Haley Teget was awarded First Place in Fiction in the 2015 Prison Writing Contest.

Going to get a bunch of heroin is an exciting prospect for a heroin addict. I mean, going to get high is a good feeling, but going to get a month’s worth of highs is a million times better. It’s like when you’re starving and someone offers you a few potato chips out of their bag. If you just eat one or two chips, it’s only going to make you hungrier, and you’ll focus on that certain delicious chip-y taste. Do you even want to go down that road? Most junkies will, but not me. I want the whole bag or it’s not worth the effort. I want more than one bag; I want it all, so I go for the box. 

Matt and I never ran into any trouble in the beginning. We were careless in our travels. Neither of us had our driver’s license. We’d borrow a car, promising the owner some heroin when we got back, and shoot up the whole way to Portland. 

One time on the way back, we got pulled over due to Matt only going 40 miles per hour on a 65-mile-per-hour freeway. In Oregon, they impound your car. Matt claimed he didn’t know his license had been suspended. The cop who wrote him the ticket felt sorry for us and gave us a ride to a motel and even paid for the room. 

I was more concerned about Matt’s excuse for only going 40 miles per hour! Did he not notice every single car on the road passing him? Luckily we weren’t searched. I was holding a Gatorade bottle full of yellow balloons of heroin in a grocery bag. 

After that, we began to recruit licensed drivers. Most anybody was willing,because the road trips were always fun and we’d get them high, on top of whatever payment was agreed to beforehand. But these “amateurs” would get too high and start nodding off while driving. I’d be awakened by the noise of the rumble strips every time they veered off the road and see my life flash before my eyes. 

The ever-changing plans (and prolonging) that occurred on these trips always led to a clash of personalities. The driver would eventually get fed up, claiming they had a life to get back to. We were getting just as sick of the junkie drivers as they were of us, and needed to weigh the pros and cons. 

Finally we discovered the glorious gift of the Greyhound bus. I hate to give away its secrets, but you don’t need to show ID to buy tickets and you can use fake names (which is always fun). They don’t care who you are, and face it, if you’re riding the Greyhound, chances are you have no ID anyway—there’d go their whole clientele. Greyhound doesn’t search you or your shit, and from what I’ve seen, every single person on that bus is either transporting drugs, about to get high on something, or has just got done. With Greyhound, we could sleep, eat, get high at every rest stop, and not worry about getting pulled over by the lawmen or being robbed by the driver. 

Every trip to Portland was an adventure, and usually went like this: 

Matt and I take a taxi to the station on the edge of downtown. It’s 6:30am. 

The owner of the cab company, Dan, has become our friend. One day, while driving us around, Dan said, “I know what you do, you know. You’re the only person who travels with a safe.” It’s a black, key-code safe that Matt keeps at his brother’s every time we leave town. 

Matt said, “I trade in expensive antiques and jewelry.” 

Dan asked, “Does that include pot?” 

Matt was amused Dan assumed he was a pot dealer. He opened the safe and showed Dan his guns. Pretty soon we were hooking up Dan and a few of his drivers with prescription bottles of Adderall and small amounts of weed. 

Matt started calling up Dan just to talk, and pretty soon Dan, or one of his drivers, was driving us around wherever we wanted to go, no questions asked. 

Matt has a way with people; he invades their lives. He’s very friendly. I’d hear him laughing on the phone and ask, “Who are you talking to?” 

“Oh, I’m just ordering a pizza.” 

Whenever he’d ask one of Dan’s cab drivers to stop at a gas station, Matt would always offer to buy them a drink. They’d, of course, politely refuse. 

Matt would insist. “I’m getting you a drink, no matter what. If you don’t want vitamin D milk, better speak up.” 

He’d remember which drivers liked what drinks. Matt’s just one of those people who is on a first name basis with the world. 

We sit in the back of the cab and finish our cigarettes. Matt tells Elton, who is my favorite of the cab drivers, we’ll need a ride back when we return. Matt hands him a 50-dollar bill, which is easily 30 dollars over the fare, and dismisses Elton when he tries to give back change. 

We step out of the cab juggling a laptop bag, candy, and two bottles of chocolate milk. Matt is on the phone, Indiana Jones fedora making him look more like a drug dealer than the rings on his fingers and money clip full of 100-dollar bills he has yet to place back in his pocket, not to mention the sword cane he travels with. If you don’t know what a sword cane is, it’s exactly what it sounds like—appears to be a normal cane, but when you unscrew the top, out comes a sword. Matt owns not one, but two of these things. This one he bought for 400 dollars from an antiques shop in Portland. 

