often we argued that the girls got better treatment. They got up later, they took two showers, they got dinner first. But what everyone else failed to realize was that the girls didn’t cause s***, and if they did, they were smart about it. They manipulated and would sneak around rather than blatantly challenge something in public.
We would line up for attendance, answer when our name was called, and get ready for breakfast. Name calling always took twenty minutes, because everyone was tired and bitter about the fact that they were woken up against their permission. Some stragglers would stay on the couches and would take fifteen minutes to wake up. This meant longer time until breakfast. Usually a fight would ensue.
We would walk down the rehab highway in to the cafeteria, and take our places at one of the two long grey tables. Cards were broken out, as was chess. Many groans and tired whimpers would result after the food was called and someone wasn’t chosen. Who got the food first depended on who woke up first. I was usually the first to wake up, because in rehab I was always hungry, especially the first couple days. I was suffering withdrawl, yet no matter what I was always hungry. The stench of the flat lined pancakes and condensation of milk weren’t exactly riveting good, but when you got accustomed to eating three times a day, you depended on receiving food at the designated time, even grew anxious. As if on cue my stomach would lurch whenever nine, one, or six came. Food was something you came to look forward to, as is was the only sense of physical satisfaction an addict could achieve in such a substance prohibited place. Exercise was another effective way to let off all the emotional baggage suffocating your mind, letting the endorphins flow through your body in to the air to mingle with all the bad toxins being released from the sweat in the pores.
Everything about the place had bad vibes written all over it. When a new kid came, the game was on, and all the balled up teenage angst was let loose upon the newcomer in the form of questions and interrogation. Where are you from? What is your name? What is your drug of choice? Are you a fag? These were typical questions posed by patients at the frightened and lost child that made it’s way in the doors. Answers were expected and if you did not answer, well you were on your own. Pacts were made between clients, much like mutual protection pacts that nations used to defend each other. If someone talked bad about a certain someone, well then they would have to deal with the big black guy sitting in the corner randomly talking to himself about that squirrel he killed when he was seven. And trust me, nobody wanted to deal with that black guy.
The residential technicians were either your best friend, or your worst enemy. They decided when you ate, when you went to bed, how much free time and visiting hours you had, and indefinitely how long you would stay. They reported to the higher ups almost daily as behavior patterns were closely watched to see the progress of the client. Most clients had been to some sort of rehab before, unlike me, or were in juvie or a foster home. In fact about eighty percent of the people I was in rehab with had been in some sort of government institution and had a track record. Some were short as mine, a few curfew violations, maybe a ticket that went unpaid. Some were long. One client who was there, that I liked to call nazi mike, had two unlicensed weapon charges, weapons in a minor possession, drug trafficking, drug paraphanelia in the form of needles, running a stop light, assault, and intention to sell. He would often brag about his charges in group so the whole crowd could see what a badass he was. On me it had the opposite affect, just like the swatzika on his arm. I saw him as a fool, a lost boy who didn’t care or know his dire situation in life. He thought he would walk and not have to spend time in jail after a heart felt rant about how his stay in rehab changed his ways and made him see his mistakes in life. The judge would see right through his egotistical bullshit, and put him right in a DYS facility, and then big boy jail.
People like nazi mike were frequent in Preffered family healthcare. While you had a few county kids like myself, most of the patients were young thugged out black kids straight from north saint Louis, want to be thugged out black kids from north county, or meth heads and the like from the boonies, places like Washington and Union Missouri. In fact, the majority of the patients were from Union, forming a little posse during their stay in Union. They would gossip about high school relationships, who overdosed, and old times they had at parties. These were the people I despised the most, as their country accents and small town attitudes went against everything I stood for. They were loud and obnoxious, I was chill and relaxed. They fought and yelled, I just sat and played cards. I grew to hate those people more than the staff that were trying to change my outlook on my life.
I knew some of the things they were trying to teach me at first. My stints at therapy and my one visit to the crazy hospital weren’t for nothing. I had been told I don’t know how many times that I was an addict, with a disease so powerful it could take over me and lead me to death. I had heard this rant before, but mostly with a negative outlook. One therapists in particular would assign me “spiritual homework” in which I was supposed to listen to my inner voices throughout the day and try and understand what it was they were trying to tell me, and why they were telling me that. Well I listened to my inner voices, and they told me to do drugs, have sex with random women, and pursue anything that could help me forget about my emotional state. The next week when I would go back, I would tell him my adventures and what my inner voices had told me. He wrote my mom on an email and told her I was taking therapy the wrong way, and recommended me for an adolescent counselor. I never saw the new counselor, and never talked to that particular therapists ever again.
I got used to people giving up on me. And when you get used to people giving up on you, then you give up on yourself.