Friday, October 5, 2007
I learned the word "cocaine" very early. It seemed to echo down the halls of my family's farmhouse, seep from the faucets, pour from the gutters. As an eleven-year-old, I saw cocaine for the first time in my mother's jewelry box, a tiny bag of pure white, sitting on top of her costume jewelry that I liked to try on and pretend I was Vanna from Wheel of Fortune. I lifted the bag and stared at it, holding it up to the light from a window, wondering if this was really what I had heard talked about so many times, what had sent my mother away for months at a time to "get better", only to have her come back and "be sick" again. This little baggie was the reason she was constantly in and out of my life, the reason she and my father had gut-wrenching arguements behind closed doors, the reason my family was cracking at the foundation. I stared in awe at the bag, amazed that something so tiny held so much power to change our happy family dynamic, knowing that it meant Mom was going to fall apart again, that we all would fall apart again. I put the bag back into the drawer of her jewelry box, an anger loud and sharp inside of me. I began to walk out of her room, but instead turned back and reopened the jewelry box. I lifted the bag back out and set it on the dresser, and then pulled out my favorite ring from underneath where it had been. I slid the aquamarine gem onto my thumb, placed the cocaine back to it's original position, and closed the drawer. I knew Mom would never be able to mention the ring without mentioning the cocaine. I hid the ring in my sock drawer. Mom left again the next day, and was gone for almost a year. For years afterward I thought her leaving was my fault, that I was being punished for stealing her ring. Maybe I still do.