“no mother ever dreams that her daughter’s gonna grow up to be a junkie.”
That is the caption beneath a photo of one of my former students, which I came across recently. I stopped and looked at the photo for a long time. The image was incongruous with the caption, which is not to say that the caption was inaccurate, but that there were other photos that captured her point much better. This one was… well, it was cute. Like, playful. Like the girl I remembered sitting in the front of my American Government class absently flipping her flip-flop while she acted just like a high school senior should. I always liked her. And I had a soft spot for one of the boys she hung around too. I heard that he had a hard road after high school as well.
None of these kids came from places of ease.
I suppose that was something that always engendered a certain amount of emotion from me: frustration, compassion, interest, admiration. They were an tough crowd but such a willing audience when given the opportunity to be. Not many people give teenagers this opportunity.
I think that is quite a shame.
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the photo and it’s caption actually were appropriate precisely because of their incongruity. She was, no she IS a multi-faceted young lady. I could certainly look back and say “I saw the signs…” but that would be trite and unimportant now. And if I did see some kind of sign, I certainly did not have any sort of solution. No viable, believable alternative to present. Sometimes leading by example is not enough. Or the timing is off. Or it just seems so paltry in comparison to the uncertainty that the future guarantees.
I haven’t spoken with her in ages. If I did, what would I say now? I am not sure. Would I tell her: “I know how you feel.” What a lie. Would I say: “Things can only get better.” How trite. Would I suggest… offer… recommend… shrug… I think I would take Marilyn Manson’s advice and just listen. Even when she wasn’t talking I would listen. Especially then.
The life of a junkie is a heartbreaking one. I know this all too well. The ones around me have had devastatingly difficult lives. True also, they have made life for those around them difficult, and in some cases, heartbreaking. All you can do is be present – particularly in absence.
When I look at this picture I see the girl I knew but I understand that she is different now. But different only in the way we say in Asia… same same – but – different. Who knows how to articulate all the dreams mothers have for their daughters. There are just too many. But there is no mutual exclusivity within the context of those dreams. I believe she is clean now, or enough so that she can say she is an addict.
I hope she goes home soon.