Ativan Works

    I’m definitely slouching because Ativan works. (This is before I graduate to Klonopin.)

    I’m in “the tank,” where patients are detoxified, stabilized, bossed around. Things happen here. Evaluations are conducted here. So much misery and bullshit here.

    This is the place that’s not mentioned in the brochure. This sofa is filthy. I’m trying to read a book, but my eyes are too jumpy.

    Across from me are two young men. They’re watching Marley & Me (2008). It would appear that Jennifer Aniston is not wearing a bra. They begin discussing their shared enjoyment of this fact.

    Vernon, twenty-one, complains about PTSD. Vernon’s wearing his favorite T-shirt. He’s a father, with a son named John. He’s a husband, with a wife named something. He got married in Hawaii. On a yacht. A helicopter was present. His father is probably in Ireland right now. Vernon owns an auto body shop. This is what he tells us––and, what to believe? Vernon is a first responder (that’s what he says), detoxing from crystal meth. A drug I can imagine him doing and loving. This part seems truthful. Zach, Vernon’s movie partner, calls himself crazy. He’s from Kansas City. His favorite beer is Blue Moon.

    This place is not working out for Zach. This place is not working out for Vernon either.

    Zach is too sick for here. He leaves early, the next morning.

    Vernon is a plain seizure risk. Vernon feels another seizure coming on. He doesn’t care about Jennifer Aniston’s body anymore. Zach notices that something’s wrong. He asks Vernon the following. Are you okay? Do you need water? A nurse? This is a barely audible exchange from where I slouch. Ativan works well (remember, this is pre-Klonopin), but I begin crying so hard that I fall asleep.

    All the girls think Vernon’s a sweetheart from Savannah. The doctors and nurses hope for a transfer to another facility. Vernon's been kicked out of most places, but I think his behavior is pretty good. I really don’t see any problems. Vernon’s been stuck in the tank for so long that the nurses start taking him for walks outside.


    Kelly stresses me out. Kelly makes me nervous. Kelly makes me cringe. Kelly likes me.

    Kelly calls me sweetheart.

    Kelly talks a lot. Kelly has a crush on John. Kelly just tried sitting on John’s lap but the nurses made Kelly cut it out. Kelly smokes Marlboro Lights. Kelly asks the nurses about the stock market but the nurses don’t know anything about the stock market. Kelly complains of a kidney infection.

    Kelly wears sparkly cowboy boots that glitter. Kelly wears hot pink leisure suits.

    Kelly’s dad was in the Air Force. Kelly’s dad is dead. Kelly was three years old when someone started hurting Kelly and where was Kelly’s dad?

    Kelly thinks Kelly is getting out of the tank. Kelly is not getting out of the tank. Kelly is not talking about crack cocaine or crystal meth. Kelly is mean to Amberlee. Kelly is mean to Amberlee because Amberlee is traumatized and won’t stop talking about it. Kelly tells Amberlee to disappear, but Amberlee does not disappear.

    Kelly has two sons. Kelly has an ex-husband. Kelly’s ex-husband forced Kelly’s blue-eyed boy to beat Kelly in the kitchen but Kelly’s blue-eyed boy’s blue eyes secretly protected Kelly. Kelly has nephews who ski. Kelly’s nephews who ski work at a ski lodge. Kelly’s nephews who ski teach people how to ski.

    Kelly asks Olivia if Kelly needs to be Olivia’s mommy in the tank. Kelly asks Olivia if Olivia’s mom is 51/50 because Kelly’s mom was 51/50. Kelly loves Olivia because Olivia is British and blonde and she’s been in the movies but Olivia hates Kelly because Kelly is Crazy Kelly.

    Kelly is also mean to Matt.

    Kelly is mean to Matt because Matt always calls his mom a cunt on the phone. You’re not supposed to say words like always, or never. Kelly is mean to Matt because the nurses caught Matt licking a page of his notebook. Matt was licking his notebook because Matt had secretly soaked some pages in liquid LSD.

    Matt is from Skaneateles, New York.

    Matt moved from Skaneateles to Boulder, Colorado.

    Matt talks really funny. I forget how Matt learned to shoot up. Was Matt self-taught or did someone show Matt how?

    Matt believes in aliens. Matt has seen a UFO before. Matt swears to God. I share air with Matt. How many summers does Matt have left?


    Still at the residential treatment center in Arizona, but I’ve graduated from the tank, and I’ll return to college in Vermont eventually, and my stepfather draws for me during our family week. This is what he does for me. He draws me, my college friends. We’re stick figures. We’re supposed to be having (sober) fun. We’re playing, like little kids, on Commons Lawn. And I’m surprised he remembers what my school looks like. My parents are sleeping in a hotel a short drive from the rehab. I’m near them, sure, but I’m also far away. They’re going to remember this. They’re going to remember family week. In arguments, they’ll use this against me. In arguments, they’ll use family week against me. My parents are sitting next to people in pain, sitting across from people in pain. This is so unnecessary. My parents must think this is unnecessary. My parents definitely think this is unnecessary.

    Molly won’t meet my parents. Molly’s sick in bed. Molly used to prefer longer hair, but now she wears it short. Molly prefers women to boyfriends. Molly was born in Eastern Colorado and raised in East Africa and attended an art college back where I’m from, but you can’t know which one because of confidentiality. After college, Molly moved to Los Angeles, where she was bullied by coworkers. She wears tattoos to cover the scars. I hope Molly is still alive. I really do.

    Sydney is related to her mother and sister. They all look so alike. I meet her small family during her family week. They are disappointed she is here. Apparently, her room at home is a mess, apparently. Sydney is the depressed person with the best laugh. I hope Sydney is still reading on the beach.

    Carly only shows up when she feels like it. Carly’s here because she swallowed sixty pills. All the men say they wouldn’t even take Carly home on a bad night because she’s ugly as sin. I hope Carly is still painting her nails. I hope Carly is still taking Hallmark cards very seriously.

    Rick is a sweetheart from Memphis. He’s spent the last decade smoking very low quality marijuana in his car. His wife sometimes watches him from the windows in their apartment.

    Do they ever think of me?

    Because I think of them often.


    I am living with other men in Los Angeles now. This is a step-down facility. They make declarations here. They say things like…. anorexic bitches are better fucks than bulimic bitches. They don’t say women. They like rub-and-tugs. They’ve gained weight on Zyprexa and Seroquel and Clozapine and Depakote. They have poor table manners. They have blowhard dads. Some have compliant mothers. They are SDSU graduates and USC dropouts. They have access to the very best pornography. They are psychotic under the influence of marijuana. They suffer from body dysmorphia. They discuss the possibilities of fasting. They love college basketball. This is all part of my treatment. What I wanted, asked for, and got. Because I needed something….

Myles Zavelo lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

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