top down

They were smart to send my brother P.  There’s no way I’d give him any shit.  He’s the one who was always loyal – took many hits for me.  I’d go wherever he led me.  The convertible was a nice touch too.  I mean my parents were total pussies for it, but P was brave.  He didn’t really know how I’d react.  Or maybe he did.  Maybe he volunteered.  Maybe he said “If you’re going to do that to her, I’m leaving school right now and flying across the damn country, renting a convertible and taking her there myself.”  He probably didn’t want me to go alone.  He probably knew I’d listen to him and that in his P way he’d make it better for me.  He was right.  There was no shit.  And there’s no one else who could tell me “you’re not actually going home, you’re going to California instead” without me flipping the fuck out.

We drove to the Grand Canyon.  Took pictures.  I wore the shorts set Aunt Eileen mailed me.  A mallrat from Jersey repping Florida right smack in the middle of Arizona.  I looked pretty for once.  All that granola and kiwi from Sierra Tucson was working for me.  Drove over the Hoover Dam.  Took pictures.  Stayed somewhere along the route.  I think it had a pool.  Climbed a windy road up higher and higher. Took no more pictures.  Arrived at the rim of the world and while my knees shook P told me I’d be ok.  Just listen to what the people tell me to do and remember everything is temporary.  I think he gave me ten dollars too.  I tucked it in the band of my underwear because my shorts had no pockets.  I was glad that I had been living in Arizona for so long.  I was tan.  I washed my hair at the motel and what wasn’t shaved was curly from the wind.  He didn’t stay long.  I stood in the center of that driveway watching him back out.  The top was up on the convertible so he waved out the window.  I never asked him what happened next.  Where did he go?  What did he see?  How was the flight home?  It’s been too long now, I’m not sure he’d even remember. No, that’s not P.  I bet he remembers every detail.  I know I sure do.


We didn’t really talk about it.  We just sort of did it.  He mentioned it in passing.  Saying he needed to get out of there.  I needed out too but I never said it out loud.  I just stuffed what I could in to my suitcase and set it out by the side of the house where I knew I could grab it later when it was time for us to go.  I was nervous most of the day, but I passed the time smoking cigarettes and ignoring Phil during rap.  By the middle of the day I caved, told Michelle we’d be leaving that night.  And she must have told someone else what he was planning because they put one of those club locks on the steering wheel of his 4-runner.  I thought that was funny and to be honest I was kind of relieved.  Trust was a big deal there and I think I trusted her to save me.  I knew Hilltop was making me sick again, but I wasn’t sure going back to New Jersey was the answer to my problems.

Two or three days later, when they stopped breathing down Phil’s neck every five minutes, he borrowed a hack saw from a neighbor and he cut clean through his own steering wheel to slip the club lock off.

Phil tapped on my window the night we left and I thought about pretending I didn’t hear him.  But the wheels were in motion and I was no punk.  So I crawled out in to the darkness, through the window right beside my bed.  He caught me and our bodies were closer than they had ever been – it was awkward. But I followed him where he led me down the hill away from the ranch and away from Running Springs.  He already grabbed my suitcase at some point, I saw it on the back seat when I climbed in the 4-Runner.  We sat in the silence for a few minutes both us surprised we pulled it off.  The plan without a plan.  I wrapped my blanket around me tighter – the one with the turkeys that I dragged off my bed as I climbed through the window – and looked over at Phil.  He looked like a stranger and he still had the hacksaw.  I was afraid and he was a thief.  I lit a cigarette to calm my nerves.  What the fuck was I doing?  He pulled away from the culdesac and my knees began to shake.  Willow looked so dark up on the hill.  I had no idea I’d never see any of those people ever again.  No idea why Phil’s blue eyes looked black.  I knew we were headed east, but I really didn’t know why.

The Police Chase

I always had a job as a teenager, not the same one but I was always employed.  It was the only way I’d ever eat since my Mom had the anorexia bad and we absolutely never had food at home that wasn’t “your father’s crackers” or “milk for your father” or rye bread or corn flakes cereal or lo mein from a can.  There was no “food for the kids” unless I got it from work.  Starving wasn’t entirely bad, after all it helped me avoid her judgmental gaze and eyes that saw everyone as a fat fat when my bones were visible.  But I wouldn’t dare eat my dad’s graham crackers.  And unfortunately for me, God created this need in me – a need to eat every couple of days no matter how hard I tried to ignore it.  So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that I snuck out of school during study hall to get an egg mcmuffin from the McDonalds a couple of towns over.  And it shouldn’t have surprised anyone that I had a few friends that wanted to come with.  What was maybe a little bit surprising would have been that I was driving 72 in a 25 right past a West Windsor cop and that cop chased me through multiple jurisdictions…perhaps… but it most certainly surprised no one that I got my fucking breakfast before he got my license and registration.

table of contents

Chapter One – the police chase

Chapter Two – the Bloomingdales of mental health hospitals

Chapter Three – Rob

Chapter Four – weren’t you in that movie?

