MY Bleeding Heart
I have a story to tell. We all do. I sought to live a life of obscurity. I’ve always downplayed my skills because I’ve never seen them as little more than a curse. Nothing impressed this on me more than this event:
I learned much preparing from that talk. I learned my peers didn’t like smart-ass classmates and I learned about coitus—go figure. Even at the tender age of seven, I tried to learn to tone me down in order to ‘fit in.’
But life tends to take funny twists and turns for smart asses. My life was no different.
Being a smart ass is difficult to say the least. I absorb science and information like a sponge. I assess and reassess and conclude. I do it with everything.
Flashback to age eighteen:
Being eighteen and a smart ass just didn’t happen in my circles. I gained notoriety regardless. I had sought to drug my abilities out of existence and had almost killed myself in the process. After a few years, I snapped myself out of my spiral towards death and became a rousing speaker against it.
Enter Brother Jim:
Jim was a Jesuit Brother who latched on to my speaking skills to start him a drug rehabilitation facility we called “Breakthrough.” I have a picture of our logo someplace. I’ll find it later.
In those early days, Joe Klein was my shadow.
As you can see, he’s made quite a name for himself. He was just starting out in those early days and had a great nose for stories. I kept as much of mine under wrap-and-key as I could, but I always had the sense that Joe knew there was more to me than met the eye.
And there was… Joe Klein wrote this:
And here is the story he wrote about me and boy, did he nail who I was and still am in many ways:
By Joe Klein
PEABODY—Joyce Bowen is the driving force behind Project Breakthrough, the full-scale drug rehabilitation center purposed for Peabody, and Project Breakthrough is the driving force behind Joyce Bowen.
Joyce sat in Henry’s Honey Bee Restaurant on Main Street, Peabody, the other day, nervously pushing a cigarette around ann ashtray, and talked about Breakthrough and the local drug problem in general.
“I’m not going to tell you marijuana is any worse than booze because I don’t think it is,” she said firmly. “But that doesn’t mean we should legalize grass. I think we should go the other way! We should outlaw booze.”
There was no sense in arguing with her, no sense in telling her how prohibition failed the first time. Joyce had the fierce look of a reformer in her eye.
She seemed both older and younger than her 18 years. It was obvious she’d seen a lot more than most girls her age and just as obvious she’d seen a lot less.
She spoke with a strength which comes from first-hand experience and the weakness which comes from desperation.
The glaring contrasts in Joyce’s personality are there because she’s a member of a very small and exclusive club which has branches all over the country.
She’s a drug user who kicked the habit.
You can’t really call Joyce an ex-addict because she was never addicted to anything in the strictest sense of the word. Psychologists would call her drug-dependent. That is, her craving was mental not physical.
But Joyce will tell you that it doesn’t make a difference where the craving comes from. When you’re hooked, mentally or physically, life is a chamber of horrors, a reoccurring nightmare which seems like it will never end.
There are only two ways you can stop using drugs when you’re hooked, and both ways are hard. You can either kick the habit or die in a dark alley with a dirty needle in your arm.
When you re an ex-junkie, dying probably seems an easier way than kicking it at times. Because when you are dead, at least you don’t have to live with your shame afterwards.
When you’re a member of that exclusive club, the ex-junkies, you’ve got to live with the shame of the past three or four years. You’ve got to live with the fact that you would have stolen from your mother to score a fix.
You’ve got to live with the fact that you’ve been a parasite and now you have some dues to pay.
So Joyce and the others who kick it often turn to rehabilitating their friends who weren’t so lucky. And unlike the do-gooders who overpopulate the drug scene, the ex-junkies aren’t soft and nice with the kids.
Joyce is tough
Joyce is tough. She knows that no matter how nice an upbringing a junkie has had, he’ll do anything to score. She knows about the con games junkies play because she’s played them herself.
When Joyce Bowen talks about her past, she doesn’t give herself any sympathy. She talks about the past four years of her life as if they were just another case study in one of the multitudes of pamphlets of the evils of drugs.
(To be continued)
But he never knew about this:
I wrote a story about it decades ago. In the story, I use fictional names. I AM Jessie in the story.
The door to the third floor apartment hit the wall as it swung open. Two men in their late thirties squeezed through the entrance.
“Heelllooo, heLLOOooo??” one of them called as they made the trek up the narrow stairs.
The voice was not familiar to Jessie. She poked her head around the corner in time to view two men, dressed in impeccable suits. The vertigo she often felt when she looked down the dimly lit stairs was accompanied by a sense of uneasiness.
“I’m lookin for Willie. Is he here, doll? My name’s John—and this here is Ronny. What’s your name?” His tone of voice did little to reassure her.
He darted his head around the corner into the bathroom, situated directly to his left, with a practiced air Jessie did not like. He looked like the police on television as they checked to see if a perp was in the next room, but she doubted that law enforcement was his occupation. John, not waiting for her answer, swept passed her into the living room. Jessie saw that he missed nothing, including the fact that there was no threat here. Jessie knew instinctively to stay put and out of the men’s way as they scanned the apartment—there would be no easy escape—talking to them was a better idea.
Her friend, Linda, sat on the couch next to the far wall, a look of poorly masked horror settling in her eyes. A skylight in the slanted ceiling above her provided the only source of illumination in the last of daylight hours.
“Where’s your boyfriend, honey?” The man calling himself John did not wait for Linda to answer. He motioned his cohort over to the door on the opposite side of the room. He stood close enough to Jessie to grab her should the need arise. Neither of the girls could make it to the door without his permission. They knew better than to even try.
“There’s nobody here, John.” The second man’s physique appeared stuffed into his suit.
“My name is Jessie. Willie doesn’t live here anymore. I made him leave after Linda told me he was still taking drugs.”
