Can a person tell the difference between being high on drugs and mental illness?
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Racing on the sidewalk behind a Starbucks coffee shop, Jen is becoming impatient with her dealer. She checks her phone again, no new messages. The withdrawals are taking a stranglehold on her now. Sweating in the hot summer, the withdrawals have fully encircled her body. She needs her fix quickly. The sun will be setting soon, mimicking the oncoming darkness that is enfolding inside her.
She spots her dealer limbering along, heavy-footed. Jen’s withdrawals are quickly forgotten and the anticipatory high of he oncoming fix take control. She does the exchange wordlessly. Holding the small package in her hand gives her such relief. She enters a Starbucks and slips into the washroom. Rushing to take out her kit, fumbling with the spoon and partially losing a small amount of the powder. The needle is ready and she injects into a used vein in her leg. The heroin rush engulfs her after five seconds. Complete bliss. She meditates for a moment, soaking in the opiates. Her energy back, looking in the mirror, fixing herself up, smiling. Smooths out her ruffled brunette hair, adjusts her black tank-top over her slithe build and washes the blood trickling down her leg.
She walks out of the coffee shop confidently, completely different from when she first walked in. Walks to the ravine near her apartment building and begins to feel tired. She stops.
“Hey,” a familiar voice greets her from the corner of her eye. It’s her boyfriend Geoff. He’s sweating profusely with sweat-stains all over his shirt. A sinister grin plasters his lips.
“Hey,” she replies nervously.
“It’s over between us,” he says with a straight-faced, still grinning.
“Sam…” he laughs as he turns around and runs down the sidewalk, laughing even louder. Jen is about to run after him when she hears a high-pitched wailing cry. She gasps. It’s Sam! The cry is coming from deep down in the ravine. She rushes down the ravine, wrestling through the overgrown shrubs and sliding down the steep incline. She falls and stumbles through trees and rocks, tearing her clothes and scraping her legs and back. She gets to the bottom and stands up, inching closer to Sam’s cry. She finds Sam in a muddy pool. Sam is bloodied and bruised around her face, her pajamas are torn with bloodstains all over them. She picks her up and cradles her muddy four-month old infant, trying to console her. The sun has set and darkness has taken over.
Jen runs through a street to the main intersection, holding her squalling baby. Screaming and crying, she calls out to a police car driving by. The vehicle comes to a stop in front of her. Two burly officers, one unshaven and the other clean-shaven, exit their car. “What’s going on here?” the clean-shaven one asks, with the name McDonald displayed on his nametag.
“My baby, she was....” Jen begins.
“What happened to that baby?!” the unshaven officer named Macy interrupts. He reaches over to grab hold of Sam. Jen retaliates and tries to hold onto Sam but she loses her grip. In the struggle as Macy takes the baby she trips and falls on her side. The package in the front pocket of her torn jeans falls out. McDonald comes to pick her up and notices the package.
“What you got there?” McDonald opens the package to reveal the powder. “Oh look what we have here.” He shows the package to Macy then places it on the hood of his car. He grabs the handcuffs from his belt and restrains Jen while reading her rights.
She’s in shock. Not only did she suddenly lose her child but now is arrested for the package she knows she finished in the Starbucks washroom. Sam is crying and thrashing about in Macy’s arms, momentarily distracting McDonald. Jen quickly runs down an alleyway in the direction of the ravine. She hears the footfalls of one of the officers racing behind her. The footfalls are getting closer to her but she manages to reach the edge of the ravine and fling herself off of it. She half flies through the air and half slides down the steep incline. When she reaches the base of the ravine she stands up and feels a painful sprain on her right ankle. Even with the pain she sprints down the path for a little while until she becomes too exhausted. Looking back, she’s relieved that she has outpaced the cop. She makes her way down the path toward the exit of the ravine, limping along.
Racing through the maze-like alleyways maniacally, she’s heading to her friend Beth’s townhouse. The handcuffs at her back she’s hiding underneath her tanktop to avoid suspicion. Even so, many passerby’s give her awkward glances, mainly because of her disheveled appearance. She makes it to the townhouse and knocks on the door. Beth appears after a while, looking extremely high. She begins to laugh at Jen.
“What the hell happened to you?” Beth laughs mockingly.
“Can you guess?!” Jen shows her handcuffs.
“Oh my god!” Beth shuts the door and leads Jen inside the house. They walk to the living room and Jen notices Beth’s familiar guests. All crackheads, some smoking while others are sitting high, either comfortably or twitching and scanning the floor for crack remnants.
“Please Beth, give me a hit,” she pleads, as she relays the story of Sam and the cops. Beth gets out her pipe and sticks it in Jen’s mouth, putting a stone in it and lighting it. The high blends in with the opiates, creating an intense euphoria. For a few moments she forgets about her problems, even Sam. She barely notices Beth fumbling at the handcuffs with a coat-hanger wire.
“I can’t get these ‘cuffs off,” Beth says after trying for fifteen minutes. Jen is starting to fidget, becoming paranoid. This always happens when she smokes crack. The sight of all the crackheads adds to her unease. She runs to the door. “Where are…” Beth calls out but Jen’s gone.
Walking down a street, all Jen wants to do is go home. Her paranoia is eating away at her and people continue to glance at her suspiciously. She’s still trying to hide her handcuffs underneath her shirt but it’s useless, everyone can plainly see. Suddenly in the corner of her eye she spots a police car pulling over next to her. She runs into tbe shopping mall near her, descending down the stairs. She makes it to a nearby McDonalds restaurant when she stops and turns around, unable to run anymore with the pain in her ankle. Two police officers, these ones different from before, are charging at her.
“No, please, don’t!” she screams.
“...iss, miss, miss,” someone is shaking and speaking to her. She looks up and sees a middle-aged woman staring at her with a concerned expression on her face.
“What’s going on?” Jen asks.
“You came in here and just stood here, closed your eyes, fell asleep, and started screaming,” the woman replies. Jen stands in front of the McDonald’s on the food court confused.
”The cops!” she yells.
“Cops? What cops?” the woman looks confused. Jen looks around and sees no officers, only a few shoppers looking at her with concerned expressions like the woman’s and some stores like Walmart, Winners, Macy’s, and H&M. She moves her arms in front of her. No handcuffs. Not even any red marks from when Beth was pulling on them to unlock them. Beth.
“Do you need help? Do you want me to call the police?” the woman asks.
“No, no,” Jen replies as she walks towards the stairs, noticing no pain in her ankle. She steps out of the mall and finds no police car. She reaches for her cellphone and calls Beth.
“Hello,” Beth answers.
“Beth was I over at your place today?” Jen asks.
Beth begins to laugh, obviously high. “No. What are you talking about? Are you high?”
Jen hangs up the phone. Sam. She calls Geoff. “Jennifer where are you?” Geoff answers with an angry tone.
“Where is Sam?! Is she okay Geoffrey?” Jen hears Sam crying in the background.
“We’re at home waiting for you. Where the hell are you?!”
Jen remains silent.
“You’re high aren’t you! Don’t tell me you have to go again to reha…” Jen hangs up the phone.
She realizes that she must’ve nodded off after taking the heroin. She hallucinated everything. This isn’t the first time.
She feels the incoming withdrawals taking hold of her body. She calls her dealer.