Chapter Five – I really am sick

Chapter Six – he was in a movie too

Chapter Seven – Newports and Biker Dudes

Chapter Eight – I’m not going home – am I?

Chapter Nine – the hoover dam, the grand canyon and my parents are pussies

Chapter Ten – Kathy fucked herself all night my first night

Chapter Eleven – there’ s a lot I’ll put up with but not going to my high school graduation isn’t one of those things

Chapter Twelve – Tony escorts me to Jadwin Gym

Chapter Thirteen – going back and getting sicker

Chapter Fourteen – Smush, propheets, raps and other hippie dippie shit

Chapter Fifteen – never let a mental patient borrow your power tools

Chapter Sixteen – QBM and the lost keys

March 23

I can’t sleep.  I started a new job and I’m scared to death someone is going to ask me about myself.  And what will I say?  I’m still figuring it out for fucks sake!  I sit in the back of the van. The way way back.  All alone except for the driver (of course).  It is most definitely weird and maybe even shitty to put so much distance between us.  But I don’t know him.  He’s only safe because he hasn’t killed me yet. I just have to go with it – ask zero questions.  No one will answer anyway.   I don’t know who the fuck he is and I probably never will.  But his taste in music is ok. It’s just a job for him.  He probably has a lot of questions himself, but that’s why I keep my distance.  I don’t want to freak him out.  It’s not really that dramatic.  But still.  How can I explain to someone what its like to live in prison when it’s really just rehab but not for drugs but like for your mind.  My psyche is addicted to pain.  And my psyche needs rehabilitation.  At least 2 years worth, or 24 months.  Whichever sounds less crazy.  I should probably be nice to the man who drives the van.  The man who never takes a hard left while driving west on California Highway 18.  The one who knows San Bernadino like the back of his hand.  The one that waits for us at the YMCA – where Todd and I flirt instead of play racketball.  It’s not all bad except Todd is leaving.  I think he wants to fuck before he goes but I have a cut on my lip.  It’s from picking the skin there instead of cutting my arms.  But Todd doesn’t like it.  And I kind of don’t give a shit either. So he’ll just whisper in my face about what could have been if only I hadn’t picked at my lip and he’ll press his little dick up against me and I’ll feel something for a minute but I only tell him “that’s too bad” because I don’t give a flying fuck about Todd. But the attention feels nice for a little while. And later tonight after I smoke my last cigarette on the deck, I’ll put on my flannel – the one I brought with me from New Jersey and it’ll hide the blood like it always does.  And I wont think about Todd again.  Or any of them for that matter.  And maybe I’ll be able to sleep.


There’s this part of me thats dying to tell my story.  To put it all in print.  Proof that it happened.  And there’s this need I have to expose it all.  To shout from the rooftops that I’ve never been ok.  This shit has gone on for years.  There’s an origin story.  The beginning that never ended.  Someday I’ll tell it.  Tell everyone how I ended up in a nut house on the opposite side of this country because my mother was crazy.  Someday I’ll explain Sierra Tucson and Hilltop Institute. And the shaved head and the smush piles. And propheets. And rap sessions. And the blood in the shower. The earthquakes and the food that I stole from the convenience store on Hwy 18.  Food insecure at a place that cost my parents thousands of dollars a day. Nothing changed in the mountains for me. I still didn’t have food.  But I did have cigarettes.  Someday I’ll tell you my story and Todds, and Kevins…Chris, Thanen and Jeff.  I’ll keep Phil to myself.  And the story of the club on his car steering wheel and how a hill can look like a mountain when you’re sneaking out at 3am. And the white dress I left for Michelle.  And my favorite pajamas.  And Kathy masturbating my first night there.  How I cried to sleep while she rubbed her clit laying on the bunk below me.  Someday I’ll explain how I got sicker there.  It’s not surprising.  Without kiwi and bikers and Rob Lowe, I was going backwards.  Right back in to Lenny’s arms and a baby.  A beautiful baby.

