Scarlett Sumac's Blog

APRIL 6, 2012 11:09AM

Coke and Crucifixion Do Not Mix

Rate: 42 Flag

My mother was standing in the kitchen in her freshly pressed cotton paisley blouse, stovepipe pants and black-rimmed cat's eye glasses.

“I really think you should stay home for Easter,” she said simmering some onions in the frying pan.

I stood, hands on my hips, thinking how weird she looked and said in a whiny teenage voice,

“I know but I never get to see my friends anymore and Angie has invited me for Easter weekend.” 

Angie had her own apartment in a town a few hours away.

Mum  looked out the window for a few seconds then looked back, “Okay, do as you please. You won’t listen to me anyway.”

She was right. Like most eighteen year olds, I thought I knew everything and asking her permission was a formality. Still it surprised me with the ease at which she said yes. I chalked it up to two things; she trusted me and also approved of my friend Angie’s invitation. Our families had known each other for decades.

On Good Friday I caught the bus out of town and transferred in Toronto. With a half hour to kill before boarding I decided to walk around the block. I passed rubbies with brown paper bags shuffling the streets while others were rooted in the doorways of deserted office buildings.

Maybe it was the carbon monoxide fumes from the idling buses but as I stepped upon the coach a strange feeling tugged at me. As we pulled out of the station I looked into the streets and thought … why are these people so alone, don’t they have families?

The windshield wipers squeaked in time with the drone of the bus. It was pissing down rain, just like Mum said, “It always rains on Good Friday.”

 

I arrived in Kitchener and met my friend. We had just finished high school the year before and spent the afternoon reminiscing. For a teenage girl Angie carried a womanly Marilyn Monroe figure, and being brought up on a farm she had a touch of Elly May Clampett. Myself, I enjoyed the liberation of the more androgynous 70's fashion. Being a scrawny girl in high school, I had agonized over relationships with boys then one day Angie turned to me and said,

 “ At least you know they weren’t just interested in you for in your body.”

Geez, thanks!” I said.

“No really, actually maybe they care what you think or feel,” she said.  I never forgot that and it left me thinking about her beauty being a possible liability.

But now that we were legal drinking age, we had our Easter weekend planned; we were all set to party. Saturday night before we went out, we drank some Boone's Farm wine and rolled a number for the road. 

A good rhythm and blues band was playing at a local bar and we danced as if no one was watching. Of course someone was. During intermission we headed out to the parking lot. A couple of older guys sauntered over, introduced themselves, said they were going to have a party later after the bar closed…did we want to go?  I was mixed about going partially because these guys looked so clean cut, so collegiate. Not my type at all.

I whispered to Angie, “Let’s think about it.”

We went back into the sweaty bar smelling of reefer. The effect of the drinks and the smoke started blending together as we danced our asses off to Mustang Sally. 

This story, could've, should've, ended right there. 

The band played an encore, made their exit and so did we. To the party, that is. 

I recall getting in the guy's car and flying past intersection after intersection of apartment towers. When we arrived the festivities were already underway. There were the mirrors and razor blades on the coffee table.

Mr. Clean started cutting up the coke. With a rolled up American twenty, he snorted the stuff up his nostrils and passed it to me. Back in the small town we came from, the closest I came to snorting anything was dancing to Clapton’s, Cocaine.

But here I was, a stranger in a stranger land and I took it – up my nose. Shortly thereafter I heard the scuffle of dog claws on the parquet floor.  From down the hall in came two huge shiny black Dobermans.  Someone said, “I hope you girls don’t mind dogs.”

Shit no, I don’t mind dogs: Irish Setters, Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and other doe-eyed types. But this pair of pointy-eared pinchers with studded leather collars, tongues hanging out of their mouths showing off jaws lined with rows of razor sharp teeth  ... had my heart galloping like a horse with no name.

There I was under the influence of cocktails and other concoctions with the hounds from hell staring at me and salivating two feet away. I look around for Angie who was nowhere to be found. 

Some preppy dude sets down a rye and coke in front of me and makes meaningless conversation. I hear the drink fizz and smell the sweetness of the liquor. I can hardly talk my mouth is so dry. He looks at me, “Relax, the dogs are harmless,” he says. 

Then, or now, I've never been fond of someone telling me to "Relax."  I start planning our escape.

 “Where’s the phone," I ask?

 “Why?” he says.

 “Just curious,” I say.

Finally Angie emerges from a room down the hall and sits beside me on the couch. I turn and quietly say, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Just then there is a rap at the door. In spills a gaggle of girls. I grab Angie by the arm and while both dogs and men sniff out the new arrivals, we’re out the door. The elevator takes us down nineteen floors. Call it being stoned, mixed with Catholic guilt, but when the door to the lobby opens, I expect flames licking the walls of Dante’s inferno. Instead I see the salvation of a phone booth and call a cab.

