Authors: Sammy King
The nineties was a time of enlightenment, everyone claimed that era to be the sixties, but we had television ads that told us to have safe sex to prevent aids, to quit smoking to prevent lung cancer, to go to church to prevent going to hell and to say no to drugs. I had declared that I would never be like my parents. The drug taking, smoking, needle sharing, parents who hated church and the people that went to them; not that I wanted to go to church, but I didn’t want to pray to their god, the heroin god.
My mum was a disgrace, she couldn’t live a moment without worshipping at the feet of the heroin god, and my dad was her dealer or saviour; however you want to see it. He didn’t do the drugs like she did, but he kept her well stocked up. Her and anyone who had the cash to buy from his constant supply of marijuana, heroin, speed, pills and occasionally coke. Our house was even more of a disgrace than my mum. The house stunk, you had to make trails through the rubbish that littered every room and empty containers holding who knows what, needles that scattered the floor; every surface was sticky with spilled bong water. One corner of the lounge room was growing a pile of discarded cigarette butts. The walls were stained with a thick yellow tar; the curtains although faded and tattered remained closed at all times to prevent unwanted eyes peering into our lives. The toilet was stained brown and stunk of vomit and shit.
My only haven in the house had been my room that was kept meticulous. A mattress on the floor, covered in a pretty pink floral quilt. The only furniture in the room, everything else was sold to feed my mother’s habit. I had taken down the curtains, and the windows I kept open at all time, I needed to feel the outside air on me, even during the wet and cold winter. I couldn’t bear to be locked in.
Books that I managed to borrow from the library sat in a pile next to my bed, they were my only escape from the reality that was my life. I couldn’t read stories about other people living in a drug fuelled world like mine; it was too close to reality. I was, however, grateful that my dad was somewhat protective; he never let his customers near me. I had read a story once about a girl whose parents were junkies like mine, and she had been raped repeatedly by different men that came to the home. I had thanked the universe every day that I didn’t have to live that life, as hard as mine was and as neglectful as my parents were, my room had been allowed to be my sanctuary, it wasn’t going to stay that way, but at one time it was just that, a sanctuary.
Michael was my mum’s most special friend and customer he was even more protective of me than my own father. When Michael was in a drugged stupor, he still never let any man near me. I wanted to like Michael. He was strong, his drug of choice being steroids mixed with marijuana and the occasional heroin or pill. But he always looked out for me. When my mum was too stoned to even keep her eyes open, unable to see the way that her customers were looking at me, Michael was always was watching out for me, he would always manage to distract their attention.
Up until that one time a customer did slip past him. He had been busy arguing with Shelly, I could hear them screaming at each other from my room, when I heard the light knock on my door. Before I had a chance to call out, the door handle turned and a man who I only knew as Dugger poked his head around the corner. Dugger gave me the creeps. He was a weedy man, with rat like features, his hair was matted into one big dread lock and he stunk so much that I always felt my throat gag whenever he was near. He poked his head around the door, his eyes darted around the room and narrowed as he looked at me, I instantly felt uneasy. I pulled my legs up close to me and hugged my arms around my knees as he edged his way quietly into my room he only turned away from me as he silently pushed the door shut behind him.
“Don’t shut that” I said meekly, my voice failed me as I tried to sound strong.
He smiled, a rotten smile that made me shiver with fear his blue eyes were red around the rims. He ignored me and started towards where I sat on my mattress. I edged my way into the corner against my wall. In my panic I wondered how much it would hurt to leap through the open window; it was a fairly long drop, but not that high that I would likely break anything. It was as if he could read my mind, because within an instant he was on top of me. He held onto my arms tight, and pushed my legs apart with his knees. I opened my eyes wide in fear; he smiled a wide rotten smile in response.
“Be a good girl and you might actually like” he spat in my ear, his breath stinking across my face making me gag.
In one clawed hand, he held my wrists above my head and spread his knees apart so that my legs opened wide, my jeans constricted on my thighs, pinching at the small bits of fat of my inner thigh. With his other hand he reached under my top and crudely began to grab at my breast. I fought back the tears that threatened to overflow I didn’t want to show him just how scared I was. I bit my inner cheek, as I let the pain take me away from what was about to happen. I could feel Dugger start to pull at the button of my jeans with his free hand, when suddenly my door slammed open, and ricocheted almost off its hinges.
Dugger stopped frozen as we both looked to see Michael, his face read, the veins on his neck pulsed and his eyes were wild.
“Get off her NOW” he bellowed, which caused my windows to shake.
Dugger scrambled off of me and slammed himself against my cupboard, as if trying to meld his way into the wood and disappear. I watched as Michael’s big meaty fist wrapped itself around Dugger’s throat and lifted him off the ground. I pulled myself into a tight ball against the wall; suddenly my sanctuary had been breached. Michael spun on his heel and carried Dugger out of the room, his throat in his hand. I could hear Dugger spitting trying to get words out, his eyes were bulging with fear and lack of oxygen. I didn’t leave my room that night, but stayed curled in a little ball, afraid to move, my eyes never left the door, I was afraid to let my guard down.
The next day Michael came into the room cautiously, being sure to leave the door open, and not come to close to me.
“I’m sorry that happened Mon” he said, as he dropped his head and looked down at the floor. “He won’t come near you again”.
I looked up at Michael and the tears that I had been fighting, I could no longer hold back as I stood and ran towards him, and buried my face into his muscular chest. He hesitantly put his arms around my shoulder, and kissed the top of my head.
Neither of us spoke about the incident and I never saw Dugger again. I didn’t ask what happened to him, I didn’t care, but I figured Michael told my dad and Dad had cut him off. But my room, my sanctuary had been breached and it was never going to be my safe place anymore. I dreaded being there, once I looked forward to weekends, but now I just wanted to be somewhere else. What I feared more was that it was almost Summer school holidays that would mean six weeks of being there, a prisoner in my own home.
