“Dr. Dunham?” Maya stands at the door of my office, looking nervous.
“What’s up?” I say, gesturing for her to come in.
“That guy is back, the one with the fake prescriptions?” Maya is a sweet kid, but I have no idea how she got the idea that she could intern at a clinic. She is a pretty girl, impeccably dressed, with straightened blond hair and flawless makeup . She only started three weeks ago, but even perfect makeup can’t hide the bags that are beginning to form under eyes. The problem is she’s too idealistic; kids like her always have a savior complex. I hate that grad schools can just send do-gooders with no real life experience my way, especially ones with Vineyard Vines bags and diamond earrings. But I have to take what I can get with such a small budget.
“Which guy with the fake prescriptions?” I ask, trying to sound patient. “Half of the people who show up here are on something.”
She fiddles with her thumb ring. “The guy with the really long hair? I think he said his name was like, Dozer or something?”
Dozer is well known at the clinic. He’s been incarcerated at least four times on possession, once with an 8-ball, and three times for selling Oxycontin. His latest thing is getting fake prescriptions, not just for Oxy, but for anything he can get his hands on. The thing is, he is the most charming man when he is high. Helpful. Thoughtful. It’s only when he comes down that he gets nasty. He gets shakes, throws things, and screams at park benches. An all around nasty character.
Maya self-consciously adjusts her J-Crew button down shirt and I realize I’ve been staring at her. “So what’s the problem?” I ask. Dozer frequently checks in with us for a one night stay at the insistence of his sister, who has been trying to get him clean for two years. It’s a pretty typical.
“He says he wants to get clean,” Maya says.
“They always say they want to get clean,” I reply. I hate to sound so jaded, but I have to be realistic with the staff.
“He just, sounds like he means it, I guess…” she shrugs and trails off.
“Alright, I’ll handle it. Can you finish filing this month’s intakes in the front office then?” She nods and scurries off, seeming relieved that I have absolved her of the dirty work.
Dozer is sitting in the lobby when I walk out, twisting his hat in his hands.
“Doc!” he says when he sees me. He jumps up and I can tell right away that he is still on something.
“How’s it going Dozer?” I hold out my hand, and he grabs it, pumping it up and down in a strong handshake. His hands are rough and dry.
“Book me for two weeks this time,” he says, grinning. “I want the whole shebang.” It looks like he shaved recently, and poorly. He missed a strip near his left ear, and cut himself on the chin.
“Where’s your sister?” I ask, leading him to the intake desk. I gesture at Maya to hand me the forms.
“Came by myself this time, see. I gotta get clean.” Dozer twitches when I hand him the forms. His sister usually fills them out for him, and I have no idea if he actually knows the information.
“Why don’t I give her a call, Dozer? She can come in and help walk you through this,” I say, reaching for the phone behind the desk.
“No!” He grabs my arm and pushes it away, then immediately jumps back looking ashamed, holding his hands palm up in front of him. Maya looks terrified. She rolled her chair back against the wall when he put his hands on me, and I can’t help but feel a sting of annoyance.
“Sorry Doc, but I gotta do this one myself. I found out I’ve got a baby on the way and I’ve gotta get my act together or she won’t let me see it.” I’m sure if he’s talking about his sister, or the baby’s mother, but it’s more important to get him checked in. Dozer crosses his arms, hugging himself. I can see Maya slowly begin to reach back for the files.
“Alright, why don’t we get you settled, we can deal with this later,” I say. Dozer relaxes a little. I have all his information on file anyway.
I set Dozer up with a bed, and schedule his first round of appointments. Then I go back to the front office to find Maya, but she isn’t there. I look around for awhile and finally find her outside, taking long drags of a cigarette. She’s trembling, the cigarette shaking perceptibly between her fingers. I didn’t know she smoked. I’m kind of surprised.
“Bad habit,” she says, smiling ruefully when she sees me coming. I lean on the wall next to her and wait for her to tell me she wants to quit her internship.
“Do you think he’ll make it?” she asks instead, looking at the ground.
“Who, Dozer?” I ask. She nods. “Maybe. If he has a reason to, he might this time. His track record’s not great…” I notice that her shoulders have begun to shake a little, and finally it hits me.
“Who was it for you?” I ask, trying to seem gentle. She looks up at me, tears falling from her pretty green eyes, and her breath catches.
“My mom,” she says. “None of us knew for so long, because she was home during the day.” She pauses, “My dad was super pissed when he found out.”
“What was she using?” I ask.
“It was prescription for her. Vicodin. My dad found a little stash of bottles in one of her shoeboxes.” She stops talking and takes a deep drag on her cigarette. I notice that she is using the past tense, and wait. If it’s past tense, the story only has two outcomes; recovery or death.
Maya continues, “My dad had her in and out of treatment for the last eight years. She’d get better and then relapse, even at the smallest things. Like she was doing great for six months, and then she hit a squirrel while she was driving my brother to school, and that was it. She was back on it for another year.” She looks at me and I find myself nodding along to the story. “I even went to college late because I wanted to be home with her…” She fiddles with her thumb ring again, her cigarette is almost burned down to the filter.
“She’s clean now, I guess,” she continues, and I release the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “But you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know?” Maya asks. She looks at me beseechingly. “I know it’s pretty cliché, but I thought, maybe if I figured out how to do this for other people…” She trails off. We’re both quiet for a bit.
“Do you still want to do this?” I finally ask. Maya is silent for awhile before she answers. “Yes,” she says. “Yes, I think it’s important.”
“Alright then,” I say. “Let’s get back to work.”