*** 

Back inside Angie’s apartment the adrenalin and euphoria of escape wears off, and I crawl onto a futon, the room swirling before my eyes. The red digits on the clock stare me down at 3:33 am. The bedroom door directly opposite the foot of the bed is ajar. A light from the hall is casting a strange glow in the room. I get up and shut the door hoping to get some sleep.

I crawl back to bed but a yellow streetlight from outside shines in through a sheer curtain drawing attention to a form on the back of the door. Confused I scan to make sense of the shape until an image settles, and I focus on what seems to be a human form, limbs hanging akimbo and useless.

Straining my eyes I see what seems to be a crucified Christ slumped on the back of that door. I lay before this Christ in the silence of the night except for the pounding of my own heart in my ears.  I’m so paranoid laying there I think I hear blood dripping from his hands and feet onto the floor. I press my eyelids tightly to shut out the vision.

Technicolour graphics explode like fireworks behind my eyelids. I peek and see him hanging there mouth agog, dead eyes staring back at me.  I want to call out for my friend but like in a dream where your voice is stolen, fear grips me and I am frozen.

I shake and barter with a God I don’t know and keep my eyes shut until the pink sky of Sunday morning rises. I peek through the swollen slits of my eyes to see that the defeated Christ with the crown of thorns hanging there was a bundle of long hanging robes with a small wreath around the hook at the top.

rsz_jesus_on_the_cross_john

My mouth is drier than an old cork and every cell in my body is screaming out for water. This was last time I mixed the "opiate of the people" with any powdered, inhaled or noxious substance.

I lay there remembering all the Easters of not having to wait until after breakfast to eat the ears off my chocolate bunny. I recalled the baskets, the bonnets, the white patent leather shoe with frilly socks, and gloves we wore with our new spring coats we got for Easter.

I remember looking out the kitchen window seeing a cottontail rabbit scamper across the yard sure it was the real Easter bunny. My Mum told me it wasn't the real Easter Bunny - because he is much larger - but it was one of his babies.

I pictured my Mum standing by that same window in her stovepipe pants and black-rimmed glasses. I imagine her leaning over, opening the oven door, the smell of turkey and easter dinner wafting across the kitchen.

With a pounding head I think about my own stupidity and about how cool my mother really is. I call the bus station to check the schedule and spend my Easter Sunday on a Greyhound. Homeward bound.

 

  70's Mum

 

This is an edited and reworked version originally posted as "Easter Revelations" on Open Salon 2010.

 

© Scarlett Sumac. 

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Nightmare producing read Scarlett.
Glad you went home.
So glad.
just as gripping - one cool mom
I'm sure there are nice Dobermans out there somewhere -- under different circumstances. :)

Mission: Wouldn't I love to go back home this weekend. People are gone; house is gone. Just memories now. And tales of teenage terrors!

Damon: Take awhile to figure these things out, doesn't it?
I understand Scarlett.
My childhood home is long gone and both parents, my siblings scattered everywhere, and three are gone over the edge of the sky.
Home. A hard word for me as well.
That exhale was me, I was holding my breath! My mom had those same glasses and slacks.
You figured it out in one bad weekend. More than an even trade. Nice post.
Excellent tale well told... reminds me of the many "Beggar's Banquets," I've attended over the years... stranded lost souls without family, drinking too much, smoking too much, trying in our altered states to find our way" back home." Hope you find your way to a Seder and/or a scrumptious Easter dinner... leg of lamb medium rare with asparagus and oven roasted new potatoes.
Quite the trip Scarlett. Sounds like you had a well-functioning bad vibes sensor, if only in the breach when it's most needed. There's a whiff of Wizard of Oz to this with the pull of far away enticements, strange characters, distorting substances and weird visions. And in the end you discover there's no place like home.
jmac:"Beggar's Banquet" with stranded souls; good way to put it. Oh, I'll be finding my way to a scrumptious meal. I'll be channelling my mother and making it here for a gathering. I hope you enjoy your holiday too.

asia: I heard that. Btw, I think we're the same age; our mothers ... stylish dames in their own way. I wish I had some of those clothes now. That woman in that photo had 8 kids! Can you believe it?

jlsathre: Yes, I've told my daughter I learned that lesson for her -- so she didn't have to. But I don't know if it works like that. Thanks for coming by.
Wonderful story, artfully written. I really liked this a lot. Thanks for sharing.
Great story for taking you back to the way you were when ... and I know some sweetie pie dobies.
Those trips will make you pay your dues, for sure. Glad you had a cool mom and a safe place to return to when the Mustang (finally)slowed down.
Scarlett, this damn near scared me to death! Sure glad you got out of there. We all did foolish things in our youth, but it sounds like you had good instincts and sense enough to follow them.
Rated! Great story.
Coming of age...on your own terms. I had to laugh at the line about the men and the dogs sniffing out the new girls. Well done.

