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'You Would Know'

Oct 30, 2014 - 7 comments


I'm not sure why I'm doing this but it's haunting me & I just wanted to jot it down:

For those who aren't familiar with my history, I was an I.V. heroin user for almost 30 yrs. & kicked 20 yrs. of Methadone here on MH. :) I'm not on forum too much these days but I still try to keep in touch.

About two weeks ago when I left my last store for a store closer to home & a better position, one of my managers [we'll call him 'Jake'] that I got along with splendidly, gifted me with an old iPod that had over 2,300 songs in it. After deleting all the Grind-Core & most of the heavy metal & rap, I was left with about 600 tunes.

The night before last, I was the last to leave work, save one of the store managers. As we locked up, I looked @ the night sky & wonderingly remarked on the unusual clarity & beauty of the stars to him. We parted & I began my walk from the 'gentrified' edge of Jamaica Plain, a 'hipster' enclave, to the 'DMZ' of Jackson Sq. Station which delineates the border of the 'hood we live in. One minute you're passing a store that sells 'alternative' ice cream [you first..I dare you!:)] & a place that offers trendy, hand-wrought clothes for infants. Within seconds you're passing nothing but bodegas, ramshackle store-front, pentecostal churches, check-cashing joints, liquor stores & desolate industrial lots.

@ 11:20, I got on the #22, dropped into a seat up front & settled in for the 15 min. ride home in a tired but serenely, reflective state of mind & heart. After about 30 seconds I noticed an hispanic girl of indeterminate age sitting next to me. I say indeterminate as I knew that she was probably much younger than she appeared. She was unnaturally thin, had long, black, greasy hair with hints of gray & terrible ulcerations along her jawline, hairline & nose. Her shoulders were hunched forward in a defeated, self-protective posture. She had an old TJ Max bag clutched tightly in one hand nestled in her lap. Even before I took a proper look @ her, I knew -- I felt it -- I turned & checked, she was so high on H, she was 'Low'. Her lids were leaden despite her valiant attempts to keep them @ half-mast. I watched her nod. She was doing the opiate slide, bending forwards slightly @ an agonizingly slow pace, then making every effort to right herself. Her main motion though, was a sway to the left. Gradually, her head finally came to rest on my shoulder. This happened several times. She would come to briefly with a start & apologize to me profusely in a low, broken voice & look around like a hunted animal. I can't really describe it but I felt a powerful surge of poignancy & protectiveness when this happened. I'm used to getting stared @ as an assumed 'white-chick-out-of-her-neighborhood' a lot but I don't notice it that much anymore. I glanced around the well-lit bus & this is what I saw: the way I used to be sometimes reflected in the faces of those in the know.  There was amusement: as in: 'How's this going to play out? Will she freak out, how will she handle this junkie, etc.', hard-eyed stares of judgement from a couple of female Jehovah's Witnesses sitting right across from us, there was cocky derision from two young men that I knew to be dealers, studious avoidance from tired working folks, giggling & whispering from a couple of girls in their early 20's & complete boredom from the bus driver who deals with this sort of thing every day. I understood all of it. All of it made me sad, coming from her fellow-beings. Powerfully yet stoically sad. That's how I get when I get sad these days. I believe this is as far as I get b/c I can't afford the 'luxury' of going much 'further'. I'm realizing now as never before, how much my past has affected the way that I'm able to see & feel. Scar tissue, I guess. Maybe that will change. Who knows? I'm not stressing about it. I don't have the 'room'.
The last time that she jerked to [with the whole bus listening in] & said: 'I'm sorry..I'm so sorry'. I gave her a gentle smile & said: 'Please, don't apologize. I understand, I do. I mean,..I Get It..' For the first time, she came fully awake & looked @ me directly. 'Thank you', she said as the bus lurched forward again. After a few moments, her head came to rest on my right shoulder for the final time. I didn't say a word. I looked about & noticed that the 'show' was over. [you've got to make your own entertainment 'round these parts:)]. Right before my stop, I stood, looped my laptop bag over my shoulder & tapped her on the shoulder waiting for her to open her eyes. 'Make sure that you don't miss your stop. All the best to you & please..take care of yourself'. I think my voice must have cracked with that last bit as I had a lump in my throat. I swung off the bus & started my walk to our block.

On the way, I 'rewound' 'Jake's' iPod to the song that was [eeriely] playing when I first turned to look @ her:

'You Would Know' -- Queens of the Stone Age

They're just happy robots
Live on hill of beans
You and I cut from same cloth
Rippin' at the seams

Cut, snip, cut

Don't forget to remember
The devil's got pills in his eyes
Look, laugh, but don't touch
Cut you down to size

Cut, up, cut
(Shut up)
Cut, up, cut

You would know

My girl's all out of focus
It ain't no big surprise
Daddy got his gun loaded

Got cross hairs in his eyes

Shut up, oh
Shut up, oh

You would know

You would know
You would know
You would know


Again, I'm not sure why I had to write this down. Since my detox almost two years ago, I've seen hundreds of H/opiate addicts in my travels. I've no clue why this struck me the way it did. Usually, I choose to avoid thinking about it or engaging with them. Maybe it's still a necessity -- survival mode, like so much of the rest of my life. What I felt @ the time was this: a sadness & urgency -- a wanting: to somehow pass my hand over her haunted face & heart & heal her. To pass it over me. To pass it over the rest of the bus as well -- to fix it all. Alas, I have no such ability.

