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Habit(during Alice’s 3rd hospitalization)

The next afternoon the doctor from Sutter calls asking a lot of questions and answering a few. I walk out onto the sun porch at work and smoke while she talks.

“When Alice arrived, she was in benzodiazepine withdrawal. We were able to stabilize her with Klonopin and we’d like to continue that course with your consent.”

“I’m sorry, she was what?”

“Alice has confirmed that she’s been using Ativan. It doesn’t show up in tox screens, but we estimate significant usage due to the dosage of Klonopin needed to relieve her withdrawal symptoms. We would also like your consent to begin treatment with an anti-depressant and I’d like to keep her under observation for a couple of weeks until the effects of the anti-depressant kick in. That will also give us time to manage her detox.”

I consent to everything the doctor asks and hang up the phone. I see the head nurse Dawn at one of the umbrella-covered tables. I walk over and toss my phone and cigarettes onto the table before sitting down.

“That good?” she asks, with a wry smile.

“Ativan,” I say.

“I don’t have any on me, but Martha usually has Xanex if you need one.”

“I know.” I laugh. “She’s always shoving them at me when I look stressed out. But no, what is Ativan?”

“It’s a sedative. Here, we primarily use it to treat anxiety. Sometimes it’s also used for short-term relief of depression.”

“Addictive?”

“Withdrawal can be nasty. Why?”

I watch her tear two sugar packets and pour them into her coffee before lighting a cigarette.

“Alice is up at Sutter psych.”

“And they’re giving her Ativan?”

“No, Klonopin. To manage withdrawal from Ativan.”

“That’ll help, but then they’ll need to taper her off the Klonopin. It’s a vicious cycle.”

“Dawn, I don’t even know where she gets this stuff.”

“My brother, he has a kid like that.”

“And what did he do?”

“Mortgaged his house to get him into rehab which he walked out of three days later.”

“I don’t have a house to mortgage,but if I did, I’d probably do the same thing,”

I drop my cheek onto the table and Dawn pats the top of my head.

“Get Martha to pony up a happy pill to take the edge off and get back at it,” she says as she gets up to leave.

“Will do,” I answer, but I don’t. Instead, I call my mother to let her know what’s going on.

“I just saw this report on 20/20 about pharm parties,” she says.

“What?” I’m envisioning a bunch of farmers with banjos and BBQ hanging out on hay bales, the relevance of which escapes me.

“Pharmaceutical parties,” Mom says, “where teenagers raid their parents’ medicine cabinets and then get together to exchange the pills and take them.”

Immediately I think of Bret’s mother standing on my porch and Alice’s insinuation that the pills Bret took came from her mother’s medicine cabinet. Did she also have an excess of Ativan lying around? And who else’s prescriptions does Alice have access to? Is everyone we know now suspect of providing fuel for her fire?

Before we get off the phone, I remind my mother to keep her meds locked up. Then I call Grandma Kay and tell her the same thing. After that, I call Fiona from the support group as Alice has hung out at her place a couple of times now watching Top Gear.

It’s day three when I drive up to visit her. Jay is working and Max is down at the college, so I go alone. Two blocks from the hospital, I stop at a Burger King and pick up a couple of spicy chicken sandwiches. I add them to the bag filled with clean clothes, lip-gloss and mascara, all of which pass inspection at the front desk. Unlike the hospital in Fremont, visits are more casual here. We are allowed to sit alone in the day room.

“This is the only thing I’ve eaten in two days,” Alice says after devouring both sandwiches. Then she grabs the bag I brought and disappears briefly into her room, returning with fresh clothes, a brush of Cherry Blossom lip-gloss and a thick coat of Maybelline Great Lash. She curls up in the crook of my knees like she did when she was a toddler, and leans into me with a great sigh.

I can’t help but notice how subdued she is. When we visited at Fremont and on the first stay here, she was animated and occasionally agitated. Today though, she reeks of sadness. We sit for a while without words and then she asks the big question:

“When can I come home?”

“They want to keep you for a couple of weeks until the anti-depressant starts working.”

“They gave me Zoloft yesterday,” she says. “I got all panicky and told ‘em I wouldn’t take any more, so they switched to Remeron.”

“And you’re still taking the Klonopin?”

She nods. “It feels foggy, but not in a bad way. Like being stoned, but without the fun.” She turns and looks up at me. “Weeks?”

“Yeah, but they’ll go fast. Your dad and Max can come up tomorrow and then we’ll all come again next weekend. Grandma Jo and Pops can visit you early in the week too.”

