Archive for the Junk 3: Spring 2011 Category

Yaaaay, Bite Your Nails!

Posted in Jeffrey Brown, Junk 3: Spring 2011 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by Editors

by Jeffrey Brown

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Posted in Junk 3: Spring 2011, Laurie Woodum with tags , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2011 by Editors

by Laurie Woodum

I didn’t expect a crowd at my brother’s memorial service. His drug and alcohol addictions had mowed a wide swath through family and friends in the course of his 52 years, leaving casualties and severed connections strewn behind him. I thought that it would mostly be family attending. What I witnessed instead, was a packed house.

Part of the service was reserved for people to speak about Alan if they wanted to. Person after person stood up to tell how he helped them: plumbing and car repairs, rides to work, and listening with love—sometimes tough love. Several people mentioned that they thought he was goofy at first (the word came up many times) but grew to love his playfulness.

One pastor said Alan was a mystery to her. She didn’t know him and yet every Sunday he helped one of the church attendees set up for services and then he would leave. She asked him if he was going to attend and he’d say yes and then not show. One day she asked and he said “I’m going to be straight with you. I won’t be coming to services. You can quit asking.” Still he came Sunday after Sunday to help. She said when she looked at his face, she saw a very sad man. I could see it in every photo of him in his later years.

The real miracle, the gift of grace, was the children who spoke. From two of his grandchildren (five years old) to the young adults who grew up in his neighborhood, they came to the podium one at a time or in small groups. A cluster of four girls, around 11 or 12, passed the microphone among themselves reciting the times when he sprayed them with a hose on hot days, gave them popsicles, listened to their young woes, and sang the “Ice Cream and Cake” song. A 10-year-old boy came up with his mom because he wanted to speak but was crying too hard to say much more than, “I loved him.” His mother expressed the common litany of that day: the helping hand, the goofy cheerfulness, the sympathetic ear. A young man, who was stabbed when he was eleven, spoke of Alan’s anger and support around this trauma and Alan’s kindnesses as he was growing up. Child after tearful child spoke of their love for him.

For the three of us sisters and our families, this was a revelation. I’d seen Alan caring tenderly for my mother during her hospital stays and during my father’s final days. I knew his potential. But for most of our family history, we experienced another side. I think the difference was that, although we loved him, we didn’t need him. These people–his neighbors, his wife’s church community–needed him and it brought out the best he could be. He was offering service. It turns out he was the man I always hoped he would become. I just didn’t know it.

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Posted in Junk 3: Spring 2011, Leslie F. Miller with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2011 by Editors

by Leslie F. Miller

she and I will pour with nonchalance the contents of this marble box: three dog whiskers, the fang of a tarantula, her dried umbilical cord, pinched and blue like a stone, the orange feather of a friend’s fancy bird, grammy’s shimmering silver bridge, my own four wisdom teeth, and a few good misspelled fortunes, delighting in your awkward squirm as something animal rolls across the ripples in the couch and touches your naked thigh.

she saved the cord! you’ll say to them later, as if we are somehow broken, this well-practiced list your new soliloquy against a mother and her girl, but we are all tethered to our treasures, and who’s to judge the things we save: the care with which you dig the dahlia corms and tuck them in a burlap sack, the flowers that you paralyze in books, the seeds you squeeze in envelopes. who’s to judge a box of lonely things we couldn’t bring ourselves to lose?

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Posted in Junk 3: Spring 2011, Shannon Barber with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2011 by Editors

by Shannon Barber

The nurse kept asking if I smoked crack. My intake at the clinic seemed to focus around my supposed children, my supposed acts of wanton prostitution and my supposed crack habit.

“When was the last time you did any drugs?”

The nurse never looked me in the eye; she spoke my name in a weird buzz heavy voice, Mizz Barr-Berrr. She made my name sound like an accusation, of what I didn’t know but I was guilty of course.

I had to keep my composure, I called her ma’am, I filled out my paperwork in my neatest hand and I honestly listed my ailments. Then there was the crack and children questions, I stopped counting at six times because I was so angry I couldn’t keep it up, I remember clenching my toes inside my boots so I wouldn’t clench my fists and appear like the angry Black woman I was.

