In 1890, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. This autobiographical work of fiction remains the definitive piece of literature on gender and madness – simply put, madness as experienced from a woman’s perspective – to this date. Gilman’s work is not to be undermined, but there are countless women with their own “Yellow Wallpaper” stories. They need to be told, too. Over 100 years is a long time to wait. The following is an accounting of my first year experiencing life as a young woman, psychiatrized.
Author’s Note: All events are true, as true as my experience and perception. All names have been changed to protect privacy, and sometimes to save face. This journal, although censored heavily because “Jason” was constantly reading it, is the only thing that allowed me to survive two thousand-five.
First ten pages originally published in “Juice” Annual Literary Magazine, 2006 Anthology
Part One: Winter
January 28, 2005
If only I could pinpoint the moment when the mirror flipped on me.
“You’re the best, Scars.” There’s a slight hint of caution in her voice that would probably go unnoticed by anyone else. And that tiny pause before she replied. She’s made this statement not because she believes in the meaning of her words, but because she’s terrified of me. She sees the look in my eyes and it tells her to be careful, to choose the response least likely to result in a violent scene; you better believe I’m capable of it.
I’m crazy, right?
But when did I become the craziest of all? The world is one giant panic attack and has chosen me to act out its wrath. I am a lightning rod. I am the Messiah. I am an infant in a woman’s body and I don’t know how I got here or where to go.
I should go to sleep. I should call someone. I should kill myself. Instead I sit here, staring at nothing, shaking just slightly, not enough for anyone else to notice, but enough for me to feel it. My head feels twice, no, three times its normal size. And there’s something wrong with my eyes; the room looks like its being transmitted by a poor signal.
Two and a half hours ago I was powerful and above all this. Even let myself enjoy the feeling, and that was my mistake. Silly girl, walking through the snow like she’s better than all this, listening to loud music with a smile on her face, starting her way across the street just before the lights change. Tell me, was it worth it? Of course I cannot answer. I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for an answer. There is no answer. Turn off the light or the fan and then turn it back on again, anything to make me feel more human. Throwing up would be good; food would be good; both would require too much effort – more staring seems to be the order of the day.
The order of the day – who says that?
“I’m gonna let you go, but I’ll call you later, or when I get home, and you can come over.”
And I swear, I’m not lying, even though I know the chances of me answering the phone later are about a million to one.
I could call my old drug dealer. I could break into my dad’s house and steal some of his fiancé’s bright blue sleeping pills. I could grab a beer from the fridge. A little liquid courage and maybe I really could venture out to an old friend’s apartment later; a little more and it might even seem like she’s still worse than me. But that’s in five hours and the world might end before then. Ha, caught you that time. Nice try. I’m the stupidest genius ever to live.
* * *
Come on, you can do this. Right foot, left foot; right foot, left foot. There are always doctor’s notes and tears. Just make your way to the kitchen. Good. Now fill up a pot with water and bring it to a boil. The beer is on the left side of the fridge. A few sips and the nausea will leave. A few bites and the hunger will leave with it. Maybe there’s something good on TV tonight. No, don’t worry about school – doctor’s notes and tears my dear. You pay their damn salaries, the least they can do is get you a fucking arts degree. Now throw a little extra in the pot so we won’t have to go through this again.
February 7, 2005
Judgment day. I wake up twenty minutes before the alarm is set to go off. Jason hasn’t slept yet (pRobably because I’ve spent the last week popping the majority of the sixty sleeping pills he procured on Monday). I make use of his insomnia and ask him to run me a bath, and make me a cup of coffee – oh that’s right, we don’t have any coffee because it wasn’t on sale this week. Living the sweet life.
I wake up again. Jason is crawling into bed beside me, “I have to get a couple of hours of sleep.” He doesn’t even bother to get under the covers.
“Did you run me a bath?”
“No, did you want me to?”
“Yeah, I asked you, remember?”
“No you didn’t.”
So the gap between reality and the contents of my head widens a little. I will use this to my advantage.
Thirty seconds before I will be really late, a force greater than me pushes me violently out of bed, and thrusts me into the banal routine that is morning. Light a cigarette, feed the cat, brush the mildew off my teeth, put tiny plastic spheres in my eyes so I can see, spend much longer than necessary in the bath, pet the cat, step into the jeans I’ve been wearing for three weeks despite twenty other pairs of pants lining a shelf; keys wallet money bus pass bag coat scarf hat gloves. Keys.
I step into the freezer that is Winnipeg in February and follow an imaginary yellow brick road to the bus stop and the promise of warmth. I begin asking myself how I’m going to manage condensing all this desperation and presenting it eloquently, but not too eloquently, during a five minute appointment in an office that holds enough memories to render me mute. I begin rehearsing it all in my mind: can’t sleep, can’t breathe, can’t focus, gonna flunk out of school. No sleep, can’t keep my eyes on the page, lump in my throat, failure. I sleep for an hour and then I’m wide awake again. Don’t wanna throw it all away, but I can’t sleep or breathe or focus. Just something to get me through the next little while. Just something to make each moment a little less of an emergency.
I run into a tobacco, candy, and propaganda shop while waiting for bus number two to buy more cigarettes. I spot a lighter with a picture of a curler on it and the word “Canada”. I have to buy this for Jason. “This is hilarious!” I exclaim as I hand the middle-aged Korean lady my purchase. Apparently she doesn’t see the humour and I feel like an idiot. I step back into the freezer and light my second cigarette of the day. The only other smoker is a butch but cute lesbian with short brown hair and stereotypically thick rimmed plastic glasses. She looks at me and smiles, “Fucking cold out here!” I validate her claim and wonder if looking at me she can tell that I slept with a girl last weekend – that I made it over to that old friend’s apartment after all. A bus pulls up and ten little old ladies hobble out of the bus shelter. Two of them stand directly behind me and tell me that they like the colour of my boots, even though I’m smoking, and I fall in love with them.
I sit at the back and pull out a book. Virginia Woolf is my hero but I can’t focus. Can’t sleep or breathe or keep up. I take a look around at my company. Students ten times more studious than I with backpacks and tired eyes from studying. A woman a few years older than me with a cute little girl. Maybe I’ll have a little girl someday. A serious looking Asian gen-xer. He will be an architect. Together we travel into the south end of the city, the area I grew up in. I feel a pang of something as we pass by the grocery store I used to frequent with my Mother when I was the same age as that little girl. But then my stop is next and I have to focus because I can’t sleep or swallow or study.
I take the sloDevont elevator in the world up to her office. The stairs would be faster but my heart is already beating out of my chest and I’m not in a cardiac arrest sort of mood today. I sit in the waiting room, trying again in vain to read. Instead I listen to the two receptionists gossip, and I think how odd, this little room where you sit and are forced to eavesdrop on some strangers’ conversations. Soon one of the chatterboxes, the younger blonde one, instructs me to find out what’s behind door number two. More waiting. I tap my foot, silently chanting – can’t sleep, can’t breathe, can’t focus. I hear the sound of my chart being removed from the plastic contraption on the front of the door. It’s Showtime.
“How are you doing today?” The look of apprehension on her face is priceless and for an instant I feel superhuman.
Quickly I’m reduced back to my more powerless self, but I manage to deliver my argument with a surprising degree of precision. And she, this amazing woman with a medical degree, seems truly concerned today, an improvement over last month’s impression of confusion and terror. She tells me that she and her associates have been doing everything they can to get me into some kind of intensive program, and I feel happy and special. She asks me a series of questions, formalities I suppose, but I enjoy answering; I’ve always liked filling out surveys and stuff like that, the mark of a true narcissist. She tells me that she’s going to prescribe me some clonazepam, and I listen to her describe the benzodiazepine, struggling to maintain an expression of unknowingness, of learning something new, of inquisitiveness rather than relief and excitement. Little does she know I pRobably know more about pharmaceuticals than she does, more than her thick book on the topic does. She hands me a little piece of paper which I will later trade in for thirty days of sanity.
“Oh, one more thing, I missed my period this month.”
“Could you be pregnant?”
“No, I don’t see how I could be, I never miss a pill.”
“Do you want to take a test while you’re here? It will only take a couple of minutes.”
“Um, I don’t know, I guess, or maybe not, it’s okay…”
She hands me a urine sample container and tells me I can get a washroom key from the receptionists. For once depersonalization works in my favour as I pee in the cup and bring it back to the office and return to that room to wait for the results. There is nervousness in the room but it does not belong to me. I bite the skin around my nails out of habit and not fear.
She returns smiling, and says in a low voice, “Everything’s fine.”
And for some reason we both start laughing and we share this incredibly intimate moment. A moment between two women who could be mother and daughter. We both keep laughing as we go our separate ways and I feel unbelievably fulfilled as I make my way downstairs to the pharmacy.
These pills are fabulous.
* * *
Incredible. To be awake and not worried. The cat is beautiful and soft, his perfect paws rest on my bruised feet as I type this nonsense. His love is unconditional. The other day I accidentally locked him in the spare bedroom all night when I was stoned on grass and sleeping pills and god knows what else. Jason woke to the sound of him crying and scratching at the door, and on his way out of the house yelled at me, “You really fucked up again!” But the cat just came and lay down on the pillow, right by my tear stained face, begging for my forgiveness when I should have been begging for his. He lay there with me for three hours, until I my silent screaming stopped.
Awake and not worried, I watch part of a documentary about the 1972 election – for the president of the United States, of course. God, it seems like people were really passionate about politics then. Candidates yelling and pounding their fists. The puppet on the right and the puppet on the left in 2004 would not have been caught dead making such decisive gestures. Then again I’m pRobably being naïve about the whole thing, pRobably just being an idealistic student from a different generation.
Daddy dearest calls to discuss some miscellaneous financial matters of the highest importance, the only reason he’s ever called and the only reason he ever will call. Before hanging up he tries to make small talk, “It was cold out there today, hey? I guess you didn’t have to leave the house.”
He really can’t conceive of the fact that I have a life too, a life without him and his condescending glances. “No actually, I was out all morning. Had a doctor’s appointment and had to get some groceries and such.”
His ears perk up at the word doctor. He doesn’t understand why I visit these doctors so often. He “can’t understand how anyone would want to ingest a foreign substance, not knowing what effect it might have.” I muttered something about quality of life.
“Doctor Foster? Why, are you having more pRoblems?”
“Yeah, can’t sleep, can’t focus, panic attacks, you know. But she gave me something for it and I feel much better already.” That’s right daddy, you’re wrong, you and your stupid double standards. These foreign substances are going to get me the straight As that you’re so fond of.
“Great, great. Well you get back to your work then. I love you.”
You love what? That I’m a weak female just like your fiancé, who needs a handful of psychotropic drugs to get up in the morning? That my weakness implies your strength? Or is your strength really stubbornness, verging on stupidity. And subconsciously, do you love that I’m better and smarter than you’ll ever be, orange pills and all?
“Love you too.”
* * *
Jason wakes up on the wrong side of the couch and we have a screaming match for an hour or so. I almost run out the door to an old friend’s apartment, but I am paralyzed. Eventually we both calm down and Jason finds a tarot card on the floor beside the bed.
“Which card is it?”
“The one of swords.”
“What does that mean?”
February 9, 2005
Life is bizarre, fucked up and painful. You would think that by this point I would have gotten used to it, but it still blindsides me every time, on nights like last night.
That old friend’s name is Jima. And she’s not just an old friend but my best friend in the whole world, my second soul mate. And two nights ago Jima tried to kill herself, slitting her wrists with some broken glass and a dirty razor blade.
I guess I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation soon enough. I called Jima’s place from the free phone at school on Tuesday morning, after my deviance class and before a shrink appointment. Jima’s other soul mate, Tanya, answered the phone and asked if I’d spoken with Jason.
“No, why? He’s all fucked up on pills isn’t he. He’s been up all night.”
“Jima kind of hurt herself last night.”
I didn’t know what exactly this implied, as Jima and I hurt ourselves in innumerous ways on a near daily basis.
“She woke up yelling ‘I want Scars!’”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Jason will come too after this shrink appointment that promises to be amusing.”
“Ha, ha. I’m okay, really!” Tanya is great.
“Just keep the back door unlocked and we’ll be there as soon as we can. Tell Jima that I’ll be there.”
I hang up the phone and disregard the part about Jima hurting herself. How bad could it be? Instead I’m overjoyed that someone woke up yelling my name, when the night before I convinced myself that I was destined to live my life alone, that Jima would not call for months.
I go to the shrink, Dr. Wakeup’s office early, for lack of anywhere else to go, and I really like Dr. Wakeup and I really like his office. I figure I’ll do some reading, still feeling motivated and focused on my precious new pills. I’ll read “A Room of One’s Own”, another masterpiece penned by Virginia Woolf. But Jason stumbles into the office a few minutes later and he really is reeling from a mixture of way too many sleeping pills and no sleep. Alas, the room is no longer my own.
The fifty minute psychotherapy session is a blur. The good doctor has replaced his old row of chairs with a more traditional couch. Jason and I plop ourselves down and savour the pillowy softness for a minute before we begin to bicker. Earlier I promised not to spend the session reaming Jason out, but I fail in that endeavor. There are tears and swearing and pulling of hair (my own) and the doctor seems to take my side for the most part. I’m on a roll with these medical professionals. I think some progress is made, however, and Jason being mashed on the little blues pRobably has a lot to do with it. We tell the doctor about our weekend of heavy drinking, and now he is less than impressed. Apparently twelve ounces of bourbon and a few beers is considered heavy drinking.
Jason says, “You were acting like an idiot!”
“No, you just resent me for speaking my mind!”
The doctor intervenes, “I really can’t help you guys if you’re going to engage in self-destructive behaviour. Alcohol is only going to make you sicker.”
We agree to stop drinking and then we make the trek to Jima’s, our feet crunching snow and sliding all over the place as we navigate our way through the freezer. We stop to buy some scratch n’ win tickets and some American cigarettes and then climb the treacherous back steps to my old friend’s apartment.
We arrive to find Tanya’s mom, skipping work to comfort Jima. I am befuddled at the notion that parents such as these actually exist. Jima gives Jason and me huge hugs and shows us her battle scars. She has twenty stitches on her right arm. This is worse than I thought.
Tanya and her wonderful Mother leave and shortly after a troupe of angry dykes enter the apartment. Our plan was to go to Jima’s parents’ (who are conveniently out of town) house and drink the pain away, but these generals have come to abort our mission. One of them says something about being old and wise. Something about getting professional help or being there for her. Something about Jima not being safe at her parents house with Jason, Tanya and I.
“I’ve known Jima since fucking grade six. I think I’ll be able to take care of her!”
My argument is completely disregarded.
And Jima says, “I may not be old, but I am wise.”
Her statement is rewarded with an equal lack of respect, by these girls that know nothing about us, nothing about the shit we’ve survived, nothing about our madness or our genius.
Jima says something about wanting some clonazepam to sleep; her mother has an ample supply of that wonder drug. This sets the taller, frizzy-haired, more annoying dyke off.
“Jima, I am really worried about you. I see you going down a self-destructive path and I’m here to help, but you shouldn’t be taking any pills. Your pRoblems will still be there when you wake up.”
Jason tries to say something about knowing a lot about pharmaceuticals and the bitch shuts him up before he can make his case.
“Don’t even waste your breath.”
There’s more yelling and tears and I just sit on the chesterfield, watching this ridiculous display of uninformed nonsense, this half-assed intervention, and I make eyes with Jima, pleading, “Let’s get out of here!”
Jima’s roommate, Maybe, who I almost fell in love with a couple of summers ago, throws some kind of a fit about us leaving.
“Why don’t you just stay here and watch movies with us?”
“Why don’t you just come with us if you’re so worried?”
And it seems like she maybe hates me with the entirety of her soul as she mutters something about being too exhausted to fight with me. I try to give her a hug, but there’s no denying that things will never be the same between us, and I don’t really understand how this tragedy came about. Maybe she’s jealous of my relationship with Jason. Maybe she just thinks I’m a piece of shit.
Finally, someone calls a taxi and the four of us get the hell out of there. We stop at a gas station to cash in our scratch tickets for cab fare and buy some more cigarettes with the last of my money. Then we’re off to the parents’ house. An old mansion in a swanky but unpretentious area of town. I spent most of the summer there, that same summer that I almost loved Maybe and the summer that Jason and I called it quits for a while, so when I walk through the front door I feel sort of like I’m home.
Jima cannot find her mother’s pills but her and Jason settle down for a nap anyway. Tanya needs some alone time, so I pop a few dexedrine that I find in the kitchen and go downstairs to Jima’s old basement bedroom to type some preposterous prose on her old computer. I remember a night Jima, Maybe and I spent down there, completely wasted on cocaine, near that thin white line between being really high and really likely to overdose. I remember trying to write a short story about another intoxicated night, but being too messed up to find the words I so desperately needed. I remember Jima throwing a fit when our 8-ball was gone, and then driving around aimlessly, something about selling our worldly possessions to buy smokes. I remember failure and returning to the mansion to find Jima’s mother’s magical drawer of various benzodiazepines and then sleeping for fifteen hours.
Tanya comes downstairs to see what I’m doing, and I abandon my musings to join her upstairs. We go out onto the front porch to smoke some pot, and then return inside and decide:
“Let’s play a drinking game.”
We open two bottles of Shiraz that we find in the incredibly well-stocked liquor cabinet, impressed at our ability to uncork the bottles without causing some kind of explosion.
“Like that one with the cards?”
We’re too stoned to figure out the stupid college drinking game, but luckily Jima and Jason arrive back from dreamland. We manage to make some perogies.
“We should pRobably eat something before we start drinking.” The voice of reason tells us.
I eat three and then we commence an assortment of drinking games – “two lies and a truth” and then “never have I ever”, which proves to be too much of a challenge for a herd of black sheep like us. But we do manage to get drunk, chugging the wine and some coolers that taste at first like candy and then like apple juice. We manage to get drunk enough to fuck.
I fuck Jason’s brains out on the living room couch and then, wearing only a blanket, head upstairs to see what Jima and Tanya are up too, hoping they will let me join in. I find Jima on the bed, crying and mumbling something about having herself committed tomorrow. So I lie down beside her, I hold her and beg her not to leave me and we both sob our broken hearts out until we fall asleep.
I wake up an hour later. Jima is still peaceful so I go to see what Jason and Tanya are up to, in the nude of course. I see them talking in the drinking games room and run into the other room to throw some clothes on. They’re drinking the wine (straight out of the bottle, of course) and listening to jazz. I take a few gulps to catch up with these beautiful people who are as horny as I am. Jason asks me and Tanya if he can watch us have sex. We start giggling like schoolgirls, schoolgirls in plaid kilts that have forbidden crushes on each other.
”I have a pRoblem taking the initiative.”
“So do I!”
More giggling, but then I grab Jima’s girlfriend and start kissing her hungrily. I rub her perfect body and our clothes are quickly removed and tossed about the room. She makes me come and I make her come and Jason comes watching us. I am ecstatic, amazed that I could make such a beautiful creature come, a beautiful woman. Drunk and reeling from our post-orgasmic chills, we decide to wake Jima up. We all jump into her father’s king size bed, and I start kissing my best friend’s nipples and neck.
“We’re waking you up.”
“What? Is it time to go to school?”
Not quite. Our imperfect but exquisite bodies roll around in the bed for two hours. When we are exhausted, we pass out in this blessed bed with a goose down duvet and perfect pillows, things that I hope I’ll someday be able to afford. Jason retires in the next room and I fall asleep content, but hoping he’s not angry that I decided to spend the rest of the night with the girls.
* * *
7:20 pm. Why hasn’t she called me? Is she going to leave me just like everyone else? Why can’t I fucking sleep? I’ve been eating clonazepam like candy all day, chewing it in my mouth like Flintstones Children’s Vitamins, and I’m so fucking sad that they taste good. What I need are some horse tranquilizers. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I’m a medical anomaly.
7:29 pm and I start crying like a madwoman, like a Mother who’s just lost a child, or a child who’s just lost her Mother.
Jason asks me, “Why are you crying?”
And I manage to get three words out, “I don’t know!”
And here we are again. Can’t sleep, can’t focus, can’t even eat this time around.
“I’m going to try to call Jima.”
“I was just going to say you should do that.”
I call Tanya’s cell and Jima picks up. I ask if she can come get me right now, but they’re out in buttfuck nowhere with some other friends, some more sane friends, some friends that don’t make ridiculous demands such as my own. Having fun without me, putting drugs up their noses, playing cards and giving each other massages.
And I ask again: when did the mirror flip on me? – Before becoming completely incoherent.
“Jima I need you.”
She promises she will come get me in her little red car as soon as she gets back downtown. I want to believe her but I don’t know how, and the thought of her breaking this promise puts me right over the edge. If she doesn’t pick me up later I will die.
“Scars, you’re not perfect, but if you were, the world would implode.”
I start sobbing even harder because she’s the only person on the face of the earth that would say something like that to me. The only person who would believe it.
“I love you sweetie.”
“I love you too.”
“I love you so much.”
More tears and a few cigarettes before Jason convinces me to eat something. I take a few bites of some leftover pizza. I am still blubbering away and if I try to take another bite I will vomit all over the place.
Deep breaths, a hot bath, a couple more pills. Jason kisses me as I hide the pills under my tongue. I have to have faith now, but if Jima doesn’t rescue me I’m sure I will die.
* * *
Focus now, you miscreation.
The three of us are fast asleep until I stupidly get up to use the washroom at 8:30 am, the precise time of Jima’s sociology class, which she was threatening to attend all evening, battle scars and all. She jumps out of bed and throws on some clothes.
“I can’t miss this class.”
“Yes you can!”
She mutters, “Tanya’s going to leave me.”, on her way out the door. I’ve always known our psychological idiosyncrasies are similar, but this statement brings us a little closer.
I get up to clean up the aftermath of last nights festivities. Jima’s parent’s senile neighbour, Peter, aka “The Strawberry Man”, is due to check up on the mansion sometime later in the morning. I throw pillows over the clothes that are strewn all over every couch in the house, empty the ashtrays, hide a pipe and some baggies in my pocket, and grab the empty liquor bottles. There is still about a glass of wine left in one of the bottles so I chug it in hope of getting a little more sleep, then crawl into bed with Jason to avoid any chance of him getting jealous of me and the ladies.
Tanya and I wake up again around noon, and make our way downstairs to torture our blackened lungs with a few more cigarettes. Jason joins us a few minutes later, and soon Jima storms in the door.
“I was late by half an hour for my sociology class and when my friends saw my arms they tried to physically restrain me from coming back here.”
Today is going to be a rough one.
“I threatened them with physical violence.”
I laugh, such threats seeming perfectly normal to my borderline head. Jima shows off some of her boxing moves and I think she’s fine. She just needs a little rest, a little vacation from school, which she is being forced to take next week, to join her family in Mexico. She just needs a little sunshine, to escape from hell frozen over.
But then the phone rings and it’s Maybe. She’s furious with all of us. Maybe is from France, and she’s so enraged that she’s speaking in broken English, when she usually has a better command of the English language than most Canadians.
“You think it’s okay just for you guys to sit there and talk? You guys should be shitting yourselves, like what the hell is wrong with you? Jima needs some professional help right now, and I’m going to call her parents and they’re going to fly back here as soon as they hear what’s going on.”
“Fuck Maybe, you think I don’t care? I held Jima sobbing for an hour last night, begging her not to do anything stupid.”
This means nothing to her, so I pass the phone to Jima. Bad idea. When Maybe begins her tirade again Jima starts throwing glass tables and lamps around. When she hears the part about her parents she breaks a glass dish on the kitchen floor. Seems like a perfectly reasonable reaction to me.
Then there are more phone calls from more angry lesbians. Chelsea, the frizzy haired monster from the previous afternoon has clandestinely snuck into the parents’ house and taken the clonazepam. More violent threats from Jima and both parties threaten to get the police involved.
“I need my fucking pills! I just want to sleep!”
Another phone call, this time from Liz, a social worker from Jima’s drag troupe. She’s going to come over to do some pro-bono work.
The doorbell rings and she sits down on one of the desecrated couches with Jima, takes away the Drambuie and hot chocolate that Jima is drinking and makes us all some tea. She has this great two-toned hair and looks as calm and professional as I look in my dreams. She settles us all down, but Jima is still adamant about retrieving the stolen pills. I offer to give her a couple of my own and Liz shoots me a nasty look. Well deserved, I guess? I start to doubt myself. Maybe I really am a bad influence, a rotten egg, that kid at school who other kids’ parents warn them to stay away from.
There is another angry phone call made to this morally superior Chelsea character. All Jima wants is her goddamn pills and some sleep. Liz’s solution is a trip to the hospital, and she’s convinced that they will admit Jima overnight with her wounded arms, which they are dressing right now and which look much worse and scarier in the early afternoon light. They may also give her some pills. I tell her that they will only give her some pills and send her away, that Jason and I have visited the emergency more times than we’d like to admit during the past year, and that they’d never admit us, no matter how hard we’d tried to O.D., no matter how much we wanted this life to be over.
My comments are ignored – this is becoming the theme of the week.
Jima finally agrees to go, and as I hug her goodbye I start weeping.
“You’re so much braver than I am.”
“You’re strong, Scars. You’ve been through some shit and you’re the strongest chick I know. Everything will be fine.”
And then there were three. We share a cab back downtown. The driver tries to make small talk with us but I can’t reciprocate his friendliness, none of us can. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
The ride feels like a lifetime, or purgatory, or maybe just hell. Finally Jason and I climb the stairs to our own apartment and I stop being strong. I sit on the couch and cry for five hours, waiting for the phone to ring.
It rings at 9pm. Jima has been written a prescription for clonazepam and released.
“I told you so.”, I think. I know more about the Canadian medical system than any social worker, even a cool one.
Jason and I go back to Jima’s to smoke pot and eat pizza. Everything is okay.
But when we return home again I can’t sleep, can’t breathe, can’t eat. I manage to miss my last day of classes before midterm break. Yes, I really am that predictable.
* * *
9:02 pm. I will go take my hot bath and cry my eyes out until Jima calls. I will try not to drown myself. I will try to manifest some semblance of normalcy for the rest of the night.
February 19, 2005
The fucking internet doesn’t work, but good old Microsoft Word does, so here goes nothing. Thought I might take some online quizzes or something, check to see if Jima returned my e-mails in the three hours since her plane home has landed. But for some god forbidden reason I’m supposed to write this.
Another Saturday morning, singing “Baby, please don’t die”. I think the song is directed at me this time. Then I remember, hugging his baseball, the one he stole from a discount sports ware store when we were Codytmas shopping, I vomited up a one hundred dollar dinner last night. If it’s any consolation, I think the pieces of half-digested sushi spelled out “Happy Birthday” in the cool, indifferent, toilet water.
It was Jason’s birthday. We spent his previous jour de naissance at the Health Sciences Centre, the city’s largest and most sterile hospital. Jason was not well. We spent six hours listening to two junkies expressing their befuddlement at the institution for offering them methadone, but not morphine. Jason went behind some closed doors to fetch a diagnosis. The junkies left, deciding heroin was a better solution than the wait and this awful room with brown plastic chairs and half-completed crosswords and people like me who couldn’t stop staring. Jason emerged with one sleeping pill and an offer to join some kind of outpatient program.
“Let’s go home.”
“No, we’re taking a cab.”
This year was supposed to be so much better. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Right now I’m fearing the latter rings truer. I’m thinking about the scene I made at Winnipeg’s hottest dining location, accidentally slamming my body into that gorgeous black girl with the braids that kind of reminded me of my old drug dealer but cleaner, cleaner and better socialized; then throwing my head into a few doorways before returning to our table.
“Babe’s cut off. Is your head okay?”
“No I’m fine really.”
And somewhere really deep inside me I’m trying to say something. Trying to say that I wanted you to have the best birthday ever, that I didn’t want to get too sloppy and cause a scene although I knew it was inevitable, that I love you more than I could ever love another woman. But that’s not what comes out. I eat a few bites of some complementary cheesecake while the boys take care of the bill with my daddy’s money. The strawberries are divine. I remember eating strawberries right off the branch with Anna in Japan when I was thirteen. Fuck, things were so simple back then. Not really. My mom died two months before I went on that trip. But still, so simple. Even the airline food was impressive, and the stewardesses were bilingual goddesses, and those strawberries that melted in my mouth, and somehow Anna understood.
We return to our apartment for more excess. Excessive excess. Rob says something about being worried about me and I really do appreciate his concern. I end up spending half an hour with my landlady, drinking some awful, awfully strong Canadian beer. She knows.
And then the puking and some pot and trying unsuccessfully to regain coherence. Jason puts me to bed with the baseball. I think that means something good, or maybe it was just left on the bed by accident, or maybe I insisted on clutching it as I passed out and said something stupid and not worth repeating.
* * *
God, though, if there is a God. It was a hard fucking week.
Jima made her way to Mexico, but not before causing the entire 737 to make an emergency landing in Texas. She started cutting herself in the receptacle labelled “lavatory” at 35 000 feet cruising altitude, this time with pieces of a Coca-Cola can. God bless her. I’m counting the days until cans are no longer allowed on planes.
While she was in Texas I spend a plutonic night with Tanya, and her friend, also named Scars. God bless the ‘80s. We take some green ecstasy and try to dance the pain away at the local gay mega-club that has somehow become more of a straight bar with freaks like us, rave-dancing until closing time. We scrawl something in Tanya’s notebook about a part of Jima that needs to die so that another part that is dying to live. We feel better. Dance, dance, dance. Then I sleep for twenty-four hours.
And I think by then Jima had made it to Mexico, so I spend the rest of the week at the library, repenting, atoning, but apparently not enough. Before beginning my eighteen hour marathon of taped biology lectures, I scrawl a plea of sorts in black pen on the divider between the two stalls in the women’s washroom. “ACHTUNG! Need Ritalin, Adderall, uppers of any kind to get me through 18 hrs of bio tapes. Will give you my first born child. See me at video station 6.”
It is around hour 4.67 or so when I hear the familiar “click” of a pill-bottle closing at the cubicle facing me, then see a sketchy looking girl a few years younger than me leave that very cubicle. Wait five seconds then pounce. I find treasure – a half full bottle of lorazepam that will make up for the extra clonazepam I’ve been taking to get a decent night’s sleep. I stow it in my bag and put my headphones back on before the girl returns. Then she approaches me, motions me to remove the headphones. Uh oh.
“Are you the one that wrote the thing in the washroom?”
“Here, have you ever had these before?”
“I think so.”
“Oh ya, ya, I’ve had these. Thank-you so much!”
“No pRoblem, I’ll be here again tomorrow if you want more. I’ve got tons of these things.”
I’m more interested in the girl than the ephedra. Ephedra is like eating chalk for a reformed crystal meth addict.
“Shit, have you seen a blue bottle of pills?”
You mean the one in my bag? “No, what kind of pills?”
“Lorazepam, they’re like a sleeping pill, anti-anxiety. They make me normal.”
I know the feeling honey, but I think you’re a little closer to normal than I am. I feign helping her look on the floor, between the cubicles. She runs downstairs and I run to the washroom, dump the pills in the secret place in my bag and trash of the lovely blue bottle in the sanitary napkins disposal, before checking the name on it. The girl’s name is Lena.
Once again I replace my headphones for no more than two minutes before I am rudely interrupted by some security guards. What? Someone’s looking for a blue bottle of pills? I dump out my purse and my jacket pockets and they leave me alone. No blue bottle here, suckers.
I see the girl downstairs on my way out.
“I’m really sorry; I didn’t really think you took them. I’m just really not normal right now.”
“It’s okay sweetie, it’s all good.”
We hug for a long while.
“My name’s Lena.”
“So you’ll be here tomorrow?”
“Yep, number 6.”
“Okay, I’ll be at number 7 again. I’ll see you then. Oh, and do you want me to bring the…”
“Yeah, definitely.” I smile.
I never do bump into Lena again, but her lorazepam keeps my mind off the possibility of uppers, and I get through the 18 hours sober. Almost. I manage to finish before Jason’s birthday, and I crash out on the couch with him as we await the day.
* * *
I turn off the phone after peeing my little heart out and taking some tylenol number ones and the last of the lorazepam. Daddy dearest wanted to take me grocery shopping this morning, haha. After giving me that awful rhetoric about how much he hates recreational drug users last night? I don’t think so. I’m starting to feel more normal myself now. I suck down a Camel Cigarette for no particular reason. It’s painful but necessary. I whisper in Jason’s ear, he is sleeping on the floor in the next room, that I love him and I’m sorry. He makes a sound that sounds like acceptance, so I return to the safety of the bedroom. I think I could sleep now, but I don’t really want to. I have to. Have to write a paper on Virginia Woolf today, one that will be graded. I will call Jima when I awake and she will have uppers.
What’s wrong with me?
I feel this massive pressure move from my chest to my head before I light one more cigarette and surrender to sleep.
February 22, 2005
Thinking of Hunter S. Thompson’s recent suicide, I realize my un-fatal flaw: my terribly irrational but nevertheless overwhelming desire to know how the story ends. Hunter, didn’t you want to know, too? Maybe you did know.
* * *
A fresh prescription and a fresh dusting of snow, walking with Jason to the bus stop. He is going to the chiropractor and I am going to meander about, with a lack of anything else to do since I have completed my midterms and have been granted an extension for the paper – without uppers, I might add, relying purely on my mortal skills – and suddenly I am thrown back to the first time I did crystal meth.
Not the first time – an evening in my father’s basement bedroom with two girls from Hong Kong. We were supposed to do some ecstasy, but Suzy-Q the superhero had crystal and Teresa, one of the Asian girls, convinced me that snorting a little meth was like drinking a soda-pop. I didn’t really get anything from it that time, although the implements, the straws and the tin-foil and the credit card, were intriguing. I had to work the next morning, and I remember feeling like everyone around me was speaking Cantonese that day. And I wanted more.
Not the first time – I am thrown back to the first time I really did crystal meth. I think it’s the way the snow looks, parts of it shiny, parts of it dull, cold and unworldly. And I’m going to stop at Tim Horton’s for a coffee while Jason gets his fix. My first time was at Tim Horton’s. How Canadian.
It was the week before my seventeenth birthday party. Apparently Anna was throwing me a surprise party, which made no sense because I didn’t really have any other friends. So she was throwing herself a party and I was the excuse. Drugs were in order. I borrowed a cell phone Thursday evening, and from the private bathroom at work that was there before the toilet came through the ceiling, I made the call. Suzy answered on the first ring like it was meant to be. Arrangements were made, a time and a place. All I needed was a chauffeur, so I made a second call, this time to Big Sammy, a fat redhead from the local fancy-schmancy boy’s school who was at my beck and call back then, who used to trade me dexedrine for scholarship essays.
Of course he is early and of course she is late. We sit in his vintage BMW convertible, or was it his parent’s SUV? Doesn’t matter – we sit and wait in the parking lot behind the shopping mall downtown.
“It doesn’t look like she’s going to show up.” Sam’s not a drug user.
“Yes she will.”
Fifteen minutes go by.
“She’s not coming.” A sly smile crosses Sam’s pudgy, freckled baby face.
“Yes she is. Do you want me to call her?”
I dial the number I’ve already committed to heart.
“See? She’s on her way right now.” I am too anxious to look sly.
Finally a van pulls up, and it’s Suzy and her fuck-du-jour. She hops out and gets into the backseat – it must have been the SUV.
“What can I do for you?”
“Well, it’s my birthday this weekend…”
“Really? Happy birthday, girl! How old are you turning?”
“Seventeen? That’s about my age!” Although I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s pushing thirty, she doesn’t look a day over seventeen by some miracle of Codyt the Lord.
“So ya, I was wondering if I could get some E. Do you have crystal, too?”
“Of course. Here’s the E – ‘Airplanes’ or ‘Bin Ladens’.”
We both crack up, but not Sam, a young republican. I guess it must have been a month or so after good ol’ 9/11.
“I’ll get five of those, and three points?”
I hand her a wad of cash. How did I have so much money back then?
Suzy leaves, all smiles as always.
I am alone with Sam and he says something like, “So, do you have to be home right away? Because I don’t have a curfew and we could go grab a coffee or something.”
“Ya, sure. Neither do I.”
I feel indebted to give him my company for a short while, so we drive to Tim Horton’s. We step into the coffee and donut version of McDonalds. Sam buys something for himself and insists on buying me something.
“Hey, do you mind if I slip off to the washroom while you’re getting that?”
“No, no pRoblem.” He is trying so hard, and trying to seem so nonchalant. He is the only person in the world I could possibly want to be with right now.
It’s a good washroom – single stall, lock on the door separating me from the rest of humanity. I take down my pants and underwear and sit on the toilet, then I pull out one of the baggies of snow and begin crushing it, hungrily and violently with my fingernails and a pen and any other blunt object I can find in my purse o’ tricks. Come on, Sam’s going to get suspicious, hurry up. But it’s hard when my hands, my entire being is shaking. That’s good enough. I must have had a broken piece of straw still in my bag from that other night. Or maybe I conspicuously grabbed one before I entered the girl’s room. The point is I have the tools, and any tool is a weapon if you hold it right. I inhale the fairy dust, dull and shiny and beautiful. I savour the sting for a moment before stashing away and pulling up my unmentionables. I look in the mirror – I am beautiful. I am beautiful and powerful and floating somewhere above the dirty floor. I am a princess. I am okay.
I return to Sam.
“I know, I’ve been cold all day.”
I think I’m pulling it off, but in retrospect, he knew exactly what was up. He may have been desperate but he wasn’t dumb. We sit there for half an hour. I can’t remember what we talked about; I can only remember my excitement at discovering this new element. I’ll be famous for this; this is my fate, my solution. This is the cure.
Eventually he drives me home. I spend the night listening to my headphones and beating my old solitaire times and tiptoeing to the bathroom every half an hour (back then it was still just to use the facilities). I am ready for school on time for the first time. Daddy’s impressed and nobody notices the size of my pupils.
* * *
And it’s all over now but I still want to know how the story ends.
March 2, 2005
Yesterday was a good day. Yesterday was a good day. A good fucking day. Everything is fine.
I got the second highest mark in my class on my deviance exam. I got an A+ on my English paper, and my professor actually thanked me for providing her with such a wonderful paper to read. My deviance professor said he’d recommend me for summer work in the sociology department. And I got back one thousand dollars more than I expected on my income tax return. The accountant at the working-man/student’s quick refund/rip-off centre called me educated and convinced me to transfer the left-over balance from my tuition deduction to myself rather than my father.
“It will come in handy when you’re making $100 000 a year!”
But none of it sticks. I want to call someone, call Jima or daddy and tell them of my triumphs, but what would that do? My accomplishments belong to me, and that should be enough. But it isn’t.
Jason has this strange condition that disables him from sleeping at night. I guess he’s nocturnal. But no, the cat is nocturnal; Jason has this strange condition. So when he fell asleep on the couch at midnight last night I didn’t wake him up, knowing that if I did, he would refuse to go back to sleep. I think his condition is self-inflicted. I think he just wants to be different. I curled up on the smaller couch, intermittently watching Fox News Live! and then closing my own eyes for a while when I got too scared of the perfectly groomed talking-heads. I lay there until seven in the morning, watching over Jason like an angel, watching him sleep while the rest of the city slept for the first time in years, watching and hoping this miracle would foreshadow his return to society.
I wake up at eleven am and Jason is screaming at me from the bathroom.
“Hey, hey, HEY!”
Is he drowning? Is the cat drowning? Has he gotten shampoo in his eyes? I run to the bathroom. Oh, but I don’t want to get up…still I run to the bathroom. Will I find him dead in the bathtub?
“Just wondering if you were planning on getting up anytime soon.”
He feels like he’s been run over by a truck. Feels like shit. Feels like a reject after a fruitless attempt to improve his relations with his mother last night.
I go to light a cigarette and return to find him on the couch.
“Babe, can you get me a glass of water.” Babe, can you get me this, get me that? Can you jump?
“Can you help me clean up later?”
He feels weird today. Tears start pouring out of my eyes. I need to fix this.
“Look silly, I would do everything. I would clean up and take care of it all but I have to write a forty minute presentation that I know nothing about.” Sob. If only I could make everything shiny. Tomorrow would have been my Mother’s birthday. I don’t know how to be proud of myself, but maybe, somewhere out there, she knows how.
“And I slept on the goddamn couch all night.”
“Silly, I just didn’t wake you up because I knew you wouldn’t go back to sleep. I just wanted you to sleep.”
“Yeah, that’s fine babe, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at my mom and your dad and this has nothing to do with you.”
Bullshit. I need to fix him. But I’m not superhuman anymore. I have neither tools nor weapons. It’s just me.
“Do you want me to run you a bath?”
“No that’s okay, I’ll do it myself in a bit.” I’m not in the mood for cleanliness today.
He gets off the couch, puts a silly song on the stereo, starts singing to make me laugh, and gives me an upside-down kiss on the lips. He puts on his trademark aviators and his black coat, and continues his performance on his way out the door. He fixes me, and a wave of guilt and failure crashes over me.
Get up. Fine, you can take the blanket with you, but get up. Go to the washroom and use some sort of feminine hygiene product, for god’s sake.
Oh, but I haven’t ridden the crimson wave in months and it feels so good to bleed.
But you’re not a cavewoman and quite frankly, the mess you’ve made is disgusting – you’ve ruined a twenty dollar pair of underwear and you know you can’t afford to buy things like that anymore. Oh, but I don’t care.
I step into the kitchen to take my meds after cleaning myself up just enough to pass for normal, or whatever these bastards want from me. We haven’t had clean cups for a week now so I put the pills in my mouth and attempt to swallow them drinking directly from the spout of our hand-me-down Brita water filter/jug. I choke. I cough violently. Someone, save me! Jason, where are you when I need the Heimlich maneuver?
I stop coughing. Could the pills have gone down my windpipe? I take an extra dose just in case, and I sit down at the computer to pull a presentation out of my ass.
But I’ll call my high school English teacher first. The one who told me she envisioned me being published someday – not editing someone else’s work, but publishing my own. The one who didn’t deduct marks from my term work even though I was prone to walking out of her class when I got fed up with my preppie classmates that had lived so much less than I had. The one who didn’t look at me strangely when I got back an exam that I had written on meth, and stood there staring at it incredulously for a good few minutes – “My writing is so neat…”
Mrs. Greenhill, she was a better mother than a teacher. She almost died of breast cancer last year, and I didn’t know what to say to her then, because one of my statements in her class was to read aloud a paper I wrote about my own mother going through the end stages of breast cancer. About the tumours that protruded through her neck during those last few nights. I made everyone in the class cry and a few people left the room before I was done reading.
Mrs. Greenhill is doing well now. It hurts, but I know she was stronger than my own mom, stronger than me. So I call but there’s no answer. I leave a cheezy message. When she calls back I will tell her that I’m writing a book.
