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:: The Lower Rooms [m] by Stasia Collins ::

I woke up without answers, on a dirty tiled floor. I concluded from the stiff, oversized gray suit I was wearing that I had been locked up for one reason or another. With this ugly clothing came two unusual things: the mystery of why I was wearing it; and, also, a concrete realization that I needed a fix, right then, really fucking BAD!

As for the uniform, the large top didn't bother me, it was comfortable for sleeping in, but the pants were unbearably huge. Everywhere I went they just kind of dragged behind me and made an obnoxious swish.

I had more on my mind than fashion, however, like, figuring out why in the hell was I here in the first place? And how could I continue hiding the fact that I was a junkie? I knew from experience that they put the junkies with the crazies and the AIDS patients, and that was a scene that I just couldn't handle, morphine or no morphine.

I was smart, though: far more clever than most junkies. I never even shot into my arms. I kept a certain discretion about my hobbies, so I opted for the toes, but in the winter months with a high collar, I indulged in my neck, which I preferred.

The only sign to my addiction was my weight: 87 pounds. Most people wrote that off as perfectionist anorexia, which I wouldn't dispute, because, for the most part, I was the girl next door, minus the gray scratchy suit.

Hiding my problem from the authorities was easy in the beginning. I simply answered "no" when asked, "do you use i.v. drugs?" That got me into general population. Now I just had to hide it from the guards in there, which was a little tricky. They stare you up and down all the time. It was rumored that a few of the pregnant girls had been there for years. Doubtful a child of God. So I kept my distance as much as one possibly could. I got through the first day with a breeze, although I never found out what I was doing there.

That night it got strange.

My cellie, Jamaican lady called Cocoa, woke me up around 3:00 am.

"What's your fuckin' deal, girl?"

She was shaking me and slapping my back, and I got the feeling that she had been trying to wake me for quite some time.

"C'mon girl! Wake up or shut up!"

"What the fuck are you talking about? You gonna wake me to tell me to shut up? You're goddamn crazy you know that?!" She finally got my attention. When I answered her, she became a little peeved.

"Me crazy? You the one who's moanin' and groanin' like a cow in labor. Plus you been grabbin' your stomach real hard. I just thought you was hurt, but now you call me crazy. Well, if you ain't hurt, you the one who's crazy, and that's where they gonna put you-with the rest of them crazy bitches!"

"What do you mean moaning?" she had my attention. Apparently I wasn't as clever a junkie as I had assumed.

She got really frustrated then, she glared at me and answered, "you been layin' there cryin' and holdin' yoself like this-" she demonstrated, and she looked like she was about to fall over in pain.

"Oh god!" was all that I could say. "Oh my god!"

"What the fuck is wrong with you anyway? What you in here for?"

I could tell that she was concerned about the safety of her living quarters with this mysterious new roommate.

"I have no idea. I woke up down in central lockup, then they brought me up here, and I really don't remember why. That's not my major problem right now though."

That's when she got seriously concerned. She lowered her brow at me like a scornful nun, "then what exactly is your major problem, miss thing?"

"I'm tryin' to kick. I don't want to go with the nutso bitches. If the guards find out, they'll put me down there, tie me to a bed, and that'll be it for me. I'd rather be locked in a cell, wouldn't you? We don't have to piss on ourselves, or hear psychos screaming and religious freaks preaching and dying people die, and well, you know how it is."

She finally understood that I wasn't a maniac, just an addict. Apparently she had dealt with a similar situation, or maybe it was just her personal memoirs of the nut ward, but she helped me hide my disease. She covered me with pillows when I sweat and wailed in my sleep, and she'd tell the guards that I had overeaten whenever I vomited. She'd put cool towels on my head; hot towels on my legs, and she did it all without any screws or inmates noticing.

She saved my life in a sense. She kept me out of the lower rooms, a place that claimed more suicides than Seattle. It took me a couple of weeks, but I totally kicked eventually, and nobody got hip to the fact.

As for the other problem, finding out why I was in, well that was solved in the third week. I didn't want to actually ask someone, "hey, what did I do?" That would seem a little fucked up, even for me. But one thing that I did notice was that all of the girls had yellow or orange wristbands on, but mine was red. I assumed that meant my charge was minimal, and maybe I'd get to go home soon. Perhaps I had simply been too loaded on the public bus again, and this time they were going to teach me a lesson.

Then another girl came in with a red band on, and so I asked her why she was in, which is probably the most common question on the inside. She looked at me, like she was offended, and she put it to me simply:

"You see this red band, don't ya bitch?" She was slapping her own forearm pointing to the wristband, and her skin was turning pink. "I stabbed my 'ol man! Red's for murder, don't you know that? Don't you know shit?"

That evening I was taken to the lower rooms.

 
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