As My Attacker Drifts On Through
Ernest is talking to me and I’m talking to Ernest.
This is a fact.
If I ever have a boy, I will name him Ernest.
(This is not a fact.)
And the person standing next to us says he has a headache. But I forget his name.
I know the boy with the headache is well read because in spite of the headache he lets us know that he is very well read.
He has also written an essay on the possibility of cocaine-induced psychosis in Bright Lights, Big City. In high school.
I cannot remember his name but the definition in his face is gone, this is of course self-reported, and he’s gained thirty pounds, all because of lithium carbonate. They used to be in the school plays. Their family used to tell them they were good looking. Handsome. That was before lithium––George?
Is Adele hot? Adele, our DBT Skills therapist? This is the topic of discussion. Ernest would do her, he says. But there’s also not much Ernest wouldn’t do, these days, he tells me. Ernest and Adele do different things for me. They serve very separate roles. For example, Adele will take me outside when I become overwhelmed (when I lose it, in her office). She makes me count. And Ernest will flash me the pornographic videos of him and the women he meets on Occupied and brings back to his sober apartment.
You could call Adele an expert in what she does. She used to work at McLean. I ask her about ECT. They have ECT at McLean. These days I’m asking lots of people about lots of things. Especially ECT.
We wear the same brand of jeans and she’s spent time at my college, Bennington, in her youth. She knows it’s not a sober place.
“It’s just not,” she says.
Ernest in not an expert in what he does. He is from Savannah. Everyone seems to be from Savannah. He is coming from Cirque, in Utah. And before Cirque (in Utah), hard intravenous drugs in Georgia. And before that, action figures in his bedroom.
And when playing with GI Joe dolls, he was elaborate, and contemplative.
And when injecting drugs, he would make grocery lists that he could not execute.
I will ask him questions about ketamine and he will tell me about going to music festivals, when he was my age, and the k-holes that happened at them. Are k-holes necessarily bad things? I don’t know.
But he will still never know Bennington. My Bennington. I talk about my Bennington and he is in the room, listening to what I have to say.
Other facts about Ernest. His father is suicidal because of Bernie Madoff. And his father calls his therapist “his consultant”. Ernest is thirty-five.
George? Seth? Or Liam? stands there, with me.
My brother used to tell me this. Never play around with the escalator brushes. Because the brushes will hurt you. The brushes will eat your feet. If you look into the brushes you will see a monster that swallows. This is my first time inside the state of Arizona. I am making a terrible impression. I’m in pieces.
My driver holds up a sign with my name on it. He speaks to me as if I’m mentally disabled. But it’s okay because he’s a nice guy and an older man and he’s my driver, and it’s a cliché, but everything is already shattered (have I blown things out of proportion?), and I am in pieces.
For some reason I am afraid of Kevin. He will call me a fruitcake, later. But I don’t know this now.
All the hard work behind his fourth tango in Tucson will not go unnoticed. He will be appropriately rewarded. Kevin will become the recipient of, rumor has it, felatio.
Yes, oral sex, on the track, behind the pool. This is against the rules.
The most likely female, judging by his robust homophobia, suspect still unknown.
But this too, will happen later.
And never you mind that Kevin is married––to a wife who, like Kevin, has just made an attempt on her life––with three children.
But I don’t know any of this now.
I meet Kevin in the car. Our driver tells us where to sit and this is the beginning of my compliancy. Kevin knows things. He knows how much an eight-ball costs. He knows about the snacks from the cafeteria. Which, because of the utensils, we cannot enter unsupervised.
In the car, he makes several phone calls to several buddies back in Spokane. The ride is an hour long and we speak briefly, in intervals. Kevin lets me know where we are going (and it’s a place that’s not in the brochure, it’s a place in which I will spend the better part of a week). He’s done this all before. Kevin is a train conductor with trauma. We will be roommates for a few nights.
I am definitely slouching because this is Ativan and it works (this is before I graduate to Klonopin). I am in the tank and this is a sofa. I’m trying to read but can’t. Across from me are two young men. They’re watching Marley & Me (2008). It would appear that Jennifer Aniston is not wearing a bra. They begin discussing their shared enjoyment of this fact.