Lezlie
Good thing your internal panic button works when all other cognative functions shut down.
What a great story, I hope you are putting it in your memoir. The one I absolutely have to read.
rated with love
I think of the Last Supper/Crucifixion story as a latter-day echo of the Greek Dionysian wine revels. Both involve the use of an intoxicant; in the Dionysus ceremonies he is consumed by his followers, and Christ takes bread, gives it to his followers to eat saying "This is my body."
Whew! Long strange trip, Scarlet. Perfect landing.
Abra: You were caught in the in-between commenting zone. Guess this does have a Wizard of Oz flavour with the "no place like home" connection. Then of course, the reality is as we get older, we really can't go home again. Your tunes were a great way to start off the day. Thanks.

Firechick: Thanks, how the van? Fun, I bet ...

nerd cred: Thank You. As they say, it's not the dog , it's the owner. And floppy ears help. :)

catch: You always have the great comments. Here's a cliche that may apply ... the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be ... ;0

Fay: Yup, I found myself in some pickles but I seemed to mostly know right from wrong. Or at least left from right ... :)

PatienceP: Nice to meet you.

Lezlie: The 'sniffing out' was pretty apropos ... great opportunity for an exit strategy. That Catholic guilt really came in handy in this situation. Nice of you to visit today.

Stim: Internal panic button, I guess that was it. Me Mum taught me right from wrong and though I diverted sometimes, her face or voice usually appeared saying "Smarten Up!"

RP: You're sweet. I met an lovely writer (in her 80's) known in these parts a couple years back and told her I was thinking of writing a memoir. She told me, "Dear, you're much too young to write a memoir." That was sweet too.
Great story, Scarlett. I'm waiting for you to make Editor's Pick. The best part for me was you thinking the robes and wreath on the back of your door was Christ crucified. Now, THAT is Catholic guilt. LOL.
Oh, this is just fabulously told, Scarlett. So glad you weren't about to tell about your friend's rape in that room. That was my fear.
Damn, I remember being at parties like that. With Canadians. In Kitchener. With a bunch of hockey players...

Cocaine is some weird weird s***. I remember praying with my teeth clenched that I would survive the night I also snorted and that I'd never indulge again.
I haven't.
Some nights are really about getting back on the right track, no matter what they seem like at the time. This seems like it might have been one of those times for you....and the description of your Mom and her attire is just priceless. I could tell exactly how she looked by your excellent words.
Loved this one, I don't remember it, loved the photo of your mom and hearing what a bad bad girl Scarlett was in the day!
I am thinking you had several mystical insights, filtered through your Catholic mythopoetic mind.
Along with the all important lessons of being careful, and Mom is cool after all , etc, of course.
The dogs remind me of Cerberus, who guarded the entrance to the underworld so that no souls who’d crossed the River Styx could ever return…he usually has 3 heads, but it varies..

The slumped crucified drippy Christ was real, no doubt…in the sense that “what seems to be/is/to those to whom it seems”, advice from Wm. Blake that is MUCH more than a silly tautological bit of verse…I personally live by it…

I mean, it was real, as you lay there that night, reflecting on your escape from the gates of true hell: what indeed could have happened, a lifetime’s worth of torture that never ceases.

They say He died for our sins, and here’s how I make sense of THAT : without Him, the man, the myth, the celebrity, the cultural icon, the whatever He is/or was…I think History would have gone a very different way…and a lot of bad shit was done in His name, but overall, the fact of his life and death and the meaning of it assigned later, has done more good than bad…this one man’s message of love conquered a savage Empire, then later, another brutal conglomerate of tribes…uh, Europe…

There’s a song, isn’t there, “Jesus, he’s alright by me..”etc.

Hm. This was a damn thought provoking post..

Mum in her black rims. My mom had a pair too, black, and curved, like Batwoman.
Great post. Re-posting to FB.
Working backwards here in between spring cleaning or some facsimile thereof:

James: I can tell you're a Frye scholar -- you always look for the underlying theme. I like what you said about the dogs, I never thought about the symbolism or as you say "mythopoetic" mind. Essentially, these events played out just this way. This is not a story that has been embellished; it's the straight goods. (In fact, I prolly left a bit out).

Yes, Jesus, man or myth - literal or figurative - his teachings remain despite the ravages of crimes and war committed in the name of religion. Like you, Jesus is just all right with me, too. Him and I, we'd get along. Love to sit and have some fish and loaves together, ya know what I mean? And Yup, Mom's/Mum's are pretty darn cool rocking the black rims. I always appreciate your in-depth comments.

