Certain events can change a life in an instant. On the other hand, some things take place over time. Many tiny miscalculations or silly decisions create a chain of events, and suddenly you find yourself staring in the mirror at someone you no longer recognize.
I had fled the chaotic confines of Norwalk State Mental Hospital and planted a mattress on the floor in the spare bedroom of my parent’s apartment, a fresh start of sorts. I tried to make myself useful to my mother, so she wouldn’t kick us out. This time I was going to make it work for me and my sweet little boy.
My mom was one who liked to go to the grocery store daily, as if she were one of those lucky European women who stopped at the bakery each day for a fresh loaf of rye. She may have imagined herself lazily plucking through mounds of fresh vegetables and fruit from street vendors…everything freshly baked and harvested. On this particular day, she needed a fresh bottle of vodka, so we climbed into the old Ford Fairlane and drove down to the local Food Giant Supermarket.
As soon as we stepped onto the rubberized mat and the automatic glass door swung open, I saw him. Within two skipped heartbeats I had sized up all six foot two of one of the cutest guys I had ever seen. He had wide shoulders and wavy golden hair down to the green apron pocket of his supermarket uniform. The way he placed the milk into the bag first before adding the bread was downright genius! A bag of oranges went in next. Our eyes met. My cheeks flushed and I turned away. I grabbed a shopping cart and walked into the nearest aisle, almost knocking a box of Cocoa Puffs off of the end cap.
I was standing with one foot on the bottom rung of the cart waiting for my mom to decide between a quart and a fifth when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A conversation ensued and plans were made for this gorgeous hunk of a box boy to pick me up on Friday night. Once my mom paid for her precious cargo, I jumped onto the back of the cart and let it take me down the slight incline to the car. Whee! I was already imagining my happily-ever-after with a new husband and a loving dad for my little son.
Sometimes something catastrophic can occur in a split second that changes a person’s life forever; other times one minor incident can lead to another and then another and another, eventually setting off just as big a change in a body’s life. – Jeannette Walls, Half Broken Horses
On Friday afternoon I changed in and out of several different blouses and made sure my jeans had the least amount of holes and stains. Finally Sir Galahad arrived in his souped up Corvette and we were on our way. Were we going out to dinner? To a movie? I may not be able to eat tonight anyway!
He turned up the car stereo and reached over to open the ashtray underneath the dash. “Do you want to get high?” He reached in and grabbed two pink capsules. “Oh!” I wasn’t expecting that but I was game. After all, pink was lighter than red, so therefore, these pills must be milder than the red ones I have taken before. No harm to come from this. My chin jutted forward. “Sure!”
Instead of a dinner and a movie, I found myself sitting on the couch in his rented farmhouse, which seemed to have landed in the middle of a few acres of packed dirt underneath a freeway overpass. The farmer must have stood his ground for decades while progress grew up around him and the government waited until he ceased to be an obstacle to their plans to get folks from here to there as quickly as possible.
I very soon realized that “pink” did not mean “less.” My muscles felt like overcooked spaghetti, my head, the size and weight of a watermelon. I thought we were alone in the house, but suddenly there was another young man there. My date introduced me to his roommate. “Nice to meet you…hey, do you want to see the art work in the other room?” “OK.” I got up and tried to walk. “You bastard!” muttered my date.
Art work? Can’t walk. Bastard? Why did he say that? Is he mad? Should I not go? What should I do? What is this room? Why are we going in here? Where is the art work? What is happening? Should I run? I can’t run! Slow motion…It’s too late. Fear.
I was pushed to the bed and my clothes quickly removed. I looked towards the door, wishing myself there, not here. My date peered in and quickly turned away. I heard him making phone calls, and I hoped he was calling the police.
My arms were lead, my lungs hollow. My date came back in, then another, then another, then another, then another. One, very heavy, apologized. “It’s all right,” I mumbled. It’s all right? It’s all right!!??
Much later I stumbled up the stairs to my parent’s apartment, trying to quiet my steps so as not to wake the neighbors. For a moment I thought about calling the police. I pictured the interview. “Why did you date someone you didn’t even know? What were you wearing? Why did you take the drugs? Why did you go follow the roommate into the bedroom? Yes, this was my fault. I deserved this. I’m a stupid girl. Worth nothing to anyone. I’m giving up. No one will ever know. No one but me will ever know.