Vernon is twenty-one. He is wearing his favorite blue tee shirt. He is a father, with a son named John. He is a husband, with a wife named something. He got married in Hawaii. On a yacht. A helicopter was present. His father is probably in Ireland right now. He owns an auto body shop. This is what he tells us. And what to believe? Vernon is a first responder, detoxing from crystal meth. A drug I can imagine him doing, and loving.
Zach, his movie partner, calls himself crazy. He’s from Kansas City and his favorite beer is Blue Moon.
This place is not working out for him.
For either of them.
Zach is too sick. He leaves early, the next morning.
Vernon is a plain seizure risk.
Vernon feels another seizure coming on and no longer cares about Jennifer Aniston’s body.
And Zach notices that something is not right. So he asks Vernon the following. Are you okay? Do you need water? A nurse?
This is a barely audible exchange from where I slouch, but I see everything. Ativan works well (this is pre-Klonopin) but I begin crying so hard that I fall asleep. The girls find Vernon funny.
They think he’s a sweetheart from Savannah.
The doctors and nurses hope for a transfer to another place (he’s been kicked out of most places but I think Vernon’s behavior is pretty good). Vernon is in the tank for so long that they begin taking him for walks, outside. Vernon will make it out, two weeks later.
Kelly stressed me out and made me cringe but Kelly likes me and calls me sweetheart. So I thank her. Kelly talks a lot. Kelly had a crush on John. Kelly tried sitting on John’s lap but Dirk made Kelly cut it out. Kelly smokes Marlboro Lights. Kelly will ask the nurses how the stock market is doing and the nurses have no idea. Kelly largely complains of a kidney infection. Kelly wears cowboy boots. Kelly’s dad was in the Air Force but Kelly’s dad is dead and Kelly was three years old when someone started hurting Kelly and where was Kelly’s dad? Kelly is not talking about crystal meth. Kelly thinks Kelly is getting out of the tank but Kelly is not getting out of the tank. Kelly is mean to Amberlee because Amberlee is traumatized and won’t stop talking about it and Kelly tells Amberlee to disappear but Amberlee somehow does not disappear. Kelly reminds me of my attacker. Kelly has two sons. Kelly has an ex-husband. Kelly’s ex-husband made Kelly’s blue eyed boy beat Kelly in the kitchen but Kelly’s blue eyed boy’s blue eyes secretly protected Kelly.
Kelly has nephews who ski. Kelly’s nephews who ski work at a ski lodge. Kelly’s nephews who ski teach people (who are not Kelly) how to ski. Kelly asks Olivia if Kelly needs to be Olivia’s mommy in the tank. Kelly asks Olivia if Olivia’s mom is 51/50 because Kelly’s mom was 51/50. Kelly loves Olivia because Olivia is English and blonde and has been in movies but Olivia hates Kelly because Kelly is Crazy Kelly.
Kelly is also mean to Matt. Kelly is mean to Matt because Matt always calls his mom a cunt on the phone. You’re not supposed to say words like always, or never. Kelly is mean to Matt because the nurses caught Matt licking a page of his notebook. Matt was licking his notebook because Matt dropped liquid LSD on the page.
Matt is from Skaneateles. Matt moved from Skaneateles to Colorado.
Matt talks really funny. I forget how Matt learned to shoot up. Was Matt self-taught or did someone show Matt how?
Matt believes in aliens. Matt has seen a UFO before.
I share air with Matt. How many summers does Matt have left?
In my room. It’s the early morning and I could roll out of bed if I wanted to. I might as well because I cannot fall asleep for the life of me. Today I was afraid to leave the house because I might run into someone I know. Tonight I ate an entire pint of ice cream and smoked a whole pack of cigarettes. And, right now, I want to make a good gesture. So I put my feet on the floor and everyone in this house is asleep. Here are some other details. I’m nineteen. I can hear birds. It’s cold outside, it’s December. I go upstairs. I go to my parent’s bedroom and before I know it, I’ve woken them up. I’m going through their drawers and I’m making a ruckus. I’m trying to find a box of band-aids that I know exists. I am being naive. I remember that I’m doing this because I have been misunderstood by my community. Obviously my parents ask me what I am doing and I tell them that I am trying to find toothpaste. But it’s band-aids!
In the kitchen. This is hard. I’m not good at this. But I’m also scared. Why are you scared? I’m not drunk. I need to be drunk. If I want to do this. If I want to do this I need to be drunk but my family doesn’t want me to drink and I can’t break the agreement. I’m scared. I want to begin at my proximal forearm and I want to end at my distal forearm.