March 4, 2005
I try to catch my breath. This is the feeling I was trying to put my finger on, the feeling you can only touch when you’re in its arms. This combination of invincibility and vulnerability. Someone pushing past me on the sidewalk could knock me to the ground; I’d get back up and beat them within an inch of their life. Deep breaths. This feeling that is worse than anything else in the world; this feeling that is sometimes the only thing that reminds me I am alive. Heart racing and palms sweating, I wait for the phone to ring.
Is it safe to mix pure MDMA with high-dose anti-depressants? I guess we’ll find out.
“Hey honey, what’s up?”
“Not much! What are you ladies up to tonight?”
“Well, we’re going to Mondragon for some spoken word thing…yeah Jima’s friend is performing or something. Then we’re supposed to stop by a social? Jima, are we still doing that? Yeah, some social for a bit. What are you up to?”
“Well, I’m getting my hands on some pure MDM…”
“We’ll be there.”
And we deserve it, don’t we? A little candy for all those A+s, a little hug for doing mommy proud yesterday, for having my seminar applaud me and call me “Professor Scars” at the end of my presentation.
There’s honking outside the window. Could it be…? Suzy doesn’t honk, you dumbass. She has a mountain of cell phones and pagers at her disposal by now. And no more meeting her in shopping mall parking lots. She’s done well for herself – got herself a “pimped out” ride and an apartment in the hippest area of town.
Jason has reservations about the whole thing.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be doing drugs when you’re this desperate to do them.”
But it’s my only weekend off before more midterms, papers, exams, tests…and you’re going to be working soon. Come on, honey, you always pussy out at the last minute.
Score one for the mistress of manipulation.
But it almost had to be called off. The bank put a hold on my income tax refund cheque, the bastards. I freak out in the corner store, make the mistake of calling daddy, and then run to the payphone outside. 18004652422…445156448274#…014…0.
“Yes, apparently you have put a hold on my account. I guess my rent cheque went through early, and I need some groceries, and the internet company is threatening to shut off my service…”
“How much do you need?”
“Another two hundred?”
“Let me put you on hold.”
I stand in the cold, shaking not due to the elements, but due to my feeling that there’s no way this voice at the other end of the line is going to grant me my wish. All of my other accounts are significantly overdrawn. Accept for the one whose balance is $0.01.
“Okay, it’s in there now. Have yourself a good weekend.”
The force is with me.
So why isn’t the phone ringing? Heart racing, palms sweating, chills starting to run from my spine to my legs. Where are you? Not that it matters – Jima, Tanya, and Rob won’t be here for a while. But it’s possession, not consumption, that matters most to me right now. I promise I’ll be good after tonight.
I promise that after my full psychiatric evaluation on Thursday I’ll start trying harder. I promise I’ll get off these chemicals, prescribed or otherwise, after Thursday. I promise the rest of this story will be about something else.
March 9, 2005
7:50 pm. I’ve forgotten to eat today; sitting in English class I am rid of all distraction. Boredom takes its place and I am consumed by hunger. Break time. I try twice to use the payphone to transfer money onto my maxed out, “delinquent”, all-around condemned Visa card so that I can withdraw it from the cash machine – the first fixture one sees when entering the University. I fail, and involuntarily donate a precious sixty dollars to the evil empire in the interim. I re-enter the classroom, fading fast now, but the same force that pushes me out of bed in the morning refuses to let me escape the second half of this pointless lecture.
My professor has listed the seven deadly sins, which apparently have something to do with this novel I have read one third of, on the chalkboard and my head spins the same way it does when I pick up one of those little pamphlets – Are You Depressed? Are You Anxious? Are You Bat-Shit Crazy? Who the hell are these people that don’t check off more than five of the little boxes?
I guess those are the people that fit into that other box, that bigger box – people who remember meals, people who read books in their entirety, people whose fate does not depend upon that damn machine.
Your financial institution has declined your request.
I remember the package of Rolaids I purchased at the gas station the other day when I was feeling violently nauseous. I ended up taking a Gravol instead and they are still in my purse so I pretend they are candy. Each candy tastes a little better, like each sip of a stiff drink. But they are yellow. Why yellow? If they were pink, or even orange, they would taste divine. Will I start frothing at the mouth like a rabid animal if I finish the package? The combination of that image and my hunger push every last effervescent tablet down my apathetic esophagus.
“I agree with you completely!!!”
There’s that one boy in every class, has been ever since kindergarten. In English 322 his name is Ralph. His unkempt shoulder length hair and overgrown goatee suggest he is a Lord of the Rings fanatic. Apparently he also knows the bible, inside and out. His beady dark eyes shoot daggers that scream “I am smarter than all of you!”, and he literally shouts, at least every two minutes during our three hour class. I’m not only starving but my head is starting to ache and I have a higher mark than he does in this class.
And that book really was beautiful, but I know nothing of formal religion, and could not finish it in one afternoon. Friday night’s MDMA experiment bled into Saturday and Sunday and Monday I threw a fit and ran out of our apartment.
“I love you, but this is starting to remind me a little too much of last year, and I’m going to leave before I do something stupid.”
Ralph, shut the fuck up! 8:30 pm and nothing sounds better than my messy apartment, my cat’s dirty litter box, my lazy unemployed lover on the couch. When my key penetrates the lock he’ll start making that sound that only I know about and I’ll run to the couch, adding my jacket and boots to the mess on the way, and I’ll jump on him and eat six pieces of the pizza he ordered at just the right time for it to arrive two minutes before me, and we’ll watch a stupid TV show and laugh, and we’ll laugh. He’ll have done all the dishes and finished the laundry and I won’t have to move until tomorrow.
When my key penetrates the lock he’ll be sleeping; he won’t let me wake him up. I’ll muster up enough energy to take off my jacket and boots, and place them where they’re supposed to go. I’ll sneak into the kitchen and take a pill or two, and the stack of dirty dishes piled up by the sink will smack me across my face on the way out. I’ll open the phone book – how I detest the phone book – and look for a number that will deliver me pizza.
“Okay, I think that’s enough for today.”
I make my escape and try the ATM one last time on my way out of this institution. Third time’s the charm? Not for the girl who imagines her writing is more worthwhile than Graham Greene’s. Not for the girl wearing a balaclava as a hat.
March 10, 2005
What does the “D” stand for again? I never could remember.
But first school. I arrive late to class after having a physical fight with the computer, trying to print my proposal for a term paper on the rave culture, but I make my professor laugh. We watch a video on asylums – how serendipitous. Then I make the trek up to the sociology department to make another proposal to another wise old man. This one knows I’m bat-shit crazy, and I think he likes it. He asks me to take off my coat and stay a while but I’m too nervous to engage in any kind of prolonged or profound human contact. He likes my ideas though, about the “’invisible’ indicators of social class”. He wishes me luck. He understands about the doctors.
I have an hour and a half to kill as I step into my semi-clean apartment. Jason is sick and asleep. I decide to make some phone calls to the United States, to try to track down the transcripts for some college-level exams I wrote during high school. I have to keep convincing myself that the voice on the end of the other line is speaking English, and this petty endeavor ends up killing that whole hour and a half.
I put my mittens back on – I think it’s warmer outside than in this apartment – and run to catch the short bus, the bus that will take me to the adult day hospital at the Health Sciences Centre.
The building is modern and impressive, nothing crazy about it. I am early, and the receptionist tells me I can wait in the lounge if I so please.
“There’s a TV and instant coffee.”
No thank-you. I go out for a cigarette, and two seconds after lighting up I’m told to move ten feet further away from the door. There’s a big no smoking sign painted on the pavement. I wish I had a camera. A girl walks past me, cute and disturbed, jaded and beaten, with a jacket similar to mine. She lights up five feet away, obviously this isn’t her first time here. Is she here for the same reason I am? Maybe there’s this connection between us that will save us both, but then my cigarette is finished so I forget about her and go back through the sliding doors, into the immaculate building that masks madness a little too well.
I sit right next to the receptionist’s office, flipping through my textbooks, making mad dashes and underlining phrases, tapping my feet and clawing at my hair. Eventually this grows to be too overwhelming, so I put the books away and just keep tapping my feet. Am I really that early? I consider getting up and checking the clock for the third time, but decide that would be a little much, even for me.
“Hi, I’m Doctor Inglis, sorry about the wait, come with me.”
I put my books and jacket down in one chair and me in another. I’m shaking like a leaf – I decided earlier not to take any clonazepam before this one so as to appear in my most raw psychological state.
She asks me why I’m here.
What? Borderline personality disorder, anxiety, suicide attempts…
“And why are you here?”
Is she trying to ease me into this or something? Whatever it is, it’s damn annoying. Come on honey, get to the good stuff, make me cry.
Your wish is my command.
“So your partner, is he your first boyfriend?”
Yes. “No, I had a couple of other boyfriends during high school. I guess our relationships were primarily sexual.”
* * *
I lost my virginity to rape. I was the rapist. It was the summer after Grade 10 and I flew back early from my family’s vacation to Vancouver Island because I was taking a summer physics class. One night after studying, Anna and two boys from that same boy’s school that Sam went to came over to aid us in raiding the old man’s liquor cabinet. Phillip and Hussein, I believe were their names. Anna was fooling around with Hussein, and told me that they thought Phil and I should hook up, I guess because we were the two lesser winners of the gene pool lottery as far as aesthetics were concerned.
“Only if I get really drunk…I want to get really drunk.”
I can still remember the sound of Anna’s laugh at that one, the laugh of a drunken fifteen-year-old best friend, on her way up to dad’s bedroom to give a fifteen-year-old boy a blowjob.
Phil and I were alone in the basement and I started chugging tequila. Then I started puking. Apparently this was a turn-on. We went into the bedroom and started making out. He was a decent kisser – a little too much teeth, but still decent.
“Kiss me somewhere else.”
Neither of us got off, so I pushed him down on the bed.
“No, we shouldn’t, next time maybe.”
“There won’t be a next time.”
And I jumped on his dick.
“Oh, that feels really good…”
After a few strokes he pushed me off and suggested we go back upstairs.
* * *
“Okay, and what was your relationship with your mother like?”
“Good, really good…”
“Was she more of a friend or a mother?”
I pause for a moment
“I guess a mother, but some nights she was a friend.”
* * *
God, like the night I managed to get a hair twisted around a funny place and she spent hours making me laugh until it would come loose. Or the nights I couldn’t stop crying so she stayed up and cried with me.
Or that first time she explained sex to me.
“Where did you think it went, in your ear?”
Or those spring days when she would eat hot-dogs with me in the tree house in our backyard. Or those summer days when we would walk to the train tracks together to look for wild roses. Or those fall and winter days, the days before she died. The day she told me about her previous marriage and the guy that carved her name into his arm. The day she took me shopping and told me to buy whatever I wanted, the day she looked so beautiful wearing that knitted pink hat even though there was no hair underneath, even though her soft green eyes were fading. The day we watched ER together for the last time, both knowing it would be the last time, both holding back our tears.
* * *
“I’m sorry, just give me a minute.”
“So this is a hard topic.”
“Did you ever talk to anyone about it, right after she died?”
”Ha, no, I went to school the day after. My dad just pretended it never happened.”
“And he’s remarried now?”
“Did he have other girlfriends after your mom died?”
“No, just the one. He started seeing her four months after she died. And they knew each other before.”
“So you think there was something going on before then?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Did your parents have a happy marriage?”
“I don’t think so. I mean I was young, but I can remember a few things…”
The day she told me that she should be happy that she married a rich man who could afford this suburbian life, but just couldn’t be. The day she told me she could smell the liquor on his breath after a late night at work. The day she told me that another man propositioned her at my little sister’s play group, but she refused because things were “complicated enough”.
“My dad was all about ‘stay together for the kids’.”
“Okay, so is there anything else you want to talk about?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, you do seem to have all of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder so I can get you into this program or that one, and we could think about you seeing a therapist individually to talk about your mom but that might just make you more unstable at this point, and we can talk about your medication.”
“Yeah, all of the above, but school right now…”
“And you’re doing very well in school!”
I burst into tears.
“You don’t think you’re doing well?”
”No, no. I just don’t hear that very often.”
I promise to join one of the programs when I figure out my schedule. She hands me a prescription. The anti-depressant, clonazepam, and a new one, a “low dose anti-psychotic”. Fascinating.
“Do you want me to recommend that Dr. Foster follows up with your meds or would you like to come see me again?”
“I think I’d rather come see you again; I think Dr. Foster feels that prescribing psychotropic drugs is a little outside her field of expertise, and…”
“But I won’t be seeing you as a patient, not that I wouldn’t like to, but I have a contract with the hospital, so I can’t be your therapist. This will just be a short-term thing.”
“I know, I know.” I know, I have borderline personality disorder and I’ll try my damndest not to get too attached to you, even though I’ve just poured my heart out to you, poured it out more than I have to all but two other people in my life. I’ll try not to fall in love with you like I fell in love with Dr. Wakeup in September.
I book a follow-up and leave the architectural masterpiece for the snowy streets. I’m not afraid crossing the street to catch a bus home, even though I’m a little shaken up and a little tipsy. The one thing I learned in driver’s ed. was that pedestrians always have the right of way. Perhaps this is why I refuse to drive.
It’s a struggle, but I allow myself to listen to that song on the new Tori Amos CD during the bus ride.
* * *
“Driving in my Saab, on my way to Ireland, it’s been a long time, it’s been a long time. Driving with my friends, on my way to Ireland, it’s been a long time, it’s been a long tayeeime…”
March 12, 2005
Thank-you microsoft word, for inserting the date for me.
I have been quite the enfant terrible since my life became case history #38975. For this I do apologize, though I do not feel it was well-deserved.
Though I do admit I needed a kick in the ass, needed to be reminded that I was human.
So to Jason, I am sorry with all of what’s left of my heart, that I convinced you to see Lady C on Friday evening. She has no business here and will not be seen again.
March 14, 2005
Time to pick up the pieces and go home.
But where is home? I always had trouble with that one. I can remember being a young girl, too young for school, driving through the park with my mom to look at the big houses like the one daddy lives in now, asking “Mommy, can we go home now?” So we’d go home, but I’d still ask her, lying in my bed with the rainbow blankets and my stuffed puppy Pastellia, “Can we go home now?”
Saturday Jason and I accidentally took one quarter ounce of mushrooms each, of the magic variety of course. Accidentally? By this point you shouldn’t be questioning such seemingly ridiculous claims. Saturday we were visited by the spirits – spirits of artists past, spirits of dancing girls, spirits of the Aboriginals who lived in this apartment before us.
The spirits told me that I should stop being so scared of being alone, that I am never alone. They told me not to fear logic. They told me to take my medication as prescribed.
But it’s so fucking hard. So hard when loneliness is the feeling I know best, and logic means dollars and cents and boxes, and Pastellia was a gift my Mother bought me when I was three, the first time she thought she was going to die.
* * *
My first memory is of being dropped, accidentally of course, in the deep end of a Holiday Inn swimming pool by daddy. I’m sure I was only under for a few seconds, but those seconds felt like hours, not being able to breathe and looking up at the surface to see everything disintegrating before my innocent eyes.
My second memory is a happy one, of riding a tricycle to the playground in suburbia, of the summer evening sky fading from blue to bluer, of picking beautiful dandelions and those other purple flowered weeds, and placing gently them in the tricycle’s basket.
My third memory is the one that concerns me now.
My third memory is of blood, blood on my Mother’s blue sweater. So much blood – I didn’t know there was that much blood in the whole world. We were at a diner, Mother, Father and I. Mother was scheduled to give birth to my little brother, Matthew, in a few days. We ordered dinner but the blood came instead. My third memory is of blood and panic and death. The diner was across the street from a hospital but the gynecologist on call was out at a dinner party of her own. So Matthew died in a hospital waiting room, and mommy almost died too. My third memory is of hospital rooms, green curtains, and a young doctor that shared my name and gave me a cup of orange juice. My third memory is of tubes and machines and Sheppard’s pie from the hospital cafeteria. My third memory is of Matthew’s funeral, of having to be the strong one for the first time, of kissing away mommy’s tears and whispering in her ear, “Mommy, don’t cry.”
After that mommy was sick, she had many miscarriages. The doctors thought she had Lupus, so she bought me Pastellia and a little porcelain clown with blue hair that sat in a miniature wicker chair.
“I want you to remember me.”
* * *
Jason plays the guitar in the other room, a melody that is sometimes harsh and sometimes ugly and sometimes beautiful and sometimes just right, but only for a few seconds and then it’s gone.
March 16, 2005
And I guess that’s what really scares me. The number of times my best laid plans have been pulled off perfectly, and then torn to pieces by my own hands, at my own free will. Or maybe not. Am I chemically programmed to destroy everything I create, and then create something new out of the ruins? Or is it just a habit, another creation of my own.
I’m talking semantics now. What I meant to do was tell another story from that summer I spent with Jima and Maybe, living in that mansion haunted by our amphetamine-induced hallucinations.
Ani DiFranco was in town, and on the day of the show, which was at Folk Fest and about an hour out of the city, Jima’s 80-year old father, Roland, announced that he couldn’t miss the event and would take his three derilict daughters in tow. I was working that day, at the big-box bookstore that has since become one of the evilist corporations around. A few phone calls on company time and the weird sisters decided one last little taste of that crystalline substance was in order. Minutes later an eccentric looking middle-aged man came in with a stack of books to exchange, and I pulled off some magic with his reciept, made him fill out some illegitamate paperwork, and successfully financed our evening without flinching. Fuck I had balls back then. And how sublime it was – getting off work at 6:00 pm to find the girls in the parking lot in that little red car with lines spread out for me on a CD-R case. I had the next day off work to recover, and had already convinced daddy to force Dr. Foster to call in a prescription for tylenol #3s for me in the morning to ease the come down. I handed over the cash and was appeased by congratulations from all. We met up with Roland, who is amazingly healthy for an eighty-year old, but nevertheless an eighty-year old and should pRobably not have been allowed on the road. Nevertheless, he insisted on driving, and we flew to the Folk Fest grounds, all anticipation and all promises. We finished the stuff off before Ani’s set, during which Jima and I decided “Two Little Girls” should be our song. The song starts out hopeful but ends on the bathroom floor. On the car ride home I was all sweat and tingles, but joyful knowing I could just enjoy the little rushes and pangs without the threat of responsibility looming over me. And this would be the last time. At least the last time before the Radiohead concert later that summer. That night I sat in the suburban silence of my yellow bedroom at daddy’s house and wrote a poem that was to reconcile my failed relationship with Jason. I called it the reckoning poem:
Winter on the way
The air was sharp and spoke of endings
when it began
When he shook my hand and smiled
No, not a smile
No name for the look, his
and his alone
And the moment I once called Fate
still do sometimes, when I feel small
still do because it started then, and I
believed it with my whole
We both did
Both, if he told the truth that day
Both, because I would like to think he did
It’s more complete that way –
And didn’t care that I was dirty
so I promised to get clean
not my fault, I see this now
that I wanted it all
Wanted the moment to be the answer
The answer to everything
My answer, at last
Yes, now I see, where there was blindness then
as I looked into those eyes, and saw an angel
Who called himself the Devil
and I believed
lying in bed, feeling blessed
feeling heroic, impossible was mine
I lay beside him and told myself the story, over and over
Never growing tired of it, then
I didn’t have to try
so I stayed
drank his whine and ate his kisses
And for hours we lay there
and pretended we weren’t trying
Lying until it was a lie
Even then I would have stayed
Begged, in fact, to stay
Begged for blindness as he kicked me out
She wouldn’t let me, insisting with each word:
Wake up, sweet girl
Get up, it’s time
And I was sure the sky would fall
sure I would fall
as we stood up, She and I
Still standing as we walked away
Away from those hands
the angel’s and the Devil’s
Just a boy, She said
a boy, a boy, until I believed Her
Until I knew
Until I took my first breath
My first breath since that day he smiled
No, not a smile
Still no name for the look, still his
that, alone, I see
and smile back at, knowing
what She knew all along, while She
watched, all the real and all the faking
and waited, for the time when I could understand
The time when She could tell me that
He taught me how to live
but together there is only dying
The time when She could tell me that, alone
I am alive.
The time when I would finally believe Her instead.
March 18, 2005
“So what do you want to do for the next few hours?”
“I don’t know…I don’t know.”
“Do you want to go get cigarettes and I’ll do the dishes?”
“No, I’ll do the dishes.”
“Are you sure? I can do them.”
“No. I want to do them.”
“Peter wants us to play with him, give him some catnip.”
“Where is it, in the drugs drawer?”
I pour some kitty-weed into my hand and the cat tries to eat my hand. I play with him for a bit. I like how it feels when he bites and scratches at my hands and my arms. Before I sit down to write I smell my hand. It smells like cocaine.
Jima cut herself again this morning. The cuts get deeper everytime. Last night I went to her apartment to hang out, a nice way of saying to stand on suicide watch. She’s really serious about this now. She told me that next time they’d be taking her away in a body bag. Fortunately she’s alive, but unfortunately that means she’ll pRobably be out of the hospital and left to her own devices by this evening. I don’t quite understand what message the mental health care system is trying to send out, that you have to die to be taken seriously? See, I got lucky. When I got really bad last summer Jason already had a weekly appointment with Dr. Wakeup that I was welcome to attend. When I got really bad after Montreal a change of scenery and a summer of drug abuse did the job. But Jima’s not so lucky. Her most finely tuned skill is convincing the professionals that she’s fine, that she’s ready to go home, ready to play with more glass. For some reason they never hear that last bit. Last night when Jima said goodbye to me, it felt like she was saying goodbye for good, like she was saying I’ll see you next lifetime.
“But Jima, we don’t know that. All you have is this life.”
“But energies and stuff…I’ll be around.”
Fuck, I’m not ready to be alone again. So I wrote her this stupid, uneloquent note, begging her not to leave me. Fuck, it pRobably convinced her to pick up the knife.
At least she’s at the Health Sciences Centre. Did she ask the paramedics to take her there, under my recommendation? Will a couple of weeks in that majestic glass and tile building make her better? I call the hospital, begging them to commit her, telling them that she’s been trying to do herself in for a month now, that she’s damn serious. But I’m not a family member so my words mean nothing.
“I’ll pass along your concerns.”
Bull shit. You’ll file them under ‘G’. No, I’m not a family member, nor am I an idiot. I should have said I was her sister. Note to self for next time; God please don’t let there be a next time. That is, please let her be okay; don’t take her away. And who the fuck is God anyways, an emergency room psychiatrist? Maybe I could call back and pretend I’m a doctor. But Jason says I have to stop fancying myself a doctor.
* * *
The day after the concert the clouds were as sick as I was. They opened up and flooded the skies and the city with water. So when I got the call at noon that my prescription was ready at Superstore, I made the twenty mintue run through twenty giant puddles to pick it up. You see, it is assumed that everyone in suburbia drives a car. So I ruined a two-hundred dollar pair of shoes that I had purchased just before I left Montreal, during my cocaine and compulsive shopping phase. I ran back home and in the safety of the yellow bedroom I opened the bottle of pills and played doctor. The toxins cancelled each other out, as I sat on my big, expensive bed, staring at the yellow. I was ready for a nice family dinner when daddy got home, and ready for work the next day.
But something went terribly wrong at work the next day. You see, you never know what your brain is going to do the next day, no matter how many chemicals you feed it, no matter how much you try to coax it this way or that. So that day I spent my eight hour shift feeling like I was going to explode, like time was going a thousand times slower than normal, but only for me, the rest of the world went along with its day like nothing was out of order.
Somehow I ended up in Jima’s basement after work. We were going to go see a play at the fringe festival that one of her friends was starring in.
“Jima, I’m just like ‘ahhhhhh’ today!”
“Do you think we should…”
We picked up Maybe and went to the fringe mainstage, in the exchange district, right across from the pub where Jason was working that summer.
I hadn’t seen him since the morning we broke up, the morning he got weird on the phone and I insisted on taking a cab to his place, the morning he told me he had made up his mind that this wasn’t meant to be, the morning I cried and screamed while he insisted on fucking me one last time, the morning I packed up my things and made him cry before leaving, the morning I threw my pink shoes at him and told him to keep them because they would only make me sad, the morning he threw them back and begged me not to be sad, the morning my dad picked me up and drove me to work with my swollen eyes and yelled at me for interrupting his precious routine.
From the mainstage grounds Jima called Suzy. She agreed to meet us there. So the three of us walked around the booths selling sarongs and used books and pipes. I think Jima bought a copy of “Waiting for Godot”, but that might have been a different day. Either way, it was getting late, we were going to miss the play if Suzy didn’t show up now. So she appeared on the other side of the street, the side where the pub was located, like a spectre, crazy purple braids and all.
“There she is!”
I bolted across that street forgetting the kindergarten lesson to look both ways before you do so, and was startled by a loud honking sound as an angry car stopped an inch before hitting me.
“Watch out dude!”
All smiles, we made our trade.
Jima and Maybe crossed the street carefully, and Jima looked at me with eyes half impressed and half concerned.
“You almost got hit by a car…Fool Face!”
We burst into maniacal laughter. Fool Face? It became my nickname for the rest of the summer. And as I laughed I secretly wished that I had been hit by the car, that Jason would have heard the sirens and come out to find his ex-girlfriend, lying on the pavement, flattened into a pancake. In that moment, I truly would have sacrificed my life for Irony’s sake. But Irony had no interest in me, an eighteen-year old spoiled brat that thought she was immortal; Irony had no interest in Fool Face.
We raced off to the play, joined by two other girls that Jima knew, who did not partake in our bad habits, to the theatre on the top floor of the shopping mall downtown. We arrived two minutes late and were not allowed in.
So off to the washroom we went to execute that routine of crushing and drawing lines and snorting. The meth looked funny – too grainy and it hurt our desensitized noses. But we felt kind of high and those other girls pitied us enough to forgive us so we made our way back to the festival grounds. And the inevitable happened.
We walked past the pub and Jima ran into someone she knew, the ex-boyfriend of another drug fiend, sitting on the patio, drinking a Moosehead. Seconds later Jason came out. He insisted that we all stay and have a beer; I guess that was his job. As we spoke, each word of that poem I wrote was slowly erased. We told him about our plans to go to Vancouver to see Radiohead in August, and he asked if he could come with us. The bastard. I knew he wasn’t serious, but he just had to suggest that we could be together again. We finished our beers and said our goodbyes. I hugged that frame that I knew so well, too numb to cry but not numb enough not to feel something. There was something wrong with that meth.
Jima drove me home and I had to open the store the next morning, so all I wanted was to sleep, to forget. I silently pulled out a bottle of gin from daddy’s liquor cabinet, and fillled a glass with three quarters gin, one quarter juice. I woke up the next morning feeling like that car had run over me after all, and tried snorting some more of the tainted crystals to cure it. Then I just wanted to puke, and I finally did, at 2 pm, all melodramatic-like, running away from a customer and to the wheelchair stall in the washroom at the back of the store to spew the ghastly contents of my stomach into the white basin. I had always wanted to be that kid at school that pukes all over her or himself in the middle of class, demanding immediate attention and pity and disgust. Chapters was high school, with its ridiculous cliques – the nerds, the in-crowd, the druggies – and I was that kid. As I left, I noticed Clinton, the boy who had eaten me out in daddy’s foyer after a staff party, a co-member of the druggie clique who had taken me upstairs and sang me that song, “I want a lover I don’t have to love, I want a girl who’s so drunk she doesn’t talk, where is the kid with the chemicals, he said he’d be here in an hour but I’m not sure…”. I sat beside him on the pavement to smoke a cigarette and tell him of my brilliant escape.
“Way to go, man! What’d you get up to last night anyways?”
It’s way to pathetic of a story to tell you. “You don’t even want to know.”
And then I pulled myself up or he pulled me up and I started the long, hot walk to the bus stop back to daddy’s, with an empty stomach and my hip bones protruding way out of my pants. When I got home I started popping Gravol. I think I took a few too many. I finally ventured downstairs at 10 pm, to find daddy and Angie watching some stupid improv show.
“You look drowsy.”
“Yeah. I am.”
Back upstairs. I spent the next twenty-four hours talking to imaginary people, to the walls, to anyone who would listen.
March 22, 2005
Eight Tylenol #3s for the girl who still doesn’t know any better. And I really don’t give a fuck. My only fear is of getting caught. I’m supposed to be doing so much better. A cry for help? No, just a cry for numbness.
“I don’t know if there’s any market out there for this kind of thing…are you studying creative writing at school at all?”
The tears don’t start until we leave Dr. Wakeup’s office and enter one of the skywalks downtown. So that’s what it all comes down to. My writing is half-baked bullshit and you know nothing about me at all. And why should you? I came here to help Jason, not myself. And I’m doing damn fine. As long as I keep this double-doctoring charade up, I should graduate with honours in a year’s time. I’ve got 162 clonazepam and am due for a refill any day now. Fucking fine as always. I’ll graduate and then I’ll have to answer to the fuckers who ask, “So, why sociology?”
“Because I fucking like it, that’s why.”
The tears don’t start until the exact moment that we bump into Codytina, a sixteen year-old girl Jason met on the bus who we’ve been fucking for the past week. I really don’t want to cry in front of her, I actually really like her, want her to be my friend. I don’t want to let her know that the world really is that awful. So I carefully place the tip of my finger in each eye and remove the tears before they land on my cheeks, a skill I honed when I was twelve, when I had to be strong again. Be strong for her, be strong for mommy, be strong for your sister. Never for myself.
“Yeah, that sounds really good!”
I need to go home immediately. But Jason wants to check out ticket prices for some concert that I have no interest in going to and get his wallet fixed at the shop where such things can be done. So he pulls me around like a two-year old on one of those leashes they make for children, one of the imaginary variety. Finally my tantrum wears him out and we get in line to take a bus home. Home. Where I can hide in my room with my pills and my laptop, where I can put on my party dress and dance with my tears, where I don’t have to worry about picking them out of my eyes. I can pick my nose instead, pick it until it bleeds.
I don’t think I’ll be returning to see Dr. Wakeup. I think I wanted him to be my daddy all this time, or my lover, or even my friend. But Jason got there before me; I am just a bystander to his depression, his self-loathing, his self-defeating narrative that is starting to make me ill. I see the truth now, that I was nothing but a pretty little porcelain doll to sit beside Jason on the couch, to look at when his passivity became unbearable. I was Ophelia, screaming, “I’m crazier than you!”, talking about drowning myself in the river, making the audience laugh. And I was crazier, I am crazier, but I’m functional-crazy and really don’t deserve to take up any more of the Doctor’s precious fifty minute long sessions.
Jima calls me from the psych ward. She committed herself voluntarily on Sunday night.
“You sound like you’re crying.”
She’s the only person in the world that actually derives some kind of happiness from my tears, and she speaks of us being cosmically connected.
“I know, I know.”
She doesn’t have much time to talk, she’s being watched or listened to. But she reads me five poems by Leonard Cohen before she hangs up. The last one is about a shrink who goes mad. God I love her, even though seconds before she called I hated her for having the guts to demand a bed at some sort of institution, for doing what I fantasized about doing so many times.
* * *
I was only dead serious about killing myself once.
The set for my dramatic performance was Montreal, first year University, on full academic scholarship, not that anyone cared or even congratulated me for my success. It didn’t matter. I went to Montreal to die.
Maybe it was the abortion, killing my baby two months after I moved to the new city with its flashy lights and flashier women. Maybe it was the isolation, being nothing but a number to every one but my roommates. Maybe it was the ridiculous amounts of speed we were doing, the fact that McGill University happened to randomly place three ex-junkies in an apartment together.
It was Friday. I hadn’t slept for days. I dropped off an anonymous philosophy paper in an anonymous slot in an anoymous building and decided to skip the rest of the afternoon to sleep. I took the subway back to that apartment and all of the skeletons hidden in its closets. I needed to sleep. There was a two-six of vodka, about a quarter full sitting on top of the fridge, and I drank it and crawled into my closet of a bedroom and got under the covers. I lay there for two hours and still couldn’t sleep. So I started taking pills, some Midol and some Gravol. Still nothing but my stubborn head that refused to succomb to unconsciousness. It was getting dark out. Rhiannon and Katenga, my randomly selected roommates and new best friends, returned home from their more productive days, Rhiannon clutching books and Katenga clutching shopping bags. And Rhiannon was with her friend Tom, a military boy from New York who had taken the bus up to visit her, or well, I guess us, for the weekend. I’ve always been good at first impressions.
“I can’t sleep!!! You have to go get me sleeping pills or something or else I’m going to fucking kill myself.”
Katenga liked playing mommy, liked cleaning the apartment and telling people that she was there for them whenever they needed to talk (although those talks always ended up being more about herself than anyone else), so she ran to the corner store to get me some over the counter sleeping pills.
“Not the kind that have the same thing Gravol has in them, the other kind.”
She returned with the pills and a story that she found absolutely hilarious about having to tell the pharmacist that her roommate’s mom had just died in order to procure the bottle labelled “Ny-tol”. I laughed along with her, sincerely I laughed, having no insight into what was going on in my head at all. She fed me two of the pills and instructed me to go to bed. She would wake me up in a few hours when the party started.
I got under the covers again, and patiently kept my eyes closed for twenty minutes. When I opened them an old man was staring at me and there were spots all over the walls. I threw on the lights and threw open my door, sat down on the couch in our living room, decorated in true collegiate fashion with posters of Ché Guevara and The Beatles, and started rocking back and forth and staring at the frightening colours dancing about the blank wall. Rhiannon and Katenga emerged from their rooms.
“I still can’t fucking sleep!” I may have been crying at that point.
They didn’t know how to respond, and I didn’t blame them. I can’t remember if they told me to stop trying to sleep or if I made that decision myself. Either way, they announced that they were making a trip to the liquor store. Did I want anything? Of course.
“Get whatever you want, vodka maybe? You can grab a twenty from my wallet.”
As soon as I heard the click of the door closing, I ran into Rhiannon’s room. I had located her secret hiding spot for pills during a previous mission, and I grabbed the broken tablets of speed that lay there and shoved them into my mouth. Katenga’s room was next. Her drug box was no secret, and I opened it and stole its contents as well. Then I returned to my room to add whatever crumbs of pills past I could find in my desk drawer to my mouth, leaving only the cap of ecstasy that our dealer had given me for free during our most recent bulk purchase. I think I took a few more Ny-tol as well. Not a second after I completed my stealth mission, the girls and the army guy returned with several brown paper bags.
“I think I feel a little better. I’m sorry guys. Can we start drinking?”
And drink we did. I started out with a couple of beers and worked my way up to the better half of some bottle of awful raspberry flavoured vodka.
“I feel great! I’m so sorry guys, just went a little crazy there…”
Soon others joined our party, the pot-dealers that lived in apartment 420, I kid you not; Jeff, the token ambiguously gay frat boy; and Anna and her roommates.
All of a sudden this voice rose from my throat, and accused Jeff of being a pillow-biter. The voice was making every one laugh, and it kept on spewing insults until Jeff almost broke the golden rule and punched a lady. The whole time I was just laughing my ass off like a lunatic, and Anna was egging me on. The voice left Jeff alone for a while, but kept on with more sweeping statements and magnificent announcements that Scars Reimer would never imagine making. Scars Reimer felt euphoric and mad and ready for it all to be over, ready to go out with a bang. So she snuck into her room and took that final pill, that should under no circumstances be mixed with twenty drinks.
It was time to go to the club, I let the others go hold the cab because I forgot something in the apartment. When they were out of sight, I scrawled a suicide note, a plagiarized poem written by Jima back in high school, on the white message board on our apartment door: “If I should die before I live, I pray the few who cared forgive.”
Then I ran down to join the others, and watched the lights of the city from the taxi window for the last time.
We arrived at “Le Bedroom”, and I sat in a booth with Rhiannon for a while. While we sat there, I reached the height of my craziness, at least for the time being. A good-looking young man approached me and asked if he could bum a smoke. I handed him my lip-liner pencil and insisted that it was a cigarette. Rhiannon tried to restrain me, but I wouldn’t stop.
“C’est une cigarette, monsieur!”
Eventually he just laughed cautiously and disappeared. Then I asked Rhiannon, “Can I borrow your cigarette for a minute?” She handed it to me and I hurled it at the crowd on the dance floor.
“Scars, what are you doing?!?”
That was my cue to get up and start dancing. Another good-looking young man joined me on the dance floor, and we got really close and started grinding. I was wearing jeans that clung to my ass like saran-wrap and I let him kiss me on the cheek. My arms were in the air and I was having the time of my life, but suddenly something went terribly wrong. I still don’t remember what it was – my fear of life, upon deciding to die? The boy getting a little too close for comfort? The bad, loud rap music?
“I’ll be right back, honey.”
I ran to the coat check to get my things and burst through the doors into the streets of downtown Montreal. I started wandering those streets, all alone at two in the morning. I found shelter in a phone booth and opened by bag to get out my wallet. My wallet was gone. Someone had stolen my fucking wallet! Or I’d left it sitting atop another phone in another booth in the area. I walked the same two blocks for at least half an hour, trying to locate it before reconciling with myself – it was gone.
I was lost and a missing person and had no money to get anywhere. It was meant to be. I stepped back into one of the phone booths and waited for a car to drive by, which I could jump in front of. But soon one of Montreal’s notorious hobos came knocking on the phone booth to rain on my suicide parade. His eyes were bulging and screaming of rape, so I smashed his head with the door to the phone booth and swore at him in French. It scared him away, but I was also scared shitless. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I should call someone with daddy’s calling card. The only numbers I could remember were numbers back in Winnipeg – Suzette’s number, the number for a Winnipeg taxi company, daddy’s number, and Jima’s number. I called each number several times, hanging up when someone answered. The only person who wasn’t answering was Jima. I figured I’d give it one last try before resorting back to the pedestrian casualty plan.
“What’s up? Holy shit, I can’t believe I heard the phone. I’ve just had my tonsils out and I’m completely mashed on tylenol #3s, and I sound like a muppet. It’s like three in the morning, hun.”
“Jima I’m lost in downtown Montreal and a bum stole my wallet and I’m going to jump in front of a car.”
“No honey, no playing in traffic! Just talk to me!”
”I’m so messed up…”
“Can’t you call your roommates? I’m sure they’d pay your cab fare. Scars, just get into a cab.”
“No, I can’t call them. Can you call them?”
“What’s the number?”
I gave her the number and promised to call her back in five minutes, which I spent doing more rocking, back and forth against the phone and the pane of class enclosing us.
“Okay, they’re waiting for you at your place. Just get into a cab, okay? You promise me?”
“I love you sweetie, everything will be okay. Call me in the morning.”
“Okay, I love you too.”
I walked another couple of blocks and miraculously found a cab, an old one with deliciously soft red upholstery. I gave him my address, and found myself staring at the city lights again. I was still alive. When we arrived at my building, twenty people were awaiting my arrival, most of them I’d only met once or twice before. Katenga paid the cabbie and I told them all the story about the bum that had mugged me before I bashed his skull in with a phone booth door.
“We were worried sick about you! You can’t just take off like that!”
“Can we talk about this in the morning?”
No one had noticed my note, and for good reason – if I hadn’t known what it was supposed to say I wouldn’t have been able to decipher the scrawlings either.
I closed my door and looked down at my bed. My wallet was sitting on top of the covers, oblivious to the scene it had been responsible for.
I turned off the lights and slept – finally – but not for long. I woke up crying and decided to commit myself that afternoon. I had a horrendous headache, so I put on my coat and walked to the corner store to buy some painkillers. When I got back I would start going through the yellow pages.
But by the time I got back, Katenga, Rhiannon and Tom were awake, planning a trip to the diner for breakfast or planning to make breakfast – something about breakfast. And they were all laughing about the stunts I’d pulled at the club, and how I’d made such a fuss about my wallet that wasn’t lost but sitting on my bed.
“You’re the best Scars.”
I stopped crying and started laughing, too, even though this time I didn’t find any of it very funny at all.
* * *
I stop crying. Jason tells me that Dr. Wakeup meant that he thought I’d get published. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, he’s never said anything even close to that complimentary about my writing.”
Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m right.
Right now I really don’t give a fuck.
That’s a damn lie.
March 27, 2005
Sunday morning. I’ve always hated Sundays. I think this hatred began when I was forced to perform at piano recitals as a child and then grew from there. There’s nothing to do on a Sunday except what you’re supposed to do – clean up the house, deal with the aftermath of Friday and Saturday’s revelries, and make something of the pile of papers and due dates that lie on a desk or are posted on a calendar. Sunday’s are truly cruel. I consider joining a church, but have a feeling that would only make the day crueller.
Sunday morning the loneliness sinks in. Jason and Rob stayed up until eight or nine this morning playing video games, so Jason sleeps silently on the bed. I try to talk to him but he is out cold. I don’t think even the offer of sex could get a rise out of him. I will proposition him later, I’m sure that will make him happy.
Good ol’ happy. I can see myself having fun this summer, which, I think, is a noteworthy improvement. But right now happy is hiding somewhere and I feel like weeping. For what? For Sunday, and for loneliness, and for broken promises. Every night I promise myself that tomorrow I will start taking my meds as prescribed. Every morning I remove two little orange pills instead of one from the bottle with my name on it, the bottle that was entrusted to me, the bottle that is starting to control me.
I know I could call Jima, but I want her to call me for a change. She broke out of the psych ward as fast as she broke in. Her father is understanding and concerned, and buys her little presents, a magazine or some chocolate or a CD, the way daddy used to buy me little presents before I went bad. No – before he went bad. Either way, I really have no desire to speak to her, and fear she is slowly floating over to my blacklist, even though it’s not her fault that I’m jealous of her relationship with her father and her will to make her illness known, even though I know there’s a greater possibility that she would cheer me up than bring me down.
I was invited to daddy’s house for Easter dinner, but I’m definitely not up for the family fiasco, even though it would provide company for a little while. I think this is also a noteworthy improvement, knowing I would not survive dinner without some of the fiancé’s pills, that make his house seem like less of a monster and more of a mansion or even a playground, that make conversations over dinner a little less patronizing, a little more pleasant.
“Haha, I don’t see what’s wrong with a parent wanting their child to be a doctor or a lawyer, hahaha.”
Until my mouth gets away from me and I start causing a scene of one sort or another, then disappear into the basement to play pool with my sister, Angie, who loves me even though I’m damaged goods. I haven’t been to daddy’s house since Codytmas Eve when I made Angie cry, suggesting that we should locate my manic-depressive aunt’s purse to search for more good pills. We opened presents together later, and Codytmas morning was not ruined, as I could not remember what most of the gifts I received were, and the parcels, although opened, were a surprise all over again.
The pills don’t cure loneliness. Codytina is in Gimli for the day, so that’s off the list of options. I’m really excited about this relationship we’re forming – I haven’t really had a girlfriend for a long time. She’s so beautiful and young. She’s so much like me. I sense that are relationship will become disasterous, too intense, and this excites me as well. I notice that she left her little black pipe here. I like when people leave things behind – they function as collateral.
