I fight to break free from my assailant’s grip, but it is a man and he is much stronger than I am. He speaks to tell me not to scream and I recognize it is Chris’s voice. Relief settles, as I realize he is not here to hurt me, but rather to check in on me. He is not allowed at this house so he was waiting for me to come outside. My eyes avoid his gaze while he insists on going for a drive to talk. How am I going to make an excuse to leave, while still having the option to come back here for the night? Isaac is busy tweaking tough with his piles of cords and tools. I inform him I am going to run to the store for a few but will be back if it’s still alright with him. He concurs. Chris is standing up the road and I brake long enough for him to get in before we go for a ride. Despite the fact I know Chris has been with Red, I am not worried. He has repeatedly pleaded with me to go home to my daughter and warned me about getting sucked into the Valley.
While it is an impossibility for a drug addict to be capable of truly loving another human being unconditionally, I believe he loves me the only way he knows how. For the first time ever, in all the drives we have shared together, Chris turns down the stereo and asks what the hell I am still doing here? Before I can answer, his voice turns hostile while he makes me aware of the fact that he knows I am using heroin again. Chris lost both of his parents to heroin overdoses at a young age. Leaving him in the system ever since. He detests both heroin and needles. My mouth opens to explain, but he cuts me off and asks me to park somewhere so we can really talk. I pull off on to a road I know has a perfect dark and quiet place to park and be alone. After I turn off the ignition, without warning, he rips up my sleeve to check for track marks. Both of my arms are badly bruised and scarred. I prepare myself for the inevitable tongue lashing of a lifetime, but pause as Chris breaks down and cries.
Why? Is the only word he can manage to articulate and it echoes with a repeated inquiry. Unlike when Eric quivers his bottom lip and mocks whimpering sounds with no actual tear production, I can see that Chris is legitimately weeping. This is sincere and not some manipulative spectacle in an attempt to get something from me. My hand reaches out to wipe his tears but is met with his hand pushing mine away. Again, he questions why and elaborates that I am a wonderful mother, with the most beautiful little girl he has ever seen and that I am living a life of a person that is not me. He recalls watching me play with her and kiss her all over her face. He reminds me of singing with her and dancing all over the room together. Memories of watching Blues Clues and singing along to the mailbox song come flooding back, as he forces them down my throat. Rage begins to boil within me and I slam my fists on my steering wheel screaming for him to shut the fuck up! I cannot allow myself to think of her. Refusing to accept what a pathetic, piece of shit mother I have become. It is easier to dismiss that I was ever a mother, even if it is a short-lived detour from the reality of the abandonment and guilt that accompanies the truth.
Chris won’t let me forget. Relentless with his attack, he reiterates his previous statements and further goes on to tell me how sorry he is that he ever encouraged me to take a weekend off from being a mom to come party with him. A weekend? Months have gone by now and he feels some responsibility for my actions. His guilt can’t let him rest easy, knowing that I never left the valley but rather, was pulled further into it. Despite my many attempts to alleviate his torment about it by ensuring him I was a drug addict long before he knew me, he won’t accept that reality, that truth. He recalls how I use to pray out loud, with no mind to the fact he was in the room with me and how he has missed that. I tell him God doesn’t believe in me anymore.
The conversation shifts to the home invasion attempt at my father’s house and he denies any involvement. At that moment, I am certain that he was the painted face that recognized me and pushed me out of harm’s way, though he will never admit it. As much as he tries to save me from the dark (heroin), he is just as sick from the clear (meth) and his feelings and actions shift between right and wrong all the time. He has been a part of home invasions before, I know this. His eyes avoid mine with his repeated denial of involvement of any kind. We part ways but not before he tells me he always loved me but I am not me anymore. After I drop him at the gas station, I head back to Isaac’s house for the night. Eric is standing on the front porch! Oh, God. How did he get here so quickly? What degree of hell is he going to put me through tonight? To my surprise, I haven’t been immediately accused of cheating or questioned about my whereabouts to the fifth degree. Clearly, he has taken another shot. Nice Eric is here to play.
Eric informs me he is standing on the porch because he wants to go for a drive and he knew I would be back here. There is something really important he wants to talk to me about. Isaac must be real suspicious of my coming and going by now and I don’t want to ruin my chances of being able to stay here tonight. Especially, if Eric pulls another fleeing from the scene incident, leaving me alone again. Reluctantly, I agree to go for another spin.
