Machete, Moonlight, Madness: part two
(Continued from part one.)
The two uniformed cops are engaged in conversation with Patrick, and before I enter the house I discard the machete in the flower bed beside the door, vaguely recalling a news story about an LAPD officer who had shot and killed a homeless man who had approached him wielding what turned out to be a cell phone. Even in this state of mental disorganization, I’m certain that entering the room carrying a two-foot long machete would be ill-advised.
All eyes turn and fix on me, and I immediately realize what has happened. Patrick has summoned them while I was ranting on the gazebo roof, and the brief flash of hope – that they have been called to help repel the invasion of the tree people – is dispelled as soon as I read the expression on their faces. Caution and wariness. They’re here to take me away, I brilliantly intuit, and though I’m starting to panic, I work hard to prevent it from showing. I’ve practiced for years the art of appearing normal when high, and have become very good at it, able to fool Patrick, friends and even employers with relative ease. Well, for short periods of time, anyway.
Surprisingly, the officers, both men, one Caucasian and the other Hispanic, seem kind.
They motion me over calmly, and I move into the living room, shooting a look of angry betrayal at Patrick, who looks away, his face stony.
“Listen, Andrew,” the Hispanic one begins. “I understand you’re using meth,” and his voice surprisingly devoid of judgment. “Is that true?”
I nod, understanding somehow that this is not the time to discuss the tree people and their threats. I’ve tried many times to convince others of their existence, to no avail, and there is a part of me that understands that this would certainly be yet another futile attempt. The objective at the moment is to keep them from taking me away, and I work hard at appearing calm and reasonable.
“Your partner believes you’re a danger to yourself at the moment,” he continues, and out of the corner of my eye I observe a leafy, shadowy creature through the front window, slithering closer to the glass for a better view. I sense that the army outside the house is reveling in my predicament. I am trapped: to say something, to implore them to take a closer look at the trees and bushes, will cement the certainty that I will be leaving with these policemen.
“I’m not a danger to…” I begin, but the officer interrupts me.
“You have two choices,” he says. “Either we take you and bring you to County, or you agree to go to the hospital with your partner.” His tone makes it clear that argument or negotiation are not options.
“And believe me, you don’t want to go to County,” he finishes.
My jaw, already speed-clenched, tightens even further as I struggle to maintain composure. I look angrily, in turn, at Patrick, my mother, and finally my sister, trying to convey with my eyes the betrayal I am now feeling.
I agree to allow Patrick to take me to a hospital.
“Good. Make sure we don’t have to come back here again, because next time I won’t give you a choice”. His voice is surprisingly gentle, but it is clear he means what he says.
The cop turns to Patrick and says simply, “good luck.” Patrick thanks them, and they leave. I watch them, illuminated by the front porch light, as they descend the front stairway. They are completely oblivious to the stock-still creatures staring down at them from the trees and from behind bushes only a few feet away. Though far from happy, I am relieved that the cops have left without major incident. The many episodes of “Cops” that I have watched, juxtaposed with the relative mercy they have shown me, causes me to wonder momentarily if they recognized Patrick, and whether his minor celebrity status has just saved me a trip to the county jail. This kind of thing has happened before, but in more genial circumstances: wink, wink, here’s an upgrade to first class, wink wink, these drinks are on the house. As vile as the concept may be, and as embarrassing as I usually find this kind of treatment, i’m grateful if this, in fact, is what has just happened.
Less than fifteen minutes later, I am in the back of our Honda CRV. The walk to the car was torturous, as the tree people watched from the shadows and gloated at my situation. “Got you again!” was their unspoken message. As the car backs out of the driveway, my irritation at being forced into this unwelcome journey is overshadowed by the relief of escaping, if temporarily, the terrible monsters, who have congregated on the front embankment of the hillside for a clear view of the departing vehicle.
The ride to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena takes less than 15 minutes, the traffic on the 110 freeway surprisingly light. I am fairly composed, all things considered, and my gaze is directed out the window into the darkness of the arroyo as it rushes by on my right. I am fidgety from the speed, but remain silent for the duration of the ride.
We arrive, pulling into the concrete parking structure adjacent to the emergency room entrance. Patrick pulls the car into the first available space and removes the keys from the ignition. After everyone is out of the car, and before Patrick can lock it, I jump back inside and use the automatic door locks to seal myself in.. Patrick hits the unlock button on his keychain, and I push the lock button. Lock, unlock, lock, unlock, lock, unlock…this goes on for quite a while, and like a horrible child I just smile as his face grows more red by the moment. I can almost see cartoon steam emanating from his ears. Eventually, my timing is thrown off and he wins, the door is open, and we are yelling at each other. Afraid to go home, where the tree people and the police wait for me, I loudly, and quite ludicrously, demand to be driven to a hotel.