So why the tears? Maybe I’m just overwhelmed with all of these due dates, so close together, that cast a shadow over my keyboard. Maybe it’s just sad to know that I’ll do the best I can and I’ll pRobably do pretty damn good, but I’ll have to draw it out of myself, I’ll have to find that place where ambition supercedes angst, and the process will be painful. Maybe I’m just coming down off the dexedrine Codytina gave me yesterday, to try to kick this clonazepam habit I’m developing. Nice try. I should have saved them for Sunday morning. I think I’ve taken about ten clonazepam to make myself feel normal again. Nice try.
All I want to do is cry. I want to curl up in bed with Jason and cry until his t-shirt is soaked, but I can’t do that, I can’t wake him for the purpose of this nonsensical ridiculum. I want to cry until it gets warmer outside. I want to cry until Loneliness dies, or at least stops haunting me, on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings and all the other times in between.
What I need is some nourishment and a hot bath. I throw a bagel in the toaster and run a bath, but I’m terrified that if I step into it, alone, the tears will refuse to be tamed. I am cold and sweaty from the pills, but sick as it sounds, I’ve always kind of liked the feeling of sweat clinging to me, hugging me, after the consumption of uppers of one kind or another. I even like the sublime smell of it, pungent yet sweet – different from the smell of normal sweat. I will wait until Jason wakes up to take that bath.
Maybe what I need is just a couple more pills with that bagel and cream cheese. I don’t think they could knock me out at this point, but they may make me numb enough to deal with the Gods of sociology, asking me why I’m writing this instead of a brilliant term paper. Maybe then I won’t be a basket case when Jason wakes up, and I will be able to make love to him without sobbing afterwards. Maybe I can at least clean up the apartment if the sociology thing doesn’t pan out.
All I want right now is to feel nothing.
Eventually I conjure up the power to call Jima and Tanya. I hear Tanya’s voice on the other end of the line, and I truly do feel nothing. And it scares me.
“Jima’s in the shower…ya we’re going over to my parent’s place for Easter dinner, and Jima’s dad’s coming too.”
The phone rings about five minutes later. I do not answer it.
Instead I check the messages, there is only one, from Jason’s mother, who insists that she invited him “home” for the occaision. I never heard anything of this engagement, and Jason pRobably didn’t either. My stomach turns. Yes, why doesn’t Jason come home for Easter, without his girlfriend who has been supporting him financially and emotionally for the past two years, without that funny girl who goes to University instead of working. Jason’s parents don’t understand the government student loan program, or that their son has gotten me thirteen-thousand dollars in debt and an ominous “R3” on my credit report. I’m still feeling pretty numb, so I just save the message and save rage for another day, another message, another idiot. I will let Jason hear it later and I’m sure it will light his fuse. I hope that scene is a subdued one.
Numb enough to take a bath. The hot water feels good and my tears are easily turned off or away. The water drips off my freshly shaved legs. But then my head starts hurting and I start worrying a little more. Better take two more, and a couple of tylenol for the pain.
March 30, 2005
I finally break down and go to daddy’s house and all its clean, shiny surfaces on a Wednesday morning.
It is the morning Jason and I are to attend a meeting at social services, yes, the welfare office, to apply for a one-time grant. Apparently the government will pay for us to live for a month or two before Jason starts working. This should be good news, but the collection of various documents and the connection with people to fill out these documents proves to be quite the trying task.
But it is the morning Jason and I are to attend this meeting, and all that is missing from our stack of bureaucratic excrement is one bank statement and one misplaced doctor’s note. But the bank is just at the end of the street, and I’m sure they can print us a copy of what we need. And I’m sure the doctor’s card will do – the doctor would be more than happy to explain that Jason left his last job when he stopped taking Prozac over the phone.
So I heave myself out of bed at seven-thirty to begin getting ready for the meeting, after sleeping for twenty-four hours.
* * *
Yesterday’s psychotherapy session was worse than its predecessor. Apparently Jason and I have invited chaos in to fill our respective voids. We’ve invited a third soul into our relationship, which Dr. Wakeup, a Codytian, cannot even begin to comprehend. Apparently we have a choice: to delve into our pain or to continue living recklessly.
I’ve never been a fan of ultimatums.
It’s hard to hear an ultimatum from the man I adored so much four months ago.
“We have to wrap up now. Can I ask each of you what’s going to stay with you from this session?”
“Am I allowed to say nothing?”
When we leave that office on the seventh floor (I’m sure Dr. Wakeup thinks this has some kind of strong religious meaning; I already know he fancies himself a God of some sort, and for a while he was) I get teary again.
On-route to the bus, I tell Jason that it’s not him, it’s me, and I mean it.
What really, is the difference between seeing doctors of various sorts, at least once a week, with being handed prescriptions and descriptions of their effects, of talking semantics with a man that really doesn’t give a shit about me, and seeing drug dealers, at least once every few weeks, with being handed various potions and descriptions of their effects, of talking semantics with a woman that really doesn’t give a shit about me. Do I really want to spend my free hours this summer in group therapy, or enjoy them as I see fit – come to my own conclusions about myself and others and the Universe.
The next stop is Dr. Kos, the chiropractor’s. He practices Chinese medicine and puts some kind of sharp object in my earlobe when he sees I’m feeling wistful. He tells us of his plans to sail around the world someday. He says the thing in my ear will make me feel like I’ve just smoked a nice little reefer. On the way out I suggest him being my shrink for a while, but of course this is not a possibility. I think of some Ani DiFranco lyrics, waiting for another bus. “I think in Ancient China they kind of had it figured out…now it’s just a bottle of pills, a bottle of booze, full round of ammunition, nothing to lose.”
So I decide I need to sleep for another twenty-four hours, then wake up and start fresh. Sleep will rid me of these troubling questions, sleep will bring me the answers. We finally arrive home and I take five seroquel – the anti-psychotic – one of which has been known to knock me our for fourteen hours and which I plan to stop taking anyways because they’re starting to make me useless, they’re starting to make me unable to distinguish between days, they’re starting to paint a blank expression on my face. I tell Jason I love him, so much, before getting under the covers, I tell him I’m sorry I have to leave him alone for the evening, but that I love him so, so much.
* * *
Maybe it was closer to twenty-eight hours. Damn.
I start that routine, I run a bath and put the coffee on like Jason asked me to yesterday. I brush my teeth. I step into the bath and shit I forgot to take the coffee of the burner and I can smell that it’s ready and boiling over. It’s okay, I will just make the bath a fast one for a change. I dry myself off, make a towel-turban for my hair and cautiously step into the kitchen to see what kind of a mess I’ve managed to pull off. Worse than I thought – coffee is splattered everywhere. Is there even any left in the pot? A tiny bit, but that’s usually all Jason takes – a shot of espresso with a lot of milk and a little sugar. So I make him this concoction as fast as I can and bring it to him in bed. He takes a sip.
“This coffee isn’t even warm!”
“I’m so sorry, I’m just trying to do ten things at once, I’ll go warm it up.”
I place the cup in the microwave for thirty seconds and bring it back to him, then I run to get dressed and make sure all the required documents are in order.
Jason emerges, coffee cup in hand. “Codyt, can’t you do anything right? Something that I would do for you a hundred times.”
“I’m sorry, the thing boiled over but I was in the bath and I’m sorry.”
“The milk was even curdled. Did you notice that?”
“No, I’m sorry, just trying to do everything so fast…”
“I’m just sick of being the only one around here that does anything.”
“Excuse me? Don’t even go there, I’m the only one, oops, Freudian slip, I mean you’re the only one that does anything around here?”
With that Jason throws off his shoes.
“We’re not going, you fucked up.”
“What the hell are we going to do for money?”
“Good question, but those half-filled out forms aren’t going to get us anywhere.”
“Yes they will, come on, I’m good at dealing with bureaucrats, let’s just go.”
Jason runs to the bedroom and hides under the blankets. I sit on the bed.
“Come on silly, let’s just go give it a try.”
“No, I’m not in the mood. You know how you need to sleep for twenty-four hours sometimes? Just get the hell away from me.”
Five minutes pass and he is sleeping like a baby and I am crying like a baby, a baby who no one has the skills to comprehend, a baby who can’t communicate what she wants. I sit in the foyer rocking back and forth for a while, and then make half-coherent phone calls to Codytina and Rob, screaming, someone please help! Maybe Codytina will do some meth with me tonight, but no, she’s working. Damn fate, damn love, damn it all.
Daddy’s house it is. I can’t stay here or else I’ll die. I call the old man and he tells me he’ll be here in half an hour. I use the time to write Jason a letter, ending with “I love you silly, but some things have got to change.” Like I was every day last summer, I’m scared out of my wits of my later return home.
I type up a research report without thinking when I get to daddy’s. The words mean nothing to me, my head is too full. The fiancé is out for the day so I take five or so of her bright blue pills over the course of the afternoon. They don’t seem to have much effect though. I can’t even stop the tears over lunch when daddy suggests,
“You know, this is always your home. You can always come back here for a little while or a long while, or whatever. I’m not saying that you might want to do that now, but I just want you to know that this is your home and you can always come back.”
I weep into the napkin placed beside the perfect breakfast he’s made me – two breakfast burritos, bacon, and a side of fresh strawberries. Sometimes plastecine doesn’t seem so bad.
But if I moved back here I’d be back on meth within days, and I don’t know which is worse, the dismal nature of these two options, or the implications of daddy’s little declaration.
I return to the basement to type some more nonsense, kill some more time, try to arrive home at the exact moment that Jason has risen from his coffin, read and understood my letter. But the conspicuous consumption that surrounds me is suffocating – the unused pool table and bar fridge, the surround sound and DVD system still in its box, the paper shredder under the desk.
“Okay, I’m ready to go home.”
Riding in daddy’s minivan I realize I much prefer buses to cars, adventure to predictablity. I forget to ask him to stop at the grocery store so I can buy some kitten chow, but am not annoyed when I am asked to go get Peter’s food and some cigarettes the second I get in the door. My boots get soaked in the deep puddles and I am happy.
April 1, 2005
Unfortunately, it is not happiness, but productivity that matters.
Jason and I make our way downtown at the ungodly hour of 9:30 am to make our belated visit to the welfare office which ends up resembling both a log-cabin and a remand centre. All this after a truly wonderful night spent by Codytina and I alone – it seems I have managed to make a new friend, and I am happy.
But please – disregard that last sentence, and excuse me, as productivity is far more important, and a skill Jason and I both seem to be lacking.
Anyway, we arrive at the building, which boasts vast quantities of my favourite reading material: Are you at risk for a STD? Are you addicted? Are you in need of a fifty dollar training session in order to aquire this great virtue called productivity?
“The more times you answer YES, the more likely it is that you need some help, need to call this number, need to reconcile your differences with the man.”
We wait in line; an infant screams behind us. I want to turn around and tell the little noisemaker that I understand, that none of us want to be here, that all any of us wants is a hug and a burping and a fake nipple to suck on. Instead I just hand the child’s father the baby bottle that has landed in front of my feet, and watch the infant become quiet as it is soothed by the pleasant pastels of those pamphlets that line the waiting line.
Jason and I reach the front with our pile of bills, agreements – even government-issued documents for God’s sake – and spit the bureaucratic shit at a pretty young social worker. Her expression is first one of disgust, but quickly shifts to a willingness to help as she takes a better look at us and observes that we are better dressed and of a superior race to the twenty desperate individuals that spat their mess at her before us. She will try to work something out, despite the several blanks that remain blank on our “single grant application form”. But we will have to dash over to the business district to collect the missing statements of bank inactivity.
I lead the way to the underground complex of financial institutions, familiar with the maze as I used to meet daddy there sometimes before I stopped trying to spend “quality time” over lunch with the ghost of the man who used to hug me when he got home from work. I mimick his productivity with fast-paced footsteps.
Codytina and I were a little naughty last night, and I am in the mood to ruin the day of a lowly banker, or have my day ruined – either way – I inform Jason that I am going to pay a visit to the bank to which I owe my first-born while he goes about his paper-wasting mission that is to involve not one, but three other houses of debt – the friendly, caring fronts for the destruction of the middle-class man and student. I have a powerful lust to misdirect my rage at a wage-earner and gripe about my monthly line-of-credit payments, even though daddy has agreed to cover them. I’m afraid I have already squandered his generous offering.
“Can I help you?” My victim is a blonde with a Russian accent.
“Yes. I can’t afford to make the payment on my student line of credit this month. I am an unemployed full-time student.”
“Of course, of course. Thank-you so much for coming down here. You are student, you will come back in a few weeks and tell us the same thing. You cannot pay. I can help you, we will fix this, I just need to speak to a personal banker.”
She runs off in a flurry of productivity. Have I actually connected with the right cog in the wheel, the one who can stop this institution from stealing a precious ninety dollars from me each month? The one who will protect my orphan’s benefit cheques from dying before they are born? She returns.
“I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do. Why don’t you have part-time job?”
“No, you see, I’m a full-time student, enrolled in a rigourous honours program. I can’t work.”
“But we all have to do it, we all work. I am going to start my MBA next year and I work.”
“I worked for four years. I’m not going to work again until I get my PhD.”
“But you see Marcia here. She is getting PhD, working at the bank. You should have part-time job.”
“Well, that’s not an option. So what’s the damage? Are you going to overdraw my account?”
“Yes, you will be charged the thirty-five dollar NSF fee and this will have to go to the credit bureau.”
“Great – I’m already in excellent standing with the creditors. But thirty-five’s less than ninety, right?”
“Why don’t you get part-time job during your break?”
“My last exam is April twenty-first. Class restarts May second.”
I may be a little sketched out, but I do believe my last two statements made logical, hell, mathematical sense, did they not Ms. MBA?
“Why don’t you talk to your father, he will help you.”
Tears, tears, go away, come again another day.
Well, you see, my father has squandered the money my dead mother left for my education on a four-thousand square foot custom-built house and a nice big rock for his fiancé.
“Well, there is nothing we can do. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
What an intellectual giant this one is. Seems to me, the answer to that one would be a resounding “No. Thank-you.”
“Good luck on your exams.”
Fuck, luck better be with me – the unproductive scourage of the capitalist earth. And tell that credit bureau just to skip the “R7”s and “R9”s and just plop down a nice “R55025X”. That should cover me for a while.
Perhaps I would have been a little more proper and thanked her for her well-wishing, thanked her once more for providing me with such wonderful services, but the tears and the pills in my purse and the profound need to expunge something from my stomach or my bowels overpowers my social graces.
Jason hugs me from behind as I stand at an instant-teller, ensuring that my savings account contains precisely thirty-five dollars.
“What are they going to do for you?”
“Nothing – see I’ve been given the answer to all my questions – I’m not productive enough!”
Jason holds my hand as we walk to a lounge nearby to share a salad that we can’t afford. He orders a coffee and I insist on having a vodka-tonic. He asks the waitress if we can order right away so that we can make it to our one-o-clock meeting. Jason pRobably fucked her that infamous summer.
“Well, if you want a salad it’s going to take at least fifteen minutes! As you can see I’m serving a very large party over there!” With that she slams a pepper shaker, a salt shaker, two plates, and two sets of cutlery on the table.
“What a cunt!”
“She’s not getting a tip.”
Something makes me reconsider my response. “Maybe she’s got it as bad as me.”
I leave a twenty on the table on our way out.
We return to the circus. After waiting for two hours, and avoiding tears that are pRobably just the amphetamine-blues by scribbling something about a Russian clerk in Jason’s day-planner, the loudspeaker finally announces “Jasonua Neufeld?”
We hurry to the social worker protected by a plexi-glass wall with a small hole in it, but it’s a different social worker, an older, more jaded and less racist one, who tells us,
“Well there’s nothing we can do for you today. You’ll have to come back Monday morning at 8:15 am. And it says here that your start date for employment is May first, and we only give two-week grants.”
Well then wouldn’t you just give us the two-week grant, even if November first was written on the paper? Do not ask such questions in the presence of bureaucrats.
“The thing is I’m a full-time student and my finals start next week.”
“Well, we can’t do anything today. When is your exam?”
“They span the next two weeks.”
“Well, you’ll have to come at 8:15. Nothing today. Do you have your statements of bank activity?”
“Yeah, right here…”
“Well, bring them back on Monday so they don’t get lost.”
“And do you need to see documentation about my student loan and tuition costs? I have it right here…”
“Yep, you better bring them Monday. 8:15.”
The disorganization of these so-called social services is so obscene we can’t even find it in us to be angry or frustrated. The situation is simply laughable. We walk to find a bus home, agreeing to withdraw that thirty-five dollar statement I was trying to make to ensure we have the monetary means for bourbon and pot. A bus pulls up just as we reach the appropriate stop and Jason and I get on last. I have not yet purchased a bus pass for April. This would be no pRoblem, except the dreaded operater number 215 is sitting in the driver’s seat.
“I’m on my way to buy a new bus pass.”
“Well, you should have done that earlier, shouldn’t you have?”
“Yeah but you can only buy them at the University and I had to be elsewhere earlier today.”
“Sorry, you have to have a valid bus pass.”
“I buy a bus pass every month and I’m on my way to get one right now.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
Number 215 starts raising his voice, getting a real kick out of trying to embarrass or make an example of me in front of the rest of his passengers. Finally, a scruffy looking man walks to the front of the bus and passes 215 a valid ticket. We sit at the back of the bus, enraged. Jason gets up and gives the scruffy, good samaritan five dollars and goes to ask 215 for his credentials so we can lodge a complaint. 215 threatens to get the police involved. Jason returns to his seat beside me, and the bus makes a stop. On the way out an old woman looks up at us and says,
“Gotta have an April pass!”
I am at a loss for words. The only retort I can think of is punching her in the face, and I think I actually lurch forward reflexively before she departs.
April 4, 2005
Jason and I return at 8:15 as instructed, but one of the petty bureaucrats misenters our information in the system and we waste another four hours in purgatory. We sit opposite four fifteen year olds who manage to spend the entire four hours talking about how drunk they’re going to get when their seventeen year old friend gets her cheque, which she does, eventually.
We are told to come back tomorrow morning, at 8 fucking 15 sharp.
“But it was your mistake…”
“I’m sorry, there’s really nothing we can do.”
We take the bus home again. Luckily, operator 215 is nowhere to be seen. All I want is to lie in bed all day and be held. Codytina comes over after school and takes a nap with me, and I consider asking if I can hold her, but think maybe she would think that was weird, so I just press my legs against hers. She falls asleep first and her legs start twitching; I wonder where she is running in her dream. We have set the alarm for 5 pm, but I carefully turn it off before I too succomb to sleep. All I want is to sleep forever, to sleep forever and not be alone.
But alas, we wake up a little after six and there are things to be done. I have a paper to write and Codytina has to meet her mom at the gym. Jason arises from his napping spot on the couch and convinces Codytina to let him fuck her before she leaves. I decline participation because I haven’t bathed for days. Codytina leaves and I consider kissing her on her way out the door, but think maybe she would think that was weird, so I just give her a hug and a wave.
Soon after, I find myself on the bed, unable to stop crying.
“Jason, can you come cuddle with me, for just like ten minutes?”
“That’s the last thing I feel like doing right now.”
I consider telling him that I didn’t really feel like getting up at 8:15 this morning, nor do I feel like doing the same tomorrow, but know doing so would be fruitless. So I just sit and cry and cry and cry and tell him.
“It’s not your fault, don’t worry about it.”
I take a blue pill, but they don’t stop the tears anymore.
I think it would take a few bottles of pills to stop these tears, and the hospital sounds really great right now but I have so much to do. Everything’s riding on this week, all those A+s are ready to come crashing down. Why this week?
There’s never a good week, you know that.
Just cry and cry and cry.
April 7, 2005
Fuck, my pupils still look like two huge black, glass marbles. Ready to break. 13 degrees outside at 10 pm, not bad. Go to sleep Jason, so I can steal more of your pills. Codytina came over again last night and she called me just as I walked in the door to tell me that she’s got crystals growing out of her tongue. I’m sorry honey, that’s never happened to me. I don’t know where they go.
Codytina. There’s something I really love about her, but daddy never taught me how to love, only how to make smart transactions.
I’ve been fucking productive though, at least I’ve got that going for me. Half a term paper and seven biology tapes in twenty-four hours. Rock on.
And Jason. I love him every second, even when he’s screaming at me or forcing me to watch yet another bad action movie with him. I love him more than breathing out clouds of smoke that taste like soda-pop, but he wasn’t supposed to come home last night – that’s his fault. Shut up, he didn’t even get mad.
“Can I say nothing?”
I even managed to make small talk with some people at the University library today. I think they thought I was funny, or maybe just weird, whatever works. Or maybe they’re just nice to people who hand over the last of their cash to pay late fees – this man will be a librarian for the rest of his life, but that’s cool, hey, he seems to be really enjoying himself, showing me the computer screen that documents my overdues and overdones. There is a box on the screen that says “click here to waive fees”. But funny and weird are all I’ve got today, that and this strange relic from the distant past that has found its way into my wallet, so I don’t bother with the harassment routine, not with employee of the month anyway. Aren’t you a student too? Philosophy, no, English, no, International Development Conflict Resolution crap, am I right?
My head hurts. And he’s right, I have my pRoblems, even though she looks prettier doing it. And I’m not trying to be anorexic, I really do enjoy food, just not lately. I just don’t desire anything, only everything. My words morph into the words of a fifteen-year-old who thinks she’s pretty damn clever with her vague conundrums that she pulls out of her ass to impress her friends. Better want than need, better both than neither. I used to think statements such as these were ingenious. My reason became my excuse, but now my excuse has become my reason. What the hell was I talking about.
Daddy calls to make sure I haven’t slit my wrists and to tell me that Grandma, my mom’s mom, pRobably has colin cancer. Yay, cancer’s always a barrel of laughs. Maybe morphine will be involved.
“It was funny, she didn’t think that they took her anywhere, she just said, ‘Steve, I’ve just been sitting here waiting’. Hehe.”
“Well I pRobably wouldn’t trust doctors either if I’d been given electroshock therapy in the sixties.”
Please, don’t respond, I forgot, nothing mom told me exists anymore. He asks me about my exams and tells me about a friend he had back in college who got an arts degree and then ended up going into medicine!
My head hurts. I thought the bath would make me feel cleaner but it didn’t really. At least I smell a little better. You should go take some more pills, marble-eyes. We all know what happened last time you couldn’t sleep for a week. True enough, and all that chemical productivity pRobably saved me an A+ or two. That’s my girl.
Stupid girl, Jason will notice the missing pills. It’s okay, silly, I’m getting more next Thursday. Dr. Inglis. That should go well, “I’m not interested in your antipsychotics or your group therapy, just another prescription for the little orange ones, please.” Maybe if I tell her about last night she’ll strengthen my dose.
Pain. Manageable pain, right on the cusp though. Physical pain, better than the other kind. Threats of making me be productive again tomorrow. Please stop.
Sleep is all I ask of you, and to wake up in a world where things don’t matter so much. You’re right, that pRoblem was never really solved, just pushed to the end of the to-do list for a while.
“Yeah, I didn’t do anymore, I didn’t really need to! Did you?”
“Yeah, heh, it’s almost gone.” Completely gone. And for no good reason at all. Fuck, I can’t even think of an excuse.
April 10, 2005
How long has it been now? Two days? I remember this feeling with horrifying vividness.
“I wish…I just wish I had someone to help me with everything.”
The tears rest just behind their ducts now, threatening to boil over, but not if I just put a little effort into holding them back. But what would usually be a little effort is all of the effort I’ve got. My hip bones are jutting out of my stomach so far it seems reasonable that they might break through the skin. I wish that they would.
Cold and scary. My mind knows only these simple adjectives, ones that a child would use, and they’re the worst kind. Nothing profound about this, nothing to intellectualize, everything cold and scary.
I wish I was just a little bit stupider. Then I could make a phone call or a cut or even just a sound that would deliver me help. I wish exams weren’t this week.
You already said that. You said that before any of this.
So I think maybe Jason is right, maybe I should spend my summer days at the hospital. The tears finally break through their seal. But I’m young and I just want to have fun and make up for last summer – working everyday, anxious but afraid to return home, feeling guilty about spending twenty dollars on groceries. Wearing that stupid uniform that everyone else changed out of after work – what effort that must have taken them. But I guess they had places to go, people to see, where I only had a walk past a strip mall and a door with a monster waiting for me on the other side. And that cough that kept me awake at night for at least a month.
“So you think it’s a good idea to spend the summer, just you and Codytina, while I’m working all day?”
“I guess not.”
The monster has been replaced by an analyst – an improvement but not what I need when I already pay someone to ask me questions with obvious answers. What I need is someone to hold my hand as I’m falling asleep, and for this reason, I am falling in love with Codytina.
Scary. Love is always disappointing, which carries me to thoughts of Dr. Wakeup. Maybe he can fix me, but that’s only if he can forgive me and I don’t think he can. I consider calling him, interrupting his vacation to Puerto Vallarta, asking him to leave his wife and fly back here to save me – save me from this messy bedroom and these cigarette butts and these words.
Just breathe. I need more sleep. My hands are sliding around on the keyboard, just making a bigger mess. But sleep would only be a waste of two clonazepam, which somehow became a rare commodity. I don’t understand when that happened, the only thing providing me with any conception of time is a package of birth control pills that are lined up to indicate the passing of each week. I reach for them each morning and am shocked at how long its been, how much has happened in so little time, how little ever happens, how nothing ever really changes.
April 13, 2005
“This is it babe, this is like fucking divorce time.”
Does he say things like this because he means them, or because he knows how terrified I am of being alone? Have I ever said things like this to him? I guess I have.
“Give me one good reason not to leave right now.”
But he never cared, or he knew I wouldn’t walk out the door.
“If I hadn’t been on prozac last week, that would have been it, I would have been out the door.”
Does he think these threats are going to make me better?
All this the day after I finish my exams. No, “Way to go babe”. Just this. Just these wild threats of leaving me alone if I don’t get my act together, don’t stop taking so many pills, don’t stop being so emotional.
I ask him what the difference was between him slipping up and doing a few lines of coke at the gay bar a year ago. Why I deserve to be screamed at when he confessed his sins to me, sitting in the bathtub after a long day at work, and I merely laughed and told him not to make a habit of it.
I ask myself what the difference is between doing mushrooms or ecstasy on a Friday night and drinking until you pass out in a pond of your own vomit, what the difference is between smoking an ounce of pot a month and taking a few prescription drugs to chill out, but I keep my mouth shut to avoid being yelled at again.
He stomps out the door and I silently thank him for asking me how those exams went, for prompting me to tell him about the broken chair in the hallway and the coffee spilt all down the stairs that told stories of other desperate students, that made me laugh as I ran up those stairs, my shoes getting all sticky with the remnants of the stale, dark brown water that is available in the cafeteria for a mere $1.50. I thank him for letting me take the late rent cheque down to the Nazis that manage this building while he goes to the chiropractor and the video game store. I thank him for making sure I know to do the dishes as soon as I get back.
You see, my darling, if it were not for the pills I would take your threats even more seriously than I already do. If it were not for the pills I would have slit my wrists five times over in that old porcelain bathtub where we play out these ridiculous comedies and tragedies.
“I want to do it for myself for once, not for you, not for anyone else.”
Isn’t that the way these things work? Isn’t that why I stopped seeing that guidance counsellor, “Mrs. Moncado”, with her awful, frizzy dyed-red hair that defied the laws of gravity and her bad teeth and the poster she used in a failed attempt at drawing some kind of analogy between my skinny, bruised knees and a cartoon smiley face with inverted eyebrows and a big zig-zag for a mouth, in grade three? Apparently boys who beat up other boys were just being boys. Girls who beat up boys had anger pRoblems.
April 14, 2005
Back at the PsycHealth Centre, what a clever little pun that is, don’t you think?
On my way out the door Jason commands: “Be honest!”
I run to the bus, waiving my hands at the driver to stop, and she does, and the smell of spring clings to me, clings to my unwashed hair and my bare, white legs, as I deposit two dollars into the fare resepticle and ask for a transfer. It could be one of those perfect, light moments, that find you if you’re lucky on a sunny April afternoon. But no, I am on my way to the Health Sciences Centre, the looney-bin specifically, I am not that giggling high-schooler wearing the overpriced t-shirt, so the moment appears before me but refuses to let me grab on to it.
So here I sit, another monotone day, another waiting room to match. The colours are lavender and sea green; I suppose they’re meant to be calming. A framed picture of water lillies faces me, matching the floors and the doorframes and the nurses’ uniforms flawlessly. Somehow I am not calmed by the relentless pastels. Perhaps because they remind me of cheap motel rooms at the Holiday Inn, of childhood roadtrips, motion sickness, and the smell of hot pavement and chlorine. Or perhaps it is that sign – the only artifact in the room that doesn’t go with the rest of the motif – that bright yellow sign that states, “Being on time is an important part of your treatment plan!” Well, I was on time, bitch. I was even a few minutes early, a trick I can only pull off for a select few, but for some reason I’m still sitting here, half an hour later, tapping my feet again, tapping my nails this time, against the cheap vinyl seat-covering, as they have grown long since Codytina painted them black. Perhaps it is just me – always wanting to be somewhere else, wanting this to be over, and that to be over, too.
* * *
“They say that the truth will set you free, but then so will a lie,” Ani DiFranco once told me, but I take Jason’s advice and tell her everything because I am scared to disobey him and my answers are reflexes. I tell her about magic mushrooms, crystal meth, stolen sleeping pills; about sleeping or crying or pacing instead of studying for exams; about impulsivity and reactibility and wanting everything to be over.
My honesty is reciprocated. I am duly notified that I am at a very high degree of risk to slip back into a state of total addiction – and as for the rest of it, it won’t get better anytime soon, no matter how many pills she adds to my martini. This doesn’t stop her – she raises one dosage, takes one away, and adds a new one, but first asks me twice, her professional eyes blinking from apathetic to serious, “You’re not going to kill yourself, are you?”
I answer, “No.”, hesitating slightly, trying to separate truth from bullshit, then realizing I must respond quickly, this is what I come up with.
“And you know all the crisis hotlines?”
“Yeah, yeah.” You mean the ones I tried to call one night, one night after going to the drugstore to buy Jason cold medicine, one night when I arrived home with not only his NyQuil, but a large quantity of over the counter pre-menstrual-syndrome medication, remembering it did quite a number on me in Montreal, shoving a few down my gagging throat as I walked home – the ones that were busy?
I scribble this down sitting in that very same drugstore half an hour later, after trying to call daddy but getting the fiancé and being unable to resist telling her bits and pieces of my sad tale, after calling Jason in tears, after the nicest man in the world let me on the bus with a long expired transfer, after deciding not to steal a newspaper for the crossword, after pondering the single mouthful of Häagen Däas that I am offered for three dollars, waiting for my prescriptions to be filled and make everything seem peachy. Finally my name is called, but there is a pRoblem. Apparently, I filled a prescription for clonazepam three weeks ago at a different pharmacy that was supposed to last me seventy-five days, therefore I cannot fill another.
“You see, my boyfriend took some, but my doctor knows about the situation…”
But there’s nothing that can be done until tomorrow, if anything can be done, so I am sent away with useless antidepressants and sample packages of a different anti-psychotic – the last one induced drooling. I’ve been warned that the new one may induce lactation.
I get home and make as big of a scene as I can, projecting my rage all over the room – “I might as well just start using hard drugs again!” – until Jason offers me one of his clonazepam. Oops, I guess I got that one backwards, never can tell when I’m of sound mind. Codytina is also present, and offers me some pot, so I stop flipping aimlessly through the phone book for Dr. Inglis’s direct number and calm down a little. I show them my notes and remark that I write more notes about the doctors than they write about me. I am told to write this down. Apparently the Doctor’s Tardiness, which in turn became mine, caused me to miss out on the sex, so we eat and I happily snuggle up next to Codytina on the couch to watch a movie, blissfully unaware of the fact that Jason plans on torturing me for a good twelve hours after she leaves, that he will threaten to kick my “junkie” ass out if and when I ask him for a clonazepam in the morning, that I will cry until Codytina returns and Jason stops preaching like he is his father or his childhood Minister after more sex. Unaware that we will magically procure more magic mushrooms, that Codytina and I will hold hands and cross the street to walk through the park after Jason asks us to go get him some orange juice because he sees three of us, that Jason will finally agree with me that taking a hit of E or eating some of these mushrooms is socially equivalent to getting drunk, and seal his agreement with a kiss. Unaware that we will watch Apocalypse Now, that Codytina or I will initiate an intense session of rubbing our feet and legs together under the blanket on the couch, that we will stop Apocalypse Now twenty minutes before its soaring climax to fuck.
Part Two: Spring
April 27, 2005
Ah, my week off. One semester over, another to begin at 8:30 am on Tuesday morning. Yes, I have questioned my sanity several times upon deciding to get up so unfathomably early for the entire month of May to take a statistics course in three weeks that is usually taught over three months. However, my decision still makes sense when I think about working, when I try to remember what I can of last summer, and all I can remember is the tears, the unneccesary scenes, the desperate phone calls from Jason, the amplification of that desperation when it entered my head, the handfuls of over the counter medication that made me feel sick but better than that other feeling, the angry outbursts at my co-workers for not being familiar with that other feeling, that darkness, that sinking into the carpet, that little death everytime the air conditioner let out another blast of cold air or a disgruntled customer looked at me the wrong way. I would much rather spend these coming months fighting with numbers instead of people – innocent bystanders to my inability to sit back and take it like everybody else, or to make choices that enable me to do so.
May 1, 2005
Jason sleeps silently as I slip a little further into that void.
My week off ends up being both the shortest and the longest week of my life.
Good job, that is precisely the kind of Orwellian doublethink they want you to learn – the ablility to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at once, to be sad yet appear happy, to be angry yet appear calm. Come on, make things a little easier for everybody else.
It is the shortest when I recall saying, “Is it Thursday already?”, “Is it Friday already?”, etcetera. It is the shortest when I look at the clock and realize that 8:30 am Monday morning is only fourteen hours away. It is the shortest when I recall daddy saying, “You thought tomorrow was the first? Are you serious? No, you start school tomorrow, not Tuesday.”
“I forgot there were only thirty days in April.”
It is the longest when I think of its contents, of how in one week my life managed to repeat itself and fade out, leaving me here, naked and twitching, all dressed up but with nowhere to go. It is the longest when I look at the clock and realize that at this time one week ago I was still buzzing on Saturday night’s hit of ecstasy and Jason had just gotten the long-awaited call, the four-months-awaited call to be exact, from his new boss, telling him that he was to start working Tuesday. It is the longest right now, as Jason interrupts the silence to grind his teeth, a reminder of just how deeply he sleeps and of just how little sleep I’ve had since I decided to stop popping cheap cold relief pills every few hours to knock myself out.
May 3, 2005
And I can only take writing in small doses.
May 4, 2005
Jason quit his job two days after he started it. I spent the week waiting for something to happen. But nothing happened, nothing new. In retrospect, I guess I would have been surprised if Jason had kept going to work for any longer. In fact, if I felt anything at all it was relief. I crave familiarity and I’m still terrified of being alone. And I’m pretty sure I stopped sleeping before he started working – stopped sleeping and started shaking, and questioning my every move.
Why am I dating a sixteen year-old girl? What has she done to deserve this reaction, to deserve my love? Why am I so scared to be with her when I’m not on drugs?
I guess these questions may have been useful, had I been able to concentrate on them, ignore them, do something with them. But how could I when they only taunted me from my periphery, then disappeared when I turned my head to face them, like hallucinations. I guess sane people don’t hallucinate, but we who do are driven a little madder with each impossible but undeniably present spectre that refuses to let us hold its gaze for longer than a second.
You have to be pretty damn mad to have a prescription for clonazepam reinstated, after you’ve abused it in every way possible. And so I sit once again at the pharmacy until my name is called.
May 10, 2005
“Everyone gets everything that they want. I wanted a mission, and they gave me one, for my sins.” (Captain Willard, Apocalypse Now)
I wanted something to happen.
I watch the blue smoke rise from my cigarette as its ash grows longer, as I listen to Jason weep like the little boy at school whose parents forgot to pick him up.
Two things have happened. Jason cries for the latest development, not knowing about that other thing that happened Friday night. Jason cries for Dr. Wakeup. Then I start crying for Death.
* * *
The alarm sounds at nine a.m. and I decide against making it to school. It seems much more practical to stay home and study for my stats midterm. Yes, these summer courses go by that fast. I reset the alarm for ten a.m., but Jason’s body is still warm and brittle and clutching mine when it goes off again so this time I just shut it off. By eleven I am worried enough about my lack of attendance and my fucking GPA to climb out of bed. I am worried just enough to make a few phone calls before I crack open a book or get ready for our one p.m. with Dr. Wakeup. First I call the pharmacy, attempting to refill my reinstated prescription for clonazepam two days early.
“No, we can’t do it because I have here that you’re supposed to be on seven day intervals?”
Time to be chipper. If this gets me in trouble again I’m going to trash your fucking pharmacy, or even better, maybe I’ll fuck your stupid system and save up my pills like you thought I was doing…”Oh okay! Thursday then? Okay, thanks a lot! Bye!”
I should know better, but I don’t, so I call daddy.
“Are you still up for grocery shopping tonight?”
“I don’t see why not. Is Jason working today?”
Fuck shit fuck. “Uh, no we have an appointment with the psychiatrist.”
“Oh okay. Is Jason getting excited about his math?”
Did I mention that Jason dropped out of high school in grade ten, and has promised for the second spring in a row to write his GED?
Stop it! “Uh, I don’t know. He really wants to go to school but I’m not sure about the math. Maybe we’ll talk about it today. Maybe you should talk to him.”
“If he wants to go to school, he’s gotta do the math!”
Really?!? Visions of sugarpills begin to dance in my head. “You know dad, I need to grab some stuff from your place, some of Jima’s clothes and stuff. Why don’t you just pick me up when you pick Angie up, and then I can come over and grab it?” Along with a handful of the fiancé’s pills.
Did I mention that the fiancé is scheduled to officially become the wicked stepmother by the end of the month?
“Sure, that will work.”
“Okay, see you then.” And please don’t put two and two together, please don’t hide the pills because I’ll only find them, but it will be a pain in the ass.
* * *
The waiting room at Dr. Wakeup’s office is a step above PsycHealth’s Holiday Inn motif. Classical music plays softly in the background and I stare at framed photographs of waterfalls and sunsets as I tap my feet and bite at the skin around my nails. Jason picks up a copy of last week’s New York Times Magazine and I rest a restless leg against one of his. We sit and wait in the same place we’ve sat and waited for the past seven months on Tuesday, late in the morning or early in the afternoon. It’s business as usual and we’re invited behind the door on the far right.
“So, what’s on for today?”
Business as usual, I stare at my feet and wait for someone else to speak.
“Um, well I guess that’s what we were talking about. I’m not really sure. I guess I just feel like the weeks pass me by and…and I’m tired of carrying all of this emotional baggage around. Oh and I watched Good Will Hunting last night, and you know that scene with Robin Williams where he’s like ‘it’s not your fault’? It made me really angry, like what an unrealistic portrayal of this whole process.”
“Had you seen the movie before?”
“Oh yeah. PRobably not for a couple of years.”
“But this is the first time you had this reaction?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I guess I didn’t really understand the context before.”
“And do you identify with Matt Damon’s character?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean I could pRobably be on the same level as a lot of professors but I’ve got nothing on paper. That kind of frustration. I’m just watching every one around me fly past.”
“And you don’t know why?”
The doctor pauses, but the pause doesn’t hide the fact that he has had the speech he is about to deliver worked out for some time. “No, I don’t.”
“No I don’t. You see, you and I have this dance. There’s something attractive about you Jason, not to sound sexual, but something intriguing, something seductive. And it makes people want to know what’s in there, it draws people in. But you won’t let me see what’s there, and we’re just not getting anywhere. You and I can’t keep up this dance.”
“I don’t know, I just feel kind of maudlin lately.”
“You’re good at maudlin.”
“So you think we should terminate? I was kind of thinking the same thing a few weeks ago…”
“Yes. Now, I think we should meet back here in a couple of months, let’s see, the first week in July I’m going to be on holidays, so July eleventh? I can do three p.m. I would encourage you both to come no matter what happens between now and then.”
Thanks for the vote of confidence. And thanks for considering me in this decision of yours after that heartfelt e-mail I send you when last week’s session went awry, that is, when I let you see my angry face.
“Okay? Is there anything else before you leave?”
“Well, I guess I’d like to see if Scars’s okay with all of this…”
Thank-you. I wasn’t sure if I was still physically present in the room. I start crying a little and mutter something unintelligable. Dr. Wakeup looks thrilled.
“Why did he just ask you that Scars?”
“Um, well I guess it makes sense. I mean it’s logical, he wants to make sure I’m okay before we leave so he doesn’t have to deal with it when we get home?”
“Exactly! That’s how I feel sister! Jason, I’m not your painkiller. I’m not here to fix the pain that you cause Scars. Okay? We’ll see you in July then.”
We are pushed out the door, our faces painted with shock and awe. We don’t even get our full fifty minutes? Freud would be unimpressed. In my mind a scandalous tale is emerging, a story about a conservative Codytian psychiatrist who begins seeing a rather liberal couple one fall. After a few sessions he realizes he feels more for them than he’s ever felt for any patients before, and more than he will ever allow himself to feel again when this is over. He sees a youthful version of himself in their distraught but passionate eyes. But there is a pRoblem – they start to challenge his values as time goes on. When regular pot-smoking is mentioned he thinks that he simply isn’t doing a good enough job with these two, but then their unconventional sex life comes up the same week that he begins fighting with his wife of twenty-some years. He can no longer tell if he is failing at the profession he is supposed to be the best at, or if he’s wrong in another sense – if God doesn’t mind their escapades, or if God isn’t even watching. He struggles with this conundrum for a while, but when it threatens to make him throw away his 2.5 children and the theraputic process he has honed with such precision the choice is clear. He throws away the rule book, but just for an instant, as he tells the couple to leave the perfect, box-shaped moral realm of his practice even though this sudden abandonment could kill them both. Eventually they become nothing to him, but for weeks he cannot sleep, haunted by their eyes and plagued with visions of the girl slitting her wrists.
* * *
Luckily the girl is distracted by a drunken memory.
“Scars, I love you.”
“I love you too,” I say to her, her with the long black hair and cat-shaped eyes, staring at her soft white skin and feeling high. I had been wanting to get that off my chest for a while, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the first one to open her mouth.
May 14, 2005
They’ve got it all wrong.
They’re lying to us.
