Reflections – A Novella – Part 7
In the beginning I tried to keep in touch with my friends and family. I’d call my parents once a week or so to let them know that I was okay. My mother would cry and beg me to come home. My father would give me words of wisdom and beseech me to question my choices. He would tell me that it was not too late to fix things and that I would always have a home.
It was the same with Claire and Amanda; they both tried to be supportive, but they were of the same mind as my parents. They were all convinced that Dean was the devil come to lead me straight into hell.
Over time I began to resent their judgments. They didn’t know him like I did. They didn’t even really know me.
Soon Dean grew to dislike their influence over me and the mental state these calls would leave me in, and so the calls grew more and more infrequent. In time, they all but stopped.
The drug use got heavier, and at some point became more necessity then recreation. I didn’t even notice.
One night, Dean came home with a swollen lip and bloody knuckles. He was in a frenzy; completely out of control as he smashed around the apartment looking for something that he would not explain. “Pack up your shit,” he ordered me. “Everything. We’re moving.”
I didn’t question him; I rarely did. I did a couple of bumps and did as I was told.
We stayed in a hotel on Granville for a few days, and then we moved into the tiny apartment on Hastings. It was a far step down from the old apartment, but I didn’t question it. I didn’t really care. His decision to move us into the worst part of the city barely even phased me.
He explained that we’d been doing too much of the dope; having too much fun; and he owed some money to a few people. The move, he told me, put us closer to people he could count on to have his back. Besides, the rent was a lot cheaper and potential business a lot better.
That’s all I needed to hear.
It wasn’t long after that that I was awoken one night – after finally sleeping off a particularly heavy binge – to find a strange man hovering over me. He was pinning my arms to the bed, leering down at me, licking his lips.
In a panic I started screaming Dean’s name.
The stranger put his hands on my throat, squeezing just tight enough to slow my breath and still my screams.
Gasping, my voice hardly loud enough to even be considered a whisper, I alternated between calling out for Dean and begging the man to let me go.
He smiled down at me. “He’s not coming to save you princess. Consider this your chance to save him.”
I tried to fight, but he overpowered me. He tightened his hold on my throat, he forced my legs apart and he raped me, right there in my own bed.
When it was over he left without a word.
I curled up in a ball and cried and cried and cried.
When Dean finally came back I started to tell him what had happened, but looking into his eyes, a terrible realization hit me like a hammer; he already knew.
He was so apologetic – his eyes misty with unshed tears – as he explained that the stranger had been one of the men he’d owed money to and now; thanks to me; the debt was clear.
For the first time since we’d been together, I couldn’t even bear to look at him. The anger bubbled up inside me tearing away all of the pain and humiliation. Like an animal, I threw myself at Dean, scratching and clawing and shrieking accusations in his face. I wanted to scratch out his eyes so I didn’t have to read the guilt written in them.
That was the first time he ever struck me, and later I would somehow convince myself that I deserved it.
It was a closed knuckle punch that sent me stumbling backwards. I tripped over the foot of the bed and went over, headlong into one of the dressers. Gore ran down my face from a gash at my hairline. It ran into my eyes, momentarily blinding me. I’d bitten my lip and I could taste the blood; salty and metallic; in my mouth. It sickened me, nearly made me vomit.
I didn’t try to get up; shock had yet to turn to fear. I just lay there awhile, staring at him, stunned.
The anger left his eyes and his expression softened. He came to me, lifted me up, cradling me in his arms like a small child. I didn’t struggle; all the fight had gone out of me. He laid me on the bed and sat beside me. He kissed the corners of my mouth, my cheeks, my jaw.
The sadness scrawled on his face broke my heart. It made me feel responsible for what had just occurred.
It made me forget.
I’d know Dean to do it himself from time to time, but that night I let him inject the meth into my arm for the first time.
I felt the bite of the needle and then I felt the venom work itself through my veins. After that I drifted in a sea of blurring thoughts for hours untold. It took the pain away and gave me peace in exchange.
Like so many other things between us, the injections soon became regular habit.
It happened again, and then again; in exchange for money owed, Dean offered up something that was never his to give. The men always came when I was in the midst of sleeping off a binge. Maybe Dean planned it that way. Maybe, in some warped way, he saw that as a tiny act of mercy.
When it was over, Dean would come back to me and we would fight. Inevitably he’d hit me, call me names; whore seemed to be his favourite; and then, once the fight went out of me, he would soften. Sweet words would drip from his tongue.
It would never happen again, Dean would promise.
He loved me more then life, he’d insist.
And then he’d feed me the poison I’d come to so badly crave; the magic elixir that took away all of the pain and doubt and fear. And once more, I would forget.
One morning I woke up alone in our apartment. It seemed I looked into my own reflection for the first time in ages and I loathed the creature I saw staring back at me. I smashed every mirror in the place, gouging bloody strips of flesh from my hands as I carried out my tantrum.
