Monday, June 23, 2008

Things Worth Knowing

I have nothing to say today, so I thought I would reduce some 17 years of no drinking and no drugging to a few, possibly useless, aphorisms. So if you have a friends who abuses substances in order to alter their consciousness, memorize the list below and bore them into sobriety. You can thank me later.

1. Nobody ever woke up and said, “I think I’ll be an asshole today.”
2. My first reaction is always wrong
3. Not every day has to be the best day or worst day of my life
4. I can’t erase the past but I can turn the page.
5. I’m powerless over alcohol, no matter who it’s in.
6. The less I mess with my future, the better it gets.
7. Faith is not jumping from A to B. It’s jumping from A.
8. I may be powerless but I’m not helpless.
9. Stop putting quarters in the jukebox if it don’t play your song.
10. It’s not whether we get it, it’s whether we do it.
11. Live in the process, not the goal.
12. Normal people tailor their behaviors to their actions. Addicts tailor their actions to their behaviors.
13. Don’t stand in the idiot spotlight.
14. No matter how far down the road you go, you’re always the same distance from the ditch.
15. Acceptance is not approval.
16. Honesty is having one story.
17. Crying doesn’t pay.
18. We go through a lot of pain to avoid a little discomfort.
19. Life is lived forward and understood backward.
20. I don’t suffer from low self-esteem. I suffer from high self-involvement.
21. In any given situation, I can act like a child and avoid responsibility, act like a parent giving unwanted advice, or act like an adult and accept what’s mine.
22. No matter how good life is, I will always be looking for a dark corner for my stash.
23. Trying is failing with honor.
24. It’s not my problems I’m afraid of, it’s my solutions.
25. I drink therefore I am.
26. Reality is a shared perception of what may be.
27. I love the way things should be.
28. Forgiveness is admitting you have not robbed me of the peace of God.
29. Enough is never enough.
30. Some folks have a Lower Power

Here is installment 28 of Wasted Miracles.