In the backyard. It must be four o’clock in the morning. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do in the kitchen. I light a cigarette with a match and inhale.
At the corner store. I’m buying ice cream with my brother. He tells the clerk to never sell me beer or cigarettes. Then he takes my left hand and shows it to the clerk. “What’s this?,” he asks the clerk. The clerk studies it and it only takes him a moment. He tells my brother that is the burn of a cigarette. That’s the only thing it could be, he says. I am awful at slaughtering.
Now I am living with other men. This is a step-down facility. They make declarations here. They don’t say women. They say things like… anorexic bitches are better fucks than bulimic bitches. They like rub and tugs. They have gained weight on Zyprexa and Lamictal. They have poor table manners. They have blowhard dads. Some have compliant mothers. They are SDSU graduates and USC dropouts. They have access to the very best pornography. They are psychotic when under the influence of marijuana. They have body dysmorphia. They discuss the possibilities of fasting. They love college basketball. This is all part of my treatment. This is the regimen. What I wanted, asked for, and got.
Do I actually do that to people? I don’t know. But I think it probably happens when she tells me that I do. That I do that to people. It probably happens when she tells me that I’m staring. At her. She tells me because something about this is not eye contact. And this could be a part of the reason why people feel uncomfortable around me. But yeah, that’s when it happens. Or perhaps it happens when he strongly suggests that I begin attending SLAA meetings here, in Los Angeles. Either/or, that’s when I realize that they have the best therapists in town.
I should correct myself–– that’s when I remember someone saying that, and agreeing with them–– they have the best therapists in town and I believe all of them.
I am now officially doing chores for cigarettes. I am doing this because a sofa has swallowed my wallet. I am doing this because my parents will no longer put out for cigarette allowance. This is because I have become a pack a day smoker. With nothing to do. So I empty the ashtrays, clean the stovetop, refill the beverages, and clean the kitchen floor.
Someone has messed with the grocery list.
It now reads like this:
1. Turkey breast
3. Egg whites
5. Oreo/Brownie Quest Bars
6. Breast Milk
7. Peppered jerky
10. Bag of spiders
13. Pita Chips
14. Almond Milk
15. Roast Beef
19. Anal Beads
20. Trail Mix
21. Penis Pump
25. Corn chips
28. Dark Chocolate
And as I write this, something is happening. An ex-Southern California Trojan Prince explains an ex-princess to us. She was royalty but not quite royalty because his family was wealthier than hers. Not as wealthy because they had to share a Ritz-Carlton bedroom with her kid brother and sister. And at night they would make love on a cot and the lovemaking was rough and because it was rough, it was loud. The kid sister and kid brother would wake up but then fall back asleep and the rough sex on the cot would continue and so on and so on.
Every morning my roommate jumps into the pool. It is a filthy pool with rain water, tree leaves, some cigarette ash, and a deep end. The pool is cold, our bodies are white, and the shock is a shock, so I begin joining him. Dan is from Philadelphia/The University of Alabama. His parents own a sporting goods store near Delaware. Dan has cannabis use disorder and there’s something wrong with his chest. Dan is not his real name. I have cannabis use disorder too. But mild.
In my last rehab I met Mark the Shark or Mark S. A retired optometrist whose husband gave a young hispanic man a Pepsi enema, late one night.
And a few times in the early mornings, the boy came back for more, and they would play around with him on the optometry chair that Mark had in his home.
Mark also loved crystal meth and was not going door to door.
But I go door to door.
He asked me why and I told him why. I say alcoholism. I say alcoholism as a homeless man wearing green pants is being taken care of by paramedics. My trainer likes drinking except for the carbohydrates.
After the gym, I run into some boys from the sober house. As we walk back to the house, it is apparent that we have nothing in common so there’s nothing to talk about but we see a policeman, waiting. And he’s been there for a while now. Dan calls him a faggot, barely, and I pay Dan five dollars to pee in his shorts in front of Sorority Row and I’m actually not an alcoholic.
Why did this happen to me? I’m not a bad person. I’m a good person. It’s been confirmed. I didn’t hurt anyone.
I can’t stand the sound of my name. I can’t look at myself in the mirror. I can hear the UCLA students on the campus, behind the house.