A glass of crazy, p.34
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       A Glass of Crazy, p.34

           Tina Laningham
No longer illuminated by sunlight, the outer edges of the hospital curtain appeared dark. A few dim lights from the beeping medical equipment surrounding me left gray shadows here and there. All at once, a sea of rats made their way up the walls, crawling to get to the ceiling. Within seconds, they reached the top, and then more came, so many they had to crawl over each other to climb higher. I think I stopped breathing. Hundreds, maybe thousands of rats climbed the walls, but none came near the bed. The fact that they weren't climbing on me felt odd, like somehow, in the midst of all the rats, I felt safe.

  Like a dead person sitting up in a coffin, someone emerged from the shadows. With arms stretched forward like a zombie, it moved toward me, and when it touched my face, I screamed.

  "It's all right honey," Mom said.

  The thump of my heart pounded my ears. Sweat bled from my pores. Mom pulled me close and wiped my forehead with a cool wash cloth. I checked the walls. The rats were gone.

  "It's OK," she said. "You're detoxing."

  I tried to speak but couldn't. A nurse appeared and gave me a shot. My eyelids grew heavy and the world went black.

  When I awoke, the sun streamed through the window. Mom, Dad and Rafa sat in chairs, scattered around the room. Dad texted someone, probably the Kat, Rafa played a game on his phone, and Mom stared at me, worried. I'd never been so thirsty in my life. Before I could say that, Mom held a cup if ice water to my lips and it soothed me, but I shivered in the coldness of the damp sheets.

  "How long have I been here?" I asked in a raspy voice.

  "A week." Mom combed my hair with her fingers. "How do you feel?"

  Dad and Rafa stood on the other side of the bed and stared as if I were a two headed freak in a traveling circus.

  "Exhausted. When can I go home?"

  "Soon," Mom replied, but then she looked at Dad, as if waiting for him to say something.

  Dad pulled up a chair and leaned in. "Baby, you're not going home from here."

  Oh yeah, all those charges. Dad was busy organizing in his brain exactly how he was going to deliver some news that I wasn't going to like. Too weak to rush him, I waited. Truthfully, I didn't want to even hear it.

  Dad placed his hand gently on my head and looked straight into my eyes. "As soon as you're released from here, the police will take you into custody."

  My nose tingled and my eyes welled up. I fought back tears as hard as I could, but when I tried to speak, my lips trembled. Warm tears crawled down both sides of my head and filled my ears with water again. This time it wasn't annoying because I had bigger problems than water in my ears. Mom handed me a bunch of tissues and pushed a button that raised my back until I was sitting up.

  Dad continued in his lawyer tone. "They will take you to an alcoholism treatment center."

  My heart stopped. "What!" I said.

  Dad cleared his throat. "After twenty-eight days in treatment," he continued in a complete monotone, "you'll serve three months in the Galveston County Juvenile Detention Center.

  It took a minute to process that one in my brain. I remembered being at the ribbon cutting ceremony with Dad. "You mean that new building you got all the credit for?"

  Dad shook his head yes, but it was more of a circular motion, like he was confused.

  "How ironic," I said sarcastically.

  "Look," Dad said in a stern tone. "I'm trying to get them to agree to three months of community service in lieu of time served, but they're not going to agree to anything until you change your attitude."

  I decided to shut up. Everything coming out of my mouth was obviously going to be used against me in a court of law.

  A nurse came in and everyone scattered back to their chairs, as if they were just as relieved about the interruption. While the nurse checked my vitals, I opened my mouth to ask if I would live, but realized dying wasn't such a bad alternative. I closed my eyes, hoping to drift back into a comatose state, but thoughts streamed faster through my mind and it got dark and scary in there, so I lifted my heavy eyelids open again.

  After the nurse left, a doctor came in and talked to Mom and Dad over in the corner of the room. Rafa stayed in his seat and looked at me like I had some kind of disgusting disease. My eyes moved toward the window and I wondered if there was any way to escape. If there was a way, I would figure it out. Life as a criminal on the lam sounded pretty good. After all, it was kind of a family tradition, since that's what Mom had called Dad when he moved to Mexico. Ohmygod, Dad could smuggle me into Mexico and I could go to school with Gabby, and we could leave this whole mess behind, like it never happened.

  After the conference of the adults was over, Mom immediately began going through my suitcase and holding up clothes for inspection. Clearly, we were leaving.

  "Dad," I said, "can't I just move to Mexico with you instead of going through all this drama?"

  Dad furrowed his brows. "You don't have a choice."

  "You mean you don't want me."

  "No," Dad said calmly. "You have to stay here and take responsibility for the things you did that were wrong."

  "Oh, I see," I said. "Like you."

  Dad got all tongue tied. "I didn't break the law."

  "You broke our family law," I said, my anger stirring deep inside. "Why don't you have to take responsibility for that?"

  The room went silent. Dad's head dropped and he mumbled, "I'm paying for it now." And for the first time in my life, I watched my dad cry. Mom looked just as stunned. No one said a word as Dad lowered himself into a chair with his face buried in his hands, sobbing. It went on for a few minutes and no one tried to stop him, or comfort him, but somehow, his pain comforted me, like a huge weight had been lifted-maybe because Dad was finally carrying some of the emotional burden.

  After Mom helped me shower and get dressed, a policewoman came in with a zip tie and pulled my hands behind my back. "Seriously?" I said.