He holds the phone with his shoulder to his ear, cigarette ashing on his shirt, and tells the caller, “When will we be back? Don’t worry about it, just don’t spend any money, we’ll be back shortly. If you get sick, go to Dave’s, he’ll have something for ya, I gotta go. We’ll be back shortly.” 

It’s always “shortly.” 

Another clump of ash drops from his cigarette and rolls down his shirt. He can do a million things at once and have a full conversation—all with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I don’t get it. I can never do that without the smoke going right in my eyes. 

He looks at me and says, “Hello, I love you?” 

I say, “I love you, too.” 

We enter the Greyhound station. Anyone awake stares in our direction, why wouldn’t they? It’s the way Matt looks and the fact he’s old enough to be my dad. I’m wearing a short, blue flower-print dress and tan knee-high boots. I’ve got my brown furry coat on. My long wavy hair streams out from under my hat, a bear beanie with bear ears sticking up. I look like I’m engulfed in a bear hug. 

We’re holding armfuls of candy—Larry Taffy, Skittles, Swedish Fish, Little Debbie oatmeal pies—and we’re super loud and clumsy with our movements, because we’ve just done enough heroin and Xanax to get us comfortably almost to Portland, a 10-hour bus ride. Inconspicuous? We don’t know the meaning of the word. 

We go up to the front desk and Matt tells the sleepy-eyed employee we need two one-way tickets to Portland for the seven o’clock bus. 

He asks, “Names?” 

Matt says, “Norman Normanson.” He always picks the worst names, boring and lacking enthusiasm. 

I like to pick the names of 90-year-old women. Today, I’m Ethyl Goodman. The tired man types the names into his computer without looking up. 

With tickets in our hands, we go back outside to chain-smoke cigarettes and wait anxiously for the bus. I become obsessed with getting one more shot in before boarding. As always, we’ve preloaded another shot into two rigs to do halfway there. I want it now. 

I talk Matt into it by playing on his paranoia, “You don’t need to be riding with heroin needles in your pocket. We can cook up new shots when we’re halfway there.” It’s never hard to talk him into getting high, or anything, really. 

He hands me my shot, and I go into the bathroom. I end up missing half the shot because my veins are so abused and swollen, and I’m trying to hurry. I’m really annoyed about the half miss, and my arm hurts when I put my coat back on. 

I come out of the bathroom to find Matt on the phone again. What’s with him always being on the phone? How does he find so many people to talk to this early in the morning? I go smoke another cigarette. 

He comes outside and finds me. “Did you get it?” he asks, knowing I’ve been having problems missing lately. 

“Yes,” I lie. 

Matt disapproves of me sticking the needle in the sore parts of my arms, but what can you do? 

Finally, it’s time to board the bus. Matt takes the window seat, and I just stand staring at him until he moves and gives me the seat. Like I’m going to sit in the aisle seat, vulnerable to the creeps on the bus. Last time I sat in the aisle, a man recited sonnets to me the entire ride. Matt laughed the whole time. 

Once in my seat, I tear into my Laffy Taffy bag and play Bejeweled on my phone while Matt makes a trillion more phone calls. I fall asleep as we leave the city limits. 

I come to as I sense a change in the bump and hum of the bus ride. The driver announces something. We’ve slept through the “long meal” stop where we usually get high again, and the sickness pulls me fully awake. I have that horrible feeling: watery nose and eyes, the feeling of needing to shit, which is scary when you haven’t for a week and you’re cramped on a bus. Feels like river stones in your stomach. 

Heroin makes you super constipated. To give you an idea, I’ll paraphrase from William S. Burroughs’s book Junky. A guy tells Burroughs that when he went to take a shit, he had to stick his fingers in and pull it out “hard as porcelain it was.” Junkies never miss an opportunity to talk about their shitting habits. 

I catch my breath from the startling wake-up into such a sickly harsh state and get a feel for where we’re at. We’re entering the outskirts of Portland, passing warehouses. It’s typically overcast. I look at Matt. His hat is in his lap and he’s asleep. His face is sweaty, and I don’t want to wake him yet. I like watching him sleep, when he’s most vulnerable and doesn’t have a phone glued to his ear. 

