Ever try to quit something and find you can't, it's too difficult? Join the group and see if they can help. Personally, I doubt they can. But I do guarantee you soon won't worry about why you came in the first place!
Addicts are us, messed up losers—you know the kind: coke heads, overeaters, serious self harmers/suicide groupies, sex addicts—each of them so completely fucked up they finally end up in a kind of terminal rehab center which is what this place was.
Yes, the Big House gave such places free reign to run themselves as they saw fit. They were after all evaluation centers to review the clients’ varying addictions and to best access what the next step was, that was what Executive Management said, what they did however was another matter.
Joe knew. He had taken the job happily ages ago but now he found his second thoughts had third, fourth and fifth thoughts.
But there was worse, there always is.
Joe sighed. He was Director, Houseman, whatever anyone wanted to call it—that was okay with him.
In truth, he ran the place—this weigh station, recovery home, haven—care facility.
Actually, he thought of it as ‘losers are us.’ The place where the lost, the hopeless, the monumentally fucked up finally end up—in short it was the repository for addicts. He ran the men’s section.
He saw the new batch arrive in the van nicknamed Pegasus. Someone with a misplaced sense of humor named it that because if that horse flew, these poor bastards were now to be grounded for an indeterminate time (to say the least).
As always, Joe welcomed them: “We are going to sort you out-to evaluate you and send you on your way. It’s not so bad you’ll see.”
“What do you mean, ‘we’? I just see you, man.”
Ah trouble, right away and in the shape of a skinny little kid with attitude.
Scott, recent jailbird and dull-eyed wonder at 19 was not impressed. “This place sucks!”
“But you just got here! Give us time!”
Scott lets loose a stream of abuse but Joe wasn’t bothered. “Your nose is bleeding Scott.”
“How do you know my name?”
“We get briefed.”
“Yeah, so what does that make me?”
It was always the same. “It makes you putty in the system’s hands kid, better get used to it.”
“Look, the judge told me he was sending me here and that was it.” “Which judge was that, Scott?”
“I don’t know—the one I just saw. What’s it to you anyway?”
A murmur of laughter from the other losers and Scott looks proud of himself.
No one says anything. The only reaction is from Albert who deliberately lets one monumental fart rip as a kind of comment.
“That’s disgusting!” This they nearly all respond to—waving their hands in front of their faces. “Christ almighty!”
Albert didn’t laugh—he was the most seriously disturbed. He wore bracelets on both his wrists these were the white dressings that covered his most recent suicide attempt, even his scars had scars. Poor Al.
Joe knew. He had the notes. Predestination came into it. In Al’s case he had a crazy mother who tried to drown him when he was ten.
“Why did you do that Mrs. Fugle?”
“The voices told me, your honor. Blame them!”
Mom went to the state hospital and little Al got shuffled around in a succession of foster homes where he was beaten or abused in some way.
By the time he went to high school he was fitted out with a nice green and white Viking football helmet because he liked to run down the halls crashing head first into the walls.
The other kids (those deemed normal) laughed—because they weren’t crazy, not like Al anyway.
Al used to laugh too, not understanding the joke was on him.
Eventually he left school and found himself working with some charitable concern that had him making ash trays but their supplier died and his son didn’t want to bother with that charity ‘crap’ as he called it so the charitable concern looked elsewhere but their days were numbered anyway because their funds were cut off when the new governor was elected.
Go fight City Hall, yeah and if you think that’s bad try the State Capitol sometime.
So what was Scott’s story? Ah Scott. Both parents were addicts, Mom sold herself for nickel bags on the street until she OD’d in an alley with a furious pimp pissed off because she hadn’t turned any tricks that night. Meanwhile Scott’s dad was run over on the way to the VA hospital where he was being treated for various medical conditions he had sustained as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. He also had an addiction to morphine all this from having served in a war he no longer recalled having been in.
With both parents gone, Scott found himself in and out of teen homes and what they call social care centers. Not the kind of places a kid should be in because some of the staff liked to molest young boys.
Ever resourceful, Scott learned to use a switchblade. “I’m going to cut it off Mack so you ain’t never going to be able to use it again.”
Slice, slice only he missed and the perv tried to kill him by pushing him out of a 3 story window but Scott didn’t die. His legs got mangled but they fixed him up real good in St. Clare’s Hospital where an old lady felt so sorry for him she gave him 10 dollars to buy a robe, but he bought crack with it instead.
“What do I need a robe for?”
He gets sent up to Rikers when he pulls a heist in Washington Heights that’s supposed to be a sure thing—some liquor store. His partner gets shot through the right eye and is dead at the scene and Scott is caught.
The detective who collars him comes from the 34th precinct. He’s just come back on duty after bereavement leave. His daughter was run over and killed by joy riders, high on crack.
This cop has no time for druggies. “Here’s one Sarge.”
The desk sergeant takes a look at the kid and actually feels sorry for him but Scott who is his own worst enemy spits on him and gets cracked in the head for it.
