by Paula M. Coulter
The hand holding the syringe brings a welcomed feeling of floating back to a time when all things were pleasant, happy and vibrant. Without it, all I know is a wicked, miserable and lifeless outlook to my existence. As the drug sears through my veins on its quest to bringing pleasure to my decaying inspirations, I hear a voice say, “Rest well, Jewel.” The hand disappears from my room.
It usually took only a matter of minutes for me to attain the blissful thoughts that I had become so familiar with, and needed, in order to endure another night. But, this time, it wasn’t the same. This time, there was only a slight woozy feeling that never intensified to become the happy abode I came to welcome in my psyche. This time, all of my consciousness was intact. This time, it was going to be another terrifying blow of reality for me to be forced to retain.
The walls of my room are bleak, almost prison-like. There are no windows. There are no pictures. There is no life. The bed consists of a very heavy antique brass bed frame from around the 1950’s. The mattress, well, the mattress is…used. Extremely used. With all the depressing surroundings, the small night light in the corner holds the only flicker of hope in this room since mine was extinguished almost 2 years ago.
Rumbling through the thin walls next to my room, a girl, who I know of only as “Jade” can be heard yelling at Danny.
“YOU don’t own me!” Jade shrieks in a high-pitched squeal.
Shut up, Jade! Please. Just shut up.
I first met Jade at the park where I would hang out to watch the skateboarders, and she would go to escape her alcoholic mom. She had the smoothest blonde hair that seemed to be made of silk and the greenest eyes. The kind of green that welcomed you into a summer field after a long, cold winter. She was only a year younger than me, yet she had this spunk about her that was intoxicating. Fun, but not childish. I, on the other hand, was a bit more reserved and cautious. During the first week we were here, she would braid my long brown hair and tell me I looked like Julia Roberts with my big, brown eyes.
Every day, through the thin walls, I can hear muffled sounds from her room but we never see each other anymore and we are never allowed to talk to each other. Will I be able to see the summer fields in her eyes again if I were to see her now? I’m sure she would tell me that mine have turned black.
I hear the air crack and then hear Jade’s squealing turn into a blood-curdling scream.
Oh, God, why didn’t that drug work?
A deep male voice, that of Danny, can be heard outside our bedrooms, speaking in another tongue that’s still foreign to me after all this time. He seems to talk to himself a lot. He is the only one that’s ever here with us until other visitors arrive.
I hear footsteps towards the front door, the keys jingle, then the front door opens and slams shut.
When the drugs are given every night, the handcuffs are checked and sometimes even tightened, depending on how busy it was going to be that night. I try to reposition myself in my disgusting, cognizant state and notice that the handcuffs are no longer holding my wrists in their vise-like grip as they have since I was 14 years old. They are so loose that I can slide my wrists out of them with only a slight tug. Could this be a test or just a really bad withdrawal hallucination?
Two years. It’s been two years since I’ve seen my family, my friends and my own room. I am fully awake for the first time since, and my mind floods with a longing it has never had since being captured.
Silent tears start rolling down my cheeks and I sob, “I want to go home.”
I need to get out of here!
I sit up, on the side of the bed, and rethink the thought of escaping.
What if he comes back and catches me? Will I live to see my family again? But, then again, what if this opportunity never comes again? I want my life back!
I become consumed with exhilaration at the thought of freedom.
Mommy, I’m here! I’m alive and I’m coming home!
I slowly and silently move across the room towards the bedroom door and hold my breath as I twist the cold metal.
It opens. Without a hitch.
Disbelieving and bewildered but…ecstatic! This overjoyed feeling is what propels me onward in my escape.
Jade! I have to get Jade!
I close the door to my room, just like it had been, and step to the room next to mine. Again, the door opens easily and I see Jade lying on the bed with her arms above her head in handcuffs. Her smooth blonde hair was gone and, in its place, was a tangled mess that looked like nothing more than a dirty mop, twisted in long, wet strands.
“Oh, my God! How did you get in here?” Jade asks, in a daze.
“Jade! I’ve missed you so much!” I exclaimed, as I ran to her side and tried to hug her.
“I don’t know what happened! He gave me the shot but it didn’t do anything. Then, my handcuffs weren’t tight and now, my mind’s racing to get out of here!”
Jade’s face hardens. The welcoming green eyes, once filled with the excitement of life, now looked defeated.
“We’ll never get out of here, Jewel.”
“Don’t say that! There’s got to be a way to get you out of…”
The keys clinking in the front door makes my heart skip a beat. Maybe two. A terrifying visual of the lid of my casket closing, in front of my weeping parents, enters my mind just as the front door opens then, quickly, slams shut.
The adrenaline is speeding through my veins. Footsteps can be heard in the hallway, coming towards the bedroom and the only place to hide is…under Jade’s bed.
Danny enters Jade’s room.
Please don’t see me!
From under the bed, I can picture that smug look on his face. He’s in his mid-40’s and big-boned, as my mom used to say. The stench coming off of him reeks of engine oil and sweat. He approaches the bed and I cringe, trying not to breathe too loudly.
He doesn’t hesitate at dropping his pants to the floor, inches from my head. His weight strains the bed and it creaks as Jade pleads for him to stop. The creaking gets louder, faster. Jade is sobbing and my mind is in a frenzy. Turning my head to the side, I notice a cell phone in the pocket of his jeans lying on the floor.
I slip my hand out, grab it and dial 9-1-1.
The events that followed the call are a blur. There was a lot of yelling, thrashing and pounding. Then more yelling, as a whole team of men came in with guns, and wrapped us in blankets before escorting us to the ambulance while Danny was arrested.
In the hospital, I learned that Jade’s real name is Heather, the meaning of which is “a flowering evergreen plant”. Very suitable for her beautiful eyes. It wasn’t until her only child was abducted two years ago, that Heather’s mom recovered from the alcoholism. We only spent that first day talking before we were discharged, but Heather was overjoyed when she left the hospital with her mom.
Heather hasn’t spoken to me since we left the hospital. To be friends would be to carry around a horrifying souvenir of the torment we endured together.
My real name is Rochelle, meaning “little rock”, and my parents were elated to see me. I was just as thrilled to see them and get back to my familiar, cheerful life I had before.
No one says how much things change when something traumatic happens.
The refuge of my pleasant memories no longer exists in my real world now. My parents divorced while I was gone. Mom lives in the same house, having acquired the identical disease that once plagued Heather’s mom. In the drug lord’s domain, on Chicago’s west side, dad lives in a dingy apartment.
As I sit on my bed in his apartment, the slavery I endured lives in the past and present simultaneously. The repulsive scar is in every notion, it’s ugliness reflecting off every corner of my being. Humiliating me in every encounter.
I briefly transfer my thoughts to my hand. The hand that’s holding the syringe to bring a welcomed feeling of floating back to a time when all things were pleasant, happy and vibrant.