“TEEN DIES FROM METH OVERDOSE!”
Those were the headlines that greeted me as I picked up the morning paper from the sidewalk. I sighed and went back in the house to read the awful story. But with this happening so much, should it have even made the headlines? I lay the paper on the table and went to get my morning coffee. I sat down in my favorite chair and began to read the paper. The teen had been at a wild party that had gotten out of hand. As I read the story, I shook my head, and wondered, what was the matter with this generation. Guns and knives at school, drugs everywhere. It was frightening. I continued to read the story. The next line was the name of the boy: I couldn’t believe it! My heart began to pound in my ears; and I felt sick to my stomach. For this was no rebellious teen, he was the perfect student. He was the star quarter back, a straight A student, President of Student Council…and my next door neighbor. It was impossible. These things happened to other people, not in your own back yard!
Or did it? Had it been so long ago, that I forgot that horrible time? Maybe I just didn’t want to remember. No, I didn’t want to remember, not at all. I got up from the chair, pulled my bathrobe around me and headed for the bathroom. I reached in the cabinet for a Valium. I removed my velvety robe and slippers, and fell on top of our queen size bed. I was shaking so badly, something was needed to calm my nerves.
Becoming very groggy, I finally fell asleep. I went to a place I didn’t want to go, no turning back now. Though this was a dream, it had really happened, about 20 years ago.
My family seemed to be moving all over the place when I was a little girl. I had been in and out of so many schools, and I wasn’t even sure why. Oh well, it didn’t matter. We were now moving back to a neighborhood where we lived when I was a small child. It would be nice to see some old friends again. Of course, my friends would all be in their teens now, I was curious to see how everyone had changed. I was looking forward to seeing my five year old playmate. He was my best friend, a little boy that I played with all the time. Our only nemesis was his pesky brother Roger, who kept bossing us around. We unpacked all of our things in the house, and I noticed it was a bit run down. As a matter of fact, the whole neighborhood was, I didn’t remember it like this. I suppose you don’t remember these things as a child.
After putting things away, I couldn’t wait to go next door. I’d get to see my Earl again. I wondered how he was now. I rapped on the door, and the handsomest teenage boy opened the door, he was wearing tight blue jeans, and a tie dye tee-shirt. He looked at me, and said, “Yes?” I froze for an instant, than wondered if I was in the right place, did Earl live on the other side. I felt like an idiot as I stammered the words….Does Earl live here? He said, “of course he does” He gave me a funny look and said,
“Hey don’t I know you? Aren’t you that little kid my brother used to play with?"
I was really baffled at how he knew that. I was now a 13 year old awkward teen, tall, thin, with coke bottle glasses. Maybe something familiar in my face? Didn’t matter. Than it dawned on me who he was, he was Earl’s pain in the neck big brother! People do change. I was already in love.
My drifted back to what he was saying,
“Why don’t you come in”
“Yeah, sure”. I walked across the threshold, not knowing what I’d find, I just wanted to see Earl again. Once again, the place had changed. The furniture was torn, and the rug was so worn, you could see right through the floor. I timidly asked Roger,
“Is Earl around?”
“Yeah, in the other room” he replied.
Than he stammered and said, “Marion, before you go in…I have to tell you…..”
I wasn’t listening anymore but bounded into the den. I closed the door behind me and planned to give Earl a big hug. But when I entered the room, there was a strange person sitting crossed legged on the floor, not paying attention to anyone or anything. The room was filled with a strong smell of burning incense, and very loud rock music. I didn’t know much about drugs, but I did know this was used to disguise the smell of pot. I went up to the person sitting on the floor, I couldn’t believe it! No, this couldn’t be Earl, but as I looked at his face, sure enough, it was him. Even through the glazed eyes, I still recognized the blonde hair, and somewhere in there were his haunting blue eyes. The child lay somewhere within him, I just didn’t know where. His eyes had a glazed look over them, his pupils were huge. His eyes were beet red. It was more than obvious he’d been doing drugs. I whispered and swallowed at the same time, looked at him, and said, “Earl?” He turned at looked at me, not knowing who I was. The horror that ensued next, still boggles my mind.
He looked at me slyly and said,
“Hey chick, “whatcha doin’, wanna get high”?
“I don’t do drugs.”
“Ah, one of “those”, he said.
“C’mon, don’t be such a square”
“Don’t sit so far away, babe, c’mon over here”
“No thanks, I said, I’d better leave”
He said with a fake sadness, “Aw, don’t be like that”
I don’t know why I said it, but I said,
“Earl, what happened to you, how did you get like this?!