I filled a garbage bag with my things and left.
My father came for me. Obviously horrified by my condition, he was nonetheless elated to squire me home. Up until that point, my parents had known nothing about the drugs. They’d had no idea how far I’d fallen. But I was their daughter and they loved me. They saw that I was in trouble and they adapted as quickly as they could.
I started detoxing the next day. By the third day I’d become so violent they’d had no choice but to lock me in my room. I remember a barrage of faces hovering over me in those days; some I knew, some I didn’t, one I’m pretty certain was a doctor.
I don’t know how long that torment went on. At times it felt like months –at others it felt like years– but eventually my misery did subside. The screaming pain was replaced by a depression so dark and deep I thought I would never climb up out of that pit.
No one would really talk to me; not as though they were talking to a person. They spoke to me as one speaks to a child, or sooths a wounded animal. They watched my every movement.
I was wracked with guilt and torn by shame. I knew that I had bought their mistrust with my actions.
In the beginning it seemed like I was sleeping nearly all of the time. When I wasn’t asleep, I was crying and wishing that death would find me. Slowly though – with the loving support of my family – the drugs started to relinquish their hold on me. Soon I was eating on a semi-regular basis. I actually began to believe that things could get better.
And then Dean showed up.
My mother attempted to chase him away, brandishing a broomstick and threatening to call the police. I watched the scene unfold from my bedroom window. He glimpsed me there from the street and turned his tear stained face up at me. There was so much pain in his eyes that it weakened my resolve more then I would have ever imagined possible.
God, how I loved that man. He was the only one that had ever truly understood me; the only one who could see right to my core, and who stood by me no matter what.
Or so I told myself at the time.
I went back to him within a day, stealing everything of value I could carry when I went. In time I would do this to my parents twice more. The fourth time they would offer to pay for detox, but I was no longer welcomed in their home.
Soon I just stopped calling.
The days blurred together just as time had begun blurring from the first moment that I’d met Dean. The drugs were never ending. It took more and more to achieve anything close to the past euphoria; sometimes mixing near lethal amounts of chemical together just to reach that desired high.
There were other men. There were more beatings at Dean’s hand. There were more weak apologies and of course there were always more drugs.
Somewhere along the line my life had become a joke and I was willingly playing to the punch line.
The harsh florescent lights hummed and flickered.
I reached out and touched my reflection.
I’d met Dean on June third –two months after my seventeenth birthday. It was September now, and I was twenty-three.
Six days ago I learned that I was pregnant; I was going to have Dean’s child. In an instant, everything changed. I spent the following two days begging Dean, desperately trying to convince him it was time to give up the drugs. It was time to clean up our lives and get away from here. We could start over.
I didn’t tell him about the baby… I wasn’t ready for that. More so, I didn’t feel like he was ready.
At first he humoured me, but I realized soon enough that he wasn’t even making an attempt to cut back on the dope. Instead he just kept pressuring me to do more. It was so hard, but other then smoking a joint to take the edge off, I didn’t touch anything in those two days. Finally he grew annoyed and his annoyance turned to anger. He got paranoid and accused me of sleeping around. The beating he laid on me that night was the worst yet. When he came to me later with his apologies, I looked him coldly in the eyes and told him I was done. I was leaving. When he came to me with the syringe; promising things would be better –he would be better– vowing he would change, and that he’d make me happy again; I knocked it from his hand.
He beat me again, and this time it was somehow even worse then before. I did my best to shield my stomach, letting most of the blows fall on my head and arms and torso instead. And then, as I lay there on the floor afterwards slipping in and out of consciousness, I felt him press the poison into my arm.
I don’t know how long I lay there drifting in that strange sea. I didn’t know what time or even what day it was. At some point I heard the apartment door slam shut and knew that Dean was gone.
I was half out of my head and more terrified than I’d ever been before in my whole life. Every inch of me hurt, ached, throbbed… but I knew I had to move. My mind was set. My life was no longer mine alone and I knew I couldn’t bring another being into that self-created hell.
Somehow I managed to get to my feet. Barefoot and barely dressed, I climbed down the fire escape for fear of running into Dean in the hall.
I scooted through alleys, clinging to the darkness in part to avoid Dean and in part because I was just that messed up. I was trying to make my way to the mission up the street… it was the only conceivable refuge I could fathom. It was closed of course, being after midnight; closed and locked up tight.
It’s the most sensible things in the world that often elude the junkie’s mind.
I nearly called my parents then but the guilt and shame was far too great. I had burned that bridge to ash a long time ago.
I had nowhere to go.
I was still so high.
I walked the streets, just biding time.
I stuck to the shadows as much as I could.
I tried to think but couldn’t focus.
The sickness kicked in not long after, and my body and mind went to war with one another. I knew that if I went back to the apartment I could get another hit; just a little one, just enough to take the edge off…
… I knew that if I went back I might never be able to leave again.
To be continued…