We were loaded, as usual. For some reason, I wore a white silky camisole, and a white lacy tutu. I am not shitting you, a fucking tutu, and a pajama top with crazy white stiletto boots. I remember leaving the pool at The Country Club in a hurry, rushing towards Liam in a speeding black and white United Cab.
My bag was crammed with needles and I was laden with drugs. I was fucking drunk, and my eyes were probably nearly rolling because I was so fucking high. I think I even had shot a little crystal meth that day, as well. Crystal was not something I often encountered, and when I did I generally devoured it. Arriving at Charity Hospital, I tossed some money at the cab driver, staggered out, and I walked up the steps like I was the Queen of fucking Sheba.
Once I got to the middle of the steps, I remembered the guards at Charity. I was wasted. I was stupid. And I was a junky who refused to toss my shit. I turned around, too fucked up to realize people were watching me. Not to mention that I looked like a fool in my tutu. Liam had called days earlier, begging me to bring him something for he claimed he was dying. I shoved a methadone wafer in my bra for him, along with a small bag of crystal meth. I shoved my kit, complete with the metal teaspoon and used rig, into my panties. I also put a whole bag of fresh needles down there. Right between my legs.
Once the guard put the metal detector wand down by my underwear, the beeping started. Beep…a lone; low-pitched beep. The guard moved the wand detector back and forth. Beep. Beep. I thought, oh shit…the fucking spoon.
I knew I was fucked. And although my heart rose in a slight panic, I remained calm on the outside at first. They retrieved the kit, and the next few scenes played out more like watching someone else on the big screen. Only it was definitely happening to me…as I watched, detached, in my mind. They opened the kit, inspecting the black soot covered spoon, bent to perfection. The needle seemed to be gleaming like a beacon to my criminal activity, and I thought everyone looked on with curiosity. A guard pulled out all the contents, and before I knew it I felt the handcuffs closing in on my wrists. I didn’t panic. I didn’t flinch. I didn’t even have much of an expression on my face.
Blank detachment. The blank detachment of a junky that has been strung out for years. Security guards whisked me into a private room, and sat me in a hard, metal folding chair. They thought they found it all. A needle and spoon probably seemed like a major bust to a hospital security guard.
I think I was in the underground security area of Charity Hospital. In front stood a glass window that gave off the bullet-proof aura. Several guards bustled around behind the glass. I heard phone calls made in regards to my future. No doubt I would be arrested. And I knew I would not be seeing Liam, yet again. All I could really think about, though, was the Sickness. In jail, there would inevitably be a period of Junk Sickness.
I thought of William S. Burroughs’ description in his book Junky, as he kicks in holding. He rubs up against a bench and has an orgasm. Guards and other prisoners witness his own personal hell first hand. I thought about the Sickness. I thought about the insanity that is coupled with Sickness. I thought about being behind bars through it all. Panic rose in my heart.
I knew I had that wafer. That 40mg orange methadone wafer would keep me good for at least a day. I began to crave its bitter orange taste, dissolving on my tongue. I realized that I must get to that wafer. I needed to get that wafer out of my bra and into my mouth. I started to fidget in the cuffs. I pulled my hands one way, and then the other to see how much leverage I had in those things.
I thought I could do it. I thought I could reach my bra and then my mouth. I was desperate. And I was delusional. I went for it. I tried to make it swift and fast. I got the wafer from my bra to my hand, and then I attempted to maneuver it to my mouth. I panicked. I needed to be quick. I was not sure the cuffs reached, so I stretched. And stretched. I ended up with a guard breathing down my neck,
“What the hell are you trying to do?” barked the gruff female voice behind me. The ominous female guard stared down at me, snatching the pill out of my hand. I saw my methadone relief mission flush right down the toilet. My heart sank in fear of the impending doom.
“Uh-uh, I was, I, uh,” I stammered.
She breathed harder. I could feel her breath hot on the back of my neck.
“I said,” she clarified, “What the hell are you trying to do?”
I just stared. My cottonmouth froze up. I had no explanation. I was flat busted. I sighed. She breathed hot and harder.