The day after Wakeup kicks us out, someone, and not just someone but a foreigner, throws a hand grenade at George W. Bush while he is giving one of his lovely, stuttering, barely coherent pep talks to a crowd in Georgia. The bomb doesn’t go off and American news networks fail to report the failed assassination attempt. The following day in Washington D.C. a “red alert” is issued and the city is evacuated when a plane enters the Capitol’s airspace. Military strategists manage to remove the plane from the sky and quickly arrest its pilot, a flight school student who was piloting the Cessna, which turns out to be on the Pentagon’s list of W.M.D.s. The aforementioned networks use their respective tickers to exclaim “Fear and Relief!”, then summarize the incident most eloquently and concisely in three words – The system works.
But the system doesn’t work. Insert libertarian rant here.
Jima and I manage to sneak Codytina into Gio’s for dyke night and we spend it getting libertarianated, expressing our newfound love for one another vocally and physically on a dance floor crowded with approving glances. Ten strangers tell us that we look like sisters and are a damn cute couple. Getting high and drunk and happy and then getting a free ride home with some designated good samaritans who knew they would not be invited upstairs from the get-go. That’s what I’m talking about. Getting naked and sweaty upstairs and asking Jason to join us in spending a few hours imagining that people like us will slowly change the world, the system, the public perception of truth or right versus wrong. We plan an imaginary wedding for a man and two women who are in love, and I decide that I will not attend my father’s wedding if Codytina and Jima are not there with me. Codytina is a beautiful name. The two of us retire and I spend a sleepless night clutching the beautiful girl attatched to that name, coming up with wild theories and philosophizing joyously. What if time is going backwards and our parents are really our children, who we’re supposed to educate in the values of a generation more highly evolved than their own? What if I can say in confidence that drugs have saved my life a few times, including the days following “That’s how I feel sister!”? What if we are the moral minority? My thoughts are interrupted for a moment when Codytina pulls me closer and moans and says aloud in her sleep, “You guys are so hot.” That’s how I feel, sister.
In the morning the sky is grey and I am stripped of my delusions of grandeur. In my inebriated haze I forgot my golden rule – not to think or speak about the future to avoid disappointment and/or general malaise. I forgot that Happy leaves in a blink of an eye so it’s best to resist the temptation to embrace her when she stops by for a visit. I forgot how painful love is. The light of day illuminates the obstacles that seemed to have disappeared before the sun rose, like those parents who always get the last, scarring words, regardless of disruptions in the space-time continuum. Codytina starts talking about her parents and how they support her older sister but not her because she once ran away from their fear of letting such a beautiful thing go out to play, and how big of a guilt-trip she’d have to endure if she moved in with us like we asked her to just before we made the wedding plans. I start crying, not because I’m sad but because I just feel so much. I feel like my heart is being cut into pieces and rearranged. I feel like I never want her to hurt, but I’m completely helpless. I feel like I’ve felt only once before, one December four years ago when I met a boy who smiled at me, or rather looked at me that way that is still his and his alone. I sit on the couch with that boy and this girl and I don’t know whether to scream in agony or ecstasy, so I try to keep my mouth shut and look stable. I chain smoke until it is time for me to walk her to the bus stop, where I decide that you only live once and conjure up enough courage to tell her that everything I said in my drunken uninhibitedness was true. She knows. We kiss in front of the gas station, in front of the passengers and drivers of two SUVs and an “I have a huge penis” pick-up truck. She walks away, turning around to make some compliment about my appearance, even though I look like a greasy-haired, emaciated junkie, but I know she actually means it. I walk away, beating myself up for not saying something else, I don’t know what else, but something that would have made the goodbye perfect, until an artist-type working construction on our street stops me. He is doing a series of drawings of photographs he’s taking of “two spirited couples” in the park across the street and he couldn’t help but notice two girls kissing in front of a gas station who he would love to have pose for him. I get his number and cautiously let Happy touch me for a minute. Maybe we are the moral minority, and maybe I really don’t look so bad, greasy hair and all.
May 18, 2005
It starts again Tuesday evening and my mind won’t let me believe that there was ever anything else. My mind is made up. This is reality, mwah ha ha.
I should have seen it coming, or I saw it coming, or I predicted it and then forced it to come true to prove myself right. I was feeling way too good and it had to stop, it wasn’t normal for me not to break down when I forgot my bus pass and nobody would give me change for a five; it didn’t make sense that I put my headphones on to shut out the anxiety-ridden thoughts that started shooting through me as I finally approached the bus stop; and how could I have not felt betrayed when I reached my destination and the new therapist waiting for me there didn’t beg me to tell him my life story? Why did I spend thirty dollars on CDs for myself when that money could have gone to rent or cigarettes or something for Jason? Walking home I listened to one of the CDs and summer filled my nostrils and I could have taken on the world.
May 21, 2005
What would I do when I got home? Jason would not be back from a funeral that he decided to make a rare exception and leave the house for. I could make chips and dip and watch a movie that he wouldn’t want to watch. I could clean up the apartment a bit first. I could call Angie to see if she’s surviving the wedding planning shitstorm that must be in full swing at that ludicrously large house near the park.
Liar. I take off my shoes and begin the routine that I must execute when I’m alone to keep the boogymen away – I scour the house for a figment of my imagination, a hidden pill that would grant me a gentler come down from the day’s odd contentment. I guess I spent quite a while lifting up matresses and standing on chairs and digging through the chest of drawers because the second my fingers finally stopped searching and moved to push a tape into the VCR I hear Jason’s key in the door. He has brought one of his sisters in tow, and I am immediately enraged. Everyone in Jason’s family hates me: because I’m not Codytian, because I’m educated, because my dad’s house is bigger than theirs, because I don’t dress like I stepped off the pages of the Abercrombie and Fitch Quarterly, because I have trouble making conversation with idiots. Everyone in Jason’s family hates me so I hate them right back. Alcohol was served at the wake and Jason excitedly announces that I am to attend lunch with him and two of his relatives tomorrow, one who is only a couple of years older than me but is already becoming a well known journalist, one who has spoken with many of the puppet politicians I watch on TV. I can’t stop my face from grimacing despite the sister’s intrusively judgemental, fixed gaze, and I rain on his parade, telling him it will have to be another day. Even if I wasn’t scheduled to meet Codytina after my morning class to crush up pharmaceuticals and vacuum them up our noses I wouldn’t want to meet a girl who daddy would be proud of and to serve as a live demonstration – “This is your brain on drugs”. Here comes the come down. My self-esteem has returned to it’s usual low. Jason spends the evening telling me about the epiphany he has had after speaking with an aunt who he hadn’t seen for five years, about how the advice and reassurance and outright ego-stroking that he gets from me every day meant something when if came out the mouth of this woman that he’s met only a few times. I spend the evening listening and being ever so slightly nasty until he finally breaks and tells me to stop being a bitch. Point taken.
The next day’s dexedrine doesn’t stop me from refusing to have sex with Jason and subsequently and embarrassedly sobbing into a pillow in front of Codytina when he says he is getting frustrated.
The next day I make it to the only class I will have made it to all week only to leave halfway through to go home where I can be safe and scour and sob some more. But by the time I see Dr. Inglis for another edition of Thursday Afternoon at the Loony Bin I can’t remember why I was crying, and am told I look “pale and thin but a little better than two weeks ago”, which means a lot around here. So despite Jason’s plea to tell her that I’ve been acting particularly crazy she doesn’t change my meds. I’m tired. Crazy is all crazied out. I talk about my plan to figure out this irrational fear that I will never see Codytina again that hits me every time we say goodbye and tears well up in but do not leave my eyes, still they are visible enough to please another doctor who cannot hide her amusement at my textbook transparency as she reminds me that my first priority and my number one goal when I start taking her “psychoeducational” classes in June should be “emotional regulation”. I agree and reciprocate her amusement. I get it! Haha! I exit through the sliding glass doors and start walking in the direction of the drugstore; the tears return when a baby sparrow flies past me. I cash in my winning ticket and swallow three clonazepam, for good luck and for old times sake, before I get home again where I study for the next day’s stats exam and then pass out only to wake up at ten a.m. to discover that I’ve slept through the exam. I frantically call my professor, but without the tears or screaming that accompanied a similar phone call I made a little over a year ago, good ol’ clonazepam. Yes, I have slept through more than one exam. I have slept through more than two exams.
I race to school with a calculator in my hand and little knowledge of the material I am about to be tested on in my head. I hear the echo of my old roommate Rhiannon coming to one of her ingenious conclusions, two years ago in Montreal, “We can never just do things, we have to pull them off!” and I hear myself laughing in response, “That’s exactly it, it’s all about pulling it off for us-people”. When I arrive the professor who sounded peeved on the phone is friendly and forgiving upon realizing who he was talking to.
“Oh! Hehe, I couldn’t figure out who was missing this morning. I thought it must be the person who received the loDevont mark on the last exam but no, they were there – couldn’t figure it out! Hehe, it’s the person who received the highest mark on the last exam! Come right in!”
I sit down and take wild guesses at the answers to each question like I did on that last exam, finishing an hour early and on time to meet Codytina and a couple of sleep-deprived speed-freaks who we end up driving around with all afternoon, listening to loud rap music about hoes and weed and “bling bling”, accompanying them on an absolutely pointless round-about death mission that defies any definition of logic to pick up some stolen computer parts before they give us the forty dollars worth of crystal that we paid for when we stepped into the car. Our excuse for prolonging this chemical abuse? It is Codytina’s birthday in six days.
So here lies Scars on another morning-after, 4:39 p.m. Last night was glorious as usual, playing with Codytina’s hands and falling asleep next to Jason, next to Codytina in our narrow bed, but another variety of come down is slowly casting a shadow over my form. Codytina is gone, Jason is sleeping, and one more week of my life is over. The Red Queen was right – it takes an awful lot of running to stay in the same place. I eat all but one of the remainder of my week’s worth of clonazepam, which I decide I’d better save for my next emergency.
* * *
Codytina calls to tell me that the sun has come out and I should go outside and read and eat something healthy to cure my blues. Food is still unfathomable, but I take the former part of her advice and venture out onto the balcony, wearing pink sweatpants and a blue hoodie with cartoon animals on it, an item of clothing left over from my raver days. The sun has come out and the ancient trees that line our block are covered in bright green leaves that sway gracefully and then violently in the early evening breeze. This place reminds me of my childhood treehouse, where at the age of five, I had my first sexual experiences with the teenage girls that lived next door. I draped its windows with similar leaf-covered branches to hide the molestation that I thouroughly enjoyed until guilt overcame me and I told my parents about the removal of my underwear and theirs, the poking and the prodding. The branches were hastily removed and my life as a deviant had officialy began, which would perpetuate itself in the girl’s gym changeroom at school, where I was branded by more delicate and proper girls and their busybody mothers as “not a nice, pretty little girl…a girl that shouldn’t be invited to slumber parties”. I had forgotten about being the first girl at Bairdmore Elementary to be banished to change in the washrooms outside of the gym until one particularly intense morning at Dr. Wakeup’s office in October or November, when I suddenly recalled being sexually abused by those girls – Lindsay with the dark brown hair and tiny grey eyes and Stephanie with the soda bottle glasses and unusually large clitoris. I assumed I was supposed to grieve for my lost innocence, for the little girl with dirty fingernails from playing in the sandbox or playing with boys who was taken advantage of by some older girls who, according to developmental theory, knew that what they were doing was wrong when they spread open my tiny labia with a twig. But last night as a bump of toxic, euphoric waste burned its way down my throat I had a moment of clarity which is complete now, as I curl up with my book, hidden by green that nobody is going to remove, hidden from Wakeup’s biased traditionalism, hidden from daddy’s disappointment. I see, in the stripes of white sunlight that line my new treehouse, that the sexual abuse was more of a sexual awakening, and I am not ashamed but thankful that I never was a nice, pretty little girl, that I wreaked havoc upon many a slumber party, always the last one to fall asleep. I silently praise my childhood captors for letting me see past the pretty girls, to where the beautiful girls reside.
May 25, 2005
Pull it off. Pull it off. PULL IT OFF!
I am the lone straggler sitting in the back row in psych class. The back row is elevated on a carpeted stair the length of a standard-size desk, so I can see everyone but they can’t see me. Right now the professor is correcting their page margin set-ups and bibliographies – first-year students or just plain morons, blissfully unaware that properly referencing a paper often takes longer than writing it, that when all’s said and handed in, you can only claim a few phrases as your own. I watch them, empty-handed.
It’s okay, you’ll hand in the next seven assignments, still warm from the printer. That’s what pulling it off is all about. There will be no requests for an extention or an alternative assignment. You’ll be better this way; you’ll be scared.
Or maybe I’ll just drop the redundancy that is this class after cashing in my student loan certificate. Would that be considered fraud? Not to say that I’m a stranger to fraud. If only I’d brought the right notebook, I could check the VW date immediately. What the fuck is this class about? I thought I signed up for a psychology class, not extended discussion on high school topics. That was what biology was for, last semester, and biology was on TV.
So these are my choices: drop out or never miss another of these so-called lectures. I have a decent excuse, another get out of jail free card to use, but that many decent excuses are a little embarassing, connoting abnormality or maybe something more – red flags and disorders.
May 26, 2005
You wanted something to happen. This is your life, watch it go by.
I sit in that room, in the fluorescent whiteness that refuses to lie, until he decides to give us a ten minute break, twenty-five minutes late. There is only one choice. Things have gotten too messy, it’s time to leave. I grab my books, check to see whether the professor is staring at me, then make a mad dash for it. Now that I’ve decided to quit my legs have found energy, motivation, confidence – I beat the bus home.
Every one gets everything that he wants. You wanted something to happen. These are your friends, watch as they die.
I used to be fearless. When I had my abortion in Montreal I managed to excuse myself from all of my midterms and get full marks for a seminar I attended twice, spitting ambiguous garbage about surgery or the hospital or depression at every professor I could find. Now I feel absolutely ridiculous at the thought of telling this man, who is certainly not the greatest at his craft or someone I find particularly deserving of my respect, that assignments three through five seem to have escaped me, what with the funeral coming up on Friday and then the wedding on Saturday. The dog ate my fucking homework, throw me a bone. It’s not an option.
I never mentioned Joe because he came over the night I got my clonazepam back, which was surely a much more noteworthy topic. It doesn’t hit me until I have to tell other people. As the words leave my mouth I realize that they are true.
“What a tragedy,” daddy gasps, melodramatic opportunist that he is, jumping at the chance to make yet another excruciatingly casual comment about his inability to understand people who destroy themselves. He should have been a b-movie actor or he should have recorded himself reading Shakespeare to sell to high school English teachers. I ask him what time I am to arrive at his house for the makeshift matrimonial circus, the means to an end, that being income tax credits or milking his benefits or increasing the amount of life insurance he has the potential to receive in the case of an accidental “D” or “D”. He remains casual, amicable, reasonable, bothering to mention that when the marriage commissioner says “Who gives this man?”, Angie and I are to answer, “We do.” He’s all yours.
“What???” Jima’s voice lowers, “Holy shit man, I didn’t think they’d start dying this soon.”
I met Joe on Jason and my second date. He stood out from Jason’s other old friends, seeming to actually give a shit about me or something. He was still a virgin, despite Jima and me trying to strip him of that misfortune two years ago when I returned to Winnipeg for the Holiday Season. Or was that three years ago, I guess so – two years ago I was watching him and Jason have a kung-fu fight in front of Silver City after we saw Kill Bill, confusing many a passer-by. But it was fall – a year and a half ago – I stood there watching them, laughing wholeheartedly until our cab pulled up.
Joe was the odd one out, the bitch, the closet alcoholic. Joe told Jason not to let me slip by. Joe and Jason did not speak during 2004, due to a gag e-mail and a restraining order. Joe was a loose cannon. After a nine-day hospital stay Joe decided to admit he was an alcoholic, but not that he still drank. He decided he could speak to Jason again.
Joe called us two weeks ago. He has been kicked out of his parents’ house and can’t afford to stay at a motel for another night and is crying and claiming he is going to die if we don’t let him crash here for a week. He is “stone-cold sober” but somehow he reeks of beer. He spends his first night here puking his stone-cold sober guts out. Joe was a pathological liar. The next night was Friday so it was all fun and games until Saturday afternoon when Joe snuck out for more booze while Jason and I napped off our hangovers. Joe stumbles across the room and lands next to me on the couch, at which point he starts grabbing suggestively at my legs. Joe is asked to leave.
Fucking hell, the McDonalds I bought him appears apathetically on my Visa bill.
Two Saturdays later Jason gets a phone call. Joe has died in a puddle of his own vomit. No one really knows if it was accidental or intentional. No one can decide which would be worse.
There is no order to these things.
I haven’t been to a funeral since my Grandpa died, a couple of months after my mom died. I’ve never cried at a funeral.
Joe was an armchair impressionist who made me giggle. Joe was an artist and one of his paintings hangs at the front of our apartment. Joe now exists only in past tense. I listen to Jason in the other room, talking on the phone.
That is how your friends will talk about you when you die. Past tense – she was – past imperative – it could have been this or that. She had been acting rather strangely. She hadn’t been herself lately.
Joe had pRoblems – he was one of us-people. It could have been any one of us, but for some reason it was him. So the rest of us go on existing in the present tense. I am scared and sad for a few minutes but then it goes away. We’re flustered, but not too flustered, not flustered enough to stop going about our daily business, only enough to consider using it as an excuse when we’re too lazy to get up in the morning or too greedy to stop binging or too impulsive to stay seated in class.
Makes you wonder what the hell it’s all for, doesn’t it?
Yes, but I still feel guilty.
But not guilty enough to stop.
No, not guilty enough to stop. It looks like I’ll be pulling another all-nighter.
You’re tired of writing; go smoke some pot or take another pill.
* * *
Dr. Wakeup used to rip the bandages off quickly, used to soothe the sharp sting with positive reinforcement, he even called me “sweetie” or “sweetheart” once, I think; at least that was what I wanted to hear, what I did hear, what I still hear. For a moment Dr. Wakeup was daddy and I felt loved. But now Dr. Wakeup is gone and I’m left to peel back the layers myself; slowly and agonizingly strange memories ooze out of me and I’m forced to find meaning in them myself. Take earlier tonight for example. Suddenly I was back in kindergarten – crawling around the floor to pick up staples and poke other children with them, making annoying sounds while the teacher was trying to talk, tying my shoes together in countless knots and being sent out into the hallway for the remainder or the day. They didn’t know what to do with me.
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Oborne, kept one of those stupid graphs at the front of the classroom, with everyone’s name printed in one column and little star stickers with goddamn happy faces on them along the rows. A star was posted in the row corresponding with a certain child’s name everytime they exhibited some good behaviour. My name was always easy to pick out, it was the one with the least stars in front of it, the one with fewer stars attatched to it than the little boy with “ADD”.
“I think my poor self-image might have something to do with those stars. As much as I didn’t care about them, I did care.”
June 2, 2005
“You did exactly the right thing; you had someone call to say you were going to be late and you showed up. I’m really happy you made it. And you did an excellent job filling out these forms,” says the new therapist, Craig something, his bulging brown eyes and santa claus tummy begging me to fall in love with him. But I am now familiar with this whole process, know that he is only trying to reverse the emotional invalidation I received from my father or Anna or Jason, don’t burst into tears when he offers me his acceptance, his praise. I know the rules to this game I will be playing three times a week, starting on the 13th. Lucky 13.
And those forms. Twenty questions whose answers summarize my entire life. I remember the way returning to Winnipeg on a plane was always traumatic, as I would look down from the sky on the tiny arrangement of lights and boxes and realize that my whole life had played itself out among them, among boxes within a box. Now my life has become even smaller – 8” by 11” sheets of white paper crudely stapled together.
I walk to a Seven-Eleven after the appointment, after shaking Craig’s hand, after promising not to show up stoned on the 13th. Two young men, well-dressed, pass by me on the sidewalk, grinning at me like young men do. I feel like laughing – if you only knew; you don’t want to get involved. I buy a slurpee and some candy and a pack of cigarettes with the Visa card I stole from daddy’s bedroom drawer at his wedding, waiting anxiously for it to be declined. But it isn’t, of course it isn’t, and I’m sent on my merry way. I sit on a patch of grass near the busstop and light one of the cigarettes, use the slurpee to swallow a few clonazepam, then open my paperback to read of another young girl’s miniature life.
* * *
Jason, Julie and I get out of her car to join the glutinous mass of chain-smoking twenty-somethings, dressed mostly in black, waiting outside the church. A cold, light rain falls. I recognize a few faces from drunken nights past but no one speaks a word, we only exchange brief nods before staring into the distance again. The church seems familiar, these steps, this cold rain. I think it might be the church where baby Matthew’s funeral took place, yesterday or five-hundred years ago, the place where I felt mommy’s tear slip from her face onto mine.
“Mommy, don’t cry.”
I’m pRobably wrong. These steps could be any steps, these sad faces, anyone.
Slowly we line up to proceed into the building with the cross on its roof and shake hands with Joe’s family to offer our pitiful condolences. Joe’s father, who I spoke to on the phone a few weeks ago when Joe was staying at our apartment, looks like he hasn’t stopped crying since he found his son’s body.
It looked just like the picture I invented, didn’t it? Cold and finished with, covered with puke that smelled of liquor.
Joe’s mother is putting on a strong face for all the spectators to her loss, and I hug both grieving parents as I am pushed forward in line, knowing that my hug doesn’t mean much, if anything, knowing that embracing the warm body of someone Joe’s age is pRobably the last thing these people need right now.
But this is how things are done at a funeral, a primitive human ritual that is supposed to provide some kind of closure.
Next there is a guest book and a collage of pictures of Joe as a child, pictures of Joe as a teenager, and then the picture of Joe that accompanied his obituary in the newspaper last week. I start crying – not for Joe, but for youth, for the end of innocence. I am a terrible person. One week later I would hear about another death, a girl I worked with at Chapters dying suddenly of a brain tumor. The party is over and it’s only just begun.
We enter the auditorium (is that the right word?) and find some space on a pew. The hymn books in front of us remind me of my childhood, when we used to go to church every Sunday to pray for mommy to get better, until the doctors figured it out and pills replaced any religiousity that we professed to. We sit and we wait and finally the service begins.
Joe was an atheist. Joe loved Marilyn Manson. The service begins with a priest commanding everyone to stand up and sing a few hymns – “Our God is an ADevonome God” or some inappropriate bullshit like that. We are told we are allowed to sit down again, like dogs, and Joe’s mother gives a strange but moving speech about her dead son, about a difficult child who became a great artist who will never be discovered, about a boy with a drinking pRoblem that became larger than anything else, any difficulty or any art. I weep through the entire speech, and this time I think it is for Joe, the face in the crowd that stood out, because it was ugly, because it was so animated, because it cared.
Next is a long-winded advertisement for Alcoholics Anonymous from Joe’s sponsor, then a few anecdotes from those other faces that appeared on that second date and that first New Year’s Eve, those other faces that turned away, that laughed at me, Jason’s seventeen-year-old flavour of the month. Then the priest returns to speak of Joe being rid of his demons and entering God’s kingdom of heaven. I try really hard to substitute “demons” for “needs”, or “God” for “The Universe”, or “heaven” for “The Earth”. I try to use the funeral for what it is supposed to be for; I try to close the page on a friend named Joe with smiling eyes. We stand again, to sing “Amazing Grace”, and I try to pretend that the song is about believing in oneself, not some higher power. The singing becomes too much for Jason and he storms out of the chapel, then returns a few minutes later to collect me to join him outside for a smoke.
“Fuck, Joe wouldn’t have wanted all that. He would be mortified.”
“Like what the fuck was up with all that fucking singing? I guess it was for the family, but Jesus Codyt.”
“If something happens to me, please don’t let it be like this.”
“Never, babe. I was thinking that if you died I’d just take your body and bury it somewhere and not tell anyone.”
“Really? That’s beautiful, silly. And if there is a funeral, the only ‘Hallelujah’ I want sung there is Leonard Cohen’s.”
I guess we didn’t miss much because people start piling back out onto the steps to resume chain-smoking right away. We see Jason’s parents standing in a corner, trying to shield themselves from the cloud of carcinogens that lingers around us. Jason’s dad looks smug as usual and his mom looks bemused as usual. I am wearing the only black jacket I had in my closet – Jima’s mom’s black velour blazer that is three sizes too big on me. Jason’s mom tells me that I’ve lost weight and I look like I’m hurting and she drags me down to the church basement, trying to get me to eat funeral food – tuna and egg-salad sandwiches cut into tiny triangles, morsels of nanaimo bars and brownies, “juice” that is obviously kool-aid. Right then I decide that funeral food is the worst of all foods, worse than cafeteria food, worse than plane food…
“I like funeral food!” Jason’s mother exclaims.
You would, I think, before I shut her up about my weight by agreeing to try some of the chocolate fare.
“You look like you’re hurting, girl.”
These Christians all talk like cheesy black actors on the WB.
“Yeah, it’s been a rough year.”
“And your friend was in the hospital?”
“Oh yeah, Jima. She slashed up her arms a whole lot, but she’s doing much better now!” I smile, thinking of Jima’s snake-like scars.
“Gee, with people like that, you just want to slap them and say ‘how can you be so selfish’!”
“But you really look like you’re hurting. Is it the guy? Are you thinking of leaving?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I pause to translate my thoughts into her language – “I guess I have a lot of faith that everything will work out. I’m just really busy with school right now and stuff, you know.” No, you really don’t know, do you.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I don’t know. I mean, we’re in some financial trouble, and my dad has been the only one helping out…”
“No, you just have to stop. Jason just has to get out there. He just needs some tough love. You can do it, girl.”
I have been fucking doing it. I have been raising your son and supporting him for two years now. You fucking Jesus-freak; you bad excuse for a mother.
“I know. Everything will work itself out, I’m sure.”
Jason’s dad starts speaking with incredible volume about his youthful alcoholism and his triumph over the bottle. Where the hell is Jason? At last I see his figure approaching us, only to have him come up to tell me he is taking off with a bunch of his old buddies and he needs my debit card for the bar tab that is surely to ensue. Begrudgingly I hand over the piece of burgundy plastic, knowing he will spend the entirety of the Orphan’s Benefit Cheque that was deposited into my account in the morning. Take it all, just get me the hell out of this church.
Jason’s parents agree to drive me to meet Amber. I decide to spice things up during the car ride and tell them the story about how our ex-roommate Shane, also an alcoholic, once confessed to Jason and me that he had murdered some poor bastard at a bar in Edmonton ten years ago, an accident, trying to prove himself to his brother. On my way out of the car Jason’s mom grabs my hand.
“I’ll pray for you.”
June 6, 2005
“Of course there’s more they can do! Okay, okay…”
The thirteen year-old still isn’t afraid to smile, resiliant fucker, dumbass. Relief is like a drug because she hasn’t given up hope. Hope is now my least favourite word in the English language, in any language for that matter. I think it was the day after that one when they finally admitted the truth that they must have been aware of for some time – more would not be enough, she would die in exactly one week, it was over. The other girls at school didn’t even know she had been sick, I’d never bothered to mention it, perfect blue-eyed blondes that had never heard of cancer, never seen tumors trying to break through the skin of someone’s neck, never kept a pill bottle labelled “suicide” in their bedside drawer just in case.
June 12, 2005
When I was fourteen and I lived in Japan for four months – after deciding that solitude, floating thirty-five thousand feet over the Pacific alone for several hours was worth whatever I would find on the other side of that Ocean – daddy called a total of two times. Once on my third day away and once on my birthday. That was the last time I was free. The freedom was palpable, and so delicious that I spent my last month there silently but constantly wishing and begging and hoping with all of my being that somehow I could stay and in so doing turn what had been my life in Winnipeg into a fiction. Yes, she still believed in miracles after everything that had happened, poor wide-eyed orphan girl.
She did not realize that freedom was not free, but cost knowing it had come and left, just like everything and every one else, it is gone now, never to return. Perhaps we never realize such things.
It has been two weeks now since I’ve spoken to daddy and my landscape is monochrome, fading from fear to guilt, guilt to fear, fear to guilt…There will be no more floating, it would seem I am grounded indefinitely and I am indefinitely nauseous. I guess it’s my own fault, but part of me disagrees, screaming of injustice while the rest of me struggles not to vomit every time the phone rings. I soothe my stomach by behaving outright embarassingly and ingesting anything I can get my sticky fingers on. Who cares if it means someone I love could get in trouble or get hurt? Me. But it’s not enough. Fear to guilt, guilt to fear, fear to guilt.
* * *
My favourite sky emerges to laugh at me on the day of the wedding, full of intricately textured, unpredictable clouds that let just enough deep blue through to inspire a sense of – hope.
I laugh right back – there will be no hoping, silly sky, there will only be drunkenness. And so I start consuming liquor on the cab ride to the wedding, Jason sitting up front with the driver and Jima and Amber in the back with me. I am dressed in solid black with matching black eye make-up and look as inappropriately dark as inappropriately attractive. As we pull up to the most immaculately kept front yard on Devont Taylor Boulevard I smile, knowing that we will be the best looking people there. Funny, the things that fill our heads on days like these. We look stunning.
We are late. No time for another drink before the ceremony, only enough time to slip into daddy’s bedroom, its largeness accentuating its bareness, and reach into the drawer where he keeps old receipts and numerous yet-to-be-activated credit cards. I already know that one of the cards has my name on it, and later I’ll be pleasantly surprised that Visa is saving money like they should be by offering a new fully automated activation system. Please enter the account holder’s birthdate. 1 9 4 8 #. Thank-you, all cards attatched to this account have been successfully activated. Please hang up now.
No time to think about the inevitable consequences and no time for another drink, so I make it through the ceremony, sitting beside Angie, by dropping down to her maturity level and hushedly poking fun at anything I can – the cheesy marriage commissioner, the previously mentioned “we do” crap, the confusion about who has the rings. Amber, standing directly behind me, notices my nervous flailing and rubs my shoulder for a minute. I want to cry, but it is not my turn. I let Eve enjoy her fifteen minutes of make-believe fame, let her cry and look so damn happy that for a fraction of a second I am happy for her and for daddy, before my thoughts return home to unyielding resentment and fantasies of violence. Apparently I am to be the witness to this “merger of two souls, union of two hearts, etc.”. I walk to the front of the room and sign at the “x” and somehow daddy manages to slip in one of those famous disappointed glances as he remarks,
“I can’t read that.”
“And I can’t read yours.” I smile sweetly and return to my seat. For once I’ve gotten the last fucking word in.
Daddy and Eve kiss and smile and cry more (I think that was when the nausea began) and it’s done. There is to be topical conversation and hors d’oeuvres with relatives, many of whom I have not seen since that short period when I was thirteen and a few of them felt the need to play mommy to Angie and me for a few months.
How am I? Just great, how are you?
Several of them mistake Amber for me, looking at her and exclaiming “Scars!” with a blatantly exaggerated facial expression denoting great concern. One of daddy’s stepbrothers watches over Jima’s shoulder as she signs the guest book, then muses, “Don’t you have a Christian name?”
“No, I certainly do not.” Jima’s turn to smile sweetly and feel clever.
None of them ask me to introduce them to Jason. Baa baa black sheep. I have officially become a non-entity, an indistinguishable spectre that was once mentioned along with a common name and some accomplishment or something unsavoury. All I can think is, how marvelous, I can spend the rest of this social function being antisocial, I can get drunk in the basement with my friends like I used to when I was fifteen and no one will even notice.
In retrospect, they pRobably noticed.
Jima and I grab four glasses and take them downstairs, where the younger children are playing nintendo. Jason has a seat with the children, obviously unimpressed with my plan. Oh well. It’s my daddy’s party and I’ll drink if I want to. So Amber drinks at a reasonable pace. And Jima and I polish off a 2-6 of gin in about five minutes. I am soon asked to stop swearing so loudly by Eve’s sister’s fourteen year-old son. We play Hungry Hungry Hippos and that battery-powered game with the little fishing rods and fish that open their mouths as they go around and around in a circle, begging to be caught. I don’t even think about the leftover crystal meth in Amber’s wallet.
This is how much you’ve changed.
I slip away to use the washroom, expertly picking the lock on the door behind which Eve keeps her pills, and swallowing two of the good ones.
This is how much you’ve stayed the same.
I show Amber the collages I made when I lived at this house and some photos from Japan. I shove some food into my mouth, leaving my plate half-full and forgotten to get another drink. I make Angie laugh, an improvement over Christmas. I manage not to fall down or break anything or insult anyone to their face or end the day at the emergency room. I pose for pictures with the happy couple outside, under that sky – that sky! I don’t cry or yell and manage to avoid the charade of declaring my major to a bunch of people who are only asking because it’s polite and because they can’t think of a more interesting question. I’m fucking plastered, but I ruin nothing but my own reputation, and that was already irreversibly tainted when I showed up for some kind of Holiday get-together several years ago, wasted on several drugs. I feel my head becoming heavier, and not a minute too early, but not too late either, announce, “I need to go home now.” I have good friends. Jima goes upstairs to fetch Jason and Amber who are fucking in my old bedroom and I chug a glass of some kind of strawberry champagne in the interim. Someone calls another cab and the cab arrives and I find daddy and Eve to tell them I am leaving.
“You look so happy, that’s so good, that makes me happy,” I tell them, and there is a place where I really mean each word. A place where I have been lobotomized or have taken daddy’s advice and started acting like an adult, a place far away, farther than Japan, that grows farther with each cash advance and each unreturned phone call, a place where I am everything he wished for me to be, a place that is really only a mirage as his wishes are infinite. Daddy puts his arms around me and shows me what that place would be like, if I had only done this or this instead of that, and my heart breaks. For the sake of the demonstration, he even passes up the chance to shoot one last disappointed glance at me, one I admittedly may have deserved. I want to go there more than anything, want to trade the triumphs that are mine for ones that he appreciates, want to stay forever in the yellow bedroom, want to stay in on the weekends.
Of course I don’t really want to go there. I just want to be loved. The old man’s eyes hold all that could have been, looking into mine after the embrace, they convince me that I will never be loved, that I had my chance, that I made my choices.
Of course things don’t work like that, but still I believe every unspoken word.
* * *
I believe with every piece of my heart. Two weeks without being reminded of everything I’m doing wrong, but don’t worry daddy, I never forget, don’t worry. No matter how many times they tells me they love me, the words will just slip off. No matter how much praise I get at school or for my writing, I know I could be doing something better, if only I was a little more _______. No matter how happy I seem, I am only faking it, for how could such a STUPID KID ever be happy with her life?
June 18, 2005
Stupid is as stupid does. I manage to spend an entire week on crystal, addicted to the searing pain. I do lines in the bathroom while Jason sits in the next room. He doesn’t notice because he’s farther gone than I am right now – he has no intention of getting yet another job, the dishes he promised to wash two weeks ago sit in the sink, he asks me to go get him some take-out with money I’ve advanced off the Visa when he gets hungry. We fight constantly. I try to convince him that if it weren’t for his decision to stop working around the time that we moved in together, I would be under a little less stress. Then he tries to convince me that I’m delusional and the hardest person in the world to live with, throwing cheap insults at me until I start crying. I am miserable as hell but this time it’s not because I’m afraid he’s going to leave but because I’m afraid I’m going to leave.
He sleeps silently and I sit alone with a new set of questions without answers. It seems as if he’s been sleeping for several months now, putting a pillow over his head when I touch his arm or his leg. I guess he’ll be eating cold McDonald’s tonight. I guess I’ll do another line.
I am dizzy and sick of everyone, myself most of all. We made plans to spend today at the park with Jima and Tanya three days ago. When they arrive Jason lies on the floor with his head by the pounding subwoofer, shielding himself from conversation. I look at him and disappointment leaks through my own shield, making me realize that I must have actually been expecting him to come. Pure stupidity. My head weighs eighty pounds and I cannot breathe through my nose. My jaw feels locked and it hurts to breathe through my mouth. My head is on fire. I have created a pRoblem almost big enough to distract myself from the real pRoblem.
Amber and me go to the park with Jima and Tanya after I tuck Jason into bed and snort a little right out of the bag in the washroom. I am still pretty quick, pretty good at hiding the obvious, but Jima is the one person in the world that always knows and right now she knows better than me. So my sketchiness is a fractal, branching off and reaching new heights as I struggle to make sense or look okay. Amber starts flipping out about bugs and acting like a seventeen year old and I feel like I’ve lost the game, even though Jima has gained twenty pounds since I last saw her, even though Tanya does E almost every weekend. We go over to their place and Jima starts force feeding me, or placing food in front of me as some kind of a test. I am God’s vomit.
Part Three: Summer
June 20, 2005
But the truth is I’m most sketchy around Jima when I’m completely sober and unmedicated. The truth is she’s losing it too. We all are. Let the summer begin.
I call daddy on father’s day even though I’m going blind every time I stand up – an apparent side-effect of the increased dosage of antipsychotics I’ve been recommended to take after one week in the STAT program. I still don’t know the meaning of that acronym, but it seems the doctors think more medication is the answer. Daddy tells me that Grandma has lung cancer – several tumors in her lungs, and another tumor on one of her adrenal glands.
My grandma received electroshock therapy in the sixties when she suffered a “nervous breakdown” after a few nights of particularly savage abuse from her alcoholic husband and was subsequently put on a daily regimen of thorazine, to “help her sleep”. My mom used to tell me stories about Grandma chasing her around the house with a large knife from their stylishly olive green kitchen. So I had the luck of never being threatened by a family member with a knife, just punched in the stomach by daddy when I was tired of practicing piano. Now, at the age of 78, Grandma has been successfully lobotomized and is incapable of making decisions about the treatment of her cancer.
Daddy tells me that the plan is chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I tell him this is inhumane, that I would rather spend my last few months on pain meds than puking my guts out and losing my hair. My opinion is disregarded, but daddy offers to take me out for lunch the following day to discuss “these and other matters”.
The following day I wake up from 3 hours of fitful, sweaty sleep. I wake up screaming and crying. I stand up and I see only blackness. Is this what Grandma sees? I wake Jason to tell him I’m not going to the program this morning, and he tells me I have to go, signaling the jumping up and down and insane hand gestures. I look so fucking ugly in everything piece of clothing I try on that I rip it off, undoing the massive cleaning operation we executed last week during my meth binge. Jason dresses me and tells me that he’ll call my dad – he’s right, I should go to the hospital and cancel the lunch. He calls me a cab and I can’t stop crying before it arrives, when I finally stop the cab is nowhere to be seen. Jason is late for a doctor’s appointment of his own, one that I forced him to make several weeks ago, so I sit, staring at the phone for an hour before I muster up enough courage to call Craig. I leave a disjointed message on his voice mail – “Just had a bit of a freak-out this morning…” – and dig out more clothes, fiding a white skirt that looks pretty and tragic, that matches my face, washed clean of makeup by my tears.
It is time for some downers, clonazepam and the little blues. I’m skinny as hell and this skirt looks great on me, I feel like a princess as I walk into the pharmacy and up to the prescription pick-up desk where I don’t have to give my name anymore. The little blues were supposed to be for Jason, but in my madness I believe they are rightfully mine and the pharmacist hands them over. Outside I empty the bottle into my purse and discard the evidence.
I return to Jima and Tanya’s where I call daddy and he mutters some complete bullshit about wanting to talk to me no matter what headspace I’m in. I mutter some complete bullshit about getting better, about everything being peachy-keen, shiny, Happy. I call Amber to tell her about my temporary loss of sanity and she tells me she misses me and that she never wants me to go there again and I smile.
But I wonder for a minute if it’s a clonazepam smile or a risperidone smile – I wonder if it’s a mirror image of Grandma’s plasticine smile in old pictures from Christmas or some other day families are supposed to spend together.
* * *
I only really talked to Grandma once. It was after the last annual impromptu party I threw at daddy’s house when he went out of town for a few days, it was the summer after I graduated high school, the summer Jima and I OD’d on crystal and thought our former friend Lindsay had broken into the house and stolen our wills to live. Lindsay now has a one-year-old child and is living with more of a derelict than I’m living with. The party consisted of Jima, our drug dealer and confidate, Suzy-Q, her thirty year-old gay friend Mike, and some younger Russian boys. Grandma was out cold while we popped caps of E and snorted lines off of daddy’s countless shiny, flat surfaces, from a seemingly endless supply of cocaine . We listened to TLC and danced around daddy’s ten-thousand dollar speakers. At one point I freaked out and ran up to my room. Mike followed me, offering more cocaine, and told me this amazing story about the time he went skydiving. He was a great storyteller, or I was on way too many drugs. I would love to believe the former but cannot.
In the morning we decided to eat a bag of mushrooms in the basement before cleaning up, which paralyzed us for a good hour before we ventured upstairs to observe the aftermath.
But there wasn’t one. Grandma had cleaned everything up and was waiting for us at the table with an enormous bowl of fresh blueberries. We sat down and she smiled at our wayward ways and gaunt faces, then told us a story about how her and my mom used to go blueberry picking every year. Jima and I cried our eyes out, and for an instant, we all understood eachother. Grandma started crying a little too before she left us to be alone, smiling the realest smile I’d ever seen her smile, or ever will.
* * *
Down with downers. I slow my heart down enough with the little blues to deem it “safe” to finish off my last bag of crystal. Keeping the bag in the apartment has turned me into a paranoid freak and I finish it off with a vengeance, smoking every last bit of dust out of a pipe made for such things that can be purchased at your local stoner store. Now I can do the dishes.
* * *
And I do them in record time.
The other day Amber and I went through the journal I kept that same summer that Jima and I enjoyed amphetamine-induced paranoid schizophrenia. (The Visa wasn’t the only thing I grabbed from daddy’s house on the day of the wedding) There are three pieces that seem quite relevant, that I might actually be able to keep my promises to this time around:
June 25, 2002
…It is the beginning of another trip, one much larger, too large to be measured
on a scale and then divided into gram-sized portions. Its contents are destined
to be here captured, each painful step will here cast a footprint, each cry of glory
will end here. And so we can call this place, this thing, this log of sorts, an echo –
the answer or response that is longed for eternally but can only be found in one’s
own, fading voice.
July 23, 2002
Paralysis. I buy one point to be done before Anna’s going away party at the club.
1:00 pm. The point is gone. When will I get more? Stop. Don’t think about that
now. Live in the moment, goddammit. It’s all you have. But it’s also all I don’t
have, so I curl up on the bathroom floor, motionless. I don’t feel much better, but
at least I’ve stopped crying. Perhaps more than anything else, I fear my own
tears. They remained locked away somewhere for so long, and now when they
come out of hiding, leaving two damp lines on either side of my face, I’m
terrified. And I never learned how to wipe away those lines, I was too busy
running. So there’s only one option, and that’s here, hiding. Get up. All you
have to do is execute the routine consisting of showers, brushing teeth, putting
on make-up. You will be productive. Yes, you may feel everything inside you
is breaking while you do these things. While the numbers on the clock change –
too slow or too fast? I can’t decide. But that’s inside, and nobody has to know.
