CAPTIVE IN THE MIRROR
Courtesy of God’s Emerald Photos
Before I boarded, I stopped in the ladies’ room. As I washed my hands, I glanced into a mirror. Another mirror that refused to lie. Puffy, blackened eyes, sunken cheeks, cigarette-stained teeth. The pathetic girl looking back through the glass seemed to blurt, I’m nothing but a used-up whore. Junkie trash. Help me! I closed my eyes and covered my ears to shut out her image and her voice. It was impossible. She lived inside of me. I despised her and wanted her dead.
I started to realize that even though I was free from Shane, I was still a prisoner of the destroyed person I’d become.
Twenty-two hours later I was back in Port Authority. It had been days since my last heroin fix, and the symptoms had somewhat alleviated.
I stepped off the bus and stood on the platform. Suddenly my mind registered where I was. My stomach tensed, and a sense of doom overtook me. Blinking rapidly, my lips trembled and energy drained from my body.
The feeling was like that when I nearly drowned during a family beach outing. I was eight and had strayed too far from the shoreline. A riptide dragged me underwater and violently tossed me around. Water rushed into my mouth and up my nose. The riptide ensnared me, and its angry waters buried me.
That same sense of entombment imprisoned me right there in Port Authority. No matter which way I looked, I saw Shane.
I broke free from its grip and fled to Times Square to buy heroin. A haven, at that time, for pimps, addicts, and drug pushers, I easily found a dealer and stuffed a wad of Daddy’s bills into his hand in exchange for five one-gram baggies of the deadly powder.
Death was not an abstract idea to me. I knew of many working girls killed in the last three years. Shane had thrown one of my roommates off his penthouse roof. I saw the look of horror in her eyes when he dragged her out of the apartment and heard her shriek in terror—then silence—then chaotic screams of the crowds in the street below, finally the sirens. Jasmine was dead, but she was finally free.
I wanted to be free too. But as tears gushed from the bottomless well in my heart, I understood the gravity of what I was about to do. I missed my brothers and sister and dreaded leaving them alone in this soulless world.
Even so, when I saw my reflection in a store window, I stopped to stare at the pathetic weakling mirrored back. I yelled, “Loser! If you think you’re blubbering’s gonna stop me, you’re nuts!” Her tears aggravated me. Slowly that image dissolved, and a little girl in a pink tutu and glittery top smiled at me. Then her big brown eyes brimmed with tears as she began twirling. I slammed my hands up against the window and rubbed out her face.
Sprinting down the street, I headed towards my destination, an illegal heroin “shooting gallery.” I paused in front of the condemned building, bending over, hands on my knees, panting. I lifted my eyes up and gazed at the open entryway, wavering for a moment. Then I bounded up the rickety staircase to the fifth floor.
Unconscious bodies strewed the hallway. I stepped over them, faltered, and stepped into the apartment. I skulked past nodding junkies and scattered trash, and tripped into the reeking bathroom. My mind whirled as I tore open three bags of the heroin. I don’t know why I didn’t use all five. I mixed the lethal dose with tap water in a rusted tablespoon I found on the floor. I lit a match to melt the mixture. The onslaught of nightmares of my days with Shane would no longer haunt me. Any moment now, it would be all over, any moment . . .
I drew the liquid poison into a used syringe left on the sink.
I had suffered enough abuse, enough torture, enough rejection in a world where I would never fit in.
One last breath.
I pulled my belt out from my jeans and tugged it taut around my forearm. I smacked the crook of my arm, trying to get a vein to pop up. Most of my veins had collapsed, and my arms were covered with scars and needle mark tracks. I wanted to get it over with so, unable to find a vein, I jammed the needle into my skin and injected the warm liquid, eager to feel that fatal rush.
The heat shot up my arm, into my body, into my head. Then everything went black.
Blazing white lights bore through my eyelids, turning them red. I squinted, peeking through my lashes, certain I was finally in Heaven—until I tried to move. Straps restrained my hands and feet. I panicked. Shane had captured me! I bucked and bucked, trying to break free, but to no avail. I shrieked hysterically. I saw a white blur move towards me and felt a sharp puncture into my upper arm.
Hours passed by, maybe a whole day, before I opened my eyes. Still in restraints, I cried out for help. I was still groggy but able to focus, and when I saw the nurse. I was in a hospital.
“Miss, you have to calm down if you want us to help you.” The Bernstein section of Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan.
The last thing I remembered was sticking a syringe into my arm. Now here I was, tied to a bed. The more I struggled to break free, the more agitated I became. The uselessness of it drove me nuts.
An orderly brought me a dose of a bitter cherry liquid, known as methadone, three times a day. The methadone anesthetized me, as heroin did. Basically tranquilized, I cooperated with the staff. Soon after that a nurse removed the restraints.
Three times a week, I visited the on-site psychiatrist in his office. He always lowered his glasses below his eyes, “How are we doing today, young lady?” He resembled Mr. Wilson from the Dennis the Menace show. I know he was only trying to help me, but how could he, a man, ever understand how a sexually violated, abused girl feels? I loathed being in the same room with him, but I had no choice. You don’t have choices in places like that.
all rights reserved ©Nancy Jean Walker
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