Orange Sunshine

So I was sixteen and a smart, punky kid. I knew it all—had all the answers. My family life was shot. For a million years I had been beaten, battered, and psychologically abused. There was no one there for me but me, and I kept me buried deep with those little purple pills I bought from a long-haired hippie in Bean Town.

On a particularly bad weekend, (with he and she being my parents at each other’s throats) I left for the city. I stuck my thumb out on the highway. There were so many kids traipsing around Boston the cops never knew who to pick up first. I stopped on the way, picking up these little orange pills (from other some longhaired dude) called orange sunshine. I met a friend running from her hometown that I knew fairly well, and we went with some guys she knew that were sitting by the pond on the common.

Orange Sunshine

On the way to their apartment, we consumed the little orange pills. By the time the five-decker came up beside us we were zipped; I mean—zipped. We climbed four of the five flights (a mini-horror in itself) and poured into the apartment, giggling and snorting big guffaws over absolutely nothing more than the creaking of the stairs that seemed to never end in our heads.

I asked for the bathroom, and Holly pushed me off in a direction towards the front of the house. I staggered through the door, whistling laughter through my nose when I heard it: the screeching brakes and a sickening crash followed by some other not-too-promising noises. I stiff-legged my way to the window and peered out glass smeared with city grime.

The wreckage of the car had somehow made its way into an empty lot. I stood mesmerized as a lone man jerked his way out of what was left of the car. I could see his life pouring out onto the ground even from that distance. He careened along for ten or so feet and then fell over on his side, flopping this way and that like a fish pulled out of the water into the bottom of a boat. I screamed inside. I didn’t, know right away, I wasn’t heard; because I was too stoned to know I couldn’t scream out loud. Then he stopped….

Three days later, I found myself in a room with a bed, with me wrapped around myself in a corner. I stood slowly, groaning at the cramps locking my muscles. Holly must have heard me, cause she came running in, concern showing on her face. I looked into her eyes and saw the vision of the man dying in the parking lot. I could no longer convince myself I was invincible—that I was in charge of it all—that I could make it all right with those little pills fulminating in my brain.

Screwed over? Life had screwed me over. Life had placed me in a home where contraception should have been a religion: Where children learned early that whispering was a capital crime that brought the butt and the belt buckle into close, excruciating contact; where little children learned that to show fear was to insult those in charge and invite more anger; where big people were smart enough to put bruises in all the places that wouldn’t show. Somehow a dying man had strung it all together.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how or why. I had taken my abusers’ task to heart and was continuing the work. I was abusing myself—destroying my life. The worse way to get screwed over is to do it to yourself.

Copyright 1996 Joyce Bowen

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