I nudge him. He stirs but keeps his eyes closed. He says, “Oh fuck. . . oh. . . fuck,” and shifts in his seat. 

Matt gets a lot sicker a lot faster than I do. I’m not sure why, because we do the same amount of dope. 

I say, “Yeah, oh fuck, we’re almost there. Call Roger.” 

He winces and pulls out his phone. “My phone’s dead.” 

“Oh my God, I wonder why!” I hand him my phone. I can’t stand him right now. 

He makes the call, letting Roger know we’ll be there shortly, but with Roger he specifies “about an hour.” 

He hands me back my phone. “Hello, I love you?” 

I glare at him, as if it’s somehow his fault we didn’t wake up for the halfway stop. I lay my head on his shoulder knowing he doesn’t feel good and my weight on him should be an unpleasant feeling. Instead of being bothered, he puts his arm around me and hugs me. 

I push him off and say, “Oh my God, don’t! I don’t feel good. It’s too hot. God!” 

He shrugs and leans his head back and closes his eyes. 

My eyes are wide open. No matter how sick I am I can’t not look out the window. The further into Portland we get, the better the scenery. The architecture, sure, but I like the graffiti artwork on the walls and under bridges better. Crowds of people, waiting for busses, crossing streets, pushing shopping carts full of recyclables. Diversity you don’t see in whitey-white Boise. People with tattoos even on their faces. A boy with long beaded dreads sits behind five or six overturned white buckets of different sizes playing them like drums. He’s accompanied by a girl with her head shaved, playing an acoustic guitar and singing. I can’t hear her from the bus, but I’ll bet it’s awesome. 

As we near the Greyhound station, we pass one of the many missions. Homeless people are lined up, and even they’re beautiful to me. I love this city so much. 

We finally pull into the station, grab our stuff, hurry off the bus, and head toward the bathrooms. The fluorescent lighting gives me a headache. I start taking off my coat before I get to the stall. I’m freezing, but I know I’m about to get really sweaty and I don’t want to sweat all over my coat. 

I’m scared to death to shit, but it’s coming—fear or no fear. I sit down on the toilet, don’t care it’s a gross public bathroom. My calf muscles are too weak to hover above it. I relax and let the shit come, but it gets stopped as it crowns, and I have to start pushing, even though I barely have the strength. I sweat so much straining over the toilet that I almost slide right off. One by one, I push the stones out, toilet water splashing loudly with each birth; I feel 70 percent better afterward. 

I wash my hands and try to dry my armpits and face with the hand dryer. I really don’t want to get detox sweat all over my fur coat, but I left my sweater with Matt and my arms are too track-marked to leave them exposed. I put my coat back on and head out. 

I meet back up with Matt, who is outside smoking a cigarette. We exchange anecdotes of our bathroom hardship. He says, “Mine was so big, it came back up out of the bowl like a serpent. I swear it gave me a look when I flushed it.” 

We set off into the streets of beautiful Portland. A homeless black man immediately asks us for a spare cigarette. I yell, “No time for you! We’re on a mission!” and keep walking. Matt, of course, stops and gives the man a cigarette. I can’t stand him sometimes. 

We speed-walk four blocks over to the MAX (Metropolitan Area Express). A dope-sick junkie has two speeds. If you’re going real slow with no direction, it means you’re not looking to get high. If you’re half walking, half running, it means you are on your way to get high. 

Matt is six foot three inches and is walking so fast that I have to run to keep up. 

We arrive at the MAX stop, purchase two tickets from the kiosk, and wait until our rescue trip comes. 

We ride it all the way back out of town to 182nd Street. Matt closes his eyes and leans back in his seat. Again, I look out the window at all the streets and buildings and people we pass. 

We cross bridges and get going so fast, passing MAX lines going the opposite direction, it’s a blur. We get off at 182nd and walk the few blocks to Roger’s apartment. He lives in a huge complex. You need a key code to get in. Matt has the numbers memorized and punches them in. The door clicks. We enter the building. 

Roger’s apartment is on the first floor at the end of the hall. 

Matt knocks on the door, which immediately swings open, and there stands Roger. He’s a small man, around 50 years old, and has a long, scraggly, red-gray beard that’s longer on one side. He’s wearing a brown beanie over his thinning red hair that he’s tied into a ponytail. He’s no Willie Nelson. I don’t know how a rubber band stays on. Glue? 

