Crackers

I was supposed to raise my medication almost two weeks ago; what the doctor didn’t know was that I hadn’t been taking it, so, as I was deemed to need it, I began it on a lower dose.

Today I increased it to the expected level.

My vision closed in, my limbs began to shake, I felt just a little sick, but I was sitting , so I didn’t notice the other symptoms.

At the ring of the doorbell I staggered into a standing position and noticed that my knees were bending, in the way I’ve seen my son’s knees buckle when he was on particular drugs, but I didn’t give in, no, I made my winding way around furniture which had expanded since I woke this morning, leaving narrower gaps for me to negotiate.

I calculated; already hours had passed since I took that little pill. I spoke through the intercom, but the words came out the wrong shape; I could almost see them; magically writhing chunks of elastic detritus brought to life by the tide, making me nervous.

I mustn’t be seen like this by those who will gossip and misunderstand.

It was a relief to learn that my guest was a man who’s familiar with chemical that play with the mind. It was just Laura’s ex who had come to collect his key, which she’d given to me.

Joe was talking fast and he seemed excited. His eyes were wide and his pupils contracted but even like that he could see there was something amiss; let’s face it, it couldn’t be missed,with my erratic gait and the way I collapsed, but when I explained what medication I was taking he smiled in glee.

He related an occasion he’d taken the same thing without a prescription, but he took a bigger heap, and pretty soon we were laughing together, discussing shamons and things of the spirit, while I made him a cup of tea.

He stayed for a while and we talked about Laura, and by the time he left he’d agreed to come to me in the event of tragedy, and hold me and help me to see that it’s only her body which will decay; her spirit will finally be free, and we’ll find a way to celebrate a life which I made, which never wanted to be.

He hugged me and told me he needed a friend like me; a friend who is crackers and understands him.

You may call Joe a druggie, an addict, a junkie, and he wouldn’t disagree, but the first time I met him I felt a connection, a recognition, and though we are different in the way we live, in our souls we are really the same.

With him I feel liberated, intied from convention, polite pretention, stripped down to the depths of me. I know he’s a friend, I know he’s a soulmate, I knew it instantly. It’s love without need for sadness or pity, and it’s a rare emotion to see.

And yes, he lives on mind altering substances, but I won’t let prejudice cage me, difference enrage me, judgement disengage me. It doesn’t decrease my feeling of kinship.

Amidst all this, I spoke to my doctor and listed my symptoms. He waited for me to say I would like to discontinue my medication, replace it with nothing and see how it goes. His agreement was instant; even eager, and he admitted he doesn’t like Lyrica [lie-ree-sa]. It had been recommended by a psychiatrist I had seen.

Now a streaky sea of evening sky advances, and still I am shaky, still I am staggering, still I am off my face. Which probably proves I am not the type to misuse drugs, or I would be more immune, and the message is strengthened by my decision to give up taking prescribed medication, even though it’s the kind that’s desired on the street.

And in case you wonder, when I wake up tomorrow, straight and sober, I’ll still know that Joe is my friend.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Like Judas

Weeks of running, chasing the tail of crack and smack, the opposing demon siblings. Dodging police, each narrow miss another weight on him. Paranoia, like a fever, seizing him, flinging him into prickly bushes; chasing him across lines of fast traffic, pushing him to scale walls, scrape his shins, fall; leading him to muddy waters, dunking him.

If the police didn’t get him
he’d grow too weak to swim.
He would sink.

I prepared his last supper, and, like Judas, I attended, smiling while he tasted; chewed; passed compliments on the food, all the while assessing his pitiful condition: face and hands cut and bruised; ripped jeans stained where the blood had seeped through.
I looked at his eyes, hooded by brows that I had not designed, pupils working overtime; taking in the room; flicking to the curtained window – his tormented mind visualising police in the darkened street.

Judas did it with a kiss, but in this age of technology I did it with a click. My text sent, its single word a simple request beginning a short chain of events resulting in a tense knot of uniforms beyond my door.

As the handle turned, my heart churned, altering the shape of my fear, but offering no relief.

a
six
year
prison
sentence
was expected.
it felt like
eons,
like
f
o
r
e
v
e
r

The police were kind; they gave him time to say goodbye. I looked into his face and recognised the child I’d raised who’d filled my soul with love and pride – I’d thought that child had died, but suddenly, as if he’d been baptized, arrest had cleansed him of his sins, sloughed away the years of filth the drugs had left behind. The feeling of grief and loss redoubled, splintering beneath my ribs. Pity dripped into my soul. I had to fight to hide my tears: crying wouldn’t ease his journey to the cells. When we parted, a brave smile clung unconvincingly to my twitching lips.

My eyes stayed dry;
I didn’t shake; I didn’t hit the floor –
until I heard that final sound –
the slamming
of the
door

This post was inspired by a heartrending post on grieving and healing mothers. My poem tells of an event that occurred over two years ago, and is therefore no more or less than a part of my history. My son was arrested and imprisoned in March 2014. He received a thirty month prison sentence – far less than was expected, and has since been released on licence on three occasions, only to be returned each time for infringing his licence agreement. He will remain in prison until September, after which time his sentence will be over.