My past is an indelible part of me. Some good. Some bad. It's here, here to stay & here for a reason. Keep going, you'll find the answers (she tells herself).

Why am I [relatively] Ok today? Why isn't she Ok today? Why are we all [in the words of U2] 'One but not the same' ? Has anyone ever thought about this?

(Sorry for all the ponderous, bleedin' questions :))

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by ariley13, Oct 30, 2014
Lovely journal sis. I don't have any answers to your questions, but I know exactly what you went through. It's impossible to overlook, and not feel a connection when we not so long ago where right there in that position. I see it daily with the alcoholics, winos, whatever you wish to call them. I was there not too long ago, and if not for the grace of God, fate, or just dumb luck, I would still be there, or worse. It's so easy for people to judge when they haven't been through it. Sometimes a little compassion can make all the difference. It makes me feel sad and helpless when I see people in the throws of their addiction. It also serves as a stark reminder of how far I have managed to come. I am truly blessed for that.

I'm glad that you got this all out. I hope that you find some peace with it and are able to see how far you have come. I am proud of you. Off to bed now. 5:00 am will be here before you know it, and somebody's gotta go and make the burritos! Love you.

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by jugglin, Oct 31, 2014
I read this before I went to bed last night.  I wanted to "sit" on it before I commented.  Your writing, your words are just beautiful A.  Why aren't you a writer????
This story is beautiful, haunting, unsettling all at the same time.  You are where you are today because you hit the point that you knew it was time to reclaim your life.  You fought tooth and nail with everything you had in you to dig out of your addiction.  She has not come to that point in her life.  If she has, she has not found the right tools, or come across the right program.  I don't know...I'm not judging her by any means.  But, anybody who has gotten clean and stayed clean has had to work very hard at it.  There is no cure all, or magic pill...wouldn't that be nice.  Who knows, maybe your compassion towards her will be her wake-up call?  We can only hope and pray.  I really think this paragraph is me rambling my thoughts because there are no correct answers to your questions.
I have re-written this response so many times now.  I don't want to take away from your story.  Our journeys' have brought us to where we are in our lives.  It is a blessing to be able to recognize her suffering and to be compassionate towards others.  To be able to show her that her life can change....others have walked in her shoes and have taken a different path.
Crap, I am just rambling only to come to the conclusion that I am grateful to have come across your journal.  It is very thought-provoking.  Just beautiful A.

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by meegWpaw, Oct 31, 2014
"Never apologize, never explain." --Kate Haake, my graduate thesis advisor

Well as usual Annie I have been reading this but I am always a bit reluctant to comment on your writing for my own reasons.  But perhaps I should take the above advice myself!

Once, in a writing group, also about a story in my graduate thesis, ohhhh so many years ago, a writer I respected called my work "incandescent."

That is the word that comes to mind when I read this piece.

You have such a beautiful way of recounting details, scenes, and moods.  As always, your language is pertinent, articulate, and descriptive.  You create a mood that is almost surreal, yet it is painful in its realism and ability to be brought to my own mind and reflection, as well as experience and memory, past and future.

I love these words.  I love them almost as if they were my own.  But they are not.  They are your words.

To me, this is a trinity of healing Annie.  It is the healing you gave to her maternally, as if your mother could give this to you (!!!--please forgive me), and that you would give to your own child, and also that you in reality gave to her.  And in doing so you gave this healing back to yourself.

I would not say this piece is moving.  it goes beyond that.  it is traveling, perhaps, at the rate of the subway, or something, or moving beyond that.  it is tunneling into the future and going beyond the words on the page or the experience itself into a realm of dreams or healing we cannot perhaps imagine or conceive of in this world.

you are beautiful.  what a gorgeous image of her head on your shoulder, not that she was sadly in that state, but at that moment, she had a safe haven.  she had a mother.  

she was your child and you loved her.

and for that moment, everyone was healed.

we were all healed.

an incandescent moment in time.


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by nonights, Oct 31, 2014
Just reading this j and the responses is healing!

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by EvolverU, Nov 02, 2014
I'm sorry that it took a couple of days to get back to you but I've been doing nothing but working long hours & it's been super-draining physically & mentally.

I must admit to being a little overwhelmed when I read your comments! This is such a special place w/ such supportive, caring people who bring their unique, individual 'takes' to our communal table.

