A winner of the 2012 Downtown Eastside Writers’ Jamboree Writing Contest.
It was unfathomable that my sorry broke ass was worth a thousand dollars daily. Yet, courtesy of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, that was the case. Perhaps I’ll meet a celebrity at a Betty Ford, I thought. And didn’t Richard Dreyfuss check into a California rehab recently? Shit, Dreyfuss knew Spielberg—I’d just written a screenplay that’d be perfecto for Steven. Despite all the misery I had endured due to my abuse of cocaine, things were apparently looking up.
Hmm… did I say my abuse of cocaine? Really now, hadn’t cocaine abused me? After all, while I’d remained loyal and consistent and obedient as a dog, that coca bitch turned vicious and unpredictable, her amity transmuting into enmity almost overnight. (The bestowal of personhood on a drug was symptomatic of a bizarre anthropomorphic paranoia of mine back then. It got so bad that I believed machines—all the gadgets and gizmos extant—were trying to fuck me over because of my admiration for Ned Ludd.)
The hospital was in San Diego, very near Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base renowned for its production of full metal jacket killing machines, three of whom were drug addicts currently in the same rehab program as me.
Vietnam veterans they were. (I wondered if they knew Oliver Stone—I had a script for him too.) I vowed to watch my language around these high-strung combat vets; I certainly didn’t wish to rile them with any left-wing-peacenik rhetoric. One of them was an erstwhile Navy SEAL, and I’d heard that SEALs can kill you eleven different ways with just a goddamn Q-tip. The SEAL in my group looked like he probably knew a twelfth way.
Group therapy. Can’t say I cared for group therapy. It was partly the group part and partly the alleged therapy part. Like Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. Don’t like clubs, don’t like groups, don’t like teams. I feel diminished by membership. As far as talk therapy goes, I’m Irish. And you know what Freud said about the Irish, at least according to that guy in The Departed—that the Irish are impervious to psychoanalysis. If Freud really said it, no one knows why, but I’ve no doubt that it’s true.
“You know what you are?” the Navy SEAL said to me one day in Group.
“Why, no,” I said pleasantly. “What am I?”
The guy scared the hell out of me, let me tell you.
“You’re a fringe dweller,” he told me in his uniquely wild-eyed, battle-scarred manner.
I gulped—fearful he was getting ready to unveil a Q-tip. “Is that… y’know… a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Normally, I’d say it’s a bad thing,” he told me. “But these days, the world can use more fringe dwellers. Guys who go their own way, don’t complain, mind their own fuckin’ business. Guys who don’t wanna lead or be led. I was taught to hate guys like you. But I was taught wrong.”
“Thank you,” I said, and I meant it. I seriously meant it. After goddamn Group I went directly to the washroom and locked the door and bawled for maybe ten fucking minutes. Very suddenly emotional I was. It was exceedingly strange—not like me at all. Yes, very goddamn strange indeed.