They will only see the other things – a perfectly made-up face and a plastic smile.
Pretend you are a child, playing dress-up. None of this is real, eventually you
will be called for dinner. I haven’t eaten a meal for a week, but it doesn’t matter.
Nothing matters. You will wake to another tomorrow and another tomorrow
until there are no tomorrows left. You have no control over what each may bring
or take away so you might as well stop running and just enjoy the ride. That’s all
it is – a ride, a game. So get up.
If today were my last, I’d write them a letter and it would begin – here’s the last
Plea from the girl that wanted too much, wanted it all and ended up with
nothing. They’ll come looking for me and I’ll be easy to find. I may be running,
but I haven’t moved for a long, long time.
August 7, 2002
I’m going to give you this advice even though you won’t follow it. When you
wake up in the morning and curse yourself for being alive, take a good look at
all you really have. Instead of monotony, see the possibility. Instead of what’s
gone, look at what’s left, and what’s yet to come. Don’t see holes, but spaces to
We also came across a poem I wrote in Montreal.
Loving is Hating
Attatched is Detatched
Coming is Leaving
Why can’t we go back?
Borders and Boxes
Numbers and Facts
Words and Responses
If you’d talk I would ask.
Instead punch a pillow
purchase a pill
picture a place
where we could be still.
Signs without Meaning
Lies without Speaking
Nights without Sleeping
Why can’t I relax?
Because Hating is Loving
Detatched is Attatched
Leaving is Coming
and you can never go back.
June 25, 2005
25. Yeah right. Always the 25th. And they expect me to be sane.
Open the book to a random page and begin where you left off. Only this time you’re not, or rather this time you know you’re not the only one who needs help. It doesn’t matter, either way you’ve always known how the story goes, so start writing, writing it down and pretending it matters before it is over.
Fucking morbid as usual. I intended to start with a description of the way the blue wall seems to fade into the white ceiling in the early morning light. I apologize, and insist there are lighter parts of me, underneath my own blue. I think of describing my pitiful physical condition, but I pity you too much.
You know you’re not actually shaking. There it is. That pang – you were convinced that it was love. Now it feels more like guilt, bittersweet nostalgia, sadness; no – pity. Remember how you used to jump at the chance to spend a night with him, like a rejected pet? Seems a little similar to the way you jumped today, at the chance to spend a night away from him. You always jump for love, offer to fill its spaces with your holes. They won’t believe you when you tell them that parallel was unintentional. Keep writing.
I suppose I’m supposed to make sacrifices for the sake of the story – relive the last seventy-two hours and make it sound pretty – but I can’t. I must reside in the present now; the past and the future are mirror images of one another, a madman waving a gun all over the place, with eyes that no longer know forgiveness. The present is simple and unthreatening.
But you can’t just be still, silly rabbit. That’s when the heart palpitations start. Do you want to die of boredom or serenity, or even contentment? Scratch that, it’s not about what you want, it’s about what you know; it’s about what she knows. Most of all, it’s about the limitations of knowledge. “You can’t change the way you feel but you can change the way you think.”
Yet another therapist’s voice resounds with profound sincerity, sincerity so profound it cannot mask the fact that it is backed up by financial rewards of some sort – sustenance. How lovely it must be to be paid to say such things, to own things that are not stolen, to style your hair so perfectly without getting angry at it.
I’m pushing it now – just a voice. I meant to focus on the present but this room reminds me of another room I was a guest in, last year.
The two rooms really have nothing in common except their size, their colour if you push it further.
Fuck, are we trite. I am here because I want to be here.
That means a lot – to you, for you. “It speaks to your progress,”
says the voice. But I’m there and not here because Shane’s girlfriend had similar bedding.
There was an obligation, a birthday party for someone I’d only met a few times. There was an excuse, an excuse to get drunk.
Remember how quiet you were during the muggy, hour-long bus ride to get there? Remember why you were quiet? Don’t get all excited now – you’re no psychic or schizophrenic, we all just have our patterns. Mathematics. If it is time for you to die you cannot stop it. Worrying is not only irrational but counterproductive.
I smile at the stupidity of that word and others like it.
See? You’re still alive.
The excuse quickly turned into an embarassing scene. There was before any introductions to therapists, and after Shane poured me a few of what he was having – quadruples or quintuples, gin or rye, rye – I decided to open the floodgates.
What better time could there possibly be to let it all out, to weep unabashedly and engage anyone fortunate enough to enter your line of vision in a fascinating conversation about how “the best days of your life were over, so from here on out it was only a matter of going through the motions.”
I admit, my sweeping statements and omniscient tone were humorous. I was seven years younger than the birthday girl and managed to take all the attention away from her by turning into a fifty year-old depressive that watched too much or not enough Oprah.
That was how I ended up in the girl’s bedroom, alone. Jason has refused to share a bed with me when I’m drunk for some time now. That was how I got there, and it was there where as I opened my eyes and tried to discern my location, my hungover, emotionally disturbed brain made a little mistake and caused me to believe wholeheartedly for several hours that I was lying in the bedroom that would be mine if mommy hadn’t died and I hadn’t chosen the path of most resistance. I lay in a stranger’s old, twin-sized bed and wept, this time for nobody’s benefit but my own.
The only likeness here bears to there is the placement of some books on a shelf in the closet. I am not drunk or alone. If my meds were actually doing something I might even venture that I won’t ever have to be drunk and alone on a shitty Sunday morning again.
She would not sweep me under the rug like they did. Then again, I had singlehandedly ruined a random girl’s birthday party. I had chosen to do so, subconsiously realizing I could get away with it because I was prettier and smarter than her and respected by Shane much more. I could hear him fucking her in the next room as I danced around in my delusion. I really was sad though.
Until the others got up and pretended my sick performance the previous evening was a mere comedy, until the girl drove us home and in the safety of our apartment – safe from strangers and embarassment and saving face – Jason let me know just how sick I was.
I ran to the park and tried to make myself better, but when I returned home Jason still hated me and it all went away. I would quit my job after a few unexplainable angry outbursts at my coworkers and start joining Jason at Dr. Wakeup’s on Tuesdays a couple of weeks later. I would stop crying about the bedroom and start laughingly citing the whole incident as some of the first concrete evidence that I was losing it. They would give it a name – Borderline Personality Disorder.
I would lie in a much different bedroom with a girl that had made many of the same choices I made. I would be sleepless and drugged and realize that Jason was not infalliable. I would realize that the best days of my life were not over. I would still feel ill for a second when I looked at a certain shade of blue in a suburban bedroom meant for a child.
It would take a concentrated effort at first, but slowly my thinking would change and I would arrive here, willing to bet that this scene will not cause me to feel anything at all. For what is life but realizing, then realizing you had it all wrong?
“It’s also easy to change your actions.”
Get up out of bed. Be thankful that you’re only awake because of the chemicals, in fact, you’re only alive because of the chemicals. You were never any stupider than any other kid. You did what was necessary to survive. It was an accident. You stumbled upon a way to experience as much death as you wanted, yet remain alive. You happened to have a strong heart and a stronger liver. You will never appreciate your body as you will be constantly aware of its decay. Jason has a similar awareness, but he has no concept of time, so he believes he is dead, and that he is only as responsible as a dead guy – if he moves it should be considered a miracle and treated as such. You will never understand how he feels. He will never understand how you feel. No one ever understands another person, so don’t take it all so personally. You are shaking: you only experience moments of clarity when your comforts have been removed.
Go on. The faster you can remember, the faster you can forget.
June 26, 2005
Jason is gone, but the mess he left on his way out makes it feel like he’s still in the next room.
Stop worrying. It’s over.
I spend Friday night at Amber’s, choosing her dysfunctional family’s constant screaming over Jason’s name-calling and expressionless face. By the time they wake up I am violently ill, another choice, pain over pain. A shower will cure me, and a peek in the medicine cabinet. Just about any medicine cabinet holds at least a few leftover tylenol #3s from the last time a member of the household had minor surgery. Bingo.
Codeine for breakfast.
Jason calls and asks if I’m going to break up with him.
“Of course not, silly silly.”
I swear, I didn’t know I was lying. He apologizes for the past few days’ random acts of unkindness. I love him more than ever for a few minutes. But I’m reeling, going to vomit or pass out. I lie down in Amber’s bed and she runs into the other room to make me something to eat, get me a glass of water – take care of me. I think that’s when I started crying, when I knew this was the end, when I felt loved in a different way, a way I hadn’t been since mommy died. It all comes rushing back so fast as she places a plate of food beside me and strokes my back and looks concerned, not because she has to but because she is concerned.
As if on cue Jason calls again. He is taking off to the lake for the weekend to party with some of his old friends, the ones that laughed at me four years ago. He needs me to buy him a bathing suit on my way home because the one I bought him on boxing day isn’t good enough. I hang up the phone and start crying harder, so hard I’m convulsing. Amber begs me to stop but I can’t. Her mom and dad are listening from the other room but I can’t. The good impression I made on them initially had to end somewhere. If only that was all that had to end. Amber hands me a pen so I can do what I have to do. I hate ultimatums, but I’ve run out of choices, so I begin writing: Jason – This has to stop!
I write four pages on the death of our relationship. But I don’t fucking call him names. I can’t, and that space between is where the disease started and where it will end. I will slip the letter into his luggage, but I will have to have stopped crying by then.
Dexedrine for lunch.
Amber comes home with me to say goodbye. Luckily we are hit with a birage of insults as soon as we walk through the door, making it a little easier not to cry.
“Silly, I don’t have the energy to fight with you right now.”
“Oh, okay. Whatever.”
Jason spends our last hour together in the other room, making a CD and making sure he’s packed things that will impress his idiot friends. No tears until I hug and kiss him goodbye, looking in his eyes, “Please come back, okay?”
“I’ll stay if you want me to, just say the words.” He would stay because he’s supposed to make sure I don’t hurt myself. He’s supposed to care, but he doesn’t give a shit about me.
“No, no. You go, I’m fine. I’ve just been emotional all day. I haven’t been taking my meds. I’ll take them and I’ll be fine. Have fun, silly.” Come back. I’m supposed to want him to come back, but after the door is shut I feel a little less heavy.
I call daddy right away, knowing if anyone will reassure me it will be him, and he does, and Amber holds my hand. Jima calls from Toronto. People care about you. I’m supposed to be inconsolable but I laugh with her on the phone, listening to her talk about Pride, telling tales of lesbian debauchery. It’s over.
Clonazepam for dinner.
Amber and I go back to her place for the night. This time we sleep.
I wake up before she does and I’m supposed to be depressed as hell, so I start crying a little. But she wakes up before I can really get myself worked up.
“You should check your answering machine to see if he left a message.”
I punch in my password. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12.
“You have entered an incorrect password.”
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Please, don’t let him be back already. I call Marilyn, my landlady, to check the apartment and make sure he’s not there. He isn’t and I’m supposed to be sad but my relief cannot lie. I’m ecstatic.
Waffles, bacon, and yelling for breakfast.
So ecstatic that I hold it together while Amber’s parents grill us, while her dad asks me why I’m with Jason, while her mom questions why we have “a seventeen year-old girl living with us”. I lie because I cannot tell the truth; she could not understand.
Amber and I catch a bus back downtown after smoking a little of the outlandish amount of crystal I bought Friday morning. We eat popsicles and talk loudly and smugly, but Amber has to go to work.
I step into my apartment. My apartment. Reflexively I walk to the bedroom. Jason is supposed to be sleeping. The bed is empty. Deep breaths. Peter kisses me with his wet nose. The bed is empty. I need more reassurance. I call daddy again.
I manage to go on and on and on about Jason’s demise for an hour before he asks the inevitable –
“So what have you guys been doing for money for the past month?”
He can understand now, sort of, if I apologize at least twenty times, so I tell him the truth. I truly am sorry – maybe not twenty times over, but still sorry. I am sorry that our relationship is perhaps even messier. I suppose he’s known me a little longer.
“Daddy, I love you.” Sob. “I always love you. I’m so sorry.”
Another call as if on cue – it’s Anna on the other line. She’s in town for the week. Of course she is. Will I go out for dinner with her and Alex and two of his friends that I haven’t seen since high school, that used to make me feel worthless, not by calling me names but by refusing to speak to me at all.
“I don’t know if I’m up for dinner, but I’ll stop by for a drink!”
I will? I’m scared as hell. I don’t have to show up.
Yes you do.
Amber calls and we talk briefly; I give her the latest developments on the credit card saga. She sounds scared. When Jason comes home my dad will be here too and he will be asked to leave. She sounds so scared. She has to move in with me. We all have to get out of bed.
She says goodbye and I imagine her tone of voice is off, she’s going to leave, I’m going to be alone, for real.
Stop it. That isn’t true. You’ll make it work.
I fight with my hand not to dial daddy’s number again. I have to be okay by myself, I have to.
She’ll only be okay if you’re okay.
Fucking hell. No one said it would be this hard.
My lungs constrict, I fight for air. I’ll have a drink before I meet Anna. I’ll fucking be okay! Anna’s birthday is January 25th. Amber’s birthday is May 26th and my birthday is October 27th, the same day as Sylvia Plath’s. God help me.
June 28, 2005
STOP IT!!! You’re going to fucking overdose. That would kind of screw your case, dumbass, STUPID FUCKING KID. You weren’t lying when you said you were predictable.
I make it to meet Anna and her friends. They actually speak to me and I almost have fun with them even though Anna responds to everything I tell her with a bewildered look, and “ohs” and “yeahs” that reek of fake interest. Amber stays at the apartment with me for the next few nights, even though her mom calls several times each night and when she does I can hear her screaming through the receiver from the other side of the room. I make the collage I started last September. She makes me tea and brings me breakfast in bed. We make each other happy.
But Jason calls incessantly and finally I pick up the phone to stop the ringing that echos off my bones, begging them to break. It turns out he changed the password for our voice mail before he read the letter and forgot to tell me – it had nothing to do with the letter or its contents, which, of course, he has taken with a grain of salt. He refrains from any name-calling, as if to prove his maturity, to convince me that I’m crazy. Suddenly he loves me more than ever and can’t live without me. I’m not convinced, but I cry because I like to be told such things and I am running far, far away from them. He manages to keep me on the phone for an hour and doesn’t understand why his neDevont set of big plans mean nothing to me. Forget the ultimatum – my mind is made up. He needs to leave, needs to leave for a long, long time, maybe even needs never to come back. He is outright incredulous and starts to cry too. I cry harder because it reminds me of the first time I saw daddy cry. Men’s tears are worth much more than mine, they imply something terrible is about to go down, and I could make him stop if I just told him he was right, and that I couldn’t live without him either. The retraction lingers on the tip of my tongue – I could tell Amber to go away and he could take the next bus back to the city and we could have sex and lie in bed for the rest of the day, we could order take-out and a movie on pay per view, just the two of us like old times, we could laugh and he could call me baby and I could smile and look up at him and kiss his cheek the way that would make him smile back – so softly that he would barely feel it. I could buy a handgun and some bullets and blow my brains out.
But this is a test and I don’t fail tests, I fucking pull it off. He asks for promises. If I didn’t love him I could give them to him, if I didn’t love him and if I had anything left to give. I don’t have the guts to pull the trigger and I’m too scared to find out what would happen if I just let it go, let myself fail for once.
“I love you too. Bye.” I manage to pull off coherence through my tears.
A few more tears, then I get it together, put my “okay” face on, and inhale some smoke from the little glass pipe with Amber before she leaves for work again. My heart speeds up and my eyes brighten for a few minutes. I look strong and composed and unfettered.
But after she leaves I decide to check the voice mail since I know the password, might as well. There are sixteen messages, and all but two are from Jason. Each one is worse.
“Hey babe, just thought I’d tell you I got here, love you, bye.”
“Hey it’s me again, you can call me back here, I love you.”
“Hey baby, I miss you and I love you and I’ve been doing some thinking and you’re right, things do have to change.”
“I guess you’re not answering, but I love you so so much…”
My hands shake as I press seven to delete the messages that pRobably would have changed my mind if he had only remembered to mention that he’d changed the password. My eyes well up again. Can’t I save just one, so I can hear him tell me he loves me forever?
Motherfucker. “So, so much” and the crystal is officially gone. I spend two hours melting every last bit of residue off the stem of the pipe. I smoke hit after hit. The tears stop again but I’m still crying, crying once more because Happy’s gone too, because Doubt has taken her place. I burn my thumb badly, but I keep holding a flame to the glass. I use up three lighters and start using matches. I watch the little clouds turn into liquid. My mind succombs to blankness and I watch the liquid move and form tiny puddles as if it were the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen.
I don’t stop until I consume each puddle. I spend the rest of the day staring at the walls. Joe helped Jason paint them before we moved in. I drank cheap beer and watched them and felt giddy. I stare at them so hard that my collage falls down to the floor. Then I stare at the pile of paper and tape on the floor. I don’t bother to pick it up.
June 29, 2005
Tuesday the depression really sets in. My body won’t let me get out of bed so I turn off the alarm and I miss another morning of the STAT program, risking getting kicked out for absenteeism. I’m always fucking absent. An hour later we wake up to the sound of thunder and the sky pours sheets of water for the rest of the day. I don’t dare tell Amber how much I feel like taking enough pills to merit an evening in the emergency room.
Don’t scare her off this soon. It’s a little early in your relationship for ambulance rides.
It’s my fucking registration date, for fall and winter classes. The University of Winnipeg is pRobably the last educational institution left that uses an archaic system that involves paper and lineups and fucking human interaction. I consider asking daddy to go to the school for me, but that would freak Amber out too, so I trudge through the puddles wearing those shoes I already ruined in the rain, and of course I don’t have enough paperwork, of course no one bothered to tell me about another form that needs to be signed by someone who has left for the day, of course I start crying and treating the poor students working the charade like shit. I’m given a hug by a stranger before I run somewhere where no one can see me forge professors’ signatures on these stupid forms. I return with the forms and of course there’s a conflict in the timetable I scratched down in five minutes, of course this requires another form, of course I’ll have to come back in two weeks and wait in line for four hours, clutching that precious form that no one ever fucking looks at. I’m handed more papers and told to have a nice night or a pleasant school year or a fabulous summer break. Back outside I stand in the rain because it matches my mood and I don’t feel like looking at other people in the bus shelter. Amber is picking stuff up from her parents house and it’s either the emergency room or drugs, so once home I eat a bunch of the mushrooms we were supposed to be saving for Folk Fest and scrape clean all the baggies I can find. I’m high as fuck when Jason calls, “to talk more”, for fucks sake, so I let the stupid phone ring and ring. I stare at the walls yet again, but this time they breathe and make faces at me. I’m angry and I want Jason to come back and make everything okay, to grant me some more familiarity, but I’m too high to cry or pick up the phone or stop staring at the goddamn walls. My heart tries to jump through my ribs. Jesus Christ, I can’t be left unattended for more than five seconds.
Sit back and admire this beautiful mess you’ve created.
July 3, 2005
Things were supposed to be better. But I will never get out of my own head. My life is just a reflection of my head. Everything starts and ends in my head. When I die it will be by my own hands, and it pRobably won’t be intentional. It doesn’t matter. I’ll die blaming everyone else like I always have, because I learned in first grade that blaming the first person I can point my finger at is easy.
After I’m gone, or at least after I’ve rendered myself unable to communicate, I’ll apologize. This is who I am. I apologize because I can’t help myself. I apologize because I don’t want to leave, don’t want any of it to be over. I’ll apologize because I really am sorry, sorry for being like this, sorry for making a mess, sorry for destroying everything in my path.
Another fucking Saturday, not that that means anything.
A week goes by and nothing gets better. Of course it doesn’t – my head is the one thing I can’t run away from, at least not for long. People don’t change. Of course I’m sitting on the bathroom floor, huddled up in the fetal position, talking to Jason, undoing the ultimatum, threatening to take all the pills in the house, ruining his night, ruining Amber, ruining my life. Ruining my dad’s hopes, ruining my credit, ruining the summer. Ruining the story, ruining the future, ruining the past. This is what I do.
Dying would make sense. I could hurt everyone one last time and then they could start to get better. Instead I’ll get drunk enough to leave the pills on the shelf. I’ll be drunk, not insane. Hungover, not hospitalized. Let’s prolong this a little longer, why don’t we.
“I don’t know if I’ll even be able to go to Folk Fest. Fuck, I don’t know.”
I’m a coward.
When I couldn’t fall asleep at those childhood sleepovers I called mommy and daddy to come rescue me. I’m pathetic. I’m gum, no, dogshit, on your shoe. I’m that little girl and you’re right, it’s not your fault.
I should be in a hospital but the system doesn’t work so I’m here, and someone has to pay for me to remain alive.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
No one has the guts to be honest with me; no one wants to risk being responsible for me – feeling like they’re responsible for me. I live off the fear of others, the guilt of others, the weaknesses of others.
I’m sorrier than sorry, so sorry, sorry…
But there’s this memory that haunts me, this memory of being happy. Someone has to pay.
Could I drink myself into complete oblivion? No. For a moment I admire Joe’s strength.
Has Jason been unemployed for so long because he has a pRoblem, or because I can’t be alone? I have no idea.
But I know how the story will go. Tomorrow Jason will come back and find me sobbing on the couch with our black blanket wrapped around me like a cape. “Baby,” he’ll say, kicking off his shoes and dropping his bag before he rushes to the couch and tries to find my face under the blanket. He’ll find my swollen eyes and be scared and guilty and weak. He’ll invest all his energy in convincing me that things have changed. I won’t believe him. I’ll feel like I’m dying. He’ll try to have sex with me but I won’t stop crying and I’ll say no. He’ll get fed up and say something harsh. I’ll run outside with a cigarette, I’ll fucking run away. But I won’t be able to handle the pain, the thought of him being angry with me, the idea of being alone. So I’ll run right back and tell him I was wrong. He’ll be hiding under blankets and yelling at me – “Babe, fuck off.” I’ll cry harder than he’s ever seen me cry. He’ll be resolute until he looks into my eyes and sees death – then he’ll be scared, guilty, and weak. We’ll have sex and I’ll pretend to come. He’ll clutch my naked body because he really did come; I’ll clutch his because I don’t want him to move. I’ll imagine for a moment that we can lie like that forever. I’ll start crying again because I can’t imagine anymore, because those wishes on stars and birthday candles never came true, did they? He’ll ask me why I’m crying and I’ll tell him it’s because I’m happy – so, so happy. He’ll believe me.
July 16, 2005
And I’ll believe him back.
I believe him because it’s true, because the stars were aligned on that October evening four years ago when he shook my hand and looked right through me, because without him I would kill myself, because he knows, he knows what it means to be like this, to be a little left of sane and a few blows away from complete madness.
I make it to Folk Fest and find something in the sweltering heat, in the mud that finds its way under my toenails, in the drumming that resounds throughout the campground all night. Amber spends the weekend whining and screeching like her mother. Any attraction I ever felt for her is lost. I find myself hating her. On our last morning there I wake up before her and quietly remove the last big chunk of crystal from her wallet with a cut piece of straw, slide it into the glass pipe, and light a candle. I bring the pipe to the flame and when the crystal liquifies and starts smoking I put my lips around the end of the pipe.
When I return to the city I will have to keep running, but in the other direction, far, far away from these implements and this child. I wanted to be seventeen again, to remember what it was like not to know about the consequences, to fancy myself immortal. I have to quit while I’m ahead.
When I return to the city things play themselves out. Jason stops calling me names and daddy resumes – foolish, stupid, can I really take care of myself? “It must be nice to be able to hide behind your disorder.” I attend the STAT program twice a week, only once do I show up late. I listen to the washed up model talk about her eating disorder and the girl from Columbia talk about her lack of self-esteem and the 27-year old that always wears her hair in pigtails talk about the apartments she’s been evicted from because of her issues with rage. I don’t say too much myself but I let myself be taken in by the breathing exercises when we reach the topic of mindfulness. The dosage of my clonazepam is raised when I tell Dr. Inglis how close I was to suicide the other day, or the other week or whenever it was. I come home one morning to find that unprovoked, Jason has called daddy and confronted him about everything. Daddy wants to meet with Dr. Inglis. Maybe she’ll intimidate him as much as she used to intimidate me, so I mention his wishes to yet another therapist, Bob with the English accent and delicate hands, I explain to him my relationship with my father.
“Do you want to kill him?”
“What’s stopping you?”
Jason returns to the world of the living. He leaves the house with me to get groceries and he cooks dinner every night. I do the dishes. Together we go to the shops where the rivers meet downtown and buy East Indian clothing and incence. I decide not to work this summer, to take a real vacation for the first time since I was twelve – no taking care of Angie, no extra credit classes or correspondence work, no job. The government will support me, and if not, daddy will have to. Amber calls ten times a day. After a week I finally answer. She’s staying at her ex-boyfriend Jeff’s place.
“Guess what?” She says hushedly and excitedly, “Jeff does crystal now!”
Tempting as hell but it’s not my fate. I curse the world for being the way it is but accept it – Amber can’t spell and her mom works at Wal-Mart. I may have been doing the same drug when I was her age but I was also at the top of my class in the most prestigious private girls school in the city. My schizophrenic ramblings were gramatically correct. I want to make it different but I don’t know how yet, so I sit back and watch things fall into place.
July 25, 2005
Another 25th comes and goes.
Jason’s friend Chris, the multi-millionaire, depressive playboy, who he stayed with at the lake while Amber and I sat here trying to locate that high that would make everything alright, comes over for the weekend. The first night – was it Thursday? Friday? The first night of his visit the three of us get ridiculously trashed. Someone puts me to bed at 2 am. Jason puts Chris to bed with me at 3 am. At 4 am I manage to fling all of the blankets off the bed, waking both of us up. Jason is sound asleep on the couch. I get up, use the washroom, apologize for the unconsious fit I threw with the blankets, and return to bed. Chris starts cuddling with me and calling me “baby”. We fuck for the next several hours. The next day we eat pills together and sometime in there we purchase some ecstasy. This is my kind of guy but things will be awkward indefinitely. I need a disclaimer printed across my goddamn forehead: “Incapable of having normal human relationships”.
Jason knows nothing about the aforementioned sexual encounter. He and Chris decide to make up a “rumor” that I slept with him after Jason stupidly tucked him into bed beside me – me! Me, so desperate for affection that I eat it out of the palms of some guy I just met, Jason’s best friend right now, whoever dares lie beside me. Jason sinks into some kind of depression after Chris, who has just signed into MSN Instant Messenger, leaves the city.
I try to continue enjoying this vacation of mine as much as possible. I take four clonazepam and cut my hair – I give myself bangs on one side and chop a million different layers out. I shake my head free of clippings and feel a little less guilty.
July 29, 2005
What would I do without that date-insertion feature? I’d be completely paralyzed, as the hours become days become weeks become months, it becomes today. I consider eating, not because I’m hungry but because it would occupy my senses.
I’m starting to dream again. The risperidone wiped out dreaming completely until the night before last, when I found myself with everyone I ever knew in a tropical paradise. I got carried away from the beach by the biggest waves I’d ever seen, but a boat was waiting for me, to bring me back. We all laughed together. The dream ended with cocaine.
Last night everyone was there again but we were somewhere different. Suzette was there, wearing silver lipstick that made her lips look like metal. She grabbed me by the shoulders and told me that she would have loved for us to be lovers. I looked into her eyes and told her that there were so, so many people I would have loved to be lovers with and she understood. Then we are somewhere else, I can’t remember where but it looked like a cafeteria of some sort. I try to play the game but the rules make no sense and as I try to tell people this I slowly go completely insane, maniacal laughter and all. Someone leads me to a doctor or someone who is trained to deal with and assess people like me. She asks me what I want to be. “A sociologist,” but I can’t get the words out, my brain is too scrambled. Whoever brought me here fills in for me – a sociologist – and laughs. The too smile down at me, politely but unable to hide their bemusement, their feeling of superiority.
I wake up coherent, wearing a costume of sanity. Jason and I make plans to go up to Chris’s cabin for the August long weekend. It was May long weekend yesterday. Jason goes to lie down and asks me to talk to Chris on MSN. Jason falls asleep and I end up talking to Chris for hours, manage to tell him about my dad and Eve, about private girls school, about Jason and my nightmarish trip to Florida with his parents. Somehow I don’t bore him. He tells me he’s horny, that I have a nice ass, that he wants some benzodiazapenes. Jesus Christ, this is how relationships got started in ninth grade with the advent of ICQ. While Jason sleeps our drunken one night stand morphs into something I that I guess would traditionally be called an affair. I make promises that I will have to keep but I can’t picture exactly how they will be realized; at the same time I can picture it exactly. Jason wakes up and is slightly suspicious when I close down our conversation window before he looks at the screen, but I fuck him unsuspicious. I can be cruel, I don’t know why.
We go to the mall and I eat alone in the food court while Jason returns a video game. On the way home we stop to buy liquor for the weekend and his debit card gets declined because the credit from the game was eaten up by bank fees. In the back lane I throw a fit of sorts and proclaim I don’t want to do dishes or laundry, clean up the house before we leave. I can’t do anything right now, I’m losing my grasp. He tells me it’s okay, that we can do whatever I want, so I pack a bowl and he turns on the CD we bought at the mall and I start writing.
August 3, 2005
The thing is, it’s much more complicated than that.
August 4, 2005
The weekend at the lake turns into five days and we only submerse ourselves in the water once, despite above average temperatures and clear skies. Chris and I begin by gathering together the small collection of prescription drugs we’ve stolen or been given and deciding which to take first, which to rail and which to consume orally. We don’t have sex. We spend the days sleeping in a valium and opiate haze. I vaguely remember one moment when we could have persued this affair. I was lying on one bed and Jason was asleep on the other. Chris looks over at me with fuck-me eyes and asks, “Why don’t we go for an ATV ride?”
“No.” I answer, “Sleep.”
I don’t know what kept me from going – guilt? Shyness? Simple fatigue? It is Wednesday when we say our awkward goodbyes.
I return to the city for my last morning of STAT. Jason actually begins making a wholehearted effort to study for his GED. Craig tells me that he likes my haircut. Apparently change is good.
I say goodbye to my fellow disordered minds. I give the model girl my last cigarette; I think I wanted my hair to look like her’s. The Columbian girl lends me a book, something about the legacy of despair, something really upliftiing, and I wonder if I will ever see her again to return it. Another girl tells me she’ll see me in DBT – Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – it’s all the rage in psychiatric circles and the next line I am to be pushed along at PsycHealth; it’s supposed to be a cure.
* * *
It is always nine am Sunday morning in room twenty of the emergency room at the HSC and we all know how much I love Sunday mornings. Really it is two am Friday morning. The three of us sit in silence: Jima in the corner on the floor wearing a sweater with the hood pulled over her head, Jason in the other corner on the chair designated for next of kin, and I on the bed on white sheets that reek of bleach. I wish I had a black permanent market so I could scrawl on the wall “THERE IS NOTHING TO SAY”. A male nurse enters the room to draw some blood from one of my discoloured arms. He is gentler than the last person who stuck a needle into one of the veins under my elbow and I put my head down to watch. I’ve always liked watching my blood flow out of me, through a tube and into a little vial. When he is finished I start tapping my feet incessantly against the bed and soon I am brought a pink pill in a tiny cup and another cup with some lukewarm water in it, just like in the movies. 9 am. Something about the fluorescent lighting and the colour of the walls. Across the hall a woman dies.
* * *
Seven pm Thursday. I fall backwards against the floor lamp in our living room and knock a over a pile of video tapes sitting on the floor as I resist, “But I don’t want to go to the hospital!” Not exactly a convincing argument. Jason is on the phone with the poison control centre. At this point he only knows about one of the bottles of cough syrup I drank down in three gulps after seeing daddy and his wife. He is told to take me to the ER immediately and he calls Jima and asks her to meet us there.
He got home from studying at five and made me dinner. This is how I thank him. But I figured my random act of self-destruction had failed as usual and went to the gas station to take out some cash or buy a drink or cigarettes but the stairs proved a challenge and the faces on the Esso advertisments looked creepier than usual. When the cashier handed me my change I dropped it all over the place, causing a line of people behind me to sigh and shake their heads. I returned home, clutching some bills in my hand. I struggled to eat and then my ability to speak went. “A sociologist.”
Jason pushes me gently into the cab.
“Are you going to leave me?”
We take the now familiar route to the ER. Actually, it’s been over six months since we’ve made a visit there, must be some kind of record. I think about the cab driver, about how he spends a few minutes inside so many different lives every day. Then we arrive and I hold on to Jason for more than one kind of support as we wait at the receiving desk inside the hospital. Jima is waiting for us. Quickly my blood pressure is taken and I guess it’s high because the triage nurse gives me a red bracelet. Red means emergent, a step above urgent and semi-urgent, a step below rescusitative. The whole time this is going on I’m giving Jason and Jima a tearful, semi-coherent speech about how much I love them.
“You guys are the only people in the world who care about me. The only people I love. But I’m so happy. I’m crying because I’m happy. I love you and I love you.”
We take a seat in the waiting room and the man sitting behind me brushes up against me.
“Lawnmowers!” I duck and grab Jason’s hand.
“You’re hallucinating, babe. Just watch the T.V.”
I break into tears again and look at him with wild eyes, “That’s what they want you to do!”
I start yelling at the T.V. Larry King Live is on and the caption is clever and uses consonance quite eloquently – Christ, Charisma, Controversy.
“Christ, Charisma, Controversy.” “CHRIST, CHARISMA, CONTROVERSY!!!” If they weren’t staring before they’re staring now.
I sob and hold my head in my hands until I decide I want a cigarette despite the nurse’s insistence that I refrain from smoking. This is my mission. The cigarettes are in Jason’s shirt pocket and I try unsuccessfully to usurp them. Jason gets up to get a drink and I try to manipulate Jima into joining the axis.
“He’s an asshole! I hate him.”
Eventually they let me hold a cigarette, keeping me quiet for a little while. Fifteen minutes pass before I start up again. Jima agrees to take me outside as long as I only take three drags.
“That was the biggest drag I’ve ever seen anyone take.”
I resume my position in a chair on the other side of the waiting room. Jason and Jima get up to talk amongst themselves and as I watch them walk away I can see with absolute perfection the line between love and hate that exists in my mind, threatening to flip and engulf either one of them at any moment.
Jima returns; Jason has gone to call daddy.
“If he shows up here I’m going to kill him. I’m going to rip that sign off the wall and spear him in half with it.”
“We’ll restrain you, honey.”
Of course he doesn’t show up, but instead questions how much cough syrup I actually drank and reminds Jason to study for his fucking test. After my EKG is taken and comes out fine he calls him back. Daddy doesn’t bother picking up.
* * *
In the hallway by room twenty a drunk Native man is being hooked up to an IV. In room twenty-one a doctor is explaining the options another drunk with a fractured arm has. It is four am when I am finally told I can leave. At home I ask Jason again –
“Are you going to leave me?”
“Stop asking rhetorical questions!”
“They’re not rhetorical to me.”
For Christ’s sake. The day I get released from the STAT program. Dr. Inglis is going to have a field day with this one, pretty fucking textbook.
* * *
Saturday. I spend twelve dollars at the tanning booth even though it is thirty degrees and sunny outside. There’s a party tonight and Chris is going to be there.
August 8, 2005
The words of a broken girl crawl across a page.
The party ends up consisting of Jason, Chris and I and three bottles of hard liquor. We sit at the table and pour drink after drink. We talk about the dramatic events of the past few days, laughing at what made me want to die twenty-four hours ago. Around the time that our bottles are half empty Chris starts kissing me every time Jason goes into the other room, whispering not to hurt myself again. It’s all very sweet and very contrived, but I don’t realize the latter until the next day.
The next day, after Jason got suspicious and took me into the kitchen to grill me. After the heat became unbearable and I told him everything, told him about sleeping with Chris and told him about my and Amber’s two month long meth binge. After we went into the bedroom to pass out and Chris fumbled into bed with us, trying to push Jason out. After Jason got mad and I subsequently threw a fit about the place of women in society, accusing him of manipulating me, then threatening to kill myself. After Jason watched me to make sure I was sleeping and after we woke up and I lost it. The next day the walls crumble and all I can see are bottles of pills that will make me feel different, that will stop the noise in my head by making me sick. All I can see is going far, far away, perhaps never to return. Do I care anymore? In any case I don’t deserve to live. Jason isn’t going to write his GED but this time I’m the one responsible for the sabatoge. I picked a hell of a time to tell him that I’d slept with his best friend and done drugs behind his back, that I’d lied every time he questioned me when I couldn’t sleep or came home from some jaunt with Amber with marble-eyes and shiny skin. I can’t live with this. We take a walk to the park to talk and Jason says that my version of history is skewed, that it doesn’t match his. So I don’t know what’s real any more, never have apparently. So I deserve to die.
Jason takes me back to the emergency room.
“Weren’t you here before?” muses the intake nurse.
I get another red bracelet and am forced to make a pact that I won’t try to take off, if I do security will have to get involved. I agree but refuse to sit in the waiting room because I’m going crazy from all the fucking noise. The only room free is the police room, so I lie down in a cell with a camera above me. For some reason that I’ll never comprehend Jason stays there with me, and I rock back and forth on the mattress until I fall asleep. I’m awoken by another nurse holding a clipboard, clutching my growing file. When she’s done filling out papers she asks if I’m safe to stay in the room alone. I think about it.
I’m thinking about removing the keys from my purse and using them to carve patterns into my arms. Jason needs to leave for a while, and his mom of all people comes to stay with me. By this point I’ve been administered downers and the noise has quieted a little. I listen to her and some things she says make sense, despite her unneccisarily frequent references to God. I’ve been at the hospital for eight hours by the time I get a psych consult. When I arrived I wanted them to commit me but it’s over now. I want to go home. I’m tired. I’m written a prescription and sent on my way.
At home the noise starts again. I have an appointment with Dr. Inglis Tuesday morning. God help me until then.
August 14, 2005
The good doctor asks me a series of questions, to which I can only respond,
“I don’t know.”
“I believe you, but that’s not much of a way to go through life, is it?”
She decides to raise my dosages of both risperidone and clonazepam.
Jason and I go back to the lake with Chris, and are kicked out after three days of smoking obscene amounts of weed from Chris’ extensive collection of various strains. So this is what things would be like if daddy had given me my inheritance. This is what things are like: Jason and I return from a quick fuck and fight in the woods and out of the blue Chris asks us if we’re ready to leave. His mom drives us to the Greyhound bus station and its smell reminds me of that trip I took with Jima and Maybe, of getting off the bus to Vancouver in Salmon Arm, BC after Jima took most of the ecstasy we’d procured for the vacation and decided we were going to die if we did not disembark, only to find that she’d also lost the money we’d procured for the vacation, which she had insisted on keeping in a large glass jar.
That is another story. Jason and my trip ends back at our apartment, with a message from Chris waiting on MSN.
“You guys are fucked up and need help, so we shall go our separate ways. Forget who I am.”
And so the affair ended. There are parts of the story I left out, like how I’m only the fourth girl he has slept with, about how he took my head in his hands, looked me in the eyes and said he didn’t know what to do when Jason was out on Tuesday, about how he kissed my lips, my cheek, then my forehead. There are always words left unsaid. Some were meant to be left that way, others I’m not so sure about.
So then there were two. The triage nurse at the hospital last week asked Jason if this was really what he wanted – to be with me. I would be angry if I did not ask myself the same questions – is this really what he wants, is this really what I want?
But the future does not exist for me, that’s why the questions are always elusive or irrelevant. Now is all I have and now isn’t good enough, so when Jason goes into the other room I take a handful of antidepressants. I eat clonazepam like candy again. I wonder when schools starts, thinking I should pRobably apply for a student loan. I should pRobably do a great many things, but the words on the list get smeared and the bills pile up.
Tomorrow I have an appointment with Dr. Inglis and daddy. I should be excited for her to rip his goddamn heart out, but what if she doesn’t, what if I’m wrong? Have I been deluding myself for the past six months, the past ten years? I sit in the bathtub pondering the extent of my psychosis and Jason walks in,
“You know babe, don’t take any offense to this, but maybe you are a lot worse than me, maybe that’s why Dr. Wakeup was so quick to diagnose you in the fall, maybe you are a particularly urgent case.”
August 17, 2005
Why not eat clonazepam like candy, I think, popping another two for the road.
What road? You’re not planning on going anywhere tonight.
But Jima’s coming over, and the full, fresh bottle of pills glares at me from the shelf.
I dream about Chris. I dream I haven’t forgotten who he is, that I haven’t written a private story in my head about how his incredible attraction for me scared him away – he wanted to be with me. I dream he wants to be with me, that we tease each other while we wait for Jason to fall asleep. But in the dream we’re somewhere far, far away from here.
A bottle of pills, sitting on a shelf. Monday the appointment with daddy and the doctors went the only way it could have. He, Jason and I walk into the room and take our seats. He starts talking about finances.
“Dad, these people aren’t bankers.”
Dr. Inglis presents him with a slideshow on BPD, first describing the symptoms, then describing the invalidating environment that an individual, usually a girl, with this disorder pRobably grew up in. Daddy proves his role in that environment by rationalizing away the powerpoint presentation, by referencing my drug pRoblem repeatedly, by positing that every one embodies the vague characteristics that outline BPD in the DSM-IV. There is yelling and swearing and Jason sits in the middle, Dr. Inglis and Craig sit watching us, smiling, taking notes. On our way out of the office I reach out to grab my purse and the daddy picks up where he left off,
“I thought you were reaching out to give me a hug!”
Finance. One thousand dollars and a few bags of groceries is my consolation prize, but I never expected what I really want, a father who answers the phone when his daughter is out of her mind in an emergency room somewhere on the other side of town.
Consolation. I’ve noticed how I collect these artifacts to prove that there were once times and places in my life when certain other’s were part of it. Chris’s pipe, Amber’s black lace skirt, a tube of Christian Dior lipstick I stole from Anna, seashells from France that Maybe gave me, the necklace Rhiannon brought me back from New York for my eighteenth birthday. I have my own goddamn museum of relationships that could have been, that were, that weren’t. I am a curator.
I’ll start listening to more music. I’ll learn to knit. I’ll start wearing funky eye makeup and buy an expensive pair of jeans with some of the money. Tonight Jima will come over and I’ll be a good conversationalist, fuck, I’ll be socially adept if I take just one more clonazepam.
August 19, 2005
One more turns into a few more, a few double rum and cokes, sitting reminiscing with Jima when someone knocks on the back door.
It’s Amber, soaked with rain water and tears. Her and Jeff’s rekindled relationship isn’t going as well as planned, not that it was planned, not that I gave her that choice. I take her in my arms and kiss her – she is so happy to see me and I’m drunk enough to reciprocate her emotion. After a little catching up I pass out on the couch. Two hours later I wake up in a gigantic puddle of my own urine, signalling Jason’s anger.
