It was just another run of the mill Monday at rehab. Like always, the first item on our housekeeping list was the New Beginnings House. Run by the county, New Beginnings facilitated supervised meetings between parents and children when the children have been removed from the parents’ care.
Victoria and I volunteered to clean the nurse’s station, the small trailer about fifty yards away where they did physical check-ups on the children in foster care. The nurse’s station was an easy task, as it was infrequently used. A light dusting, bathroom wipe down and vacuuming took care of the little space. Lugging the vacuum down the slope was probably the most taxing part of the job.
“I have something to tell you,” Victoria said, as I unplugged the vacuum and wrapped the cord around the handle.
“What?” I asked, my curiosity slightly piqued. Day after day of the same people, the same stories, and anything new was as precious as a bartered can of soda.
“Well, you’ve got to promise not to be mad at me,” she said, looking down but keeping her wide brown eyes on me.
I honestly couldn’t think of anything she could do to me that would make me angry, except maybe swipe my laundry money. It’s not like she could spread a rumor about me that I would even care about. My entire life was somewhere else, my reputation already destroyed by this disease…affliction…defect of character…whatever you want to call it.
“Okay, as long as you didn’t steal anything from me,” I said.
She shook her head. “Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I would never steal from you.”
“Well, what is it?”
“I lied to you.” She had a strange smile on her face. I’d seen it there before, but I’d never been able to read it.
“Remember when I told you I was twenty-six, same age as you and Jennifer?”
“Well, I’m not twenty-six. I’m twenty-eight.”
I startled slightly. “Oh?”
“Yes. Only I’m not twenty-eight. I’m thirty.”
I stared at her.
“You’re not messing with me?”
“Why…why would you lie about something like that?”
She still had that strange smile on her face. “I don’t know. Sometimes things like that just come out. You know?”
No. I didn’t know. “Why do you think I would care how old you are?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t want you to think I was old. Like, you know, being twenty-six and in rehab isn’t bad. Thirty-one, though? That’s just messed up.”
I thought of the women here who were in their forties, fifties, sixties, hell, even seventies.
“Listen, I don’t care how old you are,” I said. “We’ve all got our reasons for being here. And I know we lie sometimes. That’s just what addicts do. That’s why we’re here, to get better. But I’m glad you told me the truth.”
“Really?” she asked. “So, we’re cool?”
“Yeah. I’m not mad.” I grabbed some wet wipes for the bathroom sink.
I really wasn’t mad. But when she got kicked out for her lies two months later, I thought about that strange smile, and felt relieved.