How we lost the keys after 2800 miles on the road – only to end up right where it all began.

March is a significant chapter in that story.  A chapter with no end.  It’s when I knew my marriage was over.  He had me begging for mercy by mid-March.  Begging to be able to feel like myself again – just for a little while.  And boy did I pay for that freedom.  He ruined my flight.  He ruined a new relationship. If we had service in the hangers where they filmed up in the air he’d have ruined that too.  But most of all – he tried to ruin me.  But I was already at rock bottom when we met.  He was no knight in shining armor.  He was a wolf.  A deer in headlights.  Two people inside one body.  And one of him was mean.  Too stupid to cause harm.  Too stupid to believe my own instincts.

I had a moment you know, a premonition of sorts.  We pulled in to the driveway of that house – the one I always hated. For Sale sign on the lawn.  My soul said “you’ll die here” as we sat in that driveway.  And I told myself that it was just nerves – I told myself it wasn’t ideal but it was better than the alternative.  A center hall colonial.  A pool and two acres.  He swore we’d fix it up – we’d have our babies here- and then I saw the tree.  The tree beckoned to me, even though my soul begged me not to go forward.  I should have listened.  I was so bad at that.  But I didn’t know myself. I wasn’t whole. My ghost was still in Running Springs- living my real life.

Someday I’ll know the first line of my story. I’ll sit down in front of my laptop and type…

Jared’s Prodigy

There’s a new movie coming out called The Prodigy and the trailer reminded me of a fan-ficcy I played with for a min or two….lets revisit that for a moment and then go see the movie….

Meet Jared & Lucy….

They had no idea, on that bright sunny morning, that the birth of their first child, a son they named Noah Joseph, would open the door for such unbelievable heartache.  How could they?

Lucy’s labor was predictable.  The birth, smooth. And she was recovering well.  Within an hour or two she was up and about. Shuffling her slippered feet back and forth from the bathroom to the layette to her hospital bed again without complaint. She felt well enough to shower and now the happy couple were receiving their first visitors.

The perfectly pink full-term boy was exceptionally alert for his first hours on earth. Delighting well wishers with his big blue eyes that seemed to focus intently on each relative as though he recognized each and every one of them from some other time and place.

“They can’t see much yet?  Right?” Jared’s friend Raj asked as he rocked baby Noah softly in his arms. “It’s like he’s checking me out.” he added sweetly.

“He’s probably fixing on the reflection coming off your glasses. He can only see a few inches in front of him right now.”  Jared said as he held his arms out to receive Noah.  “That’s your Uncle Raj.” Jared whispered to Noah once he had him snuggled in the crook of his arm again. “He was born yesterday and you were born today.” he teased.

Lucy watched Jared show Noah around the room. Beaming with pride at their creation.  Their friends and loved ones leaning in to peek at Noah’s bright face or cradling him for a moment in their own arms.  Jared either had Noah or a bottle of hand sanitizer in his hands.  Ready with a squirt for anyone who wanted to so much as touch the blanket Noah was bundled in.  Protective new Pop.  Lucy felt her love for Jared grow deeper in those moments there.  She had made him a Daddy. And he was good at it. So far at least. It was a special morning for everyone.  Jared’s first child, a son no one ever thought he’d have. Born almost 9 months to the day after Jared married Lucy on a cliffside in Capri.  She’s almost 20 years Jared’s junior but his equal in many other ways.  A career of her own.  A name too.

Every one who held Noah that morning commented on his beauty.  A perfect blend of his model mother and his handsome Oscar winning father.  Blue eyes.  Bright blond tuffs of hair.  Pink skin.  Amazing temperament.

“Does he ever cry?” someone asked kindly.

“He’s just chillin’”

“My kinda kid.”

“You would end up with a baby that never cries wouldn’t you?”

“He’s an old soul.” Grandma Constance added and everyone agreed.

What a blessed addition to the world.  Ten fingers, ten toes.  A life full of promise and good health just waiting for him.  Jared and Lucy were so proud.  Look at what their love created.  A perfect little boy.  That everyone is immediately in love with.

Lucy yawned big and then quickly laughed at herself.  “Sorry guys.” she said through a smile. “It’s not you, it’s me.” more giggling “I haven’t slept in like three days.”

