Back in the car with a headache and bad breath. Weíre heading north and west to Minnesota. My Father made some calls and got me into a Clinic and I donít have any other options, so I agree to spend some time there and for now Iím fine with it. Itís getting colder.
My face has gotten worse and it is hideously swollen. I have trouble speaking, eating, drinking, smoking. I have yet to look in a mirror.
We stop in Minneapolis to see my older Brother. He moved there after getting divorced and he knows how to get to the Clinic. He sits with me in the backseat and he holds my hand and it helps because Iím scared.
We pull into the Parking Lot and park the car and I finish a bottle and we get out and we start walking toward the Entrance of the Clinic. Me and my Brother and my Mother and my Father. My entire Family. Going to the Clinic.
I stop and they stop with me. I stare at the Buildings. Low and long and connected. Functional. Simple. Menacing.
I want to run or die or get fucked up. I want to be blind and dumb and have no heart. I want to crawl in a hole and never come out. I want to wipe my existence straight off the map. Straight off the fucking map. I take a deep breath.
We enter a small Waiting Room. A woman sits behind a desk reading a fashion magazine. She looks up.
May I help you?
My Father steps forward and speaks with her as my Mother and Brother and I find chairs and sit in them.
Iím shaking. My hands and my feet and my lips and my chest. Shaking. For any number of reasons.
My Mother and Brother move next to me and they take my hands and they hold them and they can feel what is happening to me. We look at the floor and we donít speak. We wait and we hold hands and we breathe and we think.
My Father finishes with the woman and he turns around and he stands in front of us. He looks happy and the woman is on the phone. He kneels down.
Theyíre gonna check you in now.
Youíre gonna be fine. This is a good place. The best place.
Thatís what I hear.
I guess so.
We stand and we move toward a small Room where a man sits behind a desk with a computer. He meets us at the door.
Iím sorry, but you have to leave him here.
My Father nods.
Weíll check him in and you can call later to make sure heís all right.
My Mother breaks down.
Heís in the right place. Donít worry.
My Brother looks away.
Heís in the right place.
I turn and they hug me. One at a time and hold tight. Squeezing and holding, I show them what I can. I turn and without a word I walk into the Room and the man shuts the door and theyíre gone.
The man shows me a chair and returns to his desk. He smiles.
How are you?
How do I look?
I feel worse.
Your name is James. Youíre twenty-three. You live in North Carolina.
Youíre going to stay with us for a while. You okay with that?
Do you know anything about this Facility?
Do you want to know anything?
I donít care.
He smiles, stares at me for a moment. He speaks.
We are the oldest Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility in the World. We were founded in 1949 in an old house that sat on the land where these Buildings, and there are thirty-two interconnected Buildings here, sit now. We have treated over twenty thousand Patients. We have the highest success rate of any Facility in the World. At any given time, there are between two hundred and two hundred and fifty Patients spread through six Units, three of which house men and three of which house women. We believe that Patients should stay here for as long a term as they need, not something as specific as a twenty-eight-day Program. Although it is expensive to come here, many of our Patients are here on scholarships that we fund and through subsidies that we support. We have an endowment of several hundred million dollars. We not only treat Patients, we are also one the leading Research and Educational Institutions in the field of Addiction Studies. You should consider yourself fortunate to be here and you should be excited to start a new chapter in your life.
I stare at the man. I donít speak. He stares back at me, waiting for me to say something. There is an awkward moment. He smiles.
You ready to get started?
I donít smile.
He gets up and I get up and we walk down a hall. He talks and I donít.
The doors are always open here, so if you want to leave, you can. Substance use is not allowed and if youíre caught using or possessing, you will be sent Home. You are not allowed to say anything more than hello to any women aside from Doctors, Nurses or Staff Members. If you violate this rule, you will be sent Home. There are other rules, but those are the only ones you need to know right now.
We walk through a door into the Medical Wing. There are small Rooms and Doctors and Nurses and a Pharmacy. The cabinets have large steel locks.
He shows me to a Room. It has a bed and a desk and a chair and a closet and a window. Everything is white.
He stands at the door and I sit on the bed.
A Nurse will be here in a few minutes to talk with you.
You feel okay?
No, I feel like shit.
Itíll get better.
The man leaves and he shuts the door and Iím alone. My feet bounce, I touch my face, I run my tongue along my gums. Iím cold and getting colder. I hear someone scream.
The door opens and a Nurse walks into the Room. She wears white, all white, and she is carrying a clipboard. She sits in the chair by the desk.
I need to ask you some questions.
I also need to check your blood pressure and your pulse.
What type of substances do you normally use?
What time do you start drinking?
When I wake up.
She marks it down.
How much per day?
As much as I can.
How much is that?
Enough to make myself look like I do.
She looks at me. She marks it down.
Do you use anything else?
She marks it down.
As much as I can.
She marks it down.
In what form?
Lately crack, but over the years, in every form that it exists.
She marks it down.
Pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP and glue.
Marks it down.
When I have it.
A few times a week.
Marks it down.
She moves forward and draws out a stethoscope.
How are you feeling?
In what way?
In every way.
She reaches for my shirt.
Do you mind?
She lifts my shirt and she puts the stethoscope to my chest. She listens.
Good. Do it again.
She lowers my shirt and she pulls away and she marks it down.
Are you cold?
She has a blood pressure gauge.
Do you feel nauseous?
She straps it on my arm and it hurts.
When was the last time you used?
She pumps it up.
A little while ago.
What and how much?
I drank a bottle of vodka.
How does that compare to your normal daily dosage?
She watches the gauge and the dials move and she marks it down and she removes the gauge.
Iím gonna leave for a little while, but Iíll be back.
I stare at the wall.
We need to monitor you carefully and we will probably need to give you some detoxification drugs.
I see a shadow and I think it moves but Iím not sure.
Youíre fine right now, but I think youíll start to feel some things.
I see another one. I hate it.
If you need me, just call.
I hate it.
She stands up and she smiles and she puts the chair back and she leaves. I take off my shoes and I lie under the blankets and I close my eyes and I fall asleep.
I wake and I start to shiver and I curl up and I clench my fists. Sweat runs down my chest, my arms, the backs of my legs. It stings my face.
I sit up and I hear someone moan. I see a bug in the corner, but I know itís not there. The walls close in and expand they close in and expand and I can hear them. I cover my ears but itís not enough.
I stand. I look around me. I donít know anything. Where I am, why, what happened, how to escape. My name, my life.
I curl up on the floor and I am crushed by images and sounds. Things I have never seen or heard or ever knew existed. They come from the ceiling, the door, the window, the desk, the chair, the bed, the closet. Theyíre coming from the fucking closet. Dark shadows and bright lights and flashes of blue and yellow and red as deep as the red of my blood. They move toward me and they scream at me and I donít know what they are but I know theyíre helping the bugs. Theyíre screaming at me.
I start shaking. Shaking shaking shaking. My entire body is shaking and my heart is racing and I can see it pounding through my chest and Iím sweating and it stings. The bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them. I claw at my skin, tear at my hair, start biting myself. I donít have any teeth and Iím biting myself and there are shadows and bright lights and flashes and screams and bugs bugs bugs. I am lost. I am completely fucking lost.
I piss on myself.
I shit my pants.
The Nurse returns and she calls for help and Men in White come in and they put me on the bed and they hold me there. I try to kill the bugs but I canít move so they live. In me. On me. I feel the stethoscope and the gauge and they stick a needle in my arm and they hold me down.
I am blinded by blackness.
I am gone.