She starts to cry, not silent tears but mascara-running, gut-wrenching sobs. Her nose runs and she wipes it on my sweater. All I can do is hold her. Nurses and patients walk past, peering into the day room but averting their attention once my eyes meet theirs. We sit like that until she’s all cried out and half-asleep in my lap. Finally one of the nurses pauses in the doorway and taps her watch.

“I have to go, kiddo.”

She sits up and rubs beneath her eye, smearing the mascara across her face. I brush her hair back off her forehead and lay the palm of my hand along her cheek.

“I’ll try and get the afternoon off so I can come with your dad and Max.” I know full well that I shouldn’t take any more time off from work, but I also know that I will, because the thought of leaving her here alone is wrenching and the guilt in being away from her is intense.

“I love you, Mom.”

“Right back atcha,” I say, choking on the words as I disentangle my body from hers and head for the door.

There’s something sad and hollow about returning home without Alice. She’s always been the biggest, loudest presence in the house. She’s also the only one who will hug me out of the blue. Sure, half the time she’s got an agenda, but still, I miss it. Her absence somehow mutes our family life. Max goes about his business, happy to pop his head out and greet me, but just as happy to curl back into the little world he’s built for himself with his art and music and now June. Jay goes about his business too, working long hours, here but not here, present but not present so much of the time.

I can’t remember when I started withholding details and keeping so much of the emotional turmoil to myself, but when I get home from Sacramento, I take a hot bath and settle in with a good book and a half-pint of whiskey. I don’t tell Jay how Alice wept. I don’t tell anyone. And it reminds me of the Bible verse where the apostle Luke writes, “Mary held all these things in her heart.” I always thought it was a lonely verse; now I know.

[This Is Becoming A Habit is an excerpt from “The Complicated Geography of Alice“, a memoir currently in search of the perfect publisher. If you would like to read more, you can find Laurustina.com on Facebook and get notification when the blog is updated and the book is released.]

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Talk To Me In early May, I get a panicked phone call from Linda twenty minutes before I’m scheduled to pick Alice up from her office. I leave work and drive over immediately, arriving ten minutes later to find the therapist  slumped on the couch in her waiting room, with the inner and outer doors to her office wide open. She sits up abruptly when I enter.

“She stormed out of here twenty minutes ago” Linda blurts out, “She punched the emergency callbox in the hallway and disappeared. She was in a mood when she got here. Like really agitated. I got her settled down enough to talk and asked a couple of questions, then she just lost it.” Linda runs her hands through her spiky hair and exhales heavily.

“The estrogen can bring emotions closer to the surface, that’s one of it’s side effects.” I tell her. “What were you talking about when she ran out of here?”

“I’d asked her what was bothering her, if it was school or home, or if it was this girl thing, if she just wanted things to go back to the way they were. I wanted her to know that it was ok, if she did.”

Immediately, I know that last piece was enough to set her off all on its own. I also know that I need to go and find her, but I’m having a hard time disengaging from Linda, who looks absolutely crushed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not all of Jordan’s habits present themselves in such shades of gray. Just a few weeks after the dismissive police visit, I find a small blond woman on the porch, clutching a set of keys in the same tight fist with which she’s been banging on our front door.

“Hello?” I ask tentatively peeking out into the twilight.

“My daughter Brittney is in the ER right now, high on some drug she took at your house today.” She accuses. She looks both furious and terrified, an emotional state I’m well acquainted with. Still, I’m momentarily confused. The only kid I saw with Jordan today was Bret, a tall black boy with a mohawk and a perpetually startled expression. He and Jordan usually keep company with a couple of girls, but neither one is a Brittney.

“Are you sure she was here?” I ask.

“I picked her up right outside a couple of hours ago.” the woman answers sharply.

“Just a minute.” I leave her on the doorstep.

“Jordan!” I shout on my way down the hall. She’s not in her room, but I hear the shower running and I knock loudly on the bathroom door.

“Jordan, Turn off the water.”

She doesn’t respond.

“Was Brittney here this afternoon?”

“You said goodbye to her when she left.” Jory calls back through the door.

“With the mohawk?”

“Duh”

I swear I’d wring her neck if I could get at her right now. Instead, I have to continue to yell through the door, “Well she’s in the hospital, her mother is on my doorstep and I need to know NOW what drug she took.”

