My mind flashes rampant with images of my daughter. Her father is not involved in her life at all and now I have made her motherless. I grew up without my mother and I remember it being very difficult not having anyone to talk to about female issues or having any guidance about boys. Having to tell my father I needed to go to the store because I got my first period was not a fun event and he didn’t make it any less awkward when we got to the store. He walked me to an aisle with shelves abundant with feminine products and told me to take as long as I needed figuring out what would work best for me; before turning his head, crossing his arms and rocking back and forth with an uncomfortable whistle.
Once I selected a box, I asked my dad to carry them just in case some boy from school happened to be in the store and saw me with them. My dad laughed and took the box from me, but not before commenting that he didn’t mind carrying them but he didn’t think that anyone would be fooled into believing that they were for him and not me!
Now my daughter will be faced with the same difficulties in life. What have I gotten myself into? How could I be so selfish? Tara opens the door and a parade of Mexican guys covered in tattoos and mean mugs enter the motel room. As they make their way into the room, I count seven of them settling on the beds. Seven rough and tough Mexicans to take out little 4’11, 103 lb. me? Seriously, terrified doesn’t even begin to describe the fear and panic consuming me.
Marcos is one of the seven who have entered the room. His eyes are fixated on me, trembling in the corner. Tara tosses me her cell phone and informs me she is going to go wash the color out of her hair while I call anyone I feel I need to call. Calling my family to tell them I love them and say goodbye with an audience of the people who will be responsible for forcing this goodbye, is the sickest reality I have been faced with in life. Adding to the unsettling predicament, I top it off by actually thanking her for allowing me to use her phone! Seven sets of cold, dark eyes, watch carefully, as I dial my father’s number. He doesn’t answer. He is most likely picking up my daughter from daycare as we speak and I don’t remember my daycare’s number. My daughter is the only voice I want to, I need to, hear right now.
The shower starts and I wonder how long I will have to make phone calls before Tara is done and this group is ready to do whatever it is they plan on doing with me. My mind attempts to remember my mother’s phone number, as I stare aimlessly at the keys. I manage to dial her and am met with her voice on the other end of the line. As hard as I try to show no weakness in front of my captors, tears begin to stream down my face while I tell my mother I am sorry for putting her through the stress I have undoubtedly caused her and her husband Richard. My mother launches into her usual routine of distracting away from the uncomfortable emotion, by telling me it’s all part of life and there is no judgment from them. My confession of love for her is met with a returned, I love you too response. My next phone call is to my cousin David. His girlfriend Mel, is the one I initially confided in when I had started smoking heroin. They informed my family about my heroin use and David spent countless hours researching online and calling rehabilitation centers, in an attempt to get me into one immediately.
In addition, they watched my daughter for the 30 days I spent there. How disappointed they both must be in me right now. After all, they have done to help me get my life back on track, I went and relapsed four days after getting out of that state-funded hell hole and am in a more dire situation than I was in prior to going to rehab. David works from home doing some big-time computer stuff that I have no real understanding of, other than it has something to do with Google and he is on his phone a lot. Nevertheless, I attempt to call him. To my surprise, he answers and I am not met with a hostile response, but rather a concerned voice and inquiry as to where I am at. It is at that moment I realize that not only do I have seven sets of piercing eyes watching me, I also have seven sets of ears listening intently to every word that comes out of my mouth. Tears are still wetting my face, as I am careful not to divulge any information that may cause my audience to act now. I really need to hear my daughter’s voice before I meet God for judgment today.
David is relentless with his inquisition, with multiple pleading attempts for me to confide in him with the location of my whereabouts. He wants to rescue me. The sad thing is he doesn’t realize the depth to his statement and that if he were to come to get me right now, he would, in fact, be rescuing me from something much bigger than I allow him to know. Tara calls out that she is getting dressed and I quickly thank my cousin for all that he has done, tell him I love him and hang up the phone.
This can’t be it. The Mexicans have begun passing a foil around and I frantically dial my father’s number again. To my relief, he answers. My voice shakes, as I explain I need to talk to Natalia right now! Marcos is staring in my direction but I avoid making contact with his eyes. My dad explains he is at Safeway picking up groceries for dinner before he picks Natalia up from daycare. My heart sinks. Of course, he is. My dad lives at Safeway. Nine out of ten phone calls made to my father’s cell phone, start off with….I am at Safeway, what’s up? My father knows me better than anyone and can sense distress in my tone. He assures me he will be picking her up in about 15 minutes and asks me to call back. What do I say? Do I have another 15 minutes? I cannot fight my bodies desire to weep. Slow, trickling tears have turned to uncontrollable flushing from my eyes. I apologize for the grief I have caused and tell my father how much I love him and appreciate him, elaborating to give my daughter a big hug and tell her how much I love her.
