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The Locked Diary #7: Bitch, Don't Steal My Controlled Substances

I carry enough baseless generational guilt around with me.


I traipse over to the woman in charge. I love a bitch at the helm. I secretly fear my homosexuality might not have much to do with primal sexual attraction and more to do with my lifelong yearning to obtain approval from a generally disapproving demographic. And no one—not even the chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company—could dream of competing with the natural airs of authority that effortlessly permeate from the pores of a gay woman. Doesn't matter if she's the manager of her local best buy, working security at a Topeka Kansas mall, or is resident top dog at a giant oil conglomerate—you don't question the dictatorship of a lesbian. You just don't. Every time I go to a Pride party or an Indigo Girls concert or have an unsavory interaction with the TSA for that matter—I always somehow end up on the receiving end of a stern talking to from whatever dyke happens to be running the show. Usually, they're hooked up to a headset or a walk-talkie that every seven minutes they bark "copy that" into, and they're always deeply disappointed in me for breaking some arbitrary rule. And although your girl has pride and will always retort back combatively—don't be fooled. I only push buttons because I'm horny to have my buttons pushed back. And trust me when I say: they're just as turned on by my non-compliance as I am by their unwavering dedication to law and order. However, the woman at the glamorous men's rehab in South Jersey is not invoking any sexual fantasies this fine Sunday. Not because she's bouncing her clipboard on her hip like it's a newborn and is wearing an offensively neon fanny pack. Fanny packs and clipboard cradling are to be expected of all childless women who take their jobs seriously, myself included. My blatant lack of attraction is rooted in her loud sexlessness. By which I mean: Her sexuality isn't plush, it's the antithesis of plush. It's dehydrated. Shriveled like the leaves of a houseplant that has been sucked dry by an over-cranked radiator in the dead of a nuclear winter. Just looking at her makes me crave a cold bottle of water and a nice vaginal lubricant. But then again, that could just be my colossal hangover talking. Regardless, I continue to move toward her. I clock her clock me right as I'm lamely stumbling over a large branch laying in piss-yellow grass. "Gah!" I yelp, "Didn't see that stick!" My eyes fall to the ground. There is no stick.


LISTEN TO ARTICLE IN THE VIDEO BELOW:


Just keep on walking, Z. Keep on walking. I pep-talk to myself, suddenly realizing that my mental state might be sinking to a worrisome new low.


"Hi!" I belt. My voice is loud. Booming in a way that's unnatural. Like I'm in a high school rendition of Guys & Dolls and thanks to the school board voting in favor of drastic budget cuts directly "affecting the arts"—we can no longer afford proper microphones—but damn it. I'm a Senior and this is the last performance of my academic career—and I will be heard!


"Hi," The woman in charge smiles so big I can see her insides. Her flesh is interesting. It's hot pink, like Barbie's corvette. It looks like she's scrubbed her skin raw with a harsh exfoliating cloth. I can't stop staring into the vibrant pinkness. It distracts me: what question did I have for this lady again?


"How do you do?" I chirp. How do you do? Why am I acting like I've joined the cast of Steel Magnolias? Why am I so off today? Oh, maybe because just eight hours ago you were drunk on wine and high on psychedelic mushrooms, have been running on fumes for I don't know—the last year, are in the throes of a traumatic breakup, every time you go out you panic about the whereabouts of your house-keys only to remember you don't live there anymore and where even is home?, are in financial dire straights, not sure what the hell is going to happen to you, were given no heads up that the reading you are meant to do today is in a men's rehab in Fuckall, Jersey, and now you're sweating bullets with a group of addicts fresh out of detox, are stumbling in all-wrong shoes over sticks that don't exist—and I swear to LANA DEL REY if that heel sinks into the unkempt ugly-ass piss-yellow grass one more TIME—I'm going to have a nervous fucking breakdown.


Not to mention you're wearing a dumb white dress with a dumb lemon print and your purse is packed with enough controlled substances to sponsor the relapse of every fragile junkie on the premise. What can I say? I'm thriving. Not all superheroes wear capes.

