Friday, June 20, 2008

FLASHBACK SPECIAL SERIES: July 2003

The Koyaanisqatsi Chronicles

Chapter 6 - DeLand Daze

My father came and picked me up at Ric's house the next day. He was pleasant and didn't seem overly depressed. We talked about mom, the fact that she now had her second leg amputated due to blood clots and gangrene complications of her phlebitis. He said she looked bad and the doctor's couldn't seem to stop her wounds from getting infected.

After I got my stuff settled in at their half of the duplex they rented in DeLand, we drove to the hospital where mom was staying. As I walked into the room, I saw her passed out on her bed in a drug-induced sleep. She was a legless torso, covered in a pale blue blanket, shriveled to the size of a toddler. Her hair was straggly and appeared white. Her face was a skull with wrinkled skin stretched taught, her mouth agape and her eyes half open.

She already looked dead.

I excused myself and made my way out of the room, down the hall and to the bathroom. I closed the door behind me, leaned over and balled my eyes out.

A few minutes later, after I had my emotions under control, I dried my tears and returned to the hospital room. My father understood. He knew.

My mother was awake now and when she saw me she seemed so happy. After all, I'd talked on the phone with them, but I hadn't seen them in almost 2 years. She wasn't too lucid though and as she tried to conduct a conversation, she wavered in and out of consciousness and had to repeatedly ask what we were talking about.

Over the next few weeks, my father would visit the hospital every day. Some days I'd go, but most I ventured out looking for work. I wasn't sure what would happen when her time came, but I knew I should try to make some headway towards more independence in preparation. At nights, my father would buy a 12-pack of Busch and we'd share it. But for him, with his lifelong abused liver and multiple prescription tranquilizers and muscle relaxers, just a few beers put him over the edge. That's when he let his true emotions out. He cried about mom and punched the wall. He cursed God and yelled that it should be him He should take, not her.

DeLand had poor prospects for employment. There was a call-center not half-a-mile's walk from the house, but, unluckily for me, they weren't even taking applications at this time. I rode the Volusia County public bus system all the way into Daytona and found a job there. That one lasted throughout the week of training, but once I got out on the floor and had to become re-acquainted with cold call telemarketing again, I left for lunch and never came back.

Now having lived with my father for about 3 weeks and still unemployed, I knew it would be just a matter of time before I became an added burden for him. I was running out of money, and with all my mom's medical costs, I knew he didn't have any to lend me.

I found another call-center office not much farther down the road from the first one. But this was another "vacation room". I didn't care. They were hiring so I took it. I had to. I had no other options.

My mom had been moved to a nursing home, but her condition was deteriorating rapidly and she was soon placed on hospice care. It was near the end.

The pressures of my own situation and that of my parents were getting unbearable for me. I started drinking the hard liquor my father had in the house. Before long, in the course of the next few days, I had drained the gallon bottle of cheap vodka stowed away in a kitchen cabinet and replaced the liquid with plain tap water to cover up my theft. I stole from the prescription bottles in the bathroom medicine cabinet, too. Soma, Vicodin, Percocet and Ativan...popping them like candy, washing them down with screwdrivers. Pill and booze filled days rolled into knocked-out nights, thanks to the ample supply of Ambien as well.

On the first day of training at my new job, I decided to have a little relaxing drink before going to work. Along with a few pills. I couldn't feel the effects right away so I took more, and more. And another drink, and a third. By the time I got to work, I was stumbling. In training class, the instructor called on volunteers to read the script we were studying aloud. I raised my hand. I opened my mouth and started to speak but all I heard was gibberish. I was slurring my words so badly, I couldn't even be understood. My co-workers were trying to suppress giggles and the instructor called in one of the managers. Though I must have reeked of booze, and I was clearly drunk and stoned, they didn't fire me. I told them I was on pain relievers for back pain. They let me go home saying I could come in tomorrow after I had time to sleep it off. I never returned.

I came home to find that my father had been home while I was at work to eat dinner. He had bought more Busch beer and it was in the fridge. I drank all the beer he bought and popped a couple more pills. I watched TV and started to feel sick. I made it to the bathroom, but I didn't make it to the toilet. I threw up all over the bathroom floor and sink. Then, somehow forgetting I had just vomited, I left it all there, walked back to the living room and continued to watch TV.

When my father got home from visiting my mom in the nursing home later that evening, he asked why I wasn't at work. I lied and told him they fired me because I was late. When he saw the vomit in the bathroom, he figured out what was really going on. He knew I had no money so he wondered how I could buy alcohol. He checked the fridge, his beer was gone. He checked the bottle of vodka. It looked full, but being all too familiar with the tricks alchies pull, he checked it...tap water. I was too stoned to care. He yelled and saw it had no effect on me. He screamed that he couldn't handle this stress while he had to deal with his dying wife. He went to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him.

The next day I was still stoned from the pills and hungover from the booze. I made an attempt at cleaning the bathroom and succeeded in getting it a little cleaned up. Around noon, my sister and Jan showed up. They were there to take me somewhere...anywhere. My father had called them telling them what I'd done. He couldn't deal with me anymore.

I knew I couldn't stay with Ric, so I called the only other friend I had. Alicison in New Orleans. Leaving out the part about the drugs and booze, I told her I wanted to return to New Orleans needed to stay somewhere. She had no room for me in her little rented room, but she checked with Sandra, the landlady of the boarding house. Sandra had a small room available, but it wouldn't be ready until a few days from now.

I asked Alicison if she could put me up for a day or two and she agreed. My sister and Jan drove me to Casselberry. I needed to stay in Florida for one more day in order to pick up my one week's ($95) paycheck from the job I had in Daytona. Ric agreed to let me stay over for just one night, then he'd drive me into Daytona to get my check and it'd be to the Orlando Greyhound station from there.

So, again, I boarded a bus and embarked on that long, lonely ride to New Orleans.

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