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Life in the Rear View Mirror

(This is my first draft of a memoir essay I am turning into my Freshman Composition class. The names have been changed, some things have been changed to protect identities and locations…some of this is from real life events. The essay assignment has to be a minimum of 1,000 words and I chose to use a memory of a day from my past to write about. The day I decided to leave my hometown to get clean.)


It was hot. It was the kind of hot that made it very difficult to breathe. The sweat was running down my neck leaving a huge wet spot on my turquoise t-shirt as I walked the street alone. People could wonder if I just left a wet t-shirt contest I was covered in so much sweat. Where was I going? I had no idea. I just knew I had to go somewhere so I just started walking. It was just the road and I with the woods to my right and side streets to the neighborhood to my left as I trucked my way up Hahn Rd. Those woods to my right I spent majority of my childhood exploring, pretending I was some extraordinary scientist on another planet looking for another form of life. I climbed those trees and I fell out of those trees. I rode my bike on the trails there and I have many scars today from those trails located there. I built forts in those woods. I sat in the shade and wrote some of my best poetry and short stories there under the huge oaks. How did I become this pill popping, opium using, drop out, walking to God knows where, and in search of who the hell knows what? Who am I? WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING? HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS ONE!? I am going to be dope sick in about an hour so I better figure something out…

The top of Hahn road on the right sat a quaint little convenience store named Phans Grocery. Really it was just a hole in the wall that consisted of three isles of groceries, a deli that gave the neighborhood four options of bologna, ham, salami, and what looked like bologna with pickles in it and a corner cold section with milk, soda, and beer. The store had been there for generations. Mr. Phan watched my brothers and I grow up in the neighborhood. He knew us by name and when I stumbled in covered in sweat gripping the door way for dear life he knew I needed more than just a purchase of simple grocery supplies.

“R, hi there, what can I do for you kiddo…”

Even though I was an adult now by at least thirty days he insisted on still calling me kiddo. Mr. Phan was a kind man, who looked aged. His wrinkles told stories of worries and stress and his gray hair told stories of loss. He walked over and helped me to the stool that held his stores door propped open.

“Mr. Phan can I use your phone? I have to make a call to my brother in Indiana? I will pay you for the long distance I promise?”

He had a look of concern on his face as he shook his head yes. I stood up slowly obviously weak from walking in the blazing sun for the last half hour, probably dehydrated too. Not to mention I am getting closer and closer to the deadline of becoming sick if I don’t get some drugs into my body soon.

“Your brother in Indiana…didn’t J move over there? How is he doing anyway? I haven’t seen him around here since your dad’s passing…again I’m so sorry for your loss…your dad was a good man R…neighborhood isn’t the same without Dan around.”

Mr. Phan handed me his phone across the cashier counter.

“J is doing well Mr. Phan. He hasn’t been there long actually. He moved there a few months ago from Louisiana. I’m having him come and get me out of here actually. Thanks for letting me use your phone.”

I didn’t even want to focus on thoughts of my dad. It hurt too much. Hell, my dad dying is what got me into this fucked up life I was living. It was the last thing I wanted to think about it, talk about, or especially comfort anyone else about. I couldn’t even comfort myself let alone a man who watched me grow up running the local grocery store for the neighborhood.

The phone starts to ring. I’m still sweating profusely. The phone is hard to hold onto I keep switching it from one hand to the other, one ear to the other. Come on, answer the phone. Answer the phone J. I need you to answer the phone man. My stomach is churning and I’m hoping my drug dealing partner doesn’t figure out where I am and come to get me.

My partner, Dick, was probably roaming the streets looking for me without a doubt. We will name him Dick here for purposes that fill me with joy. I wish I could say he was a knight in shining armor who swept me off my feet after my dad died and helped me grieve for the man who my world surrounded but I can’t sadly. He is a complete douche bag actually. An obese, smelly, drug dealing, abusive asshole is what he is. I ran off and decided to marry him in a Kentucky courthouse on this spectacular high I was on the day my dad died. Yes, that is what I said, on the day my dad died. If that wasn’t a sign this guy was bad news there were plenty more I ignored simply because Dick was my door to the drugs. I got what I wanted when I wanted them for free. Hey drugs skew your reasoning, your logic, and they do help you make very bad decisions.


Excitement came across me as I hear my brother J’s voice on the other end of the telephone.

“J! You are there, thank God!”

“R…what’s going on? Is everything OK? Where are you calling from?”

“I’m in trouble J…the worst kind…I need your help man…you gotta get me outta here…”

I start to sob.

“Hey…what do you mean you’re in trouble? Where are you?”

“I’m at Phans. He let me use his phone. I walked here from moms. J you have to come get me man or I am going to die…please…”

“R…what have you gotten yourself into? Are you staying at moms now? Did you leave that douche bag Dick?”

“I need to get out of here…you are the only one who can help me…I can help you too…I want to leave everything here J…I got mixed up with drugs…the worst ones…I want to get clean…”

“You’re doing smack!!? …what the fuck..”

“J…I’m not on the needle…I smoke opium…pop pills…snort them…smoke weed…I gotta get outta here man…there are everywhere and I’m hooked…I can get clean if I leave and I can help take care of your kids while you and Jean work…”

“Where are you staying? You are moms?”

“I am at moms yes…but I know Dick will be there trying to get me to go back to him…I have to get the fuck outta here J…please help me..”

“I have two days off work…I will be there in three hours…be ready.”

The phone hung up. I was so overcome with happiness the thought of becoming sick from not having drugs was the farthest thing from my mind in this moment. I wiped the phone receiver off from the sweat deposits I had left and turned to thank Mr. Phan.

“Mr. Phan thank you so much for letting me use your phone, you might not understand this now but you just saved my life. My brother is coming to pick me up and taking me to Indiana. I will stop by before we head out to pay you for the phone call.”
I gave him a hug.

“You don’t worry about that phone call R and I know I saved your life with that call. That is why I let you make it. You go and get well. Be the girl I thought you would grow up to be and the girl your dad thought you would grow up to be.”
I started walking down Hahn Rd. back the way I came headed towards my mom’s house and Mr. Phan yelled from his store door entrance.

“R when you are tempted to look in the rear view mirror at life, keep going, it isn’t a sign to turn around and come back…you remember that!”