I really think he hates me sometimes. The whole world hates me, or fears getting close because I have this thing that follows me everywhere, that I can’t get rid of, that makes scary faces at people.
Amber spends the night. In the morning all I want is for her to be gone, gone for good, she wasn’t supposed to come back, I was finished with her. So after my 11:30 with Craig I come home and curl up in a ball on the bed. Jason comes in and mentions the possibility of Amber moving in for a while, “even just ‘til Christmas or something”.
“Well since when have you ever considered me in any of your decisions?”
Everybody, please, just get the fuck away from me. I finally come out of the bedroom at 5:30. Amber has decided to return to Jeff, has fucked Jason, has spent hours sobbing. She never cried when she was with me but I don’t care anymore. When she tries to give me a kiss goodbye on the lips I move my face away, but I kiss her on the forehead. Because I’m supposed to.
The next day Jason and I go out for lunch with Jima. It’s one of the last beautiful days of summer and we sit in the sun on the patio. Jason decides this is an appropriate place to confront me about how much I’ve hurt him over the past few weeks. And all this time I thought I was hurting myself. He begins by threatening to take off. Last time he pulled a such a random disappearing act was a year and a half ago at a bar across the street, where I ended up ripping a heating unit off the wall in the women’s washroom and then trying to smoke crack out of tin foil with another ex-roommate, Alex. This time Jima convinces him to stay, but there will be hell to pay.
“The past two weeks have been hell for me. Part of you enjoys hurting me, and I don’t know what’s best, maybe we should take a year off.”
“What, and I’ll live at my dad’s house while I do DBT? That would be really great.”
“I don’t know, babe. Do you realize that your version of history and what actually happened are often two different things?”
I close my eyes to try to stop the tears and gather my thoughts. The people sitting at the table behind us just happen to be having a philosophical discussion about psychosis and their words pass through me, “No, psychosis is when someone is unable to distinguish between reality and unreality, when someone thinks their version of the truth is true, even though it isn’t.” I open my eyes and fantasize about jumping in front of the bus that drives by. I picture myself jumping in front of any one of the cars that drives by. I have to clutch the chair I’m sitting on to avoid running home to eat all the pills in our apartment.
Jason continues, “You can’t drink, you can’t use drugs, you’re a clonazepam junkie right now.”
“So I can’t go out to the bar tomorrow to see a friend I haven’t seen for six years?”
“Who is this friend that I’ve never heard of anyways?”
Jima buts in, “Chelsea, she’s actually a really cool chick. She used to bandage my wounds, even told on me a few times, but she’s really cool.”
“Fine. But you can’t drink, babe.”
“I can’t go out and have a few drinks with my friends? When was the last time I went to the bar, three months ago? That’s fine, I’ll stay home and watch you play video games instead. Really, it’s fine.”
“See how you’re turning this all around on me?”
“I’m just being honest.”
For fuck’s sake, Jason is the fuck-up, not me. He’s the one that deserves a little pep talk, or maybe even for a scene to be made in public. He’s the one that has no intention of finding a job since daddy gave me money. He’s the one who drives me insane every night with his endless complaining about how goddamn depressed he is, and that has nothing – nothing – to do with me!
“Look silly, I never want to hurt you and I truly am sorry if I do. My pRoblems are my pRoblems, and I’m sorry you’ve had to be a spectator to them.”
Jima tries to back me up, “I don’t think either of you ever mean to hurt each other.”
And so we go on, telling the poor waitress that we need a few more minutes to decide at least ten times. Eventually we come to some kind of solution and order food. In addition, Jason orders a double gin on the rocks, Jima a rum and coke. I want to rip their eyes out with my fingernails; I want to hold on to them so tightly that they can never go away.
After lunch Jason and I go to get our noses pierced as a promise that we’re not going to put anymore drugs up our noses, as an engagement of sorts. The pain gets me high, really really happy, so does the idea of the whole thing, but by the time we get home Jason is depressed and I’m in for another evening of being driven insane. Would it really be so horrible for us just to be happy for longer than five minutes?
August 21, 2005
“Help me, call the doctor, put me inside, put me inside, put me inside…” –Radiohead
At precisely eight am a nurse knocks on a door and I am awoken.
“Doing alright in here? We’ll bring you breakfast in about an hour.”
A few minutes later the lights brighten andd I start to cry because time is regulated the same way on flights across the International Date Line, triggering memories of Japan, of a day when I and the other girl on the exchange skipped school to walk up a thousand rocky steps in the rain to visit a Shinto shrine on top of a hill. I wasn’t haunted then.
You guessed it, I’m back at the HSC’s emergency room.
It turned out that Jason was right, going to the bar was a bad, bad plan. I was too drunk to stand by midnight so Jima and Tanya took me back to their place and put me to bed. A couple of hours later when the booze wore off I got up, only to find that Jima and Tanya were gone, back at the bar after disposing of their nutcase friend. I was furious, made some random phone calls, one to Jason I guess because he grabbed the pair of scissors from my hands.
Yesterday I discovered that cutting myself works almost as good as cough syrup at making the ghosts go away for a little while, and I carved a lovely cut into my left arm before I was so rudely interrupted.
Next came the screaming, “I want to die! I don’t care, anything is better than this!”, the 911 call, the hospital.
Once there I try to lengthen the cut with the oxygen valve on the wall of the room somebody has hidden me away in, I try to break the glass window that looks into the rest of the ER with my foot. A nurse threatens to put me in restraints. I’m smart enough to avoid getting “violent” again.
And so I’m fed through the system one more time. Only this time I know I’m going to die if something isn’t done, if something doesn’t change. Jason knows it too. The system doesn’t care. We arrive at the hospital at four am. At ten am I’m finally seen by a psychiatric nurse.
“Okay, we’ll see what the doctor has to say.”
Cold mashed potatoes and green jello. At one pm the doctor sees me.
“Okay, I think we’ll pass you along to psych.”
At three pm the woman who will decide my fate walks into the room and I try to explain that I’m not going to survive outside of a hospital.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have any beds.” The cunt is smiling as she says this.
I burst into tears and Jason starts yelling at her.
“Okay, I’m going to make a few phone calls, I’ll call another psychiatrist and come back.”
I am going to DIE. This is how the story ends, prepare yourself for the anticlimax.
I could have flown to Japan in eleven hours. Anna is in Japan right now, backpacking on her Russian mobster Father’s dime.
Anna isn’t sick.
And just when I’m about to lose all faith in the system, not that I had any to begin with, the psychiatrist returns to tell me that there is a bed after all, at the Victoria hospital, the hospital where my baby brother died. Jason and I both start crying as a wave of relief washes over us, and I wonder what skeletons will come walking out of daddy’s closet when he drives us there, when he’s forced through the doors of the ER on the other side of town.
Somehow he manages to unearth some of mine instead. Of course he does. But the story sounds a little different when it exits his lips,
“’Don’t cry mommy.’ And she said to me, she’s a little angel, and she realized that she had so much to live for!”
Another round of tears, and make mine a double. Is this really going to change things? Will I become human again? Will daddy? Will Jason?
I hope that this is the beginning of the end, but know that it is only the end of the beginning as I kiss the two men goodbye.
After another three health care professionals ask for my life story and I’m given a tour of Unit Six – lounge with television, pool table, ping pong; kitchen from which patients may help themselves to food; linen closet; quiet lounge with books we can borrow or where we may quietly visit with others – I am left alone, in the silence of a private room that overlooks the city, so tiny and so huge, the strip-mall capital of the world surrounding me and crushing me. I’m on the inside now. It really is very quiet.
August 22, 2005
Time isn’t the only thing that’s regulated at the hospital, specifically at Unit Six. I write because I’m not allowed to have a cigarette for another half hour.
After a fitful sleep I meet new doctor #4209, Dr. DeMontagne, let’s call him Dr. D. He wears his hair in an impressive comb-over and black, wire glasses sit on the tip of his nose. His office is a throwback to the sixties with dark wood and blue plush chairs, confidential notes unscrupulously strewn about a desk. I give him the jist of things, and things I’ve forgotten to tell other doctors or things they didn’t bother to ask about, like how every time I look at a clock and it’s 11:11 of 11:25 I have to look at the clock an odd number of times, the lower the number the better, and wish that Jason and me will be together forever and always, that he won’t leave, before reciting some other nonsense, an affirmation that I made up when I was a kid.
“So there’s a common theme here – abandonment.”
“Your Mother abandoned you by dying and your Father essentially abandoned you by not allowing you to grieve her death.”
I nod my head.
“Lots of chronic issues that will have to be kept watch over on a long term basis, and some personality issues, and you’re very depressed.”
“Yeah, I woke up feeling awful again today.”
“Yes. And you’ve been on the Celexa for a year. Have you noticed a change?”
“Okay, I’m going to give you a test dose of Effexor, 37.5 mg. I find more people respond to it, even though Celexa is my favourite SSRI. Different things work for different people.”
“Okay.” I don’t tell him I already gave myself a 400 mg test dose of Chris’ Effexor when he stayed at our apartment.
“And your other doctor, Dr. Inglis, is worried about you losing weight.”
“I know, but I swear, I don’t have an eating disorder! I have everything else, but no eating disorder. I used to try to make myself puke to get rid of the way I was feeling in high school but I couldn’t.”
“Trying to purge yourself of bad feelings. Uh-huh. Bad feelings aren’t kept in your stomach.”
He manages to make me crack a tiny smile.
“And how did you sleep?”
“Not well.” I’m not even lying, trying to get pills.
“Did you have trouble getting to sleep or trouble staying asleep?”
“Okay, I’m going to add some things at bedtime. One to help you fall asleep ad one to help you stay sleeping.”
“Okay, we’ll see how you do.”
He opens the door for me to leave. Three new pills. Things are looking up.
* * *
I attend the day groups for lack of anything else to do and my inability to fall asleep. I’m handed a photocopy of some self-help book and led through a breathing exercise – “Imagine you’re lying on a beach, feel the warm sand…”
I’m there for a minute but then I’m back here, staring into a cup of pills. I open my eyes. It’s time for a smoke, but not for another freaking half hour! I sit in the lounge and watch “Days of Our Lives” with a few of the other girls here. I haven’t seen the brainless soap opera for seven years but the plot hasn’t changed. Then another nurse whisks me away to recite my life story, just one more time, and she tries some good ol’ positive reinforcement on me, telling me how strong I am and how much I’ve accomplished. Everyone here is trying to compensate for the things daddy never said but I still feel like ripping my arms open. Sometimes even validation can be invalidating.
When I’m finally let out for a cigarette I meet my neighbour, Angeline, who just happens to be a short, Filipino Angelina Jolie circa “Girl, Interrupted”. She bums two smokes and talks about how crazy everyone else here is and tries to get me to give her bus fare to break out of this place.
Naturally I have an easier time talking to her than anyone else here, not to say that they aren’t pleasant, with the exception of Michelle, who prances around Unit Six in a fuzzy halter top and fuck-me boots, trying to pick up the guys here and casting evil looks at the girls. Aside from her I’ve met Kristen, a single mother about my age who almost did herself in Saturday night; Nicole, also a single mom, bipolar, with a tan as dark as her thick brown hair; Kari-Ann, also bipolar, with short blonde hair and a nose ring like mine; Tanya, who is trying to get rid of the “monsters in her head”; Louise, an elderly lady that hands out compliments and speaks endlessly about gerbils as we smoke; Donald, pRobably a schizophrenic, who says “Hi Scars” a little too loudly every time I pass him in the hall; John, who wears a Hawaiian print shirt and disrupts the groups with lame jokes; and Avi, an older East Indian man who tells me I have a beautiful face. The conversation with them feels sketchy and forced, and I start handing out compliments too – we all do – to fill in the gaps.
* * *
Jason comes to visit and drop off some of my things and we scream at each other outside for a good half hour before he comes up to my room. Actually, I was the only one screaming. He wants me to get off the clonazepam while I’m here, but I feel like emptying the contents of my arms for God’s sake. I don’t know what the fuck to do. I leave a note for Dr. D. Our goodbye is cut short when the bus pulls up early. Damn, I’m scared of losing him. So fucking scared. Is it my fault that I just eat whatever pills come in the McDonald’s ketchup cup? Seroquel, clonazepam, risperidone, and lorazepam this time. At least I’ll be sleeping tonight. The moon shines bright yellow and soon it will be fall.
August 23, 2005
Day two. Time passes slowly here, of maybe it’s just me, being still for the first time, or the lack of change, fantasizing about sharp objects of all shapes and sizes. I sleep through the morning, through the psychotherapy group in progress across the hall that I was supposed to attend. When I crawl out of bed Angeline is waiting for me, waiting to stir the fucking pot. She sneaks behind the reception desk and grabs my smokes and a lighter and we go outside forbiddenly. She talks about jobs she’s had in the past – modelling, nursing, banking, and the list goes on. I don’t know whether or not to believe a word of it and she’s starting to make me feel nervous and manic, like the girl who took things a little too far. Luckily Kristen comes around a little and joins us after a while, sitting on the grass facing a cold beer store. She invites me to join her in listening to some CDs when we go back upstairs, noticing my weariness and Angeline’s randomness.
Back inside I see Dr. D. Mental illnesses are divided into two categories – Axis one, which includes depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia; and Axis two, which encompasses personality “issues”. Dr D. thinks I have Axis one depression in addition to BPD and starts feeding me more and more Effexor. He shoos me out of his office again, “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Lunch is vegetarian stew that looks more like a vegetarian’s barf, but I don’t go hungry – some of the others donate portions of their meals to the fake vegetarian trying to avoid mystery meat. After lunch it’s time for arts and crafts, I’ve never been good at the crafts bit. We’re supposed to make animals by gluing golf balls together and painting them, adding googly eyes, etc. I am making a little replica of Peter when a pair of scissors goes missing causing the activity to come to a halt. When I finally finish a perfect little cat I try to carry it to my room on a paper plate and it crumbles in my hands, painted black golf balls fall and dance about the floor. It’s time for a nap.
* * *
I wake up to a phone call from daddy. He doesn’t mention finances once. Now I know what it takes to have some kind of “normal” relationship with the man I share half my DNA with – a stay at a mental institution. I wish this bothered me more, I wish hearing him talk to me the way he did when I was all he had made me cynical rather than eager – and hopeful. I know that caring voice, that ideal father fasçade will disappear after I leave here, when budgeting and good grades and not smoking become real again, when he’s no longer scared of losing me is when he will.
After I talk to him and then Jason I spend most of the evening talking to Donald, who I find out is an amazing man. I find out he constantly listens to headphones not because he’s a schizophrenic, although he pRobably is, but because he loves music, especially the Beatles. We swing our legs like the arm of a metronome as we speak, trying not to dissociate. He tells me about his youth, about living in Osborne village and travelling around Europe in a camper with his sweetheart in 1975, about Vatican City and sex on the beach in Greece. This man makes me think that life is pRobably worth living. I know everyone here has a story that’s pRobably more interesting than mine, and I can learn something from each of them. When I consider that the women from Donald’s past would pRobably be afraid of him now I feel a great sense of injustice.
August 24, 2005
I wake up at five am and stumble down the hallway, past the linen closet, past the workout room, past the patient phone, to fetch some pain meds from the night nurse. I have my period – at least I’m not pregnant, I’ve been too stuck to renew my prescription for birth control pills for at least two months, I guess because they don’t change the way I feel.
I realize my logic is absurd.
I shuffle back to my room after downing a T3 and try desperately to sleep, turning from my right side to my back to my left side to my back and so on. On Unit Six we wait all day for bedtime and it seems another day has begun. Five fucking am. Every little while I hear my door open and feel a flashlight being pointed at my head. At one point I think I hear someone in my room, scribbling down notes about me on a clipboard, but when I open my eyes I realize it’s just the cooling vent making strange noises. The pills that used to knock me out for twelve straight hours now only provide sleep for a few. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the constant bed checks, who knows. When I do fall back asleep a P.A. announcement resounds immediately, “Breakfast trays are here!” So much for sleep.
I put on some clothes, sort of brush my teeth, and go to the kitchen to eat a banana and a stale bagel with marmalade on it. I hate marmalade. Then I sit in the lounge to watch the news. Apparently Brad Pitt eating at some pretensious restaurant in Calgary is news. For fucks sake. Fifteen minutes until smoke time. I figure I’ll go back to my room again and try to clean my nose ring, another simple task I’ve been neglecting, but I’m stopped short – the doctor will see me now.
“How are you feeling today?”
“Pretty much the same.”
“Your urge to cut?”
“It’s there – I was looking down at the knife on my breakfast tray…” Oh sweet, sweet knife with serated edge.
“I’m going to give you another dose of Effexor.” I’ve already had 150 mg at breakfast. A little more for tea sounds fine with me.
“I have these obsessive thoughts about knives, about plunging a knife deep into my chest…”
Dr. Wakeup used to interpret these fantasies as a desire to perform surgery on myself, to littlerally “get the weight off my chest”; Dr. D. approaches the matter from a less Freudian and more medical point of view, and we talk about obsessive thoughts versus impulsive thoughts. My thoughts have drifted into the realm of obsession. I bitch about daddy for a while and leave the office just in time to join the others for a cigarette, two cigarettes. Chain-smoking is the rule around here, and at ten am I’m being forced to participate in the psychotherapy group. I’d rather eat nails, shards of glass, earthworms. I find out that Nicole and Tanya are being discharged this week and I wonder who will take their place. Tanya tells us about how last weekend when she went home on a pass she lay in bed with her daughter and felt like she was protecting her from the monsters. I think this is perhaps the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.
* * *
Loud, short yelps coming from the seclusion room resonate down the hallway. On days like today the psych ward isn’t exactly condusive to mental health. It all started with that goddamn psychotherapy group, I warned you, “Interaction Group” they call it. At the group a topic is given by a psychologist, Dr. Bruce Hutchison, a real pompous asshole. Both inpatients and outpatients participate in telling the group what the topic means to them, and then the last half hour is less structured, and glorious “interaction” begins.
The topic today is stress and substance abuse. At first I was excited, I could speak for days about those subjects, hell, I already have in this book. Most people go on about smoking joints, drinking beer, snorting a line of coke now and then. When my turn comes around and I start talking about crystal meth it seems everyone shuts down, writes me off as a lost cause, Hutchison is unaffected.
Fine, whatever, I can deal with apathy. So everything’s peachy until the last man speaks, a woman actually, Suzanne, an outpatient. She tells us all about her suicide box, a box of saved up, old prescription drugs she keeps, and about the times she’s taken a couple of bottles of pills with a bottle of wine. You see, last New Year’s I decided my ideal suicide would involve a bottle of expensive wine and a few bottles of valium. Thoughts of that scene race through my head.
Time for interaction! The rest of the outpatients, particularly an annoying woman wearing a pink sweatsuit with the words “hip hop” on the ass, spend the last segment of the session telling Suzanne why she should throw out the box, while us inpatients just sit back and watch. I lose it a little more with each passing second. A bottle of pills would taste so good, go down my throat so smoothly, be digested so exquisitely making those little volcanoes erupt in my stomach. This is my fucking destiny, this is my story, this is how it goes. I don’t know why I stay in the room, first tapping my feet, then my fingers, then putting my head between my legs. Does anyone notice me slowly going crazy? No, they’re too focused on Suzanne and her stupid fucking box. When the half hour is up I run to the nurse’s lounge.
“I’m not okay!”
A nurse brings me to the kitchen and pours me a glass of juice. Angeline plops down opposite me. Fuck!!! She is a fingernail and I am a chalkboard.
“I just want to be by myself right now.”
The nurse doesn’t think my idea is sound, so I wait at the table listening to Angeline scratch and scratch until someone finds a doctor to get me an Ativan (lorazepam).
“You’re selfish. What’s so wrong? You don’t need to be in here, so many people are worse off than you, at least you have your Dad.”
I haven’t the fortitude to respond. I just sit and wait for a pill to be brought to me as the rat spins the wheel faster and faster in my head. I wish I could pull it off. The pill arrives, just one, not sixty, and no Merlot, just water to chase it. I soon find myself in my room, under a hundred blankets, in the fetal position pretending I’m inside mommy’s womb.
* * *
But the day goes on as days do. Kristen rescues me from Angeline, we listen to silly music in the quiet lounge, lying on the floor. At one point we get up to use the phone and who else but Angeline has been using it for an hour. We knock on the door to let her know her time is up and receive bouts of profanity in return. Finally a nurse comes and tells her sternly that she must get off the phone, so she hangs it up and starts throwing some kind of fit.
“Someday you’re all going to be someone’s keeper!” she screams. I have no idea what this implies. The entire floor is put on lockdown until the nurses can get her to lie down and stop screaming.
I’m absolutely frazzled, I feel like I’ve taken things one slep too far, even though I’m not the one screaming. I’m back in sixth grade and I’ve put snow on the substitute teacher’s chair. He’s about to sit on it and I can’t take it back, there’s nothing I can do.
* * *
Jason and Jima come to visit in the evening and none of us scream, that’s got to mean something. They rescue me from another vegetarian stew with chicken fingers and fries that taste undeservidly delicious. Jima says Unit Six is nicer than the psych ward at the HSC, where she stayed after landing that plane. I love these two miscreants with all I have and when I kiss Jason goodbye it feels like our first kiss, like we’re back at his parents house, making out on the couch before they got home. I was wearing a blue corduroy skirt and a black sweater with feathers on it. I feel like we’re alive, not quite human but alive, for the first time in a very, very long time.
August 25, 2005
This morning I meet Devon, a nineteen year-old who smokes the same brand of cigarettes as me. His story could be mine – crystal meth, good marks, steady job, breakdown. He has his guitar here and plays me two of my favourite songs, full of self-pity. The he plays two of his own, one about cocaine and one about the psych ward. They’re trite but still beautiful. The doctor calls him away before he can finish the last one. I think I will be friends with this boy and I jot down his phone number in my journal where I know it will be safe.
* * *
I should be doing laundry, one of the few chores patients are expected to do themselves, because we’re “able-bodied”. I lie in bed instead because sometime in between Bocce Ball and a phone call to Jason a profound sadness has been injected into my veins. I don’t think I’ll be getting out of here any time soon.
No visitors tonight so I’ll have to amuse myself, and there’s nothing amusing about depression. Although the affliction is romanticized by many, although I’ve been guilty of doing so myself, depression is boredom, isolated in its purest form. Lying in this hospital bed I can see exactly why I started using drugs, why I once put a cigarette out near the veins in my left hand, why I don’t look both ways before crossing the street. I can see all my accomplishments and all the failures that went along with them. I can see that there is much more to my illness than borderline personality disorder’s neat list of symptoms describes. I can see the knife under my parents’ bed that I hallucinated when I was five, and it’s still pointed directly at me, it has been all along.
Dr. D. orders 450 mg of Effexor.
August 26, 2005
Something’s not right. Donald says his left leg is giving out on him but his doctor tells him that getting it checked out is “not necessary”. Plans are in the works for him to be shipped off to a real asylum, one where the criminally insane reside, half an hour outside the city. Just lock us away and forget about us.
Me, I lie in bed, perfectly still, watching the sky above me move, blue fading into white fading into grey – summer fading away. Occaisionally a bird flies by, a tiny little V-shaped thing like children draw in pictures. I cry and cry for no reason at all, or because I’m sick, or because Prozac Nation lied to me and told me that medication would remove the grey cloud that’s positioned itself over my head.
Dr. D. starts me on Wellbutrin in addition to the other six meds I’m on. He says that Effexor and Wellbutrin in combination is the most potent brew of the “new” antidepressants. Hee says that if this doesn’t work I’ll have to go off all meds for a week and then begin taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, one of the “old” antidepressants, like the ones that make Karen’s hands shake. Not only do they inhibit but they also prohibit one’s diet, one’s lifestyle. If on an MAOI, I could kill myself at a wine and cheese party by simply partaking in the festivities.
The truth is, despite popular knowledge and the claims of psychiatrists, there haven’t been many advances in psychopharmacology since the seventies. It’s always been a guessing game and still is. Even if this new concoction makes me better it will stop working in a few months, maybe a year if I’m lucky, once my brain gets used to the chemicals intruding it and finds pathways to return to it’s regular habits. Desperate housewives and disillusioned college students may pop billions of dollars worth of SSRIs, but here on Unit Six, we are all still waiting for a cure.
Donald is pRobably my favourite person here. He lends me his precious headphones to listen to Paul McCartney’s “Distractions” when he can tell I’m not doing so well. He puts an arm around me for a second when I’m sobbing after Jason’s visit. He tells me that I remind him of his high-school sweetheart.
Donald lives in the past where things are simple and the world seems huge, but his intentions are purely altruistic. I’ve never met a man like him before.
Meanwhile daddy tells me it’s okay if I miss a semester or two of school, and Jason makes an emergency appointment with Dr. Wakeup. He’s sick too, and it’s time for us all to get better, somehow, I have to believe we will, or I’ll end up like Angeline.
August 27, 2005
Synchronicity. Terror. Joy.
Some days cannot be described using words but if I had to pick three, those would be the ones I’d choose and one of them is stolen.
Devon is amazing. We think the same thoughts.
“You’re a fascinating person.”
I look down at my slippers. They have smiley faces on them but I’ve defaced them and turned those smiles upside down. “So are you.”
“You’re so lost, and it’s so beautiful.”
I start crying, not for Happy or Sad, but because I feel too much to hold it in; I have to exhume something.
“I’m not just saying that for self-benefit.”
We speak and then we are silent and in those silences our souls are revealed to one another. I have trouble looking him in the eye.
I don’t want to have sex with him; I don’t want to ruin this energy, lightning only strikes once. I want to sew our bodies together with thread. I want to eat his flesh.
“If we’d just taken a class or something together or something we’d pRobably never have met.”
“It makes you wonder how many people out there are just like you. A lot?”
“No. Not very many.”
Silence. Those eyes.
“It’s like we’re kindred spirits or something – I know that sounds corny but…”
“No, it doesn’t. This doesn’t happen very often.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
I feel alive again. Not quite human, but it’s a start. I can see myself as a professor of sociology again, rather than a corpse. At the same time I can see myself living out the rest of my life in here and being quite content. But I need to run away so that Devon remains perfect forever.
* * *
Daddy visits. He was supposed to arrive at seven and he finally shows up at eight-thirty, half an hour before visiting hours are over. I make him come out for a cigarette with the lot of us, sitting on pine needles underneath an evergreen tree because the air is full of mist that looks like snow near the light of the streetlamps. Donald calls him J.R.R. Tolkien. Devon listens to him tell a long-winded story and the groundhog that has taken up residence under his deck. When it is time for him to leave I accompany him downstairs. He hugs me goodbye and says over and over,
“Can’t I just take you home?”
Sadness lingers like the mist in the orange light but I do not cry.
* * *
I call Jason to say goodnight and I’m not scared of him leaving me when we hang up for the first time in – for the first time ever. Could this really be? Could the meds actually be working, could I be getting well?
Am I in love with Devon?
Where is the crash, the payback for a good day?
Happy, is that really you?
How you terrify me so.
August 28, 2005
Happy runs away when Kristen, who has become my roommate because her former roommate, and elderly lady, is puking or shitting something that smells like sulphuric acid causing me to give up my private room.
“You and Jason could still see each other, but you should go live at your Dad’s for a while, save some money, get better.”
The wheel starts spinning. I want to stab myself in the jugular with the fork that’s lying on my bedside table. Kristen starts playing some bad R&B break-up music and I feel like I’m going to start vomiting, pain shoots through my head, but I can’t leave because I don’t want her to hate me. After two songs I decide I can pretend to clean up my side of the room and make a break for the nurse’s station during the process.
“Get this fork away from me and give me an Ativan!”
Fuck, I don’t need advise from a twenty-three year-old with a five year-old daughter who is attending CDI Business College – you know the type “We offer jobs in exciting fields like child psychology, TV/VCR repair…” – and who tried to kill herself because she snorted one too many lines of coke at some party. And to top it all off she likes country music even more than the cheesy R&B and has one of Dr. Phil’s latest books on her bedside table.
I’ve never been good with roommates.
There is nothing to do on the weekends here. Visiting hours are extended, but that is only useful if you have visitors. Jason and I agreed not to see each other for a few days after our last spat of throwing insults back and forth and seeing who could cry harder. Jima is out with the lesbians-only clique she’s established. Daddy is out spending money he does not have, and is up to his old parenting via denial tricks and won’t let Angie come to see me. Devon is out on a day pass, not that I care, not that he would want to keep me company.
I tap my feet and wait for four-thirty. I can have another Ativan then.
* * *
After dinner meds and after dinner I meet two new people, Erin, who tried to hang herself and shares my love of shoplifting useless things; and Shauna, who is afflicted by a mixed bag of personality disorders and who lived in Japan the same year I did, teaching English. Together we watch the sun set and the clouds turn bright pink. Nicole stops to look and remarks that we’ll never watch a sunset like this one together again, we’ll all be well and in different places next time the sky explodes into colour. Devon calls Nicole the bipolar superhero.
I’m feeling better, a little too good, mischievious. I pace the halls – Angeline can be heard screaming from the phone room and I’m in the mood for a scene. Unfortunately she storms out before the nureses have to intervene and I’m only granted a glare before she heads for the elevators, so I sneak into Devon’s room – he’s roommates with Donald who is quite distressed as I break the rules and enter the room of someone of the opposite gender – and place a twig shaped like the letter “Y” on his pillow. We found one like it under the evergreen tree last night but he insinctively destroyed it before we could talk philosophy. I just told that dumb story about the guy who responds to his final philosophy exam, which simply asks “Why?”, with “Why Not?” and gets the highest mark in the class. In Montreal Katenga used to claim that guy was her dad.
Donald tells me that I am a giant.
“It must be hard, being a giant,” he says, sympathetically, “You want to take big steps but you have to be careful and try to take little steps so you don’t crush people.”
I agree with him, pRobably a punishable mistake, reinforcing his delusion, but I can’t help it as I find the metaphor quite fitting.
August 29, 2005
Cigarettes are my only company today, I guess it’s time to learn how to be alone.
Several patients are being discharged – Tanya, Nicole, and Kristen. I wonder who my new roommate will be as I sit on my bed trying not to dissociate, and I think for a minute that I’ll miss Nicole’s insights into mental illness, but then again I don’t think she likes me much.
What are you talking about? Yesterday she told you that you are a kind-hearted person who will change the world someday.
Yes, but she wouldn’t join me and Donald, smoking on the bench, instead she went to sit with Kari-Ann, far away in the grass. It seems the two are best friends because they share the same label, and I certainly don’t know how to rid the world of labels.
We might as well all have stamps on our foreheads, no, tattoos, more permanent. Mine reads “Borderline” and psychiatrists don’t like borderlines because we’re too unpredictable in manner and mood, so I’ll be sent home by the end of the week, I’m sure of it.
And will I be different then? Will this place have changed me? Everyone tells me I should take that semester off, but something inside me tells me I should just buck up and hide in the library stacks.
* * *
By six pm I am sobbing and pacing back and for the in front of the nurse’s station. Tanya, Nicole and Kristen’s replacements have just walked in. I’m even talking to myself a little, me, the queen of first impressions.
Eventually a nurse notices me.
“Can I help you with something?”
“Yeah, I’m depressed as hell and I can’t stop crying.”
What I need is a hug and someone to talk to. The nurse and I stare at eachother for three seconds before she speaks.
“Is there some medication I can get for you?”
I pause. Is this what it’s come down to? “Yeah, sure.”
“What usually helps when you’re feeling like this?”
“Benzos I guess?” I’m incredulous.
She hands me a cup of pills and I swallow them apathetically.
“Do you want a movie to watch? I can open room six-twenty-four for you – “
“I’m too depressed.” Oops, that came out a little too loudly. The newcomers watch. Welcome to Unit Six!
“Oh, I’m sorry you’re so depressed. You should watch some TV.”
“I think I’ll go write a note for my doctor about this.”
“Good idea, just keep yourself busy!” The nurse departs.
I stand in the middle of the hallway not knowing whether to go right or left.
August 20, 2005
Some days are too typical to bother writing about. I’ll be brief.
I see Devon after my eight am cigarette. The magic seems to be gone, I think because I feel I have to live up to “fascinating” or because the sexual tension between us is making me stutter. We sit down together to watch New Orleans sink on TV, but he gets up almost immediately, muttering something about having to get stuff together in his room.
I work out, take a shower, try to keep myself fucking busy.
Dr. D. sees me for longer than usual and the look on his face says “What the hell am I supposed to do with this one?” I leave him another note, apologizing for being the cause of his frustration.
Jason and Jima are scheduled to visit me but neither of them are answering their phones. I leave manic messages.
“I feel like I’m just one big pRoblem! I really need you guys to come here. Please come!!”
I call Angie because she’s turning fourteen today. This day will forever remain in her memory as the birthday her sister missed because she was in the nuthouse. I wish her a good one and lie that people are in line for the phone so I have to hang up because I have nothing to say for myself.
When seven pm rolls around and there’s still no sign of Jason or Jima I believe with all my heart that they’ve rethought the cost/benefit analysis of being part of my life and decided they simply cannot afford risking an investment in something so unreliable, something that certainly doesn’t promise much of a return.
I sit on the floor near the nurse’s station weeping, mourning my loss. I cry so hard that my body convulses and I cannot breathe. The nurses are fed up with me, just like Dr. D. One of them begrudgingly gives me an Ativan and tells me to go lie down and settle down. Lying down I come up with a plan. I’ll break one of the CD cases I have in my room and use the pieces to dissect my arms. All I want is to see blood, my blood, bright red water. I stand up to put this plan into action and Jima and Jason appear before me, holding sunflowers. Some days I wonder how long I can live like this for. Some days I wonder if it’s worth it.
August 31, 2005
And some days are just empty white boxes on the page of a calendar.
When fuck-me boots Michelle first arrived here Donald snuck into her room in the middle of the night and starated kissing and touching her, believing that she was a girlfriend from his past. So when Donald puts a hand on my hip and tells me I’m dressed provocatively (I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt) I have no choice but to tell a nurse. I’m a fucking hypocrite but I can’t afford to be traumatized further – waking up to a forty-seven year-old man trying to have sex with me might send me over the ledge. And I didn’t know that the hospital staff would write up a formal report and take away his smoking priviledges. He passes me in the hallway.
“I can’t smoke because you told them I did something inappropriate, Scars. I don’t remember anything inappropriate.”
He looks so sad. Goddamnit. I feel like a piece of shit.
I walk throught the rest of the day expressionless. I do as I’m told. I feel like a Robot, a Robot with a few screws literally loose. “Keep Fit” group, cigarette, lunch, cigarette, call Jason, dinner, cigarette, silence.”
My new roommate is a tall, thin Native girl who’s either catatonic or won’t speak to me because I’m white. Everyone else is hiding in their room or laughing with their visitors. Devon is out on a pass, not that he’d want to watch me cry anyway.
“You’re pushing people away,” Dr. D. remarks, “It’s your worst fear but you can make it come true with your behaviour.”
Really, huh. Never considered that one before.
But I can’t make it stop! My brain is broken and doesn’t seem to be responding to the massive amount of chemicals being forced into it. I should be put down like an annoying pet. Instead the doctor orders 600 mg of Effexor, the highest dose one can take before the drug becomes toxic.
* * *
Devon shows up and we spend the evening wearing blankets like capes and running around the ward, going outside and smoking, the wind is ferocious and our capes fly in the wind. He’s Batman and I’m Robin and we paint pictures of animals doing drugs to “work through our addictions” and we laugh. Then I call daddy because he called earlier and left a message for me to call him back. My short time of being treated like an equal, a human being, has expired. He accuses me of being on drugs and implies that Jason is the reason I’m at a mental hospital; he cannot accept the fact that there’s this thing called mental illness that affects people, that chemical imbalances can’t be blamed on anyone. In addition, me needing $250 for rent, not his $500 000 dollar house, is the reason for his financial ruin.
Why am I surprised?
I hereby promise that I’m not ever going to have any kind of relationship with my father. I die a little death every time he lets me down. The bull stops here.
September 1, 2005
Tonight I mourn the loss of my Father. The man a little girl used to wait for at 5:30 pm while she built castles out of the blocks that her bipolar aunt, the one the man would later disown, gave her. “Daddy!” she would exclaim, throwing her arms around him, the man wearing a suit and tie that smelled like Clorets gum and photocopied paper. The man took the little girl on roller coaster rides at the fair, took her out for ice cream on hot days, hurtled her around on a sled in the winter. The man always looked like he was enjoying these adventures as much as the little girl, the man with the beard and mustache that he refused to shave. But as time passed and the man’s wife miscarried child after child the man changed. The little girl couldn’t finish all the food on her plate sometimes, then the man would send her up to her room, or drag her up the carpeted staircase if she wouldn’t go herself. The little girl couldn’t practice the piano sometimes because of the noise in her head – voooom, vooom, vooom – and then the man would punch her in the stomach, knocking the air out of her. The little girl cried for no reason sometimes, then the man would get very angry. He would call her a crybaby and yell “Just stop it!”, so she ran somewhere, usually behind the locked door of a bathroom, where he wouldn’t see her cry harder, hugging her knees to her chest. More time passed and the little girl grew up, watched her mom die, the man was all she had left. The girl got lost, found drugs that would make the tears stop. The man didn’t notice that the girl looked pale and too thin. The man never asked her how she was doing, and if she cried he would yell again, “I don’t have time for your emotions!” But the girl got good grades and nothing else mattered. She graduated at the top of her class and won a scholarship to attend a prestigious university in Montreal. The man never congratulated her, just wished that the scholarship was larger, and when the girl moved away he called her once every month or so to complain about the money she was spending to cover her living expenses. The girl moved back home to save the man money. The man never thanked her. There would be no more hugs, no more rides, no more ice cream. All that remained of the man the little girl used to wait for, every evening, was a beard and mustache.
Tonight I cry but I don’t run to hide. I cry for a man who no longer exists, or maybe for a man that never existed outside my head.
She cries because she is free.
With freedom comes responsibility and poverty. I know things will be different when I leave this place. Change is a choice and I want desperately to change, to stop chasing spectres and trying to catch hummingbirds. As my tears wane the grey sky outside is lifted, revealing the blue, pink, and purple underneath. Hundreds of birds come out of hiding and fly towards the setting sun. Donald looks at me looking out the window from across the room.
“Scars,” he says, “you look like you’re in your own little world. You’re a real individual, you don’t follow the crowd, you do your own thing, I like that.”
I smile for the first time today, a real smile, not the smile of a cashier telling you to have a nice day, whatever that means.
Dr. D. has promised to get me on disability insurance and has given me a full weekend pass to go home. Jason tells me that Peter waits for me to pass through the door everytime he come in, and that he is giving away all the liquor we own to Jima before I arrive.
While I’ve been pacing the halls of Unit Six Jason has seen Dr. Wakeup and gotten prescriptions for trazadone and seroquel, to silence the voices he hears after I go to sleep, and hopefully to silence some of his complaining about his fucking back pRoblems. He is also going to be collecting disability benefits until school starts in January, this is the plan. He believes things are going to get better and I believe him – somehow I still trust him, I guess that’s what love is.
This weekend will be a test for a pill-popper and a visit to life after the psych ward.
I look in the mirror and see the girl I always wanted to be. Why is it so tempting to hurt her?
* * *
“I’ll be Nunk, you’re Munk,” announces Devon as we head out for the last smoke of the day.
“I wonder what the security guards would say if we told them that.” Rampant paranoia – we’re smoking on hospital property which has recently been outlawed.
“PRobably up our meds.”
“Yeah, put us on tranquilizers or something.”
“I think I’m just going to start doing that, not hide my craziness, you know?”
“I don’t know, I feel normal for the first time on these meds.”
September 2, 2005
I’m starting to feel like a permanent fixture here, as another group of patients arrive. Rachel is quiet and seems incredibly fastidious and her diagnosis is simple depression. She does not smoke and she’s earned the coveted weekend pass in two days. She makes me feel dirty.
The other two provide entertainment. Kari-Ann and I try to muffle our giggling when Cuong, an Asian man that speaks little English comes in to the kitched and starts flailing his arms about wildly in some attempt to exercise while the rest of us sit at the table for Friday afternoon’s coffee and cookies group. He then opens a package of soda crackers, breaks them into a few pieces, places them neatly on top of an apple in the fruit basket, and leaves.
Scarsnifer is a clonazepam addict, much worse than me. When she is told she’ll have to wait fifty minutes for a pill she starts speaking so quickly and loudly, she sounds like a goddamn jet plane,
This is why you shouldn’t eat clonazepam like candy.
Dr. D. doesn’t see me until late in the day, and when he does I have a breakdown in this office about daddy, about how fucking mean he is, about how he disowned his own sister when she was too sick to attend my mother’s funeral, about how easy it would be to call him and ask for a ride somewhere or a little cash. The doctor says it’s a positive thing that I’m crying so hard, that it means the antidepressants have kicked in. Still, I ask him for a lobotomy. Instead, he starts me on yet another pill – lamotrigine – a mood stabilizer.
A mood stabiliser is pRobably what I need this weekend, for which I am both excited and terrified for as I wait in line for my bedtime meds.
September 5, 2005
I fail the test. Saturday goes wonderfully. Sunday Jason sleeps all day and I start having obsessive thoughts about cutting perfect, straight lines across my limbs with a razor. After much deliberation, I go to the drugstore and refill my old prescription for clonazepam. I eat all twenty-one pills at once and take eight of Jason’s trazadone too. I feel nothing. When Jason wakes up he can tell that I’ve taken something when he looks into my eyes. I am honest with him and he takes me for a long walk during which he insists that I’m delusional, that my depictions of him never getting off the couch are inaccurate, that I’m the only crazy one, that he’s put up with a lot more from me than I have from him. I scream at him to shut up and threaten to hit him if he doesn’t, but he carries on as I start to cry and question the depth of my dementia. I don’t even know where we’re walking. “Can we go home now?” I sob as we walk down our street to the apartment. I don’t recognize the setting. Monday I have no pills to slow my thoughts so I fulfill my fantasy and start cutting into my biceps with my razor. Jason finds me.
He takes the razor away, but there are blades in the medicine cabinet and I slip one into my pocket. He walks me to Jima’s apartment because he cannot stand the idea of accompaning bloody, broken me back to the hospital. He kisses me goodbye and promises to visit me during the week. I climb the stairs to Jima’s third floor suite and immediately ask to use the washroom, where I take out the blade and continue where I left off, sliding it across my forearms.
When I exit the bathroom my shirt is covered in blood. Jima quickly pulls up my sleeves.
“These are fresh! You just did this! Don’t fucking lie to me! I’m taking you to the hospital, my dad will drive us, let’s wait outside.”