Night court hours later and a nice bus ride to Rikers where he meets a few queens and gets initiated.
After two weeks, he’s tried to hang himself and cut his throat with a broken plastic fork after which he somehow gets up to the roof threatening to jump.
They talked him down.
He gets expressed over to Bellevue where he gets shot full of Thorazine—winds up being assessed for two months and finally (somehow) winds up with a habit far worse than the one he ever had.
He gets released and is sent to a hostel that is run by a church. Things are looking up but some pusher he owes money to, spots him and instead of beating him up, shoots him up with enough drugs to kill him.
He doesn’t die, but switches back to crack. This he manages to get in the next treatment center, after which he escapes and gets shot by a cop.
“But you recovered, Scott so when did you see the judge who sent you here?”
Scott doesn’t know his brain is fried.
“Okay, it doesn’t matter.” Joe tries to smile but it is so not easy, might as well carry on: “Okay, let me tell you all what we’re going to do today. Today’s introduction day. We’re going to sit around in a circle and…”
Scot raises his hand. “Why a circle, teach?”
“Because I fucking say so, okay?” Joe felt that cleared the air and turned toward a weasly looking little guy. “They call you Spider, right?”
Red gums and rotten teeth get flashed big time and Spider nods.
And then before Spider can say one thing a big black man shouts: “Yeah but they should call you child molester man. You like little girls, don’t ya?”
“That’ll be quite enough, Denby. You’re no Boy Scout either!” Said Denby is hurt and furious at the same time but Joe doesn’t care: “You gambled away your home; you’ve robbed and mugged people in order to gamble. Your wife became depressed and your children went into care. That’s nothing to be proud of.”
“But I ain’t no deviant at least! Like him!”
Spider was trembling. “Look, I always get this. I’ll be God damned if I know why they didn’t separate me…I never get put in with the…”
“Normal? You think you’re all normal. You’re all here because of how loused up you are! What are ya nuts?!”
Joe nearly had to call security. “Shut up all of you. Otherwise I can send you to the quiet room.”
He got waved off for that. “That’s cool, dude. I just go to sleep in them places.”
“Not in our quiet room”, Joe smiled. “It gets awfully hot in there.”
“Oh yeah, why’s that?”
“It’s part of the treatment program.”
For some reason, they looked startled by that. Joe was pleased. It would make things easier. But then he notices Scott is busy sniffing the air in between wiping his bloody nostrils.
“Stop that and sit down, Scott.”
Scott stuck his tongue out at him and Joe shook his head. It was like a kindergarten in here sometimes.
“Okay look, let’s move this thing along.” Joe turned toward Spider. “Now your real name is George Hughes…”
Spider looked pleased to talk about himself. “Yes it is. My father’s name was George, Sr., he was a bus conductor…”
A ripple of laughter then as Albert started singing to himself.
“Hey what’s that you’re singing Al? Do you take requests?” Scott called out.
Then because Joe told him to shut up Scott shouted back: “who wants to send fruit cake here and the perv away? Look dude, we don’t want these guys here. They don’t belong here. We’re in for addiction and these guys--!”
Joe cut him off. “They are both suffering from addictive disorders the same as you. Mr. Fugle here—Albert? Albert has been diagnosed as suffering from OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which is directly related to his addictive personality. In his case he has attempted suicide on numerous occasions—often injuring people who tried to help him. And George over here--(another gummy grin) Mr. Hughes has also been diagnosed as having OCD and declared also to have an addictive personality. In his case it’s sexual addiction.”
Spider bestowed what can only be described as a princely nod toward Joe.
Joe figured he might as well lay all the cards out for them. It was only fair really. He was just about to start when Scott who was still sniffling and wiping his bloody nostrils, stood up again. “There’s a gas leak here, man. I knew I smelled it when I came in!”
This started a wave of panic as each of them (not including Albert who was now singing Amazing Grace) started to scream.
Joe felt sorry for them. “Really fellas it would have been better if I had taken you through everything.”
But they weren’t listening. They had converged on the door and were trying to open it. “There’s a fucking fire here man, you better let us out!”
Joe realized he wasn’t going to be listened to for quite some time so like always he decided he’d wait it out.
Finally they got it. That is the kid got it first. Scott started to cry, saying how he understood everything. “There is no quiet room is there? It’s just a back door right?”
“No Joe,” replied. “It’s a kind of vestibule to your final destination.”
Denby was next. “Oh man! I understand! I really do!”
Spider cottoned on last and when he did he just wept, saying how sorry he was, pleading for another chance, swearing to be good.
It was pitiful. Joe had seen it all before, sure there were certain differences throughout the ages, but this was how it was now—now being relative.
You see there was no fighting it, it was orders from the Big House and orders are orders.
Sure, it was the lake of fire for each of them with a nice view of the steaming mountains of hell to complete the scene. After all, damned is damned, baby.
© COPYRIGHT 2011 Carole Gill
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