The shower shuts off and then the door opens just a crack. I shove my foot into the crack, but Jordan is already pressed against the door, so all I can get at is a sliver of her wet face.

“She’ll be fine.” She says, all quiet and calm.

“You don’t know that!” I have absorbed enough of the other mother’s panic to be completely frazzled.

“She’s just trippin’.” Jory says, “In a couple of hours she’ll come down.”

“Come down off of WHAT?” I want to shove the door open and shake the smug look off her face.

“Tramadol and Valium.”

“Where the hell would you get something like that?”

“Ask Bret’s mom. She’ll know.” She smirks and shuts the door right in my face. I reach for the knob, and feel the lock click from the other side. The water starts again and the shower door slides shut.

I go back to the front door where the other mother waits, her jaw and hands still clenched. The chill of late fall brushes past her into the entryway.

“My son says she took Valium and Tramodial,” I stumble over the name of the second med, because I’ve never even heard of it until thirty seconds ago, “but we don’t have anything like that around here.” I almost say “for obvious reasons” but explaining to a stranger why we can’t keep anything stronger than Tylenol in the house is something I’m hesitant to do. Instead I let this woman process the information without further input. Some of the anger and color bleeds from her face. She looks even smaller than before. Finally she mumbles what sounds like a “thank you” and turns to walk away.

“Will you let me know how she is?” I call after her.

She does not answer.

I go back down the hall and slump onto Jordan’s bed, awaiting her emergence from the bathroom so we can dance the dance of toothless threats and unrealistic punishments.

“I can’t stand over you every moment,” I say when she comes into the room. “but for the time being, I want you in my office by 3:15 every day after school.”

“What am I gonna do there?”

“Sit down, shut up and do your homework until it’s time to go home.”

“Can I hang out with the old people?”

“No. This is a punishment, not social hour.”

“You said yourself some of ‘em don’t get visitors for months at a time.”

“That’s not the point.”

“You’re going to deny lonely elderlies the pleasure of my company just to make a point? Harsh.”

In the morning, when Jordan, Max and Jay leave to scour the the flea markets with Jay’s dad, I dig through her room and find her stash. More empty bottles of Robutussin gel caps, enough shake to fill a pot pipe, five Vicodin, two more Valium, a blister pack of caffeine pills and inexplicably, an empty bottle of nutmeg from my spice cupboard. For a moment, I seriously consider pocketing the Valium. Lord knows there are going to be more moments when that particular chill pill would come in handy, but in the end I decide that the hypocrisy would be too blatant. I suppose I prefer my hypocrisy to be a bit more subtle. I flush the pills and toss the packaging.

They return with pizza, which we all devour, including the ill-tempered greyhound who will invariably be sick for two days afterwards. While at the flea market, Jay’s dad found some WW II trinkets for Jory and she’s busy arranging them in her footlocker when I come down the hall to deliver freshly folded laundry.

“I see you found my shit.” She says casually as I unload clean boxers and t-shirts onto her bed.

“It’s my job. Actually it’s my job to keep you from getting it in the first place, but short of that…”

“Chill out.”

“You don’t know what half this stuff does. I don’t even know what half this stuff does. Like Nutmeg. What the hell is up with the nutmeg?”

Jory laughs, “Nasty, that’s what it is. Do you remember when Uncle Mikey came to visit and I had that flu thing?”

I do. She was god-awful sick for three days.

“Who the hell would want to get high off of nutmeg?!”

“Lots of people. Once.”

“So I can’t keep it in the house any more?”

“No, no” she assures me, “You can. It’s off my list.”

“Do I get to see this list?”

“Chill, Mom.”

“I can’t kiddo.”

Later, I polish off a bottle of red wine instead of the confiscated Valium while Jay and the boys watch Smallville. I am unloading the dishwasher when the phone rings and Jory dives upon it. I catch enough of her animated whispering to figure out that it must be Brittney on the other end if the line. The call doesn’t last long, and when she hangs up the phone she turns to me.

“I told you she’d be fine.”

“Maybe she is, but what about next time? You guys aren’t immortal, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah, I do too much. I’m not superman.”

I sigh and turn back to the cupboard but remember one more thing I’d meant to ask.

“Jory?”

“What?” She pauses in the hall, shuffling her feet as if to make a quick getaway into the living room where Lex Luthor is about to uncover Clark’s secret.

“Is it Bret or Brit?”

“Either one, just as long as you don’t call her Brittney.”

“For months now, I thought she was a boy.”

“She gets that a lot.”

