As I clung to the cold, ceramic sink, I had trouble pulling air into my lungs. It was as if I were trapped inside a bad dream – one in which- my deputy boyfriend and his entire family were about to realize that they wasted perfectly good balloons, on a drug-addicted loser.
The excited voices of Chuck’s family and friends echoed within the walls of the bathroom. I could hear bits and pieces of the conversations; all of which revolved around me. “She’s such a wonderful girl“, “It’s about time Chuck got himself a good girl“, “She deserves to be celebrated“.
Jesus Christ. These people had no idea. I was none of those things. I was broken, lost and scarred so deeply that if any of these people truly knew the real me; they would furiously rip those streamers down while ‘shooing’ me out the door.
I stared desperately at my reflection in the mirror, looking for answers. What the f*** was I supposed to do here? I realized I’d already been in the bathroom for 10 minutes, I needed to come up with a plan – and fast.
It seemed as if my brain was trembling in response to the influx of ideas that began circling my head. Amid the chaos going on inside my mind, two things became incredibly clear: I was high as f***. And no one could know.
As I pulled the handle to the bathroom door open, I still didn’t have a plan, but time had run out and I found myself with no choice but to face it.
The country music grew louder as I swung the door open and I was instantly met with my boyfriends smiling face. “Jesus”, I said grasping my heart, “were you standing outside the door waiting for me, creeper?” I joked, careful not to make eye contact.
I didn’t wait for a response. Chuck’s parents were drinkers, so I knew damn well that there was bound to be various liquor bottles waiting to be consumed around here somewhere. If I began drinking immediately, any erratic behavior could easily be explained away by my inability to control my liquor. Story of my life.
I wasn’t going to actually drink the alcohol, but I had to make it appear as if I were.
“Woah ho-ho, someone’s in the celebrating mood tonight”, Chuck said over my shoulder as I made myself a Jack & Coke. “I know, right? I’ve had a rough day today, just been thinking about my Mom a lot, ya know?” I took a swig of my drink and grimaced at the taste. “Geesh, I haven’t had liquor in a long time, it feels like I’m drinking fire” I said. “Hey! Speaking of, my mom’s got a fire going out back, come check it out” he said, placing his hand on the small of my back.
As we headed out toward the fire, I decided this is where I was going to spend the majority of my evening. It was dark, so he wouldn’t be able to tell that my pupils were virtually non-existent. He also wouldn’t be able to notice that I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than 30 seconds and most importantly – there was no one else out here.
“I’m sorry to just spring this on you, but my Mom really wanted to surprise you, she really likes you”. I didn’t look over at him, but I could tell he was staring at me an smiling. “Give it time” I said jokingly (but not really).
“So this is the lucky lady“, a voice from behind us called out. I turned around and could see three dark figures walking toward us. F*** my life. “Yup, this is her”, Chuck replied throwing his arm around my shoulder.
“Tiff, I’d like you to meet Jake, Gunnar and Michelle. These guys work with me, Michelle is on the undercover unit”. Perfect. “Hi, I’m Tiffany” I stuck my hand out to shake Michelle’s and she ignored it, wrapping her arms tightly around me. I wasn’t prepared for this surprise hug so my arms were awkwardly pinned to my sides. I flinched as I suddenly remembered that there was a good chance I still smelled like weed.
I held my breath as she pulled away and I could tell from her face that I was in the clear. She was obviously wasted and could hardly stand up, her heels were getting stuck in the grass as she swiveled back and forth attempting to regain her balance.
“You’ll have to excuse her“, Gunnar said smiling, “we usually don’t take her out in public, for this very reason”. Michelle laughed in response and gave him a playful slap. Gunnar was; attractive, and that’s putting it mildly. His perfect white teeth shined brighter than the moon and his muscles rippled underneath his Bass Pro shirt. He was much taller than I was and his shoulders were basically taking up the whole back yard.
“Gunnar is on the K-9 Unit” Chuck said, as if he were reading my mind. “Oh, that’s cool” I said, sipping my drink and trying to seem uninterested. “Jake’s about to become a detective, ain’t that right, Jakey Boy?” Chuck said giving him a pat on the back. “God-willing” Jake replied, taking a swig of his beer. “Chuck talks about you allllllll the time”, Michelle randomly blurted, “It’s real sweet. He needs a good girl, he’s been f***ed over more than anyon-“, “Haha, oookay, Michelle, let’s not scare her off just yet, I kinda like this one” Chuck said smiling nervously.
I felt like a bigger piece of shit with each passing moment.
I observed quietly as the four of them talked about police things. I didn’t understand half of it because they were speaking in code, but I couldn’t help but wonder; what, in the actual f*** have I gotten myself into?
