Last night was a long night. A group of students and I, were hanging around the smoking area up by the lodge trading war stories, when an intern joined us.
His name is Trevor. He is athletic, young and has blonde, curly hair and hazel eyes. Him and Johnny are tight (close). However, there was an event that caused a ripple in their friendship and they are only now starting to hang around each other again.
Apparently, they escaped Narconon one night and for whatever reason, Trevor felt the need to elaborate the details. It went something along the lines of this:
“Dude, yeah Johnny and I were on a mission,” Trevor begins to explain.
“We decided that we were going to skateboard down the mountain and get dope. Johnny is from Huntington Beach area, so once we got to a phone, he knew someone that would pick us up,” he explains.
“Are you serious? Skateboards? No wonder they make me keep my skateboard locked up in the Ethics office,” Daily laughs.
“Exactly. Bro, it’s because of Johnny and me that there are no skateboards at the center anymore,” he confirms.
“Anyways, you know Ernie the night guy, is easy to get by. Johnny and I grabbed the skateboards and we made it all the way down the mountain,” he explains. “It wasn’t easy. There are gravel patches and goatheads and it was pitch dark.”
“Did you fall down?” I ask.
“I nearly biffed it (fell) multiple times,” he laughs. “Every time we saw headlights, we would grab our boards and run out into the unknown and lay down,” he admits.
“Goatheads hurt like a bitch and there are rattlesnakes, mountain lions and coyotes around here. We could hear the coyotes howling. It’s pretty terrifying when it is pitch dark outside,” he continues.
“We made it down the mountain on fucking skateboards, bro. It was nuts!” Trevor exclaims.
The entire table is chain smoking, twitching and leaning in for the details.
“Man, I probably shouldn’t be telling you this story,” he admits. “Fuck, I am an intern and we aren’t supposed to engage drug talk.”
“Bro, too late for that shit,” Gus encourages. “Well did you score some dope or what?”
“Yeah. We…” he continues.
The rest of the details are a blur to me. I know at some point, Johnny’s mom was driving behind Johnny and Trevor, so they fled the car. They got separated and they were gone for like a week and dope was in fact, scored. My mouth is salivating. I need to get high.
“Well, there is the van, I am off. Catch you later and be good,” Trevor warns, as he throws up a peace sign and heads to the van.
“Fuck, bro, I need to get high,” Gus admits.
“Hell yeah, I think we all do,” I confirm.
“Why would he tell us that story?” Gus asks.
“We got eyes on us,” Keisha acknowledges, as John Tiger strolls over.
“What’s going on? You all look guilty,” he suggests.
Tiger has an arrogance about him. Almost none of the students like him. The guys joke about him acting all hard, but how he would be biting the curb, out on the streets, if he tried to act that tough.
We decide to go down to the courtyard. We have a new female student, who has also been part of this conversation. Her name is Misty. She is from New York and has an accent that confirms it. She has jet, black hair that touches the tip of her Hispanic booty and Keisha and I, like her already.
She grabs her iPod and Juice gets his speaker. We decide to have a block party out on the steps of the courtyard. The music is really a distraction for ethics, so that we can further discuss dope.
“When I was singing in the laundry room the other day, I noticed two sets of roller blades in the cabinet,” I admit. “Too bad, I don’t know how to roller blade and also, too bad that I have size 5 feet!”
“We don’t know anyone in California though,” Keisha suggests. “I mean, Johnny is from here. It’s much easier when you have connects.”
“True, but drug addicts are crafty,” Misty says, while doing her Beyonce dance.
We spent the next hour, talking about how badly we wanted to get off the mountain and get high. Gus and I, were the most adamant and serious about finding a way. Like I said, it was a long night. Once it was lights out, I spent half the night, tossing and turning. I also had heroin dreams. I’m determined to get high, just one more time.
Today has proven, equally long. Once again, I am not approved for sauna and have to go back to the doctor tomorrow for more blood work. I have been lounging around the center for a couple weeks now, doing absolutely nothing to further my program.
A couple of days ago, I was so desperate to get high, I snorted a Benadryl. First, I attempted to smoke it on some foil I smuggled from the kitchen while on dish duty. That didn’t work. Sadly, I grabbed my Jesus Devotional and crushed the pill up between the hard cover and the front page, busted a pen and snorted it.
I only told Keisha about it. All it did was knock me out and I blew pink shit out of my nose all day yesterday. That experience, accompanied with Trevor’s story last night, has created an extreme obsession with getting high.
