“I know I don’t know you, but I would like to thank you for what you did.” A woman named Claire said after introducing herself. “I knew those b****es were getting high, but I had no way to prove it. I’ve been clean for 99 days and I swear if it was me who walked in on them, I wouldn’t have made it to 100. Especially my first day in this place, you rock.” She said, sticking her hand up for a high five.
Claire was probably in her 60’s and slept on the mattress directly in front of our bedroom door. She had long silver hair and her skin was weathered, apparently from many years of exposure to the sun. I glanced at the area surrounding her mattress and noticed she had very few belongings. She had lived on this earth over 60 years and has only a few outfits, an alarm clock and a stuffed Betty Boop doll to show for it.
“Yeah, thank you. I am surprised myself to be honest with you. I’m just grateful that the temptation is gone, ya know?” I replied, standing up from the floor. “So what do we do now?”
I hadn’t received a schedule or orientation for this place yet since I’d gotten in so late last night. Amidst the chaos of everything they’d forgotten to show me around.
“In about 10 minutes we go to the computer shop and work for awhile.” She replied. A look of confusion crossed my face and she noticed immediately. “Felicity–the owner of Leap of Faith, she owns a computer shop. We spend a few hours working there each day.” She said.
“What do you mean ‘working’ there? What do we do? She pays us?” I had so many questions. I don’t know if I’m ready for a job yet, like, I need some rehabilitation first I think.
“We fix up computers, make calls to get computer donations, sell the computers…Things like that. No we don’t get paid” She said. Okay, this woman is acting like this is normal. I didn’t get sentenced to “computer salesman school“, so how the hell is that supposed to help me get clean?
I tried to read her face for the slightest hint of laughter, because I knew she had to be f***ing with me. “You ready?” She asked, standing up and putting her shoes on. “Um, I mean…yeah… I guess.”
I followed Claire through the front door and stopped short when she headed out to the street. I looked back over my shoulder, there was no one else around. “Claire!” I yelled in a whisper from the front porch. “Where the hell are you going?” She stopped and turned around before bursting out with laughter.
“Oh lord, you are too funny. C’mon, it’s okay. Everyone is already there.” She said waving me out.
I watched as she stepped out onto the street and walked along the line of the grass down the road. What in the actual hell was this woman doing. I took a hesitant step off the porch and then one more into the grass. I was outside, unsupervised in the middle of the ghetto. This can’t be right.
Claire apparently noticed I wasn’t behind her and started walking back toward me. “Hurry up, we’re late. The computer shop is right up here.” I looked to where she was pointing and about 300 ft. in front of us was a building. I could see a young girl stepping off the back of a moving truck carrying what appeared to be a printer.
“Hey, so is it like, legal for us to be out here right now? Like, I was sentenced to a rehab and here I am walking down the damn street. It just feels wrong and I reallllllly don’t want to go back to jail.” I said, catching up to Claire.
“It’s finnnnne. This shop is a branch of the rehab. It’s part of it.” I looked around as we walked, and while part of me was worried the Swat Team was about to bust out from behind the bushes any second now, the other part of me really loved the feeling of walking down the street like a normal human. Cars were whizzing past us and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel ashamed. I was just a regular person walking down a regular street.
“You must be Tiffany.” A heavyset African American woman said as we approached. I went to shake her hand but she yanked me into a bear hug, almost knocking the wind out of me. “I’m April, and I am a house mother here. I didn’t get a chance to meet you because I was on an overnight pass with my family. I just wanted to personally thank you for being so brave.”
“Let’s f***ing go, what the hell took you guys so long?” Ryanne appeared out of nowhere looking angry. “We, um..Uh,” Claire stuttered, “I’m sorry I was filling Tiffany in on–.” “It doesn’t matter.” Ryanne interrupted, “We have a lot to do let’s go.” I looked at April and mouthed ‘sorry’ and quickly followed Ryanne into the shop.
“Claire, I need you to organize the power cords in the bins. Tiffany — you come with me.”
Ryanne led me to a room in the back and shut the door behind us. I was suddenly really nervous.
“I wasn’t yelling at you for the record,” She began, “Claire is as slow as a f***ing turtle and I’m tired of her s***.” The laughter escaped my mouth before I had a chance to stop it. She just called that lady a turtle.
“Awe, She was really nice to me. She was explaining how things worked around here because like, I have no clue what’s going on, basically. Like at all. I’m in a computer shop right now and I thought for sure I’d be in a meeting or reading a self help book or something.” I said.
Ryanne laughed. “Oh no! I’m sorry. With the girls getting kicked out — thanks to you, and the late night last night, things have been crazy. I’ll tell you what. I’ll take you back to the house and give you the rundown. Sound good?”
“Yes. That would be amazing. Thank you.” I replied, relieved that I didn’t have to organize power cords today.
“Before we go, I have something for you. Kinda like, a thank you for what you did last night.” She said.
“Oh. Wow. That is so nice, but you really didn’t ha-”
“Shut up. Follow me.” She interrupted.
She stood up and pulled the door open, gesturing for me to go ahead of her. I smiled and walked out …immediately stopping dead in my tracks.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and dropped to my knees, sobbing so hard I couldn’t breath.
My father and sister knelt down beside me and wrapped their arms around me.
“I am so proud of you baby.” My dad whispered into my ear before resting his head on my shoulder.
This was the first time in my entire existence that my father and I had ever hugged without a drop of drugs or alcohol in our systems. It was the most beautiful moment I’d ever experienced.