“Well, what the hell is that in your hand?” I just opened up my hand, flexing it out, watching my fingers curve in the air like a swan. Like a beautiful swan holding my only relief. I watched the orange crumbly pill glisten in the fake overhead fluorescent light, sparkling like no chalky pill I have ever seen before. I could almost taste the bittersweet orange medicine I craved. I could almost taste relief, as it gleamed in my curving swan-like uncupped hand. Until the guard’s hand clamped down on the pill, and then, of course, she clamped down tighter on me.
At this point, I was not afraid of jail. I was not afraid of charges. I was only afraid of being without dope. I was deathly afraid of the Sickness.
The guard marched me into a bathroom. The sinks seemed really low to the ground, like this bathroom was meant for children. Maybe it was just the nine-inch stiletto boots I was wearing. The tile was small, like that in so many government bathrooms. Green and white tile. A light, limey green. I bet it was once bright, brilliant lime green, back in the 50’s when that color was popular, but had since faded just as the white tiles had faded to yellow with age and traffic. The guard pushed me into a stall.
The stall was the same faded green. I leaned my head against the green walls surrounding me. Faded green plastic walls. I looked down at the tile. I looked down in shame as she took down my underwear. Needles were sticking out of the lips that surround my vagina. The guard shook her head as she retrieved the needles from my pussy lips. Her brow furrowed, and her heart softened a little as she looked at me with complete pity.
I was definitely busted now, I thought as she marched me back to the folding chair. My bra and panties were much lighter, but my charges were now much heavier.
I heard the guards behind the desk, relaying the extra charges to some brand of higher authority. My own dam began to break at this point, until I shook in hysterics.
I explained that I was a junky. “I am a heroin addict,” I sobbed.
The guard looked at me, shaking her head back and forth.“I am an addict, my life is spinning out of control,” I whispered. Another guard came from behind, and they both looked at me with eyes of pity and disbelief. The shorter one put her hand on my arm kindly. I sobbed out of control.
“I am a junky. I am sick, and I really need help.” Both women nodded in agreement, and put their hands on my arm. I cannot remember what either of them said. My personal levee began to flow out of control, in the days before the Hurricane. I was suddenly hysterical. I just wanted to see Liam. I suddenly felt so obligated to see Liam. And yet again, he would sit upstairs, alone, locked in his madness, waiting for a visit from his true love. And, as usual, I left him dangling.
The guards tried to comfort me, reassuring me I could into rehab, right after I got out of jail. The next bit went by in a blur. Before I knew it, I was down the street from Charity Hospital in the first waiting area of Orleans Parish Prison. Otherwise known as OPP.
They took the handcuffs off and threw me into a big room right near the enterance of the jail. Wooden slatted benches cradled the walls of this octagonal corner in the intake area of OPP. The wood smoothed flat from years and years of butts. I slumped down on the bench, and I noticed a couple guys also in custody. I looked around, and I saw that no one was watching.
Since my intake, I had been more and more afraid of the bag of crystal meth in my bra. I could not let them find it, warranting yet another felony charge. And as addict, I could not bear to throw it away.
This was my chance. I reached into my bra, and took it out. I held onto the bag, while as discreetly as possible as I surveyed my surroundings. I dumped the powder on my hand, right onto the sweetmeat between thumb and forefinger. I dropped the bag between the wooden slats of the bench. Carefully, and inconspicuously, I lifted the small of my hand to my face, and quickly snorted. I sucked all the bitter crystal up my nose. Crystal burns when you snort it. A tear ran out my eye on the side I snorted, a long single flowing tear. Putting my finger over one nostril, I took one deeper suck to inhale as much of the acidic powder as I could. I noticed one of the other prisoners watching me. He was a black guy, with long dreads. He smiled at me, as he gave me the nod that let me know he was also one of us.
The crystal managed to stave off much of the Sickness, at least for a while. The process at OPP is quite lengthy, and I knew I would be there for the next 24 to 48 hours. They transferred me from chairs to benches to backrooms, and I knew it was getting late. My stomach was rumbling with the beginnings of the Sickness and I knew the sun had probably gotten low. I thought of the The Shobar.
