There was an innocent presence surrounding the wonderful allure of one of the world’s most reserved creatures. Ever since I had first laid eyes, I became attracted to the darling and delicate, Maisie Burkhart.
After introducing myself and finding out a few things about her—like her being from Oklahoma—I couldn’t believe she happened to be two years older than me, when she looked two years younger. She was even older than Scarlett. I assume I had a thing for older women.
By appearance, she was on the short side, but in my eyes she was seen as a dainty girl painted with pixie dust. A beautiful, busty, pixie girl, whom solely existed in schoolboy dreams.
She had arrived with her hair done up in a ponytail which was why she looked so young. But when she let it out, a long flow of soft chocolate descended past petite shoulders, surrounding a pale, angelic face. A face that cradled deep and worn eyes of hazel wood. Such features solely belong to a woman, which she was.
A woman I needed to be with.
The task had seemed simple, being a mere conversation, but it became damn-well next to impossible. She remained timid and shy, which held and heightened the cute factor. She was just as bad as I had been in middle school—perhaps the reason I was so attracted to her. Whatever it was, it had been a strong attraction that had me seduced so bad, I couldn’t ignore it. I then had made it my primary focus to push our relationship further. And depending if that went well, I’d construct my next crafty move.
Rehab had been the same, except for the younger patients, who prevailed as a bunch of smart asses who did not give two-shits about staying sober. The older patients—in their 30s and up—took their recovery as a fight for life. All of them had already established a higher power they believed in and prayed to. The majority had found it in the Judeo-Christian God with Jesus as the Son and Savior.
That was fine with me. To each their own, or whatever floats their boat. However, I can recall many times when they would bring up something like scripture from the bible and tried to read it in class or group. This was frowned upon, on account of everyone having their own, unique higher power. Whenever this happened, one of the young adults would tell them to put that shit away.
At first, I didn’t care what anyone would read aloud, but the old-farts did it a lot, which agitated the hell out of me to where even I would yell at them. It was unlike me since I believed everyone had the right to worship whatever they wanted. Rehab was like high school and peer pressure will carry an influence on you.
I had been raised Catholic by my parents and attended church every Sunday morning. Until, age thirteen, when my mom had given me the choice as to whether I wanted to go. I had treasured my sleep, and still do, so church quickly became a thing of the past. On top of that, reading philosophers and authors, such as Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky, in high school pulled me further away from the “almighty cross.” This wasn’t required reading either, these were books and ideas that my friends and I had shared. We smoked a lot of weed, too.
I had considered myself an agnostic—sometimes atheist— for the most part and was against any type of organized religion. However, I did enjoy pondering on the likes of western philosophy, particularly the practices of Thich Nhat Hanh and Siddhartha Gautana, or the Buddha. I believed in the universe and the world.
For example, since we all come from the same spiral galaxy, the same solar system, the same earth, we are all connected. I also considered Mother Nature and Karma being higher powers of their own. But one thing that people like to argue with me is that I believe in fate or destiny—everything happens for a reason. I believe this was what was leftover from my Catholic upbringing. It worked for me.
The older patients complained incessantly about us “kids.” If you were aged 18 to your late twenties, you were considered one of us kids. From all the complaining and us yelling, for the first time in Arcadia history, they split the rehab of 40-50 people, in half, separating the “kids” from the “adults.” All classes and groups were split up, except for our meetings. Now, things had considerably changed since my first stay.
Initially, I thought the whole idea was ridiculous, but it had actually worked out for the better, considering that we, young adults, were dealing with different issues than the older adults. Plus, there were no more scripture readings, and talk of how the Big Book relates to the bible.
Over the weeks, I started becoming anti-A.A. with most of my fellow patients. All that negative thinking didn’t help with my recovery, nor my cravings. I had stopped craving heroin after the first two weeks, only having the occasional using dream.
I’d dream of being on the hunt around town for dope and when I had finally found it, holding it in my hand, I’d wake up. After I woke up from this dream, I would always open up my hand to find no dope. It was either that dream or one in which I had dope but something was wrong with my syringe, or the dope would turn into something nasty. Waking up after these was difficult. I would awake with an incessant itch to run away, but it would begin to dissipate after a cigarette. They became less frequent with time. Except for the beastly cravings for crack.
Heroin was physically hard to quit, but cocaine was the worst mentally. Not only would I dream about it, I’d suffer cravings throughout the day. If anybody had ever talked about it, I’d have to walk away, otherwise, the demon craving would appear, bearing its razor teeth.
Daily, after breakfast we had a morning group. Of course, the kids and adults had separate groups. We would discuss the schedule for the day, as well as any announcements. We would nominate and vote a President and Vice-President to run the group for the week. And who do you think they voted for?
