[If you've never worried about what goes on in your medicine cabinet when you're not around, perhaps its time you did.]
Not all of Jordan's habits are as easy to overlook as the pot-smoking or present themselves in such shades of gray. Just a few weeks after the dismissive police visit, I find a small angry woman on the porch, clutching a set of keys in the same tight fist with which she's been banging on our front door.
“Hello?” I ask tentatively peeking out into the twilight.
“My daughter Brittney is in the ER right now, high on some drug she took at your house today.” She accuses. She looks both furious and terrified, an emotional state I'm well acquainted with. Still, I'm momentarily confused. The only kid I saw with Jordan today was Bret, a tall black boy with a mohawk and a perpetually startled expression. He and Jordan usually keep company with a couple of girls, but neither one is a Brittney.
“Are you sure she was here?” I ask.
“I picked her up right outside a couple of hours ago.” the woman answers sharply.
“Just a minute.” I leave her on the doorstep.
“Jordan!” I shout on my way down the hall. She's not in her room, but I hear the shower running and I knock loudly on the bathroom door.
“Jordan, Turn off the water.”
She doesn't respond.
“Was Brittney here this afternoon?”
“You said goodbye to her when she left.” Jory calls back through the door.
“With the mohawk?”
I swear I'd wring her neck if I could get at her right now. Instead, I have to continue to yell through the door, “Well she's in the hospital, her mother is on my doorstep and I need to know NOW what drug she took.”
The shower shuts off and then the door opens just a crack. I shove my foot into the crack, but Jordan is already pressed against the door, so all I can get at is a sliver of her wet face.
“She'll be fine.” My oh-so-casual fifteen-year-old assures me.
“You don't know that!” I have absorbed enough of the other mother's panic to be completely frazzled.
“She's just trippin'.” Jordan says calmly “In a couple of hours she'll come down.”
“Come down off of WHAT?” I want to shove the door open and shake the smug look off her face.
“Tramadol and Valium.”
“Where the hell would you even get something like that?”
“Ask Bret's mom. She'll know.” She smirks and shuts the door right in my face. I reach for the knob, and feel the lock click from the other side. The water starts again and the shower door slides shut.
I go back to the front door where the other mother waits, her jaw and hands still clenched. The chill of late fall brushes past her into the entryway.
“My son says she took Valium and Tramodial” I stumble over the name of the second med, because I've never even heard of it until thirty seconds ago, “but we don't have anything like that around here.” I almost say “for obvious reasons” but explaining to other people why we can't keep anything stronger than Tylenol in the house is something I'm always hesitant to do. Instead I let this woman process the information without further input. Some of the anger and color bleeds from her face. She looks even smaller than before. Finally she mumbles what sounds like a “thank you” and turns to walk away.
“Will you let me know how she is?” I call after her.
She does not answer.
I go back down the hall and slump onto on Jordan's bed, awaiting her emergence from the bathroom so we can dance the dance of toothless threats and unrealistic punishments.
“I can't stand over you every moment of every day,” I say when she comes into the room. “but for the time being, I want you in my office every day after school.”
“What am I gonna do there?”
“Sit down, shut up and do your homework until it's time to go home.”
“Can I hang out with the old people?”
“No. This is a punishment, not social hour.”
“You said yourself some of 'em don't get visitors for months at a time.”
“That's not the point.”
“You're going to deny lonely elderlies the pleasure of my company just to make a point? Harsh.”
In the morning, when Jordan and Jay leave to scour the the flea markets with Jay's dad, I dig through her room and find her stash. More empty bottles of Robutussin gel caps, enough shake to fill a pot pipe, five Vicodin, two more Valium, a blister pack of caffeine pills and inexplicably, an empty bottle of nutmeg from my spice cupboard. For a moment, I seriously consider pocketing the Valium. Lord knows there are going to be more moments when that particular chill pill would come in handy, but in the end I decide that the hypocrisy would be too blatant. I suppose I prefer my hypocrisy to be a bit more subtle. I flush the pills and toss the packaging.
The boys bring home pizza, which we all devour, including the ill-tempered greyhound who will invariably be sick for two days afterwards. While at the flea market, Jay's dad found a Vietnam-era footlocker for Jory's growing collection of war memorabilia. She's arranging her stuff inside of it when I come down the hall to deliver freshly folded laundry.
“I see you found my shit.” She says casually as I unload clean socks and t-shirts onto her bed.
“It's my job. Actually it's my job to keep you from getting it in the first place, but short of that...”
“You don't know what half this stuff does. Hell I don't even know what half this stuff does. Like Nutmeg. What the hell is up with the nutmeg?”
“Nasty, that's what it is. Do you remember when Uncle Mikey came to visit and I had that flu thing?”
I did. She was god-awful sick for three days.
“Who the hell would want to get high off of nutmeg?!”
“Lots of people. Once.”
“So I can't keep it in the house any more?”
“No, no” she assures me, “You can. It's off my list.”
“Do I get to see this list?”
“I can't kiddo.”
After dinner I polish off a bottle of red wine instead of the confiscated Valium while Jay and the boys watch Smallville. I am unloading the dishwasher when the phone rings and Jory dives upon it. I catch enough of her animated whispering to figure out that it must be Brittney on the other end if the line. The call doesn't last long, and when she hangs up the phone she turns to me.
“I told you she'd be fine.”
“Maybe she is, but what about next time? You guys aren't immortal, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah, I do too much. I'm not superman, you know.”
Foiled by the family habit of deflecting real conversation with movie quotes, I sigh and turn back to the cupboard but remember one more thing I'd meant to ask.
“What?” She pauses in the hall, shuffling her feet as if to make a quick getaway into the living room where Lex Luthor is about to uncover Clark's secret.
“Is it Bret or Brit?”
“Either one, just as long as you don't call her Brittney.”
“For months now, I thought she was a boy.”
“She gets that a lot.”
“Is she transgender?”
“No, she's a lesbian.”
“It's just that if she was, and if she needed someone to talk to, you know we know people. “
“I know we know people.”
“Because I was thinking that this would be a rough town to...”
“Just a lezbo, Mom.”
“Ok. Anyway, I'm glad she's going to be ok.”
Jordan makes a cartoonishly slow-motion jog back into the living room and dives onto the couch. As I finish cleaning up in the kitchen, I think again of Brit's mother, how familiar her mix of heated emotions was last night. I wonder if I should call her, to apologize or commiserate or try to connect in some meaningful way, but I don't. I will see her only once more, a year and a half later. She will greet me with the same quiet fear and hostility as I hug her child so hard and so long that I am half-surprised neither one of us breaks.
*Note: My youngest child died at the age of 16 from an Onycontin overdose. One year earlier, she revealed her true gender and changed her name from Jordan to Alice. The cross-gender pronoun usage, while awkward here is intentional. More of Alice/Jordan's story is posted in my previous diaries and at Laurustina.com.