It only takes a moment for our yelling, and the intermingled semi-hysterical shouting of my sister and mother, to attract the attention of two security guards, who run towards us.
“hey! Hey! What’s going on?” they demand angrily, their faces scanning each of ours, trying to make sense of the situation.
Without preamble, Patrick points to me and says, “He’s on crystal meth.”
I offer no resistance as I am escorted through the garage, up a walkway and through the automatic emergency room doors, flanked by guards who grip my biceps roughly. The guards stay by me as Patrick informs the intake nurse of the situation and provides them with my insurance information. She looks over at me, and as with the police, I expect judgment, but her thoughts are inscrutable. This is not true of the guards who continue to glare at me with blatant mistrust and a fair amount of “go ahead, try something” bravado. Although I’ve become accustomed to being looked at this way, a small shimmer of shame flows through me as I realize every pair of eyes in this comically crowded waiting room is fixed on me.
I steal a glance at Patrick, and he looks exhausted. Our eyes meet for a moment, and then he looks away. I flash back to previous emergency room visits, long before this nightmare began. I think of our second date, 9 years ago, when I suffered an unfortunately-timed kidney stone attack (which I first thought was horrible gas pains, and I was completely humiliated), and he escorted me to the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai.During that visit, he held my hand as I endured wave after wave of excruciating pain, telling me to hang on, coaching me to breathe through it, and finally, hilariously, resorting to improvising a short song about kidney stones in a somewhat successful attempt to distract me. I had fallen in love with him then. Part of it was the humor – I’d never dated anyone so quick-witted and funny before (well, okay…there WAS Kevin, but I’d predictably torpedoed that with my infidelity, after which he’d done the right thing and excised himself from my life years before), and so…empathetic? His big green-blue eyes and quirky bright red hair made it seem like I had my own magical, guardian angel/ leprechaun watching over me and keeping me safe.
“Nicastro?” a voice calls out, and I look up to see a nurse with a clipboard scanning the room.
“Nicastro?” a voice calls out, and I look up to see a nurse with a clipboard scanning the room.
“Right here!” Patrick responds..too loudly…in my stead, getting to his feet more quickly than I do.
The security guards scrutinize me as I follow the nurse through a set of double doors, and to my great relief, they do not follow. Perhaps grateful to pass the torch of my guardianship off to professionals, Patrick also remains in the waiting room. The emergency ward itself is a long, wide corridor of frenzied activity, and it is clear that there has been a lot of misfortune this evening. An unseen baby screams out in angry pain, and nurses and orderlies hustle in all directions, trying to avoid collision. I am led to and deposited in a small, sterile room to the right. It contains only two plastic chairs and a compact countertop with medical supplies stacked neatly on it – swabs, cotton pads, a stack of green, kidney-shaped plastic bowls.
Before she leaves, the nurse affixes a small, opaque plastic bracelet to my left wrist. I don’t bother to read the words written on it.
“Someone will be in shortly,” she says, and departs.
Amazingly, I am alone.
I sit slumped in the chair, my jaw working itself, teeth grinding slightly from the speed, and try to figure out what my next move will be. What will I tell the doctor when he arrives? Will I go to jail? This is my first encounter with real authority while using, and I am absolutely unsure of the consequences of admitting that I have been smoking the drug.
Half an hour crawls by, and I’m still alone. Sitting still is hard for me under the best of circumstances, doing so in full tweak mode is next to impossible. I pace the room, occasionally stealing a glance into the hallway through the door’s small glass window. I shove my hands into the pockets of my cargo pants and my right hand brushes something at the bottom. I retrieve it: it is the packet of crystal I had placed there earlier in the afternoon. I have completely forgotten about it, and my initial joy upon discovering it is quickly replaced by concern. Being high in a hospital examination room may not earn one a trip to the county jail, but being high AND in the possession of illegal drugs certainly would.
My immediate thought is to hide the bag, to secrete it in the room somewhere before the doctor arrives, but before I can act on this, my addict instincts kick in and I decide that I want to use some. Now. I come to a decision quickly, and I move decisively, opening the door to the small room and stepping out into the hallway. I try my best to look relaxed, and walk left, in the opposite direction of the waiting room, where I assume Patrick, my mother and my sister are still waiting.
I turn corner after corner, trying to assume the confident step of someone who belongs, who might actually even work there. It takes a few minutes, but after pushing through several sets of double doors at the end of several different hallways, I walk outside onto a deserted loading dock.
end part two (of three)