By Janine Canty.
My son is a drug addict.
I’ve taken to practicing those words in the mirror. They feel unreal. They sound foreign, no matter how many times I repeat them. They taste bad. They actually taste bad. They smell like sour milk and unwashed skin. They feel like a snowstorm in July.
I love him enough to die for him. I love the part of him that named a gerbil “Blub Blub”, when he was three. I love the part of him that ran a gentle finger across my swollen abdomen, and quietly whispered “Baby Brutha”, when he was four. I love the part of him that wrote a journal entry for his first grade class. He wrote: “My cat, Mittens, has fleas. Mommy had to give her a bath. Mommy swore a lot.”
Maybe it was because I dropped the F bomb in front of him. Maybe it’s because he was conceived in the backseat of a blue Dodge Dart with broken seat belts. Maybe it was the tinny rendition of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” blasting out of cheap speakers. Maybe it was the sound of clothes slipping lazily off of skin. Maybe it was the boxed macaroni and cheese I let him live on when he was six. Maybe it was a cold night in November. When he watched me climb into a police cruiser without him. I didn’t look back that night. I didn’t see him standing there in a pile of brittle, dead, leaves. I didn’t need to see his face, to memorize it’s every pore.
Maybe it was bad luck, caffeine, or even a faulty gene pool. Maybe it was Bazooka bubble gum and beer. I remember when I was seven, how the rotary phone rang from it’s spot on a kitchen wall. My mother played with the pushpins on a cheerful bulletin board, while she listened. Her voice got smaller and quieter. Her body slowly folded in on itself. Assuming the fetal position. Protecting herself from the words. My cousin, Jackie, a solemn boy with big eyes and soft curls, had been found laying on a Boston street. His blood staining the cement underneath him. His life light extinguished by a strangers dirty knife. Drugs the adults whispered with red rimmed eyes. Drugs . They lowered their voices. Jackie was reduced to a shameful little secret, with that one word: “Drugs.”Life went on. Family barbecues resumed without him. Jello cake, sweating soda cans, and half smoked pall malls littered a picnic table. While my aunt sat in the shade, with her broken heart hidden behind a pair of Walgreen’s sunglasses.When I was 23 the phone rang again. This time death had come on a beautiful summer day. My cousin Stephen silenced his demons with a piece of plastic tubing, He ended his life on top of a mountain, with one push of a hypodermic needle. He was found among soft grass, and sharp boulders. His face looked peaceful. He didn’t leave a note. Whether it was on purpose was never decided. Whether it was on purpose was irrelevant. “Drugs”. again, it was “Drugs” Guilty whispers. Shameful glances. Red rimmed eyes, and a closed casket. Stephen’s life reduced to it’s tiny, sad, ending.
Many, many, years have passed since those events. Rotary phones have been replaced by fancy cell phones. My son has grown into a scabby looking transient. His hands shake. His once beautiful face is cracked,, and covered in tiny sores. He hides his eyes behind an oily string that was once healthy hair. The world looks at him and judges him for what he has become. Someone you wouldn’t leave alone around your pocketbook, or your child. When I hear “Ballroom Blitz” start playing from my fancy cell phone, my hands turn to heavy ice.
While I rummage through my purse, grapple on top of a crowded bathroom vanity, or reach blindly in the dark to silence one of my favorite 70’s songs. I wonder if this is the time I’ll have to go identify the remains of my child in a freezing cold room while bland professionals offer me horrible coffee, and whisper Drugs.
My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.” Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook. I fail at tweeting.