|Photo courtesy of George Hodan|
"I took her to rehab," he told me. "But then her mother got her out."
I knew this man only in passing... we'd smile at each other and say hello. But yesterday, we shared a bond when he let me know Julia* was gone. Our eyes shed the same tears -- wistful, stinging, bitter. I will never forget that moment.
Julia (*not her actual name) was my husband's and my favorite waitress. She always, always greeted us with a smile that lit up the room. She was kind, enthusiastic, and energetic. Julia knew how to make you feel welcomed in her presence. When I work late, my husband occasionally waits for me at the restaurant where she worked. On slower nights, they'd chat. Bill got to know her better than I did and started looking at her as another (older) grandchild.
"Did you see Julia today?" he'd ask when I'd arrive home from work. And for the past few weeks, I always said, "No." He wondered if she'd found another job. Yesterday, he found the answer to his question.
You see, while Julia appeared to us to be a gracious young woman with an infectious smile and a bright future ahead of her, she had a dark side we knew nothing about.
"She died a few weeks ago," the chef said in response to Bill's inquiry. I saw the look on his face and approached, not ready to hear the words.
"Julia died," Bill said, disbelief crossing his face like a knife dulled from too much abuse. I looked from his tear-filled eyes to the eyes of the chef and I knew it to be true.
"What... how?" I stammered. In my heart, I already knew.
"She O.D.ed," he said, his voice cold and hollow like a waiting tomb.
I felt weak and sat, my own tears now burning my eyes. Not Julia. No, not Julia.
This morning, as I drove to work, the heaviness of it all crowded out all other thoughts. I wept as I drove; words filling my mind. I knew they'd have to spill out onto the screen before I could properly function today. So here they are. My too late words to a blossoming flower with such a sweet scent, brought down by the glyphosate of this generation -- heroin. Oh, Julia. If only I'd known. Could I have done/said anything to have stopped this? That is the question haunting far too many loved ones of the victims of this insidious curse. Too many parents wondering. I am angry at/feel sorry for her own mother who, like all parents, wanted what was best for her 25-year-old daughter. She just didn't realize that Julia truly needed to be in rehab.
When I was in my 20s, heroin was something you heard about from the ghettos. "Junkies," we'd called them and thought little else about them. Heroin was not the destroyer in suburban American neighborhoods. It happened to other people. It wasn't in our schools, our playgrounds, next door.
Last week, a mother and father were found passed out in the front seat of their car with their children in the back. They'd been shooting up heroin. And they were driving a Mercedes Benz.
What the heck is happening? How can so many of our promising and brilliant and once-happy young people be choosing this drug over their families, their friends, their children? Children in our community are being orphaned by heroin. What?? What??
Today, my heart is broken. I feel helpless against the evil one. His name is heroin. And I hate him.