After arriving back home, I went to my room, closed the door, completely undressed then sat down at the computer and deleted all email addresses, references to, and spreadsheets containing customer names, their phone numbers, their preferences and dislikes. I scoured my room looking for any traces of drugs and paraphernalia. Dave and June had left me to do this task because they thought, and I agreed, that I needed to do it.
All was well until the bottom drawer of the dresser that Dave and June had given me to use during my stay… which looked to be on a permanent basis so long as I toed the line, and wanted to live with them. As I was moving bed sheets aside in the bottom drawer, looking for 'stuff', I found an almost full bag of coke nestled deep in amongst condoms, an anal vibrator, lube and other items for sex, sex and more sex. Beside the baggie lay several needles - both used and new, straws, syringes, razor blades - both used and new, and a mirror.
Unable to lean over any longer, I sat down on the floor and looked at those things; no I stared at them. I was transfixed, spellbound, paralyzed, and wanting. What would just a little bit hurt? I would do it just that one time and then get rid of the rest. The next thought was that I would use that dope in any way that I could, and that I would use all of it until it was gone and then I'd go looking for more. Worse yet, I'd do anything I could do, leaving no rock unturned, to get more.
I could not get out of my mind all the fun times that the drugs had created and sustained in my 13 years of life on the planet. I could not get out of my mind the last visions, feelings and desires of the boy I had loved so very, very much. I remembered standing there looking into his eyes, seeing only pain and loneliness as I turned away and entered the Escalade that would take me to my new home far, far away.
Turning my attentions back to the devil, I realized that I was caught in its clutches. It was calling me, it was begging me to take it from its confines, to put it into my body so that I could no longer feel, see, need or experience.
Sweat began running off my face; my hands began shaking and continued to shake; sweat was pouring off my neck and running down the middle of my chest soaking my shirt, and I felt trickles of sweat running down each side of my balls then rolling down my perineum and settling in my underwear making them wet; my heartbeat quickened to the point where it felt it was like a runaway train heading toward some not too far away mountain with the tracks ending only 5 feet away from its ending point that would be stopped by only a twig; my temples were pounding like a dozen jackhammers making their way through that one half inch bony cavern protecting my obsessing brain from external traumas, yet it kept trapped the mad mayhem going on within its synapses.
I tightly closed my eyes, hoping against hope to keep those tears from falling. I knew that, in that time and space, if they were to start then they would never end. Oh eventually they would, all tears dry up at some point in time.
There was only one thing left to do.
As if on autopilot, my hand reached into the drawer, retrieved a syringe then my body got up from its perch on the floor, walked to the door to my room, unlocked it, opened it and then padded to the bathroom, closed and locked the door, and then halfway filled the syringe with tap water from the sink, took it back to my room, closed the door, and then sat back down on the floor, retrieved the mirror then poised the mirror in its correct position for maximal effect then cut a large line with the razor blade, and then put enough of the powder, the method to get away, if only for a little while, into the syringe, locked the needle in place, popped the top and then shook the apparatus to rid it of air bubbles. I laid the apparatus on the mirror because I needed to find a tourniquet. Not finding anything usable, I sat back down and found a good vein by squeezing the upper end of my non-dominate arm. Satisfied, I picked up the syringe, and then stared at it unmoving. My world went fuzzy.
I was too far gone to see, to feel, to experience, to think, to start, to stop, to decide, to rationalize anything, to justify anything, to put it down, to put it into the vein just waiting. Nothing mattered. Not Nathan. Not June. Not Dave. Not Wayne, he was history. Not Derrick. Not Ma's memory. Not Christopher. Not Jerrod. Not dad. Not nofuckinganybody. Not even me. The serpent had me in its clutches.
I don't know how long I sat there. Time had no meaning, space meant nothing, reality was an illusion, and illusion was reality.
Unaware that anyone had entered the room, then from out of the blue I heard a soft feminine voice say just above a whisper, "Do you need some help?"
I turned my head toward that voice belonging to June, looked deeply into her eyes. In them, I saw nothing but love and compassion, and a desire to do nothing more than to help.
