Welcome to Promises Promises
"Hello, Anthony. Welcome. Please come in and situate yourself so that you are comfortable."
"Hey, Doctor Phajhib. I told my mom you call me Anthony. She's all, 'If I called ya' Anthony you'd kick the shit out of me!' I'm like, 'Straight up I would.' She's jealous. Kosher to leave on the hat?"
"No, of course if it is a comfort to you, you must leave it on. It's very colorful. These are spectacular pink feathers. The words are symbolic?"
"Iron Maiden's a metal band. I know what you're thinking, but they're not devil worshippers. They're just admirers of Satan's style. Like some people think Nazi stuff is tight, but they don't necessarily hate Jews. I won this in the ring-toss at the fair like 15 years ago. My mom finally got rid of my waterbed and found it wedged behind the headboard. She calls me up and says, 'Fedders, guess what thing that you thought was gone forever I'm holding in my hand.' I knew right away. I was like, 'My purple Maiden fedora!'"
"It is wonderful to discover things we thought had been lost. Anthony, you mention during our last session...you mention that you have a great deal of anger towards your sister and your brother? I'm wondering if this is something that you would like to start with?"
"I don't have a brother Doctor Peeb. I think you mean my brother in-law. My sister's husband?"
"I'm sorry, yes. Continue if this feels comfortable."
"Well they're terrible parents and it bums me out. My nephew ate a thing of new car smell and he still has brain damage because of it and I blame them for how his life is gonna be. And I'm mad at them for the guilt I have to feel, and may feel forever, and the anger I have towards them about the guilt."
"I'm sorry, how you can eat smell? This is narcotic?"
"No, they sell it at stores."
"Like auto shops."
"No, parts stores, like Napa or Shuck's. Pep Boys 'n shit. They have Pep Boys in Pakistan?"
"I think that we do not. What form does it...what form does it come in?"
"It's like in a bottle."
"A liquid or a solid?"
"The stuff he ate was a solid, but they do make it in bottles too. You just pour some drops on your carpet and you make your car smell new. What he ate was like a little cake inside of this box that you're supposed to put out on your dashboard or maybe under your seat to make the car smell better. To make it smell new. But he got a hold of it and sucked on the damn thing for an entire car ride. Like a long ride too. My sister and her dumbass husband used to live in Mohag but they bought dope in the city, so they were always taking these long-ass rides to score. Braden was fucking around in the backseat and gettin' into shit he wasn't s'posed to, and he gets a hold of this cake, and they weren't watchin' 'im, so he sucked on it and now he's all messed up. Doesn't read good and has all these difficulties focusing. You can be all, 'Braden, where's your mom?' and he'll just look at you for a minute and ask if you just said something. You know? Like it's not registering in his mind? That's happened a couple of times. At least once."
"It is terrible when child is neglected. What did the doctors say?"
"They never took 'im. I mean this is sort of my opinion, but it's obvious. The kid's a moron. He's eight and he doesn't know basic shit. Didn't know New England was a state. I'm all, 'Braden...they have a football team!' He doesn't listen and he's...he's dumb. They're in denial. I tell 'em all the time, 'Braden's slow 'cause you both don't parent him right. He sucked that cake of smell and now you're all being punished for it.'"
"What do they say? What do your sister and brother in-law say when you tell them that you are angered by the mistreatment you perceive?"
"They say I'm whacked and he never sucked on it. Vixen says I should worry about my own shit. I'm all, 'I checked myself into 'Promises Promises' didn't I?' Even if it wasn't part of my probation I'd be here."
"How do you know that he did the sucking?"
"It's a hunch, but I respect...I'm respectful of my own ability to figure things out. I just think that's what happened."
"Perhaps...perhaps though that he didn't suck on this new cake of smell. Perhaps if the child is slow, that he is slow because of undiagnosed disorders or emotional problem. Is there history of this in your family?"
"My mom's dumb. My sister's dumb. I'm the lucky one."
"Yes. Anthony, while household products can be poisonous and toxic, traditionally they are made from benign substances or augmented with some kind of agent that would induce vomiting were it to be consumed."
"You sound like Mastah-Hatah and Vixen, only more smart with how you say it. Look, we make our own choices. That's one thing I will say for NarcAnon; it taught me that you can't blame other people for your misfortune. If someone had taken the time to explain that to me before I got heavy into crank I probably would've steered clear. Thanks mom."
"But for the child, the child cannot be held accountable for the choices he's made. This is parent's responsibility."