Yes. I became president for the week (twice, actually), and the ladies had voted Maisie for Vice, which was fine with me. Maisie was reluctant, so I had helped her out by reading her share of the announcements. Afterwards, she’d whisper a little “Thank you” to me, then smiled.
She had a sweet and friendly soul. Just a slight on the apprehensive side. I think that was why she had been voted Vice-President: To help her come out of her shell, but if that had been the case, I had destroyed it. We had barely known each other and I was already detrimental to her recovery.
One day, Miss Davis had caught up to me while walking to lunch in the cafeteria, which was about a hundred yards from the main one-story building. The sidewalk was wide enough to fit us both and was covered by a rusted steel awning.
“So, what’s going on with Maisie?” she asked.
I felt like a deer in the headlights. I quickly became nervous and blurted out, “Umm, what do you mean?” I had kept my eyes and head forward, aimed at the cafeteria.
“Oh, I think you know.”
Oh God, she had known. I figured I might as well spill it. “O.K. fine. I like her, okay? I think she’s the cutest thing on earth and find her more than appealing.”
She didn’t stop walking, but had a look of surprise on her face, quickly followed by a look of disappointment. I had a feeling this was not what she had been talking about.
“Oh, no, no, no. You cannot do that,” she said, then started repeating my name in a tsk, tsk, tsk fashion. “You are a codependent person and having a girl in your life right now, while so young in recovery, is not only unhealthy, it’s deadly, in your case.”
I slowed my walking and stared at the ground as if I felt bad about it. We were almost there. I could even smell the food and hear the people waiting in line. I couldn’t believe I had unwittingly told my counselor about my crush on Maisie.
“It’s not what you need. Look at what happened with Scarlett. Y’all started dating, then you started slipping on your step work,” she continued.
I wished I had never told her about that. Therapists do that: you speak your mind, throwing-up word-vomit, while they write everything down and when the right situation comes up, they use it against you. I had told her about my pattern with girls or women, how they could be my downfall. I just loved being with them. It’s not a nonstop competition like it is hanging out with guys. Being around women made me feel loved and wanted. What was so wrong with that?
“I know, I know. I just couldn’t help myself. You know me. Plus, she’s really cute and we have a lot in common,” I added.
“I know y’all do, and that’s why, right now, it’s a bad idea. I don’t want to see you spending time with her. You have your program to work and so does she. Which was what I was trying to get at in the first place.”
“Oh yeah, what was that?”
“Don’t be reading Maisie’s Vice-President announcements. She was nominated because the young women believed she would be a good leader. So, let her lead.”
“Alright. Gotcha.” I knew it. I had wanted this to end more than anything. We had reached the cafeteria and were now standing at the back of the lunch line. “I’m sorry and I’ll try not to talk to her.”
She held up her right index finger. “I didn’t say you couldn’t speak to her. Just don’t be spending a lot of your time with her.”
I was still going to continue hanging out with Maisie. I had to. I was beginning to like her a good deal. I had told myself, if I saw that she was falling short with her program, I’d help her out. I had done this before, I could do it again, and I could help her out as well. I had considered it working the twelfth step, helping and working with other addicts.
One good thing about Arcadia, was their food. Every dish was more than edible. You could even sign yourself up for the “Healthy-Heart Plan,” where, every day, if you pleased, you could have an alternative choice of grilled chicken breast with grilled veggies. You’d think you would eventually become sick of it, over time, but the chicken was incredible. They would coat it with some spice-rub that would boost the flavor significantly. It was that good.
Scarlett had been a vegetarian. Now, if you have ever lived with one of these omnivores, you should know you inevitably become one too. I had been a vegetarian for nearly a year. At Arcadia, us vegetarians—Mickey was one, as well—had a special meal prepared for us daily. It was there that I feasted upon the best eggplant parmesan I had ever experienced. We would also get fresh veggies daily with our entrees. That was the way to go. Just another thing that had made me feel superior to everyoneelse.
With Maize—my new nickname for her—with me, the weeks seemed to race by. We had become good friends and had even kissed on a few magic nights under glittering blackness. Everything we had done was taken with ease, as if we weren’t pursuing anything. The previous plans I had made if we became friends were scrapped. We let anything and everything happen on its own. Going with the flow.
The wondrous fling we shared was indeed a dream morphed into reality, compared to the cold solitude I had been trapped in weeks ago. But, my guard was still intact. My rib cage protected my heart, not just from any brute, physical force punching through, but protecting from any type of emotional warfare. It simply would not be able to handle another grieving, solitary state again.
I knew any leftover feelings for Scarlett were long gone. My anger toward her was much too great. She was out of the picture.
Even though I had strong feelings for my Maize, I knew some force beyond me was holding back. My love was not anywhere near its complete potential. And I knew it had nothing to do with her. I couldn’t put all my trust in what we had. My heart wouldn’t allow it. Especially after it had been impaled and left on the side of the road like a dead animal. It was tattered, covered with battle scars. I needed to take care of it. I believed Maize could, too.
