There was a little girl.
Then there was heroin.
Now she’s dead.
And no one – absolutely no one – was at all surprised.
“You’ve got to send me to prison,” she told a local copper a few weeks ago.
“We can’t just send you to prison.”
“You have to, it’s the only place I can stay clean.”
But the officer said no so she called him back and said she was going to hurt herself. That forced him to go see her. When he did, she had her entire H-works strewn out on the bed.
“Now can I go to prison?”
She did come to the county jail that night, but hadn’t yet been sentenced for the paraphernalia.
There are those dealers and users who I don’t give a shit about. To put it less charitably, if they OD, I figure it’s one less idiot breathing my air and using my planetary resources. Shitty outlook, I know, but that’s how I see it. I have no sympathy for dealers hooking up the weak and the vulnerable. I have slightly more sympathy for the weak and vulnerable as long as they – at some point – take some responsibility.
But she was different. Every time I dealt with her in the jail, she was beautiful. Not physically, although she had once been a good looking girl. She still had a piece of her heart somewhere deep inside her. All those friends’ who hung with her simply to get hold of some of the massive wad of cash her grandfather had bequeathed her hadn’t yet cut her heart out completely.
There was a sliver hidden deep and when she came to jail and stayed long enough to get clean, you could see it. An infectious laugh, a generous smile; not quite bubbly (rarely found in jail) but very nearly giddy…I suspect because the jail forced her clean.
All of us jailers gave her jobs constantly. Folding the laundry, sorting and cleaning up the rolling library, sometimes mopping (though she didn’t care for that as much), sometimes helping outside in the sally port. She seemed genuinely thankful for those opportunities.
But when she’d walk outta the cross-bar hotel, when she’d go back to the house she bought with her inheritance, those friends would be there, waiting with their mouths drooping open and their forearm veins as hungry for H as baby birds for the worms Momma would fly back to the nest.
She tried rehab two…three…ten times. The number of times didn’t really matter. It never worked and probably was never going to. She’d survive rehab and come straight back home to the vultures at her house.
They never left and she just couldn’t find the strength of self to toss their asses into the street in front of a bus. Even when she was in jail or prison, they were there, stripping her house clean and waiting waiting waiting for her to get back; waiting for her next check. That check came every three months and you could tell when it was time because the yard would suddenly fill up with nomadic junkies.
And God bless her – and maybe God damn her, too – she’d always help them. She’d always make sure there was enough Horse around to keep the people fed. Miss Antoinette gave the people cake, she gave her people heroin.
See, her mother died and her grandfather died and her sister moved to Italy and there was pretty much no one for her. But even when her mother had been around, it was obvious she was going to have to work her ass off to avoid the madness and chaos of her genetic coding.
And didn’t we help. Deputies and cops and jailers and dispatchers and the Sheriff. We all helped in one way or another. One of the first nights I was on the road, I came across her in town. One of the friends had ‘borrowed’ her car and she needed to get back to the small town near here where she lived. All she wanted was a ride. Was that okay?
Then, when the money fell on her head, deputy after deputy after deputy made appointment after appointment for a financial adviser for her. She made one…maybe two…meetings, then just kind of faded away. The most recent rumor was that her sister had put a big chunk of what was left in a trust that was payable at two moments in her life: when she was 35 and when she was 45.
LuAnn met her once. I don’t remember where, exactly, but she said to LuAnn, “I used to live with Trey.”
Threw LuAnn for a bit of a twist. “Huh?”
“I lived with him.” A quick nod toward the jail and LuAnn understood.
Everyone knew it was coming, this death. It was like a train that had left a station hundreds of miles away but that we already felt rumbling along our tracks. And the tracks just got bigger and bigger and the train kept rumbling and however many times we tried to tear up those tracks, they just fixed themselves.
We all knew it was coming and we all did what we could to stop it from coming and, in the end, we all failed.
One of the dispatchers said the next day, “I just feel like if I’d done just a little more.”
I think we all felt that way. Just a little more. Just one more intervention or one more meeting with the financial planners or one more roust of the assholes sucking her financial teats and leaving their bloody needles all over her house.
Just one more whatever, and we might have saved her.
But I don’t think we could have. I think she had already bought that particular ticket – knowingly – and was just marking time until the train got here.
There are a few lines in Metallica’s “Sweet Amber” that keep running through my head. They belong to the band and are, I believe, Hetfield’s romp through alcoholism, but maybe he won’t mind if I quote them.
“Chase the rabbit, fetch the stick
She rolls me over ’till im sick
She deals in habits, deals in pain
I run away, but i’m back again.
“Ooh then she holds my hand
And i lie to get a smile
And she squeezes tighter
I still lie to get a smile.
“Ooh sweet amber
How sweet are you?
How sweet does it get?
It’s never as sweet as it seems.”
She was asleep when the train arrived, which I guess is a small miracle. Rather than the violently painful OD we all expected, it was quiet. Shoot the Horse, drink the amber, go to sleep.
Just like that.