Julie K. WiseYA Contemporary
Inside the Circle
“So when do the doctors think you’ll get out of here?” I ask Allison as I shiver in the deep-freeze of the Center. It’s always cold in here. Allison shrugs at my question and leans back into the couch next to the only window in her private room.
“A couple of weeks, hopefully in time for graduation,” she answers. She plays with her platinum watch, flipping it around her wrist. “It’s all bullshit anyway. Detox was easy, and the people in here are freaks. I went too far one night, you know? I’m not an addict,” she says, rolling her eyes. I keep my face still.
Sure about that? I want to ask her. I can imagine her in daily group, doing those “complete the sentence” games that the doctors use to get a patient to discover her inner fuck-up.
Finish this sentence, Allison: I might be an addict if…
Well, Doctor, I might be an addict if… I took a bunch of painkillers and drank half a bottle of whiskey and ended up in rehab. But that was just supposed to be a little jump-start before I started to party. Before lines of coke off the compact in my purse. And did I mention the fix that I keep in my car?
Oh, yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Or actually, an addict. I know an addict when I see one. Takes one to know one. Still, I stay quiet. Let the doctors do their jobs. I love her like a sister, and it hurts to see how deluded she is, but judgments are against the rules in The Circle.
“A couple of weeks, that’s good, Allison. That’s nothing. But, you know, as long as you’re here, you might as well listen to what they have to say,” I shrug, trying to sound casual. She looks out the window at the houses on the desert mountain, and her eyes go distant.
“Yeah, I know.” She’s quiet for a minute, and then, she smiles and laughs. “I’ve been clean since I got in here. I miss the parties, but I’m not going back into the shit. Think about the shoes I can buy with the money I was shooting,” she jokes darkly. Allison is lucky that the pills got her before the other shit did. Recreational mainlining doesn’t stay recreational for very long.
Allison has never known limits, not even when we were little. In Kindergarten, she would spin until she was so dizzy, she’d throw up, just to see what it felt like. Allison loves more. Of whatever. If two pills feel good, three will feel better. If one line makes her fly like an angel, more will make her feel like a goddess. I get it, I really do. I’ve been off hard stuff for a few years, but I still remember.
“Well, you look good,” I tell her, truthfully. Her eyes are bright blue, and her skin is clear without makeup, if a little pale from months without sun, trapped in this ugly world of fluorescent hospital lights. I look down at her fresh, pink pedicure. “Who’s coming in to do your toes? Josie from Gossip?” She nods. Josie did her toes every two weeks even before Allison’s infamous overdose at Jimmy’s Holiday party a few months ago. Two girls found her blue in one of the bedrooms, and instead of calling 911, those ignorant bitches threw her in a tub so she wouldn’t throw up on the Persian rug. Luckily, some sophomore saw her in there, and he found a way to get her to the hospital. She’s lucky to be alive.
“So, what are you doing this weekend?” she asks me, wistfully.
“I’m going with Sean to Sakura tonight,” I answer honestly. She gives me a jealous look. Rehab is hell, and when it isn’t hell, it’s boring, for sure.
“Sushi. That sounds awesome. Maybe I’ll order in,” she says. Banner is the five-star of rehab. Patients can get most anything that they want, except for the one thing that they really want. I look up at the ceiling.
“Yeah, well, dinner is probably going to be really dull. We’re meeting…friends,” I say, and Allison searches my face.
“Friends of Sean’s?” she asks. I nod a small nod. She snorts. “Wow, I don’t know how you stand it, Kate, being that close.” My neck prickles, and I sit up straighter.
“That’s just how it is. The world doesn’t change just because I did,” I say with ice in my voice. I feel my face fix itself into my default. Cold, closed. Allison sees the change, and she lifts an eyebrow just as her doctor walks in. He greets her cheerfully, and as he turns away from her to check her chart, she gives him the finger and mouths fuck you at his back. I thaw instantly and laugh.
“See you next Friday, Allison,” I say, shaking my head.
“Thanks for coming, Kate,” she says, genuinely. I give her a little hug and smooth down her blonde curly hair before walking out into the hall.
I speed out of the parking lot with the convertible top down and play my music as loud as I can stand it. It’s Friday rush hour on Scottsdale Road, and I weave in and out of traffic as the sun lowers behind Camelback Mountain, casting long shadows over the palm-lined street. The wind and the speed and the music help me shake Allison’s rehab out of my head.
What happened to Allison is scary, but it happens. People lose control and go too far. They fall into the darkness. After she got out of intensive care, her folks admitted her to Banner Behavioral Center, and people were here all of the time. The same people who saw her getting high at parties all semester sobbed around about what a waste and drugs are bad and that’s why I won’t touch hard stuff as they passed their joints on to the next people. As long as everyone is having a good time, no one just says no.
Her story was on the news. No one expects rich kids to overdose. That’s for back alleys and people with dirt on their faces, not the hundred-dollar manicure crowd. We had a ridiculous assembly at school about #takingcareofeachother and #innerbeauty and #justsayno and #blahblahblah. Then, the hype died down, and now, I’m the only person who still visits Allison. Even her parents only visit her a couple times a week. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
I drive fast up the mountain and fly up our long, steep driveway into the four-car garage, and after a long shower, I dress carefully. What to wear, to meet Sean’s middle-aged friends? I choose a short, black, ABS dress and tall espadrilles, and I finish my hair and makeup. My folks are outside on the patio where they hang out most nights when they are in town, which isn’t very often. Dad smokes a cigar and drinks the first of many scotches, and Mom holds a glass of wine tightly by the stem. “What are you doing tonight?” Dad asks, an afterthought.
“I’m going out with Sean. Japanese.” Sean and I have been dating for a few months. My parents like him. He’s polite, and he gets me home by curfew. They don’t know that Sean is a drug dealer.
My parents love to enforce rules like curfew when they’re around. It makes them feel better about the fact that they have no idea what I’m doing when they are gone, which is most of the time. Dad builds hotels all over the place, and these days, Mom goes with him.
“That sounds like fun,” my mother murmurs without looking at me, and I wonder if she even heard what I said. She looks out at the view. Clouds tinged with pink build in the southern sky, glowing over the lights of the city. I play with my phone, texting Jillian, but she doesn’t text back. We ate lunch together, but I didn’t see her after that. She knows that I go to the hospital on Fridays, so we didn’t hang out after school. I wonder what she’s doing tonight.
Jillian never comes to the hospital. She can’t stand hospitals. She practically grew up in rehab places like Banner. Her mom, Marilyn, is a party girl turned into junkie. Marilyn was in and out of treatment the whole time that we were in grade school. She brought some serious scumbags into their house when Jillian was a kid. Jilly saw more dope before she was ten than most people see in their lifetimes, not to mention the screaming and puking and crying and all the other fun stuff that goes along with hardcore addiction. When Marilyn finally got clean and married some super-rich guy she met at Narcotics Anonymous, Jilly moved into the house that he built for them. Super-rich guy is long gone now, and Marilyn is way too into herself to even notice Jillian except to throw cash at her so she’ll go away.