Once back at the center, I am in a rage. Tess Moff takes me around to the back of the office, in an attempt to calm me down.
“You guys knew I had Hepatitis C,” I accuse her. “You lied to me. You and Sadie Dell fucking lied to me!”
“Liz, we didn’t know,” she replies. “I swear to you, I didn’t know.”
I am crying and screaming in a hushed tone, as I don’t want anyone to hear me. Tess explains to me all the different misconceptions concerning the disease and helps to calm me down. She shares a personal story about someone she knows with Hepatitis C and assures me that it doesn’t mean that I am dying.
“I don’t want you in your head,” Tess explains.
“Don’t you dare make me run light objectives,” I warn her. “Please. I am fine,” I beg.
“I won’t make you run a light objective Liz, but you have to promise me that you will calm down and not be in your head. If I catch you in your head, then you will need to run one,” she responds.
“Deal,” I reply.
Walking around the center, I feel like I am wearing a scarlet letter. I know it is all in my head, but all eyes appear focused on me. I see Jude London sitting on the lawn by the pool and I make my way over to him.
“What’s wrong 2 Chainz?” He asks.
“Dude, I just got fucked up news from the doctor and I don’t know how to handle it,” I admit.
“What is it? You can trust me,” he assures me.
“Hep. C,” I reply.
“Fuck, I would kill myself if I found out I had Hep. C, ” he says. “I legit, would end my life.”
I look at him in disbelief. He smirks.
“I’m sorry, I’m probably not the most comforting person to talk to,” he admits.
We both begin laughing hysterically. I am laughing so hard, I am fighting back tears. As much of an asshole thing that was to say, I needed that laugh.
“Please don’t say anything to anyone Jude. I want to deal with this in my own way,” I say.
“Stay away from the kitchen knives,” he jokes, after he assures me he will keep my secret (but he doesn’t).
Dinner break is over and it is time to report to roll call. It’s Tuesday, so there is still another two hour session. After roll call, I sit out on the smoking benches by the course room.
An intern named Marie approaches me. She is from Boston and we call her Boston because her accent is so thick. She is short, with a very petite frame and she has colored her hair, red. She is Johnny’s girlfriend. We haven’t talked much, but we say hello in passing. Later we will end up becoming good friends and share plenty of laughs at the Ginger House.
“Hi Liz,” she says, as she sits next to me on the bench. Her accent is so adorable and pronounced, it is difficult for me not to mimic it when I respond with a meek, “Hello.”
“I just wanted to check on you. Don’t be mad, but I know what you are going through and wanted to tell you that you are not alone. I have Hepatitis C too,” she admits. “A lot of people do, even if they won’t talk about it.”
My eyes meet hers. “Really? You are okay with openly talking about it?” I ask.
“Yes. At first I was devastated. I cried my eyes out in the courtyard,” she says, while pointing in it’s direction, “for hours,” she elaborates. “I was inconsolable.”
“Wow. Are you okay now? Did sauna clear it up? The doctor told me the sauna could cure me,” I inform her.
“No,” she admits. “But that doesn’t mean anything for you. There are different strands and levels of infection. Mine was not acute.”
I don’t know what to say, but appreciate her honesty and the fact that she wants to comfort me. I realize she knows exactly how I feel right now. The shock, the fear and overall humiliation. Boston is only 19, and I am impressed by her maturity and courage to speak openly about her experiences.
“I didn’t share needles,” I say. “I didn’t share needles,” I repeat under my breath. She puts her arm around me and let’s me work things out, out loud.
The thing is, I shared cookers, water, cottons and never once thought anything about it. Sharing those things poses a risk for contracting it. It is extremely rare to pass Hepatitis C sexually, so the likelihood of that being the way it was transmitted is slim.
The doctor told me it would be a one in a million chance, that sex was responsible. In fact, he assured me that this wasn’t a sexually transmitted disease such as AIDS or other infections and that it was not necessary to use condoms in a monogamous relationship or marriage because it was so rare to transmit it this way.
“The only thing I can think of, is that Eric (the douche I was with while I was a junkie), must have used one of my needles and just tossed it back in my junkie kit,” I confess.
“There were several times, I woke up and he was up already. That means, he had already taken a shot. He had to have used my rigs and tossed them back into my kit, with no regard to my health,” I say, angrily.
“I’m sorry Liz. I really am. I am here for you, whenever you need to talk. I mean it,” she informs me.
“You know, the doctor told me that 90% of IV drug users have Hep. C,” I say. “How can that be? I mean, 95% of the center used heroin. Statistically, that means that we absolutely are not alone.”
“It’s true,” she confirms.
Keisha makes her way over to us. She can see that I am upset and knows more than anyone here, how nervous and upset I have been concerning doctor visits and not being approved for sauna.
“I’ll let you two talk,” Boston says, before giving me a bear hug and making her way back to running folders (intern duties).
“Want to go to our room?” I ask. Keisha concurs.
I reiterate what I have found out from the doctor. Keisha is such a good listener and friend. She lets me get it all out, including all the irrational statements and fears. There is a knock at the door. It is Tess Moff. She has printed out facts about Hep. C to try and further put my mind at ease. I thank her and toss it in my drawer to read later.
