Disheveled and encumbered with unpacked cloths on her lap, my new patient, to be transported to a Southern rehab, shows up curbside at the local airport in her mom’s car, passenger side.
I open the door. “Hello,” I say, and my greeting hangs in the air, apparently like a nuclear bomb. The patient yells, “Get away from me, you f – – – ing c – – t.”
Inwardly, I laugh. Heroin is angry with me today. I’m on his turf, and he is fighting hard to hold onto his signature death grip. But I don’t scare easily, nor back down. He and I meet often. I don’t even see the girl nor take it personally. She is no longer present. Linda Blair is glowering at me.
OK, maybe Lucy, my little dog, will help. “Lucy would like to meet you,” I say, as I plunk Lucy in her lap. “Get that f – – – – – – rat away from me. Turning to her exasperated mom , she screams, “I am not going anywhere with that b – – – – . Just take me to jail.”
She is jammed up. It is jail or rehab. Bluffing is my middle name.
“OK, then,” I say. “Detox sucks in jail—you know, no meds—but good luck, goodbye.”
As the girl picks her clothes up from the car floor, I motion silently to the mom to loop her around the airport. And I turn my back and walk away.
It works. Only one loop and she decides I am the better option.
But it’s like she has gotten a restraining order against me. She orders me to stay so many yards away from her. I trail behind, just keeping a close eye out. She shot dope in the car, the mom told me on the phone. I carry naloxone, the antidote drug used for heroin overdose, which I feel is hanging around my neck like a clove of garlic, but my gut is telling me I won’t need it.
Every once in a while, her tough veneer breaks and she glances at me for direction. But then, getting her footing, she demeans me again.
“Disgraceful you are, making money off people like me. You are f – – – – – – unethical!
That, I admit, bugs me. I am not unethical, uncaring, uneducated, inexperienced, or overpriced. I do not take advantage of vulnerable families. But I stay quiet. No arguing with the devil.
Upon arrival at our destination, she can barely walk, she is so weighed down with stuff: dope fatigue, carry-ons, and luggage.
I repeatedly offer to help her. “I’ll ask you if I need help, just shut up,” she retorts.
She is shuffling so slowly and labored, I offer to get a wheelchair. Any second now, I expect her head to spin around.
Finally she asks for help. “I can’t go on, I have to have something to drink.”
Alcohol is not her deal, so I say, “OK, Coke?”
She has no money. I buy her a soft drink and place the straw in the cup. She grabs it from me with unexpected strength and continues seething. Her needing me has not made her any nicer.
Her bag on the ground, I pick it up because she is now even more labored with a drink.
“Put it down!” she spits at me. I put it down. She juggles everything for a minute, and we carry on.
On the tram now to take us to the baggage claim, where I am to hand her off to the rehab, I take out my card..I slip it into her bag. “There is my card. Come find me in the future.”
She glares, and we have a staring contest that lasts maybe three minutes.
“I will never come looking for you,” she says. I have zero respect for you.”
“OK,” is my simple response.
Heroin hates me today for attempting and possibly winning the battle. One person at a time.
I hope Lisa comes and finds me one day.