I stretch my legs out in front of me to release the tension that has been building in my lower back since the collision. My name is hollered from behind the desk sending a spasm through my body. I swiftly move from the man wheezing in the crowded room and hope no one notices the sweat pooling above my lip. The scarlet lettering on the sign above the receptionist is pointing at me: “It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be prescribed narcotics.” I touch the zipper on my Coach bag and quickly dismiss the thought of my fake ID.
The young nurse beckons me to follow her down the hall. The echo from my heels announces my every step. I am ushered alone into a tiny room and settle on the edge of a wooden chair. My breath bounces off the four walls as I study a diagram depicting the C curve that whiplash has stolen from my own neck.
Two quick knocks break my stare, and I am met with empty blue eyes and too much hairspray. She places her small frame in the chair opposite me and I catch a tiny smirk before she says, “You know I hate your mother, right?” I study her face. I dig deep, trying to understand how my mother could have affected this lady. I take the path most treaded and lie. “Me too.” She tells me my mother ruined her son’s life by arresting him for having weed in his backpack at school. I only listen. I have no condolences to offer. She stares at me for only a moment after a mother’s rant and returns my lie with one of her own. She tells me I have displaced disks which require a high dose of pain medication six times a day. When I question the treatment plan, she tells me Oxycodone is just like Tylenol without acetaminophen. I believe her because she is a doctor.
The odor of stale French fries and compacted heat smacks me in the face as I jerk open the car door. Cold sweat burns on my lower back and sulfur bubbles into my throat. Gravel cuts my knees as I frantically move the seat forward to rummage through the garbage on the floor. My fingers quickly probe under the seat rubbing across grit and dirt, they come away sticky from some long-ago spilled treat. After wiping my hands on my jeans, I move the seat back and continue my search. Peeling a piece of the floor mat back, my stomach reels in relief, my cramped joints instantly release. Throwing the tiny blue sphere into my mouth I bite down and chew. The acrid dry powder coats my tongue while cold shivers take over as I slide into the front seat. The heat from the steering wheel warms my forehead. My eyes close and my shoulders slump while the relief from hell fills the car.
The silver anklet digs into my skin when I stand. I can smell the sweat under my arms through the shirt doused in Juicy Couture, and the blue cheetah print panties itch my thigh. Both items were delivered to my cell that morning. Two small gestures from my mother: a familiar smell and a lighthearted joke on a heavy day. A bead of sweat trails my spine like an icy nail. The room is crowded and warm yet goosebumps cover my arms. My body sways forward in search of anything grounded and solid. My pelvis comes to rest on the chipped table in front of me and my finger rubs across the wood that has been scratched and picked at. I am frozen, unable to turn around but I can hear the bouncing knees, tapping fingers, wringing hands; the constant fidgeting from those behind me. The group we’ve been waiting for begins to file in from a second entrance cut from the middle of the room. Cotton lodges in my throat as I search the twelve faces for reassurance. I have begged for mercy and am met with avoiding glances, no eye contact. My breath shallows as I am kicked in the chest with the fear of losing the rest of my life. Wet salt slides into my open mouth and my head feels like it’s submerged under water. Twelve strangers stand in front of me, and one reads the verdict: guilty.
28 October, 2023