A Pack of Cigarettes
The last days of July. About 1 PM…
I was in the upper deck of Barnes and Noble in a comfortable chair, refreshing my memories about Russ Barkley’s notions of ADHD while I also downloaded a bit of software.
She was early 20s, freshly sunburned, tall, blonde, wearing a very short black shift, and warming a chair two seats away from me and alternating between sleep and tears. She left for a few minutes and returned. I glanced her direction and she caught me with a huge smile and steady eye-contact.
Weird. I’m balding, gray, skinny, and wrinkled. I looked away.
Another fellow asked if she were alright. “I’m just resting, It’s OK isn’t it?”
I mentioned that I too as a little concerned even though the store was filled with us old guys who napped with a book in our lap.
She smiled. She cried. She smiled. She noticed Barkley’s book.
“I have ADHD….and some other things. Can I please borrow your cell phone to call a friend? I’m stranded here.”
I punched the buttons for her and she left a message, a plaintive “Come get me. I’m stranded. I’m scared.”
“Oh God, it’ll be hours before he can come!”
"Where does he live?"
“Can I give you a lift?”
“Five minutes from now…”
“Oh that’s wonderful! Now I feel really happy!”
I learned that she took 90 Ritalin pills last night, had walked all night, and had skipped her Risperdal and Prozac for several months. She was waiting for a spot in rehab but her social worker “blew her off” yesterday.
As we left, “Do you want to buy me a pack of cigarettes?”
“You should always listen to the Holy Spirit…I usually always listen to the Holy Spirit.” I held the door open.
“How do you spend your time, what do you do?
“I’ve spent a lot of my last ten years shopping for docs and for pills.
“Where am I taking you?”
“I think his house is in Plymouth Meeting. I’m sure it’s in Plymouth Meeting.
But I don’t remember the street. It’s Woodside, or Woodburn, or something like that.”
“We’ll find it.” But I thought of ERs, shared that thought with her, and was rewarded with a giggle and silence.
She called her guy again: “I got a ride. You don’t have to come and get me. You can take me for Chinese tonight.”
We rolled on 202 and then 76 and then 476. Most of the exits promised toll booths. I wove between them and emerged near the mall in Plymouth Meeting. She told me her father loved her and that she could go back home when she got well. Her friend was “crazy but funny and maybe a little autistic and earned $10 an hour” but he let her live with him. She also wanted to quit smoking and to exercise … she also wanted to lose 20 pounds and get back down to 108.
“But that’s where you are now.”
“No, I’m not. I’m fat.”
We had a few quieter moments while a little word salad danced between her teeth.
We got off the expressway in Plymouth Meeting but she still didn’t know where to go.
I parked in front of a Marriott - to get directions, not a room - and got out of the car. She remembered “It’s on Woodbridge off of New Hope Road.”
The girl at the desk quizzed Google and found no Woodbridges but did find New Hope and gave me a map.
The two of us confused characters followed the map and finally, “I know where I am.”
“Turn right on Belvoir just ahead and Woodbridge will be the third street on your left.”
It was. And immediately to our right was a police headquarters. I turned left.
“We need 1066, it has a wishing well in front of it.”
Sure enough. A wishing well and 1066 behind it.
She disconnected the seat belt, hopped out, and said, “Thanks guy!” and loped off across the lawn and toward the porch without a look back.
“Stop your drugs. Go to rehab….”