Numbness settled in on her as she realized who John was. Mad John always carried a gun—a tool of terror he did not hesitate using if he felt the need arise.
Jessie scanned the eyes of the man and to pick out the glass orb she knew had to be there. They were both perfectly blue in the dying light of the afternoon. Her curiosity overwhelmed her need for self-preservation as her eyes locked on his. The man had destroyed Willie’s kneecaps with a few well-placed bullets, and left him to crawl through a quarter of a mile of woods and brush to the hospital. Willie had ripped John off by cutting the heroin with sugar before he sold it, using the stuff he had cut out to feed his habit. Bile crept up her throat and flavored her fear, but her eyes would not move from his.
“Welll, Willie’s not here, but you are. There ya go, Ronnie. There’s the girl for you!” John nodded towards Linda as he grasped Jessie’s elbow and piloted her into the kitchen. “What a nice little kitchen you have here! How old are you, cutie? Nahhh, never mind. Old enough.”
He set her down in a chair and took one across from her, moving it close enough to brush her knees with his own. She shivered at his touch and met his gaze firmly, hoping she did not reveal the intensity of her fear.
“Willie’s not here—you can leave him a message and we’ll give it to him if we see him. I don’t expect he will be back.”
“No problem—but since I’m already here, how about we go in the other room and have some fun?”
“I’m engaged to be married. I couldn’t be unfaithful to my fiancée.”
“How’s about I give ya a hundred bucks?” His grin widened.
“No, I can’t. I’m engaged!”
“Okay, I’ll fix it. I’ll shoot him. Ya know?”
This man would not hesitate to put Randy in the ground if that was what it would take. She knew if he flew into a rage, he would not hesitate to kill her. There was no way to tell what his mood was he was that smooth.
“No! I love him. I can’t go into the other room with you.”
The girl’s eyes filled with tears, but she refused to allow them to trickle down her cheeks. If going with him would be the end of it—she would do it, but she knew he would come back if she crumbled under pressure this time. She jumped as John rose from his chair and moved to the door.
“C’mon, Ronnie. Time to split! We ain’t gettin’ nowhere here.” The words ripped from his mouth as he bolted through the kitchen door.
Jessie did not move when the big man passed her, as if lack of motion would somehow make her invisible. She waited until the sounds of the men in the building were no more. She stood slowly to assuage the nausea that threatened to force the noonday meal from her stomach. Dizziness forced her to hold onto the doorjamb as she checked to see that Linda was unharmed. Never had such a sense of control and helplessness collided within her thought process. Buried within her fear was exhilaration at what had just happened, but guilt was rising through the other emotions. She had placed Rudy, her ex-boyfriend, in danger. In the all-white neighborhood where she lived, his black face stuck would not be difficult to spot. They no longer planned to marry, but they remained fast friends and occasional lovers.
“I’m calling the police, Linda!” Jessie picked up the phone and dialed. “Hello? I’d like to report…”
Twenty-four hours later Jessie was riding in the airport bus. The local police had sent her to the state police, who had sent her to the Feds. It had been a confusing bit of two stepping—or was it three stepping. There was a skip in between when the state guys sent the cute blond sergeant and his partner to interview Jessie and her roomie. When the call came from the FBI, she sat in the chair beneath the phone, across from the one John had sat in—her hot seat, as she now called it. What she knew about the Feds had more in common with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who had starred in the TV series, “The FBI”, than it did with real life. A soul chill rippled through her as she wondered what they wanted.
Jessie became lost in the huge cavern housing the airlines’ ongoing business. Years ago, when she was small, she had flown with her grandparents. Now, with the yawed ceiling high above her, she experienced small again. She wandered aimlessly for a bit, before asking at the information desk for the location of the “Blue Lady Lounge”. It was so unassuming that she had wandered passed it, not once, but twice.
Jessie caught the swinging door as another customer left, letting out an ooof as the unexpected weight threw her off balance. So much for an entrance, she thought. The smell of alcohol hit her in the face, and she grimaced her distaste for the odor. The bar was brightly lit and filled with light chatter, not at all what she expected. As she straightened her lavender trench coat, two men in impeccable suits walked towards her. They glanced at each other and look back at her. One of the men flashed his badge when he was close enough and motioned her to sit at a nearby table.
“Hi, I’m Agent Steve Knowlton. We’d about given up on you.”
“Jessie Gibbons. Sorry, I got lost.” She took the hand he offered and sat in the chair opposite him.
Agent Steve looked at his partner again and then back at Jessie. He cleared his throat. “We want to ask you to become John’s—friend.”
“What exactly do you mean by friend?” Jessie’s face scrunched as if she had bitten into a green apple.
“We need you to collect information for us—spend time with him—get close to him.”
“You mean sleep with him if I have to!” Jessie chuckled and shook her head. “Is this the price for protection? I go to bed with him and you try to make sure he doesn’t kill me? Don’t you think I’m a little out of my league here?” Jessie could see from the look on Agent Steve’s face that he could present no argument. He was doing a job, one he obviously didn’t like at the moment. “Listen. I’m sorry guys, but the answer is no.”
Minutes later she rose from the table, and made her way to the door. She would get her protection—but what she had suspected for most of her eighteen years had been proven: when it came to her safety, she would have to be very careful in determining who the good guys were. For Jessie—the good guys may not even exist!
Those were tough days that taught me many lessons I’d rather not have learned. After my babies were brain-damaged by their baby shots and all the subsequent persecution I and so many others suffered and still suffer, I suppose you could say life well-prepared me for these days.
A short while ago. I spoke to a person who had always been there for me at any time of the day or night wa-ay back in the 70s—a reporter. I told him COVID didn’t exist and he told me he never wanted to hear from me again. I hung up the dead receiver and cried.
God Bless my babies
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