I thought of the musty smell that I encountered each time I walked through the front door of the strip club. I thought about the smooth wooden bar, sloshing with Jameson and beer. I thought of the dressing room, full of blunt smoke and make-up. I tried not to think about dope. I wondered what Sophia was doing.
I wondered if she had made it to work yet, or maybe it was not quite that late. I wondered if she scored from Shay or from Bob. I thought of her hands, shaking as she tried to get the potent and pungent brown liquid into the hardened veins on the backs of her bleeding hands. I pictured a drop of blood running down from where the needle was, one slow, lone drop, falling bright red onto the dingy tiles of the bathroom floor. I saw Sophia and her track marks in the florescent lights behind white, wooden doors. I wondered if the dope was any good out there tonight.
Night was followed by day, and it seemed no relief was in sight. My freedom was still in question, and I tried to hide my fear and impending Sickness. I was transported back and forth to court where they kept us in a small room with bunk beds awaiting the courtroom. There must have been at least twenty girls in there. Two and three girls huddled up on each bunk, as I tried desperately to avoid the pains of withdrawal. As I tried desperately not to puke. The smell of thirty desperate women permeated the room. In the back corner was a “closet”, that was really just a recessed space in the wall. A stench rose from there, and on further inspection I realized it was full of pads and tampons. Maybe there was also toilet paper. It was mostly the menstrual waste of the many incarcerated women who had waited for their court decided fate here. The smell rose in the humidity that seeped in the ancient buildings of New Orleans. Walking out to the courtroom, I preferred the smell of fear to the smell of rotting menstrual waste.
The courthouse scene went by in a blur, and I was shackled with a girl who sold crack to a minor, and an undercover. A few seats down sat a man who was appearing on his twentieth crack charge. Both of them got bonds less than two grand, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Momentarily. Up next, I shook as the lawyer up front took out my eyeglass container. I saw my kit, and my spoon and needle sitting on the wooden table near the judge. I heard methadone, and I heard felony. I heard something about former marijuana charges, and traffic tickets. And then I heard nine thousand dollars…
Almost ten thousand fucking dollars? Are you kidding me? The girl next to me sold crack TO A FUCKING KID, and her bond is a fraction of mine. My eyes widened, and I thought about how much dope ten thousand dollars would buy. And I was thankful to know a bail bondsman. And a lawyer. And a strip club client who would pay the outrageous bond.
Court date. Bond set. Transported back to the tier once more. I long since quit calling the Shobar because they were no longer answering. I hoped that was because I was going to be bonded out soon. One of the worst things about being in jail is not knowing.
I was so exhausted when I saw Spider, I hardly knew who she was. I knew her from the street. We shared the same dope dealer, and she knew I was one of his best customers. For her generosity, I will always be grateful. She gave me a Thorazine that came from some crazy girl, and I knew I would finally sleep. As tired as I was, the crystal still tickled my mind, taunting me away from slumber.
I twitched in a wave of dope sickness as I lay down hoping to fade away. The images on the television slowed to a crawl, and all the voices became long and drawn out. I, too, slowed to a crawl and faded away. The next thing I knew, Spider was shaking me awake in the dark because they had called my name.
The process out is like walking the steps backward, but the waiting is not so excruciating. It is still a long wait, but at least you know at the end of it, you will be free. The end was in sight. The end of this rumbling stomach, and the end of this insanity in my head. I hoped. I hoped whoever picked me up would have a bag waiting. I knew my bond had been paid, and the wheels of this process had finally started to turn. I focused on staving off the dope Sickness in my mind for just a little while longer. I could do this.
I walked out those front doors of the jail almost two days after I went in. Still a little wired from the crystal, and still a little groggy from the Thorazine, and still wearing a tutu. I desperately looked around to see who was here to pick me up. I prayed they had a fucking bag of dope for me. I was not sure how much longer I could keep up this charade.
I stood outside the jail, looking down the alley as I leaned on a chain link fence. The bright orange tinted streetlight hummed, illuminating the fence to sparkle in some parts. It was late, but I could barely hear the crickets over the orange sparkly hum. My best friend Quentin, his girlfriend Barbie, and our bail bondsman- junky friend, Reese, finally pulled up.