To prevent him from dying

Lying in late this morning, because it’s Sunday, because I can, because I feel like it, because, just because… my mind drifting in luxury, dirty breakfast dishes beside me, waiting to be washed.

When I hear the knock on a door I’m unsure if it’s my door, so I ignore it until I hear it again. I look through the frosted glass pane to see a man waiting.

He’s roughly as tall as Paul, has short hair and a similar build, and there’s no way I’ll let Paul in, so I bolt the security chain, then open the door enough to see two policemen looking at me.

I smile my relief, and say, Sorry, I thought you were my son, then I release the chain and let them in.

One of them flashes his ID and asks; Is your son with you?

It would be rude to mention that as I thought he had been outside my door, he’s unlikely to this side of it.

He points to the trainers on the floor and says “Are these his shoes?”

“No, they’re mine,” I reply.

He says “Oh! It’s just that they look very big.”

Thank you kind sir, yes, now that you mention it, I do have big feet, but they’re healthy. Would you like to see?… I’m so taken aback that I don’t say that. I don’t even think to tell him that Paul’s feet are four sizes larger than mine.

Upon inspection it’s discovered that Paul isn’t in the kitchen, living room, bedroom or bathroom. He’s not in the utility area or the wardrobe, or hiding under blankets between the sofa and the wall, because since the last time he tried that little trick, I’ve put them away, on a high shelf. He’s not on the shelf either.

I’m being unkind, and there’s no need for it, except to nourish my sense of humour. Apart from the inadvertent remark about the shoes, both policemen are polite and respectful, and they’re trying to complete the job I’d like to see done – that of getting my son back to jail, where he’ll be safe. They’ll catch him in the end anyway, and the sooner he hits the cells the greater the damage limitation.

All afternoon the street grapevine buzzes nervously. The phones of addicts and dealers are red-hot from calls to and fro, warning each other that the police are on the prowl, going to all the houses, trying to track Paul down. No doubt those who don’t lose out will profit from the extra sales to replace drugs that have been flushed down toilets.

And me? I’m getting a few calls of the
do-you-know-where-Paul-is-because-the police-are-looking-for-him
sort, and I tell them all I know; he’s camping somewhere, laying low until he’s ready to go in, but he never will be. He’s ill because he can’t get hold of money for drugs, and judging by the glare of the sun, he’s probably at risk of sunstroke.

If he’s still at large tomorrow he will have access to money for enough drugs to accidentally kill himself. I’ve seen him on the run before, and he will have reached a state of near insanity where he has no ability to judge his tolerance, and the worst could happen.

No, I don’t know where he is. If I did there would be a police car racing towards him, pulling out all the stops, not so much because they want to cop him, more to prevent him from dying.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Momentum

bridge-19.jpg

I recently heard the story of an addict who had been using for years, daily staggering through the same old game, hustling for the money to feed his habit before trailing after dealers to sell him his next inch of jaded relief. One day he was sitting in his regular patch when an old friend from school passed by. Without slowing his pace, the man turned slightly, and, glancing his way, said Are you still at it? in a disinterested tone, then continued on his way.

The addict stared after him, shocked by those few, simple words. Only he knows what images of the past crowded his brain, what feelings of loss at his wasted days, what thoughts of his shame and degradation – but in that blinding instant he made the decision to change, to embrace the future he had perhaps, long ago, in his schooldays, taken for granted.

He went into recovery, and now he repeats his inspirational tale to all who he feels may find it helpful.

I like to think that he thanked the school-mate for clicking the switch that gave him the momentum to change his life.

We all have moments of grace, when desire, strength and faith combine to make many actions that hitherto seemed too distant to consider, achievable, and the littlest thing can open our minds to great possibilities.

©Jane Paterson Basil

A wisp of hope

An unsent message to my daughter, written last year.

Although I can no longer look at you, I picture the image you left the last time you came into my place, filling my formerly safe space with danger and pain. You were so thin that I swear I could see the white of those bones which threaten to crumble to dust while I still live. Your skin a strange hue that defies description. Angry sores on your face. Blank eyes swimming in madness.

What do you want from me? Could it be that you feel the need of a mother’s love? Do you wish for sympathy or are you simply driven by the desire for drug money? I cannot give you any of these things. Even my love for you is locked so deep inside that it cannot be released.

I don’t ask you to listen. I write this not for you, but for me. Wrapped in your soft, blood-stained armour of golden brown liquid, you cannot hear me now, and when your inability to score strips you naked you are in too much pain to feel anything but your need for more poison.

Heroin submerges, deep beneath her lies, what you once knew to be the truth. She tells you you need her in order to survive, and although something inside you whispers that you are going to die, it no longer seems such a high price to pay because your sight is too dimmed to see what that means.

She led you to care so little for your life that any drug would do. Now she keeps her distance as you trip through amphetamine insanity, with black, staring eyes, and limbs akimbo. She lets the leash stretch knowing you are still within her reach.

These words are bent out of shape and refuse to be a goodbye. Hard as I try I cannot make them say what I wish you to know before you go, because within me a wisp of hope still exists.

The wish that you may recover, and learn a way to live.

©Jane Paterson Basil