Pushing past him, I weave my way through a maze of boxes and bags in the hallway through to the living room. I collapse on the couch, toss my phone and charger toward the outlet on the closest wall for Matt to plug in. 

It’s a nice apartment. It’s actually Jen’s, paid for by her parents even though she must be somewhere in her forties. I think she and Roger were together as a couple at one point in time, but now it’s just a partnership. She’s a redhead, too, with a parrot’s nose, and has freckles covering every square inch of her exposed skinny arms and legs. All they do is complain about each other and fight like cowboys and Indians. Jen’s the Apache and that’s why one side of Roger’s beard is shorter. 

Matt and I have never stayed over—business and gone—but I think Jen sleeps on the couch and Roger has the bedroom. I wonder if her parents know that. If I had a fucked-up 40-year-old daughter, I’d pay for her to live somewhere far away, too. 

Roger and Jen are scrappers. Recyclers for pay. A noble profession. They roam the streets and collect anything you can sell to the recycling place, which in Oregon pays out significantly more than other states. 

They have a system. Roger and Jen know every recycling location. They know which location’s payout is higher for what materials. And they know which materials are in which corner of the city. It’s a business, but I don’t think they pay taxes. They usually make over 100 dollars a night, which all goes to heroin, of course. 

It’s Roger who knows the dealer, not us. Roger is the middleman. It’s bad and it’s good. Obviously, it would be nice to go straight to the dealer, but it’s just as, if not more, convenient to go to Jen and Roger. That way we can relax and get high while we send Roger off with a few thousand dollars to go get the dope. We trust Roger. And if we didn’t? Well, we’re sitting in his apartment. Plus, they always get enough heroin off of us to ensure their loyalty. On top of everything, they’re nice people. 

The apartment is decorated with really unique, antique knickknacks they’ve picked up along the way. Too much stuff to dust, if you ask me. They own three cats. Roger always has things he’ll try to trade or sell to Matt. We rarely leave that apartment without some weird thing. Last time it was one of those Aborigine rain sticks. 

Jen sits down in the recliner and pulls the lever to make herself supine. She asks, “How was the trip?” 

I say, “Oh my God,” as I stretch out on the black leather couch and cover my eyes with my hands, wanting to hide from the world for just one minute. “Never. . . ever going on that bus again.” 

“Why don’t you guys drive?” 

Matt sits on the couch on top of my coat. I pull it violently out from under him. 

“Sorry,” he says to me. 

To Jen, he says, “They have cameras on the interstate. Bus is safer. You have a… a spoon, or…?” 

“Oh, yeah.” She jumps up and goes into the kitchen. I hear her open a drawer, the clinking of silverware. 

Roger is in the bedroom out of sight. Matt says loud enough for him to hear, “Why don’t you bring it to Idaho? I’ll wire you the money, pay for your trip, and you can come hang out in Boise for a few days while I make the money back.” 

From down the hall, Roger replies in his raspy voice, “Uh, I’d do that, but Jen can’t handle this shit alone. She’d probably fuck some shit up and want to front everyone like she always does.” 

“Fuck you, Roger,” Jen shouts from the kitchen. “Who was too sick to go out the last few nights? I did everything by myself—scrapped, sold, you name it.” She returns with two spoons and a glass of water and sets them on the coffee table in front of Matt. 

He pulls the pouch that holds our syringes and paraphernalia out of his laptop bag. From his pocket, he removes a plastic baggie, unwraps the little bit of black tar we have left, breaks it in half and drops a piece into one spoon and a piece into the other. 

Matt hands me my rig, and I pop the cap off, grab the closest spoon, draw some water up, and spray it into the spoon. I dig my lighter out of my pocket, put the flame under the spoon, and cook the clump until it dissolves. You’re not supposed to let it boil—something to do with evaporation or contaminants—but I’m in a hurry, and it does. Oh well. 

Sometimes you can’t be too picky. I remember once being in a car with five other people. We’d just scored and wanted to get high right away, but no one had any water. It was raining and when we came to a stoplight, Dewey opened the car door, leaned out and drew up water in his needle from a puddle. 

I set the spoon back down, not caring about the black residue on the bottom that gets on the table. I grab a Q-tip from the pouch, rip off some cotton, roll it into a ball, and drop it into the liquid in the spoon. The cotton ball absorbs a bit of the mixture and puffs up. You get addicted to the process. I draw that shit up through the cotton, and it’s time. It’s just me and the needle in the room. What room? It’s just me and the needle in the universe. Cops could be pounding on the door, and I would finish what I was doing. 

