The muted shades of green remind me of him. The funeral forces itself into my mind and I try to push the thought back. I close my eyes, yet still see the black tulle my mother threw around the house. Even in mourning, she has to make a dramatic show.
The paper I sit on crinkles with every small movement, so I pretend I’m dead. I don’t even move when the doctor comes back in.
“You certainly know how to break bones.” He delivers with a smile. “You broke your fibula, your tibia, and multiple bones in your foot.”
“No shit. I don’t generally cry when I feel good. It hurts so bad.”
“Well, I guess so. You’ll have to be in a cast for about six weeks. There may be some ligament damage, but I think it’s unlikely because of the placement of the break.”
I force the ugly cry. It usually gets results. But I can’t ask just yet. “Is the casting going to hurt?” Play the cards right. I jumped off the roof for this shit, I’m not gonna fuck it up now.
“Do you want the truth?”
“Only if it’s good.”
“I’ll be right back then.” He leaves. Probably to tell a shitty joke to his nurse.
I didn’t have to pretend as much as I thought I’d have to. It hurt like hell. I even screamed at one point. But, it worked. I left with a prescription for Vicodin with two refills. As easy as jumping off a roof.
The only one who answered my text was Dad. Seven other people and no responses. You’d think when a person asks all her friends for a ride home from the hospital, at least one would answer with concern. I’m lucky Dad responded. If he hadn’t, I would’ve been forced to call my mother, and, Christ, if I wouldn’t have wanted to jump off another fucking roof.
The lights from the hospital windows glower at me; they must know what I’m thinking about. The bench I sit on makes my thighs slick with sweat.
He needs to hurry. If I get home in time, I might be able to convince Ned to do a switch.
The blazing lights of our Lexus blind me as he pulls up. It seems like he’s already by my side before he finished parking the car.
“How’d you do this?” He’s mustering all the concern he can. Nothing ever trumps the sullenness.
“Stairs at school.” I haven’t been to school in two weeks.
“Are you okay?” This is just another thing disrupting his wallowing time.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m fine.” I’m such a dick.
He takes my schoolbag (prop) from me and walks me to the car. Even though I consider myself the most graceful person I know, crutches are not easy to walk with. My dad has to catch me from falling twice before I get in the car.
“Do we need to drop your prescription off?”
Guess there won’t be a switch after all. “Yes, please.”
As we pull into our pretentious driveway, darkness looms from the windows of the family mansion. It looks as uninviting as ever. “Where is she?”
“Oh, she went to some charity event this afternoon.”
When her driver brings her home, she’ll wobble inside and act like it’s her heel’s fault that she can’t stand up straight. She’ll try to conceal her smiles with faux concern for others. Then, when we don’t join the charade, she’ll start throwing things until Dad coaxes her to bed.
“Better lock up the fine china then.” I sigh. “Thanks for getting me, Dad.”
I usually leave our house every morning under the false pretense of school, but now that I have a reason to stay home—without an indictment—the idea of an academic prison sounds perfect. I have a reason to leave. The pain is next to intolerable. As I leave my room, I gun my eyes down. I can’t look up, not today. Don’t look at his door. I step on a note from Dad: Let me know if you need anything today. Love you.
As I drive to the drugstore, I start to shake, and I can’t stop. I’m crying. I’m laughing. What the fuck? At the red light, I shut my eyes. The air that blows from the dash sends a chill through my body and I’m back in the funeral home. A whole day of death. A whole day of pseudo mourners. I’m lethargic, thanks to the water (vodka) bottle at my side. My tear ducts have done all the work they can; they are broken now.
A blaring horn wakes me from my stupor. I roll down the window to give them a proper salute. My face is a mess, streams falling down my cheeks. As I pull into the drive-through, the face of the girl behind the window lets me know how awful I look. The pity in her eyes is too much for me to handle. I can’t breathe. I send my driver’s license and card through without saying anything. I take a pill as she gives me a frail “Have a good day.”