  Mom pursed her lips and didn't even argue on my behalf. Neither did Dad, who was standing in the doorway. I glared at my parents and said, "I see how it is."

  The bumpy van ride on the filthy gray vinyl seat seemed endless. I turned around to peer through the caged back window and saw Mom's car following behind, but Dad was driving. I was surprised they were still there since neither of them wanted me. My life as I knew it, was pretty much over.

  The Corpus Christi Juvenile Detention Center wasn't as beautiful as the one Dad cut the ribbon for in Galveston. Fortunately, I didn't have to stay there. After I got fingerprinted and they took my mug shot, I was released into the custody of my parents. I sat in the back seat with Rafa on the long drive back to Galveston, rubbing my wrists from where the zip ties had pressed a mark into them and wondered if that was how people came up with the idea of cutting their wrists. It seemed like a pretty good idea, unless there was a lot of pain involved, but probably not as much pain as trying to go on with your life after completely screwing it up. I closed my eyes, not caring if I died again. If my soul were to leave my body, I wouldn't panic. I'll just let it happen, say goodbye, and never come back.

  Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Five hours later, somewhere in Houston, we pulled into a driveway with a small sign next to a long, brick building that read, County Youth Alcohol and Drug Secured Treatment Facility, and yes, there were bars on the windows.

  "John!" Mom shrieked. "I'm not leaving my daughter here!"

  "Dad put the car in park and said, "It's either here or the Juvenile Detention Center in Galveston. If they put her in J.D., a criminal record follows her for life. This place will just show up on her medical record, saying she was treated for alcoholism. Y'all need to trust me on this one."

  "Trust you," I said. "That's funny." I thought Mom would at least crack a smile on that one. "Did your treatment center look like this?" I asked Mom, hoping for some reaction.

  Both Mom and Dad pushed open their car doors and got out. Mom opened my door and I got out, too, but she brushed me aside and said to Rafa, "Honey, wait here." Clearly no one was speakin
g to me anymore.

  Mom and Dad checked me in at the front desk and somewhere between the entrance and the desk, I shut down. When the lady behind the desk asked me a question, my mind wouldn't process whatever she was asking and my mouth refused to move. It was exactly the way I felt after seeing Dad on the news with the Kat creature for the first time. I think Dad answered the lady's questions, while Mom cried, and then they left. They might have said goodbye. I don't remember.

  Some man escorted me down a long hall and then opened a door to what I assumed was my room. He put my suitcase on a cot. On the other cot sat a girl who looked like she was actually dead, but still in her body. A druggie.

  "I'm not a drug addict," I said to the man. "I just drank too much. There's a big difference, you know."

  The man handed me a schedule that I assumed he wanted me to follow, and then he left me alone with the druggie.

  The rutty faced girl stared. I opened my suitcase, so I wouldn't have to deal with her. "Must be nice to go through life with no real problems," she said. "What'd you do? Drink some wine in one of them fancy glasses?"

  I ignored her and rummaged through my suitcase for my phone. I needed to call Daniel. No phone. Mom. The witch. "Do you have a phone?" I asked the druggie.

  She smiled and said, "Is that what you're looking for? I thought maybe you smuggled something good in here."

  I stuffed everything back in the suitcase. "Do you have a phone or not?"

  "No phones allowed," she said. "No communication with the outside world. You may as well put your clothes in the drawers. You're gonna be here awhile."

  I sat on the cot and stared at the schedule. The creepy drug addict brushed her split hairs and then announced, "We have a meeting in ten minutes."

  "I can read." I studied the schedule, but didn't understand all the acronyms, except the one that said, AA. That was the meeting we had in ten minutes.

  "What's your name?" Creepy Girl asked, obviously not getting the message that I wanted to be left alone. I pulled clothes from my suitcase and stuffed them in a drawer. "Kayla," she continued. "I'm Kayla. And you are-?"

  God, she was relentless. "Well," I finally said, "since you were here first, I'll be Prisoner Number Two."

  Creepy Girl gave me the look.

  "Learn that from your mother?" I asked.

  Her stare turned cold. "I don't have a mother."

  "Lucky you. Where's this meeting?"

  She got up and walked out the door, so I followed. We ended up in a room with rusty folding chairs, set up in a circle. Creepy Girl plopped down next to a big girl with a Mohawk. "I got a debutante," Creepy Girl said to The Mohawk right before some lady, who obviously worked at the treatment center, started the meeting. It was one of those kum ba yah things where everyone shared their pathetic feelings. I wanted to scream that everyone needed to get a grip, but decided against it because I just wanted to do my time and get out. After an hour of agonizing boredom, the professional lady asked me why I was there.

  "To become a better human being," I replied, hoping that would satisfy everyone, but I don't think it did, because they stared at me like I was the pathetic one and then the meeting was over. I sprang from my seat to get out of there fast, but Creepy girl grabbed my hand and then someone else took my other hand. They chanted something about serenity, which sounded vaguely familiar, and then the meeting was really over. The whole thing made me want to drink.

  From there, Creepy Girl led me to the cafeteria, where we ate processed chicken in mushroom soup and some canned green beans and corn. I spoke to no one and from there, went straight to my room.

  "It's movie night," Creepy Girl said. "Come on."

  "I'm going to bed early." I shut the door behind her and then curled up on the cot, pulling my knees all the way up. I needed to be held, but there was no one to hold me. I grabbed a blanket from the foot of the bed, pulled it over my shoulders, and gently rocked myself, pretending someone was holding me in their arms and loving me.

  - 35 -

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