“Is she transgender?”

“No, she’s a lesbian.”

“It’s just that if she was, and if she needed someone to talk to, you know we know people. “

“I know we know people.”

“Because I was thinking that this would be a rough town to…”

“Just a lezbo, Mom.”

“OK. Anyway, I’m glad she’s going to be alright.”

Jordan makes a cartoonishly slow-motion jog into the living room and falls back onto the couch. As I finish up in the kitchen, I think again of Brit’s mother, how familiar her mix of heated emotions was last night. I wonder if I should call her, to apologize or commiserate or try to connect in some meaningful way, but I don’t. I will see her only once more, a year and a half later. She will greet me with the same quiet fear and hostility as I hug her child so hard and so long that I am half-surprised neither one of us breaks.  

[Bad Medicine is an excerpt from "The Complicated Geography of Alice"]

 

Baked

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baked

 “Have you tried a good wallop?” the officer asks.

“What?” I stare at him dumbly.

“Some old-fashioned corporal punishment?” he clarifies, as if I simply didn’t understand what he was suggesting.

“Sir, he’s 5’6” and 130 lbs. I think the time for spanking is well behind us.”

The other cop opens the driver’s side door, shifts her weight awkwardly and finally taps her nightstick on the door-frame as if doing so officially ends her engagement in this matter.

“Well, you try to have a good night ma’am.”

The pro-spanking officer steps around me without another word and slides into the cruiser.

“Perhaps I’ll just go sit in his bedroom and enjoy the contact high!” I holler after them as the cruiser pulls away. My sarcasm is noted by no one because no one is listening. I stand on the sidewalk watching my consequence-of-last-resort drive off into the night.

They hadn’t wanted to come inside in the first place, but I insisted. They’d been hesitant to enter Jordan’s bedroom without his consent but again, I insisted. They stood casually in the center of his smoke-filled room and delivered a rote you-need-to-listen-to-your-mother speech while Jordan lounged on his bed, propped on one elbow, tossing popcorn pieces into his mouth.

“You cannot smoke pot in this house.”

Jay is sick of saying it. I am sick of trying to enforce it and clearly Jordan has tuned it out a long time ago. Often I come home to a lingering smell in the hall or a whiff of it on his dirty laundry, but tonight his flagrant disregard for that simple rule actually resulted in a haze that whooshed out the bedroom door behind him when he popped into the kitchen for a bowl of popcorn after dinner. Calling the police was part of the “limit-setting and consequences” strategy that his new therapist Linda has suggested.

I clomp dejectedly back inside after the cruiser’s tail-lights disappear. Jay is playing a game at his computer and I lean over him, my chin on his shoulder.

“Well that was crushing defeat,” I say. “Now what?”

“I guess you could take away his popcorn.” Jay sighs.

“I’ll talk to Linda when I pick him up tomorrow.”

On Wednesdays, Jordan has a standing after-school date with Grandma Jo followed by an appointment with Linda. Both women seem to have magical powers where Jordan is concerned. Sure, he’s still loud and wall-bouncing but the sulky suit of teenage hormones and dark cloud of rage are nowhere to be found in their company.

My mother doesn’t care much for cooking, but she loves to bake and it is one of those things that she and Jordan enjoy together. Unfortunately this is one of those activities that Jordan prefers to engage in while high. This habit is obvious enough that at one point, Linda pulls my mother aside when she drops Jordan off for therapy and asks, point blank, “You realize that he’s high as a kite right now, right?”

“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” my mother responds.

“Like stoned out of his gourd.”

“I had no idea.” And god help her, she doesn’t.

“I just want you to know, because it’s important that he comes here sober so we can get some real work done.”

Both women repeat this story to me after-the-fact, Linda slightly amused. Mom not so much. There are certain things that my mother prefers to not know anything about. Just last week, I mentioned that Linda was a lesbian and my mother said, “I wouldn’t know anything about that.” I suspect it’s because she’d prefer not to have to add another nice, ordinary person to her ever-growing list of gay acquaintances.

She would also prefer not to know anything about Jordan’s drug habits; in general, that Jordan has drug habits and specifically that one of those habits is getting high before he goes to bake with Grandma Jo. As far as my mother is concerned, her youngest grandson is just a cheerful, high-energy child who needs some good parenting, consistency and Jesus. To admit that she has enjoyed the company of stoned Jory would be somehow improper. To realize that a person “on drugs” can be engaging and occasionally delightful to be around would go against every fiber of her being and everything she believes about drugs and addicts. Like the nice lesbian therapist, she’d really rather not know.