I extend my hand toward the woman in charge but quickly pull away when I notice a slight tremble in my fingers. It's dangerous to reveal a shaky hand in these parts. One wrong move and the next thing you know you've signed yourself into six months of treatment. Which to be honest, sounds rather lovely, doesn't it? I know, I know. Addiction is a harrowing illness dangerously misunderstood by the culture at large. It follows you like a shadow for the rest of your life. I wouldn't wish addiction on my worst enemy. But let's just say we could—hypothetically—remove the whole destroying-your-life-because-you're-a-slave-to-drugs part and just cherry-pick out the fun parts like, you know: yoga, equine therapy, healing the damaged child within...


A guy with three clumsy teardrop tattoos etched onto a razor-sharp cheekbone lingers behind the woman with the clipboard. Our eyes meet. He wags his tongue at me. His tongue looks like the tail of a red-headed dog, darting left to right, right to left, left to right, excitedly. I smile at him, softly, and quietly wonder if we'll end up being great friends once they find my bag of drugs and they keep me there on a legal hold until I'm admitted. Yes, it's a men's rehab. But maybe Gen Z is right. Maybe gender is a construct.


The woman in charge stretches her arms open wide. "I don't know about you—" she winks "—but—" she pauses coyly, "I'm a hugger." She wraps her arms around me, squeezing me at the waist. Normally I resist hugs from strangers because you know, sexual trauma or whatever—but something about the heavy stillness of her embrace softens me. My vision goes cloudy. Tears pierce my eyes. I feverishly blink, in an attempt to dry out the saltwater pools emerging in my eyes. This is what happens when you're heartbroken, you see. Everything gets all out of whack. You start singing in earnest to music you'd normally mock, your extremities tremble like you're a dope sick junkie, and bear hugs from strangers make you weep. I suck back a gulp of air and hold it in. Repressing breath represses emotions. But you're smart. You already knew that.


*


Once I get my whereabouts and actually muster the ability to ask productive questions to the woman in charge, I'm quickly assured that I am indeed in the correct place for the reading. Veronica Katz, is an hour late, but I do finally hear from her, and yes she's coming and yes she knew this reading was going to be in rehab, and ain't life grand? I park myself in a folding chair beneath a shaded tree and watch patients busily chomp down hot dogs in the sweltering August heat.


A full hour goes by when I realize Veronica Katz has still not arrived. I eavesdrop on my newly sober boys outdoing each other with gruesome stories of active addiction: "Bro. Two weeks ago I was in the bathroom of the Port Authority, my hands wrapped around the neck of that fucko who sold me out. Now I'm writing gratitude lists with you clowns. What's happened to my life?" A skinny white dude shows off to another skinny white dude, moving his hands around exaggeratingly like he's Tony Soprano.


That's when I feel the earth move under my feet. Not in the poetic way Carol King sings about on her iconic album Tapestry. There is nothing iconic or poetic about literally feeling the ground shake. I scan the crowd to assess their reactions to what's clearly the onset of an earthquake that kill us all—but no one seems to notice. Everyone is as blissful as ever; merrily stuffing their faces with meat whilst waxing poetic about their glamorous former lives as druggies. I squeeze my eyes shut to hone in on the rhythm of the flailing ground. It stops shaking. I make the choice to ignore the fact that this is the second time my equilibrium has turned on me, today. Don't mind me. Like I said earlier; I'm thriving.

Suddenly a slim-framed five-foot-two body slams into my lap. It's a girl body. I can tell because it smells ornate; like sugar cookies and seawater brine. I don't even have to look up to know, Veronica Katz, New York Times Best Selling Author and Memorist to the Stars, has arrived.