The summer had finally arrived, in a savage way. The roads and street signs seemed to melt as I walked home on my last day of school. My school dress was signed by my friends, my hair dripped with shaving cream, confetti mixed with the cream and a pair of boobs was drawn on my back by one of my friends. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had enough. The walk home seemed to take forever, so much longer than the normal half hour, but as I rounded the corner, I could see the flashing blue and red lights. I thought that Mrs Simons next door might have had another fall, she was getting old and her knees would give out on her, but as I got closer I could see the parade of police walking up and down our drive way. Something else had caught my eye, and I noticed just down the road from our home, was Michael and Shelly sitting in their Volkswagen beetle. Michael’s face was pale as he watched the show that was unfolding in my driveway.
My heart was in my throat, as I felt the sweat dripping down my back, turn ice cold. Before I knew it my feet were moving faster and faster, as I ran towards my drive way and into the arms of the waiting policewoman. I could hear her tell me her name, and that I couldn’t enter my house, but I didn’t understand what she was saying. I broke free of her arms and scaled the front steps in what seemed like a single leap. As soon as I entered the front door the smell of vomit raped my nostrils, as it filled my brain with its stench. I could see a crowd of policemen standing in a circle, and through their legs I could see a hand.
I recognised the hand the minute I saw it, my mother’s hand. The scream that had been building finally reached its climax and it escaped my lips. The policemen, who hadn’t heard me come in, were startled and spun to look at me, mouths ajar. It opened up the view of my mother, sprawled on the wooden lounge room floor, her neck contorted in an unnatural position, vomit pooling under her head, combining with her long black hair. Her eyes were wide open and her lips were pulled into a twisted smile; her yellowing teeth seemed larger than normal in her whitening gums. A needle was still stuck in the crook of her elbow and blood dribbled from the injection site. My knees collapsed underneath me and I hit the ground with a loud hard thud, but felt nothing. My only consuming thought was my mum laying there on the floor in front of me. I hated her for what she did and her addictions, but in that moment, I felt lost and broken, the woman that birthed me, was lying motionless, pale and dead on the floor in front of me.
One of the policemen reached out, his hand rested under my arm, and pulled me up, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my mum, I could hear him speaking to me, but like the police lady out the front, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Tears were streaming down my face like a torrential waterfall as my heart shattered into pieces.
“Mon, Mon” the voice pierced its way through my thoughts, I turned in a daze to follow the voice and saw my father, once a big man, but now shrivelled and broken, in handcuffs. I took in his dishevelled look, his greying hair messed up, his beard stubble sticking from his face like pine needles, his black singlet covered in vomit, I assumed from my mother. His muscles that used to be big and firm, now sagging, his skin loose and wrinkled. I had walked straight past him when I first came into the room, I hadn’t even seen him.
“What happened?” I sobbed.
Dad shook his head. His eyes were red and I could see that he had been crying.
“It was a bad batch Mon, I didn’t know”
I turned to look back at my mum, colour had drained from her lips, and they were beginning to turn a purplish blue. My anguish started to give way to disgust. I hated her demons, her demons in the shape of heroin, a teaspoon and endless needles. The needles that seemed to be scattered over our house, the ones that had become such a normal part of family life in my home, I hated the marks that the needles left on her arms, I hated the spaced out way that the demons caused her to act. I hated that I would have to put her to bed, I hated the heroin more than I hated anything else. At least when she was doing speed she seemed happy, she would sing or dance around the house, but the heroin, it made her angry, sad, broken, it made her remember every bad thing that had ever happened to her.
When my mum was on heroin, she would tell me all the stories of her child hood, of living in the girls home because her father was in jail and her mother was a prostitute and her own addictions. She would tell me the stories of the men in the home raping her in the night, the women who would beat her, or the girls that would burn her with their cigarettes or pinch her so she would squeal and get into more trouble. She could never cry, because the heroin deadened her emotions, but I could always see the heart ache and pain behind her eyes. I knew this is why she took the drugs, it was to forget, it was to take away the pain, but the heroin just seemed to cause the pain to be more present and real for her. So I hated it.
The room had suddenly become stifling, it was like the devil was there playing a sweet sad song of evil, that home had become hell and I was living in it. I had to get out, as I felt my own urge to vomit surging from my stomach into my throat. I ran out of the arms of the policeman, brushing my father to the side, and reached the front porch just as an explosion of jam sandwiches and fruit splashed down all over the once pretty garden bed. The garden bed that, on good days my mum would weed and on bad days would neglect for the spoon and needle.
The police lady that had tried to hold me back stood next to me and pulled my hair off my face, while my vomit turned into gut wrenching sobbing. I heard the car pull up; the sandman panel van was an unmistakable car. I looked up to see Tilly, my sister, swing open the sky blue door, and run towards me, as she reached the steps, the policeman, lead our father out the front door.
“You did this, you mother fucking piece of shit, you did this to her” Tilly screamed, her face red and veins pulsing on her neck.
The police lady let go of my hair and thrust herself between Tilly and my father, as Tilly punched dad’s arms and chest. Tilly pulled free with a scream; she looked down at me her face didn’t soften at all.
“Well I suppose your satisfied, you always hated her” she spat.
Tilly pushed past dad, to go inside, where her screams became more frantic and upset. I could hear the policemen begin to talk loudly to Tilly, trying to calm her down, as her screams echoed through the whole neighbourhood. I felt the policeman take my dad past me and down the stairs to the waiting car. As he ducked his head into the back seat, I caught his eyes looking up to me, and the tears that flowed down his face. My insides twisted in pain that I didn’t understand and had never felt before.