In the Spring of 2015 I had my first ever story published in a magazine, in the "Posts" section of Oregon Humanities Magazine. The theme was fix. I figured I would repost it here because well, I was pretty damn proud. The story was not easy to tell. I am still trying shed the shame of that story. But maybe we need to re-imagine what it mean to be "fixed" and "broken." Maybe we are all just fumbling, flailing creatures clawing our way towards truth, meaning.
Architecture of the Broken
I have an opal-colored, oval rock on my five-dollar rummage sale bookshelf, carved with the word inspire. My licensed addiction counselor gave me this rock on my graduation as a message of encouragement, something to turn to when times were tough. It made my triumph traceable and palpable, something I held in my hand after a difficult day.
One year and six months after graduating, I got a call from my counselor. I immediately recognized the fluttering frequencies of her sweet soprano. I had sent her a card almost a year ago to thank her. I thought she had forgotten about me, that I was just another faceless patient. But she asked me to come to treatment and tell my story.
Maintaining sobriety for more than a few months seemed beyond my outstretched fingertips. But I made it. And I would be on the other side of the equation this time.
Upon returning to treatment, I felt a strange alchemy of emotions: elation, pain, happiness, apathy, pity, gratitude.
Since I left the treatment center, management had changed. They had taken down the fading picture of a haggard-looking Pope Benedict that was plastered on the wall outside the cafeteria. My junkie friend Tom and I tried to steal that picture for a souvenir of our pilgrimage through rehab. We meant no disrespect to the pope.
Other things had not changed. There was still a group of young and old and in-between people hovering around the perimeter of the building, stitched together by billowing cigarette smoke and brokenness. The bathroom still smelled pungently like garlic cloves.
I was among the architecture of the broken. These walls seemed too sturdy and at the same not sturdy enough. The lighting was still fluorescent, harsh, unforgiving.
I spoke, fidgeting, shaking, and fumbling. The patients' eyes brimmed with the same emotions I felt when I was in those same hard-backed brown chairs. I knew how their bruised limbs yearned for tenderness and hoped my words might provide some solace. I realized how peaceful I felt among them despite, or maybe because of, their brokenness, because I am still one of them. Broken people know this without asking. It is an invisible thread that knits us together.