Chapter Twenty-Six: Drugs


     I was never a big partier in high school. I didn't really care for drugs or alcohol, besides smoking a little bit of weed every now and then. But people I knew were into hard drugs. People that I was close with. I couldn't really see the appeal in it; I knew it killed people I loved, I knew that the drugs took over people's lives and tore them apart. It didn't just hurt the people that were doing it. It hurt everyone around them. Their families, their friends, their coworkers and teachers. I think in school everyone talked about it, but no one confronted it. No one wanted to actually own up to it. Nobody wanted to help the people that were struggling; they only wanted to turn a blind eye and wait for something to happen, for it to go away on its own. But it never did. It kept getting worse and worse, until it consumed my classmates. It took over the school, it turned people against each other. Not only did they get in trouble with the law, but they lost everything before they realized they needed help. We lost so many people to drugs. I have had family members that have had problems with drugs, and I have had many, many friends that have as well. I'm writing something tonight, and it may or may not be a personal experience. I'm only sharing it as a wake up call to those people who are around here and don't think there is a problem with drugs. Because there is a drug problem everywhere, and it is happening around you.

     There was once a girl, in her sophomore year of high school. Let's call her Hannah. Hannah had a best friend whose name was Melissa. They did everything together. They had lots of classes together, and when they weren't at school, they were hanging out at each other's houses. Hannah and Melissa didn't go out and party with the rest of their classmates. They were never invited by the "cool" kids. One day at school, Melissa came up to Hannah. "Hannah, some girls in math were talking about a party they're having tonight, and they asked me if I wanted to come. They said I can bring anyone I want. Do you want to come?"
     Hannah looked up at Melissa, who looked really excited, so she decided to agree to go to the party with her. That night, they went to the party and some kids were playing beer pong. They asked Hannah and Melissa to play with them, so they did. They were having a great time, and they were drinking a lot of beer. They were pretty drunk, and a girl named Courtney came up and asked them if they wanted to come up to her room and do some party favors. Hannah wasn't sure what that meant, and before she could ask, Melissa was pulling her through the crowd and up the stairs, following Courtney to her bedroom. They got into the room and closed the door behind them, locking it. Courtney pulled out a little box with a little bag of something, cotton balls, and needles. Hannah started to panic. "Relax," Courtney said. "It's just heroin." Melissa shrugged and said she would try it. Hannah tried to tell her it wasn't a good idea.
     "Hannah, if you don't like it, then you can just leave the room." Melissa said. Courtney nodded in agreement. Hannah, feeling uneasy and a little dizzy, got up and left the room, closing the door behind her. She went into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror, then splashed some cold water on her face. She knew this was bad, and Melissa was getting herself into big trouble. She didn't know what to do, so she just went downstairs and played beer pong some more. What felt like a few hours went by, and Melissa finally came downstairs. She was very sluggish and sat down on the couch immediately. Hannah went and sat next to her. "Are you okay, Melissa?" she asked. Melissa nodded and closed her eyes, swallowing hard like she had a cotton ball in her throat. "Maybe we should stay overnight." Hannah said, and Melissa just nodded again, and kind of slumped over slowly. She seemed to be falling asleep. Hannah put a blanket over her and got another drink. 
     The next morning, Hannah woke up and Melissa wasn't next to her on the couch anymore. She went upstairs and found Courtney and Melissa locked in Courtney's bedroom again. She was very angry that Melissa was doing this again. She decided to leave without saying goodbye. She went home and stayed there for the rest of the weekend. Melissa didn't answer any of her calls or texts, and she didn't try to get in touch, either. On Monday at school, Hannah waited for Melissa at her locker like she did every day. But Melissa didn't come. Then they had English together first period, but Melissa didn't show up there, either. By lunch time, Hannah still hadn't seen Melissa and was starting to get worried. So she went to her house after school and knocked on the door. Melissa's mother answered the door and said Melissa was sick in bed with the flu. She said she could go see her and give her the homework for the day, but not to stay too long. Hannah went upstairs and knocked on the door. Hearing nothing, she tried the knob, but it was locked. "Melissa?" she shouted.