Grandma took Noah from the arms of one of the couple’s friends and placed him softly into Lucy’s outstretched arms.  “I think he might need lunch and then you both should rest.” she said kindly.

Everyone took the cue and shuffled out of the room with pats on Jared’s back and well wishes to Lucy.  Once everyone was gone, Constance helped Lucy get reading for the feeding, propping a pillow beneath her elbow and a pillow at her waist..  Jared stayed back, watching the girls bond over Noah’s first latch.  It was a sight to see.  So precious.

“Ouch.” Lucy said as Noah latched on “Is it supposed to – Ouch! ….hurt?”

“Sometimes it’s because they latch on wrong … let’s try and reposition him.”  Grandma Constance slipped her finger in to the side of Noah’s mouth to break his suction and his eyes snapped up at her as if he were chastising her.  Constance was taken aback for a moment, not quite sure what in the hell she just saw.  As quickly as the expression appeared, it disappeared and Constance scolded herself for assigning such a grown-up expression to the face of a newborn. He wanted his boobie back.  That’s all.  She gently repositioned Noah’s head and he latched back on to Lucy.  But she couldn’t stop thinking about that quick shift in his eyes.  Too weird.  Too grown up.

“That’s a lot better.” Lucy sighed looking down on her boy. “Thank you.” She said before she looked up at Constance.

“Are you ok?” she asked Constance a moment later. “You’re white as a sheet!”

“Oh! I’m fine. Maybe I need a little rest too. I’m seeing things.”

“Seeing things? That’s not good.” Jared joked.

Constance shook her head as she spoke, fully aware of how nutty her words sounded “I think Noah was just mad at me…”

“What?” Lucy responded. “Mad at you?”

“Yeah Ma.  I think you do need some sleep. He’s not mad at anyone.  He’s like six hours old.”

“He gave me this look….”

“Sure he did.” Jared ushered his mother over to the couch in their hospital suite.  “Maybe you should take a nap too.”


Lucy starred down at the bundle in her arms and watched him feed. His eyes were shutting slowly and her nipple was falling out of his mouth.  In a moment he was fast asleep with a full belly.

“Do you want me to put him in the bassinet so you can sleep?” Jared whispered.

Lucy nodded quietly but when he went to grab Noah, Noah’s eyes flipped open quickly and he let out his first cry.  A painful wail that upset everyone all at once.

Lucy weighed 94 pounds at her 6 week post-delivery checkup and her doctor was alarmed.

“Noah is quite the handsome little man isn’t he?” the doctor said as he kindly stroked the back of Noah’s head. “Just beautiful…but my dear what is going on with you? You’re gaunt….and 94 pounds.  That’s not a healthy weight for a new mother.  Especially not one who is breast feeding.”

Noah was alert and checking out the examination room from over Lucy’s shoulder.  “I eat all day long.” she said as she shifted the baby from one shoulder to the other.

“What kind of foods? Tell me what your meals consist of.” the doctor was typing his notes into Lucy’s electronic medical chart.

“We have a professional chef at the house.” Lucy said defensively “Lots of vegetables and I eat pasta….Lentils….fried rice.  Healthy stuff.  He makes me extra meals during the day because I am always so hungry. ”

“I assume you’re still Vegan?”

“Yes, but I get ample protein.  I’ve been Vegan for twenty years.  I know how to eat.”

“It doesn’t look like you are getting enough of the right foods required to maintain a healthy weight. How often is the baby feeding?”

“Every two hours. Give or take…”

The doctor’s line of questioning was insulting, as if Lucy didn’t know how to take care of herself, but Lucy wasn’t exactly upset. Defensive, but not angry. She knew her weight loss was dramatic and probably shocking to someone who last saw her when she was super preggo.  It was understandable.  And Lucy had to admit that she felt like complete shit lately.  The weight loss was taking a toll on her, even though she was pretending for everyone else that it was a blessing to “pop back” to her old self so quickly.  No one really knew she was 15 pounds lighter than she’d ever been.

Lucy didn’t blame her Vegan lifestyle for the weight loss though.  It’s something else for sure. Lucy has been eating like a pig at a trough for weeks.  Never seeming to go more than twenty minutes without feeling like she is going to starve to death if she doesn’t eat again…like immediately.  She can’t get enough food in her, that’s the problem.