I picked the syringe up from its temporary resting place and held it suspended in midair, not knowing what to do with it, yet knowing exactly what it would bring.
When I didn't say anything, she sat down on the floor next to me, took the syringe from my hand, carefully checked it for air bubbles, and after finding none, she laid it back down on the floor after putting its cap back on, reached for the belt on her terrycloth robe, removed it and then took my arm in hers where she tied it and then patted my forearm. Two great big veins, veins that had not been fucked up by other trips to the Serpent proudly stood out amongst smaller ones.
She took my face in her hands and gently turned me toward her, "Are you ready, Joey?"
I nodded slowly but everything was happening so fast… the train was on a dead run toward that twig that I expected would stop that runaway steaming locomotive.
Then an amazing thing happened… the mountain disappeared as did the twig. My mind was telling me that there was nothing but smooth sailing ahead. What I did not know was that another train was rocketing down the train tracks from the opposite direction, and that it was hidden by the curve. Everything became calm and surreal. That was the moment of all moments, or so it seemed since there were no other moments at that time, just one moment was all that was there… and it was peaceful. Gracefully, as if carefully orchestrated, I reached down to the mirror, picked up the syringe, popped the top exposing the needle - a shiny new one, and then poised it directly atop the fully expanded vein. I would have sworn that it was visibly pulsing in time with each and every beat of my heart.
But then something stopped me from taking that next to the last plunge to freedom. June laid her hand on my forearm and supported my wildly shaking hands then said softly, "My love for you has been developing and growing, Joey. I've had loss in my life before and will again, but nobody close to me has died in my arms, do you want me to hold you as you go off into the next world, I will if you want me to… Before you go, "Do you want to tell Nathan goodbye first? Would you like for him to hold you so that your head does not hit the concrete floor beneath your falling body? Do you want to show him how it's done so that when his time comes he will know how to do it properly? Do you want him to join you in that everlasting place you are headed to?"
I put my head down. The pounding in my temples, the jackhammer working at full speed, the locomotive running full speed into that mountain that had reappeared suddenly… essentially my life passed before my eyes right then and there. Adding to that, Christopher's shattered head lying apart from his corpse and several spurts of liquid geysers of red shooting from that which his head had sat upon came flooding into my consciousness, and then the visions of seeing my dad lying quietly in its state of death on that putrid green carpeting, and then the vision of Jerrod's lifeless body with a needle sticking up and out of his lifeless arm, and then the vision of the fucker's head exploding - the same guy who had taken my virginity away for the very first time, and then the guy at the bar who I personally blew his head off for taking my virginity for the second time… how can someone take your virginity away for the second or third times… these thoughts were all pressing their presence behind my eyeballs, all at one time, all in the very same slice of time. Nothing made sense, yet it all made sense.
Quietly, I whispered my reply, "No, you can save him. I'm ready. I can't take this anymore."
"Joey, before you go, let me tell you something. It's something I've wanted to tell you since you came back from that dead place."
I shrugged my shoulders and then looked into her eyes, then looked away. I found a place in the deep burgundy colored carpet where I stared aimlessly.
When she didn't speak, I turned my head toward her then nodded.
"I love you."
Those simple words… they changed my life forever.
"My name is Joey. I'm a drug addict. My life is out of control. I can't stop the fucking train. Please help me."
At about the same time the train stopped, I began receiving letters with a postmark in Kansas but with no specific return address on them. All around the periphery were colorful depictions of horses, cows, chickens, a corral with a deer in its center, stick figures all over the place, goats, fucking goats of all damn things, a sunup in one corner and a sunset covering the entire bottom half of the envelope.
The first envelope was empty. That was incredibly weird so as more came in I simply dumped them into the desk drawer unopened … that is, until one came that had written on the lower left hand corner "Open This One!" It also had a return address with only a P. O. Box number and Wichita, Kansas.
Carefully, I opened the envelope and out fell a 3x5 card. The only writing on the card read "Write ME. Love you more than you will ever know!" S.M.
