“Hey guys, table 16 says they didn’t want any pink in their steak, I need you to throw this on the grill please, quickly.” I said, shoving the plate through the window of the cook line.
“Hey, Tiff, sorry to bug you. Um, the guy at table 47 wants to see a manager?” Gina said nervously.
“About?” I asked.
“Uh, I’m not really sure. I brought him the water he asked for, and then he immediately asked for a manager, so. I don’t really know, he doesn’t seem upset or anything. He actually seems… happy.” she said.
I let out a sigh as I brushed past her. I really didn’t have time for this, I still had to count the inventory in the cooler and we closed in an hour. I walked through the dining room giving a fake smile to each guest as I passed, when I rounded the corner near table 47 my heart fell to my knees.
“Hello.” I said, “What can I do for you?” I glanced around nervously as I awaited his reply. “Well, hello.” He said smiling. “I was looking over the menu and I was having trouble finding something, I was hoping you could help me.”
I crossed my arms and took a deep breath. “What is it?”
“Yes, it’s $7,000. Can you show me where it is?” He smiled, holding up his menu like a smart-ass. “Jake, you can’t just f***ing show up to my job like this. Are you serious right now?” I whispered frantically.
“I’ve given you more than enough time, too much time, actually. I thought for sure the idea of your boyfriend finding out who you really are, would be enough motivation for you to return my money, but evidently I was mistaken.”
“Listen, it’s not that,” I said, “Of course I don’t want him to know, it would destroy him. It’s just. It’s not easy to get that kind of money, especially when….” My voice trailed off.
“Especially when, what? You’re a junkie and have to feed your addiction first? I get it. Which is why I figured I’d give you some incentive.”
My heart began to pound as I wondered where he was going with this.
I quickly glanced around the restaurant and noticed a few servers were standing by the computer waiting impatiently for me to come put my manager code in for them. “I have to go Jake. Give me one more week. I’m trying, I really am.”
“Do you remember Cinco De Mayo?” he asked calmly, unfolding his napkin and placing it on his lap.
“What the f***? Cinco De Mayo? Like 6 years ago? Yeah. We went to the party downtown then crashed at your house. What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, feeling confused and growing impatient.
The fact that he was moving so slow and talking like he was some kind of gangster in a movie was really getting on my nerves.
“Do you remember what happened when we got back to my place?” he asked.
“Jesus Christ, Dude I don’t have time for this. Just tell me what the hell–.” I stopped midsentence as the memory of that night resurfaced. He smiled in response to my sudden realization.
“You are a liar.” I snarled, feeling enraged that he would threaten me like this.
“Am I?” He said with a look of confusion. My eyes fell to his pocket as he reached in it to pull something out.
“I actually thought you might say that.” He held his phone up so the screen faced me, my blood ran cold once I registered the image.
“You have 5 days to get me my money or everyone on the internet gets to see your performance.” He said standing up. I stared at him in disbelief as he threw a $20 bill on the table and smiled at me. “Keep the change.”
He made it two steps, before turning around and snatching it back up from the table. “Actually, I’ll go ahead and keep this. Just give me $6,980 by Friday.” He winked, and headed toward the door.
3 days had passed since Jake showed up at my work to threaten me. I had already pawned everything valuable of mine, as well as lots of things that belonged to Chuck. Things he wouldn’t notice missing from around the house. I had nothing left to pawn and 2 days to get Jake the money or… Something terrible was going to happen.
As the hours passed and my desperation grew, my moral compass started to shift. It was as if my conscience, that had always told me right from wrong had faded, as my need to obtain money had grown.
I had begun dipping into my tax check in order to support my habit, because there was no way I would be able to continue to work– and continue to think of ways to make this money– all while keeping it hidden from Chuck and trying to remain as normal-seeming as possible. It was like trying to shovel during a blizzard, as soon as I made money — I had to spend it to not get sick. I couldn’t get ahead of it.
I couldn’t have Chuck find out about that I was a junkie– not like this.
I cranked the music up in my car and banged the pill I’d just gotten from my friend Danny. I had been avoiding Lazarus since the other night and a pang of guilt kicked me in the gut every time the memory crossed my mind.
I listened to the rhythm of the music as the wave of bliss hit me. I closed my eyes to enjoy this moment, this split second as the drug entered my bloodstream. Because it was in this second — that nothing mattered. In this moment, I was thoughtless, weightless, I was free.
The feeling faded, and slowly the hideous world around me became louder, more apparent. All of the lies, negative thoughts and twisted situations I’d gotten myself into rushed back in like a dam had been released.