I take off my coat and use the strap from my purse to tie around my arm like a tourniquet. No veins surface. And there’s still a swollen sore spot from earlier where I missed. 

“Aw, sonofabitch,” I mumble. “Nothing.” I proceed to drive the needle in just above where I missed that morning. It’s the only spot I can feel a vein. I’m dehydrated. I poke around until I finally get it, and blood docs a lava lamp mushroom formation into the rig. I push the heroin in. 

Immediately, warmth spreads through me, and a tingly sensation rises from my toes to my head. My runny nose stops, and I also stop sweating. I suddenly don’t care that I was even sweating all over my coat. I feel so good that I forget I ever felt bad. 

I rinse out my needle, spraying the water at one of the cats while Jen isn’t watching. 

“You’re really going to come over here, get high on my couch, and spray my cat with rig water?” Roger is standing over me, smiling. 

I laugh and stand up and give Roger a hug. “I’m sorry. I have no excuse other than… it’s a habit.” My voice is different now, scratchy like I just woke up. My speech is slower. “You know I love your cats.” 

I light a cigarette and lean back on the couch. Matt is rinsing out his needle and politely sprays the water on the lower pant leg of his jeans. 

“At least someone’s got integrity,” Roger says. Matt turns and sprays the last few cc’s of water at another cat when Roger looks away. I giggle. He faces me and says, “Hello, I love you?” 

I give him a kiss and lay my head on his shoulder. 

Roger goes into the bedroom and comes back to stand in front of us. He’s holding two ninja throwing stars. “Now gimme all your money!” 

Matt leans forward in his seat and reaches for Roger’s stars. 

“No,” I say. 

“I need those,” Matt says. 

“Really?” I ask. “That’s what you need? That’s on the top of your necessities list right now?” 

Matt ignores me and asks Roger, “Where did you get them?” 

“I. . . came across them,” Roger says mysteriously. 

I say, “OMG, he stole them from a ninja turtle!” Now they both ignore me. 

“How much,” Matt asks. 

“I don’t know. We can work something out. How much are you…wanting?” This talk is code. 

“I think one and a half.” Matt reaches for his wallet in his back pocket. He starts counting 20- and 50-dollar bills. He pulls his money clip out of his front pocket and counts out hundreds. “Get me one and a half for two.” 

Roger makes a phone call in the bedroom, comes back and says, “Twenty-one.” 

“What the fuck ever,” Matt replies. He hands over 2,100 dollars. Roger pockets the cash and heads for the door. 

Before he leaves, Jen warns, “You better hurry up,” and locks the door behind him. As she comes back to sit down, she points to the ninja throwing stars sitting on the table, “Those are cheap imitations by the way, practically a kid’s toy.” 

Matt half-smiles. “Where’d he get ’em?” 

“Flea market.” 

I get sucked into watching the news on TV. Matt’s phone is charged and he makes a few phone calls. Half an hour passes and there’s a knock on the door. 

“It’s me,” says Roger. Jen lets him in. 

He sweeps past her and sits on the couch on the other side of Matt. He says, “I’m so tired of that fucking asshole.” He hands Matt what he paid for, an ounce and a half of brown powder wrapped in plastic, a little bigger than the size of a golf ball. Matt takes out his digital scale and weighs out two grams for Roger and we all get high again. 

Roger brings up the ninja stars. “So what do you think? Genuine as Jane.” 

Matt plays along, I don’t know why, and ends up trading a half-gram for them. 

I say, “Thank you so much, Roger. Now if someone tries to rob us, we’ll just throw a ninja death star in their face.” I roll my eyes and turn to Matt. “Now that your necessities list has one more thing crossed off, can we go to the hotel?” 

We call a cab because it’s dark and late and we don’t want to navigate the MAX all the way back into town. 

I tell Jen, “See you in a couple of weeks, or never . . . who knows?” I shrug. To Roger, I say, “You better have nunchucks next time or Matt will be so sad.” 

Matt puts his arm around me. “My baby knows me so well.” 

Roger says, “Yeah, yeah, get the fuck out of here.” Jen closes the door and I hear a lock click on the other side, and a sigh of relief, too. 

“Free at last,” I say and skip down the hallway toward the lime-green cab I see waiting outside. “The city is ours.” As if we’re fit to see any city. 

