Wednesday, December 1, 2010
The Crucible, Part II
Note: If you're looking for The Crucible, Part I, don't. I actually wrote it two years ago and read it at a meeting the night before my one-year anniversary, but I'm not ready to share it here yet. It was the 24 hours immediately preceding where this story picks up and there are just some parts of my story I'm not ready to let go of yet. I suppose you can just figure out from what I have been willing to share just how mortifying, terrifying and crazy it must be. Maybe one day.
[As always, sentences in italics are the voices in my head.]
I spent the very early hours of the morning (before sunrise) wandering around the seediest part of Avenue D hoping I'd get jumped and beaten to death. In retrospect, I really must have been out of my mind because I've only ever been punched in the face once and I thoroughly did not enjoy it.
I had left where I was staying because I was acutely aware of just how much I was scaring my friend and his boyfriend with my psychotic behavior. I should say that while I was aware of how much I was scaring them, I wasn't sure if they were scared for me or of me. It makes me sad just to write that. This friend (I guess eventually I'll have to give him a pseudonym) had been unconditionally supportive for months and my behavior had become so increasingly erratic that I thought it would have been valid for him to feel either way. Hell, even I wasn't sure what I was capable of at that point so I couldn't really assure him that he needn't be afraid of me.
When I left, I assured them I wouldn't be coming back. But as the sun started to rise over FDR Drive, I realized that I had nowhere to go and didn't even have everything I needed to get there. I called to let them know I'd be coming back (just long enough to get my laptop and whatever else I thought I needed for this journey to God knows where), but there was no answer.
When I got there, the apartment was quiet except for the people that had been following me for the past 10 months. They never shut the fuck up. I walked past the bedroom to go to the bathroom and saw that they (the non-imaginary people) were both sound asleep. Sure they were. As soon as I got back out to the living room my friend started yet another of our telepathic conversations. As unconditionally supportive as he was when he was standing in front me, he was that mean times a hundred when he was talking with me through the communication chip that had apparently been planted in my head.
We telepathically (more like telepathETICally) decided that it would be best for all of us if I left and checked myself into a hospital. He thought it was best because he thought I needed psychiatric help; I thought it was best because I hoped they could remove the communication chip.
After a quick-for-a-crackhead search of the internet, I found a hospital that had a detox ward that was within walking distance (although by this point I had taken to walking from Columbus Circle to the lower east side routinely so just about anything in Manhattan would have qualified).
I packed everything vital in my backpack (not sure why I thought the crystal pipe was necessary for a trip to a detox hospital) and headed on my way. It was one of those really beautiful spring early mornings in Manhattan where you are in the shade as you walk north / south because the sun hasn't fully risen yet, but you can see the light streaming through the intersections as you walk. It's funny what silly things I remember, but in this instance it is that I was constantly taking my sunglasses off in the shade and putting them back on as I walked through the intersections.
I started out on a direct path to where I thought the hospital was, with an entire tribe of voices following closely behind. The usual seven were joined by people from so far in my past that I was sure they had to be real because I didn't even remember what these people sounded like -- until I heard them speak.
What the fuck! Why are all these people here and why are you all following me? I'm going to the hospital like you want me to. Can't you just leave me alone now?
Leave you alone?! We're going to make sure you're locked up in that hospital for a long, long time!
You can't do that. It's against the law.
Oh please. You're crazy. How are you going to stop us?
And so it went for more than an hour as I zigged and zagged all over the lower east side trying to elude them so I could get help without becoming a prisoner. In my mind, I was a 21st-century Frances Farmer.
One thing I have to admire about myself during this time -- I never gave up hope or lost my defiance for more than an hour or two at a time. No matter that for almost a year I had tried to thwart these stalkers, to no avail. Today I was going to escape. That's how it had been every day since this saga began. Today I'm going to win. I'll show them. I was like the Roadrunner's hapless foe, only all hopped up on meth -- I was Highly Coyote.
Finally, I did what I always did in these situations. I hopped in a cab and told him to take me to some random intersection in another part of Manhattan. If I was on the LES, take me to Chelsea. If I was in Chelsea, take me to Times Square. Before the money dried up, I would do this multiple times consecutively. Hop out of one cab and right in to a new one. The NYC taxi system probably suffered a huge revenue decline when I got sober.
On this particular morning, after two cab rides I found myself at Penn Station. Perfect. Subways to every part of the city -- not that I would step foot into a subway car at this point. It was like being cornered by an angry lynch mob. Everyone on the car would be talking about me, plotting how to defeat me as if I were some supervillain.
Instead I ended up on an Amtrak train bound for Philadelphia. It had come to this. I had literally been run out of town by the voices in my head.
At this point I had been awake for about 72 hours. So the minute the train left the station, I passed out. The conductor woke me up just as the train was pulling out of 30th St. Station. Wasn't this where you were supposed to get off?
Goddammit. Now I'm on a train heading south and I'm not even sure where the next stop is. From behind me, I hear that friggin' snickering. They're here. They've been on the train with me the whole damn time.
Fortunately, the train I was on stopped at just about every corner on the way from NYC to DC, so I was able to disembark in Wilmington, Delaware. Unfortunately, there was no way to ditch my band of groupies in such a small train station.
Eventually I arrived in Philadelphia, feeling more ragged than I can ever remember (and probably looking that way too). It was noon by the time I got myself settled into a hotel downtown. By this time, all the meth in the world wouldn't have kept me awake. I was physically, mentally and emotionally spent. I smoked a little and passed out.
I woke up at about 10 pm and went to the 7-11 to get dinner. Yum. I'm not even sure I finished my bag of Doritos before I was asleep again.
About 7 am, I woke up feeling remarkably clearheaded. It probably helped that I'd been on the run or asleep for most of the past 24 hours, so I had had very little time to get high. "Get high" doesn't seem right since I was always high -- I had had very little time for maintenance of my high.
As I sat on the edge of the bed contemplating my next move, I had this moment -- not even a moment, an instant -- of clarity. The hotel I was staying at was two blocks from an organization where I had worked for four years. It had been six years since I left, but I had kept up with some friends there and knew the key people were all the same.
The director of the organization was someone that, up to that point, I had always described as being completely lacking in the understanding of social interaction and essentially charm-free.*^
On this morning though, I thought of her other qualities. She was brash, but honest. You never wondered what she thought about you or if she was being sincere. You always got unvarnished truth from her, good or bad. She was also fiercely independent. She was very difficult to manipulate because she was so good at it herself. At last, there was someone I could go to that I knew wouldn't been coerced into siding with "them". And because the organization often worked with clients suffering from drug addiction, I knew she would not only be able (and willing) to tell me if I was crazy, she'd be able to give me some guidance as well.
I decided to do something that I had yet to do even once during this months-long ordeal. I was going to ask for help.
*I've spent the past three years regretting my characterization of this woman. Whatever her foibles, she was incredibly committed to the mission of the organization we worked at. Plus, without even a hint of overstatement, she saved my life. I don't know if I could ever adequately express how grateful I am that she is exactly the person she is.
^I don't like to take credit for things that aren't my creation, so I have to acknowledge that I didn't think up the expression charm-free. I stole it from Alice Ghostley's character Bernice Clifton, who used it to describe her niece in an episode of Designing Women.