As the conversation continued, Lucy actually began to appreciate the doctor’s concern.  It validated her own feelings and made her feel important again. Being Noah’s Mommy was a lot harder than she had anticipated.  He’s high maintenance but she loves him. It’ll be better once he starts sleeping through the night.  She’s sure of that.  And once she’s not so tired anymore maybe she can get in to some sort of routine again where she’s out in the world instead of house bound.  She’s lonely and kinda resentful of all the attention Noah gets from Jared.  Attention that used to belong to Lucy and Lucy alone.

“I’d like to do some blood work but I’d also like you to eat some meat.” the doctor was saying.

“But…I don’t eat meat. It’s…just….wrong.”

“Cage free, cruelty free…whatever you like but definitely red meat.”

“Oh lord.”

“And start taking your pre-natal pills again.” the doctor sighed when he saw the look on Lucy’s face “Or you could stop breastfeeding.”

Noah turned to face the doctor.  Lucy cradled his head though it appeared he was holding his neck just fine himself.

“He is very healthy but I’m afraid the opposite is true for you Mrs Leto.  Let’s get a few pounds on you again. Gotta have you in tip top shape to handle such a big guy, right?” the doctor tickled Noah’s foot “… Ok?”


“How is your mood? Are you having any negative thoughts?”

“I think I’m just very tired.  I don’t have a lot of energy.” Lucy wasn’t about to admit how crazy her thoughts have been.  How she sometimes scares herself with how out of control her own imagination has become.

“I understand.  I think it might be better for both you and baby if you stop breastfeeding at this point.  I’m worried about your heart too. Your blood pressure is quite low. I think you might want to consider hiring some help until you get some weight back on.  I’m alarmed.”

As Lucy tried to absorb the doctor’s words, Noah began wailing.  His hungry cry.  Lucy felt conflicted about what to do.  “He’s hungry.” she said and the doctor popped up and began opening cabinets looking for formula samples.  “If you’re going to heed my advice, you might as well start now. The doctor found a premixed can of Infamil and a nipple and handed them to Lucy for Noah to drink.

Noah sucked the bottle down with gusto.

“He was hungry indeed.” the doctor noted then finished up his notes in the electronic patient file.  “We’ll see you again in one month, ok?  I want to see 10 pounds gained.  Alright?”



She knew she’d had a seizure the moment she woke back.  All the telltale signs were there, the tiny cuts on her tongue and the inside of her cheek where her teeth gnashed and tore at the delicate flesh.  The too familiar ache in her back.  The wet sheets beneath her.  She was embarrassed and she had no idea how long she’d been out of it.

She sat up slowly.  Her back so sore…Jared was sitting across the room, in a reading chair, his head in his hands, fingers gripped tightly in his long hair.

“You’re awake” she said.

He looked up at her, dark circles around his eyes, red where the whites should be.  He looked at her kindly and whispered “I’ve been up all night.”

“All night?” she asked.

“All night.” he confirmed.

“It was …bad?”

“Yes.” was all he said as he rose from his chair.  “This one was real bad.  Do you need help getting to the bathroom?”

She looked at the wetness around her and felt the pink settle high on her cheeks and her neck “I think I had an accident in the bed.”

“You did.” he said nonjudgementally.  “Can you get up? I’ll strip the bed.”

“No! Don’t do that.  I’ve got it.”

“Knock it off.”

She very carefully put both of her feet on the floor and sat at the end of the bed.  One hand resting on the sorest part of her back, the other holding her steady.

“Are you mad?”

“Of course I’m not.”

“But you’re …”

“I’m just tired. Here let me help you to the bathroom so we can clean you up and salvage some sleep before the sun comes up.”

She let Jared lead her quietly to the master bathroom where he guided her down in to his soaking tub.  He helped her disrobe as she sat on the floor of the tub.  The water filled in around her and he tossed her clothes into a laundry basket.

“I’m so sorry this keeps happening.” she said.

Jared kissed her forehead and smoothed back a tendril of wet hair.  “You have to go back on your medication.” he stated.

“But – ”

“There’s no but … you don’t see what I see…you have to go back on the medication….or…” he let his voice trail off.  They’ve discussed “or” ad nauseam.

He loved her, more than he ever has loved another, but he’s scared of her.  Of what her body does when they’re sleeping side by side in the night. What these seizures must be doing to the baby.  He’s scared and that’s not an emotion that Jared feels very often.  He’s not comfortable with the adrenaline that come with fear. He just wants everything to be ok.  Normal.  Even mundane.  But there’s an elephant in the room….and a tumor in her brain….