It dawns on me how pathetic I am. I’m standing behind the gas station where I bought my first—of many—underage six packs. My eyes have finally dried up. I forced myself into control. Usually, I’m good at hiding the junkie, but from the outside I know exactly what I look like— desperate, rail thin, raggedy girl on crutches, impatiently waiting for her dealer.
Relief and annoyance wash over me as a brand new white Civic pulls up to the curb.
“What the fuck took you so long, Ned?”
“Damn. Chill out. We got caught behind a bad wreck,” he pauses. “Very bad.”
My crutches don’t fit well in the back seat, but I shove them inside and sit down. I pull out five Vicodin from my pocket and hand them to Ned.
“Here. I want a whole.” He makes an incredulous look and I say, “At least a whole.”
“Fine. Here.” He throws the aluminum foiled pack at me.
There are no pleasantries, no thank yous; I just leave. I know it’s my fault that I’m here. It’s my fault that I give him money for something I begrudgingly desire. But I blame him. I hate him for giving it to me, for helping me become junkie girl. I’m just fooling myself. If he wouldn’t give it to me, I’d find someone else to.
I hobble the next few blocks to my car, shove my crutches in. Before my door slams shut, my hand is already in my console checking for my pills to ensure I have bargaining power for next time.
With my eyes locked on only my door, I walk up the stairs and into my bedroom. I unwrap the aluminum foil and see the white powder. I need to stop. Please stop. I sink the needle in that sweet spot between my toes and go to my utopia.
Life is perfect when it’s like this.
I wake up to shrill screams. It’s the only tone my mother has when she’s not putting on a show for the public.
“Wake up, Sam! Get out of bed! It’s one o’clock!” She walks in my room, still rambling, “Why are you holding a spoon?”
I am on my feet before my brain remembers that I have a broken leg, and I fall back on the bed. I look around for any other evidence, but see none. Disappointment washes over me. It’d be easier if she knew. Wouldn’t it? They’d make me go to rehab, right? I don’t want the fuss of my mother finding out that I’ve hit rock bottom, but if she did, maybe I would stop.
“I ate cereal last night.”
“Well, wake up. And clean your room.”
After she leaves, I get my wooden jewelry box, bring it to my bathroom, and make sure to lock the door. I take the powder and put it on the spoon that’s still in my hand. I get my lighter, and a few seconds later push my precious syringe between my toes. I’ll stop tomorrow.
I open my door and look at the one across the hall. His door. My feet walk toward it—against my volition—and the door opens with a soft swish of stale air. His room is exactly the same.
A thin layer of dust covers the pictures in my brother’s room. His college football picture. Prom picture. Family portraits that have been moved from other places in the house. But I finally land on my favorite. We are in the backyard and he is giving me a piggy back ride because I obviously couldn’t walk. Not from a broken leg, but laziness. My mother snapped the picture right as we snorted with laughter. That’s how it was with him. He was magnetic. Every time we were with each other, we laughed until we had six packs. Unless he was being a dick, then we fought until there were bruises. But even those times usually ended with laughter.
His smooth skin looks so lively. His eyes are shining with joy; the eyes that used to tell me what he was thinking in one glance. He looks so happy. I look so happy. But now, that smile feels ghostly on my face.
There’s a picture of us with my extended family—about twenty people. My mom is beaming. Dad’s doing a duck-face. And there’s Stephen, right in the middle trying, to do a straddle split. He didn’t care what he was doing, as long as people were laughing. And they always do. We always used to.
My parents haven’t been like that since. My mother wallows, and wants everyone else to wallow for her. Dad just worries about mom, but is happy about being left alone.
I still wonder if it is better to have warning. To know that your loved one will die in a week, a month, a year. I assume it would be. I resent those who get to find out for sure. They get time; my brother got an aneurism that stole his. Ours.
I leave the house, mumbling something to my parents about meeting a friend. I slip a Vicodin for good measure. In my car, I realize that I brought the picture of us with me, and when I glance down the streams start again. I can’t see well as I drive off. I can’t tell if I want to keep crying or laugh. I can’t tell if I want to scream or sigh.
I can’t see.