If I could have that 15 seconds of ecstasy after shooting the pill, be my permanent state of mind, life would be perfect. It’s all of the unbearable seconds before and after the high that make me want to die. 15 seconds of relief from my sad reality has become my number one priority, because the escape — no matter how fleeting — was invaluable.
I thought about Jake coming to visit me, I thought about Cinco De Mayo. I had spent the night doing a ridiculous amount of drugs and chugging countless bottles of beer. The night was a blur, but I remember…I remember what we did.
I remember him setting the camcorder up, and crawling onto the bed with me. I remember him telling me how beautiful I was, and how he wanted to remember the moment forever. I remember feeling special, and loved. I remember him promising he would never show a soul.
He was going to post the tape of us on social media, if I didn’t get him the money.
Tears streamed down my face ass I realized that soon everyone would know the truth about me. About the things I’d done. Chuck –and all of his friends and family would have a front row seat to a drug-fueled, intimate moment I’d had with another man.
I was f***ing, f***ed.
I couldn’t let that happen. Suddenly I had an idea. I hadn’t thought of it before, probably because it never in a million years was on my radar of things to do to get money. But the stakes were higher now and honestly, there isn’t a damn thing I wouldn’t do to keep that video from getting out there.
I knew of a house that I could gain access to that may have some items I could borrow and pawn until I paid Jake off. Then I could return them before anyone noticed.
I picked up the phone and began dialing.
“Hello?” Chucks mom said cheerfully.
“Heyyyy! I know you guys are working today but I have a HUGE favor. Is there any way I can swing by and use your computer to reprint some of my tax stuff? I guess the accountant needs it.” I lied.
“Of course sweetheart, there’s some left over turkey in the fridge if you’re hungry, make yourself at home.” I squeezed my eyes shut as a knife of shame stabbed through my heart.
“Thank you, I’ll talk to you later.” I said, quickly hanging up.
I sat with my hands on the steering wheel for a moment, nervously tapping my foot and debating on what to do. Stealing from people who had been nothing but amazing to me was a horrific thing to do. Having them find out that I’d lied to, manipulated and broken their sons heart — and had a sex tape out there that they could see if they chose, seemed worse.
I am already going to hell, there was no question of that. Now it was just a matter of how badly I was going to hurt everyone before going.
“So you went to the parents house?” Kelly interrupted.
“Yes. I did.”
“And that’s when you stole the wedding ring?”
I stared off into the distance, feeling empty, and ashamed. I could feel a knot growing in my throat as I relived this memory with Kelly.
“Hey, I’m not here to judge you. I know it’s hard, but you are doing great. We are going to work through all of this I promise.” She said.
I had tears in my eyes when I looked back up at her. Each time I tried to begin speaking my voice cracked.
“I didn’t know it was a wedding ring. I thought he wore his wedding ring. I … I hate that I did that. The ring was irreplaceable. I honestly want to die when I think about that.” I cried.
“I think it’s good for you to feel what you’re feeling, it’s important. The regret, the guilt, the shame associated with the things you did. The fact that you are feeling that tells me that you are making progress. You never allowed yourself to feel these emotions before, you always pushed them away and avoided them. The only way to get through it, is to go through it — and that’s what you are doing.” She said placing her hand on my knee.
“The things that I had taken from his parents house, got me closer to what I needed, but I still didn’t have enough. I had already gone all out and honestly at this point it was like, I didn’t care. I wasn’t thinking. The guilt of what I’d done to his parents was gnawing at me and I needed to get high to forget, to not feel so f***ing bad.”
She nodded as I continued speaking.
“I know that sounds selfish, but I literally didn’t know how to cope with those feelings. Those emotions caused like, my brain to short out or something. It was so heavy, and getting high made it lighter I guess. Anyway, I didn’t want to tap into the money I’d already saved and I remembered that Chuck had gotten $300.00 for his birthday a few days before. I needed that money to get high, because I was starting to get sick. But since it was only him and I in the house I couldn’t just take it, you know? Because he would know it was me.”
“Well, couldn’t you have asked him to borrow it?”
“Why is that?”
“Because he had already given me $100 the week before, and money was tight. If I asked him for more he would want to know why and it would have been too obvious, I guess. I don’t know I wasn’t thinking straight at this point. My internal setting was stuck on desperation so I wasn’t operating with common sense. I was just…. I was just doing what I thought I had to do to keep my world from crumbling and it was exhausting. It would have been so much easier to just tell the f***ing truth. At the time it seemed impossible, but looking back…If I had known how it all was going to end… I would have just told the truth.”
“And how did it end, Tiffany?” she asked quietly.
I stared at the ground for a moment before slowly bringing my eyes up to hers.
“In complete f***ing chaos…” I replied.