We hit up Arby’s on the way to the hotel. I love Arby’s. I don’t care what Matt says. I never get tired of their roast beef sandwich with Arby sauce. I could eat 10 of them, I swear. We’re in each other’s arms in the back of the cab now, mumbling nonsense. I’m kissing him on the cheek. 

We check in to the Convention Center Inn. There’s nothing extra great about the rooms, other than a great view of the city, but we’re used to it. Junkies like familiarity. Surprises discombobulate us. 

We sit on the bed, turn on the TV and tear into our Arby’s. After eating, we get high again. We talk about our goal of someday reversing our trips. Live in Portland and take biweekly trips to Boise. Heroin sells there for more than triple the price, which allows us to use as much as we do and still have excess money to live below the poverty line. 

We watch Adult Swim (a sort of cartoon network) on cable TV, smoking cigarettes, cuddling. Sex is out of the question and has been for a long time. Who wants it when heroin is better? Jen told us Roger had wondered what would happen if he shot up at the same time he orgasmed. He got an IV kit from a hospital, put it in when Jen was giving him head, but he kept getting soft, because all he could think about was the heroin. His mind just wasn’t on what Jen was doing. 

I untie Matt’s laces and he kicks off his shoes. If it weren’t for me, he’d fall asleep in his shoes every night. 

We’re supposed to catch the bus back in the morning. After all, Matt did tell everyone we’d return “shortly.” 

It’s four days before we make it back to Boise. 

Once home, our phones ring nonstop and it’s business as usual. Being driven around everywhere in Dan’s cabs, people coming and going out of our motel room in a constant stream—talking amounts, numbers, costs, trades. 

I didn’t feel at home in Boise anymore, maybe I never did. But I was too much a stranger in Portland. Either way, we should’ve stayed in Portland, because more than just junkies were waiting for us in Boise. 


Because a mainer to my vein 
Leads to a center in my head 
And then I’m better off and dead 
Because when the smack begins to flow 
I really don’t care anymore 

— The Velvet Underground 


Incident: Search Warrant 
Subject’s Name: Kennedy/Carlson 
Location: 2223 S. Broadway #17 
Date Occurred: May 30, 2013 
Time Occurred: 0300 
Route To: County Prosecutors 
Division: Narcotics 
Officer: Anderson #718 


On May 30, 2013, at approximately 0300 hours a search warrant was executed at the Starr Motel, room 17. A white adult male, recognized as Matthew Carlson, was standing near the doorway. A white female adult, recognized as Charlotte Kennedy, was sitting up in bed. Both are suspected of selling various amounts of heroin on more than one occasion. Subjects were taken into custody without incident and transported to the P.D. for interview. 


Charlotte Kennedy was waiting inside the interview room, handcuffs removed. She was provided a Notification of Rights (Miranda Warning), and replied in the affirmative when asked if she knew how to read and write. She read her rights and signed the form. She was informed the camera mounted on the ceiling meant the room was being monitored for safety, but the conversation was not being audio- or video-recorded. Kennedy was informed it was standard practice to not record these types of interviews. She was offered the choice to have the interview recorded if she so desired. Kennedy indicated she did not want the interview recorded.


It’s 6:00am. Do you know where your children are? Yeah, I’m what, five miles away from my parents’ house? In jail. Ten days, three hours, fifty-eight minutes, but who’s counting? They found nineteen grams in the motel room. The arrest report says “conspiracy to traffic heroin.” Feel so anxious. Sick. 

John DaSilva, my public defender, tells me, aside from the big trouble I’m in, my first mistake was confiding in the detective. Hey, I believed him when he said he was there to help me. Too bad he helped me without an attorney present. My second mistake was to tell him I didn’t care whether he recorded the interview or not—he made the choice not to (as was his standard practice), although I swear he taped it on his personal cell phone. 

Hello, walls. 

Withdrawing from heroin in jail is nothing I’d wish on anyone—except dolphin killers. You’re kept alone in a tiny cell with white brick walls and bright lights that don’t ever shut off. The lidless metal toilet is very sinister, but you’ll show it a thing or two by the time you’re through with it. An overweight cop will waddle in every 15 minutes to make sure you haven’t killed yourself, which you totally would do, if only you were feeling better. Instead, you’re too busy throwing up everything you never ate, and shitting out what you can only hope are bad spirits. 