“Mizz Barr-Berrr, when was the last time you did any narcotics?”

“Two weeks ago I tried marijuana.”

“I see. How many times a day do you use it?”

“None, I don’t like it.”

She pursed her lips and scribbled something hard on the clipboard, she exuded disapproval and left.

I sat in a cold exam room in my paper gown with my boots still on. I felt gross; I wasn’t sleeping, had no insurance and needed a pap smear. I couldn’t concentrate enough to keep the repeated questions about the crack use I’d never experienced from playing in my head.

By that time I had pretty well established what drugs I could and couldn’t do. I loved hallucinogens, E, prescription speed all were trusted old friends. I didn’t sleep much anyway and anything speedy kept the sleep deprivation symptoms at bay. Anything that made me dance or fuck all night was fine by me. Crack was not on the list.

I sat on that cold paper covered exam table, contemplating crack. I hadn’t ever tried it despite having had plenty of opportunities. I hated the way it smelled, I hated the idea of burning my lips and fingers on a pipe and yet I still wondered if I could forgive all that for the high? Was it important to my experience that I try it at least once so I could answer that question in a more satisfactory way?

My exhausted brain fixated on the idea and I forgot why I had gone to the clinic in the first place. When I arrived, I had my purpose in an iron grip. Pap smear, help for my insomnia and perhaps some advice about how to get mental health help because I was fairly certain I was going insane. I had to try and concentrate so I could talk to the doctor like a grown up lady. When the doctor walked in and began to ask me the same questions about my supposed crack use and possible history of abortions. It was too much.

The weight of the doctor’s disapproval regarding my apparent lies about my drug use and number of children or abortions I’d had, broke the thin veneer of self-control I was clinging to. I wept like an over tired toddler who can’t even throw a proper fit. I confessed to everything.

I tried smoking weed, I got drunk, I got really drunk, I liked speedy drugs, I ate shrooms when I could get them, I wasn’t sleeping so I was masturbating so much my labia felt swollen and irritated, I thought I was going crazy and I had a weird rash near the crack of my ass. I couldn’t seem to eat anything but crackers with everything on them and my face kept twitching.

The doctor was unimpressed by my outpouring and closed the file folder with a snap.

“We do not tolerate drug seeking at this clinic.”

She walked out and I sat there weepy and bewildered, I put my clothes on without having a stranger look at my cervix or squeeze my breasts. I wandered out and back into the lobby where the nurse was waiting for me.

“Mizz Barr-Berr, take these and come back when you are ready.”

I was ready, I was twenty-one goddamn years old, people had been looking at my cervix since I was thirteen, and I had mammograms before. I had gone all alone to get HIV tests and full STD panels. I was so ready to-

Then I realized that supposedly I was a crack addict, prostitute and deadbeat Mom who had aborted countless hordes of fetuses. The pamphlets were for Narcotics Anonymous and there was one on sterilization. I left and sat at a bus stop trying to process what had just gone on.

My mood swung from feeling guilty of everything to the familiar and comforting gut churning rage I like to call my friend. I got myself back together and went home. After masturbating again and failing to go to sleep I laid on the floor staring at my ceiling and pondering the merits of getting on the glass dick.

I reasoned that no one expects a crack addict to be sane so I could stop pretending. I already did not sleep so the hours of mania would be no problem. I could probably suck dick for cash, I sucked cock for free so why not for profit? Would I like more than I liked any other drugs?

I dug deep into my drug knowledge and impressions of the crack addicts I knew, my brain spun and then I slept. The sleep was the kind of restorative thing that put all my civilized human things back into place, except that I still had a smoldering urge to try smoking crack.

For months after that, my method of counting sheep without counting sheep was debating with myself in my head about whether or not to smoke crack. I never did try smoking crack. Not because I talked myself out of it but because of the voice of that nurse I knew that the second I hit a crack pipe, the only thing I would hear in my head would be her voice, forever ruining my high.

“Mizz Barr-Berr…”

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