Not in Kansas Anymore
His lips nuzzle my neck, the stubble tickles and I giggle as his hands slink under my shirt. He bends his head and I clutch at springy curls…
I ignore the sound and pull the covers tighter around my head.
“Hey!” The noise increases. “It’s time to get up. I’m supposed to take you to breakfast.”
Sensing an apparition at the foot of the bed, I reluctantly roll over and after squinting, barely make out a being with bleached, spiked hair and numerous piercings. Confused, I scan the room to get my bearings.
“You need to get up now or I will seriously fuck you over. Breakfast starts in ten minutes and I will not miss out on bacon because of you.”
The prospect of bacon is enough for me to pry my head from the pillow and sit up. “Where am I?”
The piercings part to reveal even, white teeth, not quite a smile but still a little less threatening. “The fucking bowels of Hell.” She yanks open the curtains and points out the window. “The dining hall is across the patio. You have ten minutes and don’t forget to make your bed before you leave.” With that the door slams and I’m alone.
Two days ago, I had been enjoying life as a bartender at a popular beach bar on Cape Cod. Though it’s only the end of June, the weather has been steamy and as a result, tips and booze were free flowing, the former a direct result of the latter. My shift started at four in the afternoon with a perpetual Bloody Mary and had ended at four the next morning with several snifters of Gran Marnier. Normally, I would have called a taxi rather than risk driving home, but I had smoked a bowl with a cook so my perception was a bit off, and truthfully, if I had kept my eyes on the road rather than searching for the pipe that had tumbled under the seat, I would have made it home in one piece; however, one totaled Toyota and two charges for driving under the influence later, has landed me in rehab. On the upside, the cop located my sixty-five-dollar hand-blown glass pipe. On the downside, it will be used as evidence against me. I don’t dare ask if I can get it back.
So here I am, a new resident at Healing Pines, a drug and alcohol treatment center located somewhere in the Maine Woods. My parents had researched the facility several months ago after my first totaled car and drunk-driving offense. That time I had convinced them I could get sober on my own, but now, after a second, identical incident, I have no choice. My dad is a mechanical engineer who has little use for the abstracts of addiction. His parting words to the intake counselor last night were concise. “I don’t care how much it costs or how long it takes; just fix her. Please.” It was the “Please” that got me. He usually wasn't emotional, so the word expressed anguish I was responsible for.
Cringing at the memory, I begrudgingly get up and head for the bathroom. I feel like crap and have no desire to look in the mirror but catch a glimpse as I brush my teeth. My eyes are bloodshot, my nose red from allergies and Mt. Vesuvius is about to erupt on my chin. Gorgeous. Digging through my baggie of cosmetics I locate some cover-up and an elastic, so I dab color on the pimple then pull my hair back into a ponytail and quickly change into clean yoga pants and hoodie. After tucking in the sheets and fluffing the pillow I close the door and trudge across a dewy lawn to the cafeteria to nervously stand in line with thirty strangers. None of them look happy.
“Fuck me, Toto.” I mutter under my breath a tad louder than intended.
“Who’s Toto? Your dog? I had a dog like Toto once that I used to dress up when I was a kid.” It’s an over-the-top honey-sweet drawl.
“He was great until a cat attacked him. After that he was just never the same. He got so nervous we had to put him down.”
I turn around. The voice belongs to a slender man, approximately my height, with impeccably streaked and styled hair and the biggest mustache I have seen since reruns of Magnum P.I. He’s swathed in an aqua crinkled polyester jogging suit accessorized with purple sparkly slippers and extends a hand. “I’m Beau and I’m guessing you’re new.”
I notice remnants of a French manicure. “Hi. I’m Lucy.”
“Today your first day?”
“Who’s your roommate?”
I scan surrounding faces finally spotting the spikes and piercings. “That’s her. The one with the leather bustier and Doc Martens.”
“Sally?” Beau shakes his head.” Good luck with that one. I’ve only been here ten days and you’re her fourth roommate.”
Almost afraid of the answer, I ask, “What happened to the other three?”
“First two relapsed and the third ran away with one counselor. They say she has some social disorder but as far as I‘m concerned she’s just a bitch.”
“She threatened me this morning about not missing bacon?”
“Hmmm,” Beau drawls. “Well, I can see her point on that one. They only offer bacon twice a week and if you don’t get here early then it’s likely to be gone.”
I nod understanding the logic.