She shook her head from side to side. “I swear a part of me died that day, Colin. And sometimes I still wonder if maybe deep down Josie remembers that, thinks maybe I was trying to give her away or something. And maybe that’s why she’s the way she is, addicted I mean. Because she thought I didn’t care enough to not let her be taken by this crazy woman.”
She stopped, took a long breath. “So that’s how I know. I’m feeling exactly the same thing now as I did then. Something bad’s going to happen to her, Colin, and I wouldn’t be here if I had any other option, believe me. Really. I wouldn’t involve you if there was another way.”
“You could call the cops, tell them she’s missing.”
She shook her head. “No. I can’t. I...” She fluttered her hands nervously.
“They’re used to stuff like that, finding people.”
She shook her head again, this time more emphatically. “No. You don’t understand. I don’t know what she’s been doing!”
Colin nodded. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
“She’s been busted before. She’s a grown-up now. They won’t just send her to rehab. They’ll take her away if she’s been...involved with drugs again.” Catherine paced the room, short choppy steps. “I want to trust her, I want to think she’d never get in trouble again. She’s my daughter, for God’s sake! But above everything she’s an addict, Colin, and addicts lie and steal and do stuff... You know all about that, we all do. I call the police, they find her, maybe she is dealing. What happens then? I couldn’t bear that, Colin, I simply couldn’t.”
“What about Lars?”
Catherine made a face, shook her head. “Forget Lars. He won’t help. He disowned us a long time ago.”
Colin turned to the leg machine, started to remove the 45-pound plates, made three careful stacks, said, “OK.” Catherine bowed her head, nodded. “Thanks. I knew you would.”
She fished in her purse, removed an envelope, took from it a photo and handed it to him. “That’s her high school yearbook picture. She was in the tenth--no, eleventh--grade.”
Long blonde hair, green eyes, Catherine’s mouth. The girl was staring frankly at the camera, the corners of her lips were raised just short of a smile as if she found the event vaguely amusing. She wore a white blouse buttoned to the neck.
“She looks familiar.”
Catherine canted her head. “Really? She doesn’t go to your meetings, at least I don’t think so.”
“I probably would have remembered her if it were that. No. Maybe I saw her at a store or something. Anyway. That’s the most recent photo?”
Catherine’s forehead wrinkled. “That’s the one I like best. She looks, you know, innocent. And yes, as far as I know. We haven’t taken many pictures lately. There haven’t been that many festive occasions in our family recently.”
Colin peered at the picture. “It’s strange. I’m sure I know her, maybe even spoke with her but I can’t place it. Can I keep it? I’ll call Joe.”
“Joe the Cop? I told you--”
“Joe will do it discreetly, nothing official, just ask around the station, see if anyone’s heard anything. If he has, we’ll take it from there. One step at a time, Catherine. Just like everything else.”
Joe the Cop said of course he’d help, he liked that kind of thing, was good at it. He’d met Catherine once at Colin’s apartment, had found her an interesting lady and asked Colin if she was single. She wasn’t, so his interest had faded somewhat but not entirely.
Yes, he would keep his inquiries discreet, a lot of people--mostly cops but also a fair amount of street scum--owed him and he’d put the word out as quietly as possible about the missing girl.
At the Zulu’s house, things were not going well. Comfort Okwuike thought the Zulu had over-reacted. A warning would have sufficed, there’d been no call for that great bloody display of power and vengeance. The Zulu was a very sick man.
True, Akim had not been very smart, but then Akim had never been very smart, even as a small boy in the village he had never shown the least propensity for anything original or unusual. He remembered Akim’s mother, his sister’s husband’s first cousin, holding the boy in her lap once, pointing at his head and shaking her own. “This one, I don’t know about,” she’d said. “Monkey ears, thin lips. Bad signs.”
Now Akim was dead, split open like a goat before a feast. He hadn’t suffered, or at least not much. Comfort had seen a lot of death in his time, babies and children and women and men, many of whom had died very slowly, life refusing to relinquish its hold, so he thought Akim was lucky, sort of. Comfort’s job had been to divide Akim’s body into several pieces which he packaged in Saran Wrap and plain brown shopping bags and placed carefully in twelve dumpsters. Akim’s head had been remarkably heavy, which made Comfort wonder about the relationship between weight and intelligence.
Comfort had cleaned out Akim’s room in the basement of the Zulu’s house. Akim’s collection of pornographic magazines showing large black males with tiny white women had made Comfort very uncomfortable. He had also discovered several vibrating phalluses in Akim’s closet--some were huge, beyond human comprehension or tolerance--and that had worried him most of all. What if the young woman had found them? He’d thrown the nasty things away, but not before saving the batteries.
The girl was now in Akim’s former room, Comfort checked on her every fifteen-or-so minutes though there was no real reason to. She was nodding out, her eyes glazed, unseeing. It made her much less pretty than she’d been just hours ago when she was first brought in. The Zulu had personally lit the pipe, slapped her three times sharply on the stomach to force her to inhale and that was that. The girl struggled but not that much, not like she really meant it, sucked on the pipe a few more times and when the drug connected, her muscles went flat.
Comfort didn’t like crack, wrinkled his nose whenever the sharp tang of the burning crystals reached him. He was perplexed by the whys and the whos of the substance. There was something disconcerting about so many once-young people willing and eager to perform indescribably evil things simply to get enough of the substance for a day, for an hour. The way it transformed its users amazed him, there had certainly never been anything like that during his own childhood; people drank ginger beer or stronger beverages if they could afford them, they got drunk, they sang, they shouted, they smoked khat, they fell asleep, occasionally they fought. But they seldom became slack-jawed, they didn’t drool, they didn’t become old in months.
Sitting in his own room in the Zulu’s basement, Comfort thought about all this and it made him vaguely unhappy. He liked to live up to his own name. He stood, kneeled next to his bed, squirreled a hand beneath the mattress, retrieved the small black book hidden there, opened it. The numbers reassured him. Fifty-seven thousand three hundred and twenty seven dollars in the bank of Ibadan, soon almost twenty times that in other accounts across Europe. A fortune, a legacy. In a short time there would be servants and a young wife. There would be a small house with a red roof and three or four or five children bearing his name and resemblance. There would be a vegetable patch in the backyard and he would grow yams and carrots. When he closed his eyes he could see his own face in such a setting, could smell his own contentment. He could picture his own smile, could almost feel the weight of a first-born boy on his lap. The Zulu had promised that Comfort could return home in a few months, had hinted at a sizable going-away bonus. Not that the Zulu’s generosity mattered much anymore... Comfort would call his house Sunrise, he had seen the name on a retirement home outside Washington and liked it. In a few month he would return to sanity and never again leave it behind.

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