Oliver

The Scream - Edvard Munch - Google Cultural Institute.htm_20140224113011

Mum’s asked me to pack a bag for Oliver and take it in to her as she waits in hospital.
Heavy dread bears down on me. I’m so fearful of visiting Oliver in hospital, fearful of what I may see and even more fearful that he’ll stay there forever.

I go to his room that reeks of mouldy cheese and that is strewn with pizza boxes. As I shove the boxes into a pile to get to his drawers for his clothes, they jiggle with hardened left over pizza ends and I find under some of the boxes, barely legible handwriting on the backs of ATM dockets on worshipping Lucifer, the leader of the fallen angels. There are meditation CDs too, with scribblings across their wrappings about God and Armageddon.

I also find small glass pipes, many of them. I know instantly what Oliver’s been doing and I begin to scour his room to find weed and crack stuffed behind his bed head and inside shoes, and white powder in little snap lock bags in amongst his socks.

The next morning, I take the train into the city to give Oliver’s things to Mum. My folded hands sit on my lap, fidgety to the click of the train. With each ker-plank, my stomach hiccups. I burp up breakfast and could vomit at any moment. I arrive in the city and walk the ten minute to the hospital. I approach the big grey structure and walk into the formidable building. Thankfully, Mum’s in the foyer waiting for me.

‘Hello, darling,’ says Mum. She seems different. ‘Ollie’s asleep and we should leave him sleep. It’s best you don’t wake him.’

‘Okay,’ was all I could say. Mum wraps her arms around me and I feel ashamed at the silken veil of relief that shrouds me and calms my stomach, relief at not having to see Oliver not behave like Oliver.

‘Come,’ insists Mum. ‘Let’s go have a cup of tea.’ Mum takes my hand and leads me to the cafeteria where others sit. One man about the same age as Oliver, walks past alone and rambling in mumbles I don’t understand. I can’t take my eyes off him. Mum buys two chamomile teas and we take them to a table to sip together. Two tables away, another man sits with his hands in his head. A woman is by him, crying.

‘How are you?’ asks Mum, holding my hand from across the table. She startles me, even more so when I notice her smiling. I hadn’t seen her smile like that in a while. She seems very different. Her eyes are wider and she’s more alert to what’s around her, at other people at tables. I feel a strength in her I hadn’t seen in a while and relax into it to tell Mum what I found in Oliver’s room. She’s not surprised.

‘Drugs can flip a mind,’ says Mum. ‘That’s probably what’s happened to Ollie. The drugs have damaged his brain.’

Chills spike through me.

‘That’s what the doctors are telling me.’

‘Poor Ollie,’ I finally manage, until I realise what she has said. ‘Drugs can do that? Really?’

As Mum goes on about the research and its impact to the brain and how so many are affected, I decide there, sitting surrounded by these people looking weird and scary, that I would never smoke or take another drug again.

I go home and pull my stash from my junk drawer, and go outside to yank out my plant from behind the shed, chop it into bits and stuff the lot into a garbage bag. I dump the bag into the bin. And I collect all of Oliver’s stash in a bag and bin that as well.

* An excerpt from the next chapter of my novel-in-progress, Snippets of Sadie.

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