     "Go away," she heard from behind the door. She begged Melissa to open the door, but she wouldn't. "Please, Melissa. Just open the door. It's me, your best friend." Finally, the door opened and Melissa pulled her inside, and locked the door again. Hannah looked at her friend, seeing the baggy eyes, the rumpled clothes and dirty, unkempt hair. Her pupils were small pinpoints, and she looked like she hadn't slept in days. "Are you okay, Melissa?" Hannah asked, concerned.
     "I'm fine, I just wish people would leave me alone." She sat down on the bed. Hannah looked around the room, seeing the needles sitting plain as day on the bedside table. "You're not sick, Melissa. You're doing heroin again." Hannah folded her arms. "Why are you doing this, Melissa? Are you trying to kill yourself?" She shook her friend, who was sitting slumped over, nodding off. Melissa didn't open her eyes.
     "Like I said, Hannah, just leave me alone."
     "No, not until you stop this! You've gone too far. You've probably been locked in this room all weekend!" She grabbed Melissa's arm and pushed up her sleeves, revealing the track marks. Melissa jerked her arm away. "Melissa, please, don't do this." Hannah grabbed the vial of heroin from Melissa's table and tried to hide it. Melissa jumped up and shoved her, sending Hannah crashing onto the floor. She picked up the vial and put it in her pocket.
    "I said GET THE HELL OUT, HANNAH!" she yelled. Hannah jumped up and ran to the door, and looked at her best friend, who she didn't even know anymore. Melissa just laid back down on the bed and curled up into the fetal position. "And shut off the light and lock the door behind you." Hannah did as she asked. Outside the bedroom, she slumped down on the floor and started to cry. She had no idea what to do. She didn't want to tell Melissa's mom. She decided to leave. The next day at school, she didn't wait around for Melissa at her locker. Melissa showed up to first period, but she sat in the back all by herself and didn't make eye contact with anyone. She didn't sit with her in chemistry, or at lunch, or change with her in gym. She didn't sit with her on the bus after school, in fact, she didn't even take the bus. Hannah texted her when she got home, but got no reply. And the same thing happened for the next week, and then the week after that. Her best friend was no longer her best friend, she was just a shell of a person, a ghost. Hannah would pass by Melissa in the halls and not even recognize her. She was losing weight like crazy, she had no facial expression, and her bangs were always hiding her eyes. She wore baggy clothes and hoodies with the hood up. Hannah would catch her nodding off in class, and people would always be whispering about Melissa and laughing at her. The only person that Hannah saw Melissa hanging out with anymore was Courtney. They always snuck off to the bathroom together between classes, and ditched out of school early together almost every day. Hannah knew this was spinning out of control, but she didn't know what to do.
     One Friday night, after about a month had gone by, Hannah decided to go to Melissa's house and confront her. Even tell her mom if she had to. She got in the car and started driving towards her house. She was almost there, but then she saw flashing lights in her rearview mirror. Then she heard a siren and moved over to the side of the road to let it pass. It was an ambulance. She didn't think anything of it. As she got closer she realized the ambulance was parked outside Melissa's house. She parked the car and jumped out, running up to the door. It wasn't shut completely, so she pushed it open and went inside. She heard loud voices upstairs, and a hysterical woman yelling, "DO SOMETHING! WAKE HER UP!" Hannah ran up the stairs and into the hallway, and turned to Melissa's open bedroom door. The first thing she saw was two paramedics kneeling on the floor. The second thing she saw was Melissa's mother, looking at her wild-eyed, frantically waving her arms, gesturing towards the floor. Hannah looked down and saw Melissa's lifeless body. Her fingers and toes were blue, she and she had a needle sticking out of her arm. The paramedics were checking her pulse. "She's not breathing," one of them said. The other was shining a flashlight in her eyes. "Unresponsive," he said. "We're sorry, ma'am, she's been gone about twenty minutes. Melissa's mother collapsed onto the floor, crying hysterically. Hannah was frozen to the wall.