I’ve decided that I am going to hitch hike down the mountain and score some dope in Temecula. I don’t have any money or my drivers license, but I got good at hustling cash and am willing to take the risk. Keisha doesn’t want me to go. She fears for my safety.
“Liz, we are not far from the Mexican border,” she warns.
“Exactly,” I laugh. “Maybe some Mexican drug lord will pick me up and have some bomb ass tar.”
“Doubtful Liz. Come on. Think about it. There is a reason that everyone refers to this place as, “The Hills Have Eyes,” Liz. It’s creepy and the type of people out here, don’t want to be around people,” she explains.
“Dude, you’re not going to rat me out are you?” I ask, as I shove some belongings into my Jan Sport (backpack).
“What? Girl, no, of course not. I am just concerned about you is all,” she confesses.
“I appreciate that, but for your peace of mind, I am not a victim. I get a crazy look in my eye, that warns psycho’s to not fuck with me,” I laugh. “I guess it’s my own psycho,” I wink.
“Besides, they have to hold my bed for a week. I am just going to go get high one last time and then I will call Alex at reception and tell him that, yes, Tess Moff is expecting my fucking phone call,” I joke. We both laugh. “They will pick me up and it will be like I wasn’t even gone.”
“What if they transfer you to another center?” Are you worried about that?” She asks.
“Fuck no. They aren’t going to pay to put me on an airplane. They are full of shit girl. Why would they ship me off when it will cost them more money?” I ask, in response. “They can’t even keep us stocked in coffee and laundry detergent, they aren’t going to pay to move me.”
We both laugh hysterically at this reality. It is a running joke around here about why and how we run out of basic toiletries, food and other necessities, every week. Especially when you do the math on the head count. A hundred students at $40,000 per head, why in the world don’t we ever have laundry soap?
“What if you get caught?” She inquiries.
“That is why I am going to go right after roll call at 4:00 p.m. today. Everyone always tries to escape at night, I am going right now, while there is traffic. No one is going to miss me in class and all the staff is busy with students. It’s genius!” I exclaim.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Keisha asks. “What about Natty?”
“I know Keisha. I love Natty, but you know how dope is. Besides, I am only going to use one more time. My last shot got fucked up. I wasted half of it. I’m not going to stay gone. I can’t waste my dad’s money,” I inform her. “I’ll be right back.”
Truth is, this is addict logic, but how ridiculous of a notion. To think that I would be able to control myself and limit myself to one last shot of heroin, is absurd. If I am successful in getting off this mountain and scoring dope, I will get stuck in that life again for longer than a shot.
Only this time, I will be in a foreign state, with no friends, no vehicle and no drivers license. Of course, I am not seeing any of this. I legitimately believe that I am only leaving for a week. I can see the concern on Keisha’s face.
“I promise dude,” I say.
The 3 o’clock break is almost over and it is time for roll call. Even though I am not in class and Keisha is a sauna student, all students report to roll call. The classroom is buzzing and we have an unexpected visitor. James, one of the guys from the office is in the room. He is Tess Moff’s squeeze. We refer to him as the man behind the curtain because he signs off on our papers but we rarely see him. He is a C.S. (Case Supervisor). We can’t attest books without him signing off to it.
“Quiet down guys. I need to tell you something, before rumors spread and you hear it around the center,” James begins.
The classroom falls silent.
“We have heard from Angelica Sweden’s mother today,” he continues.
Angelica Sweden, or as we know her, Angel, graduated three days ago. She is 18 and beautiful. Perfect, youthful skin, a great smile and a cute dermal piercing by her eye. She is short, like me and thin. Like Nancy Steam, she has blonde streaks through her hair. Salon quality.
I didn’t know her at all. I think we spoke all of three sentences to each other, but not because we didn’t like each other. That happens when new students come in sometimes. She was focused on graduating and we just didn’t hang out.
“I’m sorry, there is no easy way to say this, so I am just going to come right out with it. Angel went home and used. She overdosed and died,” James informs us.
The complete silence of the room is shattered with a collective gasp, muffled sobs and outbursts of weeping. Several students turn to their neighboring student, seeking comfort from each other.
“I understand that this is a difficult time for many of you and it is for that reason, I am excusing class for the remainder of the day. If you want to stay in class and work, you are more than welcome to. If you don’t want to, then you are excused. We are all available to talk,” James informs us.
“I just want to say that this is tragic. It goes to show how serious it is when you get an idea that you can use, just one more time. One more time, may end up being your last time,” he continues.