Initial indoctrination makes it clear that the Big Book, which introduces The Twelve Steps, is the holy grail of Alcoholics Anonymous and the backbone of the treatment and two hours into the morning lecture, a young kid slouched in one of the front seats inquires, “So
what’s the ultimate deal? Is it nature or nurture? I don’t get it.”
I have been thinking the same thing but since the class breaks in ten minutes, have purposely not asked. The instructor is infatuated with his theories on addiction and I’m pretty sure that audience questions will veer him into overtime. Which it does. It isn’t until almost a half hour later that we are free to stampede the door for feeding time at the ‘Day by Day’ Corral.
I search for Beau, spotting him with a cup of coffee and a cigarette in the smoking section of the wraparound porch. Though most addictions here are taboo, I’ve noticed that caffeine and nicotine are heartily encouraged. I wave and walk over.
“Yo, dahlin’,” He greets as I plop onto the picnic bench next to him. “How’s your first day going?”
“Good I guess.” I shrug. “The Big Book lecture was boring and it still continues after lunch.”
“Oh, don’t I know. I couldn’t wait for that class to be over. They don’t let you water your lily during it and I got a big lily that needs a lot of watering.” He winks, takes a drag on his cigarette, blows a couple of smoke rings, then asks, “What’s your full name.”
“Lucy, well Lucille, Hayes.”
“No middle name?”
“I’m not sure I can work with that. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue. I’m from the South where it’s customary to use both names and I’m just not sure about Lucy June. Now let’s see. how about…Lucy… Lucy… I got it! Lucy May. That’s perfect! Instead of June, it’s May. Get it? Plus it rhymes with Hayes. Lucy May Hayes, it just rolls of the tongue.”
Self-satisfied, he sits back and takes another long drag. “Sometimes I can’t believe how clever I am. I used to tell Joe that all the time, but he didn’t agree. He kept saying I was being silly.”
“Joe is your boyfriend?”
“Uh-huh. Well, he was until he kicked me out. He’s a hairdresser. That’s why I look so nice.” He touches his hair, flicking ash into his ash-blond coif.
“What happened?” I ask, always eager for gory details of someone else’s tragedy.
“Oh Lord, what didn’t happen is more like it. Anyway, it’s just too complicated to get into now.” He stands up, crushes his cigarette in the ashtray, and tugs on the hem of his shorts. Though I’m still clad in my slouchy morning outfit, Beau has traded his turquoise jogging suit for the complete Tom Selleck look of red shorts, a loud Hawaiian print shirt, and metallic gold huaraches. Upon closer inspection, I spy eyeliner and mascara.
“C’mon, let’s go. I like to get in there before the ‘Hulk.’” He nods toward a big Neanderthal-looking guy chewing tobacco then spitting into the bushes. “I caught him spitting that shit in the salad bar. It almost made me puke.”
For the second time that day we stand in line eventually selecting our lunch—tuna sandwich and chips for me, three hotdogs and fries with excessive mustard, relish, ketchup, and onions for Beau–then finding an empty table, we set our trays down and eat.
Between bites Beau recites stories of an upper-class gay boy from the Deep South where homosexuality was barely tolerated. “One time after going out to a club, my friend and I were at the Waffle House and though I admit we might have been overdressed, the waitress had the gall to ask if we were with the circus in town. I swear, Lucy May, I have never been so offended.”
“What is your family like? Were they more accepting?”
“Well, grandmother accidentally ran over my daddy when I was a baby, though my mother has always claimed it was no accident. Anyway, they both raised me, and though my mother wasn’t thrilled with my lifestyle choice, my grandmother never said a word. She had a best friend, Maisy, who moved in after my mother remarried.” He raises an eyebrow, leaving the obvious unsaid.
“What’s your middle name?” I ask, curious why he didn’t use it since he said it was customary in the South.
“My full name is Beauregard Rhett Butler.”
“Scarlett is more like it,” snickers a male voice behind me.
Beau flips his middle finger. “Fuck you, Nathan.”
“Aw, c’mon, man. You know I love you.” A shaggy blond Adonis appears, throwing his arms around Beau and planting a big sloppy kiss on his cheek. His eyes are an incredible shade of green, I immediately suspect contacts, and he flashes a positively panty-dropping smile.
“Uh-huh. Prove it,” Beau answers while taking a bite of his hotdog, leaving most of the condiments in his mustache.
The Adonis laughs, throws a chair around, and sits with arms draped around the back. He extends a hand. “Hi. I’m Nathan.”
Hoping my palms aren’t too sweaty, I shake it and respond, “Lucy.”
“May,” Beau interjects.