You don’t sleep, only hallucinate. And the deeper into your withdrawal, the worse your cravings—the number one reason you’ve never been able to kick in the first place. You’ve long since stopped looking for the high—it’s about the not-getting-sick. The maintain. The stave. All those euphoric highs you experienced in the early days? Welcome to the other side. 

Every bodily fluid runs out of you: through your pores, your nose, your eyes, your butt, until you’re a Sun-Maid raisin (with stomach spasms). You don’t get anything to help your symptoms, nothing for insomnia, the nurse is only there to monitor. It’s not enough you can’t sleep, but you’re constantly yawning. Yawning and not getting the full satisfaction of a yawn—the great Un-yawn. 

The real difficult time comes when you start feeling better and you have no choice but to sit and dwell on how you’re going to get out of here. As seconds turn to minutes, and minutes become hours, you get a constant reminder when you hear the keys and the cop does her check that it’s only been 15 minutes. 

When I could, I’d read Johnny Got His Gun. It saved my life, or at least my sanity. It should be required reading while withdrawing. Made me realize I was lucky to feel the intense pain in my arms and legs. 

The whole experience was awful, but I’d still recommend it. 

I try not to be sentimental about my situation. Just this morning, I spent four hours staring at one brick in my cell wall debating whether I should get out of bed and carpe diem. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. 

How much trouble could I really be in anyway? The way I’d seen it work for people I knew who had gotten busted was they’d be offered a deal: drug court with probation, or a rehabilitation-based rider program of one to three years in prison. I take the deal, get scared straight, move on with my life, get married, have kids and ride off into the sunset. Maybe in a Honda Odyssey Minivan. 

Conspiracy to traffic. As if I’m the Cartel, or Scarface. Charface

I barely remember my court appearance last week, only that they weren’t going to let me go. The judge said I’m a flight risk, a danger to the community. I’m glad DaSilva is my attorney. I felt comfort when I was sitting before the judge and he came into the courtroom (late, but he’d been in court in another county). He stood behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. He even corrected the judge when she mispronounced my name Ken-ney. He said, “It’s KEN-ne-dy, your honor.” I was shaking so bad, like I always do when I get nervous, like a Chihuahua without its summer sweater. At least I wasn’t sweating. 

My parents were there, my grandparents too—all dressed up, looking hopeful. 

Inmates appear in court handcuffed and shackled. You’re forbidden to make eye contact with loved ones, so you have to wait for the opportunity (when the deputy glances at his phone) to sneak a peek. Seeing family reminds you there’s a whole world spinning beyond these walls. Half of you says, “How dare it?” 

I still can’t cry. What’s the deal? I’m jealous of those who can cry for themselves. They can feel. They miss their kids. Me? I miss my mom. We love moms here. Moms are the only ones who write. I don’t know, maybe I’m still in shock. I see other girls sent off to prison for the rest of their youths, yet I’m not scared. I’m sad, but not. I feel numb. Just time, then more time. My life’s over. It’s over. Done. Live fast, die slow… 

People say fight it, people say own it and show remorse. I just want to put it behind me. I’d wanted out long before my arrest. Truth be told, I felt this odd relief when I was handcuffed. 

There’s this girl in the bunk next to mine. She’s pregnant (a lot of them are) and in for violating probation with a dirty drug test. Her husband is doing two years for breaking her ribs. Two years. And I could be looking at 10 to 15 for conspiracy? Oh well. Two words: Oh well. Whatever. Fuck it. Two words: not guilty. 

I’m so tired. Nothing to look forward to but my next meeting with DaSilva, and the next meal. I can’t get the word ‘substantial’ out of my head. …you’re going to do prison time, and the time will be substantial… I’m a kid. A month is sub-fucking-stantial! Anyway, on a lighter note… Nope, I got nothing. 

I had a dream I was in jail. A whole different jail and Matt was in a cell next to mine. I could hear him, but he couldn’t hear me. I miss him. His company. He made me feel normal. I feel so not normal here. Look so ugly. 

Missed rec time. Wanted to work on my tan… ha. 

Dinner is hamburgers, macaroni salad, peas, potato wedges. Sounds awesome, right? No. Throw it all up. Who eats dinner at four-thirty besides old people? 

