Meeting her

  • 10 Aug - 16 Aug, 2019
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

It all seemed like it had happened yesterday even though it had happened some 6 months ago… when I met Sana.

As a journalist I was ready for any kind of project but when my boss told me that I had to go to the city’s largest alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation/psychiatric center I had my doubts and misgivings.

“Am I doing a piece on the hospital? How they have set up and how they conduct with patients?”

“No! You need to interview a patient. She specifically asked for an interview. She wants to tell her story.”

I had to admit that my interest was piqued.

“She’s on drugs, or used to? And she’s been clean for six months now. She wants to share her story. I expect her journey out of drug use. You need to go and meet her today and I expect you to report there every day till you’re done. I want a thorough piece. These are your clearance documents. It’s a high security establishment. Good luck!”

With a wave of the hand I got my cue to leave. I went back to my desk and completed a few necessary correspondences. Collecting my stuff, I left the office.

It took about an hour to reach my destination. The institute was located at the outskirts of the city. Driving towards the gates I felt that it was definitely an exclusive establishment. This was where the rich and famous came to get cured, I thought to myself. Your everyday run of the mill junkie will not be allowed past these gates.

“Humph. The rich and famous and their ways,” I was not sympathetic. I envisioned a rich brat who had all she ever wanted in life and was still unsatisfied and turned to drugs for some more excitement. And after one fix after another she started abusing drugs probably supplied to her by her boyfriend because she wasn’t getting the high that she needed. I knew the kind well. Her story would not be more different. Story of a spoilt brat who had everything yet was unloved and uncared for and drugs became her only escape. I snorted out loud. I began to wonder why my editor was even bothered. Wasn’t it better to interview a street junkie who turned to drugs because he couldn’t feed his family in the wake of soaring food prices, utilities and joblessness. Or the family of a mother who had to kill herself and her children because she couldn’t feed them? Was my editor giving in to political pressure with this interview?

After the guards scrutinized my documents carefully and asked me a few pertinent questions I was finally given the green light to drive through to the parking area.

My mind was abuzz. I would wrap this up in a day I was sure and write my piece within a few hours tomorrow. There really wasn’t any challenge to be honest. I already had it all worked up in my head.

At the gate all my “extra” belongings were taken away. My laptop, my bag with all the stuff. My shoes were replaced with sterilized slippers. I was only allowed a writing pad, a pen and my recorder.

I was informed that my patient was on suicide watch and that’s why they had to be extra careful.

Of course she is; she’s a drama queen. She deserved the best treatment that money could buy and why not go for the extreme; a suicide watch would go nicely with the family. More drama, more attention.

In my heart of hearts I didn’t like where my thoughts were going regarding this woman who I hadn’t even met but I couldn’t help myself. Being brought up in a middle-class family and being short on many of life’s pleasures I didn’t turn to drugs or other self-destructive habits. I kept my sanity and my balance. I was proud of my achievements. On the other hand when I look at some of my rich friends blessed with nearly every luxury of life that money could buy, they seem to be unhappy, not content with life. I couldn’t help but despise them. I could never understand why they were being so ungrateful and I hated them for the fact.

I had reached the door. There was a small window that I peeped into while the guard unlocked the door for me. I couldn’t see anyone inside.

“This is a buzzer that I want you to wear around your wrist. If there is any confusion or she gets agitated please do not hesitate to press it. There will be a squad here in a matter of seconds. Keep in mind she isn’t just an ex drug user. She’s under suicide watch and psychiatric care.”

I was ushered in and the door was slammed shut behind me.

I saw her. She was curled in the corner, almost in a fetal position; a classic sign of schizophrenia. But if she wasn’t lucid how could I interview her, I thought. There was no furniture. The whole room was padded, including the floor and I assumed I should just sit on the floor. I sat a safe distance from her observing her silently.

I began to take notes in my pad.

1. In her early twenties.

2. Appearance disheveled

3. Hair cropped and short

4. Finger and toe nails either cut really short or bitten

5. Clothes reasonably clean

6. Strange odour in the air, maybe disinfectant or calming vapors

7. Showing a complete lack of interest to my presence

I really began to wonder if this was the person I was supposed to interview. She made no attempt to speak to me.

The room was devoid of a clock. After what I thought was about a half an hour passed, I began to get restless. I tried to speak to her several times but there was no response.

After what seemed like an eternity I decided to abandon the interview mission and as I was about to press the buzzer while getting up, she suddenly spoke.

“Where are you going?” her voice was hoarse and husky, kind of spooky.

I stopped midway.

“Nowhere,” I replied robotically. For the first time I was scared of being alone in the room with her.

I began to wonder if there was a demonic presence around her as well. Her voice sent a shiver down my spine.

“Then sit down.”

I did as she told.

“Turn on that recorder now. They’ve allowed you to bring it, am I right? Turn it on and talk to me.”

I quickly got it started and looked at her. She made an eye-contact. I could observe her face closely now. At some time in her life she must have been beautiful. She had a pronounced bone structure and an innocence that was captivating.

“You think I’m pretty, don’t you?” she said making it more like a statement than a question. “They all think I’m pretty. Till they’ve gotten a piece of me or more of my daddy’s wealth. Then I’m nothing.”

