story #13

sick as secrets 1
This treatment center houses cockroaches and rats.
In the waiting room, I sit next to a girl who is withdrawing: shaking/panicked/pissed off. Her family-size bag of M&M’s tells me she wants heroin but is settling for methadone: the underwritten alternative/the controlled burn/velvet handcuffs. 
Her face is a gravel road. She has the broken-back posture of a prostitute. The electronic monitoring device on her ankle grounds her right foot with its weight.
A man with a Billy D. Williams smile greets me from behind bulletproof glass. He asks me if I’m a probation officer. This is the first time anyone has mistaken me for a cop. He hands me a blank Post-it note. I write down the name of the woman I’m here to see with a blue ink pen. He glances at my breasts and tells me to wait.
A blond woman in denim, dripping in turquoise jewelry, leads me into a conference room with tall, textured windows and ten ancient coffee urns sitting on a long white table. I remove the sunglasses perched on my head in reaction to her disapproving gaze. I show her my ID.
She tells me that my client has disappeared with an unidentified male/That I should notify child protection immediately/That my client’s clothes and personal effects will be housed in plastic bags in the center’s storage area for seven days/Her child will be transported to emergency foster care after school/All parental rights will be terminated/Thank you.
I walk out the front door, into the late afternoon sun, and light a cigarette.
My parking meter is paid for another forty minutes. I need a cup of coffee.  
– Ivy Louise
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