This is day 7 of 28
Word hit the rest of the fellowship at Mountainside about Brian yesterday. The news flooded our little community here like huge tub of red blood that spilled over on a white floor and spread outward across us all.
No one really spoke much to Brian. He was young and somewhat unlikable. Brian was socially awkward. He was just a kid trying to find himself and trying to find a way to feel comfortable in his own skin.
I suppose this took too much of him. My guess is the Brian’s world spun too fast —and I suspect that it’s not that Brian wanted to die so much. I think he just wanted to world to stop. But the world doesn’t stop. It never stops. It just keeps turning and for Brian, my guess is he just couldn’t take another trip around the sun.
I spoke to my one on one counselor Jake yesterday. I swear this guy plays mind tricks on me. But his tricks are not really tricks so much. He asks questions. I answer, but when I answer, my answers open up from one thing to the next.
I find myself telling on me, which is something I swore I would never do. Somehow, Jake leads me into exposing things I never wanted to think, feel, or talk about.
Somehow, I am no longer fixated on the smallness of Jake’s office as much. I stopped thinking about the old motel smell. I stopped arguing as much and I find myself joking along with the others at Mountainside. I even laughed with Jimmy when he was doing impressions of some of the counselors during our shift in the kitchen.
Jimmy is scheduled to leave tomorrow. I am told Jimmy won’t be in the kitchen with us after dinner anymore. He is “Retired” as they say here. This means he finished his shift and received his completion and discharge plan.
And that word, “Discharge.” I have 21 days to go before I see that day. And god, this seems like such a long time from now but I’m already in for a good full week. One week flew by and it seems as though I just got here yesterday.
Somehow, or reluctantly, I suppose; I’ve blended into the program.
I can’t say that I’ve caught a case of God yet. I still have doubts about faith and religion. But they did pull a trick me here. It’s like I was told my first day here, “Just bring the body. Your mind will follow it later.”
I started speaking a little but more in group sessions. I even leaned into Cowboy the last time, which is no different from what Cowboy does to others.
Cowboy is an instigator. He hates when the group focuses on him. I hate this too because then all we talk about is the same old thing with Cowboy. And all Cowboy does is try to show off like some country rodeo star.
“I didn’t know they have rodeos in Alpine, New Jersey,” I said to Cowboy.
That being mentioned, Alpine is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Northeast.
There are no ranches or ranchers like Cowboy here. Instead, there are big homes with guest houses and butler’s quarters. There are gated driveways and paved streets.
There are no dusty roads here, cowboy saloons, and there is certainly no one around that talks or acts like a Texan. Unless, of course, they are a Texan and it just so happens they have property in Alpine as well.
Nevertheless, Cowboy was an image. Cowboy wore tight blue jeans with a big Confederate Flag belt buckle, a button down shirt like something I’ve seen out of a movie once with John Travolta and Debra Winger, and he wore black cowboy boots.
It was clear that Cowboy never learned how to inject himself properly. His arms were torn up from improper use of the needle. And he wore his marked arms like a badge of honor.
Cowboy acted like he was proud of himself. He was only at Mountainside because his mother made him go. Cowboy’s father on the other hand was living someplace else with wife number 3 and sharing his time with her and mistress number 4.
But Cowboy seldom discussed his father in group. Instead, Cowboy argued about his drug use. He argued about his ability to drink successfully so long as he stays away from the cocaine.
Cowboy argues about his life but more interesting, when Cowboy is faced with his lies and faced with his image, or when faced with the truth of his mother, whom of which has her own daily but yet, medically acceptable drug habit, Cowboy throws a temper tantrum and points fingers at someone else in the group
Yesterday, I decided not to let Cowboy get away with pushing on others. I used their programmed terminology, which by the way, is an entire glossary of wellness slogans.
“Why don’t you keep it on yourself,” I asked.
Cowboy tried to deflect on me but the group didn’t take the bait.
“Why don’t you ever talk about your life? “I asked.
It was my turn to call him out . . .
“I mean, you call yourself Cowboy and act like some country kid but yet you come from Alpine, New Jersey. You don’t even have a horse, let alone, a ranch. You brag all day long about the needle marks in your skin, which, by the way is a damned shame! Because the truth is, no one showed you how to use a needle so you’ve literally ripped your arms apart because you don’t know what you’re doing
You talk about living on the street but living on the street to you is living in your guest house! You’ve literally pissed everyone off here and you laugh. You picked on Brian ALL THE TIME and now he’s gone, you spineless piece of shit.”