"Check it out: when I was little, like seven or eight? I could totally make lasagna. I made it all the time and I set the timer and shit, and never burned myself. Hardly ever. I made my lasagna with cottage cheese instead of the Italian kind."
"I think Ricotta."
"Precisely. Cottage cheese tastes just as good as Pricotta and it's way cheaper and you can get it late at night from convenience stores, which was perfect for me 'cause we lived behind one. I loved to cook super-late when my folks were either passed-out or sometimes one of their friends'd be all, 'Fedders! Make us some vittles and we'll get you baked!' Ok? It was known, accepted, that I was a good cook. Follow?"
"I don't. I'm sorry for that, but I do not understand."
"My parents, my mom and step dads? And their friends for that matter, were adults, right? But they looked to me as sort of an equal, and someone capable of performing a valuable service, right? A service that normally an adult would perform. They saw me as an equal. As a human being, not a child. I used to bake up my lasagna, or mac 'n cheese, or whatever we had. Actually it was rare to have the lasagna noodles around unless one of my dads just got paid or my mom scored hardcore at BINGO, so sometimes I'd just make a sort of chili mac or mustard mac, which is rad too; I still make that shit. My parents sat me down and said, 'Look, you're a kid but you're cool. Technically we're parents, but that's a label we're not comfortable with. We've got our own shit to stress about and so do you. Right? So start taking care of yourself and taking on some responsibility. They were informing me that I needed to start making my own choices, and accepting responsibility for my own actions. If I didn't go to school, I shouldn't be coming to them to write me an excuse note. I should write it myself or do the detention time."
"So you believe that your nephew, who is age...?"
"He's eight now. He was six at the time of the sucking incident."
"Yes, this alleged sucking. You say your six-year-old nephew was responsible for his own actions?"
"You didn't know not to suck on things when you were six? When I was six I could drive a stick."
"You're joking at me Anthony."
"I swear to god!"
"But what I am saying is that we are all different."
"Yes, I think very much that we are. We are all completely unique."
"Look, he made a choice. A bad choice. And know he's paying for it by having brain damage. And I'm paying for it by feeling guilty for him and by all the anger I feel towards my sister and Mastah-Hatah. They made the choice to be shitty parents. Even if he didn't get damaged from the car smell, it was by something they screwed up on. They won't accept that. I can't grow until they do."
"And these things...these are what are causing you to continue to abuse drugs and alcohol and commit crimes to finance your addiction to methamphetamine?"
"Does that not strike you as ironic? That you say everyone is responsible for themselves, but you say the responsibility for your drug addiction lies on the shoulder of your sister, your mother, your brother in-law and to some extent your then six year old nephew?"
"I see where you're trying to go with this, how you're trying to sort of package it perfectly and make it look like I should take responsibility for shit? But you weren't there. My nephew and how fucked up he is just one incident in a long line of stuff that's caused me to abuse. Stuff I didn't have control over. If you look at the timing of all these things? They coincide perfectly with me getting heavy into dope."
"But you have said...you have said that you've been abusing drugs and alcohol since you were eight years old. Your nephew wasn't even born then and your sister not even married."
"I used casually back then, but it was more for the social aspect. I wasn't dependant until my sister got married and had Braden. That's when I succamed. That's when I got helpless."
"Ok. This is very...this is. Ok. Let's try and separate perhaps for a moment the perception from the solution, our time is dwindling. What can you do, Anthony? What can you do now, at this point in your life, to regain control, regardless of what may or may not have been inflicted upon you by your family? What can you do to exact change on your life?"
"Well, I guess I could look in my heart and decide if I'm ready to forgive everyone for leaving me out to dry. You know? But I don't know. It's painful. It's painful shit I'm copin' with. That's why I turn to meth. I mean I'm the victim and you're...asking me to forgive. Here we go...I don't...shit, I don't need to be all cryin' and puffy-faced. I'm on kitchen crew in an hour."
"That's alright. This is the pain leaving your body by way of your eyes. Tell me what is going on under your glorious purple hat. Can you tell me this?"
"It's just too much sometimes. People don't think I hurt. But I do. I hurt mass."
"Can you do this thing? Anthony, can you look at me? Can you set free the anger? Can you take responsibility for, if nothing else, your own happiness? Can you forgive your family?"
"I can try Doctor Peeb. I can totally try. But I mean really, when you think about it, it's up to them. You know?"
About the author:
James Ward is precious to a fault. He spends evenings alone on his cot listening for the midnight shrill of the spider monkeys he calls, 'Le Petite Comediennes'.