by Karley de la Filth
“Oh my God, Mags! Why doesn’t anyone know this?” Frankie yelled from inside the dumpster.
It was pitch black outside, somewhere between midnight and morning. The a.m. before the sunrise. Maggie sat in the passenger seat of her new boyfriend’s car, her legs hanging out the open door. She had only recently secured the boy after several months of flirting so hard she thought she would burst. “Very few live to tell the tale,” she said.
None of the children came out perfect. Maggie was the first. A small hole in her heart. Her mother was devastated. The second child had a tumor the size of a golf ball on her kidney. The whole kidney had to be removed. The mother continued her quest for the perfect family. The third child: blue, open-heart surgery. Then there were several years when the children were okay, normal-ish, beautiful. Until Maggie got sick.
Baffled, the doctors said Lupus. Sed-rate skyrocketed. High fevers. Major joint pain. The doctors said Hospitalization. Needles, screaming, crying. The specialists said Arthritis.
Dangerous medications and wheelchairs. Maggie’s joints deteriorated. The Rheumatologist said Joint Replacement Surgery.
Maggie found herself in a nursing home, the youngest patient there. She had more in common with the nurses and aides than any of the aging, toothless men and women who roamed the halls. In her spare time, which was all the time, since she only had therapy for two hours every day, she befriended the nurses with her ability to speak clearly, her upbeat attitude, and opinions on everything from books to “America’s Got Talent.” Not that Maggie ever watched it before she was forced to share a room with a stinky 70-year-old woman who put it on every night.
With her arm in a sling to keep her from jostling her new shoulder, and her belly full of pain pills, Maggie would lay in bed at night and daydream about what life would be like when she got out of the home. In the sweltering heat of the room she shared with two other women who hated air conditioning, she wondered if life would change at all.
In the morning, more pills… vitamins, antibiotics, Oxy. The whole place on drugs, or begging for drugs. Her overweight roommate, recently recovering from back surgery, crying about how much pain she was in… here, take these drugs. Her other roommate with the weeping sores on her legs, hissing in distress when the nurses helped her put on her circulation stockings… here, take these pills. Two floors of elderly people all made compliant with some form of pills to make them high.
Maggie quickly became bored with the whole scenario. There was only so much “Bonanza” she could watch. When the junkie, the kleptomaniac, and the abusive Christian patients were all discharged, Maggie wanted to go home, too. The way to do that was to get off the pills, eat her meals, do her therapy, and beg her doctors to release her.
Getting off the painkillers was easy. Maggie’s young body had accepted the new joint without much pain. The pills had quickly become a way to relax her brain, so she could handle the stench, the heat, and the woman out in the hall screaming ‘Get me out of this Hellhole!’ The Oxy and the Trazadone numbed her down enough to sleep, even when the aides came into the room at 3am to take her vitals.
Three weeks in, Maggie got her release papers. When she packed her stuff, the nurses and aides were depressed. They hated to see the good ones go. Room 150 wouldn’t hold the same air of fun without her. The head nurse came at her with forms to sign and an unexpected gift.
“You should take these with you. Your insurance paid for them. If you don’t take them, we’re just going to throw them out.” The nurse handed over a gift bag of pills. Maggie assumed they were her vitamins. It wasn’t until she got home that she realized that there were 130 oxy pills, still in their bubble cases, inside the bag.
Throw them out. The words echoed in her head. And boy did those Oxy come in handy once she got home and found out that nothing had changed.
Feeling like she went through the whole experience for nothing, Maggie became fearless, or self-destructive. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. She drank. She flirted and hooked up. She popped those pills and zoned out in front of the television for hours while her family passed her in the living room. She loved those pills, and she ran out.
Then it turned out that he loved them, too. He was willing to jump into a dumpster full of dirty adult diapers to find the discarded meds. It’s not like they were thrown away in the same bags as the shit. It seemed worth it to save a couple hundred dollars, make a couple hundred dollars. The stench would wash off.
So here they were, in the middle of the night, her lover finding buried treasure. The three weeks she spent in the nursing home were paying off now.