After the first week, I also knew this hadn’t been any type of rebound either. No, not Maisie. My Maisie.
I had completely neglected what Miss Davis had told me. Every second Maize wanted to hang out, I was right there.
Though, on the days or nights that she just wanted to chill out in her room or watch T.V., I’d hang out with Mickey and the girl he was crushing on, whom also had been Maize’s roommate. We played a lot of dominoes and had broken many rules.
Any type of music player was prohibited, but we had MP3 players, disc mans, and cds. Energy drinks were also not allowed, but I had paid the night security guard to bring them in. I can also recall a few guys trying to get somebody to bring crack in. I wanted no part of that; however, if someone had it and it was in front of my face, I would have been high as a kite.
Mickey and I had a couple guys switch rooms so we could be roommates. That was not a good idea though. Somehow, we became the scapegoats for anything that happened. They weren’t wrong though. We had broken many rules and in no time, had made it on every counselor’s shit list. It was the damn mohawks, I swear.
Our room was searched and torn to shreds on several occasions. One instance, they had literally searched the ceiling. Sounded ridiculous, but they had actually found something. Something they could veritably use to kick us both out.
It was a large water bottle that held fermented fruit inside. The red-orange liquid had filled up the bottle nearly causing it to burst. It took much convincing to get out of that one. What it came down to was the evidence itself. The bottle had looked like it had been there for months. Plus, Mickey and I were heroin addicts who had no desire to drink alcohol. Especially something as disgusting as fermented fruit.
I knew I was on awfully thin ice with the board of directors. I guessed they were waiting for my month to be over, which was coming up in a few days. I wanted so bad to be with Maisie though. I was also not quite ready to go home. I didn’t want to go back to reality, just yet. I had become way too comfortable in my rehab bubble.
Therefore, I had asked Miss Davis if I could stay for an additional 10 to 15 days. I told her I simply wasn’t ready to go and I’ll see was afraid. Afraid of relapsing. She understood and felt for me, then talked to the board whom allowed me to stay a little longer. Strange, I had thought they had hated me. She had also given me a book to read she said might help.
Dharma Punx by Noah Levine was a memoir of a punk rocker who developed a bad heroin habit then found redemption and recovery in Buddhism. Sounded familiar. Once I had that book in my hands, I read it everywhere I had went, especially the boring classes that I had already been through many times. Their recovery curriculum started over every two weeks.
After reading and relating to everything in that book, I then had the motivation and urge to be and stay sober. Everything in that book I related to. Recovery had made sense to me again. And I wanted it bad. With that, I had told myself no more breaking rules and to start practicing not A.A., but a Buddhist lifestyle, much like the author had.
I moseyed on over to the phone room. There, I put some change into one of the open phones. It was a nice, private call, everybody else was out in the courtyard. I was in a much better mood since the last time I had been in there, when I broke up wth Scarlett. I dialed my Mom’s number.
After an apology from me, we had an amiable conversation and got caught up on different things we had both been doing. Immediately after, I dialed my dad and did the same. I could feel my heart being restored. It had gone through its own rehabilitation. I smiled at that.
During the next class, I was finishing the book when a couple of young adults, including me, were called out. They told me to go to the front desk while the others went to the courtyard. Confused, I was then handed release forms. They had given me the boot. Apparently, they had enough of my shit, even though I had done nothing wrong in the past few days. And it was Miss Davis’ day off.
They had never intended on letting me stay any additional days.
That’s what they had been waiting for all week. For Miss Davis not to come in and have my back again.
I had to call my dad to tell him and also ask if he would come all the way to pick me up. Like the good father he is, he jumped into his truck and was on his way.
Usually, you would have a release plan you had worked out with your counselor, which stated your plans for after treatment. But I never worked on that because I had thought I had more than a week left.
I told them I wanted and needed to stay in a halfway house in Austin. Just like the place I had lived at in Kerrville. So, they quickly made a few calls and set me up at some house in north Austin. I didn’t care. As long as I had a safe place to stay.
Maisie had planned to move to Austin as well, at a women’s house. So I wasn’t worried about not ever seeing her again. We had made plans to meet up once she was out, in about a week.
An hour had passed and my dad had arrived. I had already said my goodbyes to everyone and received all my meds so all I had to do was walk out the door.
But as I was walking out, I saw him. The asshole who had it out for me from the start. The head of the board of directors, Mr. Douchebag. We locked eyes in a quick stare-down.
“Good luck,” he said with an evil grin on his face.
I raised my right hand as I was out the door and gave him the finger. “Fuck you, prick.”
And then, I was gone. Down that all-too familiar rustic road back to Austin.