She's older than I am but reads young with her low, messy pigtails and loose-fitted t-shirt kissing the frayed ends of her denim shorts, so tiny, they're serving more "denim underwear" than "shorts." My favorite thing about Veronica Katz is that even though she's of the literary elite, she always looks scrappy, in a chic, teen-girl-with-a-trust-fund way. Women who confidently wear their hair in pigtails after sixteen have nothing to prove, like an heiress who still has a few good years left in her before she realizes she's blown the entirety of her inheritance on oysters at Balthazar and ubers to Brooklyn and truffle fries at the Soho House that she didn't even eat. I get it. I'm no trust funder and I don't think Veronica is one either—but damn do we both shamelessly pig-tail and recklessly oyster and order truffle fries for the table we don't dare touch.


As I coo my "hellos" to Veronica, I start to see little black dots pepper across my frame of vision. It occurs to me that I haven't eaten anything all day long, it's nearing 4 pm and I've been roasting in the sun for several hours. The inside of my mouth feels sticky. I haven't had a lick of water or any iteration of fluid, since before I left Violet's apartment, early this morning.


Veronica blathers on to me about how expensive New York is and how much she prefers LA and oh MY GOD did you read that piece in New York Mag about the pretty girl con artist who screwed all these grown men out of millions of dollars—and did I know that one of the millionaire guys was her best friend from high school? She doesn't acknowledge that she's hours late and doesn't ask me how I got to the venue or how I'm feeling over my recent breakup, which doesn't surprise or upset me, not really. I'm not delusional. I know I'm her "yes-to-anything!" bitch, not her friend. And even though I am so lonely, feeling as if I'm missing my keys but I'm not I'm missing my home, am sick with heartache, hangover and am becoming increasingly blind by the swell of black dots covering my eye-line, am starving and so thirsty I'm having sexual fantasies about bodies of water, and am starting to wonder if I can or even want to continue to live this relentless grief-state—when Veronica asks me if I can read my piece first, I sparkle my eyes at her and bestow her with an enthusiastic "yes!" Cue the pom poms. I'm a cheerleader for team toxic positivity.


After thirty minutes the two other readers arrive (both bearded male comics from Los Angeles, who are also former addicts) and an event coordinator of sorts shows up. Apparently, this is his jig: he puts together readings on sobriety for rehab patients around the country. I support the reading for rehab idea, of course, I do. I mean I'm not a monster! I just kind of wish I wasn't heartbroken in a lemon dress carrying drugs on person, at this reading, that's all. I follow Veronica around like a King Charles Cavalier as she mingles with the other readers. A large-breasted volunteer in a baggy sensible dress looks at me sympathetically and apologizes on behalf of the men undressing me with their eyes. Her eyes are large and somber, which offends me. "Poor little slutty dresser doesn't know any better" they read. Condescending, bitch. I silently seethe. I know how to read the room. But no one informed me about the whereabouts of this fucking rehab. But my vitriolic thoughts don't stop me from doing what I do best: sing-song "thank you" and twist my lips into one of those pained, too-big smiles, the kind a depressed-person plasters to their face right before sticking a gun into their mouth.


The patients are arranged in a circle of plastic chairs. In the middle of the circle is a microphone and a small podium. I am wedged between Veronica and one of the boy comics. The event coordinator introduces me and it's my turn. I neatly place my purse beneath my seat and shoot a "bitch don't steal my controlled substances," glare at the crowd. It's not so much that I need the drugs in my bag. To be perfectly honest I could care less if I ever saw weed again (I only smoke it to sleep) and the clonazepam is only in my bag because I keep an emergency stash with me when I'm in-flight (because if the plane crashes, I'd prefer to be high on benzodiazepines, wouldn't you?), and ADHD meds don't get you high if you're actually off the charts ADD like yours truly—it's just the principle, you know? That and as a Jew, I carry enough baseless generational guilt around with me. I don't know if I can handle the added guilt of being responsible for some poor dude's relapse. The glare is for their own good, really.


I get to the podium and sharply exhale. At least I know, in my heart of hearts, that no matter how much my life implodes, I'll always have this. No one can take this from me—this ability to perform no matter the circumstance. It doesn't matter if I'm sick, starving, hurting, or have been thrust into a strange environment. I will slay this fucking reading.


I have to.


TO BE CONTINUED.




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