, Juvenile Fiction
, Social Issues
, Young Adult
, Girls & Women
, Emotions & Feelings
, pretty amy
, lisa burstein
We weren’t allowed to talk to each other, or to her unless she talked to us first, which seemed like a hurdle to the whole therapy thing. Apparently I was supposed to have some sort of psychic connection with the girls around me, but I tried saying, OMG, WTF , This f-ing sucks! telepathically, like I might send a text, but I received no response.
“You each have your refuse sticks and bags,” she said. “You will be required to pick up at least two pounds of trash, and we will stay here until every last one of you picks up your two pounds,” she yelled, standing in the seat. “This is to teach you accountability to your community. You need to learn that the things you do affect those around you.”
I didn’t think you were supposed to spell out things like that. I thought you were supposed to allow the patient to make her own connections. Evidently she didn’t have time for that.
She also didn’t have time for introductions. I didn’t find out her name, which was Ginny, until she passed around a time sheet. On the top was her name and below that six others that I tried to match up with the girls around me. I wondered if they were doing the same thing and if I had been mistaken for anyone else. I hoped it was the waif-thin girl with the Barbie-doll blond hair or the pretty brunette with full, red-grape-colored lips. It would have been nice to have someone see me that way for once.
We went to work, hobbling like hobos on the side of the road, scattering like little bugs on the shoulder of the highway. Ginny yelled through her megaphone as we worked, telling us to view the trash we picked up as a gathering of all the souls we affected with our drug use. To see each piece as one more person who forgave us.
I picked up an empty box of adult diapers and wondered who that was supposed to be.
“Hey,” whispered the waif-thin girl with the Barbie-doll blond hair. “What’d you do?”
I looked over at Ginny. She was busy shining her megaphone. “Pot,” I whispered back. “I got pulled over with my two best friends on the way from prom.”
“That was you?” she said, her eyes getting wide. “Cool.”
I got respect for being bad—that’s something Daniel and my parents would never understand. Something Joe would never understand.
“Yeah,” I said. I couldn’t help basking in her admiration.
“Cocaine,” she said. “Well, I got caught shoplifting, but I had cocaine on me.”
“Crap,” I said.
“Yup,” she said. “I’m pretty much screwed.”
“Me, too,” I said.
“Not as much as me,” she said.
“It was a lot of pot,” I said.
“It was cocaine ,” she said.
“No talking,” Ginny yelled from her newly shined megaphone.
Without Lila and Cassie, was this the way the rest of my life was going to be? Empty conversations with girls I barely knew and would probably never know , where we talked about whose life sucked more?
We went back to work. The side of the highway is where average trash goes to die. I picked up used condoms splayed out like squashed earthworms after a rainstorm and plastic bags of unidentified brown, yellow, and green stuff. I grabbed greasy wet paper bags with any number of surprises inside: maggot-infested, half-eaten hamburgers; the contents of someone’s car ashtray; fruit like rotted-out teeth. The list of shit went on and on, while Ginny yelled through her megaphone, “Remember why you are doing this. Remember that you can make a difference. That your life has consequences, that your actions have repercussions.”
I tried to do what Ginny asked, but it’s hard to heal when you’re supposed to find significance in picking up a used tampon.
Besides, wasn’t I the only person who had been affected by my drug use?
I was the one who had been arrested. I was the one who would have to answer for it and who had to go through all this crap. I was the one who had to try to figure out what to do next.
When my parents and I arrived for