She might have been your waitress. She may have held the door for you when you ran into Walgreens to pick up bread for your kids school lunch. She might have sat next to you at the Doctors office. You probably touched the same door handle she did. You may have noticed her in the grocery store, trying to buy too many cat toys, and me yelling at her for it. We probably looked like any other mother and daughter in the grocery store. Or maybe we looked like two sisters, I like to tell myself.
She may have been your friend once. She may have called you, talked about boys and celebrities. Maybe you came to her birthday parties when she was young. At the bowling alley? Putnam Pantry? The Roller Palace? Our house? Maybe you were at slumber parties were you played loud music and danced and completed MASH mad-libs. Maybe she was your best friend. You told her your deepest secrets, about your siblings bugging you, your new crush, getting bullied at school. Maybe she bullied you and you hated her guts. Maybe you are glad she is sick now. Maybe when she is alone and lonely and trying off the tourniquet she is thinking about how she made you feel bad. As she taps her arm, looking for the popping vein, running out of good veins to use, contemplating trying her foot again, maybe she sees the look of pain on the face of the boyfriend she lost, the brother she hurt, the father she ignores. Maybe when the needle finds its place and she plunges in the brown liquid that will take her to a place where she doesn’t feel anything, she is grateful that she is suspended. A place with no pain, no joy, no feeling, no hunger, no cold or hot, and no thoughts. As her eyes roll back and the euphoria takes over, she doesn’t have to think of the people she stepped over, lied to, stole from, and hurt because for now, it doesn’t matter.
Maybe when I bring her into an emergency room and she is sitting in a chair, slumped over, drooling, incoherent I can see you casting looks of disgust. Maybe I can see the way you look at me like I am beneath you and that you look at her like she is evil, disgusting. Maybe I pretend not to notice because I won’t give you the satisfaction of knowing your dirty looks matter. That I might cry by myself in my car, the whole way home because of what you think of me but that you see my precious child as something that pollutes the world you live in might hurt. It might hurt so bad its physical. It might hurt to take a deep breath. It might ache in my heart so painfully sometimes I think I am having a heart attack, and then I might realize that is what heart break feels like. I also might want to get out of my chair and slap you in the face. I might want to show you the film of your life, 15 years from now when you are in the emergency room, not for an ear infection for your precious child like you are now, but when you are sitting next to your own slumped over, drooling, incoherent child. I might want to remind you that sometimes the things we judge unfairly, condemn people for, and have no mercy on do not always come back quickly. Sometimes those things don’t come back to us for years and years and years. Sometimes when my child is at the lowest of the low, when she is fighting for her life, and her heart won’t start again, and your convinced this is the time she is going to be dead you remember watching Intervention and hating someone who was suffering because their attitude was terrible. You remember laughing with your friend, Lynne, and saying someone was a dick and you hope they overdose because they weren’t real, it was scripted, so you thought. You remember your own callousness and it brings you to your knees because your own bad behavior has brought your loved and beautiful daughter to the gutter of the earth.
Maybe, because I know how badly it can be, and maybe she knows how bad it can be that we think she is better off dead. Maybe when she is sick and contemplating her next move, her new low, to get the drug she thinks if I was dead it would be better. Maybe when I am sitting on the couch in the early hours of a new day while the rest of the world sleeps, I think about her suffering and my suffering and I think maybe she would be better off dead. But then maybe I start looking at baby pictures of her. Maybe I see photos of her with her brothers, and Daddy-O and her grandfathers that have predeceased her. Maybe I think about life without her and that pain, that crushing blow is so much worse than seeing her high, or sick, or chasing an addiction someone can never fully catch, isn’t as bad. Maybe I think I would rather have her steal, and lie, and run and come home then not at all. It might be that I have never had to be an adult without her being my daughter. I don’t know how to do that, and maybe I think I can’t. Maybe I think we are so connected that if she dies I am certain I will, too. And maybe I pray that she thinks the same thing. That maybe she will choose a different path someday, stop chasing addiction and chase recovery, because she knows that if she dies, I die. Maybe she wants to live because she sees her brother so happy in love she doesn’t want to miss it. Maybe she thinks about her sisters graduating high school, getting married, having children, she has a greater desire to fight then to give up. Maybe her little brother is getting bigger and she sees the friendship they can have, and she surrenders to what is bigger than her.
Or maybe there are is no maybe.