Hilary and I sit side by side on the edge of her bed. Smack in the center of her lap is the bag of needles as casually as a bag of Twizzlers.
“Wow, that’s a lot of needles.”
“Yeah,” she picks up the clear plastic bag with black writing on it. She holds it up, shakes it, and tilts her head, “So weird”
“So weird,” I agree. “Yeah,”
Hilary tosses them back into her tapestry purse. “You know how you get them?”
“How?” I shift back and try to absorb the fact that she’s going to do this.
“You have to go to Shoppers and tell the pharmacist you have diabetes and cause you’re a diabetic they have to give them to you for your insulin.”
I nod while so many things are happening in my head. I now know the last few days she wasn’t at home she’d been over at Kendal’s for sure and there were more things she learned about heroin.
“It’s way too expensive a drug. Unless Kendal is planning on letting me have as much as I want for free, I wouldn’t start using it.” She told me again the way someone would repeat a story for security. Meanwhile, I marveled at how she could still look so pretty with her unwashed hair in a dirty bandanna.
Feeling disappointed I suggest we just stick to cleaning her bedroom. Hilary went on about her mother and then into how her father blows up at her for every little thing as well.
“At least he doesn’t hit you” I said quietly sticking a stray spoon into a glass under her bed.
“Yeah, well once he practically threw me across the room. He can get really mad, but he doesn’t lose his shit that often.” Hilary started moving a pile of clothes while I organized SPIN magazines in a basket. We cleaned in silence for a while then agreed to take a break and head downstairs.
Darlene was in her kitchen preparing blintzes with all the ingredients tidily collected on one side of the counter. I could hear the two of them break into a discussion about Hilary’s studying habits.
“So what if I don’t graduate this year? Some people take two years to do their OAC’s,” she told her mom. Pulling out the chair she was resting her legs on I sat down only to have her mother put me on the spot.
“Did you tell your mother where you’re going and what time you’ll get back? Especially if it’s a school night?” My eyes fell to focus on the puffy mushroom pattern on her oven mitts as I carefully crafted my answer to help Hilary’s case.
“Actually, my mother is so preoccupied with going to Doctor Marko all the time that I hardly see her anymore.” I began nibbling at my index finger nail. Doctor Marko was a new-age chiropractor that my mom went to on orientation night to learn more about his work, and since then has practically gone to his office every day. She couldn’t live without the adjustments which seemed pretty useless to me when she’s offered to let me try him out. I could imagine her lying on the mint green adjusting table with her eyes closed, shutting out everything around her.
“Well, I hope she benefits from Dr. Marko’s treatments, as he didn’t do much for Hilary at all.”
“Thanks Darlene.” Hilary got up and went to the freezer to pull out some popsicles.
“Hilary, I can’t find our video. Can you check upstairs to help me out?” I ask her as she picks up on my lie and nods her head.
“Sure. Why don’t you stay here and tell my mother all about how your parents could care less about what the hell you do in a day, or two maybe three days, cause they…oh I don’t know…trust you?” She even picks up garbage bags from under the sink to show her mother that she is really making an effort to clean.
Darlene moves her rolling-pin over the sheet of dough.
“So Annie, are you planning to keep on working at the Have-A-Java full time until you go back to school?” She turns to wash her hands.
I looked at the flattened out dough and tell her about my failed attempts to get accepted into the National Theatre School in Montreal. She consoles me and suggests the option of bartending on the side when I’m not auditioning for plays. I find myself being less and less focused on what she’s saying and more interested in the strips of dough she’s cutting for the blintzes. After giving her questions the requisite “uh-huh’s” and “Yeah’s” in agreement, I ask if I can slide the tray in to bake. Her look is similar to the teen at the soda pop and popcorn stand at the movies Hilary and I go to when I ask for another cup. There was something important about me doing a normal activity at this very moment like helping her mix up the cheese mixture. Darlene’s fingers were adorned in gold and diamond rings. I watched each stone reflect the halogen lights in a pierced rainbow white burst as she opened up the plastic wrap from Daiters. One day, I believed, one day I wanted to go into any Birks and pluck out the ring or bracelet of my choice, nevermind wait for some dumb guy to buy it for me.