They were only allowed to stay for a half an hour, because technically visiting day wasn’t until Sunday. My dad gave me a quick update on his cancer treatment and my sister filled me in on what was new with her. She had a wall up, I could tell. I didn’t blame her one bit, I was just so grateful that I got to see her face…in person.
As I watched them walk back to their car to leave, the little girl inside me screamed and cried. I wanted to chase after them and go with them. I missed them so much. I kicked myself for not spending more time with them back when I had the chance, but I had been to busy getting high. The only time I called them was when I needed something and even then I kept our encounters as brief as possible.
My thoughts drifted to the last time I’d seen my sister. When the memory found it’s way to the front of my mind, my stomach turned. It was no wonder she had a wall up, I had been so terrible to her.
“Hey Tiff, what are you doing today?” My sister had asked cheerfully into the phone.
“Um, not much, chillin at the house. I don’t really feel to good.”
“Well that’s lame. Get your ass up. I’m coming to get you I have a surprise.”
“Aw, thanks Lane. I really appreciate it, But I’m gonna have to take a raincheck.” I replied, trying to sound as sick as possible.
“Bulls***. I’m already on my way. It’s your f***ing birthday, dude. Get your ass up I’m almost there.”
I was suddenly consumed with anger. I hated hanging out with my sister. She didn’t do drugs, and she knew me better than anyone, so it would take an exhausting amount of effort to maintain a somewhat normal demeanor. I wasn’t in the mood to fake it all day.
“Happy Birthday.” Gail the psychic said as she shuffled a deck of Tarot cards. “Thanks.” I replied, pulling my sleeves down over the crease of my arm. I hated wearing long sleeves in the middle of the damn summer. But I couldn’t let my sister see my arms.
“So, what can I do for you today, are you want to communicate with spirit? Or have your cards read?”
“Um, I’m not really sure. I wasn’t expecting this. My sister surprised me by bringing me here, so.”
“She wants to talk to our Mom.” My sister chimed in. I rolled my eyes.
“Oh, okay. Please don’t tell me anymore. I will see if I can channel her. Tiffany just close your eyes and take a deep breath.” She said calmly.
I slowly closed my eyes and took a deep breath in. She slapped the deck of cards down onto the table and I jerked my head up and opened my eyes. Shit…I was nodding out.
“Okay. I have a woman coming forward, a mother figure. But…okay hold on. Okay she wants to talk to you.” The woman said, looking at my sister.
“Of course she does.” I muttered under my breath.
“No, no, that’s okay. We are here for Tiff, tell her I’ll talk to her later.” My sister deflected the offer. She probably knew it would have pissed me off.
“Okay, sure no problem.” Gail said, looking uncomfortable. “Tiffany… do you…are you in any legal trouble?”
“What? No.” I replied, feeling somewhat offended. “I worked at a Law Office. My mom worked there too, maybe that’s what she’s talking about.”
“Hmmm. Okay. I don’t think that’s it. Let me see.” Gail got quiet for a moment and took a few deep breaths. I was getting annoyed. This was f***ing stupid and I really wanted to get home and go get pills from Lazarus. I was almost out.
“Tiffany, your mom is showing me lots of pain, and anguish.”
“Yeah. She died of cancer, it was pretty bad.”
“No not with her…with you.”
My foot started tapping as my anxiety began taking over. I thought this was supposed to be fun. This s**t is becoming a real buzzkill.
“Oh yeah?” I asked sarcastically, crossing my arms and leaning back in the chair.
“Yes. Oh Tiffany. Your Mom is showing me that you have a lot going on, too much perhaps. She says you need to take it easy. She says you are her baby, and she loves you and wants you to know that she…” Her voice trailed off and she grew silent.
“She what?” I asked.
“She is stepping back now. She said that she loves you very much.”
I squinted at Gail, I couldn’t help but think she was keeping something from me.
“Okay you started to say something though, I feel like there was more. Did she just back up or whatever in the middle of a sentence?” I asked.
“Yes. They do that sometimes. We only have a few minutes left, I’m going to pull some cards for you before you go, okay?”
It was pouring by the time my depressing psychic reading was over, so my sister and I sprinted to the car. Usually I would love things like this– running in the rain with my sister. But I hated it today. My shirt was sticking to my body making the outline of the syringe I’d concealed in my bra clearly visible. We slammed the doors shut when we got in and she immediately put the heat on. I tried to place my arm across my chest to hide it. “What did you think?” She asked smiling, reaching into the back seat to grab her CD case.
“It was awesome.” I lied, slipping a $20 out of her purse while she was turned around and shoving it into my pocket.
“Tiffany!” someone yelled, snapping me back to reality. “I’ve been calling your name for 2 minutes. What are you doing?” Dr. Danner smiled, noticing I was staring at the empty parking space.
“No need to apologize. I heard your family came. That’s wonderful, I’m so happy for you. Listen, I hope you don’t mind, but I scheduled an impromptu session for us today. I am leaving for 2 weeks for Japan and wanted you to finish telling me your story if that’s alright.”
“Of course. Right now?”
“Yes. We will go back to the house and you can finish telling me what happened with your boyfriend, after you told him that you’d gotten high. Walk with me.” She said.
As we walked back to the house, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of dread. The last thing I wanted to do was take another trip down “Tiffany Is A Piece Of S***” Lane. But I knew how important this next part was. In order for the Doctor to understand “me“, she had to know what happened. The night of that surprise party was the beginning of an incredibly dark journey. It was time to tell the truth.