My body is frozen in fear and aching with remorse as they strip-search me. Every part of me feels violated, but it was my decision to hand over the keys to my freedom and get clean. The room is the size of a janitor’s closet and feels like the walls are caving in on me. I feel overwhelmed with emotion and I tremble with anxiety. As they are finishing up, they toss a pair of cold, stiff scrubs in my face; they smell like bleach and lemon cleaning product. My body will live in this itchy, irritating, garbage bag of an excuse of clothing for the next three months. I severely regret checking myself into this place. I just want my phone and life back.

An hour passes by as I sit slumped in the common area waiting for my room assignment. The stained, cigarette-scented couch engulfs my brittle body as I’m clicking through the ten channels the facility deemed safe for our viewing pleasure. Across the room, there is a man playing an intense game of chess with himself. He guards his gallon of ice tea with his left hand and mumbles every few minutes in anger, which draws my attention. His head is as clean as a cue ball while the rest of his face is unkept and scraggly. As strange of a character he appears to be, he is camouflaged within the chaotic walls of this new home of mine. The wood floors are weathered and scratched up with profanities, and the walls are wallpapered over with a floral design I would presume someone’s grandmother picked out. There are motivational quotes on posters plastered all over the room. “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”—Albert Einstein. I scoff at the posters; I haven’t felt less motivated since senior year gym class. I begin to dread what is to come; I know the first week of detox is the hardest and will be the most painful experience. I contemplate running away and getting high, but I know there is no way to escape from this nut house now.

It is now 10 pm and the bland receptionist with the yellow teeth helps me settle into my room. It is as underwhelming as expected: two metal framed beds with possibly bed bug infested mattresses lie in front of me, along with a simple wood end table and a lamp without a shade resting on top of it. Upon my arrival, my roommate asks if I have any drugs on me, but then goes silent as the receptionist walks in after me. I soon find out that my new living mate’s name is Mary Beth Judd, but she only responds to MJ. She is a large woman; her withdrawal caused her to crave sweets, and she claims this place is the cause of her new inflicting health problems with her weight. Her long choppy brunette hair lies flat and dead along her puffy dewy face as she complains to me about the jail-like qualities of this facility. She spends the whole night telling me about the crooked people who run the joint, that they do nothing to actually provide help for the patients, it’s all just a scheme to make more money. She then proceeds to tell me how I can get friends to sneak in drugs—this girl was a trip.

At 7 am sharp, I am awoken by the sounds of bodies shuffling down the hallway. I realize MJ is no longer in the room, she must be amongst the herd heading towards the dining hall. I begin to gather myself and make my way out to the hall where I follow the scent of some indistinguishable food. As I turn the corner, I see my cue ball friend from the night before stumbling down the hallway. Looks like somebody had a rough night; I guess he has a few of those “friends” MJ was talking about last night. We enter the dining hall together and join the mosh pit huddled around the food. Cue crawls his way up to the front and grabs his tray of scrambled eggs and mystery meat slapped on top. I get stuck in the sea of junkies and get shoved around until I reach my breakfast. I escape the crowd and spot Cue at the weathered down dining table in the corner directly next to the trash. I make my way over to my scraggly friend and take the seat across from him. We eat our breakfast in silence with the exception of Cue’s occasional smacking of his lips. I push around my food rather than eat it to relieve my tastebuds of the foul taste they were encountering. Who needs breakfast anyway.

Cue hollers, “Why you makin’ that face sour puss?” I stare blankly, unsure of what he is expecting in response. A few moments of uncomfortable silence go by until Cue starts up again. “Kid, I don’t know what your problem is but I don’t appreciate you just starin’ at me like I got ten heads.”

I quickly apologize and explain my distaste for the landfill they pass as food here.

Cue begins to roll his eyes and gather his things, “Get used to it, kid, this ain’t a damn resort. If you wanted to go somewhere cushy, maybe you shouldn’t of chose the one facility that has 95% of their patient’s court ordered by the state to be here.” Cue stumbles back into the gloomy hallway while mumbling to himself in anger.

I sit alone at this weathered table, unsure of what to do with myself. I glance around the room to see if anything of interest is going on, but it is just a depressing scene of drug addicts pretending as if they didn’t just shoot up in the bathroom.

I make a pit stop in the ladies laboratory before heading to my first group therapy session—surely I’m not in a hurry to get there. The air is thick in here, every breath feels like an uphill battle. The heat is on full blast and mixes terribly with the fumes of shit and cigarettes that people are sneaking in the bathroom. I turn to quickly exit but stop when I catch a glimpse of myself in the moldy, water-stained mirror. I slump myself over the porcelain sink and fully take in my image; this is the first I’m seeing myself since I overdosed a week ago and woke up in a hospital. I never really got the chance to stop and look at myself, I was so caught up in just trying to survive and then be transferred somewhere safe. Somewhere safe meaning this poor excuse for a rehabilitation facility. My long, curly, auburn hair looks as if a family of birds moved into my locks. I roll my fingers down my translucent skin covered in dry patches and freckles; the skin near all my joints is at the point of cracking. The bags that rest under my eyes seem as if they have been developing over the past decade. My bones ache with every movement. I begin to back up from the mirror and see a full view of me in my scrubs. The size small I have on drapes over my brittle body. I can’t remember the last time I weighed over 90 pounds. I plop down in the corner of the bathroom and sit in silence with myself. The silence takes over and it’s almost as if I can hear my body beginning its withdrawal. I haven’t shot up since right before I checked in, this is the longest I’ve gone in months. Cold sweat takes over my body along with agonizing pain in every breath I take; it just hurts to be alive. MJ and a few unfamiliar faces come storming into the bathroom giggling. They all enter the handicap stall at the end and slowly, one at a time, make an exit within a five-minute interval. MJ is the last to exit the stall. I muster up the strength I have to look up at her and ask what she’s up to. She looks down at me like a wounded animal. At this point I’m not sure if I am ever getting off this bathroom floor, this is where I live now. MJ begins to chuckle, she kneels down next to me on the yellow-stained tiles and says, “You’ll feel better soon.” A sharp piercing pain followed by sweet ecstasy and relief flows through my arm. My eyes become heavy, the room goes dark, and it is time for my soul to rest.

 

Briana Marino’s short story “Where My Soul Lies” won third prize in the Sixth Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. Briana is a twenty-year- old  majoring in Fine Arts at SVA.