Friday, 31 January 2014

Rehab Blues, a short story by Sem Megson

On a dead Christmas Eve in South Central L.A., the dirty heroin threw her into an embrace with the floor and there she stayed, screeching “Merry Christmas to me” into a hole in the boards until the L.A.P.D. were called to the apartment complex to shut her up. The cops brought in paramedics, to her they resembled Santa’s Elves, tapping her with their little tools before loading her into the ambulance, and on Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, over rooftops she flew then down the chimney of the county hospital, where later they re-gifted her to a circuit court judge who sent her to rehab for thirty days.

It was her first stint for substance abuse and as a fierce loner, stoned or sober, she faked a catatonic trance to avoid interacting with other patients and in the treatment sessions she refused to talk, thwarting the therapist’s attempt to stick the hook on the question mark of Why? into her addiction.

Of course the enemy within is harder to shut down and after ten days in withdrawal, her brain, craving endorphins, did something to get them that was as nasty as anything heroin had ever done. While taking a shower, she imagined the stunted arms and legs of a parasitic twin, who had never separated from her and developed on its own, were hanging lifeless from the side of her hip. She began screaming, swatting at the vestigial limbs, and the staff were forced to put her into the care of a wet nurse with nipples of methadone.

The hallucination passed, but for several days horrific images of the parasitic twin plagued her detoxifying mind, making her paranoid that she was having a reclaimed memory. Her paranoia gave way to obsession and whenever she could escape from the staff, she searched her hip, skin cell by skin cell, looking for faded stitches or some remnant proof that she had been born attached to a twin, eventually deluding herself that she located the ridge that had separated their bodies, although it was just as probable that she found the San Andreas Fault.

Like most delusions, this turned out to be a double-edged sword. One side she used to cut an opening into conversations with fellow patients, rambling to them in the TV room about the twin sister or twin brother she would’ve had, if only. The other side of the sword she used on herself as she prepared to re-enter the world: it dawned on her that if she had been born with a dead human being attached to her, didn’t that mean she was part dead, too, and wouldn’t that make her a type of zombie, a member of the walking dead that only belonged in one place—a grave?

With no answer to the wrong question, she was released from rehab and it didn’t take long for her to become just another nameless, faceless junkie, desperate for a fix on the corner of Nowhere and Vine.

Sem Megson’s work explores how people both raise and lower themselves to deal with our ever-changing world and has been published in American and Canadian journals, and produced on stage in London, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Visit for a list of published and produced works.


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