I knew no one with those initials, and certainly no one in some bumfuck backwoods place in Kansas.
Just as I was putting it in the stack with the other envelopes June called to me and said it was time to meet up with my new friends. After letting me off at the place where the guys and gals and I were meeting, she drove off after saying she was meeting with some of her friends down at the café and would pick me up later.
The guys and girls, many of whom were about my same age told their life histories of unimaginable terror, pain, aloneness, despair, dope, booze, replaced now with hope and a way of life without having to, or wanting to use. Two of the guys, and 3 of the girls shared their stories of basically living on the streets, doing whatever they could and needed to do to put aside the pressures of their family lives, lack of family lives, poorness, not knowing where the next meal would come from. Two of the boys told of their tricking, and how they acquired hepatitis through the use of dirty needles. Another boy found out that very morning that he had HIV. He was crying. I handed him a Kleenex from a box sitting on the table. He nodded appreciating the gesture. When he continued to sob his story out from his guts, I pushed the box of Kleenex toward him and then laid my hand on his forearm.
Slowly he gained a modicum of composure and then went on with his story… he could have lived in my shoebox; we could have been twins, yet I knew we weren't, not really, not in the conventional sense of the word, yet we were twins in every way except blood. His name was Charles.
Right after Charles finished his story we took a break and went outside to smoke cigarettes. I gave Charles one and then lit his cigarette for him, and then, unable to stop myself, I drew him into my arms, hugged him deeply, a hug that he returned readily and completely.
With tears in my eyes, I asked Charles solemnly looking into his eyes, "Bruddahs?"
"Yeah, okay, sure, no problem, Bruddahs with different sperm and egg donors." He grinned.
After we finished smoking, we went back inside, and took our seats. An older guy (maybe 25 or so) shared about how he caved the previous weekend. We welcomed him back with open arms.
Two or three other people shared from their hearts about their victories for another day, and while a girl of maybe 17 was sharing, June walked into the room and took a seat at the far end of the table. Our eyes met… she was smiling. I didn't know what to think with her being there but smiled and shrugged my shoulders warmly.
Two other people shared and then it was her turn. "My name's June. I'm a cocaine addict with 17 years clean time, thank God. Normally, I go to professional meetings but I thought I'd get to know my brothers and sisters here who have the same problem and the same solution that I do."
"HI JUNE!" Everybody thunderously said in unison.
She shared for a little while and then passed. It was my turn to say something.
"I'm Joey. I'm an addict. I'm clean and sober today."
Suddenly, a wave of nausea nearly overtook me. I ran into the bathroom and promptly puked up my guts and then felt better almost immediately. After washing my face with wet paper towels, I went back into the room feeling somewhat better but my eyes were a bit blurry, and they would not clear no matter what I did. They do that sometimes. Usually they clear by themselves in a matter of minutes.
June was busy talking to an older lady but turned her head and after seeing me she came over, gave me a hug and then said, "You don't look so good. Let's head home and get you into bed. You're probably just really tired; it's been a long day."
I agreed, and after Charles invited me in for a hug, we left. After getting in our vehicle, I said somberly, "I didn't know."
"No, you didn't know because I didn't tell you. The time just wasn't right, Joey. You aren't alone anymore, bud. I have the same problem. Listen to those people, they have solutions so that we don't have to use, no matter what."
Just as we got to speed on the freeway back home, I yelled, "JUNE STOP THE CAR, I'M SICK!" as a violent wave of nausea took over my entire body. I began shaking, sweating, and I saw nothing… nothing at all.
She got the vehicle stopped just as I heave hoed out the open window, at the same time losing my bowels from retching so violently and so completely. She came around to my side of the vehicle, opened the door and I fell out and landed on my hands and knees in the cold, slushy slop where I continuously and violently retched as hard as I had ever retched in my entire life that also sent trails of pent up waste products from my south end.
June had her arms around me holding me up as yet another wave hit violently. The last thing I remember was my face landing in the slush, and then oblivion, utter and complete blind oblivion.