“Huh?” Nathan is confused.
“May. Her name is Lucy May.”
“Oh,”—I roll my eyes— “yes, my name is Lucy May.”
Nathan is Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger gorgeous and exudes cool with a weathered Polo shirt, khaki cargo shorts, Tevas, and Ray Bans that hang down his back from a neck cord. He’s over six feet, tanned and toned, with the self-assured, almost entitled aura that only comes from a privileged background. I have served plenty of rich, handsome, bad-boy types on the Cape, and being a lovelorn masochist, have been attracted to every one.
“Well, pleased to meet you, Lucy May. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around. Meanwhile, I got places to go and girls to do.” He winks and hurries after a buxom blonde Barbie tightly encased in pink spandex.
“Who was that?” I ask, debating whether I’m still hungry enough to eat the crusts of my sandwich.
“Nathan Chatsworth III. My roommate.” Beau wipes his plate with the last bite of his hot dog.
“Your roommate? Wow, wanna trade?”
“I know. Isn’t he cute? Too bad he’s on your team, though I have turned a few.”
“Was that his girlfriend?”
“Hell no. Nathan doesn’t believe in girlfriends.”
I ponder that wondering if it was a good sign for us hooking up or not. “What’s he in for?” Guessing alcohol and/or cocaine, the typical party boy’s drugs of choice.
“Heroin?” I have never met a heroin addict, or at least none I know of.
“Uh-huh. His sister was murdered, and he turned to smack to cope.”
“Really?” Life is getting interesting. “What happened? To his sister I mean.”
Beau shrugs. “I don’t know. First, they thought she OD’d, but turned out someone strangled her.”
“Did they catch who did it?”
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I gotta have a cigarette.”
It’s week three and though I’m thankful the lectures and coursework are over, the routine and limitations of enforced sobriety have me crawling the walls. Meetings and doing the “work” are supposed to help but spending time with Beau brings the most relief and I can’t wait for the occasional free periods to escape to tan by the pond when we’re supposed to be reflecting and writing our inventories.
It’s a particularly humid day and I have just finished slathering SPF #4 when I learn this isn’t Beau’s first visit to Healing Pines.
“That still doesn’t explain how you ended up here.” I sit up and swig some water trying to gain clarity on our conversation. “Why here? Why Healing Pines?”
“Because my uncle donated the money for the cafeteria so they didn’t have to pay this time.”
“Wait a minute, you’ve been here before?”
“Yes, I’ve been here before. My grandmother strong-armed my uncle into donating the money so they’d take me back.” He lights a cigarette, leans back in his chair, and sighs. “I love tobacco.”
“Why were you here before? The first time?”
“Oh, I got drunk and passed out with a cigarette in my hand. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the curtains hadn’t caught fire.”
“You set a house on fire?”
“Now, Lucy May, don’t take that tone with me. You sound like my grandmother. For chrissakes, it wasn’t as if the place hadn’t been burned before. Yankees tried to torch it during the war. I swear you could still smell the smoke in the walls. I was doing them a favor by getting rid of that dusty old mausoleum. Now it’s brand spanking new with a pool.”
“Are you saying you grew up on a plantation?”
“I’m not sure what you’d call it but it was big.”
“So, you’re rich?”
“I’m currently disinherited, but my grandmother still tries to take care of me. God bless her.”
“So, she’s rich?”
“Well, her maiden name is Reynolds. That was gonna be my middle name, but my mother held firm for Rhett.”
I smile and open my notebook, pen poised, but I can’t concentrate. I’m supposed to list in chronological order all the people and situations that have adversely affected me and my response to them, or something like that, but instead my mind drifts to Nathan. By proxy to Beau, we have also become friends, and though my attraction is still ardent my attention today concerns his sister.
“Has Nathan mentioned anything else about his sister?”
Beau extinguishes his cigarette, reclines his chair and closes his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Well, you said she was murdered; strangled or something right? Has the guy been caught?”
“I have no idea, Lucy May. You’d have to ask him though I don’t recommend it.”
“Because he’s touchy about the subject. I love a good mystery as much as you, but this is real life and I’d stay out of it.”
I consider his advice and try to concentrate on my inventory finally coming up with one.
Who / what: Susie tattled to teacher that I was playing ‘doctor’ with Stephen.
My part: I did it and need to accept responsibility for my actions regardless of how it became known.
I’m not sure what to do with the fact that my resentment grew until Susie became pregnant in our sophomore year and dropped out… at which point my glee was off the charts.