A djent metal band on tour, driving to their next gig in an Astro van pulls off the sun-seared highway somewhere between the rolling windmill hills of California and the gas station angel sentinels of the Arizona border. I don’t know where we are exactly because the single lane highway to my childhood hellscape has been stopped for several hours in the — I look at the digital thermometer display on my rental car’s dash. An even one-hundred-twenty degrees Fahrenheit shimmers upon the hood. I know they are a djent metal band because I recognized their lead guitarist laughing at a $47 jar of royal bee pollen in a Whole Foods refrigerator last year. That was a lifetime ago. Three deaths ago, a year ago. This is how I measure time now, in the quantity and frequency of deaths. For a moment, I consider pulling off the road to be neighborly in this place where no one dares live and defy the fate reserved for mammals with short ears and not enough fossil fuels stuffed into their gas tanks.
Daydreaming as the A/C styles my hair like Farrah Fawcett, I think about my little sister and gaze into the heat mirage dancing in the distance. Before leaving on this poorly planned manic pixie fiancée road trip, I tried to explain why. I stuttered, searching for a reasonable explanation to give my fiancé. Why exactly I needed to drive across the desert alone in July with our pet poodle. Why I needed to do this a week before we flew east for another funeral. I told him that I had to leave because I was a mess. I am always a mess during my little sister’s birthday, the ironically unlucky date of seven-eleven. Plagued with debilitating insomnia, I didn’t want to subject him to my annual week of grieving. July 11th inevitably conjures memories of who Annie used to be. Before drugs, before prison, before my sister’s pimp pressed charges against her, before I tried to convince my mom to let me raise my younger siblings. Before my mother kicked them out of her house too. When people ask me why, I shrug my shoulders and tell them that my mom just doesn’t like teenagers.
Addiction is a slow death for which there is no ritual of closure.
Addiction is a slow death for which there is no ritual of closure. Annie has been addicted to a molotov cocktail of meth and heroin off and on for ten years. Compounded in my hopelessness for recovery are the problems…