The elevator takes us up to Unit Six. Jima drags me to the nurse’s station and shows off my bloody arms. They are bandaged up and I am asked to spend the night sleeping behind the nurse’s station where I can be woken up to test my “sense of consiousness” every hour.
September 7, 2005
“When people start bringing things into the ward from outside like razors, it’s pRobably time for them to be discharged.”
I stare at Dr. D. blankly, trying to find the logic in that statement. Two days from now I’ll have to leave.
Jason dumped me over the phone yesterday. The reason? I’ve gone completely mad, I’ve changed, he “couldn’t even fuck me on Sunday or Monday”, he doesn’t know who I am anymore. I’m not the girl he fell in love with and he’s been thinking about doing this for weeks and it’s the hardest decision he’s ever had to make.
“Is this permanent?”
The weekend was a desert, and I a piece of straw that broke Jason’s back. Fuck, Saturday was perfect though, we made love looking into each other’s eyes and he told me he could see the whole world in my eyes.
Remembering this I begin my death mission. Today is the day I will die. I tell my primary nurse what just happened and ask her if I can take a hot bath.
“Are you safe to do that?”
In the tub I try desperately to drown myself but I can’t get enough water in my lungs and my nose hurts like hell. I climb out. I will have to fetch razors somehow. I pretend to go out for a smoke and walk to the drugstore across the street, fucking oppertunist bastards, making it this easy. I try first to buy five razors and a bottle of 200 tylenol pills. My credit card gets declined because Jason advanced all the cash that was left on it after daddy paid it off for the third time this year.
“I’ll go find something less expensive,” I say with a smile that matches the cashiers. I scurry back to the aisle where shaving products are kept and stick two razors down my pants and make a run for it. I take the elevator up and enter my room, get into my bed, and start sawing at my arms. I feel no pain. Why aren’t these razors sharper? Blood starts to soak the sheets. A nurse comes around to do rounds and I hide under the blankets. So far so good. More sawing, a nice deep cut near my wrist, blood pouring down my arms, I hope I start to feel light-headed soon. Another nurse comes by.
“What’s going on here?”
“What have you got there, in your bed?”
“Come on, I’ve seen it all, let’s see your arms.”
I sheepishly show him my bright red arms.
“Where did you get the razors?”
“Across the street.”
“How many do you have?”
“Two.” I hand over my precious instruments of death.
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
I am led to the medical supplies room to get bandaged up once again.
“So why did you do this?”
“I want to die.”
“Sometimes people hurt themselves to make emotional pain go away.”
“I know, but today I want to die.”
“Death is quite permanent, feelings aren’t.”
“I want to die.”
I will be spending another night behind the nurse’s station and my cigarette priviledges have been revoked. I sit on the bed for a minute before deciding that Jason must change his mind!
“Where are you going?”
I race to the payphone, dial our number, start begging through the sobs and the shaking.
“You have to hang up.”
I refuse to, Jason can’t go away. I can’t hang up until I reverse his decision. I start banging furniture around.
I overhear one of the nurses – “Should we bring them in?”
“I fucking love you too!” I scream at the top of my lungs, slamming down the receiver.
I exit the room to be greeted by two nurses and two men that look like they work out a lot wearing scrubs. I am pushed along into the seclusion room.
“You’re going to sleep in here and the doctor has ordered a needle for you.”
This is nothing compared to my longing for Jason to come back, to visit me like he said he would, to stay with me through thick and thin like he promised a thousand times after I asked him a thousand times. “I’m not going anywhere, don’t worry.”
One of the nurses empties a needle of fluid into my butt in front of the males who watch amusedly, but I don’t care. I’m going to find a way to die in this room. As soon as I’m left in the room I look for tools. The pillow is wrapped in plastic! I’m overjoyed as I rip the plastic off and put the maeshift bag over my head while holding it tightly around my neck. One of the nurses peers through the one-way window. Fuck. “Look at this,” he says. Before I can suffocate myself the bag is ripped from my hands and what’s left of the pillow and the blankets and sheets on my bed are also removed, leaving me with nothing but a lone mattress in the middle of the room. I study it, looking for ways to use it as a weapon, but I pass out before I can think of anything, I don’t know what was in that needle but I pass out for twelve hours on the bare mattress.
* * *
I spend most of the next day crying. I will have to return to the beard and mustache, daddy’s house is my only option, I’m in $30 000 of debt, for which Jason is to thank for most of, which I will never be paid back, which will never even be considered. Devon is leaving today in addition to my worst nightmares about abandonment coming true. He hugs me tightly and whispers in my ear, “I won’t hurt you. I love you. If you hurt yourself I’ll hurt myself. That’s just the way it is.”
I whisper back, “I love you too.” And before I can blink he disappears.
I think I will call him
* * *
I get the machine, but I don’t mind, I like answering machines because when you run out of things to say you can simply hang up the phone.
Damn machine, now I’m left sitting on my bed thinking of what could have been, what will never be. I will never have a child with Jason. I will never get to show Jason Japan. I will never watch Jason play with Peter again. I will have to sleep alone.
I hate sleeping alone. Jason usually passed out on the couch, hardly ever cuddled with me, but still, I’m scared of boogymen and monsters under the bed. Jason kept them away.
I thought the weekend would be a visit to my future, instead it was a visit to my past, and unknowingly, I kissed it goodbye.
September 8, 2005
I am being throttled into my future at lightning speed. Devon called back last night, and I am to go to his apartment tomorrow. I don’t know exactly what this curtails, but I am certainly pleased about it. Abour the way he said it on the phone when I asked what we should do –
“You will come to my apartment.”
As far as moving is concerned, I am actually kind of looking forwards to returning to daddy’s mansion for a while, having meals prepared for me, doing laundry for free, saving my disability cheques rather than spending them on ramen noodles and rent.
I think something’s working.
I’m tempted to ask if I can leave this place today. The past three weeks have certainly been fascinating, but now it’s time to go, the hallways are starting to turn to dust and the ennui is palpable. I suppose I’ll go to sleep.
* * *
6:15 pm. I can feel a fit coming on. I can feel the plasticine chemicals in my brain trying to stop it. My heart races. I realize how uprooted my life is going to be. How will I spend my time at daddy’s house? Everyone there goes to bed at 10:00 pm. I haven’t lived there for three years. I feel tiny little shocks going through my body, making me twitch. Then I remember last Christmas, how I spent it with Jason, how we cooked our own turkey, how we talked about doing a better job next year. Fuck that fucking turkey; fuck these fucking tears! My nurse is on break but she’s coming to talk to me afterwards. Fuck these fake plastic tears! Fuck this fake plastic life! What will I do tomorrow when there is no nurse on the way? Talk to Eve? Talk to daddy? He laughed at me the last time Jason broke up with me. Then he yelled at me for screwing up his goddamn routine as he drove me to work with tears streaming down my face. And fuck Jason, I got over him that summer, I was ready to start a new life with Jima and Maybe, but he came back like a cancer, that fall. He waited until my birthday to say “I love you.” It took time for me too, it took time for the cancer to grow and meastisize, eventually taking over my entire body. Have I been dead since then? Maybe, but right now all I can remember are the happy memories, kissing and planning for the future. Gone, all gone is holding hands while we walk to buy cigarettes at the gas station, gone is him surprising me with my favourite kind of scratch ticket, gone is the laughing at dumb action movies. Gone. And fuck, I have to fucking see him to pick up my laptop and my cat? I’m going to be a fucking wreck. No chemical could stop me from sobbing so fucking hard. We wanted to go to Mexico this Christmas to get away from the awkward family get-togethers. Gone.
Devon better be prepared for the storm that’s headed in his direction.
The nurse arrives and tells me to focus on my future. In just two years, I’ll be in Vancouver, starting my master’s degree, starting my life.
* * *
I knock back my little cup of evening meds for the last time. Leaving this place will be bittersweet. This place. Unit Six. The Psych Ward. This place is like summer camp for people who feel too much or hear too much or see too much – everyone is scared to come here, no one wants to come here, but when it’s time to go, to go back to life outside, you don’t really want to although you know it’s necessary. This place is not a home.
I’ve met some of the most interesting and kind people here that I ever have or ever will. I will miss Kari-Ann’s knowledge of mental illness and her will to get up every morning even though she’s tried fifty different medications. I’ll miss Angeline’s nonsensical speeches. I’ll miss Rachel’s grace. I’ll miss the amazing speed at which Scarsnifer delivers her tirades and her caring sensitivity. I’ll even miss both Michelles – one my silent rommate, beautiful and frail, and one who waits for no one and used to watch herself breathing out white clouds of crystal meth in a mirror the way I used to when I was in high school. Most of all I’ll miss Donald – his tales of the past, his unabashed singing and dancing, and his amazing heart. He sees things on a different wavelength than anybody else, but he’s given me reasons to hope, no matter how much it hurts.
The story is about to change. Drugs and alcohol will slip into oblivion. Some characters will be added while others will disappear.
That’s just how life is.
Part Four: Autumn
September 11, 2005
Happiness beats me over the head with a fucking stick after I get out of the hospital. Is it because I can smoke at whatever time I please? Is it the meds? The experience of being hospitalized? Maybe. Or maybe it’s not happiness but the freedom/responsibility conundrum, not beating me but prodding me along in the right direction. Or maybe this is just what it feels like to be still.
On the day of my discharge I wake up at 1:30 am and pacing the halls, good pacing though, not the kind of pacing one does in front of a hospital room where someone is about to die. I talk to the evening staff, take an Ativan and try to sleep some more but it’s useless. I do a load of laundry, get my things ready to leave, finish all the half done crossword puzzles that are scattered about my bed. Is this mania? If it is I quite enjoy it.
Daddy picks me up on time, which in itself is a flattering because he’s never on time, always finds ten little tasks that must get done before he leaves his little bubble. Then he skips out on paying for parking – also noteworthy, not often but every once in a while he’ll do something slightly illegal and his expressionless face will become that of a child who just got away with hitting their teacher with a spitball or something. It gives me a vague notion of what he was like in his youth, a subject that is off limits as far as conversation is concerned.
Our first stop is the pharmacy – a new pharmacy, not the one where the pharmacists came to know be as the benzodiazapene-eating maniac, but the one where I am about to become the enigmatic psych patient. Is she bipolar? Schizophrenic? Just plain crazy? I hand over my prescription, curious about the reaction it will yield.
“Woah,” raised eyebrows and widened eyes, “These all for you? Okay, since there are so many you’ll have to wait a while, at least twenty minutes.”
After forty-five minutes I’m handed a bag of pills, a week’s worth. Laughable.
Our next stop is the university, where I must cut some red tape and drop my fall classes. As soon as I enter the main building I know I’ve made the right choice. Twenty people in line to get into the bookstore where they’ll buy hundred dollar textbooks that they’ll never read. Courses dropped in less than ten minutes. Extraordinary. Girls dressed in short skirts and stiletto boots. I don’t remember students getting dressed up to fucking go to class last year, the trend must have blown Devont from Montreal where you were sneered at if you wore the wrong brand of jeans. I cut in front of the girls, they can hardly walk for fuck’s sake, and run to daddy’s minivan.
Our final destination is the apartment, where Jason and I cry some obligatory tears before I start throwing my clothes into garbage bags.
“It’s okay. I know this is the right thing. I’ll be okay.”
“Okay,” he runs his hands down my face. Saccharine. Complaining will begin…now. “I’m supposed to meet Julie to go car shopping. Can’t you just take your speakers another day?”
“No. You don’t understand, I need them to survive at my dad’s house.”
Sigh. “Fine. Here, you’re doing it all wrong. Grab the cord that I’m moving.”
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m trying to get my things together, as fast as I can.”
“Well does Julie not realize that this is kind of a big deal? Me moving out?”
“I’m sure she does.” Sarcasm. “But you can come back another day.”
“I want my clothes and stuff!”
“Julie’s going to leave.”
I stumble down the stairs with some bags that want to break. Luck is on my side, they remain intact. I run back up to get more.
“What are you doing??”
“Moving my fucking stuff!” Fear. Instinct. “I’m sorry if I’m being a bitch.”
“Well you kind of are! Is that it?”
“Yes that’s it.”
“Bye. I guess I’ll see you next week to pick up the rest of my things.” I smile thinking of how few CDs he’ll have when I remove each one I’ve paid for.
He stands in the middle of the road, holding the cell phone I bought him just days before Unit Six. Heaven forbid that Julie should be kept waiting for five minutes. He looks ridiculous.
Home, pseudo-home, home of the year in a pompous magazine about interior design or stucco treatments. I drag the bags up to my old bedroom, left in shambles, drawers full of cut pieces of straw and tin foil, mortar and pestle sitting on the shelf. What do you think I might have used that for daddy? But there are more important things to worry about, I have a date tonight, no not a date, I’m being presumptuous, an invitation to an apartment given to the poor girl with arms that make her look like she’s recently been attacked by a bear. Still, I haven’t shaved my legs in three weeks and in those garbage bags I must find an outfit – unique, casual but not too casual, subtle.
* * *
I never knew love like that existed, never knew the idealistic fairy tales I dreamed up when I was a little girl could come true, never knew respect. But the scissors slipped and caught my baby finger when I was cutting out the picture of George W. dressed in military garb from a magazine to post on my door. Blood. Those scissors sure are sharp, that blood sure is a beautiful shade of red.
Don’t do that do him.
So I just pick at my scabs instead. A little more blood, unnoticeable, but still it creeps down my arm telling me I’m alive, capable of being not alive. I’m in control, aren’t I, stupid and pathetic and spoiled, but in control.
Take the scab off that deep one on your wrist. There you go. You have to pay for your happiness somehow. You’ve always needed a fix. Daddy will be so proud that you’re staying off drugs and soon it will be cold enough to wear long-sleeved shirts.
Who the fuck are you? The room is littered with pictures of me smiling.
* * *
Everyone told me to get some sleep and stop acting manic but something drew me here.
The first thing he says to me is “I like your outfit.”
We drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, slowly moving closer to each other on the couch. His hair is the colour of hay and his eyes are a hundred shades of blue, just like he is, just like I am. It starts with a hand on someone’s leg and eventually we lie down and he kisses me. I’m not used to his kisses, the way he sucks my lips, but I like it. I paint spiderwebs and stars on his back with my fingers. He plays me the song he wrote about me in the morning, while I was still pacing around Unit Six, not knowing what to expect. We sit in the kitchen for a while, just holding each other. We move to the bedroom after an hour of teasing one another. I never knew someone could make me so horny. I never new sex could be so painless, so good, so right. When we finish I start crying.
“I’m really glad I didn’t kill myself.”
We watch Magnolia together and laugh at the same parts. I decide to spend the night. He’s not tired yet but he holds me until I fall asleep.
September 13, 2005
Over the past few days I’ve fallen madly in love. I’ve found someone I can be still with, someone I wouldn’t want to do drugs with – I wouldn’t want to see him that way, desperate and detatched. I want the present and the future, I want us to make art together. I want to relive my life with him by my side. I want to call him and tell him I love him right now, at 2:34 am. I want to die with him by my side so our energies will be eternally connected.
He looks so deeply into my eyes that I have to look away. And we do things. We walk to the river and visit the daycare he used to work at before his breakdown. The children are beautiful and innocent and I build castles with them out of blocks.
He calls me his fallen angel.
He does the dishes while I write a poem. I smoke and think about the universe while he strums his guitar. He plays songs for me. He is shocked when I apologize for anything.
“It’s okay,” he tells me, “Everything is going to be okay.”
I’ve been longing to hear those words for as long as I can remember.
We decide to base our relationship on trust and honesty, because love is trust. My relationship with Jason was based upon lies from the beginning, I even joked about it with Jima one night, I think I was on mushrooms and drinking red wine. He squeezes me and calls me baby when I tell him about the way Jason wouldn’t let me cook, the way he spent my college fund on video games and pot. He notices when I’m trembling, and repeats,
“It will be okay.”
He has a friend over and I am not placed in the annoying girlfriend role, I am included in the conversation and respected.
We can lie in bed for hours without having sex. He doesn’t want to hurt me, use me like a piece of meat.
I realize that I’ve been projecting a lot of my anger at Jason onto daddy. I tell him this and he forgives me.
Devon, my true love, he will never call me names. We only speak when we have something to say. We laugh about Donald’s eccentricities and the outrageousness of string theory.
I realize our relationship is “textbook”, I’m on the rebound, he wants to cure my pain. Borderline, meet bipolar. But I meant it when I said that labels and categories are nothing more than absurd human inventions, created to separate and cause worry – to cause wars for fuck’s sake.
He offers to bring me my cell phone from the kitchen as we lie in bed.
“You don’t have to do that. Heh, I’m sorry, I’m pathetic.”
“No you’re not! I want to take care of you. I want to take care of the thirteen year-old girl who lost her mother, and the twenty year-old girl that’s been in an abusive relationship for four years.”
You deserve this.
I’ve never believed in magic before. He makes me want to be a better person.
September 14, 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen, gather round, it is the first day of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. I wake to the sound of two strange men in my room. Daddy didn’t bother to tell me that he was having his ducts cleaned out and spending a fortune on some kind of new air filtering device today. I take a shower and turn on my stereo, preparing for the day. Daddy comes in and turns the volume down, then I turn it up higher than it was before. I’d forgotten about this routine. I feel kind of funny, l have to pee three times before leaving and it hurts.
I arrive fashionably late for DBT and am immediately discouraged. The meds are working now, why do I need this?
You know why.
The group is made up entirely of women. We sit in a circle and are asked to give our names and a description of why we’re here. Two of the girls have been attending the program for over a year and they joke about everything in this really annoying way that draws out this introduction process to take forty-five minutes. It seems although cliques have already been formed within the group. Why, why, why. Why do most people gravitate towards creating and sustaining these factions – groups within a goddamn group. Only three of us are new to the program. One is peppy as hell and asks stupid questions about the rules for the group. The other looks more like me, hurting and subdued. When my turn comes I tell them the truth instead of repeating some psychobabble that I read in a self-help book,
“I’m here to make my life less of a crisis. I frequent the ER and I just spent three weeks in a psych ward. I don’t really feel like going back, you know?”
I doubt that they do, but maybe I’m just in a cynical mood, need another cup of coffee, need a cigarette. I am thanked by the therapists running the group for my brilliant response,
“Good, very good.”
Everything here is good, very good.
We’re handed out some propaganda about the program and told we can leave.
I have to use the washroom again but I can wait until I get to Jima’s, we’re attending Andi’s Father’s funeral today. Andi of our old crew in high school, the druggies, the rebels, the freaks – Andi, Lindsay, Jima and me. I stand at the bus stop, fuck, when is the bus coming? I really have to go! Suddenly I feel warm liquid running down my legs and into my shoes. Yes, I pee my pants in front of two others waiting for the bus. If they didn’t think I was crazy before, they do now – stamped, signed and sealed.
I get acquire some antibiotics and go to Jima’s where her mom picks us up to go to the funeral. There are countless characters from high school there and I try my best to avoid them while Jima hams it up. I see her talking to Mrs. Kaimens, who twelfth graders are required to be counseled by about there future plans. I was a conscientious objector to that crap. On the other side of the room sits Mrs Summerlus, headmistress, abuser of power, who suspended me for having a few beers on a ski trip so I could sit in daddy’s bathroom and do meth instead of attending class. What a genius she was.
I weep through the funeral. It’s an open casket deal and I remember for the first time that I placed a letter in my mother’s casket, but I can’t remember what it said.
After the service we race outside to smoke. Whoever thought each of us would be where we are now? Andi is taking business classes and popping dexies and being way too strong about her dad dying, I fear she may develop similar afflictions to mine, but maybe not, either way I cannot help her. Lindsay now has a fourteen-month-old child, is living with his abusive father, and working two jobs. Then there are Jima and Me, batshit crazy and living off the government or our parents, taking a semester off to recuperate. From what they’ll ask eventually. Life, I’ll say, my life. I think about this again and consider the possibility that our destinies were predetermined, that we were always on the path to being who we are now.
I get dropped off at Devon’. He looks into my eyes and can tell something is wrong. He keeps looking and holds me until the wrong goes away. He asks what I’ve eaten today.
So he cooks me a real dinner – rice, fish, and vegetables.
“I don’t want you to die!” he says, half-joking, half-serious, before putting a piece of marinated salmon into his mouth.
September 15, 2005
Don’t know what to write when I’m happy
Sitting here, just being
A dash of guilt and a hint of fear, but nothing crushing me
My mind is quiet, my love is in the other room
Blue sky and red brick buildings
Another life, one that isn’t based on death
Or maybe it is, we both like blood
Don’t know what to write when I’m not running
Fast as the gingerbread man
I used to brag about my tolerance
But now the medicine cabinet is locked
White door and hardwood floors
I’ve lived so many lives, like a cat
I don’t recall enjoying a single one
Don’t know what to write when I’m complete
Looking in the mirror at beautiful girl dressed in pieces of those past lives
But I don’t know what to do with compliments, insults were so easy
My head is full of chemicals, everyone’s is
Yellow light and red books
Can I stay here, forever?
I know better than to ask such questions
Don’t know what to write when life’s simple
Full of eyes and lips and words
The words disappear
I wonder where they go
Black coffee and green bottles
Sometimes they dance around me, refusing to follow any rules
Sometimes they get stuck in my throat
Because I’ve never been happy before
One of the last things Jason said to me was, “Why are you putting black eyeliner on, I’ve never seen you wearing that much black eyeliner.”
“Yes you have.”
There was a time when I would have washed my face and said, “better?”
But I really didn’t give a fuck. I guess I was getting better, razor blades and all.
So I outline my eyes with a black pencil today. Devon tells me I look ravishing and we walk to the mall to pick up my pills and buy a cigarette roller. La vie boheme in the 21st century.
September 18, 2005
My little bubble bursts on Sunday morning, how typical. I’m at Devon’s apartment and he’s just asked me to move in part time, offered to save me from suburban imprisonment, and his friend Patrick is over to check out some of the music Devon has been recording. Did I not tell you that Devon is a great artist, a writer, a poet, a musician, a painter. We’re drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, ashing in an empty tin that once held the coffee we’re drinking now, when Jason calls to make arrangements for me to pick up the rest of my belongings from the apartment. Tuesday afternoon, very good, we could have left it like that, no?
But my sanity has to be discussed.
All I asked of Jason was for him to consider how emotionally abusive he’s been for the past four years.
But how could I ask for such a thing when I’m utterly mad?
“You’ve been really mean to me every time we’ve talked.”
“Really? I thought I just asked you to think about how you’ve treated me over the course of our relationship.”
“You’ve been hurling insults at me.”
“I don’t think so, but if I were I’d be standing up for myself for the first time.”
“I haven’t been emotionally abusive for one and a half years.”
“Oh really? Is that why I had to take thirty sleeping pills to convince you to come to my dad’s wedding?”
What a healthy relationship we had.
“I don’t think you’re really of sound mind right now.”
“I’ve never been sounder in my life.”
“I don’t know babe, I’ve been reading some of your writing…”
“Some stuff you left behind here, and I don’t know…”
“So you think I’m absolutely crazy. Well I think you’ve ruined my life for four years!”
“I’m not the one that just spent three weeks at the psych ward.”
I hang up the phone. Jason would never have the guts to spend time at a psych ward, perhaps at an institution of any kind. I have a feeling that he hasn’t been hearing many voices at night since I’ve left, since he’s had no one to torture.
My phone rings again.
“Okay, I’m going to have your things packed up and put in boxes in the basement for Tuesday. You’re not coming up to the apartment.”
“What? I need to take one last look around to make sure I’ve got everything…I’ve got all kinds of stuff there, all my sociology textbooks, my luggage…”
“I’ll get everything, but you’re not coming up here again.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because I don’t want a confrontation.”
“Neither do I! You can stay in the other room if you want to. I just want to make sure I’ve got everything. Besides, I’m still on the lease, I’m allowed to come in.”
“As of tomorrow morning you’re not!”
“I have to sign for that.”
“Oh do you?”
“Yes, I do. I’m coming up to get my things.”
“They’ll be waiting for you in the basement.”
I hang up again. So our relationship is going to end where it started, in a dingy, unfinished basement. The first time he fucked me was in his parent’s basement. We were watching “Blow” and he spit on his dick because he couldn’t get me wet. Afterwards I bled and bled. I was happy though, I went home and read part of Catcher in the Rye.
He calls back several more times, trying to convince me that I’m completely gone, nuts, crazy, loony, got a few screws loose, am a few pencils short of a box, whatever stupid stigmatic metaphor you want to insert. Patrick leaves in the interim, I score one more great first impression. If I wasn’t here I may be partly convinced, I may consume the remainder of my benzos, I may start crying and shouting, but I’m here. Safe. Devon and I imagine ways of killing Jason, of hitting him over the head with a hammer, of cutting off his nuts with a dull knife and then forcing him to chew on them. There’s no doubt I’m of sound mind. So I sit in the living room and play with some words, write the worst poem I’ve ever written, beginning “Madness is Beauty” and ending “Madness has Won”. Embrace your madness! I’ve had five cups of coffee and I do feel a little left of sane. But Jason has not ruined my day, he almost did, but I talked myself out of that bad place, let sunshine in instead.
Daddy calls and asks if Devon and I would like to come over for dinner. He’s cooking fish and Devon likes fish so I say sure, what the hell, give Devon a six pm showing of the quiet dysfunction that is my family. I’m also supposed to spend the night at home because I have a nine am with Dr. D.
We arrive and everything is laid out perfectly. Eve has squeezed lemon juice into a tiny cup with a spoon and placed it beside some tartar sauce on a little platter. Tortilla chips surround a bowl of salsa on a bigger plate. Daddy is just about to start cooking the fish. I figure it’s best to hang around with them for a bit, make small talk, pretend I’m interested in their empty lives. Jason was never a fan of socializing with my family so I reckon the sudden contrast will please the adults. Angie sits at the table with Devon and me but doesn’t say a word.
“I was cynical when I was fourteen too.” I tell her with a smile.
Soon enough dinner is served. Of course everything is perfect, the texture of the fish, the firmness of the mushrooms, the buttering of the green beans, fresh from the garden. The five of us begin eating and continue to make small talk. Daddy talks about the gopher that has moved in under his deck and Eve talks about horoscopes a little too seriously. I try to start shit but it doesn’t work.
“Dad, you know I don’t know how to use a knife because you cut up my food for me when I was younger?”
The comment slides right off. Could it be? Could my family have been transformed into a semi-functioning unit while I was away? Is it because of grandma’s illness? Daddy’s retirement? Has Eve been taking her meds? The whole affair feels overly formal and forced, but no one leaves the table crying, no one throws napkins or cutlery. I let myself get comfortable. Maybe the next two years will be palatable after all.
To assume makes an ass of you and me.
As soon as Angie leaves the table, after eating her fish and pushing the rest of the meal around on her plate for a few minutes, guns are drawn and pointed at me.
“Angie’s really not doing well with this,” Eve begins, “She cries so much. She doesn’t want you to be on medication. She wants the old Scars back.”
“What? I’m finally on medication that’s working. What old Scars? I can’t be her mother, I can’t be fourteen again.”
“I know, I know. It just really bothers her that you’re on medication.”
“Well – maybe one of her parents could explain to her why I’m on medication.”
“She’s only fourteen. She just wants her sister back”
I glare at Eve as hard as I can. “I’m going to smoke a cigarette.”
Devon follows me and once outside I start crying. I’m too fucking crazy for anyone, that or they’re all together in some kind of conspiracy against me, trying to drive me absolutely insane.
Daddy comes out and tries to lick my wounds. He promises that members of the family will be more careful around me, that they will try to understand, that they’re doing the best they can.
I use the age-old analogy, “Mental illness is an illness, a chemical imbalance in the brain, medications are needed to fix it, just like a diabetic needs to take insulin.”
Daddy looks distant, Devon tightens his grip around my hand.
“Yeah, yeah,” mutters daddy, “We’ll all try to learn more about this, but we have to communicate, every one should be able to say whatever’s on their mind.”
“No,” I retort, “I’m fragile right now, I just got out of the h-o-s-p-i-t-a-l, there are some things I can’t take.”
“And I don’t think I’ll be able to live here full time.”
“Okay, that’s okay, whatever you need.”
So maybe daddy’s not the bad guy after all, the villain, the antagonist. I tell him I’m getting cold and need to go inside, but that I love him and we’ll get through this. Devon and I go upstairs to my room and lie silently on the bed, listening to Eve scream and bang pots and pans around like a two year-old downstairs.
“She sounds so angry.”
“Eve, go take your Zopiclone and fuck off.”
Just as I’m starting to relax there’s a knock at the door, speak of the fucking devil.
“Scars, your aunt Mary-Rose thinks that your dad and I should attend some meetings that will help us understand you.”
“Those are meetings about drug addiction. I’m not a drug addict, I’m mentally ill.”
“Well illegal drugs, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, they’re all the same thing.”
“So you’re calling me a drug addict because I’m on medication to correct the chemical imbalance in my brain?”
“No! Where did that come from? I didn’t say that!”
There’s no use arguing with her, logic is a foreign concept to her, but just for the hell of it I mention the pharmaceuticals she takes.
“So you’re a drug addict because you take sleeping pills every night?”
“I take half a zopiclone.”
“Well I have to take seven different pills, maybe because my pRoblems are a little more severe than yours.”
“You’ll be fine! You’re not like your dad’s sisters. In six months you’ll be fine.”
“Ruth and Karen looked just like me and were just as smart as me when they were my age.”
“Who’s talking about looks? You’re a wonderful person Scars…”
“Yeah, I look real good on paper.”
“Really, six months and this will all be over, you’ll be off your medication…”
“I’ve only just started medication that’s making me feel better for the first time in my life! And since when is that anyone’s business?”
“It’s not, it’s not. But what about the other day when you exploded at Angie over a piece of cake?” She cites the minor conflict Angie and I had when I asked her to fetch me some cake because I was feeling hungry for the first time since I last smoked pot and she didn’t feel like it. “That’s crazy! You’re smarter than that, just settle down.”
There’s no reason to fight back – she’s right, I just need to take a deep breath, settle down, and everything will be fine, the “old Scars” will return, the Scars that repressed everything and put on a happy face for the family, the Scars that sometimes started weeping in strange places like restaurants out of the blue, for no reason at all. I’m not even listening anymore and she wanders out of the room, saying something about how much every one loves me and how that should be enough.
My mind shifts to the pair of scissors in the drawer. I want to soak my sheets, these fucking expensive sheets that I used to lie on, high on speed, on the verge of overdosing, while every one else went about their business. Sheets soaked with blood would make everything better, and I can’t get the image out of my head.
“I’m not safe right now.”
So we go through the routine. The sharp objects in my room are given to daddy. But I still feel nauseous and can’t escape that image, that beautiful image of red soaking white, soaking white so much that white has to be rung out in the shower. My feet are cold and the rest of my body would slowly become cold as well. And this awful fight that never really goes away would be over. Red and white, red and white, red and white, wet, dripping, wet red and white.
“I think I need to stay the night at Devon’s. I can’t be in this room right now.”
Daddy sighs, “Does it help to think of what our family is going through right now, with respect to grandma?”
“Okay, you guys get ready to go. I’ll drive you when the night nurse gets here.”
I really am just one big pRoblem. Fuck, Devon, I’m sorry for dragging you into this, from the bottom of my heart, I didn’t mean for things to go this way, just sometimes my mind goes off somewhere and I can’t come back, can’t come back.
We climb into the minivan and drive towards my new apartment.
“I’m sorry for all this dad, I’m sorry for screwing up your sleep pattern, I’m sorry for causing such a scene, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“Someday you’ll make it up to us.”
Yes, someday I’ll make up to you that I’m sick, just as sick as grandma right now.
“Hey, where are mommy’s old rosary beads?” I suddenly ask, “I was looking for them in her jewelry box yesterday and I couldn’t find them.”
“When was that?”
“Oh Angie was there with me, she was watching TV, we had a good talk about the jewelry box and stuff.”
I also stole twenty American dollars from daddy’s drawer at the time, twenty dollars that he’d never miss. I look at his bank statements and want to vomit. If I had that much money in my chequing account I’d be at peace with the world.
“I think Angie pRobably thought you were doing something different in there, communication is really important, Scars.”
“Me and Angie had a good talk about it!”
“Okay, I’m just saying communication is very important.”
So I can’t even trust my own little sister any more, the little girl I raised by myself when I was thirteen, I’d fill up the little tykes pool for her, first with cold water from the hose, then with boiling water from the stove, just like mommy used to do.
Every one’s just written me off.
“Have a good night dad, thanks for the ride,” I say, climbing out of the van.
Devon is all I have now, a boy I only met two weeks ago, a boy I’ve only slept with five times. He gives me keys to the apartment. I slip them into my purse in the pocket where I keep those little tokens of relationships past. I love Devon but I’m sure he won’t be able to put up with this for much longer, no one could! I step into the apartment, my new home, my new home for now. I am a nomad, even when I am still.
September 19, 2005
Monday morning. I know the following two days are going to be wrapped up in a shitload of red tape so I hit the snooze button three times, delaying the inevitable. Devon doesn’t get mad at me for letting the alarm beep and beep every nine minutes the way Jason used to. Jason used to get ferociously furious. I think this once even induced the throwing of some inanimate objects. Devon just tells me he loves me. I want this to last.
Daddy picks me up and drives me to see Dr. D. I take the elevator up to the sixth floor; this time I don’t have to sign in. Ten minutes after nine the doctor leads me into his office. He asks about my living arrangements and seems pleased that I’m not going to be spending much time at daddy’s, even though the alternative is moving in with another patient, not one of his patients though, that would be humorous and weird. I tell him about last night’s desire to soak my sheets in blood. All he says is,
“Pretty dramatic, huh?”
Dr. D. is strange. He answers phone calls while I sit in his office. The phone calls always sound the same.
“Dr. Deroquigny, uhuh, yep, yep, okay, bye.”
Every psychiatrist is different, for some reason I always imagined that they would all be alike, but I guess that doesn’t make sense. He is happy that I’m doing well on my meds for the most part and is the first one to note the red tape. Something about billing Manitoba Health and them not liking me to see two different psychiatrists. Why is he telling me this? Just to chat I guess, it’s an issue that won’t involve any doing on my part. His smile – he’s as fascinated about bureaucracy as I am. I walk out of his office satisfied and notice Scarsnifer speaking to some of the nurses, wrapped up in one of the hospital blankets – white with orange stripes of different widths at the top. It’s smoking time but hers is the only familiar face I see. I hope Kari-Ann is better, she spent eight weeks in the ward earlier this year and really didn’t want another eight weeks to be spent following the routine that is Unit Six.
Daddy lets me smoke in the minivan. As we drive to the bank to pick up statements required for tomorrow’s visit to that dreaded building in the exchange that Jason and I spent hours waiting in, for my meeting about disability assistance – a euphemism for welfare – daddy talks calmly, lectures me about communication a little more but tells me it’s valid for me to voice my opinion when I don’t feel comfortable with the topic at hand, if I could just do so with a little less wrath. Fair enough. We sit in the mall parking lot and talk for quite a while before going into the bank. This is where and daddy and I have heart to hearts – in mall parking lots.
Of course the bank cannot print statements, they would have to be ordered and they would certainly not arrive tomorrow. This makes no sense as all my transactions are stored somewhere in cyberspace but I don’t argue with the teller. My meds must really be working.
“I don’t think that’s true,” I tell daddy.
“Neither do I,” he responds.
He starts driving me back to Devon’s, assuming that that’s where I want to be, but I need to collect more paperwork at his house. All this after, “Can’t I just take you home?” He must really like Devon, or really be starting to understand my illness, or not want me around because taking care of Grandma is a full-time job, never mind keeping an eye on me, hiding sharp things and pills.
I go downstairs to try to print the bank statements off of the internet. Instinctively I first go into the bathroom and find the crumbs of some of the blue pills, the zopiclone, outlawed in the U.S.A. I put them in my mouth and they taste disgusting. Why, why, why. It didn’t start with Eve though, before she moved in I used to scour the basement for hours, convinced that there were some leftover pills from when mommy died somewhere among the boxes, the shelves of food that make it look like daddy’s getting ready for Y2K, the bags of stuffed animals that once meant so much to Angie or me. Anyhow, it takes me an hour to figure out how to print the statements of the internet, statements that I don’t even know will be accepted. Then I start filling out the paperwork and realize I’m missing my health card. I phone the pharmacy to get my personal identification number, nine digits, and the hospital to get my registration number, six digits. I prepare a letter stating that daddy is going to be charging me three hundred dollars for room and board and finish filling out the intimidating booklet to the best of my ability – of course a lot of the questions make no sense at all.
Lunchtime. I haven’t felt hungry for a good month now but I choke down some nasty chicken noodle soup that Eve made and a ciabatta bun. See ya later ciabatta. While I try not to gag I speak with Grandma’s day nurse about sociology, my recent hospitalization, and coincidence. She’s very kind but reveals that she likes Dr. Phil. so I must end the conversation before I get up on my soapbox. It’s a gorgeous day outside for it being the end of September so I figure I’ll go back to Devon’s and the two of us can go for a walk or something. Suddenly Eve comes into the room.
“I’ve got to leave now,” she says.
“Where are you going?” asks daddy.
“I’ve got a few places to go to.”
He follows her into the garage to talk hushedly (if George W. Bush can make up words, so can I) with her. I don’t think much of it and decide I will take the bus back to Devon’s because it’s such a nice day. Nice really describes it. Nice. I’ll walk the half mile to the bus stop and then the rest of the mile to Corydon St., Osborne Village’s rival, where the apartment is located. I go up to my room to get some things that I want to take along when daddy walks in. His expression is one of emergence.
“Scars,” he begins – this can’t be good if he’s beginning whatever’s to come by stating my name – “At our wedding we asked that no one bring gifts. Mel and Joan gave us a card with a cheque for one hundred dollars in it. We never knew about the cheque, but it was cashed. That’s why Eve just left. She’s so livid that she wants to get the police involved.”
Blame it on the black sheep, blame it on a falling star, blame it on the satellite that beams me home, I sing in my mind. I did not commit cheque fraud of any kind. Yes, I advanced about five thousand dollars of a Visa card that didn’t belong to me, but I did not take the trouble to or risk being seen going through the cards looking for money. Right? Could I have been that drunk, could I have dissociated that severely? No. I would remember having to go to my bank, which is out of the way, to cash a cheque.
“Well it wasn’t me!”
“We’re going to have you, Jason, Jima and Amber all over for handwriting analysis.”
“Could it have been someone in your family?”
“I highly doubt it.”
“Well I swear, I didn’t do it!”
“Okay Scars, it’s just a little hard with the Visa situation and everything…” Daddy removes his eyeglasses and rubs his face. He believes me, but he knows Eve will not.
“Scars, do you want me to drive you somewhere?”
Hallelujah! I’m being kicked out! Glooooory to Jeeeeesus!
“Yeah, uh, I guess back to Devon’s. I can take the bus though.”
“No, that’s okay, I can drive you.”
“Okay, just let me get some things together.”
I pack a bag full of versatile clothing, my flat iron, conditioner, meds. and the paperwork for tomorrow’s meeting.
“Will you still drive me to the welfare office tomorrow?”
The drive is disturbingly quiet. Daddy looks distant. Is he really concerned about another hundred dollars? Really, what’s another hundred? Maybe he’s thinking about Eve, reconsidering their marriage, thinking about the big D. That would truly be a miracle. It’s Eve who changed daddy, yes, she is the villain now and for good reason, the wicked stepmother has stepped into her role unscathed.
Before I step out of the car daddy has something to say.
“It would help if you didn’t take Eve’s pills all the time.”
“I know daddy, okay, but I’ve been scouring the basement for pills since we moved into that house.”
He looks at me with that “there’s nothing I can do” look, but somewhere underneath lies some sympathy.
“Okay. I love you lots.”
“I love you too daddy.”
He extends his hand to touch mine, as if he’s reaching out to me for the last time.
“Have a really good day.”
“You too dad. I’m sorry about all this.”
I climb up the back steps to the apartment that I’ve already been given keys to, because I’m beautiful, because Devon and I are in love, because he’s afraid of me not having a place to go when I’m in my “scary place”. But this is the happy place now. I call Jima and Amber to alert them about the fraud situation and they both laugh – neither of them are responsible. So it was either Jason or someone different, not one of my friends. Oh Eve, to assume makes an ass of you and me.
I’m okay, I’m in my happy place now. I’m glad the zopiclone didn’t really effect me because I really don’t feel like being fucked up right now, I just want to be myself, to be eloquent, to be interesting, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. Devon and I go for a long walk and stop by Jima’s place. She’s got that look in her eye and she’s isolating, she says she’s afraid of outside, I make her promise to come to Devon’s tonight, and to not consume any liquor beforehand. We leave and get on the wrong bus, then the right bus. I’ve confused these two buses before. We arrive home and Devon makes music while I write poetry. Then I decide to clean out my e-mail box and one of the e-mails is entitled “Peter Cat” and I want to cry.
September 20, 2005
But I don’t. Instead I send an e-mail to Rhiannon. She called me months ago and asked me to move to New York with her to “begin our lives”. I sent her some of my writing and I haven’t heard from her since. I think she would get along well with Devon.
Last night we walked to a movie rental place in the village. I carried a brick the whole way, intending to throw it through the window of Starbucks, which recently ran the independent coffee shop, “Fuel”, where I spent many a sketched out day, out of business. When we got there Starbucks was still open even though it was past midnight and three cop cars were surveying the area. It has become my mission to somehow deface that Starbucks before my twenty-first birthday.
Eve finds the cheque has not been cashed after all, and calls to apologize. I am amused. Then I find out that Jason plans to have the Winnipeg Police present when I go to pick up the rest of my things. I am even more amused, and laugh out loud for hours. I can’t be arrested for being crazy, can I?
Devon and I finally go to sleep around four am. We hold each other as tight as we can. I am in a state of pure bliss. I haven’t felt this sharp since I was twelve, I have never been in love like this before.
Of course I wake up, three minutes before my dad pulls up to drive me to the welfare office, and of course there is no cheque waiting for me, but instead I am required to attend an orientation session on how to fill out the paperwork that I’ve already filled out. I raise my hand and ask if it is necessary for me to be here. Of course it is. I try to call my dad on my cell phone and am asked to leave the room, to which I respond with a soliloquy about just having gotten out of the hospital and not having a penny to my name. I can stay.
“We will need your social insurance card, your Manitoba Health card, your driver’s license…”
Discrimination against pedestrians, and an absolute waste of the use of Microsoft Powerpoint, unless I’m sitting in a room with complete idiots, which I would like to think I am not. When we’re finally allowed to leave I scream “Fuck!” and stomp my feet a little, to which the others respond with laughter. When I come back here for my intake meeting in a week I think I will wrap myself in red duct tape.