To be honest, I was hesitant to post this because it seemed so stark to me & the whole thing left me in a surprisingly submerged, swirling, wondering mood.  I don't know why I felt impelled to scribble down something so seemingly mundane but it was like sand in an oyster or a mosquito bite. It was just one of those things that came flowing out & that hasn't happened when it comes to my own stuff too much lately. For some reason, it poked 'sharply' through the self-imposed, lock-down that I maintain on hurting & giving up precious emotional & mental essence that I seem to need to husband @ present. This happened on the heels of several days of being ungenerous & impatient w/ someone in emotional need & pain. It had me down on myself wondering @ my lack of compassion & selfishness. I guess this broke me open @ bit & for that I'm grateful. My feelings during this experience were mainly about the helplessness I felt confronted w/ the gulf between us all -- our inability [& my own] to bridge that gap -- to reach out. It was about seeing myself in this girl, in other's reaction to her & existentially questioning 'Why is it like this for her' & not me. I mean, I was bad. really bad. It just seemed so arbitrary @ the time. Also, I had no idea how it would read & didn't know if it made any sense or would to anyone else.

Jugglin :), thank you, thank you, thank you for reminding me that I've done some work to get to this place. As usual, you intuitively said something invaluable. It's just what I needed to hear! Yup, you're right but for some reason -- the actual memory of the physical detox & many of the nightmarish struggles since have been softened in my mind into a blur that I try not to look @ too closely these days -- I can't really access the 'full [emotional] monty' of it all. They say it's like that with giving birth [give me a quick poke if this is BS;))]. As for writing, we're all writers here on MH. It forces us to examine ourselves, others, our motivations, feelings, past, present, etc. I've come to believe that maybe it's such an effective recovery tool not just because of the company, support & the chance to give back but through the very medium by which we initially communicate & bond. Eventually, we go out & 'write' our lives each day w/ a new awareness that we carry from here. MH & detox are hard for me to untangle. They're inextricably bound in my mind. It doesn't really matter how it works or whether I could have done it w/o coming here. What matters is now & tomorrow. I'm so glad to have 'met' you, G. Just wanted you to know that. Thanks for lifting me up -- invaluable, that! :)

Meegs :), Wow! That is some high praise indeed! When I read your thoughtful, creative & well-worded comment, I saw the situation in a whole new light. Your comment was a 'piece' unto itself & quite a lovely piece. I'm not sure how much healing I gave to that girl but who knows what surreal moments like that do when there are certain heavy energies like there were on that bus streaming through us all. It was just as you said, a moment between a group of strangers -- on a quiet, cold tired night set to an eerie soundtrack. I think she probably did more for me in terms of restoring my faith in my ability to be compassionate & to feel 'what's going on inside' more 'succinctly'. She gave me a gift & I pray that some seed was planted somehow. (I'm a big believer in force @ a distance & seed-planting). I'd like to get back to 'farming' again. Somehow, this small incident, this girl, these people & your comments pulled some weeds out of my soul. Thank you Meegs for shining so brightly. :)

Angela :) I will not discuss your comment except to thank you (& to thank you once again for being you -- amazing cool you). What I will discuss is your birthday present! You better be looking for that coat. :))

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by EvolverU, Nov 02, 2014

Noni :)) Thank you! The other night, your comment on the tail-end of the others got me thinking about what healing is. I did some searching on the subject & think that the Greeks & Romans had a lock on it. The search brought me some partial answers to my questions in my original post. Thank you, my friend! :)

'The wish for healing has always been half of health' -- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.'
-- Hippocrates

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by lulu747, Nov 14, 2014
I stumbled across this journal by chance this afternoon, and feel blessed that I did.  I think the biggest piece of our healing is realizing that we are all part of a joined human experience.  When we are in the throes of our using and despair, it is because we feel separate, alone, encased in darkness.  We are focused on ourselves, and not the world as a whole.  It is a narrow view.  At least, this is what I believe.

That was a powerful short story, Annie.  I know that you were just recounting an important moment for yourself, but you set it up in the most beautiful and poetic way.  Each detail allowed the reader to 'go there with you'.  All of us that read that piece journeyed with you on that walk, the bus....We all looked into that girl's eyes and saw the haunted look, and the look of judgement and disgust on the other riders faces.

The greatest gift of recovery is compassion.  First it comes for others, and then for ourselves.  This is the journey to true healing, for we cannot heal in a bubble.  We must let others touch our souls.  We must be reflected and see that reflection in others.  It is just what IS.

Have you ever read author Carolyn See?  Your writing reminded me of her.  She is an LA writer, a recovering alcoholic.  Her stories are amazing.  The ones when she is in early recovery are devastatingly sad, almost depressing.  The further she goes into recovery, well, her stories are still devastatingly sad, but they contain infinite compassion and hope.
The Handyman is my favourite, but she has many, many books- including the biography of her entire alcoholic family.  
Anyways, you should read her.  I think you would connect.  

Thank you for writing this Annie.  My day and my life are better because I got to read it (:


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