Two days later, I became aware of beep-beep-beep-beeps from a heart monitor, IV's in and out of all my extremities and other tubes in and out of every bodily orifice, even my rectum. I hurt badly; my chest felt like a Mac truck had ran me over… the very next thought was 'the train had arrived'. I couldn't move. Even my eyes hurt. If my hair had had sensory perception, even it would have been in agony.
Finally, I did open my eyes. Bright lights were shining down on me. I was totally naked but I was warm, and then recognized that the overhead lights were heat lamps. Using every ounce of strength I could gather, I first looked to my left. Dave was sitting there, dozing, his face held by his hands. I attempted to reach out however immediately realized my arms could move no more than an inch at best. They were tied to the bed. I tried to speak, however a tube was in my throat. Nothing audible would come out despite my best efforts. Weakly, I turned my head to the other side and saw June sitting at the foot of my bed in another chair. She too was dozing; her hands too were holding her face. I tried moving my legs however they too were tied to the bed somehow. I tried moving my hips because my back was hurting so damn bad. I was able to move two or three inches, and then exhausted from the effort I dropped my butt down on the bed.
June looked up. I tried to smile but my mouth was taped shut with a tube down my throat, and then the most gawd awful shrieking sound came from all around me. I tried to move but nothing would move. My arms felt like lead weights. My feet would not move because they too seemed to weigh one thousand times more than normal.
June flew out of her hair, came to my side, took my hand in hers and squeezed firmly after seeing my eyes awake and my face grimacing from my efforts to move about.
By that time, nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel came running into the room. A crash cart was being wheeled in, everything was happening in a blur of time and space. June refused to relinquish her position at my side saying that I was simply coming out of the coma, I was trying to breathe on my own, and that the worst thing that was happening was that I was frightened and scared, and then told them to leave just as fast as they had arrived.
When just she and Dave and I were alone, she rubbed my forehead with a wet washcloth while speaking quietly and assuredly saying that all was okay, and for me to rest and relax and take it easy. Dave leaned down several times and whispered soothingly that everything was okay now, and that he was glad I was back from the brink of collapse.
June removed the restraining leather straps from my arms and legs after giving me instructions to not grab any of the tubes running in and out of my body. I nodded my compliance. Then she told me that she was going to give me a bed bath and observe my breathing carefully and if I breathed normally, on my own then she'd remove the breathing tube.
I'm was not used to people giving me baths so while it was somewhat uncomfortable, she kept at it, mainly because I could not argue, nor did I really want to argue as her touches were calming and soothing.
When she was about done with my bath, she took some tubes out of both my groins, and then reached between my legs and I felt something leave my asshole. She reassured me by saying that I had had profuse diarrhea and they had put that tube in to keep me from soiling myself and the bed.
All said and done, the only tubes remaining were the ones for IV support, the catheter in my bladder, a tube draining my stomach contents (she explained each one and its purpose to allay my fears), and the big tube down my throat that had assisted me with breathing. After both June and Dave lovingly massaged down my body with baby lotion, June raised up the head of the bed and explained that she was going to remove the breathing tube since I was exchanging air just fine. That was a trip, but I was glad it too was gone!
I tried to speak however only a squeak escaped from my voice box. The harder I tried the worse the squeak was. Calmly she said, "Rest easy, Joey. You probably won't be able to speak for a while. That tube pushed your vocal cords aside and they got very weak."
Dave had left right after finishing my massage but came back a short time later, after the breathing tube had been removed. I looked toward the door to the cubicle… both he and Nathan were standing there. Dave looked nervous and concerned and worried. He had his arm around Nathan's shoulders. Nathan was looking at the floor; he had tears dripping from his eyes; his hair was disheveled; from what little I could see of his eyes, they were bloodshot, and incredibly sad. He spoke up brokenly, "Did Joey die forever this time? Please tell me. I need to know."
Dave led Nathan to the side of my bed where I took his hand in mine and squeezed firmly, "I'm not dead." I croaked, sounding like a frog.
Croak or not, Nathan's eyes popped wide open, an ear to ear smile enveloped his face, and without a second thought he drew me into a hug second to none, a hug that I eagerly returned to the best of my abilities as I was so weak and tired.