“Okay, I’m done talking about this,” I say, as I wipe tears from my cheeks.
“Guess what?” She asks.
“What?” I respond.
“I got my portable DVD player in the mail. Now we can watch movies in our room!” She exclaims.
Hell yeah. That is great news. She has several movies and I have already asked my sister to get my movies together for my dad to send to me. I am going through “Twilight” withdrawals. Keisha is from Washington and shares an affinity for the Twilight series.
“Have you seen Bridesmaids?” She asks.
“No, I don’t think so,” I answer.
“Do you need to laugh?” She asks.
“Yes. Absolutely. I need to laugh,” I respond, through laughter.
She puts it on and breaks out the Double Stuff Oreos. It is a nice change of pace, being able to watch something in our room and away from the noise of the crowds. The lodge can be a cluster fuck of chaos at times. Students playing rap music on the speaker, ping pong championships and the TV, are all background noise to the constant chatter of 100 students.
The movie is hilarious and will prove to become an almost nightly endeavor for the remainder of our program. We don’t always make it through it before falling asleep, but 9 times out of 10, it’s what we put on before bed.
“I am already gaining weight,” I admit, as I stuff my face with oreos.
“Tell me about it,” Keisha confirms. “I thought sauna would make me lose weight, not gain weight.”
“Dude, I am telling you they are trying to fatten us up,” I suggest. “They probably put protein powder in the food for bulk.”
We both laugh. “I wouldn’t doubt it. Everyone calls it the Narconon 30, because that’s how many pounds you end up putting on being here,” she says.
“It is so depressing. I don’t miss meth, at all. In fact, the thought of crystal, makes me sick, but it is the best diet for dropping weight. I went from a size 12 to a size 0, in 6 weeks,” I admit.
“Damn girl,” she responds.
“It sucks that I am not in sauna with you,” I suggest. “I mean I came right after you. We should be doing it together. That means you are going to move to the house before me,” I say.
“I know. Sad. I don’t want to move to the house,” she confesses.
“I know. Me either. I like all the company and most my friends are boys. I will miss boys. You know how boy crazy I am,” I laugh.
“You are boy crazy Liz, that’s for sure. I think the only one more boy crazy than you is Christina,” she laughs.
Christina is boy crazy. She is totally in a 2D flow (relationship), with this young student named Marcus. Everyone gives her shit because there is like a 12 year age difference. The other day she kissed Noah on the basketball courts, just to kiss him. It was awkward, as I was up there with my iPod and turned to see them on the fence.
Later that night, she apparently snuck over to his room, but ended up hooking up with his roommate, Hunter. Or so the rumor goes. Now, Ernie comes in our rooms, like every hour, to shine lights on us and make sure we are in our beds. It is annoying to be woken up to the slider door and bright flashlight on my face.
I’m not judging her, as I have already held crushes on Brian, Dominic and sadly, Juice. Juice is a complete idiot, but he looks a lot like Eric and for some reason, I crush on him. Although, that one is fading after my Benadryl endeavor. I can’t believe Juice convinced me that it would be like a heroin nod. Where’s my sign?
“Thanks for cheering me up girl,” I thank Keisha.
“Always,” she replies.
“I don’t really feel like hanging out in the lodge tonight,” I admit. “I know it is in my head, but I feel like everyone knows.”
“I am sure they don’t Liz. I’ll hang out with you in the room,” she suggests.
It is so freaking hot in our room, that we have to leave the door open. Mr. Bojangles, our resident cat, comes strolling in. I don’t really want him on my things. He likely has fleas, but he makes himself at home. Keisha typically becomes tired before me, as she is already in sauna, but I can see she is fighting to stay awake and comfort me.
After a smoke, we put on The Goonies.
“You can sleep Keisha. You don’t have to fight it for me,” I assure her.
“Are you sure?” She asks.
“Yes, I appreciate you though. Is it going to bother you if the DVD is still playing?” I ask.
She assures me it won’t, before she finally passes out. It is so hot in the room. I am enjoying the movie. It is one of my all times favorites from childhood, and it helps me to reminisce and keep my mind off things. Eventually, I fall asleep.
The next morning, I decide to move forward in my program. Sadie Dell told me that Book 3 only took a day or two to complete. I won’t even have my results by then to know if I am approved for sauna, so there is no point in my wasting any more time. This news delights both her and Tess Moff.
The room next to mine and Keisha’s is where Kacie and Shantell stay. Shantell is in sauna and has been my sun bathing buddy for the past couple weeks during her off time. She has fair skin, bleached blonde hair and big eyes. I inform her that I won’t be on the lawn with her, as I am reporting to class.
“Awe man,” she responds.
“I know. Sad. Thanks for letting me use your suntan oil and water bottle,” I thank her.
“Anytime,” she replies.
Her and Kacie, spend most of their time in their room, so they aren’t as social. However, they are both sweet girls and come out to talk to Keisha and I, when we are on our stoop smoking. They both, have also reported hearing me singing to Linkin Park and enjoying my rendition. This is good news, as my voice carries and I don’t want to annoy my neighbors.
After roll call, I am issued Book 3, The Learning Improvement Course. Again I am met with cartoon illustrations and Narconese. As I begin to read about the barriers to study, I wish I had taken just one more day to sun tan on the lawn….