     The next few hours were a blur. They took away Melissa's body, and her mother and Hannah sat in the living room. Hannah sat next to her best friend's mother, with her arms around her, letting her cry on her shoulder. for hours. Melissa's mother didn't ask Hannah if she had known what Melissa was doing, and Hannah didn't tell her. For the next few days, Hannah stayed there with her, helping her around the house, and planning Melissa's funeral. Her mother asked Hannah to speak at the funeral, because she had been Melissa's best friend for so many years. The whole school showed up, even Courtney, who was, of course, high on heroin when she walked into the door, which made Hannah angry. Melissa's mother saw her and ran up to her, and slapped her across the face. "How could you show up to my baby's funeral, when this is all your fault? I should have you arrested. Get out or I'm calling the police!" Courtney left, and Hannah almost felt bad for her, because she deserved to have someone care and to get her help. She knew it was Courtney's fault that all of this had happened to Melissa, but she was also so scared for her because she knew it could happen to her as well. When it was time for her to speak, she stepped up to the podium and cleared her throat, trying to choke back the tears that were already coming.
     "I'm too young to be at my best friend's funeral," she said, "and my best friend was too young to leave us, especially like this. Melissa was the star of the show. She could walk into a room, light it up just with a smile, and walk out and everyone would remember her forever." Hannah looked out at the sea of faces, some crying, some stone-faced. "But all of that changed one night, at a party. I didn't want anything to do with it, but Melissa was peer-pressured into trying heroin. I know this isn't what you all want to hear, but you NEED to hear it." Hannah looked at Melissa's mother, who was sobbing, but nodded at her to keep going. "I've been a terrible friend," she said, her voice cracking. "I saw Melissa go from a shining star to a dead light bulb. I saw the life go out of her almost overnight after she started hanging out with this drug. I watched it take over her. It took away her hunger for life, it took away her willingness to do better, it took away her friends and her family, and most of all, it took her life." Hannah started to cry even harder. "Don't let this happen to you. Don't let it happen to your friend, your daughter, your grandchild, or your neighbor. Don't let it steal your life, or your happiness. It's all around us. Melissa wasn't lucky enough to be able to get help before it was too late. But you can get help. I wish I had one more moment with her to tell her I wasn't letting her do this to herself, that I could help her get the help she needs. I wish I had just one more second to hug her, and tell her it was all going to be okay. But I wasn't there for her when she needed me the most, and that's on me. It's something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. So please, if you or anyone you know is doing this horrible drug, please get help, before it's too late." She put down the microphone and walked off the stage, and sat down in the front row next to Melissa's mother.
     The next day, Melissa's mom moved away suddenly. She left a note for Hannah, telling her she could take whatever she wanted from Melissa's room, and she would call someone to come and get the rest of it to donate. She didn't tell her where she was going, or if she would keep in touch. Hannah went upstairs to Melissa's room, the spot where she had seen her friend laying dead with a needle in her arm four days before. She looked around, and sat down on the bed, feeling a fresh wave of tears come from her eyes. She couldn't help but to blame herself for all of this. She missed her best friend, the way she used to be, full of life. Not a hollow shell of a human being. She looked at the wall of photos of Melissa and herself together. She pulled the thumbtacks out and pulled the photos off the wall, putting them all in a box, along with all of Melissa's trinkets from her desk. She packed up all the clothes in the closet, all the school books and papers, and Melissa's stuffed animals. As she was leaving with the boxes of things she was taking, she turned and took one last look around. "Goodbye, Melissa." She said out loud, and shut off the light. She picked up the boxes and closed the door behind her, ending this chapter of her life.


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