These cops were 2 feet away from me and I was nodding out and scratching my skin like a crackhead. I smiled and nodded along with their conversation but I felt like a damn fish out of water.
“That had to be a strange experience for you, Tiffany”, Dr. Danner said, snapping me back to reality. It was the first time she’d spoken in about 45 minutes and to be honest, I had almost forgotten she was there.
“Yeah, strange is a good word. I’d also say terrifying, exhausting, and truth be told, a little exciting”.
“Well of course, it was as if you yourself were going undercover. As a drug user, you had a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the world of Law Enforcement. This is incredibly intriguing, Tiffany”. Dr. Danner glanced down at her watch and I noticed a look of disappointment crossing her face.
“As much as I hate to do this, I have to stop you there. It’s getting late and we still need to get you down for bag search. What do you say we meet again, next week?”. As she began gathering her papers, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed myself.
This was the first time I’d actually talked about what happened and in a strange way, going back and processing the things that had occurred, was really therapeutic for me. It felt as if I’d been carrying a giant suitcase around with me this whole time, and while speaking with Dr. Danner, I was able to slowly begin emptying the suitcase, releasing a bit of the burden.
“Dr. Um, Danner. I…I was wondering if maybe it would be possible for me to just finish this, um, this one night. Finish telling you about this one night. I just, it, it would make me feel better if we could start fresh next week. I’m almost finished and it would help me to just, to just get the rest out? I know it’s late and honestly, I’m exhausted. But I just want to tell you about one more thing and then…we can be done. Please“.
She stared at me for a moment, the way a mom stares at her child after he asks for “just one more bedtime story”. She peered down at her watch, then back up at me, and took two steps back to her chair.
“Of course, Tiffany. I would love to hear the rest. I would sit here all day if we could, I just know that you have a lot of important things to do before we get you settled. Usually I’d be finished with my intake evaluation by now, but your story…” her voice trailed off. “Please, go ahead” she said, crossing her legs and adjusting her skirt.
“Thank you”. I took a deep breath, and continued.
As the night progressed, I was continually introduced to more Deputies and other various branches of Law Enforcement. I had to repeatedly apologize for my appearance and explain that my mother had recently passed and I’d been crying all day. I think most of them felt sorry for me and didn’t think twice about the fact that I looked like a zombie, and the other half was too drunk to notice.
I had nervously sipped through four glasses of Jack & Coke and suddenly found myself feeling very friendly. I could feel my inhibitions disappearing and the volume of my voice increasing. I was drunk.
“Woahhhhh” Chuck said as he grabbed ahold of my arm to keep me upright. “You okay, Babe?” he laughed.
No. “Yeah! Hell yeah I’m okay. It’s my party I’ll get drunk if I want to” I sang, obnoxiously.
As time passed, the faces around me became a blur. It was as if the party was happening in slow motion. I could see blips of faces and hear random bursts of laughter, but the world around me was suddenly a kaleidoscope. I could feel my eyes rolling back into my head and it took every ounce of strength I had to focus my vision and when I did, Chuck’s face was an inch away from my mine.
“Hey, I have a gift for you, it’s in my bedroom”, he said.
“Ha! Bullshit. I’ve fallen for that one before” I replied.
He began laughing as he pulled me toward his room. “Not like that, Nerd. It’s an actual gift. Here “, he handed me a card and a small box as he shut the door behind him.
“I hope you don’t ‘spect me to read words right now” I said, drunkenly tearing the paper away from the card. “Ha ha. Just open the box, you can read the card tomorrow”. He set the card on the night stand and sat down next to me on the bed. I vaguely remember opening the box but I sure as hell remember what was in it.
It was a pink key.
I began crying tears of joy when I realized he’d bought me a car. My excitement was immediately extinguished when I saw the look on his face after I’d thanked him for the car.
“Honey, I didn’t get you a car. It’s a key to my house. I’d like you to move in with me”.
My face suddenly dropped. No. No. This can’t be happening. When I was driving over here to end our relationship, he was wrapping a house key for me.
F***. My life.
I had no choice. I couldn’t let this go any further.
“Chuck”, I began. “Chuck I appreciate this, so much. It’s just-”
“I know, it’s soon. I just don’t like the idea of you living with that stoner kid and honestly, I hate not being able to see you 4 days out of the week. If you lived with me, I’d be able to see you every night when I come home from work. Nothing would make me happier than waking up next to you each day. Don’t make me beg…What do you say?”
I paused for a moment, taking in the look on his face. Anticipation, excitement…Hope.
I took a deep, intentional breath in and looked deep into his eyes.
“Chuck….I got high today“……..