One of the things that nobody wants to talk about is the secret relief you feel when you’re dreading the descent of the dark cloud, expecting your little monster to come through the door with that everything-is-horrible-and-everyone-should-just-die attitude, but instead you are greeted with, “Hey Mom, Grandma Jo and I made some Blonde Brownies for you. Do you want to chill with me and watch ‘I Love Lucy’?” These are the days when nothing gets broken, no dogs are kicked and no doors slam. These are the days you get a hug for no reason and maybe even an “I love you” that isn’t followed by some outlandish request that negates it.

At some point you figure out that if you only consent to engage with your child when they are stone cold sober, you may never get to say a kind word to them again. The truth is, you can’t rid the world of marijuana, even if you pluck every joint from the skateboarders in the park, pat down the band geeks under the bleachers and roll the old man who hangs out behind the liquor store. And if you could, well in all fairness, you’re going to need to confiscate the mid-afternoon Xanex from the PTA mothers, Friday night six-packs from the average dads and whatever other substances the rest of us reach for when we want a little something to take the edge off.

You’re welcome to join my mother in not knowing anything about that. But I refuse to. When I find Jordan’s stash, I flush it. When I can keep him engaged and/or corralled well enough to keep him sober, I do. But when he pops into the living room with a crooked grin, fresh-baked goodies and an unexpected desire to indulge in “Some Like It Hot”, I acquiesce. And when Jay comes home a while later to find us reeling with laughter as Daphne dodges Osgood’s busy hands, a wave of relief washes over us. Even the house sighs.

You might point your finger at the permissiveness of pot as a gateway to harder drugs, but I’ll be looking over your shoulder and pointing even further back, to the Ritalin and Strattera and Adderall, to all the pills that all the teachers and administrators insisted we shovel into him from the first grade on in hopes of chilling him the fuck out. They too wanted that sigh of relief. And the whole lot of us never considered the consequences of medicating the agitation out of a difficult but bright child or questioned what we were teaching him along the way.

[Baked is an excerpt from “The Complicated Geography of Alice“, a memoir currently in search of the perfect publisher. If you would like to read more, you can find Laurustina.com on Facebook and get notification when the blog is updated and the book is released.]

Twitch

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twitchNo mother expects to find herself sitting in the parking lot of a psychiatric hospital, digging the drawstring out of their child’s new pajama pants so they’ll pass a safety inspection. Then all of a sudden there you are, or at least, here I am, tearing at Jordan’s plaid pajamas with my teeth.

It is the evening of his second day at Fremont Psychiatric Hospital, perched on the northeastern end of Silicon Valley, an hour from our Santa Cruz condo. My husband Jay and our son Max will make the trip with me tomorrow night, but for this first visit, I’ve come alone.

Getting onto the locked ward is no simple task. There are guards, heavy doors and no less than three places where you have to show identification. I huddle with five other parents in the elevator and then we are unceremoniously dumped out onto the third floor in front of the nurse’s station which serves the Adolescent Ward.

As the charge nurse checks and records each of the items I’ve brought, Jordan comes bouncing up to the final barrier which separates us. Still in his camo pants, but wearing an unfamiliar t-shirt emblazoned with Bob Marley’s face, he taps her fingertips on the sturdy mesh gate and singsongs, “Open, open, open.”

I want to laugh.

I am going to cry.

We don’t belong here. He’s surly but he’s not sick. He’s experimenting with drugs but he’s not crazy. He’s got an ugly temper and is intent on being as rebellious as possible but some boys are just like that, right?

The adolescent wing doesn’t rate its own visiting area. Instead, families gather in the long hallway, flanked on either side by patient rooms. There are too few chairs by half and those who aren’t lucky enough to have scored one collect in tight circles on the floor along the wall.

As I come through the gate, Jory trips into me for a quick hug and then grabs the clothes in my hands.

“What’dja bring me?” He’s in a surprisingly cheerful mood for someone on a 72-hour suicide watch. I don’t know what I expected, but not this. “Come on, I’ll show you my room.”

I follow him down the hall, passing a crying mother and daughter in plastic chairs, a family of five playing “Go Fish” in a circle on the floor, a father and son leaning against the wall, staring at their feet, and a whispering circle of girls who pretend not to be watching us as we go past. We approach a burly nurse standing casually with a paperback novel in hand. Jordan jerks his chin up in acknowledgement.

