We never had to punish you, you always punished yourself my mother at least 10,000 times
The only person or thing holding you back is you my mother even more often
A year or so before I met Zachary in May 1979, my company moved to downtown Brooklyn. Those were bad times for New York; the subway schedule was erratic. It often took me an hour to get to work where before it had taken 25 minutes. Since I was basically paid to socialize I couldn’t complain. The job would become more serious later but then we were on a holding pattern. I was often picked to work directly with the client, but the Friday I’m talking about I just had a few documents to code.
During lunch my supervisor and close friend Elena went to Fort Green Park with another group member, Dwayne. He had a joint and offered us some. I knew that many of my coworkers got stoned at breaks and lunch, but I had never joined the morning devotional services outside of St. Paul’s Church when we had worked on Broadway. I wasn’t morally repelled; I just wasn’t interested. That afternoon I had a few tokes.
When we went back to work I was still stoned. It didn’t affect my productivity; I just didn’t enjoy it, and never did it again during working hours. Long after the statute of limitations was over I was to pay and pay for my one afternoon of decadent behavior. Elena and Dwayne forgot about it, and both went on to become lawyers. I’m cursed with a memory that forgets nothing I did wrong and am my own judge, jury and executioner.
Three weeks before lie detector tests were made illegal for pre-employment hiring, in December 1987 I passed a drug test and failed a lie detector test. The job was a glamorous one at a now defunct brokerage house, but I had my first interview on October 17, 1987, Black Monday, the day the stock market went down and wasn’t to go up again for four years. My would be boss went through hoops to have the position opened for me. The HR person would call me almost daily and beg me not to go on other interviews. She would beg me not to tell my head hunter certain things. It felt messy and wrong. I wanted the job less and less as time progressed.
The morning of the drug test/lie detector test I woke up to the news that the brokerage house had merged with another. Felt weird. I went downtown, peed in the cup, and then went to the lie detector office. I was a very guilt ridden person who woul apologize to another person when the person bumped into me. That usually led to the person cursing me out.
Zachary had tried to cure me of feeling guilty. As I felt guilty about everything to do with our relationship that only made it worse. I’m not going to try to explain or rationalize my extreme feelings of guilt; it just was and sometimes still is.
The lie detector test office was old and on Wall Street. The tester looked like an ex-FBI agent; he didn’t try to put me at ease. I had been told to answer the pre-lie detector test questions honestly. He began with questions about pot. Yes I had smoked it; no, I had never smoked at the workplace, but I explained about the day I smoked at the park. Stupid, yes very stupid.
He then began asking questions about other drugs. I couldn’t stop looking at the antiquated lie detector equipment on the desk in the middle of the room. Had I ever done heroin? He pointed to his arm. I understood that meant had I ever shot up. Memories began flooding through my brain.
When I was in high school my boyfriend was a 28 year old hippie truck driver. One day he was going to introduce me to the wonders of heroin. I stood in his kitchen with my arm tied in a rag; I looked at the needle. I didn’t want to do this and untied my arm and ran out of the apartment. He followed me out.
“I can’t do that.”
“Why not. It will make you forget everything.”
That was just it; I didn’t want to forget everything. I wanted to feel alive even if it meant feeling pain. But I didn’t know how to explain it to him as I went back up. I felt as if I came from the land of spoiled princesses who didn’t know how to appreciate the total hippie experience. But until I had met my boyfriend I hadn’t been aware that shooting up was part of that experience.
Five years later after a megasecond marriage to my off and on college boyfriend I moved in with some girls I had known in school. I was going to my second college, working full time, and doing volunteer work so I was hardly ever home. It took me months to realize that they had turned into junkies; we had known junkies at college, some even hung at our house, I guess I was in denial until one day my friend Shelby who lived down the block and I entered my house unexpectly. They were all in the living room nodding out; a Cat Stevens album was going round and round on the turntable. Though the lease was in my name I moved out that day.
I had spent a lot of time avoiding heroin, and here I was taking a lie detector test, and the tester kept on going back and back to it. I don’t know how long the pretesting interviewing lasted, probably just ten minutes or less though it felt like hours.
When he actually put the cuff on my elbow I was more scared than I ever had been in my life. Though I knew that if I just answered the questions honestly….
Then he asked “if you had ever done any drugs at the workplace?” No I hadn’t; though I had seen enough people get high at various jobs, but I felt so confused and guilty, of course that I said I had done drugs at the workplace. I blew the interview and lost the job. If only they had waited three more weeks, the lie detector test would have been illegal. Many people who had really done drugs at the work place would have breezed through the test. I was innocent but convicted myself.
Even my parents found it funny. The company that had sent me on the interview offered me an assistant director job. I had been offered three other jobs and the president of the company thought that somebody who failed a lie detecter test must be somebody with substance. Never really did understand that, but took the job.
Most of the stories contained in this one will be explored in greater depth.