cats. A packet of beef ramen noodles, a can of yellow cling peaches, and aplastic fork clutter the countertop. There is also a hammer, a screwdriver,and a computer chip board. Sunlight filters through the black curtainsshe tacked over the lower half of the windows, next to the zebra-printones. They match. Did she have this in mind when she chose them? OnSaturday, the man in the Carhartt coat told me he owns a truck. Doeshe? I could have given him a chance to haul the trailer somewhere else. Icould have moved it for them. My garage overflows with extra furniture.I could have offered them something.
At one point in my life, I could have ended up like the woman. Buton a Sunday evening, the night before my first day of high school, myparents cornered me in my bedroom and told me to pack my bags. Iwas going to rehab. I had just returned from a two-week trip to Eugene,Oregon, to visit a friend, and through my bedroom door, my brotherhad tape-recorded my phone conversations, my boasts about smokingpot and blacking out after swigging a fifth of blackberry brandy, aboutriding in cars with strangers. And the acid—jumping from seventy-footcliffs in the rainforest while hallucinating, dropping five hits (luckily,they were bunk) in two hours.
For two weeks, until my parents’ insurance coverage ran out, I lived
at River Crest psychiatric hospital, sharing a room with a schizophrenic
girl who took my boom box at night and told me she could kill me if
she wanted. I went to counseling sessions several times a day. I attended
AA and NA meetings, often the only female, decades younger than the
men sitting there, coarse-looking men who chain-smoked cigarettes and
sipped coffee from Styrofoam cups, who looked at me, a scowling teen-
ager, with pity when I refused to introduce myself as an alcoholic or
drug addict. I understand now that these meetings served as a scare tac-
tic, that my counselor, a man who spoke candidly about being a recov-
ering alcoholic, wanted me to listen to these men’s stories, to wake up.
But I resisted treatment, refusing at first to participate at all. I only began
working through the twelve-step program workbooks when a teenage
boy—a regular in rehab—gave me some advice: “Play their game,” he
said, “and it’ll go easier.”
I wish I could say that I learned something about substances while
in rehab, but when they discharged me, I still saved my lunch money
for dime bags. I drank too much. I took mushrooms and dropped acid.
At the time, I thought I was being more careful, more responsible, but
I now shudder when I recall the recklessness of those teenage years.