I go to the pharmacy with daddy where the benzos flow like wine. I haven’t been taking any for a few days but today they are necessary, as they will be tomorrow, when I officially move out of the apartment I shared with Jason for two years, when I pack up the memories, mostly bad, but a few good that will break my heart. Apparently the police will no longer be present but good ol’ Ray Neufeld, ex-alcoholic, ex-second rate NHL player, will be there instead. I hope he makes fun of my outfit or something. I am prepared to show these fuckers just how “unsound” I can be. Borderline bipolar, I might as well play the part one last time, leave the stage dramatically, causing a non-existent crowd to give me a standing ovation and clap for half an hour. Hopefully daddy will join me in the show, referencing Kafka when the only book Ray has ever read is Who Stole the American Dream?, an Amway publication. Before going back upstairs to my new apartment, sort of, hopefully, I tell daddy some tales of my worst days of drug abuse, about the time Jima and I lost three hours of time and were convinced that Lindsay had broken into my dad’s house and stolen our wills to live, about the time that Katenga and I sat in the cafeteria at McGill eating speed pills that turned out to be laced with Drano while others ate meals beside us. I want to be friends with daddy now.
Aside from the red tape and the tragically funny end of my relationship with Jason, I really do feel at peace, even though my bank account still has twenty-five cents in it. I feel for the first time that everything will be okay. I am having more fun sober than I ever had on drugs, I am going places, doing things – walking past the river with Devon, stopping by an old friend’s place, going to a poetry reading at a coffee shop to laugh at the drama of others. Don’t worry, I’m laughing with you.
It is Devon’s birthday and I write him a sonnet as a gift. I once gave Jason an entire book of my writings about him and he never mentioned it again, hid it deep in a drawer. I stayed up all night making that book, the day before I left for Montreal. It has now become evidence of my fierce unsoundness, I’ve been told. Devon holds me and loves the gift, places it in his room, our room?, where it will be safe. I then go along with him to meet his shrink. I am impressed, he is Dr. Wakeup in a suit and tie, without the religious undertones, socks worn with sandals, and with leather couches. I manage to come off as eloquent, interesting. I impress this man, this doctor, but shit, I forget to get him to write me a prescription for birth control pills. The mindfulness is still lacking, and I don’t notice the lights change from red to green and I stand on the curb for several seconds before walking.
September 21, 2005
Last night during one of our manic eleven pm visits to movie village I successfully tagged the women’s washroom at Starfucks with a bunch of socialist propaganda. “YUPPIE FASCISTS!” I scrawled beside the mirror, and near the toilet, near “Support LOCAL BUSINESSES, BOYCOTT STARFUCKS” I sketched a nice replica of an American flag. I’m sure the black ink has already been removed with some miracle product made for such things, that and killing fish. But I just purchased an extra permanent black marker from the UPS kiosk across the street. “Works on any surface!” it proclaims. Starbucks, I’ll be back. This has become one of my new passions while living the sober life, I was born to break laws of one kind or another. Or maybe daddy’s positive reinforcement helped. I tell him about the vandalism on our way to the old apartment to pack up my things and he tries to say firmly, “Oh Scars”, but cannot hide a big grin from stretching across his face, beneath the beard and mustache.
I’ve taken six clonazepam to deal with seeing Jason and Ray but when we arrive at the apartment, which has now been dismembered and looks like its been ransacked by a thief, but neither of them are there. Maybe Jason didn’t want to deal with my profound unsoundness, maybe he was scared to see me, maybe he was just busy with other things. Either way I’m pleased, but what a waste of benzos. Now I’m just clumsy and as I try to gather the various tools for my food processor I stab myself in the finger with a random blade. The cut is deep, too bad I didn’t think of these blades a few weeks ago, thank God I didn’t come across these blades.
So daddy and I remove everything that is rightfully mine and still at the apartment. Jason told Jima he spent “five hours” separating my CDs from his, but I find most of mine gone, only the Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco left, music that Jason liked to make fun of. He’s also taken the playstation and all the video games that I paid for. I would say “No” until I got so tired I would say “Yes”, just to shut him up. I could make money selling these distractions on E-bay so I leave some random notes: I expect the playstation and games back within the next 30 days or a payment of three hundred dollars – a pretty good deal; I expect all the CDs I paid for, i.e. all of the CDs, to be returned to me, I’d be more than happy to burn you copies; I would like to split up our collection of rare books, it appears that you’ve taken them all.
I find numerous empty pill bottles and gel-tabs in my handbag that I carried around last year, so I leave another note, saying “I WAS SICK!” and I underline the word sick a gazillion times, not that he’s going to interpret the note as anything but evidence of my mania. I post a naked picture of Amber on the wall, writing on it as well – You can take care of this one. I smoke cigarettes and put them out on the carpet, grind them into the carpet, the way he used to do when he was quote unquote depressed. I’m starting to believe that he was never really mentally ill, but played the part to outdo me in a sick kind of way, the way that Lindsay suddenly developed bulimia when Jima and I were on one of our meth binges. When we finally leave, me clutching garbage bags full of my belongings, daddy carrying the heavier boxes, boxes of books, the place looks like a disaster like it always did. A bohemian lifestyle is one thing, moldy pizza and unopened mail are another thing, entirely different, deserving a slap across the face. Maybe the Winnipeg Police should have been present. Oh well.
Devon carries everything up the precarious back staircase to his fourth floor apartment, and holds me when he’s finished. I tell daddy that I’ll see him on the weekend and he smiles again, must be some kind of record, some kind of eruption in space and time, past becoming present, future becoming less monochromatic.
It’s over. This time I’m not joking with you. Move on, dear child, move on.
September 24, 2005
Devon and I are happy all week. We smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and Mountain Dew Energy in mass quantities for no particular reason. He holds me every night and slowly I learn what love really is. In turn I get angrier and angrier and Jason. When I finally figure out how to check my voice mail on my cell phone (yes, I’ve given in and am now a cell phone person) I hear his voice, accusing me of “emotional blackmail” and a textbook response to him ending the relationship, something that Dr. Wakeup apparently came up with. I hate Dr. Wakeup and he hates me. I’m so fucking typical that the events of my life could be revealed just by looking at my case history. I dare you, give it a try. I’m much more than you ever thought I was.
“Couldn’t you just feel an ounce of sadness about this whole thing?” says the recorded voice, somewhere else in time, but still adament, still piercing. I guess trying to kill myself wasn’t enough for him, I guess the wild phone calls begging him to stay were not enough, I guess he really wanted to fuck me one last time. He wanted a desperate girl to come running back to him, her salty tears covering his face, then she would embrace him and her sobs would be audible. “I’m sorry, but this just won’t work,” he would say, getting off on her sadness, a perfect sadist, a perfect sociopath.
I have to go to daddy’s house for the weekend, something about principle, something about his insecurities, something about the past. We have nothing to talk about. He cooks me this amazing dinner – steak, stuffed portabello mushrooms, greek salad, fresh French bread.
THIS PLACE MAKES ME WANT TO DIE. Something about the smell, the granite countertops, the goddamn trophy wife whose had multiple facelifts causing her to look half her age. “We just want to be there for you,” she says, trying to caress my arm. You can be there for me by leaving me the fuck alone. We talk and talk and talk about my fucking pRoblems until Grandma has to use the washroom and daddy and Eve run out of the room. I run too, upstairs to my bedroom. I sit in front of my laptop but nothing comes. There’s this awful noise in my head, like the noise coming from a scrambled television channel but louder. It just keeps getting louder and louder. I remove a bottle of clonazepam from my bag and eat them all. Then I take the trazadone that I stole from Jason, knowing they’ll only make me feel like shit tomorrow. I don’t care. I need to get out of here or I’ll end up at Unit Six within hours. The trazadone taste disgusting, salty, and they almost make me throw up. I don’t want to sleep, I want to be productive but cannot, I’ll pRobably just pass out, what a waste of pills.
NO, you will not go to sleep. Do something, do something other than this.
September 26, 2005
I passed out, on top of my blankets on a tiny little decorative pillow. I vaguely remember daddy coming into the room at some point and helping me get under the covers properly. I arise at one pm. I was supposed to go visit Donald at the hospital around noon. Broken promises are my specialty.
I sit out on the deck, cursing myself while I drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, when my phone rings. It’s Devon.
“How are you doing?”
“Not too good. When are you coming back?”
“Well I have my meeting at social assistance early tomorrow morning so I was thinking of just staying here until then so my dad can drive me. Do you want me to come back sooner?”
“Okay. I’ll be there after I do a load of laundry and shit. Around three or four.”
“There’s something I have to admit to you.”
“Something really bad.”
“Something I feel really guilty about.”
“I got drunk last night.”
“Oh, really? Just by yourself?” I’m relieved. Images of lines of cocaine and strange women much prettier than I were racing through my head.
“Are you sure? I don’t know why I did it. It gave me no pleasure.”
“Don’t worry, I ate a whole bottle of clonazepam last night.”
“Oh really? Why?”
“Just the noise in my head, it was driving me insane. I felt stupid right after I took them. I was planning on doing something but I just passed out.”
“I’m sorry, I feel so guilty.”
“Don’t worry, it was just one little slip up. It’s over now and we can move on, you know?
“Yeah, I know.”
“Just don’t tell anyone else because I don’t want them to send you away!” Devon was supposed to go through a three month inpatient rehab program, and then he met me.
“I know! I won’t”
“Okay, I’ll be there in a couple of hours. Will you be okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, I’ll see you soon.”
“I’ll see you soon, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I try to do my laundry as fast as possible, while I put all of Jason’s clothes, and Amber’s towel, into a large garbage bag. He can come and get them when he gives me some fucking money. And Amber just can’t be in my life anymore. It’s not that she’s nothing more than “a little baggie of crystal meth” like she said in a desperate e-mail to me, but I associate her with the drug, and if we got together there’s no doubt we would do it.
I’ve been thinking about the whole Jason-Amber-Me thing. I think Jason was just in it for the sex with another girl, a young girl, a young girl who got horny easily. He wanted to watch us make out, and that’s all we really did, sexually. I got excited every time we kissed, but I think I was only excited because it was kind of like breaking the law, people looked, we overcame the rules. In turn, I think I was just in it for the drugs. Jason knew she was a speedfreak before he asked her to come over, was it some kind of test? Either way, our relationship was getting worse every day and the crystal acted as a shroud, protecting me from Jason’s insults and unproductiveness, his bad guitar playing skills that he thought were amazing, his plans to be a rock star, his plans to be a professor, his plans to be a medical doctor. Fuck, crystal meth was all I had, and I liked being on it with Amber, she settled me down when I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. Although it’s a terrible drug, I also believe that it gave me the courage to break up with Jason. But I’m glad that we didn’t break up then, because I would have spent the entire summer snorting lines that made my whole face hurt and smoking out of a pipe in which there was never enough meth to satisfy me. I would have overdosed. I wouldn’t have met Devon. I would have said goodbye to my dad, for good. I would have broken my sister’s heart.
It’s funny how life works out sometimes.
I tell daddy about the clonazepam, about needing to return to Devon’s, about my plans to live with him, about Amber and Jason fucking on my bed at his wedding, about Jason smoking ridiculous amounts of pot. His reaction is amusing. He’s not mad about the clonazepam, he understands that Devon and I need each other even though he misses me, he is furious about Jason and Amber.
“Jason is scum! He should be locked up and throw away the key!” The expression on his face is delightful, out of a comic book or something, eyes bulging, “All the wedding pictures we have that Amber and Jason are in I’m going to destroy! You know I’m mad about the money, but I’m much more mad about him doing that do my daughter, he is the scourge. My God.”
Your father loves you more than anything. You can stop being angry with him now.
I pack a suitcase of clothing to bring to Devon’s. On my way out I can hear Eve’s condescending words, “Ah, I guess she’s going to live there now.” Her tone is one of ridicule, of ‘I’m older that you and therefore you’re stupid’, of faint amusement. Fuck you Eve. Besides needing to be near Devon, you’re the number one reason why I’m leaving again. Fuck you.
When I get to Devon’s he really isn’t okay. He’s depressed, scared of the future, scared of everything. We hold each other through the night and I worry that he’s not going to be okay tomorrow, that he’ll slit his wrists while I’m at the welfare office, that he’s having a major episode of depression.
I wake to find him okay, it was just the hangover, it was just the self-loathing.
September 27, 2005
The day is perfect so I go completely mad.
After three hours at the welfare office I received three hundred dollars, my very own money, not a loan of any sort, money deserved for being unable to work, money that’s not the bank’s, money that’s not daddy’s. I am elated. Daddy lets me smoke in the minivan again. Then I go to Unit Six for a visit. Donald tells me about his fantasies of dating me – slightly disconcerting but I know he’s not harmful. Kari-Ann is still there and she’s been off all her meds for a week; she looks better, she has bothered to do her hair and put on some eyeliner and she is smiling and laughing. Clonazepam-Scarsnifer is also still there and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; her lightning speed speech is a symptom of her mania. We gossip about boys like fifth graders and they give me the lowdown on Angeline’s constant misbehaviour. They are both wonderful. I have lunch with Donald, who seems more concerned about the possibility of us dating than anything, he doesn’t tell me any stories about the past, but he’s so cute and crazy and confused that I can’t help adoring him in a way. When I go home I will laugh about his idiosyncrasies with Devon – “Oh I’m just in agony, an Ativan would make a world of a difference” – but right now he’s wonderful too. In the evening I finally get the vocals the way I want them for the song Devon has created a melody for.
Then, out of nowhere the rack of CDs becomes a monster and the couch starts eating me alive. I can’t do anything about it because I’m paralyzed. I just can’t, every suggestion Devon makes sounds awful and sad and impossible. My muscles clench, my jaw clenches, my brain gurgles like an upset stomach. The noise from the other night returns triumphantly. Everything is so bright, so ugly, so beautiful. It’s going to cause me to spontaneously combust. I’ll end up being nothing but a story on some cheesy late night show like Unsolved Mysteries. Nobody will believe it, people will laugh. Or I’ll be like the woman whose shadow is on display on what used to be part of a porch at the War Museum in Hiroshima – vaporized. Or, my biggest fear of all will come true – I’ll live. Devon is desperate to do something about this episode, as I start crying randomly and then stopping. I suggest going to the pharmacy and getting more benzodiazepines, he finished off the last of the Ativan on Saturday night when he got drunk, as I finished the last of the clonazepam. At least it will serve as a quick fix of some kind and stopping me from driving myself and everything and everyone around me crazy.
The pharmacy is right next to the apartment complex, and Devon leads me there like a child. I am a child right now. Shaky steps carry me to the prescription drop off place where I ask for my files from the old pharmacy to be transferred to the new one. I am visibly disturbed. “Sure, right away,” says the body behind the desk.
So we sit and we wait and the colours get brighter and brighter. I keep crying in bursts and I don’t know whether or not to laugh maniacally about the vibrant display of weight-loss products staring at us or scream at the top of my lungs. Nothing is real. Devon tries to play shrink for a bit and I end up talking about drugs and high school because a song that one of my former junkie friends liked is playing.
“I don’t even know what I’m saying right now.”
I am called to the prescription pick-up desk, but alas, the man in the white coat has no prescriptions for me to pick up.
“You just filled these two days ago and we can’t even transfer drugs like clonazepam and lorazepam from one pharmacy to another.”
The crying comes in longer spurts.
“But I’m going to go crazy, I don’t know what to do, this is an emergency.”
“I’m sorry, there’s no way I can transfer them or fill them.”
“What’s the phone number of the other pharmacy?”
I’m given a number and I start typing into my cell phone. The man keeps talking.
“You were supposed to take one lorazepam at bedtime.”
“I don’t need a lecture from you!”
I turn my back to the hideous, horrible man. I’ve ruined my reputation at yet another pharmacy. I am back for a special guest appearance in an episode of the benzodiazepene-addicts reality show. I am connected to a pharmacist at the other location, the one where my disorders were still a mystery.
“If I filled those for you I’d lose my license maa’m. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
I hang up the phone and hunch over, Devon comes and catches me before I collapse. We are outside and the air is fresh and I think sitting on a bench and smoking cigarettes may make me feel better. “Sure,” says Devon but I reach into my bag and the pack of cigarettes inside is empty. What a lovely metaphor, isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? So we go back to the apartment and I look for a pack that isn’t empty. I find one in my bag. I definitely can’t make it back outside so I grab coffee cup that we’ve been ashing in and light up cigarette one of five. Devon holds me and we both try to think of a way to stop this natural disaster – a slight shift of the chemicals in my head. Going back to the hospital is not an option. I am already nauseous but an ER would cause me to throw up so violently that my insides would come out of my mouth. I apologize for being this way and Devon asks me why on earth I’m apologizing and I say for being this way and he asks if anyone’s ever told me it’s not my fault that I am this way and I say no and start sobbing and sobbing into his sweater. Between sobs I have an idea:
“I can call Doctor Wakeup! He has an answering service and he’ll call me right back, Jason called him in the evening once and he helped him out. “Can I use 411 on this phone?”
So I call directory assistance and pay the thirty-five cents to have the number dialed for me because looking for a pen and paper right now is a preposterous idea. A lady answers and I tell her my name and number and that my situation is urgent, very urgent.
“Okay I’ll page Dr. Wakeup and he should call you back right away.”
“Okay, thank-you so much.”
Even if he doesn’t prescribe some sort of pill to stop this, he will say something magical that will make everything good again. I return to the couch beside Devon and within five minutes the phone rings. I look at Devon eagerly, with eyes full of fucking hope, and go to pick up the phone. It’s him.
“Dr. Wakeup?” I cry,” It’s Scarsnifer Reimer calling.”
“Yes, why are you calling me?”
“I’m having some kind of episode and…”
“I’m no longer treating you, why are you calling me?”
“My psychiatrist is out of town and I gave away my Ativan because I was feeling so good on my new medication that I thought I wouldn’t need it but…”
“I’m no longer treating you.” I’ve never heard him talk like this, so annoyed, so patronizing, so insultingly.
“But my psychiatrist is out of town and the pharmacy told me to get in touch with another doctor if mine was out of town.”
“Scarsnifer,” he says as if he is giving directions to someone from Sweden that doesn’t speak English, “I am not treating you anymore, why are you calling me?”
“Because I don’t know what to do!”
“You know the crisis hotlines, you can go the hospital.”
“But I don’t want to go to the hospital again!” I yell in between sobs.
“I’m no longer treating you.” He talks to me as if I am some kind of creature not of the human race, mirroring the way I’m feeling and stabbing me in the chest. “I don’t need this. I’m going to bed. Good-night.”
“Fuck You,” but he hangs up before my retort.
Finally I collapse on the floor.
“Holy shit, I can’t believe he just did that, what an asshole! Jason must have told him something absolutely awful about me or something.”
“I guess you’ll never know, but that does seem weird. Don’t doctors have to take some kind of oath or something?”
“Yes! Holy shit.”
I’ve exhausted all of my healthy options other than returning to Unit Six, this time not to visit, so I take quadruple the number of antipsychotics I’m supposed to take and pass out in Devon’s arms.
* * *
I wake up to the alarm clock and turn it off, once, twice. One and a half hours later, nine hours after “I should get up at eight, then I can make coffee and stuff”, I crawl out of bed. DBT starts in one hour and I’ve never taken the bus there from here before. I consider calling daddy but don’t want to bother him with my lack of skill when it comes to daily living. I take one bus to get downtown and wait for another bus to come for forty-five minutes. It doesn’t come. I catch a bus home. I’ve missed DBT for the second consecutive week, and people fought for me to get into the damn program as soon as possible, others sometimes have to wait years. Devon and I go to the video store and the grocery store. I buy pointless items because I have money. Devon is not happy so I am distressed.
You have to accept that there are good days and bad days. It’s not the end of the world.
Yes couldn’t every day could be perfect if we all just tried a little harder?
Are you perfect?
September 28, 2005
I wake up feeling sane but slightly evil. How have I managed to get here, living in an apartment on Corydon with prince charming? I decide to write Dr. Wakeup a manifesto of sorts:
greetings and salutations dr. Wakeup, it’s scars reimer, the “textbook” borderline! i’m writing you an e-mail from Jason’s account because i’m that just that textbook and i know you would send anything from my e-mail address to the trash box without reading it, as you’re pRobably doing with this one right now. that’s a little textbook, don’t you think?
if you’re still reading this, i just wanted to thank you for your help the other night. way to stay true to the ol’ hypocritical oath, oops, freudian slip. i also appreciate your coddling of Jason by telling him that my reaction to the demise of our relationship is “textbook”, allowing him to continue living in his little bubble where he thinks living off someone else’s dime is okay. you should tell the boy to read a textbook wouldn’t you be a little angry if you and your family gave someone $20,000 in hope that they would do something with their life, only to see them spend it on pot and video games and fucking take-out food? Jason’s pRoblem is not that he is mentally ill, but that he is lazy and afraid of his intelligence being challenged, afraid really of anyone outdoing him.
Jason ended our relationship as soon as distractions, or as you called them, “ways to fill the void”, disappeared from the landscape of our relationship, causing him to confront the fact that it is not him, but me who suffers from a fairly severe mental illness. he used to threaten suicide to torture me, while i actually attempted suicide! he couldn’t stand the fact that it was me and not him in the psych ward, i won our little game of who’s crazier than who! and did so even though you reinforced his little fantasy by putting him on 25mg of seroquel, which we both know is pretty much like giving someone a placebo. good work.
you’ve been seeing Jason for what, four years? and what exactly have you accomplished in that time?…he’s not doing coke anymore, but he only really did it to fit into a certain scene that he outgrew. his emotional abuse is slightly more subtle. for Christ’s sake, tell the boy he’s not famous like daddy was, he pRobably never will be, and if he keeps manipulating others to keep his fantasy safe and warm, he’s eventually going to land himself in jail.
i don’t understand what your fascination with Jason is, he can run circles around your head, but he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. his defense mechanisms are even more primitive than mine. if you’ve chosen him as some kind of project, to become living proof of your great skill, good fucking luck.
and of course it’s also textbook that i am in a new relationship already. you see, i’m quite excited about this relationship because i’m not being emotionally abused, for the first time in my life i’m learning that i deserve better, and that the cliche is true – “it’s not my fault”.
i guess that’s all i have to say. i hope you take my advice seriously, unless your sole purpose for choosing the field of psychiatry was to get paid to waste time. and i may be a textbook borderline, but after the other night, i think you’re a textbook shrink. so ha! lol
have a nice life, good doctor
sincerely and utterly,
Maybe evil is really contentedness, feeling like I can slowly begin being assertive like I was in high school, feeling alright today. I live with the boy who was sitting, reading a book across the room at Unit Six instead of watching TV, looking over-medicated like everyone else. I remember when I was seventeen and I used to trace back my relationship with Jason the same way, but it was all drugs and violence and tears. I feel safe and slightly out of place, like I’ve arrived here through some kind of portal. Empty coffee cups line the table, copies of the works of Nietzsche and Camus line the shelves, my favourite CDs litter the hardwood floor, a guitar rests against the couch, plants and crystals sit on the windowsill, and in the middle of it all, my little suitcase not yet unpacked but opened.
September 29, 2005
I’ve started attending Devon’s Wednesday evening support groups for people with bipolar disorder, finding I fit in better there than with the others at DBT – not that I’ve given them much of a chance, only having met them once. Jima and I once decided, albeit under the influence of mushrooms and acid, that we could conform to any disorder in the psychiatrist’s bible, the DSM-IV. I learn that as a child I had all the symptoms of bipolar disorder – laughing too hard at the wrong things, crying too hard at the wrong things, sleeplessness, hallucinations, voices telling me what to do. I wonder where I would be if my parents had taken me to a doctor then, but of course the voices told me that if I were to tell my parents about them my parents would die. I still have a little trouble discussing them openly, somewhere deep inside my cerebrum there’s a little fear still shining.
Of course, in and of itself, claiming to be able to conform to any disorder in the DSM is a symptom of borderline personality disorder. My every move is a symptom, in or out of the psych ward.
The group facilitator, a volunteer who has the disorder, tells me I shouldn’t go to my dad’s house if it is a trigger for depressive episodes, or “periods of dysphoria” as they are referred to in literature concerning BPD. I know she is right and right after the meeting I tell Devon and myself that I am going to call my dad and simply say, “Daddy, I just want you to love me, but I can’t be at your house, not right now, maybe never.” Is there a world in which he would understand? Maybe, but it sure as hell isn’t this one. I feel more and more nauseous as Devon’s mom drives us home, and am incapacitated when we arrive. No phone call is made, and today I figure, what are a few days at daddy’s house? I’m sure I can survive. Truthfully, I don’t know if I can. Fuck, something will have to be done. I don’t know what yet, but I can only imagine the consequences. I can hear the disappointed and disbelieving voices already – “Sca-ars.”
So I put it off. I spend the afternoon having an empty conversation with Ashley. Time, space, and money change people. Speaking with her now, I can’t see how we were ever such close friends. Everything I do is illogical. She is the most rational person in the world, majoring in computer engineering and sleeping with one of her fellow classmates, she tells me. He’s rational too – he doesn’t stick around after he puts his dick inside her for a while. She’s as naïve as I was at seventeen and somehow more mature than I can ever hope to be. Every time we talk she makes the same awkward statement:
“You should move to Montreal!”
And I give the same awkward answer:
“Yeah, maybe, who knows, I don’t know what I want to do yet!”
We both know the truth, this is merely a script we read to make our relationship seem like it has a future. Smoking a cigarette I think of Montreal. Montreal was a grey sky, and nothing else. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant. I was sitting on Katenga’s bed and she was assuring me that abortions were no big deal, that her friend Vanessa had had three already, while Rhiannon was conducting some kind of Buddhist ceremony with candles. I was wearing my purple hat and my glasses, which kind of hid my tears. In walked Esther, this rich, bossy Korean girl who slept with thirty year-old men in change for nights out at the ridiculously expensive bars and restaurants of Rue St. Laurent, where b-list celebrities were sometimes seen, where drinks cost twenty dollars and the waitresses are anorexic department-store models who treated you like shit. She was there to talk to Katenga, but she looked at me for a second before going on about a manicure appointment or something, “Aw,” she said, “you look like some kind of depressed artist, you should go write some poetry or something.” I don’t remember exactly what my feeble response was, pRobably a smile, I can’t remember if I left the room or not, I pRobably stayed, not wanting her to think I took her suggestion seriously. Later I would be high on speed and drunk on cheap red wine from the depanneur, I would have Jason on one line and our drug dealer on another, I would feel damn fine about the whole situation.
I have no choice but to call daddy. At least he’s always pleased when he hears I’ve spoken with Ashley, I guess he thinks it will make me more like her by osmosis of some sort.
September 30, 2005
Daddy responds civilly. He thinks the major concern is crystal meth, but I don’t really care what he thinks – whatever will deflect some of the guilt away from me is okay with me.
October 1, 2005
Another crazy day comes and leaves, arrivals and departures, leaving and returning. This is what I do.
I have an appointment with Dr. D. and he takes longer with me than usual, a good forty-five minutes. He asks about my dad, about Devon, about my weekend disposing of my week’s supply of clonazepam. He isn’t angry about it though. It’s time I start telling the truth to doctors instead of manipulating them or seeing them as a father figure or seeing them as God. While in the office I start having some kind of obsessive episode – can’t sleep, can’t breathe, can’t focus. So I tap my fingers on the chair creating some bizarre pattern that will echo throughout time and space. I give him the gossip about Dr. Wakeup and he seems amused. He asks why I didn’t call him and I say, “Because I knew you were on holidays.” He interprets this as part of my recovery or whatever, logical behaviour. I leave the office, clutching another little piece of paper with the names of seven different medications on it and I feel batshit crazy. No particular type of crazy, just crazy. I should really go to the drugstore on Corydon, right beside the apartment, but I’ve already caused a scene there and I don’t think I can wait that long for my meds, so I cross the street and go to the drugstore from which I stole the razors a few weeks ago.
Everything looks two-dimensional and I’m scared to cross the street. Dr. D. says I have to keep myself busy doing anything that I can at least attempt to focus on, like reading, so I figure I’ll just read my ass off for the rest of my semester off, maybe even pick up a sociology text or something. He says I can come to the hospital on October 7 if there’s an emergency of any kind. I think what he means is “in case you need a bed here”. Motherfucker, I don’t want to go back. Come on – reading whatever you want to read, a trendy apartment, cheques from the government to pay for my cigarettes and energy drinks, great sex, true love. It doesn’t get much better than that, right? It’s just so hard to unlearn my old lifestyle and be thrust into a new one. Of course, this is the only way it can be done.
FOCUS. I think I’ll go out and buy a Saturday morning crossword puzzle, but no, I should be cleaning the house. Let me tell you this – life just gets harder and harder, there are awards on the way that keep you going, but for the most part, life stinks like shit.
October 3, 2005
Somewhere in between the appointment at Dr. D’s office and now I manage to lose an entire day, as if I spent it flying overseas, as if I slept through it entirely, as if it simply disappeared from the calendar. I have never experienced an episode of dissociation of that degree before, and it scares the crap out of me.
Last night Devon and I made our routine trek to Osborne Village. We went to the convenience store to pick up a pack of cigarettes and I decided that I should put the scratch ‘n win ticket I had in my purse against the total. At first Devon didn’t realize what I was doing, so he paid for his items first.
“I swear it was in here!”
“You mean your scratch ticket? You cashed that in yesterday at Seven-Eleven.”
I did what?
I know I ate a few benzos – asking me to take these drugs properly is preposterous, and I’d be willing to bet my doctor realizes this. But I certainly did not take enough to make me black out, I’ve taken many, many more in the past and been fine.
There is also a poem sitting on the table, or lyrics to a song. Wasn’t Jima in the room when I wrote them? No, I haven’t seen her for over two weeks now. But I swear she was there. “Great lyrics, man.” She said. But she didn’t. She was at the bar or at home; I haven’t seen her for two weeks. Meanwhile I scrawled down:
Another day passes
Nothing has changed
I transfer busses
Time to see the Man who can tell
What’s wrong with me
There’s something wrong with me
The Man is a pusher, a dealer
I exit his office with a prescription
Describing several new Fixes
A couple pills here, a couple
more there, the World is perfect
So Another day passes
And nothing has changed
The cacophony on the busses
Makes me want to kill
To kill the skaters sitting
To kill the students sitting in front
To kill the driver whose short stops
are making me sick
Another day passes
Nothing will change
I ask for a transfer,
but walk home instead
Where did these words come from? Some secret part of my brain that no one knows about, myself included. I have nothing else to say because I don’t remember. Devon holds me all night and it is morning again, Monday morning. No it’s not!
Yes it is.
October 8. 2005
The days bleed into bleed into weeks bleed into months during my little vacation from life. Before I know it, it will be time to return to school, time to pack another bag and face the winter, face professors, face life.
Jason and I never finish our custody battle over CDs and books, and it seems he is taking some of my favourites with him, as well as our cat. Tomorrow will be the final time I visit the old apartment, to take down bookshelves with daddy. This nomad is starting to feel quite at home at Devon’s, no our, apartment. I pee and shit, shower and shave, download music, do my thing. The scars on my arms are healing quite nicely into faint pink and white lines that won’t let me forget that cutting will land me back in that little room with a bare mattress in the middle of it.
Life is easy and predictable. The other day daddy brought me thirty Tylenol 3s for my menstrual cramps which I gobbled up in less than twenty-four hours. That’s just what I do. Right now I’m letting the last Ativan in the bottle dissolve under my tongue. Do these doctors actually think I will take these benzos as prescribed? As for the T3s I didn’t derive any pleasure out of the abuse, only a sore stomach and a feeling that I was even less human than usual. I know, doctor, that I could try to change this pattern, but right now is not a good time. Perhaps there will never be a good time, eventually my liver will stop functioning and that will be that. I started my little binge just before Devon, his eccentric aunt Judy, and I went to an open mike poetry session at a coffee shop close to here. I excused myself to go to the washroom, to eat more pills, and learned that there is a lot of bad poetry out there. I ended my little binge just before Wednesday night therapy group.
It was snowing for the first time this year and not many people showed up so the bipolar group was mixed with the depression group. Not good. I, who was seeing the rods and cones in my eyes dance about the wall, would be the first to introduce myself and give a synopsis of the past week.
“Hi, I’m Scars. I’m borderline, bipolar, a little OCD in there, you know.”
The group facilitator, who reminded me an awful lot of a girl I hated in high school, asked me if I had been diagnosed.
“Yeah, of course. The last week has been pretty crazy. I had a major dissociative episode and didn’t remember buying a pack of cigarettes. I was sitting at the table and I was like, ‘holy shit, I smoked this pack of cigarettes in four hours’ and everyone else was like, ‘no you didn’t’. Well actually only Devon said that, but I thought more people were in the room. And I spent a lot of time talking to people who weren’t actually there.”
“Wow,” said the facilitator, before anxiously moving on to the next person in line. I think I scared the poor depressives a little. Nevertheless, they took over the meeting, comparing antidepressants, comparing suicidal thoughts, talking about court dates. These people were truly depressing.
My stomach was feeling worse and worse as the session went on and during the break I tried unsuccessfully to vomit in the washroom. Oh, how lovely it would be to throw up. I could hear Dr. D’s voice, “Bad feelings aren’t kept in your stomach, you know.” But I don’t care, I just want to puke it all up. This strange desire lasted all week long until Thursday when I finally succeeded, and the strings of digested food looked like veins floating in the toilet.
October 9, 2005
Thanksgiving. A vacation from a vacation. Brings back bad memories of yours truly destroying the family event. I flew back to Winnipeg from Montreal for Thanksgiving three years ago, deciding not to tell anyone but Jason and my family about my short stay. I was pregnant and while spending the night at Jason’s became violently ill. Instead of taking care of me the next day he went out to the club to do cocaine until six in the morning. When he finally came back I let him fuck my tear stained body, harder and harder until he could come, heart pounding. The next day I stayed at daddy’s, had some kind of emotional breakdown and ended up calling Jima at work, demanding she drive me to Suzette’s to pick up some crystal. Nice to see you too. It was good stuff, and while my family was celebrating I stayed in my room, finishing my Latin homework with fervour.
Jason’s family celebrates American Thanksgiving instead of Canadian Thanksgiving for some reason that I dare not ask, that I know – they’re fucking morons. I suppose they’re unaware of the fact that the only reason we celebrate the holiday earlier is because of the weather. I remember sitting at a table, eating Amway turkey and feeling uncomfortable and out of place while they casually referenced the bible during conversation.
Today is different. I’ve been taking double the dose of the mood stabilizer Dr. D. prescribed and I’m feeling quite well. Devon’s mom already treats me like I am her own daughter and his seventeen year-old sister gave me the pair of pants I’m wearing. I’m not nervous and I know I won’t be ignored. I suppose I’ve never felt like this before.
October 11, 2005
Thanksgiving is fucking hard.
My sober mind allows me to see just how ridiculous the whole affair is, these pseudo-family gatherings that take place on holidays! Christmas, Easter, Canada Day, et cetera. As I walk towards the food which is being served buffet style, Eve says her first words of the evening to me, “You’ve got a little potbelly!” If I ever become anorexic I will cite this as its cause. Dinner is for the most part silent, well, silent for me and Devon. Note to self: when you have adult children, treat them like human beings. Eve’s daughter, my sister in-law and her husband pretend I’m invisible. Even when they leave and I offer a goodbye they blatantly turn towards daddy and Eve instead. God knows what she has told them. Anyways, I told her I was pregnant and turned my back on her.
The food is good, the elaborate decorations are a bit much, but whatever suits your fancy I guess. Baby’s breath covered in orange spray paint isn’t exactly my thing.
We spend most of the evening with Angie, who looks beautiful and grown-up since the last time I saw her, two weeks ago. The three of us talk and talk and giggle and giggle and then finally I ask her, “What were you so worried about when I was in the hospital? Are you upset that I’m taking medication?”
“No, I was just scared that you’d come back different somehow, but you didn’t,” her smiles are still youthfully radiant, “Dad and Eve were just talking about it everyday, but you’re the same old Scars!” she says with a mischievous look in her eye.
Her best friends are the stoners at school. I’ll have to keep an eye on her, teach her that having a milkshake and smoking crystal meth are not the same thing. I think she’s got a good head on her shoulders though. By being the bad influence, I kind of ended up being the good influence, you know? Once again: This is your brain on drugs.
After dinner I went to visit Grandma in a room down the hall, where she lies in her death-bed. Two weeks ago she looked sick but chipper, now she looks like death and it’s beautiful. I’ve seen death before and she is facing it so bravely. She’s satisfied with her life and ready to leave it, a peaceful place that many senior citizens don’t come to. Her hair is grey and patches of it are missing, he skin is becoming the same colour as her hair, and when I tell her I love her, I really mean it from the bottom of the heart, fuck, I wish I could know more about her life, about her nervous breakdown, about shock-treatments, about her abusive husband, but it’s too late now. I have to repeat the words three times before she takes notice that I’m speaking.
“I love you too angel, you look beautiful.”
She has always told me that I look beautiful. Maybe I should have listened a little harder.
I fucking look beautiful.
The white noise is turned on in my head and gets louder the longer I stay at daddy’s house; it becomes deafening.
“We’ve gotta go home now, okay dad?”
And then he makes this unnecessarily strange show, where I must choose the items of leftover food I want to take home for a drawn out period of time. In this time he becomes a martyr of sorts and I yell,
“Just give me whatever you want to give me!”
and storm out for a cigarette. Devon joins me after a minute or two and tells me their conversation went on as usual, with no acknowledgement of my little fit. All I can do is laugh the guilt away.
I listen to loud music on the way home, trying to drown out the noise in my head – “And if your thoughts should turn to death, gotta stomp ‘em out, like a cigarette…”
So I have a depressive episode on Monday and Devon has one on Tuesday. Our depression is quite congruent, in that in one unprovoked instant everything in the world becomes horrible and pointless. But these spells bring us closer. When you are in the throes of one everything is not okay and never has been for your entire life. That’s the best explanation I have to offer right now.
We play Mario on my old Super Nintendo and drink “Rockstar” energy beverages like beer. And what better day than Thursday to go on a benzo-binge. Ten clonazepam and ten lorazepam. I can’t belive the doctors keep prescribing me these valium-like drugs. Ten clonazepam and ten lorazepam, just for kicks, just so my words float above the page, just so that the lines I’m writing on become waves.
Ironically, daddy calls a few minutes later, fuck, I’m already stumbling over speech.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Do you think we can get to a place where pill-popping is just yucky to you?”
“I don’t know, dad, it started when I was thirteen I’ve been a pill-popper for eight years now. It’s habitual behaviour that’s been deeply ingrained. But I’m much better than last year, where I would take all the cold medication I could find and eat handfuls of Tylenol number ones at work.”
“Wow, so how can we change that?”
“I have no idea, nor do my doctors.”
Sigh. The subject is changed to Grandma’s condition or Angie’s success at school or the bureaucracy I will have to deal with to get more money from the government. I guess cutting through red tape isn’t such a bad part-time job.
October 12, 2005
So this is what it’s come down to – snorting antidepressants through a rolled up sheet of paper while Devon is recording music in the other room. A select few can understand – sometimes you just must put something up your nose. Yesterday it was the last of my clonazepam. Today, one of Devon’s Effexors. And the night is young, my friends, I may vacuum up an antipsychotic or two before it’s over.
It’s all Amber’s fault.
No, it isn’t, the clonazepam thing I did all on my own, I figured it would be a good way to bring my benzo binge to a dramatic end.
The rest is Amber’s fault. She was supposed to disappear.
But as I’m grocery shopping with Devon my cell starts playing “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and vibrating. I can’t retrieve it from the black hole of a purse I’ve been carrying. They say your purse is a good reflection of your mind, your life. Mine is filled with garbage, mail I haven’t bothered to read, tobacco, empty prescription bottles, make-up I haven’t worn in years, and a wallet that will no longer close because it holds the purple DBT cards that I haven’t bothered to fill out. I fear I may be in trouble with this whole DBT thing – I may be sent to the principal’s office. It’s just my version of “regular attendance” is unique and not like the standard definition of the phrase.
Note to self: that Effexor made me feel pretty damn good.
Excuse my tangent. I didn’t answer the phone and I got a voice mail message. It’s Amber, sketchy as all hell, telling me she needs to ask me something. She tells me to call her back at the number displayed on my phone. She either wants to discuss something Jason told her about, or she wants Suzette’s number.
Both possibilities are very humorous, so I try to call back but there is no answer. Then I call Jeff, this guy she’s been dating, living with on and off, and taking emotional and physical abuse from for the past year or so. He and Jason share many of the same characteristics – Jeff is unemployed, spends his days smoking pot and playing video games, and oDevon many people fairly large sums of money.
Jeff tells me that last Friday Amber came home high on coke, her new drug of choice, and took an entire bottle of Paxil and then starting ripping apart his apartment, even putting her fist through a glass window.
There’s something wrong with this explanation, so I call Amber’s parents who give me the real story – Jeff attacked Amber for being high on coke, leaving strangulation marks on her neck and bruises all over her body. She tried to hide in a room with a lock on the door and Jeff punched out a window to enter that room and continue beating her. The police did nothing, as Amber said everything was fine. Her parents are also well aware of her coke habit.
Speak of the devil, she finally calls me, and she’s speaking faster than clonazepam-Scars, so fast that I can hardly decipher what she is saying. I ask her what she’s on.
“Honey, you’re talking a mile a minute.”
“I’m sorry, I’mjustcomingdownoffacid.”
“You’re on coke. That’s bad stuff sweetie, I got caught up with it in Montreal. Once you start doing it you want it every time you’re drinking. It’s more addictive than it seems at first.”
“How about you call me in a couple of weeks when you’ve been sober for a while.”
“Okay, Scars I love you!”
“I’ll talk to you later.”
October 13, 2005
Note to self: Do not snort Effexor unless you want to choke.
I spent last night trying desperately to breathe in through my clogged nose or my dry, damaged mouth. Eventually I took 1200 mg of Seroquel, that should do the job. I slept until 3:30 pm.
I call Jima and she tells me that she saw Jason and Rob on her way home from the bar last night. It’s funny that Jason is still somewhere in the city, living his life. It seems like it should have stopped that night in the psych ward when he threw me out like trash.
I snort 4 mg of lorazepam. I’m taking my meds properly, I’m just taking an alternate route of ingesting them, intranasally.
Amber calls and part of me desperately wants to be friends with her, another part knows that I would start doing crystal immediately if we saw each other, even if I was doing it by myself. Well, Devon would start doing it with me, and we’d probably kill ourselves. What a waste of pointless potential that would be.
Banality. Go out for coffee with Devon and his mom. Go to the pharmacy to pick up meds. Surf the information superhighway.
I truly have nothing to write about.
It is still very possible for drug addicts to achieve recovery from addictions that would last their entire lives.