“Did you wash your hands?” Darlene critically assessed my stubby chewed on fingernails. I told I had when in actuality I just handled the toxic insanity of Hilary’s room a mere ten minutes earlier. It wasn’t that I liked being unsanitary, I was just uncomfortable with admitting that I didn’t know better than to handle food with dirty hands, what with me working in the food industry. Stuffing the pockets of dough she had made, I studied how Darlene would fill each one and then curl the edges.
“And if you lay them down this way, you can put more on the tray. See?” Her blintzes were like tiny bolsters lined up. Her instructions reminded me of Kendal’s lesson on how to prepare the perfect needle. Much like Darlene was showing me the fine art to the perfect blintz both took pride in their interpretation and personalization of their craft. Of course, no one has ever overdosed on a blintz.
I woke up the next day feeling like the night before was a movie. Being in her home made me feel so lucky to have the cleanliness and privacy of my own suburban bedroom. My shift wasn’t until three, so I decided to lounge around the house in my flannel pants and t-shirt.
Pouring a bowl of Chex I could hear my father’s footsteps coming down the stairs. Each step his foot landed on seemed to feel the immensity of his weight. His heaviness always entered a room before he did. Instinctively, I busy myself to leave scrambling to get my spoon and bowl out of there.
“Wait a minute!” Get back in here!” he sternly commands.
“Why? I am going upstairs to eat my breakfast dad.” I tell him feeling vulnerable in my pajamas.
“You left a mess of cereal and milk all over the place. Get in here and clean it.” By his beet red face, I could feel that rage coming from not only my mess, but a lifetime of disappointments he’s directing my way. Setting my bowl down on the counter I grabbed some paper towel.
“I don’t mind cleaning up, but do you have to go so crazy?” wiping tiny milk droplets I ask him.
“Yeah, I do. You make me crazy. No don’t use that! Use a J-cloth” tearing the paper towel out of my hand he thrusts the J-cloth into my palm. I felt like throwing it at him, instead move to wipe away the two pieces of Chex on the counter. Taking a long shot I throw the J-cloth into the sink.
“There. Are you happy?” Reaching to get my bowl, I notice how it’s all gone soggy. Feeling my throat tighten I’m not sure I want to eat it. Why does my dad have to be such a maniacal abusive jerk? He could have asked me to clean up without yelling.
“Wait a second. Get back here.” Even though I am eighteen, right now I feel like I’m eight.
He’s holding the paper towel in one hand and pointing at the J-cloth in the sink. My eyes focus on how red the bottom of his neck is.
“You didn’t clean up properly. Do a better job right now.”
“No! I’m going to go upstairs and eat my cereal. I can’t clean anything with you yelling at – “his body lurched forward yanking at my left arm pulling me towards the counter. I barely have a chance to let my cereal land safely as my body gets pushed into the ledge.
“Clean it now!” His fist pounds down inches away from my bowl making the salt shaker fall over.
“No! Don’t fucking touch me!” My voice is wavering and I don’t want him to see me cry. I half stumble and half run out of the kitchen hearing him swear and insult me. His loud voice manages to violate my space like his body as I quickly go up the stairs. Slamming my bedroom door I wish my mother was home to see him treat me this way. Sadly, that thought was futile as I knew it wouldn’t do any good knowing that she’d seen him lose it a hundred times, and still nothing stops him from being the unhappy, crazy, abusive ogre that he is.
Staring into the mirror I think about this morning’s intentions for my day. I didn’t want this to happen. I could hear him make his way upstairs and slam his bedroom door. Looking at my wrist I predicted a tiny bruise from the red welt where he yanked me. Like all the times when he hit me or yelled at me I’d go back in my mind and try to understand how I could have avoided that scenario.
Taking off my pajamas I stuffed them into my hamper, alongside my embarrassment. Putting my deodorant and a change of clothes in my backpack I felt the immediacy in having a plan to move out of my house. Maybe Hilary would have some ideas.