“What’s up?” the nurse asks.

“I’m gonna show my mom my room, k?”

He raises an eyebrow but also works to suppress a smile, an expression I’m familiar with on the faces of those who don’t trust my child but still find him disarming.

“I gotta put these away anyway,” he says, holding forth the stack of clothes.

The nurse nods and we move on.

In many ways, it feels like that awkward Parents’ Day at summer camp. The kids and staff share an odd intimacy while the parents, identifiable by the mix of exhaustion and wide-eyed terror on our faces, are merely day-tripping into their curious little world.

“That’s Tyrone.” Jordan lowers his voice to an exaggerated whisper. “He’s the guy they call when someone’s gonna get the Booty Juice.”

“Booty Juice?” I ask.

He ducks into one of the rooms and I follow. It’s larger than I expected, and uncomfortably tidy with a pair of twin beds, two desks, a large divided closet and a small bathroom.

”When somebody goes psycho, Tyrone’ll hold ‘em down while another nurse gives them a shot in the bum. It chill’s ‘em out.” Having dropped his clothes onto one of the beds, he demonstrates the shot to his butt-cheek and then falls, splayed out onto the bed.

“No way,” I say.

“Yes way. The prophet next door got the Booty Juice this morning just before group.”

“You have a prophet next door?”

“Nah, he’s really just psychotic.”

He sits up and starts digging through the clothes, snatching up his favorite Guayabera shirt and the Vans I swiped from Max to bypass the shoelace restriction. He slips the Vans on over his hospital booties.

“My roommate Alan loaned me this shirt.” He plucks at Bob Marley’s dreads. “He’s got tics. You know what those are?”

“Like Tourette’s?”

“Yeah, but without the cursing. Mostly he just clears his throat and winks a lot.”

“He’s in here for that?”

“Alan freaked out after drinking too much cough syrup so his parents had him locked up. He’s cool, but mostly I hang out with the suicidal lesbians.”

He’s been a gossipy child for as long as I can remember, and always gravitated towards groups of giggling girls, so this is no great surprise. I watch him slip into his favorite Cuban gangster shirt and swagger back out into the corridor to flirt with the darkly-pretty girls gathered near the pay-phone.

“Scarface wore these, you know,” I hear him inform them in a sly, knowing way as he flicks the collar and shrugs his shoulder.

I spot two recently abandoned chairs and make a beeline for them. A minute later, Jordan breaks off from the girls and joins me, flipping his chair around and straddling it, with his arms over the back and his chin nestled into the spot where they cross.

“The doctor thinks I might be bipolar.”

“I’ve heard that’s popular.”

He smirks and then looks away.

I lean in with my elbows on my knees. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you might be sick. I just kinda assumed you were being an ass.”

“That’s okay. So did I.”

We talk in hushed tones for the rest of the hour. He asks me to tell his teacher that he isn’t just ditching, and to find out from the doctor when he can come home. As we talk, I notice that his left eye is twitching. Not constantly, but every now and then. I find it unsettling.

“What’s up with your eye?”

“What do you mean?”

“Is there an eyelash or something in it?” I reach over to poke at him, but he pulls back and brushes my hand away.

“It’s fine,” he insists. Then leaning in again, “You see that girl behind me, the hot chick with the long braids?”

I glance over his shoulder and nod.

“She’s schizophrenic and super cool. She gets the best meds.”

For all his bravado, when Tyrone announces that visiting hours are almost over, I see Jordan’s chin quiver for just a sliver of a second. Then comes the stab of realization that I have to get up and walk out of here without him, that I cannot just march to the gate with my child in tow and demand that they let us leave. How helpless it feels to hug him and walk out the door, down two floors in an elevator stuffed with weeping strangers, and out into the cold darkness of night.

I cry most of the way home. Later that night, I read up on the medications they’ve prescribed for him, to see if any of them would account for a muscle-spasm or eye-twitch. Nothing does and the twitch remains, popping up every once in a while over the next year. Finally, when it seems to be gone forever, I casually mention it and he lets out a great belly laugh.

“That? It’s just something I picked up from my roommate back at Fremont. It’s a great distraction for grown-ups who’re just yammering on and on. You should try it some time.”

And just so you know, every once in a while, I do.

[Twitch is an excerpt from “The Complicated Geography of Alice“, a memoir currently in search of the perfect publisher. If you would like to read more, you can find Laurustina.com on Facebook and get notification when the blog is updated and the book is released.]