I stayed quiet. The more she talked like this the more material was there.

“Oh, so you’ll take it like that. Let the mad woman speak. Let her bring it all out in the open. There’s no fun in that you know. There’s no excitement.”

She looked at me and I could almost feel her eyes burr into mine.

I looked away as I mumbled.

“I won’t let you off easy. I didn’t take drugs because they were fun. I took them because this life sucks. Reality sucks. And only drugs gave me the release that I needed.”

I controlled the urge to roll my eyes but there it was what I was waiting for. Her story was the same as all these rich people.

“Oh I won’t give you a sob story of sorrow and pain. No! I want to tell you what it feels like. The high. The drug induced pleasure. The journey from hash to weed, then meth, and then heroine. They don’t call it heroine for nothing. It’s like the queen of all drugs.”

She suddenly became quiet. As if she had given too much too soon.

At that time someone unlocked the doors and one of the staff stepped in and announced that my time was up.

I had been there for a little more than an hour and that was the time I was allowed.

“Leave!” she almost shouted and I got up and ran out.

Once I was finally in the car I began to collect my thoughts. She was an enigma that was for sure and I was definitely keen on knowing more.

I drove away in a daze but I would be better prepared the next day. I spent the rest of the day researching and preparing my list of queries.

Next morning, I reached the gates of the hospital at 9 am. The security procedures took about 45 minutes and close to ten am I was ushered into her room.

She sat up straight when she saw me walk in.

“You like me, don’t you?”

I sat down pretending I didn’t hear her and began to set up my recorder.

“You’re just like the rest of them. Dishonest with your thoughts and feelings. Fake and plastic. Saying the politically correct thing even if it’s not true. Hiding behind a mountain of lies. You’ve been lying so long that you don’t even know what is real anymore.”

She took a long pause.

She made sense. I had read somewhere that people turned to alcohol and substance abuse to numb the emotional pain. They were pure souls and full of feeling and the only way to dampen their emotions was through narcotics. They were not bad people. They just couldn’t function in a world where everything was made-up and make-believe and where people lied to get their way and there was a complete disregard to basic human decency.

I wanted to know more. I wanted to plunge into her life without any safety net. I wanted to know why she tried to kill herself. And I asked the taboo question.

“Haven’t you thought of it many times? When your feelings were undermined? When your self-worth and esteem was crushed? But you didn’t because you’re a coward. Killing yourself takes a lot of courage. It’s not an act of the weak!”

My hour and 15 minutes were over.

I met Sana for the next week every day. She told me about how her servants abused her when she was a child. How her mother and father doted on her yet refused to believe her accusations. How she then became the girl that every guy wanted because of her family name and popularity.

She described the feeling and the high she got after experimenting with recreational drugs and how her life changed after using heroine. Her life became heroine. She was consumed by its potency.

“How did you end up here?”

“A final act of so-called love by my parents. They wanted to save me. I’m clean and sober but not a day goes by that I don’t think about using. I will find a way you know. This isn’t the end.”

This was my last meeting with Sana.

When I reached the next day to meet her I was told that her doctor wanted to see me.

I walked in thinking that she probably had to tell me something about her health. I was asked to sit down. After brief introductions she seemed pensive and thoughtful.

“Sana overdosed last night. She bribed one of the orderlies to smuggle in a syringe with liquid heroine. It was extremely potent and would definitely kill her. The orderly is missing. Judicial action will be taken against him when he’s found. I’m so sorry. I believe you and Sana had become very close and that she was confiding in you. I would like a copy of your script before it gets published to ensure anonymity and also to evade any judicial action against us. Her family is already suing us but we have a public image to maintain.”

“They all lie. They hide behind the truth and deliver lies to save themselves.” Sana’s words echoed in my ear.

“Once you’ve tried heroine the world opens up before you and you begin to see the truth like a newborn babe. There’s no turning back.”

“Sana left you something too. This is the key to safety deposit box. She was allowed to keep her valuables there while she stayed with us. She asked me to give you the key. However, I would like you to divulge its contents to us for reasons of security. We should go down to the vault to see for ourselves.”

Almost robotically she held me by the arm and led me out of her office. I was in a state of shock. I wondered what Sana would have left for me.

When we reached the vault she handed me the key I felt as a sense of decency. I could see that she wanted to open the box herself. I stood before the box and turned the key. There was a thick wad of paper that almost fell out as I opened the vault. There were some drawings and scribbling that she probably got a chance to do before she was put on suicide watch. I handed the doctor the papers. Behind it all was a small, tiny envelope. I reached out for it and quickly slipped into my pocket. The doctor didn’t notice, she was too busy looking at the papers.

“You can have these after I show them to the family.”

After that I was ushered out of the building. I promised to send them all my communication with Sana via email.

Once in the safety of my car I unwrapped the envelope. It was a syringe. And there was a note.

“This is heroine my friend. When the world becomes too much to handle, take it.”

I still have that syringe inside my dresser, hiding behind all my worldly possessions. I’ll use it in an emergency. Or am I living the emergency and still don’t know it? •