“And by the way, do you even know who I am!
“He looked at me in anger and said, “Look babe, in case you haven’t noticed,
it’s a rough neighborhood, sometimes you have to get high
to forget. Maybe you should try it, loosen your straight
ass right up”
“Earl, it’s me Marion, don’t you remember?!”
Earl laughed and mockingly said, “I used to have a widdle bitty playmate like that, but hey, we aren’t kids anymore.”
“And since we’re all grown up now, let’s have a little grown up fun”
He came over to me, grabbed me and nearly tore my army out of its socket.
“Let go of me, you’re hurting me!", I screamed.
“Oh, c’mon, babe, just for the good ol’ days.
He drew me closer to him and put his filthy mouth on my mine.
I managed to wrench free, and flew for the door, but it was locked!
Damn these old houses, with their crappy doors! He ran after me, but just than Roger came racing through the door and punched his brother in the mouth knocking a tooth loose. Earl had a shocked look on his face wiping the blood from his mouth. He had fallen on the floor and had a frightened look when he looked at his normally docile big brother.
Roger screamed at him, “Don’t you ever pull a stunt like that again!"
I ran out of the room, and out of the house, but stumbled on the steps. I hurt my knee, so sat on the stoop, and began to cry. I was sobbing heavily, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I pulled my arm away, than looked and saw it was Roger. He sat right down next to me, and said, “You okay?” I was sobbing uncontrollably, when he put his arms around me. He comforted me the best he could, and offered me his handkerchief.
He said, “I tried to warn you about that jerk, but you ran away from me.”
Through tears, I said, “Yes, I forgot we weren't kids anymore and everything and things are going to be different."
“I’m sorry you had to learn about him the hard way”
Than I thought about it, what had happened to my friend? Why had he turned into this horrible monster? And as I was pondering this, Roger read my mind,
“He’s never been quite the same since our little brother Richie died.
“Richie died”? I was in shock, but then again, Richie was always a very sickly kid, the doctors said he would be lucky to get through elementary school, he didn’t.
“How did YOU escape this drug thing?”, I asked.
Shrugging his shoulders, he answered, “It’s just not my thing.”
Time marched on, Earl’s habit worsened. He went from pot to heroin. We started high school that fall. Unfortunately, we ended up in the same home room. It didn’t make much difference, he hardly ever showed up. I avoided him like the plague everywhere I went. I think he regretted what had happened, but wasn’t going to let me know. Or I wouldn’t let him get close enough to me.
By contrast, I tried to get near his brother at ever chance. After all, he was my hero. Then again, I was a freshman, he was a senior, forbidden territory. It didn’t stop my heart from pounding every time I saw him.
Then the inevitable happened. My Mom got a phone call from her best friend Maggie. Maggie was Roger and Earl’s mother. I didn’t know what happened, but Mom flew out the door. She never bothered to knock, she just barged on in. I was curious so I followed her to see if Maggie was okay. Maggie was sitting on the couch, screaming at the walls, “My baby, my baby, my baby boy died! Though the troubles Earl and I had, I never wanted him dead. But the way he was taking drugs, I wasn’t too surprised. Just then, someone came through the door. It was Earl! For the first time, I saw him, as sober as could be. Not only was he sober, there were tears in his eyes. He went to comfort his mother, as they both cried together. Now wait a minute, something’s not right. Earl saw my confusion, and said slowly, “Roger died last night”. He went to a party, had a bit too much to drink, he died of alcohol poisoning.” Roger, no that couldn’t be. The guy that was straight as an arrow, never did any drugs….my head just began spinning…..
I finally woke up from my nap. Why had I fallen asleep, why I had lived through that nightmare again? I went to take a shower, and put on my clothes. I looked in the mirror at my short brown hair with shocks of gray in it, and the tiny wrinkles around my eyes. It was time to look like a human being. I didn’t realize how late it was, the valium made me sleep all today.
I walked back out to the living room and my son walked in the door. And as he looked at me, there were tears in his eyes. “Mom, did you know that Mat died? He died of drugs, Mom…Matt! He was straight as an arrow."
I explained to my son that even good kids can go bad, and I prayed he wouldn't be one of them.
"Mom, we have to go see his Mom and Dad and see if they're okay."
"Yes, son, you're right, let's go." We headed out the door in silence when Rick looked at me and said, "Mom, you're so lucky."
"And why do you say that?"
"Well, today we have drugs, and gangs and violence, and back in your day, they didn't have any of that."
If he only knew.
Mary E. Lacey