When our moment passed, he stood up and said angrily, "You died on me twice, you son of a bitch, GOD DAMN YOU!" With that said, he took off running out of the ICU cubicle. Dave tried to grab his arm but missed. Softly, he said to me, "He's very, very upset, just give him some time, Joey. I'll go find him and calm him down."
That said, Dave left and June came over, pulled up a chair. I said just above a whisper, "What does he mean … I died twice?"
With a tear threatening to spill from her left eye, she said, "Joey, the first time happened when you collapsed after getting out of the truck… you were sick to your stomach… do you remember getting sick?"
I nodded then added, "I landed in the slush and then everything went black."
"You had cardiac arrest. A bystander helped me to get you onto the sidewalk and out of the snow and slush where I initiated cardiac massage and artificial breathing. The second time you nearly died was after arriving in the ER. Actually, you had a third cardiac arrest here in the ICU, but Nathan didn't know about that one because I didn't tell him. He has been devastated, Joey."
"What happened, I mean why?"
"Joey, your toxicology screen came back highly positive for cocaine. Joey, I have to ask you a question that I do not want to ask but the answer will solve the riddle…"
I interrupted, knowing what she was about to ask, "No, I did not use. I swear! I promised I wouldn't!"
"I believe you, but I had to know for absolute certainty. Here is what we think happened…"
She went on to explain that cocaine use over a relatively long period of time stores the chemicals up in the bone marrow, fat cells, in the brain, in the kidney and liver tissues, and even in normal cells, and that it is very possible for the body to 'dump' those chemicals back into the blood stream for unknown reasons. Then she said that Nathan had seen me "Code" in the ER because she had called Dave on her ride to the hospital with me, and they met us there just as we rolled in.
June was interrupted when Derrick appeared and came into the ICU cubicle and walked over to me and then leaned in and with tears in his eyes, hugged me deeply, and then kissed my lips not caring who was watching us. I returned his kiss then looked up first to Dave and then to June. Dave shrugged his shoulders. June smiled.
Just then, Nathan appeared at the doorway. He stood there looking at me intently not knowing what to do or to say.
June said softly to Nathan, "We're going to step outside. I believe that you and Joey have something to talk about. We'll be right outside, not far away."
Nathan nodded, however the look in his eyes suggested to me that he was about to bolt again. Derrick led Nathan to the side of my bed and then sat him on the chair that June had vacated, leaned over and whispered something in his ears. Nathan shrugged his shoulders and then nodded.
I reached over and ran my hand through Nathan's hair and then urged him to stand up where I reached up to give him a hug. He collapsed and cried so hard spilling out his pain onto my chest making the electrodes wet and setting off yet another round of shrieking monitor sounds, startling us both. Soon the shrieking monitors ceased their incessant squawking, and, at first, Nathan was afraid to touch me again, but, I'd have no part of that and took hold of his hand again.
After Nathan adjusted himself so that he was half sitting on the chair and lying across my upper body, I said, "Nathan, I didn't use drugs again. June explained that my body had been storing them up in my bone marrow, fat cells (I made a big deal of pinching non-existent fat on my belly, he giggled), even my brain. For some unknown reason, she doesn't know why, my body released a massive load of those stored up drugs into my system, and well, it was too much for my heart to stand all at once so it stopped."
"You were dead, Joey. I saw you. They were ready to stop… Joey, they were about done with you. I told them not to stop…" Nathan said and then began crying again. I rubbed the back of his head in little circles with my hand hoping to calm him down. After that wave of sadness passed through his little head, he looked up and added, "Joey, what would I do without you? What would Skeeter do without you?"
That caught my attention, "What do you mean? Skeeter doesn't live here anymore. He's gone. Buzz said that the last time we went to the park, remember?"
"You really are a dumb ass!" Nathan giggled uncontrollably.
"What do you mean, I'm a dumb ass?"
"Yeah, you're a dumb ass. The writing is on the wall, bro. Pay attention for a change willya."