We go to our usual parking spot up the road and I turn off the ignition. Eric asks me if I remember when we first met. How could I not? I was spun from a meth binge and at 7-11, exactly $1.00 shy from a pack of smokes. My eyes scanned the parking lot and I spotted Eric walking across the road. A druggie can spot another druggie, so I ran over to him and batted my eyelashes. He surrendered the dollar and we had been together ever since.
That wasn’t what Eric was really asking me though. The second day we were together, Eric admitted to me that he used needles. Up until then, I hadn’t been around anyone who openly used them. The 30-day rehab program I had recently attended had definitely sparked my curiosity about them and I admitted that to him. Eric smiled and told me he never let anyone watch him shoot up before. There is a very negative stigma attached to IV users and he hid it by banging in the bathroom or wherever he was at. He pulled me into the bathroom of the hotel room we were crashing in with three meth heads and told me he was going to let me watch him, elaborating so that I would never want to do it or be curious about it again.
Eric walked me through each step of the process involved with shooting heroin into your veins. He elaborated: how much water to dilute the dope with, the importance of not overcooking the dope, why it is important to always throw a cotton in the spoon, how to pull the dope into the rig and finally how to find a vein. This did all but detour my curiosity about this junkie ritual. Because his veins were so cooperative, he didn’t need to tie off but he showed me how to do it anyways. His hands trembled in sync with his voice, as he punctured his arm with the needle. I watched blood, immediately pour into the barrel of his rig and we licked our lips at the dope porn together. As he pushed the demon into his throbbing, blue vein, I knew, it was a matter of hours before I would be experiencing the euphoria he was already succumbing to. His head already heavy with a nod. Eric leaned over and kissed my forehead before showing me how to rinse the rig and explained you could use your own rig multiple times. The cotton was tossed in a baggie, as he told me it too could be used for cotton shots when you were low on or out of dope.
Eric reminds me that he took me into the bathroom that day and shared that experience with me to prevent me from ever doing it and that he is disgusted with the pathetic, junkie I have become. Who does he think he is fooling? He knew exactly what he was doing that day. He wanted, he needed me to embrace the needle so that I would always be chasing that same bag and so that he would always be taken care of.
Eric suggests we go to Tara’s motel room. Tara has been a long time friend of his on the streets but I know she crushes on him and doesn’t like me because we are together. Tara’s mother, Charlotte, actually lives under a tree next to the Big-5 store in Burlington. She has set up a cardboard floor with some blankets on the ground. In fact, she has wind chimes hanging on a little branch by her head. It is the strangest damn thing I have ever seen. Charlotte likes to sit in her little fort and watch the traffic go by. I do not know why Big-5 allows for her to set up camp there. Surely, they have noticed the steady flow of foot traffic on the side of their building? Charlotte has done a good job concealing her fort from the road. However, all that separates her from the road is a sidewalk that has a constant flow of people walking by because she is located not far from a bus stop.
Sometimes when it rains outside, or when Charlotte needs a break from the tree people, (tree people are a figment of her imagination from meth psychosis/she talks to them and plays with them) she will go and hang out with Tara in her motel room. As crazy as Charlotte is, I prefer to be around Tara when she is there with her because I feel less threatened by Tara. Tara is a very, big girl with an extremely mean mug. Her mother, however, keeps her in line.
To my relief, Charlotte is in the motel room with Tara when we arrive. Tara smokes meth and heroin but doesn’t bang. Charlotte only smokes meth. Unlike the rest of the addicts in our circles that don’t bang, they don’t care that Eric and I do and they allow for us to have our privacy in the bathroom to do our shots.
We decide to go into the bathroom one at a time and of course, Eric goes first because he knows I will likely take forever. I hate being left alone with these two. However, I agree to entertain them while Eric takes his shot.
Tara puts on her usual show of sincere concern and kindness towards me, while her mother is in the room. She asks if I know how to color hair and I explain I have done several of my friends and my own hair, over the years. She pulls out a box of color and asks me if I would be willing to help her apply it to her hair. I accept her invitation to do so and instruct her to put on a shirt she doesn’t care about and to grab a towel. As usual, she and her mother are arguing over the most absurd things. Today their argument is about whether or not heroin or meth is worse for you. Like most, people that only use meth claim that heroin is evil, so this is the stance that Charlotte holds. On the flip side, people who only use heroin make the same claims about meth being the true evil. Tara uses both and is torn between the sides. I can relate.