My dad senses something is not right and asks if this is a number I can be reached at from now on. If only I could tell him this number belongs to the person who will be responsible for my not calling him back in 15 minutes but I can’t! Tara has made her way back into the room and is low talking with Marcos. She thinks I am sidetracked by the phone conversation and am not listening to her and Marcos speak in low tones. She is wrong with her assumption. Low talking (G-talk) is something I have picked up on people doing when their mouths are moving and their voices are mumbling. It can be nearly impossible to decipher what is being said if you are at too far a distance to make it out. They don’t look in the direction of the person they are speaking with but assume you are so high or stupid that you are not picking up on the fact they are talking about you, right in front of you. Tara is really good at smiling in your direction while doing it. She and Eric are pros at doing this while I am driving and have to pay attention to the road.
I listen as she tells Marcos that I didn’t have a fucking clue who they were and was not in on the home invasion. She goes on to say it was a freak thing, my being there that night and she doesn’t believe I pose any threat to them concerning police involvement. My father is still on the line but is now ready to check out at the store and again asks if this number is a number he can reach me at. I respond by telling him I will call back in 15 minutes and to please answer, I need to talk to Natty. He concurs and hangs up the phone. I keep the phone at my ear, with hopes of looking like I am still on the call and distracted so that I can listen more intently to the low talking going on between Tara and Marcos. Marcos has mastered his low talk and though I hear a muffled sound emanating from his mouth, I cannot make out his words. Tara asks me if I am done using her phone and I reluctantly hand it to her because she needs to make a call. I explain I have not gotten to speak with my daughter yet and I am supposed to call her in 15 minutes.
My hands are shaking uncontrollably and I am unable to hide my fear from the room full of eyes watching me. In a pleading tone, I reiterate I need to call my daughter in 15 minutes. Marcos asks me how old my daughter is. I am frozen by his inquiry. I do not want to tell him anything about my daughter. Who knows what he might do to my family! If anything ever happened to her, I couldn’t live with myself! The thought occurs to me that I might already be dead and unknowing of what happens to her or anyone else in my family, as a result of my selfishness. Marcos asks me again. I am uncontrollably weeping but manage to yelp that she just turned five. Before I know it, I am rambling on about how I have been a horrible mother this year and missed her birthday. Like a faucet left unattended to, I flood the conversation with an outpouring of how much I love her and how stupid and naive I have been. My entire body is shaking, as I elaborate how sorry I am for not being able to hold her and kiss her one last time.
Marcos walks over to my trembling, weeping existence. Panic overwhelms me with speculations of his intent. His hand’s cusp mine and he kneels down beside my slumped over body. Is this it? Is he grabbing my hands to restrain me from fighting? The room is silent, with the exception of the emotion pouring out of me. Marcos forces my eyes to connect with his and instructs me not to worry, I will be allowed to call my daughter one last time.
One final call to my daughter. I shudder at the reality of my captor’s words. Suddenly I feel like I am experiencing a scene from one of my favorite movies, Training Day. The scene where Alonzo drops Jake off at the Mexican’s apartment and leaves a large sum of money for them to blow his brains out all over Smiley’s bathtub. Only, I don’t think the Mexicans got paid to kill me. My guaranteed silence is payment enough for my demise. Marcos offers me the foil to take a pull from. My entire body is shaking to remain calm and refuse to fuck my mind up anymore but I am a dope head and resisting heroin is not in the cards. Filled with both anticipation and reluctance, I accept the foil and take a pull. I rationalize that if I am going to die anyway, I want to be numb.
Marcos encourages me to hit the foil again, while Tara wraps up her call. As I take a monster size hit, he asks me how I came to be in this position. I hold my smoke in as long as I can. The entire time, my eyes locked on his. After I release my hit, I shake my head and mutter, ignorance. I still am not certain of what my situation is. The only certainty is that it is dangerous with an outlook that is not good.
Tara tosses me her phone and Marcos sits on the edge of the bed, as I dial my father’s number. Paranoid, panic has me questioning my ignorance in not removing the phone numbers I had dialed from Tara’s call log before surrendering the phone to her earlier. I have no idea what these people might be plotting after they are done with me. It is possible they may attempt to clean out my father’s house and hurt anyone in their way. After the home invasion was foiled, I warned my father and sister that she needed to not be in the house and begged her to stay somewhere else for a while but I was dismissed as paranoid and high. Now, more than ever, I am seriously concerned for her safety. The phone continues to ring and fear rises within me, at the realization I may not be able to hear my daughter’s voice ever again.
To my relief, my father answers and comments that there is someone with him who is very excited to speak with me. I can hear her questioning him if it is me on the line. Without an ounce of ability to prevent their fall, tears begin streaming down my face again. My daughter’s voice is ecstatic, as she tells me how much she has missed me and loves me. In an attempt to control her hearing my weep, I point the mouthpiece of the cell phone upward and confirm, that I too have missed her terribly and love her so much. Natty tells me all about daycare and what she has been doing and all I can do is fall into a puddle of my own tears collecting at the floor beneath me. We have a routine when we talk to each other on the phone. We tell each other how much we love one another, always adding to infinity and beyond. Then we sing a song together, usually from Disney’s Tangled movie. Marcos watches me intently as I initiate our favorite Tangled song, I See the Light.