Rita, dear: Thanks. I thought I came off as a "good girl' in this post. Darn! xo

Just Thinking: Ha, you've been to Kitchener parties too. I tell ya -- look out for those Canadians, they know how to Partay! Heard an interview from a travelling band who had travelled ALL over the world, and they said hands-down, the East Coast of Canada partied the hardest. By God, they never saw anything like it.

Erica: Yes, the right light, right bundle of whatever on the back of the door, mixed with the right substances, LO and BEHOLD, I maxed out on that good ole' Catholic guilt. Made me shiver to the core ...

Matt: Now, I've got the Grateful Dead trucking though my head. :)

Con Chapman: Indeed the Sacrament: "This is my body. This is my blood." This rings true except for the Greeks probably better libations than Boone's Farm Strawberry wine... I'm hoping.
Outstanding beginning to end! Ah, open salon, a place for writers. I had forgotten maybe. Gotten to where I hardly try any more but feel reinvigorated now.
The imagery, all of it. The story (which I may have missed before FORGIVE ME!!) is so perfect and timely SS.
Sheila: Thanks!

Trig, C'mon now ... like Jesus I believe in forgiving ... within reason, that is. ;) And by the way, I think that mini Yorkie or whatever that sweet little dog of yours is, is pretty cute too.
Wonderful story, I think we've all been there. Having an experience like that makes us realize how important home really is.

Beautifully written, rated.
Scarlett you rock poet you!
I really enjoyed your pumped up kicks...
Nice, Scarlett. I love that you went home for Easter. And that your mother was so willing to let you go. When you mentioned the dogs, I thought the cops were busting you. The Lord must have been watching over you that night. All night long, even after you crawled into bed. Awesome Easter story.
Happy as well that you went home and had (I hope) delayed bunnies and turkey.

Cocaine probably doesn't mix well with a good many things, at any time of year.

Thanks for writing this story for Easter.
Wow. Glad you were safe. Your mom was a brave one to allow you out for that. BTW, she looks a lot like me, a little freaky how much. Happy Easter!
I've read many of your writings, Scarlett, and this has to rate damn near the very top. You've packed so much into it: searching youth and lessons learned, served up in a way we all can relish and relate to. Happy Easter!
oh yes, dear old Frye.
and his master, the Big Guy, mr Bill.
Blake.

Blake would gently scoff at this:
"these events played out just this way.
This is not a story that has been embellished;
it's the straight goods. (In fact, I prolly left a bit out)."

He or ol Frye might say, all human life is symbolic,
the product of the Imagination.
(Time was, when this word 'imagination' was rather holy)
The image-making faculty...


They say we are responsible for our actions, mistakes, etc,
and we are, but we also create them...
for a reason...
like your adventure to hell & back....
YOU taught yourself this...it was NOT random...


I miss those black glasses...
oh how i used to hate them...behind them were her eyes...
was she Good Mother or Bad Mother today...?...
depends on the drinky drink, and of course..the eyes..

well, happy easter.
"Mythopoetic" aint even a word, i dont think. ay
Makes me think of all the opportunities I had to get into serious trouble and yet everything worked out. Glad that was your story too!!
Such vivid and well-executed writing!

As the mother of a 19 year old daughter, I love all stories that end with children realizing their parents have some sense and value, after all. It's vindication.
been there done that...now I am mom to 4 children. grateful that they are walking along brighter paths than I did...and yet I have told them all and their friends to remember that you don't have to finish what you start. if the situation is a bad fit, take it off...call me and I will fly there to save you. Cabs are a good Plan B.
Very very too close. I never liked those guys.
I hope Angie was okay.
For the first time in a very long time, I've struggled with this weekend ... too many shadows coming together. Reading your words, Scarlett, brings everything back to a better place somehow. Perhaps it was your sense of escape. Perhaps the homeward bound Greyhound. Grateful you, both of you, found your way ... safely back.
You have the best Mother and such great memories too!
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............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx & Smiles (ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
⋆───★•❥ ☼ .¸¸.•*`*•.♥ (ˆ◡ˆ) ♥⋯ ❤ ⋯ ★(ˆ◡ˆ) ♥⋯ ❤ ⋯ ★
I was holding my breath thru this account - so many possible awful outcomes. I was particularly suspicious of the dogs!
A great story set in familiar stomping grounds of Toronto and Kitchener, and I love that photo of your mother. I consider myself beyond-lucky that, while I certainly dabbled with the big C in the 80s, I never developed any kind of real relationship with it (thank my lucky stars).

Paranoia after coke? Never ….
Had a friend who was a Mormon who had a similar experience the morning after her first drinking party, though in her case the vision was herself in a mirror.

Were your eyes red that Sunday, too?

This is vividly and frankly told, Scarlett--and ample evidence of your good sense!