We finally got to Huntington Beach, and stayed with T’s mom for a couple weeks. After our snowy misery back east, the good weather seemed just this side of paradise. T got to bliss out surfing every day, while I filled drawing pads and played in the sand. But soon it was obvious we were outstaying our welcome.
We bought an old car and headed north, back to Santa Cruz. By the time we reached Capitola, a quaint little touristy town just south of SC, we were too tired to go another foot. We found a funky old motel down by the water and got a room.
We liked the place – it was cheap, cozy, and near everything we needed, so we booked for a week, to see if we wanted to just stay there. I liked that idea, since we’d be farther away from T’s old crowd.
My perceived sense of safety from them wasn’t to last. T started calling all his friends to come visit. I was really nervous about that, many of them being heroin users. I hated the thought of T falling prey to their ways, the way he almost did in Hawaii.
We’d had a little house in Paukukalo, a tiny neighborhood outside of Wailuku, the main town on Maui. Somehow, T’s childhood friend Ricky found out where we were, and showed up. We let him stay with us, on the condition of no drugs. Uh-huh.
One night I wake up to odd thumping noises. I go out to see what the heck it is, to find him lying on his back half on and half off the living room futon, head thrashing wildly back and forth, sweating like a marathon runner, mumbling and crashing the palm of his hand onto the floor over and over, feet kicking and twitching.
T came out. I was about to try to wake Ricky up, but T held me back, saying, “you won’t be able to handle him, let me.”
He was right. As soon as T touched him, he erupted in a blaze, swinging hard, shouting and blathering, foaming at the mouth. T took him down with one swing.
When Ricky sat up again, T made him drink some coffee, got him into a more sober state. I’d never seen anyone go through withdrawals before. I went back to bed, absolutely freaked and frightened out of my wits.
Later, I awoke again, to find them fixing to shoot up, right there in the front room. I don’t think I have ever been as pissed off as I was that night. How dare he come looking for safe space and help, and then pollute us and our house and space with his disgusting drugs!
I was beside myself. I didn’t know what to do. I was volcanic. I ran out the door and down to the dock, sat down and got lost in anger and confusion for what seemed like hours. Dawn was pushing the night off when T came and took me home, still shivering with rage.
When we got to the door and went in, I shoved T out of the way and demanded Ricky leave that very instant. I didn’t care where the hell he went, just get away and stay away. Do. Not. Come. Back. Ever.
Strange cars started driving by our house. I learned later they were narcs, looking for Ricky. He had a stash of drugs he’d stolen from the infirmary at the local Chinese Tong Society – good move, right? OMG. Both the Tongs and the narcs wanted the drugs, and to catch and draw and quarter him.*
So here we are in Capitola, and I was damned if I was going to go through that again. But it was too late. Ricky and his smarmy pals were already in town, and wanted T to come hang out.
I scowled, crossed my arms over my chest and refused to go with him. I was revolted and ticked off.
I crawled into to bed, so disappointed in him. I thought maybe I should just leave him, if he was going to get pulled into this kind of crap all the time.
In the wee hours, sharp pains in my groin stabbed me awake. Like monthly cramps, but way worse. As I lay there curled up around my belly, I felt blood come gushing out of me in spurts. This was no period!
I realized I hadn’t had a period since before leaving for New York, a month and a half before – I was pregnant! Oh, man, this was bad.
I knew I had to go to the hospital – you know how you just know something? Well, I do, anyway – and this was one of those times. No question.
It was 2 am. T wasn’t back yet. We had no phone, so if I wanted him to take me to the hospital, I had to get up and go find him.
I crumbled onto the floor trying to stand. Blood was pouring out of me and down my legs. I somehow put on a skirt and shirt, and shoved a thick bath towel between my legs. I think I remembered to put my flip flops on. I do remember crashing out the door. Subtle I was not. Survive I would.
I vaguely remembered where they’d said they were going. I don’t know how I did it, but I found them at the top of the stairs of an apartment building a few blocks away. I think I must have had some sort of homing instinct.
I stood at the door knocking loudly. They thought it was the cops and went silent.
“I know you’re in there, T!” I shouted, “come on! I need you!” I sounded like a two-year old. I didn’t care. I was bawling my eyeballs out, crying for T, gut-sobbing afraid.
He finally came out. I could see right off he was sober. I was so relieved. If he’d been stoned I’d have turned around and gone to the cops and turned them in, myself.
We blasted to the hospital in what seemed like three seconds. We walk in, I go through intake, reporting pain and massive bleeding. Very obvious bleeding, as my poor towel was soaked through and dripping on the floor.
After an endless wait, frantic with impatience, I finally got up and, crouching over, holding my belly, wailing, bleeding all over the place, stalked right into the doctor’s office.
“You can’t go in there!” a nurse tried to pull me away. I straightened up, looked her in the eye, looked down at my mess, looked back up again. Didn’t say a word. She blanched and backed off.
As I so rudely invaded his office, the doctor looked up and did the one-over look, like I’m a horse in an auction, not a human.
“Have you been taking marijuana?” he calmly asked.
Stunned, how could I answer that? What did even the thought of pot have to do with what was happening to me?
In my head, I wanted to ask him “Were you born stupid? Or are you just practicing?”
But somehow I refrained, and said, “Doc, I’m dying and need help. Nothing to do with any pot.” I pointed down at the blood all over everything, now pooling on the floor.
He jumped up and did the whole drama, yelling for nurses and gurneys and stat this and IV that, and I was whisked off to the OR.
It turned out that, had I not panicked and gotten up, had I stayed sitting there complacently waiting for him to get off his ass and call me in, I’d have died. Of a burst ectopic pregnancy and tremendous blood loss.
Right there. I’d have keeled over out of that flimsy, hard, cracked plastic chair onto the bacteria-saturated floor of that smelly anti-septic waiting room.
I hate the hospital world. I hate the smell, the dull walls, the aura of fear. I hate how jaded they are, how focused on pills, how arrogant they are. I really hated that doctor.
The only kind people there were T and my blessed aunt, who shocked the shit out of me by coming to visit me to see if I was OK. Coulda knocked me over with a feather.
Yes, I was OK, finally.
We didn’t stay in Capitola. We found and moved into a wee cabin out near a dusty dry apple orchard in the Santa Cruz hills, where I could rest and recover, grateful to be alive.
That’s when Giuseppe the puppy, the beautiful brown stoned-eyed smiling Lab-Ridgeback puppy, came happily wagging and wiggling into our life.
* Neither the narcs nor the Tongs ever got their wish. Ricky overdosed a couple years later, all alone in the desert in Mexico.
© Angela Treat Lyon 2023
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