A series of events occurred late last night. I’ll happily provide a brief summary if you don’t have the patience to rummage through the forthcoming ramble: I ended up in the hospital last night, then in handcuffs, and finally in the detox clinic where the crazy man who loudly urinates beside the 7-11 and I made acquaintance. Okay, the last part is false—I didn’t have the opportunity to make friends with Burlington’s impoverished as I was utterly alone in a tiny, dark cubicle with a bed like marble. I’m situated at a cheap wooden desk. The heat at Comfort Inn is not cooperating. I am flustered, cold, and am currently keeping myself sane with Kid A and my parents’ unfailing love and concern. The consensus is that I should leave the Green Mountains and return home, back to Virginia, back to the car dealerships and NASCAR enthusiasts, to get myself together.
“Did this happen to you when you were eighteen?”
Maybe, maybe not. It was my half-birthday last night. Had I been home, we would’ve commemorated the occasion with Make-Your-Own Taco night and cupcakes courtesy of Bloom Grocery. In college, I celebrate with cheap vodka. Perhaps some things are best left as a novelty; a special circumstance.
So, I drink. I chase my worries with Red Bull and impulse. I vehemently ignore the fact that I had recently ingested two times the anti-depressant medication my brain, which, at the moment, is deteriorating more and more into oblivion with every swig, is accustomed to. There is an overabundance of serotonin pulsating through my bloodstream and it finds itself being threatened by an obscene amount of alcohol.
There is no struggle. My body shuts down.
Marla and I are walking to a party nearby. Suddenly, I am sitting. What compelled me to sit down? It’s not a far walk and I should certainly hurry along because my jacket is MIA and the temperature would make the Titanic kiddies cringe. I am sitting and crying. There are bright lights. I am oddly comforted by the navy blue uniforms. I find public safety to be surprisingly unintimidating. They blend well with the night sky.
Marla better be on her way now.
“What did you take? How many pills did you take?”
What pills? I’m not usually the pill-popping type. I’m just a little girl far from home who thinks that it’s time to go to bed.
I had learned to crawl, speak, walk, and run so long ago. At this moment, I only remember how to sob. Even breathing—breathing!—must be aided by an oxygen mask.
The lights are so blinding it’s almost violent. The doctor(s) are friendly. They all seem so young. I tell myself that I am in a campus building, perhaps the fire and rescue station, and the doctors and nurses are all students, like me. The police officer pacing outside is really a student, like me. My doctor looks like Doogie Howser and he softly informs me of what I had done. My brain is weeping.
I don’t understand why I am in handcuffs. I’m just a little girl who likes to read and write stories, a little girl very far from the comfort of her home, and I am in handcuffs. I am being placed in a police car. Why must I be transported back to campus like a criminal?
“I could bring you to jail,” he says with a blank expression.
Jail? No. No. No. No. No. Please, please, sir. Bring me back to my bedroom where I can sleep away the pain that I cannot drink away. I am not a bad person! Please, drive me directly to 410 and see the schedule that has been intricately taped above my bed. Look at the letter my mom wrote me before school. She didn’t think I could do it, Officer. She really loves me and wants me to good. Look at the self-help books I have on the shelf and Hopeline’s website forever archived on my computer.
“Or I can bring you to a detox center. You will be released once your BAC has gone down.”
Officer! No, officer! This doesn’t happen to daughters. My body is on fire. Ignore the hookah and empty beer cans strewn across the floor! Look at this paper, some random paper—I got an A! Sixth months ago, I received this beautiful wooden wall ornament that proclaims in funky, happy text: “The road home is never far!”
Downtown is empty. I am coatless, phoneless. I am utterly alone. There’s a garage, like my garage, and I’m being taken into my living room. My living room harbors literature regarding drug addiction and AIDS. My bedroom is so much smaller than I remember. It consists of a single twin bed, a garbage can, and a plastic chair.
My entire worth has been diminished to a bed, a trashcan, and a plastic chair.
“Go to sleep.” I dream of my friends. Even Lauren and Noah, despite being gone for so long, want to see me. I walk into a large room, so large it appears almost infinite, with windows from the floor to the ceiling and red couches everywhere. Where should I sit?
My friend Mike brushes the cushions onto the floor. “Sit right here where we can all see you! Tell us what happened!”
It’s such a sad, sad story you see. Yet I am beaming. They care so much.
“It all began about a year ago…”
My friends fade into a figure situated on my right.
“… I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression.”
It’s a girl maybe a little older than I am, and she’s very pretty. Even her teeth and voice are gorgeous. She nods empathetically. She too struggled with her drug intake, both medicinal and spiritually medicinal. I fail the Breathalyzer. As punishment, I go back to sleep.
I awake. My time perception is non-existent. There is no window, but I imagine the sun rising above the frost. I wonder whether or not I’m supposed to pee in the trashcan.
I slowly open the door and am assaulted by more fluorescent lights and confusion. The bathroom has no mirror. I wash my face and dry myself with sandpaper cruelly disguised as a paper towel.
In the real world, it’s afternoon. My dad has already boarded the airplane; he is silently gracious for the frequent flier miles that have been racking up since ’96.
The cab driver smiles, “Had a bit too much fun last night, huh?” He chuckles.
I share the ride back to Essex with an older man, stocky and red-haired. He would have to pay an extra $3 if the driver brought him to CVS to pick up cigarettes. See, his girlfriend likes those American Spirits, but he doesn’t. Gotta buy the real thing. Oh well, he’ll walk the extra four blocks. His girlfriend “insisted” he come home early.
The campus regards me as a liability waiting to happen. They assign a woman to watch over me, a babysitter, for the next few hours to make sure I don’t jump out a window. She’s a snarky bitch.
Dad is parked by the Virgin Mary statue. His disappointment is made evident by that condescending businessman tone he uses whenever I screw up. I haven’t eaten all day.
We pull into the Friendly’s parking lot. I walk over to him.
“Now, give me a real hug,” he says as I am pulled into an embrace that is long overdue.
Comfort Inn. There is a very large mirror in the bathroom. I look drained. I feel nothing.
I’m working on a paper. Dad jokes, “Want to quote me?”
“There’s an old Saturday Night Live sketch, way back in the day—first season maybe? Anyway, it’s Chevy Chase and John Belusi and they’re writers for this newspaper. So they’re slaving away and getting fed up because there really isn’t anything worth reporting. Suddenly, Belusi hops up and shouts, “I got it! How about ‘Mad Man Kills People’?!” He grabs a machete located conveniently under his desk and jumps out the window.” Laughter ensues.
I find this oddly inspirational.
– Alanna Paige Young, 19 years old, Washington, D.C.
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