Charlotte elaborates that Tara is happy and energetic when she smokes meth; however, once she starts smoking the dark, her attitude changes. Tara, in turn, argues that Charlotte is so out of touch with reality from smoking meth alone that she engages in conversation and playful activity with the tree people, who of course are not real. When asked for my opinion, I dismiss taking sides and elaborate that I use both and believe they are both equally evil in their own right. I part Tara’s hair into four equal sections and begin applying the color mix throughout her hair. The gloves that come with the hair dye are ridiculously large on my tiny hands and I opt to remove them. They are making this chore more difficult and despite knowing the chemicals are likely not good for my skin and will no doubt, stain my hands, I choose to accept those ramifications. As I move on to the next section of Tara’s hair, I hear the front door shut.
What the hell? Eric has just left the motel room without any acknowledgment towards us or explanation as to where he is going or what he is doing. Tara and I question each other about why he has left but neither of us can answer each other’s questions. Charlotte gets up off the bed and goes after him. My hands are covered in color and I am unable to investigate the situation myself. My heart speeds up with anger at the realization that once again, Eric has abandoned me in a situation that I don’t want to be in. Once Charlotte has vacated the motel room, Tara begins questioning me about the home invasion and what made me go to my father’s house that night. How does she know the details of the event? My hand trembles, as I attempt to steady it while continuing to apply the color to her hair. Nothing about this conversation is comfortable and I do not trust her inquiries or fraudulent concern.
Her hair is completely saturated with the color mix and I wrap it in a plastic grocery bag and fasten it with a claw clip. I excuse myself to go and wash my hands. Tara continues to question me about what exactly was I doing there that night, as I scrub vigorously at the purple stains on my hands. My heart is racing with anxiety. My mind is flooded with my own questions concerning how she knows so much about this and why she is adamantly poking at me for answers. I explain to her that I felt God nudge me in that direction. She asks if I had been warned about that night and wonders why I followed the white Toyota to the farm house in the first place. After I explain that I thought Eric was in the car and I was tweaking hard and angry that he had abandoned me, she asks why do you think he has abandoned you again?
A chill runs down my spine. What is she implying? Was this part of yet another set up? We are left alone in this motel room. A situation I repeatedly have expressed to Eric I am uncomfortable with. Why did he abandon me again? What does Tara know that she is not telling me? Something inside me snaps and I am no longer concerned with her. I walk over to the back door, open it and walk out onto the balcony. Charlotte is sitting on a rock beneath us talking to the shadows. My eyes scan the parking lot but there is no sign of Eric. That son of a bitch is long gone. Suddenly, I hear it. The loud exhaust from the black Honda is circling the neighboring street. Tara joins me on the balcony and giggles at the fear, paralyzing my body. She points out three sets of headlights circling the loop and informs me she has noticed two Hondas and a Toyota hanging around the motel! What the fuck? My brain is unable to compute or connect the dots, running wild with speculations.
Tara sits on the balcony floor and without being prompted to do so, I join her. We watch the three cars race around the circle, taunting and teasing me. Charlotte is dancing and humming, directly below us. Her hands are extended, as if someone is dancing with her. Tara must have noticed my eyes fixated on Charlotte and dismisses the scene below by calling her a crazy ass bitch.Tara assures me that she is here for me and wants to be a good friend to me. The cynicism in her tone has not fooled me one bit. She goes on to say that Eric has left me because he was too cowardly to take part in the meeting. My body freezes. Wait, what meeting? Headlights flood the right side of the building and I hear an entourage of car doors slam shut.
Panic takes over my body and I cannot control it’s trembling. My mind races with ideas of jumping over the balcony to get away, but we are two stories up and there is only pavement below us. I look at Tara with complete disbelief and alarm. She reiterates that she is here for me and continues by saying that I am going to be alright.
An echo of footsteps marching up the stairs frightens my ears. The footsteps are followed by a faint knock at the door. Oh God, they are here! Tara stands up and calls out she will be right there, before offering me her hand to help pull me to my feet. As she makes her way to the door she turns back to me and instructs me not to worry, it’s not going to hurt, but now would be a good time to call my family to tell them I love them and say goodbye.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.