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once everything looks different
Now that I see you
Singing is a major passion of mine but I try not to overshadow her fragile voice. Today it is not difficult to sing meekly, as my voice trembles and is shaken with sorrow and fear. The entire room is silent, watching and listening as we sing the chorus together. Once we have finished the song, I extend my arms as far as they will stretch and ask her if she is stretching hers too? She giggles and replies with her usual reply, of course, I am silly! Natalia tells me she loves me times 1000 and to infinity and beyond. I reply with the same statements and tell her I am hugging her, squeezing her and kissing her cute, little face all over. She tells me she loves me like God loves me. A smile breaks through my quivering lips and I confirm I share that love for her. Only five years old and she has the most sincere and compassionate, little heart.
My audience is captivated by this display of affection and love they have become witness to. I can feel their eyes watching me, their ears are perked towards my direction and a hush has completely consumed the room. Tara has even turned off the music videos that were playing as background noise on the television. The rotation has ceased, as one of the Mexicans clutches the foil but doesn’t take a hit. His eyes appear to have welled up with his own display of emotion. Could it be? Has my routine with my daughter weakened this gangster and reduced him to tears? Natalia asks me if I am almost all better yet? I have told her I am sick and have to be at a special doctor up north and my family has reiterated my story with her many inquiries to my whereabouts. My chest tightens with a piercing, pain in my heart. She elaborates that she wishes I was all better so that I could come home and hold her when it’s time to go to sleep. She hates sleeping alone. Since birth, we have always shared a bed and nighttime is always the hardest on her in my absence.
In my attempt to calm her concern, I tell her I am trying to get better and that no matter what happens I am always in her heart, always watching her and that I love her more than anything in the whole, wide world. Guilt convicts me immediately. Heroin has become the thing I love most in this world. I tell her mommy has to go and to be very good for granddad and grandma before hanging up the phone. Marcos watches me, as I remove my phone numbers out of Tara’s call log but he doesn’t say a word. Tara reaches for her phone and I am careful not to break eye contact with Marcos. It is impossible to watch all of the people who are watching me, making me feel very uneasy. I thank Marcos for letting me call my daughter before I begin sobbing and blubbering again.
What feels like forever goes by and still no one is breaking the silence. The waiting and not knowing is its own form of torture. I can hardly contain myself, as the anticipation of what is to come builds and builds within me. Marcos loads another foil and passes it to me without hitting it first. Confusion consumes my entire being, without so much as even a subtle hint as to what is about to ensue. After I hit the foil, my eyes scan around the room, before reconnecting with Marcos’s stare. He nods at me to let me know he wants me to pass the foil back to him. When I extend the foil towards his direction, he grabs it with one hand while gripping my wrist with his other. Terror begins to boil inside again and I have to wonder if this is it? Is he grabbing me to do away with me, finally? Is he going to instruct the others to take their places in this scene?
Images of Training Day flash through my mind again and the only assurance I take solace in is that this motel room is not equipped with a bathtub! Without any explanation as to what situation I was truly in, or why I was no longer in it, Marcos tells me I can go. I can go? What? Meaning, I can get up and run the fuck out of this motel room, to my car, start it and get the hell out of here? Is that what he means when he utters the words that I can go? My mind envisions the actions but I find myself paralyzed in my seat. He confides in me that he has a small daughter, elaborating he doesn’t get to see her much. Was it his witness to the love I have for my daughter that has opened the door for me to exit this situation, never looking back? He doesn’t touch on that possibility. Again, he dismisses me and tells me that I can leave and that I have nothing further to be worried about. My knees feel like they are about to buckle beneath me, as I stand up to grab my things.
Marcos pulls me towards him and tells me that Eric is a piece of shit type of dude and that I would be better off not associating with him. There is no conversation about Red or the home invasion or anything else for that matter. What’s done is done and I am alright to collect my things and get going! Is a hug an appropriate response to this gesture? I don’t know but I thank him instead and make my way out the door.
Once outside, I run down two flights of stairs, get into my car and drive quickly away from the motel. At this point, I am overwhelmed with emotions ranging from fear, joy, anger, disbelief and pure elation. God has angels watching over me; this I am certain of. I make my way to Isaac’s house, as I have nowhere else to go. It doesn’t appear that Isaac has moved from his spot on the couch, tweaking away with his cables and tools. Although, Billy and Shane are now tweaking alongside him. As I explain to Isaac, with minimal details, the events that have just occurred, there is a knock at the door. Eric doesn’t wait for us to answer it, before casually strolling in. Without so much as a thought, or hesitation, I lunge towards him from the couch, screaming how much I loathe him, as I finally punch that sorry, ass, mother fucker right in his lying, smirking mouth!