I felt a snap in me. I could feel something happening . I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I could feel hatred and regret and disgust and pain. I felt rejection, shame, guilt, fear, and all of my frustration, all of my anxiety, and all of my regrets come to a culmination of rage.
“You’re in here every day, fuckin around, and talking like you’re a tough rodeo star; meanwhile, I was told you’re real name Alex. Not Cowboy. You’re family goes to places like Prague for vacation. You have a caviar background. You never talk about you or your mother or how your father left. All you do is pick on others.”
I suppose I must have forgotten myself. I never noticed the tears flowing down my face. I never realized that my hatred for Cowboy was not a hatred for him at all. I hated him because I saw me.
I saw me in him, mixed with different backgrounds, mixed with a family history that literally has pained me since I was a boy. I saw me and the fakeness I portrayed. I saw me and my image.
This is why I hated Cowboy. I hated him not just because he was a tall, lanky, scrawny, blue-eyed, black haired wise-ass with over-sized sunglasses. I hated him because Cowboy represented everything I hated about myself.
Usually Helene stops the group when the tone becomes loud. But Helene didn’t stop me. Cowboy even inquired about the no yelling rule.
“Are you going to stop him,” asked Cowboy to Helene.
“Nope, he’s on a role,” she said.
“Why don’t you stop me? Huh?” Why don’t YOU stop me Cowboy?”
“You fuckin coward! Why don’t you try to stop me?”
It was clear the others in the group were becoming uneasy. I never realized that I was beginning to stand up out of my chair.
Billy was in group with us. Billy had been there before me and he was about to leave as well. Billy never said much to me but I knew him from kitchen detail and he and I got along as well as I could get along with anyone at the time.
“Be careful,” Billy warned.
I suppose my body language was becoming more and more threatening. I didn’t notice my posture. In fairness, I didn’t notice anything or anyone except for Cowboy. All of my rage and all of my regret, all of my internal hatred, and all of my shame was entirely focused on Cowboy.
I screamed at him.
“What the hell do you know about life you fake, cowboy son of a bitch!”
Cowboy’s posture sunk in his chair. He was timid. The bully in him disappeared and suddenly, Cowboy was like a little child, cowering with a security blanket, and afraid to shut the light before bed.
I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to hurt him badly and swear off this anger by crushing him, punishing him into a weeping bloodied mass. I wanted to punish Cowboy for being him, but more, I wanted to punish him for reminding me of me and the visions in my head.
“What the hell do you know about anything you spoiled little shit.”
Now I stood. But to explain, I must explain the room is a small office. There is not much space to move. There is a desk in the small 10×10 wood-paneled wall room with wooden chairs. Usually, Cowboy leans back in his chair and tries to sit defiantly. But not on this day.
I didn’t even realize I stood.
“What the hell do you know about pain? You sorry little son of a bitch!”
I grew closer.
“I almost killed a little girl, you little fuck!”
I didn’t know what came over me. The crying was uncontrollable. I didn’t even realize that I grew closer to Cowboy. I never even realized that I reached for Cowboy’s throat. All I knew is that the others, including Billy, held me back and sat me down. And then I broke.
“God, WHAT THE HELL DID I DO?”
“She might never walk again because of me,” I screamed.
I was crying as uncontrollably as a child when left unattended in his stroller while lost and cold, scared, and afraid of literally everything.”
Helene’s eyes were tearing up.
“I’m sorry,” I said to everyone.
But I was not sorry about Cowboy. I apologized to Helene like a boy would apologize to his mother after betraying her trust. Suddenly, Helene was like a beautiful mother to me. I will never see her as ugly again
“I’m so sorry!”
I slumped in my chair. Helene stood and she approached me. When she hugged me it was like the warmth of mother, like Mary, Mother of God, as if to heal me, and I swear I never wanted her to let go.
Cowboy was crying to, although I’m not sure why. Later that day, a car came to pick him up. Cowboy chose to leave and go to a better treatment facility. He told his family he was afraid for his safety. More accurately, Cowboy’s mask slipped and he was accurately exposed as weak.
Helene stopped in the corridor a few hours after group.
“I knew you weren’t gonna hit him.” she told me.
“Then why did you let me take it that far?”
Helene smiled at me.
She called me “Son” and placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Between you and me . . . Cowboy was an asshole. Sometimes, I’m not always as professional as I should be.”
“Maybe now you’ll be ready though,” Helene said.
“And I’ll be here waiting for you when you are.”
Funny with all that has gone on over the last three days, I haven’t thought about taking a drink or swallowing a pill once. I’m not even thinking about this now. I just realized this
They got me . . .