“If any of you feel like you need to make a phone call, we will have the phones in the Ethics office open and like I said, if you need to talk to any of the staff, we are all here for you. Thank you and I am sorry,” James finishes.
My heart is racing. My eyes tear up. I didn’t know this girl, but I do know that she was loved by many around the center. I also know she was only 18 years old and so beautiful.
James words resonate with me, “One more time, may end up being your last time.” I feel this message was directly meant for me. It was like God was speaking to me. After roll call, I was, literally grabbing my backpack and hitch hiking down the mountain. I’m speechless.
“You want to go back to our room?” Keisha asks.
“Yes,” I reply.
“Dude, what the fuck. Oh my God,” I mutter, while grabbing my backpack. “That was God, Keisha. That was God in my face!”
“It’s weird. I can’t believe it,” she says. I can see she is wearing the same shock on her face.
“I didn’t know her, but damn. I don’t know how to handle this,” I confess. I begin to unpack my backpack.
“I don’t really know a lot about God,” Keisha admits.
“What? You’re not a Christian?” I ask. I don’t know why I assumed she was. Probably because she is one of the sweetest souls I have ever met, it wouldn’t make sense for her not to know Christ.
“No. My parents never really installed faith in me or made me go to church,” she continues.
“I mean, I am not anti-God. I just don’t know much about Jesus,” she says.
“Does it bother you when I talk about God?” I ask.
“No. It fascinates me a little. Your faith I mean. I mean, it is weird that you were just saying you wanted to use one more time and packed a bag and then we got this news, minutes before you were taking off,” she confesses.
I have an opportunity to witness here. In fact, I can feel God nudging at me to do so, but I ignore him. It will always be one of my biggest regrets, not doing so. Keisha remains one of my best friends, to this day and I wanted to share the good news. I just didn’t feel that I was worthy to witness, when I was a lying, hypocritical, thieving, drug addict, so I didn’t.
“So are you still going?” She asks. She knows I am not. I am unpacking and in a panic.
“No. No way,” I reply. “That was God, in my face, telling me that one more time might be my last time. I can’t do that to my family. Especially my daughter.”
Keisha and I, make our way outside. There are students walking on the track with counselors, others crying on the benches where we smoke and a few have stayed in the course room.
“I need to call my dad,” I inform Keisha.
“Okay. I am going to get coffee. Meet you in the lodge?” She asks.
“Sure. Sounds good,” I reply.
I make my way down to the office. I can hear sobbing coming from every direction. My old roommates, Coco and Chanel are very upset. Angel was their roommate. In fact, I took Angel’s old top bunk when I first got to the center. I want to go over to them, but I can see they are helping each other through it and I don’t know what I would say.
My father doesn’t answer the phone. I try his cell phone twice, but he must be in a meeting at work, so I call my sister. Aiden is in the Ethics Office and is staring at me, while I dial frantically.
My sister picks up and I lose complete control. I am bawling uncontrollably and I admit to her about my plans to leave. I outline the details of my escape and even mention that my bag was packed. My sister isn’t a big, “God” person either, but allows for me to express how I believe that God was in my face, warning me.
“I feel horrible and the worst part is a girl died Christmas (my sister’s name). She was only 18 and she just graduated and I can’t fucking believe it. Somehow, I have managed to make this about me!” I exclaim, still sobbing. Aiden looks both shocked and concerned. I am not sure if it is because I am crying, or because he just overheard my escape plans.
“Liz. It’s not that you are making it about you. You are just sharing how it has affected you directly. You didn’t know the girl. It’s not that you aren’t mourning her loss, or that you don’t care how everyone else is affected by her death, it’s that what affects you, is the fact that you were leaving and now you’re not because of her death,” my sister explains.
“Yeah but I feel selfish. This young, beautiful girl has passed away and all I can think about is how I planned on using one more time and how it could have been me. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I stop thinking about heroin?” I ask.
“I only made out about half of what you said Liz,” Christmas admits. This causes both of us to chuckle a little. There is nothing funny about this conversation; however, I am weeping, whimpering and hyperventilating and the way my sister expressed that she can’t understand me, was for an intentional ice breaking moment, created to laugh.
My sister is not really good at comforting tears. She always goes for the laugh because emotions make her uncomfortable. Still, I appreciate that she allowed me to get all of these emotions off of my chest. I didn’t want to have an outbreak in front of other students. Especially those who really knew Angel. I thank Aiden for letting me use the phone, before making my way to the lodge. As I make my way past mourning students, I think to myself, Heaven gained another Angel…