I have showers as my chore. Gotta scrub the showers, the walls, the whole bathroom floor. Last week I could barely stand for long enough to keep Jasmine company as she did it for me. Today, I’m able to do it myself. Everyone is proud. These girls either know what I’m going through, or they don’t. Either way, they help me out and ask how I’m doing day after day. This lady gave me deodorant, which I needed and couldn’t afford—five dollars!— and gave me an extra thermal shirt and extra socks. Now I have two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, one bra. But anything I don’t buy myself is contraband and could get taken away. Yesterday, I had my water bottle confiscated. It had lemonade in it. 

Music is playing while the last of the girls finish chores. Smashing Pumpkins—tonight, tonight. I miss my music. The Decemberists. . . I found someone in here who loves Elliott Smith. Talk about needle in the fucking hay. That’s what this all feels like, but then again, I’d be the one to find that needle if there was heroin in it. 

I miss my leopard Snuggle. I was asleep under it, wearing my fluffy fur boots and my bear hat, sleeping (!) when we were bum-rushed. I don’t remember them knocking; aren’t they supposed to knock? The BANDIT task force laughed at me. One of the arresting officers said, “Do the boots go with the hat, Charlotte?” I don’t know, I should’ve said, does your ass go with your face? And what was with him straightening the cheap pictures on the wall, but leaving the drawers he searched wide open? 

On Sundays they have church services. I haven’t gone, but Jasmine says it’s worth it because you get to walk by booking (men’s booking), and see all the new guys on the phones crying to their moms, “Get me out of here.” 

Jasmine says seeing me in here makes it harder for her. For me, hearing music makes it hard… and watching TV. Those ordinary things. Sometimes it’s easier to forget than to remember. I find daydreaming keeps me sane. Passes the time. It’s probably not healthy, but neither is jail. This isn’t healthy at all. Well, in my case it might be. 

My nickname in here is Charlotte off Heroin. Some girls introduce the new inmates to me saying, “This is our little Charlotte off Heroin, and we’re all glad she’s feeling better, yes we are . . .” And, “Oh, she’s feeling better? Oh good! She looked like a ghost a week ago.” 

I’m sure if you Google my name, my mugshot will pop up, I’m not proud. I’d just like to know what everyone (from high school) thinks about me. My arrest was on the six o’clock news, and in the newspaper—I asked my mom to send me the clipping. I wear a wrist bracelet with my mugshot in black and white. Of all the times I spent practicing my mugshot picture in the mirror, of course they bum-rush me when I had washed my face before bed—no makeup. Oh, the petty things I have to think about. . . 

I can tell it’s sunset time by the way the light is showing through the tiny windows that you can’t see out of. Look to your right when heading downtown, you’ll see the tiny windows, that’s where I’m at. Lying on my bunk, daydreaming, writing. 

I’m sorry, Mom. I’m so so so so so very fucking goddamn sorry. I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed. Some days I just want to swallow a bottle of shampoo. 

Girls in here constantly talk about their drug days and say how, as soon as they get out of here, they are going to get fucked up, they don’t care. They must have no families. And there are girls in here with no families, no money on their books, no letters, no one to call. I’m lucky for what and who I have, and never again will I jeopardize that. Never. Ever. Again. 

My parents’ first visit was the hardest thing. We pressed our hands together against the Plexiglas. I remember saying, “I just want to come home.” 

Through tears, my mom said, “Honey, I think you are home for a while.” 

And reality has set in. Or the final effect of heroin has worn off. I keep expecting something to happen—to wake up, to get off, something, anything. I hate sleeping because of the vivid dope dreams. But the drugs in the dreams don’t bother me much, it’s the being free, or being out of here that gets to me, because then I wake up and I’m still here. 

Time and thoughts, and living without windows. In the past, when I’ve felt confused, beyond lost, I’d slip out at night, lie down in the field behind my house and stare up at the sky. The stars were a constant for me. I knew they’d be above me always. Here, when I need them so much, I can’t see them. 

Shoulda OD’d. I’d have had it way better. 

I’m trying to block out the logical side of my brain because I’d rather get through the next week fantasizing about a bond reduction. Cutting it in half would be a dream. I just want to ready myself. It’s too hard in here. Everyone just talks about drugs all day, or who you know, or what you’ve done. 

I need to remember who I really am. Who will I be when I finally get out? Do I want to change? Who is the real Charlotte? As a heroin junkie, with Matt, who was I? Who am I without heroin, without Matt—who am I alone? Tell me who I am because I’ve lost myself and I just don’t know. 

And I guess I just don’t know 

And I guess I just don’t know